Where to Live When Moving to India

Posted On: June 26, 2015

If you are a foreigner relocating to India or coming to India temporarily as an expat professional, you will need to find a place to live. A few options are guest houses, homestays, PGs, service apartments, hotels, staff quarters, independent houses, and others. After reviewing all the types of housing, do take a look at the special recommendations for single ladies in India.

Guest House and PGs
There are no standards for what a guest house is. It may be a separate house or a separate apartment. It could be fully furnished. You may have the option of having your meals cooked or cooking on your own. Some guests houses I have seen in colleges are like dorms or hostels. The guest has his or her own room with bed and bedroom furnishings, with or without a private bathroom. In any situation you may or may not have your own room. Assure you do not have to share or if you do, what are the particulars. You will need to clarify the arrangements.

Sometimes guest houses can also be called “Paying Guest” or PG. If it is a PG, house owners may be currently living there. Check into the details before agreeing to move in.


Hostel for working people


Homestays are homes where a family already lives there and usually tourists come to stay. It’s akin to the American bed and breakfast. Usually the people who own the homestay cook meals for those who stay there. Depending on the homestay they may cook meals throughout the day, or it may be relegated to breakfast only. (I think the accommodation that Todd in the NBC serial “Outsourced” lived in was like a homestay.)

Some differences I have noticed between a Homestay and a PG are: Homestays are more expensive and geared toward foreigners or travelers and PGs are more ‘homely’ and may have more rules and regulations (especially, in some cases, for women). 

Where to Live When Moving to India

Service Apartment or Apartment Hotel 

A service apartment has many kinds of set ups. I do not think there is anything that is standard. Some of my friends said their service apartment was a fully furnished (along with stove, utensils for eating, cooking etc) apartment with maid service. It was a comfortable stay and very homely. However, in our situation the service apartment turned out to be an apartment hotel, with a kitchenette that has table/chairs, sink, electric water heater and fridge. Some service apartments may be in a regular apartment complex, or some may be like ours, a room inside of a hotel. The photo of the Apartment Hotel pictured here was where the author stayed for one month when relocating to India.

Villa complex in Kerala

Apartments and flats are available galore with the many hi-rise apartment buildings coming up. Apartment buildings could be stand alone buildings or part of a housing complex where there are apartment buildings and independent houses. In complexes, there may be other amenities like swimming pools, children’s parks, community halls, rec rooms, gyms and others.

This may also vary in what’s available when you are inside of it. Most hotels in India would not have a stove, microwave or kitchen amenities we may find in some American hotels.

Staff Quarters 
If you are a guest lecturer at a college, or get hired to work at a college or school in India, or select companies, you may be assigned to live in “staff quarters”. Most of the time, I have heard these quarters come fully furnished. Depending on your positions you would have a host of household help– maids, cooks, gardeners and drivers.

Independent House

An independent house is a single family house (translating from Indian to American English). This means no other family is living in the same house with you, in most cases. I have also heard this term used to indicate a nuclear family is not living with their extended family. Independent houses may be on normal roads and streets or in a housing complex. If the house is in a housing complex, the advantage could be that the premises is fully gated and manned 24 hours by a security guard. 

Pictures of Independent Houses in Housing Complexes in Kochi, India 

Villa complex in Kochi, India


Homes for rent in Kochi, Kerala


Housing complexes are like tiny communities surrounded by a gate with a guard


Villa complexes in Kerala, India


Illam housing community, Kochi


Traditional meets Modern Architecture

Yet to be discovered. Share your thoughts if your accommodation fell under this category or if any of the above are misrepresented. 

A kitchen with nothing but a sink and counters!

Notes About Moving Into a Place to Live

Ask about what is included in the apartment when moving in. Many apartments and houses may not be equipped with any of the following: gas cylinders, any kitchen appliances (such as stoves or fridges), hot water heaters in the bathrooms, a/c in the bedrooms, washing machines, cupboards in the kitchen, closets in the bedrooms, and furniture. The image to the right is of a kitchen in a ready-to-move in independent house. And, even if there are appliances in the house, if there are people living in the house, when they move out, they may take the appliances with them.

Special Considerations for Single Females 
I have learned that single foreign women have a hard time to live alone in India. In some cases, I have heard employers providing a live in maid for foreign women expats so they aren’t living alone. Living alone in India for women is very rare, but also it’s not that common for men to live alone either. That being said, living alone as a local woman in India also poses it’s own challenges. While I think there are be different rules for single foreign women as compared to single local or Indian women, I have heard that in Kerala, Indian women have to jump through a lot of hoops to get a place of their own (if they desire it). I recently learned that local women must provide letters to the landlord from employers about their employment, letters from parents or family members giving them permission to live alone, and even in some cases police permission.

Note: These articles are based upon the author’s firsthand experience and experience of others known to the author based in Kerala, India. This is not exhaustive. Please share your experiences to enhance the information given.
Author Jennifer Kumar helps Americans learn about Indian culture and expat life in India. 

Related Posts:
Outsourced to India: Specific Conditions of Accommodations


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Photo credit: Nicholas Mirguet (first photo in the post), all other photos Jennifer Kumar


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