India may not automatically stand out as a popular destination for digital nomads but it is a nation with the potential to grow into a major hub for people who travel whilst working remotely. In this post, we’ll outline both the advantages and disadvantages to being a digital nomad in India and consider which parts of the country are best to go to as a working traveller.
Pros & Cons to being a Digital Nomad in India
The most obvious advantage to being a digital nomad in India, is that the cost of travel and cost of living is so low. Relative to many parts of North America and Europe, you can make savings of around 70% by basing yourself in Mumbai and that isn’t even one of the cheapest cities to live in India.
The affordability of India is at least on a par with popular digital nomad destinations such as Thailand. You should be in a position to either save money or rent better quality accommodation and enjoy a lifestyle that wouldn’t be possible in almost any other part of the world.
- An Extensive Transport Network
India is an enormous country and while it would be a bit of a stretch to say getting around is easy, there is a very extensive rail network that makes it possible to get just about anywhere. Flying is also a good option for those looking for faster connections with significant investment having been poured into India’s airports in recent years aiding the development of a widespread air network.
Finalising a Domestic & International flight booking is usually fast and relatively straight-forward with reasonable fares on flights inside India normally not too hard to find even a few days before travel, which is perfect for anyone with a nomadic lifestyle.
- Tech Nation
While still a developing country, India is very big on tech and cities such as Hyderabad, Bangalore and Chennai have become major hubs for IT and new technology. With an estimated 350 million smartphone users, mobiles and the latest apps have become every bit as essential for young people in India as they have in the west.
Therefore it’s very easy for new arrivals to get online with affordable data packages meaning you can quickly turn your mobile into a hotspot.
- Crowded & Noisy Cities
Finding a quiet spot to work for a morning or afternoon in an Indian town or city is not an easy task. Indeed finding a quiet spot to do anything is tricky in a nation of well over a billion people where even many of the smallest cities are hectic, overcrowded places.
From a traveller’s perspective that energy and sensory attack that greets just about everything you do is all part of India’s charm. However it’s certainly not ideal for anyone working remotely on an important project. Therefore it’s advisable to either find accommodation that will offer the facilities you need to work or base yourself in one of the cities with more co-working spaces.
- Power Cuts & Unreliable Wifi?
Having access to a regular, steady supply of electricity is something you may ordinarily take for granted. However in India, blackouts are a relatively regular occurrence and a frustratingly normal part of life for many people. Many cafes and businesses have back-up generators for this eventuality so you should still be able to find somewhere to go, but clearly it’s not ideal.
In terms of wifi connections and speeds, it really does depend on where you are. The internet in Goa for example is notoriously bad but in major cities such as Bangalore, Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai it’s less of a problem. One theme that is common throughout the country though is that wifi speeds in hotels and via any free public hotspots tend to be very poor which makes it important to always have your own means of getting online.
- Limited Nightlife/Entertainment
One of the main drawbacks when comparing India to other regions popular with digital nomads such as Eastern Europe or Southeast Asia is the lack of things to do in the evening. Aside from one or two destinations, India doesn’t have a big party culture and if you’re looking to unwind and meet people after dark, it’s not always the easiest place to do that.
Depending on your circumstances, that may not be a big deal or it may be a very big issue. Either way it’s something to consider as outside of Mumbai, Indian cities are not even remotely westernised and don’t have the kind of ‘international’ districts that you find across Southeast Asia for example.
Best Places in India for Digital Nomads
Best Indian City for Fast Internet & A Pleasant Climate – Bangalore
Bangalore (AKA Bengaluru) is perhaps the best city in India for digital nomads. Chennai aside, it has the fastest internet speeds in the country and is widely regarded as the ‘Silicon Valley of India’ making it a good place to make connections with tech-savvy folks. Its reputation as a major centre for technology & IT suggests it will only grow further in the coming years into a great place to work remotely.
Bangalore’s pleasant year-round climate is also a plus with slightly milder temperatures and less severe rainy seasons when compared to most other large Indian cities.
Best Indian City for Nightlife & Socialising – Mumbai
Mumbai Skyline via Vidur Malhotra (Public Domain)
Mumbai is the clear winner if you want to mix big city living with an active social life and have a wider range of options for evening entertainment. English is very widely spoken and is the normal language in most situations which makes things a little easier too and in many respects it eclipses even Goa in terms of partying these days.
Best Small City for Digital Nomads in India – Mysore
If the hectic pace of life in a big Indian city sounds a little bit overwhelming, then you might want to consider somewhere smaller like Mysore. The cultural capital of Karnataka is one of the friendliest and most peaceful cities in the country. It is also widely regarded as one of the country’s cleanest and least chaotic destinations with sensible planning helping make it an easy city to get used to.
This article was published in August 2020.