Like most cities on the subcontinent, India’s capital is filled with contrast and urban bustle, something which may be overwhelming at first if you’re not used to such a sensory overload. Foreigners moving to Delhi often remark the exceptional diversity and sheer variety of life they encounter there.
In the early 20th century, the British administration in India decided that the capital of what was then called the British Indian Empire should move from Kolkata to Delhi. Beginning in 1911, a new town, New Delhi, was built south of the old town, to host all government and administrative offices. Following Indian independence in 1947, New Delhi was declared the capital of India and remained the seat of the central government.
With its fewer than 300,000 residents, New Delhi forms part of sprawling Delhi (aka the National Capital Territory) the second largest metropolis in India after Mumbai, with its nearly 18 million inhabitants. It has a large expat population, not least thanks to the presence of so many foreign embassies and international organizations. Expats moving to Delhi should expect higher costs of living than in other major cities on the Indian subcontinent.
Foreigners moving to Delhi should be prepared for a humid subtropical climate influenced by the monsoon. Effectively, this means that a move to Delhi will bring you long, hot summers and cold, but dry winters. Summer, with temperatures up to 40°C, lasts from April to October and includes the monsoon period from July to mid-September. During the short winters, temperatures can drop down to 5°C.
Expats moving to Delhi — if they are not used to this sort of climate — may find it hard to adjust at first. The excessive heat during the first part of the summer and the high humidity during the monsoon period are definitely a force to be reckoned with. There is not much you can do, except be sensible, avoid staying in the sun a lot, and drink more water than you would at home. It’s not uncommon to feel ill for a couple of days when you first move to Delhi.
When it comes to your health, the same rules apply as for most places with a subtropical climate. To be on the safe side, you should check that all your standard vaccinations are up-to-date well in advance of moving to Delhi.
To find out what additional vaccinations might be recommended, consult your doctor or a travel health clinic before you move to Delhi. Your doctor’s advice will be based on the length and nature of your stay, e.g. whether you will be spending time in the countryside or just the city, etc. Usual immunizations include hepatitis A and B, rabies, Japanese encephalitis, meningitis, and typhoid fever.
Expats moving to Delhi should be aware of the following health risks, which are more or less common throughout India: vector-borne diseases, such as dengue fever, chikungunya, and malaria; TBC and less drastic respiratory diseases, especially those caused by the high air pollution in Delhi; cholera; and gastro-intestinal diseases.
You can keep these risks at bay by taking sensible precautions against mosquito bites and paying particular attention to food and body hygiene. Also keep in touch with your embassy in Delhi to see if they publish any health warnings for sudden outbreaks, e.g. of the seasonal flu.
No specific travel warnings are currently in place for expatriates moving to Delhi. However, you should always consult the website of your country’s foreign office for any updates on the security situation before you relocate. There is a high threat of terrorism throughout India. Explosions in Mumbai in July 2011, as well as in Hyderabad in February 2013, have caused a heightened state of alert in many major Indian cities.
Expats should be aware of the potential threat of terrorist attacks but not let it govern their lives. Exercise caution when visiting public places or events which attract large crowds. Inquire about the possibility of registering with your embassy in Delhi, just in case any complications arise after moving to Delhi.
Delhi also has the highest crime rate of all Indian metropolises. Most of these figures refer to property crime, like tourism scams, pick-pocketing, purse-snatching, and robbery, but they also include a certain percentage of violent crime. The 2012 Delhi gang rape case — where a 23-year-old student was sexually assaulted and killed — made the headlines in all of India and around the globe. The young woman’s death led to heated debates about the safety of women in India, especially in the capital.
Expat women moving to India should exercise particular caution. Upscale hotels and expatriate accommodation often have good security measures, like CCTV cameras, interphone systems, and sturdy locks. When you leave your house, though, don’t go out alone at night, and preferably use your own car with a trustworthy driver to get around, regardless of the time of day. On public transportation, always use the women’s car, and only take registered, numbered cabs. Even then, make sure to send an e-mail or text message with the car number and license plate to family or friends whilst ensuring the driver is well aware of you doing so.
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