In this post we’ll take a look at some of the best and cheapest cities to live in India. In truth, the whole country is very affordable by just about any global standard and below you can find five places that combine that with a relatively high quality of life.
At the bottom, there is a cost of living guide that compares costs in 20 different Indian cities which may be of use for anyone considering moving to India or moving within the country. It features cost of living data that was updated in 2023. We have a separate post on the cheapest places to live in Asia which will enable you to compare costs in Indian cities with those across the continent.
5 of the Best Cities to Live in India
First up, we head to Hyderabad which has consistently been considered amongst the best places to live in India for a number of years now. Indeed it was ranked as the Indian city with the highest quality of life in 2019 for the fifth year in a row but other cities like Bangalore (featured below) are also strong contenders.
There are a number of factors that contribute to that. Hyderabad has a vibrant tech scene with many large companies based in the city which helps its job market. It is also the cheapest of the four largest Indian cities in terms of living costs as of 2023 (considerably less than Mumbai and slightly less than Delhi and Bangalore).
Getting around the city is also easy in comparison to many major Indian metropolises. Hyderabad’s Metro network was opened in 2017 and now consists of three lines, which combined with its existing suburban rail network helps ease gridlock on the city streets.
Overall, the City of Pearls offers a nice blend of the old and the new, and is well placed to be at the forefront of India’s growth into becoming one of the world’s largest economies during the 21st Century.
Living Cost Index – 47,500 Rupees per month
For even the most ardent of city lovers, urban life in India can be quite an unpleasant experience, and there are dozens of large cities that really don’t have an awful lot going for them with factors such as pollution, noise and overcrowding all having a negative impact on the overall quality of life.
If you’re looking for a slightly smaller city with at least an air of calm, then Udaipur isn’t a bad option at all. Located in Rajasthan, arguably India’s most historic and fascinating state, Udaipur is a beautiful city built around two large lakes and is sometimes cited as the most romantic place in all of the Indian subcontinent.
The cost of living in Udaipur has increased significantly since the start of the Covid-pandemic but our estimated budget of 42,500 Rupees per month still works out at only something like 515 US Dollars. While it may not have as many entertainment or leisure options as some of the larger cities, you won’t tire of dining out in affordable rooftop restaurants overlooking the vast lake and its luxurious island palaces.
There are also a trickle of foreigners who pass through here given Udaipur’s place on many India backpacking itineraries. so there are some facilities catering to an international crowd, which often isn’t the case in other Indian cities.
Living Cost Index – 42,500 Rupees per month
On the other end of the cost scale is Mumbai, the most expensive city in India. For many, that extra expenditure will be well worth it though to live in the country’s most cosmopolitan and exciting city.
With over 20 million people living in its urban area, Mumbai is a city of great contrasts. In parts it feels like a major 21st Century global hub with giant skyscrapers, office blocks and fancy bars and restaurants. The majority of India’s estimated 250,000 millionaires live in Mumbai, but it’s also a city of depressing levels of poverty with millions unable to move out of the family home due to rising property prices.
While it is getting more and more expensive to live in Mumbai, in truth most people coming from abroad or earning an income online, should still find it pretty affordable, certainly in comparison to virtually every major city in Europe or North America. For those looking to do a fair bit of socialising and enjoy nights out, Mumbai is the obvious option in India as there isn’t really much of a party culture elsewhere with the possible exception of Goa.
Living Cost Index – 65,000 Rupees per month
Another major Indian city that is a clear front-runner in terms of the best places to live in the country is Bangalore or Bengaluru as it is now known.
It’s estimated the city’s population has tripled since the start of the 21st Century to around 12 million today. The wave of migrants into Bangalore has largely been driven by its reputation as the IT capital of India. South Asia’s own Silicon Valley is the headquarters for many of the country’s major tech companies and while such rapid growth does create problems, Bangalore maintains a cleaner and more organised feel than many of its counterparts.
IT jobs are not the only reason people move to Bangalore though. One key advantage is that it has a much more pleasant, cooler climate than other major Indian cities with an elevation of nearly 1 km above sea level ensuring it avoids the suffocating heat that can at times make life in other parts of India seriously unpleasant, at least for the uninitiated.
Living Cost Index – 52,500 Rupees per month
Finally we head to the southern state of Kerala and the Arabian Sea port of Kochi or Cochin. Formally an important spice trading centre and with Portuguese, Dutch and British colonial legacies, Kochi has a varied past and remains the most important city in Kerala to this day.
While work opportunities may be less plentiful here than in other places, Kochi and the surrounding areas have a great deal that attract both travellers and those looking to live for a short or longer period in India. Kochi is the base for getting out and exploring the Kerala backwaters with houseboats available for rent by the day. The Kerala coastline is also dotted with dramatic cliff top villages and some of the country’s best beaches.
Kochi’s low cost of living is another major appeal and it ranks amongst the cheapest cities to live in India (of the largest and most important ones).
Living Cost Index – 40,000 Rupees per month
India Cost of Living Calculation Explained
The estimates for the five cities in this post (and those in the table at the bottom) are designed to cover the cost of living in India for a single person. By cost of living we are including everything from rented accommodation to groceries and spending on essential items to some evenings/afternoons out.
We used numbeo’s cost of living comparison tool to help calculate the cost of living index. However your exact living costs will vary significantly depending on the standard and size of property which you are after, as well as the neighbourhood and your general lifestyle habits. Therefore you should only ever use the figures as a means of comparison as your exact monthly spend may be wildly different to this!
The figures (which were updated in May 2023) do not cover the cost of any travel or health insurance packages as this will vary depending on your age and circumstances. Get a quote in less than a minute from SafetyWing for an idea of how much this may cost.
Cost of Living (2023) – What are the cheapest cities to live in India?
|City||Cost of Living Index (Monthly in Indian Rupees)|
With, at the last count, 46 Indian cities having a population of more than a million, you aren’t exactly short on options when it comes to finding a big urban area to live in. All are extremely affordable by global standards, but there are still some pretty big variations in the cost of living in India when you move between different regions and different cities. The table above features all of the biggest Indian cities plus a few selected places which are generally regarded among the best to live in or of specific interest to people moving to India.
As you can see, Mumbai is by some distance the most expensive Indian city in terms of living costs. Home to a growing middle class, many people in Mumbai nowadays live on far more than 65,000 Rupees per month yet many entire households still survive on considerably less in the slums. Delhi and Bangalore also rank amongst the most expensive cities in India, with costs notably higher than the national average. However as you move further down, you can find real value with some of the ones near the bottom ranking among not just the cheapest cities in India but the very cheapest cities in the world to live in.
In all cases though, much will depend on what kind of neighbourhood you want to be in and what kind of accommodation you are looking to have. If you want a modern property in the very best districts, you will certainly struggle to stick to the budgets outlined above.
Even that though, should still see you spend considerably less each month when compared to even the cheapest cities to live in Germany, which has fairly typical living costs for a Western European nation. For a closer comparison, you may want to look at the best cities to live in Thailand, another popular destination with foreigners looking for a budget base in Asia.
This post on the best and cheapest cities to live in India was last updated in May 2023.