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.
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 (Mercer, who ran the survey, did not release data for 2020).
There are a number of factors that contribute to that. The city 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 (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 with a new line operational from 2020 which combined with its existing suburban rail network helps ease gridlock on the city streets. Traffic congestion is a major problem in many other parts of India.
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.
Estimated Living Costs* – 37,500 Rupees per month
*The estimates for the five cities in this post (and those in the table at the bottom) are designed to cover cost of living for a single person. By cost of living we are including everything from groceries and spending on essential items to some evenings/afternoon out. The cost of renting accommodation is also included 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.
The figures do not cover the cost of any travel or health insurance packages as this will vary depending on age and whether you are an Indian citizen or not. If you’re from abroad, you can get a quick quote here from SafetyWing who specialise in travel and health insurance for digital nomads and remote workers.
Please note that the figures are only intended to be a very rough guide as everyone’s living habits and individual situation will be different.
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.
While it is a popular travel destination, the cost of living in Udaipur is really low with our estimated budget of 27,500 Rupees per month working at something like 375 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.
Estimated Living Costs – 27,500 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 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.
Estimated Living Costs – 55,000 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 sometimes referred to.
It’s estimated the city’s population has trebled 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 1km 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.
Estimated Living Costs – 40,000 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 attracts 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 with estimated living costs of just 30,000 Rupees per month according to our research, making it one of the cheapest cities to live in India.
Estimated Living Costs – 30,000 Rupees per month
Cost of Living Comparison – The Most Expensive & Cheapest Cities to Live in India
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 below features the 15 largest Indian cities by population plus 5 other selected places which are generally regarded among the best to live in or of specific interest to people moving to India. We used numbeo’s cost of living comparison tool to help calculate the cost of living (including the cost of rented accommodation) in each case.
Please be aware that this is only designed to be a means of comparison. Take it more as an index rather than an accurate estimate of what YOUR living costs may be in each city.
|City||Estimated Cost of Living (Monthly in Indian Rupees)|
As of March 2021, $1 = 73 Rupees, €1 = 88 Rupees and £1 = 102 Rupees.
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 55,000 Rupees (approx $750 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 struggle to stick to the budgets outlined above.
This post on the cheapest cities to live in India was published in March 2021.