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Delhi: Housing and Schools for Expats

Around 19 million people are currently living in Delhi, including a large number of expats. We give you the key facts about expat life in Delhi, and the challenges and charms of living in India’s capital as a foreign resident. Our guide to Delhi covers Indian culture, the (in)famous FRRO, and more.
The daily communte to school or work isn't always that much fun.

Housing: What Does Delhi Have to Offer?

The big question for everyone new to Delhi is of course: where to live? There are several factors you should take into consideration when choosing your new place to live: proximity to work and/or school, central location or quiet suburb, and the type of accommodation you prefer.

The location of your home in relation to other places matters especially as Delhi is a very big and busy city, and it’s easy to underestimate the time you will be spending getting from one place to another every day. Delhi has an efficient metro system — living close to a metro station is also something you may want to consider.

Personal preferences play an important role, too, of course. Do you want to feel part of the buzzing metropolis, enjoy the restaurants, the nightlife, and the rich mix of cultures, or would you rather retire away from the noise and the crowds?

Or, are you looking for the typical expat accommodation in exclusive gated communities offering all sorts of conveniences, from domestic staff to tennis courts? For the more adventurous expats, you could experience the “real thing” and live like most locals, despite the potential disadvantages.

Last but not least: How much can you reasonably afford to pay for your accommodation? Housing prices for nice accommodation in Delhi have been rising sharply, so expats on a budget should definitely consider flat-sharing.

Recommended residential areas for expats can mainly be found in Chanakya Puri (the embassy quarter of New Delhi) in the southwest of the city and other prestigious central neighborhoods, e.g. Jor Bagh, Golf Links, Anand Niketan, and Shanti Niketan. West End and Prithviraj Road are particularly exclusive. If you work at Delhi University or in its vicinity, though, you should consider moving to Northwest Delhi. The residential area of Narela in the Northwest is a favorite among expats.

South Delhi is pretty upmarket and elegant overall. If you can afford it, settle in neighborhoods like Hauz Khas, Greater Kailash, or Saket. Defence Colony, New Friends Colony, and South Extension are favorites among expats, too. In Southwest Delhi, Vasant Vihar (“VV”) is probably the most upscale place. In East Delhi, the Mayur Vihar and Preet Vihar areas — smart and fashionable — are a popular choice, while Punjabi Bagh and Janakpuri are among the most upmarket districts in the western part of Delhi.

Renting or Buying Property — The Expat Circuit

Most expats rent rather than buy property while in India. Big companies usually have relocation agents at their disposal to guide their expat employees through the moving process. If this is not the case, you can always hire your own agent. Some companies have a certain contingent of flats which are handed down from expat to expat; others circulate internal lists with vacancies.

If you are flat hunting individually, the internet is your best option. Most estate agents operating in Delhi have their own websites, and you can also check the classified pages of the daily newspapers online. Draw up a list of your expectations beforehand and be very clear with agents about what you need.

When dealing with an agent, you may need to be persistent and, at the same time, willing to negotiate. If they don’t get back to you about a property you have expressed an interest in, call back yourself. On the other hand, don’t let a pushy real estate agent talk you into making hasty and uninformed decisions. Any one estate agency often only has access to a very small percentage of property for rent, so it’s always a good idea to contact several of them. Always ask about their fees before committing to anything.

Rental contracts in Delhi usually run for about eleven months unless otherwise specified as a long lease, and a security deposit of two or three months’ rent may be required. Domestic staff will probably be much cheaper and more common than back in your home country, so you may be able to hire, for example, a maid, a driver, and/or a gardener.

Expats who meet the fiscal residency requirements and spend at least 183 days per financial year in India can buy their own house or apartment instead. It is forbidden to buy property on a tourist visa though. However, if you do meet those conditions, you should nevertheless get some professional advice from a recommended property lawyer. It’s important to seek legal advice from an independent lawyer or company, as opposed to one recommended by the owner of a property.

Schools and Nurseries for the Kids

As the nation’s capital, New Delhi has several international schools catering to the expat population. Most of them are conveniently located in popular residential areas in Delhi or in the embassy district of Chanakya Puri. The majority are private schools open to everyone, provided you can pay the fees and meet the entry requirements. Schools like the American Embassy School  or the British School New Delhi follow their respective national curricula, but they also offer their older students the chance to follow the International Baccalaureate. There are also several IB World Schools in Gurgaon, to the southwest of Central Delhi. For a full list of IB World Schools in India, check out the International Baccalaureate website.

Most international schools take in children of all ages, from preschool to secondary school. However, if all your children are under the age of four or five, you might want to consider sending them to a local private nursery to save yourself time and unnecessary expenses. Instead of spending several hours every day traveling to and from school, you could be walking your little ones to a small kindergarten in your neighborhood where they can make friends with the kids next door. Just ask your neighbors or other expats living in your area for recommendations.

 

We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

Jonathan Brown

"The great events organized by InterNations helped me get to know Delhi expats from all over the world."

Sophie Poirier

"When I moved from Canada to Delhi, InterNations helped me connect with fellow Americans and feel more at home."

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