One of Asia’s largest and most influential nations, India has long been a country of interest for those in the Western world. Home to some of the world’s most beautiful scenery, a selection of historical sites and significant cities, and a diverse range of different places to stay, India is a country that can defy description, especially for those that have never experienced it first hand.
With the cost of living in many countries on the rise and retirement benefits often failing to live up to the job, many would-be retirees are looking at India as a potential country of residence. Thanks to its low overall cost of living, its modern services, and its reasonably developed economy, India’s popularity as a potential retirement destination for Western people is growing at a rapid pace.
India is a very large country that’s home to the world’s second largest population. As such, it’s far from the type of destination that can be explained in a few words. With a wide range of big cities, some housing well over ten million people each, India offers a variety of urban centers for those seeking a ‘big city lifestyle’ with all of the amenities that they’ve come to expect at home.
India’s large cities, particularly ‘international’ cities such as Bangalore, Delhi, Mumbai, and others, are home to many of the amenities that foreign visitors will expect. With international restaurants, convenience stores, supermarkets, and large shopping malls, India’s largest cities offer many of the services that retirees are used to at home, often at a fraction of their standard price.
Smaller, second-tier cities such as Kolkata and Jaipur are also home to many of the amenities and services that expatriates would expect. Almost all of India’s larger cities – those with a population that’s over one million – are home to international banks and other financial institutions. As such, managing foreign or domestic accounts from within India is a simple and painless process.
India is relatively unrestricted when it comes to the free flow of capital from other countries, at least when compared to its neighbors. Residents of India are able to open domestic bank accounts if they can prove their residence through a tenancy agreement, as well as offer a valid visa. Most accounts for foreign residents are given no credit, but are fully capable of storing and transferring funds.
ATM machines from international banks, such as HSBC and CitiBank, are relatively easy to find in most Indian cities. Major cities such as Mumbai and Delhi generally have their own financial area, which is home to the offices of major international banks. As such, carrying out wire transfers from other countries, or simply withdrawing money locally, is generally a simple and quick process.
While India lacks a ‘retirement visa’ category, it does offer several long-term visas that are ideal for expatriates looking to settle down in the country. The standard tourism visa is available for periods up to six months, and back-to-back visas are often issued. This means that long-term residents can stay in India indefinitely using tourism visas, provided they leave the country every six months.
Tourist visas for American and British visitors are often issued for up to ten years, allowing holders to exit and re-enter the country without having to receive a new visa in the process. Other visas are available, including the Overseas Citizen of India program, which allows non-citizens of India that have family with Indian citizenship to pursue citizenship while residing outside the country.
Finally, business visas – including the ‘entry’ category of visa – are available from within India for those looking to work while in the country. Many retirees choose to start their own small business while residing in India, which allows them to pursue a long-term entry visa. These visas are able to be renewed and extended from within India, removing the need for a short trip outside the country.
As with many other large countries, the cost of living within India can vary dramatically from one city or region to another. Major urban areas, including Delhi and Mumbai, are significantly more costly than remote areas and smaller cities. Many of India’s most welcoming and comfortable cities aren’t the giants that are known internationally, but smaller, second-tier cities of around one million.
A one-bedroom apartment in an upscale area of Delhi can be found for around $500USD per month, while a similar unit in many other parts of India could be found for under $200USD. Smaller ‘local’ accommodation options are often available for around $100USD monthly, although quality can be a major issue at this low end of the price range.
Simply put, accommodation and amenities in India are generally very affordable. Likewise, food and beverages are inexpensive and widely available, both from India’s world famous street carts, and from high-end restaurants and international chains. The variety of food and quality of common ingredients varies from one region to another, as does the standard local taste.
Medical care in India ranges from insufficient and unreliable to world class. Public hospitals and charity medical centers can sometimes provide unsanitary conditions and ‘care’ that leaves many patients worse than when they started. In many cases, these problems have been eradicated thanks to social programs and greater funding for public hospitals.
Private hospitals, on the other hand, tend to be well run, comfortable, and capable of providing high quality medical care. Many are staffed by internationally trained doctors, and many more are owned by large private medical insurance companies. When in doubt, it’s always best to opt for a privately owned and operated medical center to make sure that you get the highest quality care.
Most international retirees and expatriates in India purchase medical insurance from a multinational company, most of which will offer coverage for treatment carried out in India. If you plan on living in a remote part of the country, it is very important that your health insurance policy offers coverage for air evacuations and emergency care. These services can be very expensive for the uninsured.
Finally, internet access and telecommunications in India are typically modern, easily accessible, and inexpensive. Many Indian cities, Bangalore and Hyderabad in particular, have booming technology sectors and local connections to match. IT, particularly outsourcing, is an important industry in most Indian cities, and connections, particularly in business areas, are generally fast and very reliable.
Cellular coverage across the country is generally reliable, inexpensive, and fairly fast. Mobile phone internet is available from most providers, although 3G coverage is difficult to find outside of central districts in major cities. For the most part, however, cellular service in India is good enough for text messages and calls, which are offered inexpensively by most domestic providers.
With a large network of domestic airports and frequent air connections to Europe, Australasia, and Southeast Asia, India is an easy country to access from abroad. Flights on regional airlines tend to be inexpensive and frequent, and India’s hub airports allow for simple access to smaller cities and less popular destinations.
Thanks to its incredible natural beauty, large array of different living situations and cities, and its sheer size and variety, India is a country that’s getting more attention than ever before from those seeking a peaceful, affordable, and relaxing retirement. If you seek the year-round warmth and an exotic lifestyle, retiring to India could be one of the best choices you ever make.