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Mumbai is India’s wealthiest city, where the commercial, cinema and fashion industries swirl together in a hive of activity. Hot, humid and fizzing with ambition, Mumbai's action stops for nothing and there’s no better place to get ahead in the country.
Even so, expats should think carefully before deciding to live there as the megacity has its drawbacks. Below is our list of pros and cons of living in Mumbai, which may offer some useful insight.
Cost of living in Mumbai
Given its large size, the cost of living in India varies considerably, but many new arrivals are surprised to find that living costs in major cities such as Mumbai can be pricey.
The 2020 Mercer Cost of Living Survey ranked Mumbai 60th out of the 209 cities studied. Expats who negotiate a lucrative relocation package in Mumbai can often afford luxuries that they wouldn’t be able to at home, such as domestic services, chauffeurs and having home-cooked lunches delivered to the office.
+ PRO: Healthcare is affordable
Treatment is generally good and relatively affordable at private clinics. We do recommend expats get comprehensive health insurance, though.
- CON: Rent is high
Rent in Mumbai is expensive for a few reasons. One is that, as a peninsula, it’s surrounded by water on three sides and doesn’t have much space for land development. The space it does have, given the large population, is costly.
Another reason is that there is an insatiable demand for accommodation in the city, as immigrants from India and the world look to capitalise on the many employment opportunities on offer. Landlords are aware of this and, accordingly, hold to high prices.
- CON: Expensive groceries
Groceries are more expensive than in India’s other big cities. By way of comparison, a monthly grocery bill will be between 7 and 12 percent cheaper in cities such as Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai.
Working in Mumbai
Expats considering working in Mumbai can look forward to a city driven by growth. Mumbai's economy contributes to India's GDP and accounts for a significant percentage of the country’s foreign trade.
+ PRO: The economy is attractive to expats
Being the commercial capital of India, Mumbai is the seat of some important financial institutions. Many international companies have a presence there and often look to recruit expats, creating opportunities for foreign job seekers with the right qualifications. Mumbai's finance, engineering and design sectors, especially, are major players in the international community.
Compensation for expats in Mumbai is also among the highest in the world, right alongside cities such as Shanghai, Zurich and San Francisco.
- CON: Competitive job market
Mumbai is a city of opportunity and, because of this, it attracts many job applicants, so competition for positions is fierce. An unfortunate by product of this energy is that people are under immense pressure to put in long hours. Many people only start work at around 10am but won’t leave until well into the night. Twelve-hour working days and six-day weeks are fairly common.
Lifestyle in Mumbai
Mumbai boasts a good variety of leisure and lifestyle activities to entertain just about any expat’s idea of a good time. From restaurants that showcase the country’s regional cuisines, to bustling marketplaces and annual events, there’s a surprisingly large selection of nightlife and entertainment venues to take advantage of.
- CON: Commuting can be frustrating
The city’s roads are incredibly congested and poorly maintained, and the local railway – Mumbai’s most popular alternative to driving – offers its own disadvantages. Getting around in the city can be chaotic. Trains service somewhere in the region of eight million commuters per day and are astonishingly overcrowded, with doors unable to close and passengers often hanging out of them. Passengers often get pushed out at peak hours.
+ PRO: Few language barriers
Though Mumbai is home to over 20 languages, English is widely spoken and expats can easily get by without taking classes in the official language, Marathi. For this reason, adjusting to life in Mumbai is a little less complicated than it might be in other cities.
+ PRO: Endless culture and entertainment opportunities
Mumbai has world-class colonial-era architecture as well as intriguing bazaars, majestic temples and some of the best restaurants and nightlife in India. The city’s theatres, museums, art galleries and music festivals are worth a visit too.
On the traditional side, Mumbai is blessed with a plethora of festivals throughout the year. These include Vaisakhi, the Sikh and Hindu New Year festival (which is noted for its martial arts performances, joyful processions and acts of charity), and Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights. Christmas, Easter, Eid al-Fitr and some Zoroastrian festivals are other highlights on the annual calendar.
+ PRO: Wide variety of food options
Mumbai began as a humble fishing village and has grown into a globally-renowned megalopolis. Generations of immigrants from all over the region have flocked to the coastal city and have brought their food traditions with them. Today, Mumbai’s sumptuous, intricately spiced menu has Muslim, Maharashtrian, Goan, Coastal, South Indian, Parsi and Gujarati influences.