An ancient country rich in culture and diversity, expats moving to India will find a wealth of places to explore if they’re willing to step out of their comfort zone.

Few places compare in scale to the world’s second-most populous country and the sheer size and sensory richness can be overwhelming. There is great pride in diversity here, and local culture is strong, although Westerners are likely to experience some culture shock as manners and customs in India are often vastly different from Western norms.

Living costs will be low for expats earning in a foreign currency, but record growth for more than two decades hasn’t stopped India from having one of the world’s widest wealth gaps. Extreme wealth and poverty exist side by side in teeming cities such as Mumbai, New Delhi and Bengaluru.

The largest employing sectors in India are textiles and agriculture, but most opportunities for skilled expats come from areas such as IT, financial services, pharmaceuticals and telecommunications. Expats living and working in the country shouldn’t struggle to meet their basic needs. The quality of public services such as healthcare varies between regions, but expats who can afford it prefer using the private sector.

After applying for visas, the biggest challenge expats are likely to face is finding suitable housing. There is a high demand for good quality accommodation, and getting their employer’s help or at least hiring a reputable property and real estate agent will make the process much easier.

Still, one major benefit of moving to the subcontinent is that communicating with locals is generally easy. English is widely spoken and is frequently the language of business in India.

Overall, India provides a welcome mixture of high-quality living, adventure and cultural exploration, making it an expat destination with much to offer.

Fast facts

Population: Over 1.38 billion

Capital city: New Delhi

Largest city: Mumbai

Neighbouring countries: India shares borders with China, Bhutan and Nepal to the northeast, Pakistan to the west, Bangladesh and Myanmar to the east. India is also bound by a vast coastline, stretching from the Arabian Sea in the southwest to the Indian Ocean in the south, and finally to the Bay of Bengal to the southeast.

Geography: India is a large and geographically diverse country. The northern areas of India are largely defined by the Himalayan mountain range while the Deccan Plateau occupies the western and southern part of the country. 

Political system: Federal parliamentary constitutional republic

Major religion: Hinduism

Main languages: Hindi and English. There are an estimated 447 native languages spoken among smaller minorities.

Money: The official currency is the Indian Rupee (INR). This was divided into 100 paise, though these denominations are no longer legal tender. It's relatively easy for expats to set up a local bank account and ATMs are easy to find.

Tipping: Standard 5 to 10 percent

Time: GMT +5.5

Electricity: 230 volts, 50Hz. Most plugs have two (Type C plugs) or three (Type D plugs) round pins.

International dialling code: +91

Emergency contacts: 112

Internet domain: .in

Transport and driving: The standard of public transport in India is highly varied, but networks are extensive. Driving is on the left-hand side of the road.