There are so many places to study, work and live in India that sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. The beauty of India is its diversity and the fact that each city you go to will have something new and different to offer. Whether it’s your first time to India or you are looking to gain more experience across India, here is your guide to the best Indian cities to study, work and live.
We’ve tried to give you a feel of each city and what it has to offer. It’s by no means an exhaustive list and if you have your own inside tips and opportunities, Asia Options would love to hear from you!
Regional language: Hindi
Delhi, India’s capital, is the political heart of the nation and the epicentre of the north. You can find almost everything in the hustle and bustle of Delhi. It’s home to some of India’s best universities and the perfect place to learn Hindi. As the home of the nation’s decision makers, it attracts the big name Indian and international organisations and businesses. Although Delhi is very much in the north of India, you will make connections that will, hopefully, lead you across the rest of the country.
The University of Delhi is considered the number one university of India, with a strong reputation in arts, science and commerce. Jawaharlal Nehru University, aptly named after India’s first prime minister, has one of the highest Times Higher Education rankings for Indian universities in the social sciences. Delhi is also home to the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi, which is well renowned for engineering graduates.
Delhi is one of the best cities to study Hindi. In addition to universities and colleges it also has a number of private institutes offering short and longer-term courses, including Zabaan and Hindi Guru.
If you are looking for internships and work opportunities, we definitely recommend you to consider Delhi. Delhi is the centre for government (domestic and international) and civil society, home to the likes of the UN in India, the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies and the Centre for Civil Society. Most of the top Indian and multinational companies will also have an office in Delhi or in the growing business enclaves just outside the city.
Living in Delhi, you’ll be struck by the contrast between the history of the old city and grandeur of the new city. Delhi has got a lot of bad press for its pollution – often at its peak in winter – but it is still a liveable city. There is a big international community and different housing options available to you. It’s very easy to get around Delhi too. Delhi metro has revolutionised Delhi’s public transport system. It is quick, reliable, safe and cheap. Indira Gandhi International Airport has no shortage of international connections and – as a base for experiencing the rest of the country – the New Delhi train station is an epicentre for India’s massive domestic train network.
Asia Options’ experiences in Delhi:
- Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies internships, New Delhi
- Researching Reality – internships with the Centre for Civil Society
- Jacqueline’s experience – ANU Hindi study course in Delhi
- UNDP India Internship Programme
- Interning with the United Nations in Delhi
- Cathy’s experience learning Hindi in Delhi
- Insights from the University of Melbourne study tour to Delhi
- Louise’s AIESEC Global Citizen Volunteer Abroad Program to India
- Fiona Mckay’s tips for eating street food in India and experience working with street vendors
Regional language: Marathi and Hindi
Mumbai is the business capital of India and one of its most cosmopolitan cities, attracting people from across India and the world every day. Mumbai is an exciting city to live in, boasting a broad array of study and work opportunities. You can try your hand at Marathi, the official language of Maharashtra, but Hindi will also come in handy.
For study options, you should consider IIT Bombay (India’s top IIT in the Times Higher Education rankings), the old campus of the University of Mumbai or the contemporary Tata Institute of Social Sciences.
If you are looking for professional opportunities, Mumbai is the place to start. The financial institutions and the big Indian firms like Tata Group and Reliance Industries are based in Mumbai as well as a suite of multi-national companies. It’s also home to the Bollywood entertainment industry and Indian fashion houses. Yet, not everyone in Mumbai lives in comfort and there are a large number of non-government organisations working for social causes in Mumbai, including Atma.
You’ll love living in Mumbai. It’s a friendly city and there is no shortage of things to keep you busy. You could spend days in Fort and Colaba districts, at the galleries in Kala Ghoda, walking along Marine Drive or even at the new malls like Phoenix Mall. Getting around in Mumbai is easy on the train. Riding in the suburban carriages without doors is quite an experience, but one you’ll appreciate in the heat. The housing stock in Mumbai is good and it isn’t too hard to find an apartment. However, living expenses, including rent, can be quite a bit higher in Mumbai. But don’t let this put you off the opportunities in Mumbai. Despite being a huge city, Mumbai has a wonderful welcoming feel to it and, unlike Delhi, it is warm all year round.
Asia Options experiences in Mumbai:
- Beth feels at home in Mumbai working with Atma
- My Experience living and researching in Mumbai as a PhD scholar at Tata Institute
- Volunteer opportunities with Atma
- Reflections from the Young Professionals Services and Leadership Trip to India
Regional language: Kanada
Stepping beyond north India, Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore) is one of India’s most contemporary cities and is well set up for expats. Being at the heart of the ICT boom in India, Bengaluru attracts a lot of students and offers plenty of professional opportunities. The city’s lifestyle also gives you plenty of reasons to stay – it’s considered the cheapest major Indian city to live in by the Economist Intelligence Unit and ranked the third best city to visit in the world by Lonely Planet in 2012.
Bengaluru is known for its technical and engineering institutions and attracts a large number of international students. The Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru was ranked India’s top university in the Times Higher Education rankings. The National Law School of India University is also a destination for Australian Endeavour Scholars.
If you are looking for professional services, ICT or engineering experience, Bengaluru is a good place to start. It is known as the ‘Silicon Valley’ of India due to its huge cluster of ICT companies – Google, Infosys and Wipro all have their Indian headquarters in Bengaluru. There is more to the city than just ICT. It is also big for advanced manufacturing, particularly aerospace. Another growing area of opportunity in Bengaluru is its biotechnology sector, home to nearly half of India’s biotech companies. Moreover, Bengaluru has a growing number of innovative start-ups, including (and certainly not limited to) the social enterprise Pollinate Energy.
The lifestyle in Bengaluru adds to the city’s appeal. As you would expect in a growing city full of students, it has plenty of bars, restaurants and a big underground music scene. Bengaluru has a comfortable climate – more moderate that the rest of India – and its reputation as the ‘garden city’ is not for nothing.
Asia Options’ opportunities in Bengaluru:
- Opportunities with Pollinate Energy
Regional language: Telugu
Hyderabad is a rapidly growing city with an increasingly international outlook. Located smack bang in the centre of India, it’s a beautiful mix of north and south Indian culture, and an excellent Indian city to study, work or live. In fact, Mercer ranked it as the best Indian city in its quality of living survey.
The top universities in Hyderabad include: the Osmania University, popular with international students and known for its arts, engineering, and law courses; and the University of Hyderabad, primarily post-graduate. Telugu is the main language spoken in Hyderabad. However, if you are studying Urdu, you’ll also be drawn to the city’s strong Urdu speaking culture and history.
There are opportunities to gain experience or work professionally in India’s new industries in Hyderabad. Hyderabad has long been a commercial hub in central India. Now, much like Bengaluru, it’s economy is expanding, driven by a growing ICT sector. In Hyderabad’s suburb ‘Cyberabad’, Facebook, TechMahindra, Google, IBM and Dell all have operations. Hyderabad’s ‘Genome Valley’ also has a major cluster of bio-medical companies.
Living in Hyderabad is relatively comfortable and the area around Banjara Hills is a bit of a hub for expats. Mercer’s ranking of Hyderabad as the best Indian city to live in emphasises the access to high quality schools, transport and public services. Not to mention, Hyderabad airport is a dream. In Hyderabad, there is a relatively good bus network, but otherwise minimal public transport. Locals often get around on their own two-wheelers or rickshaws.
But, by far one of Hyderabad’s most enjoyed contributions to Indian life is Biryani, the famous spiced rice dish and just one example of the great food available in Hyderabad.
Asia Options’ experiences in Hyderabad:
- Opportunities with Pollinate Energy
- Clare’s experience on the Pollinate Energy Young Professionals Program
Regional language: Tamil
Chennai may not be the first city that comes to mind when you are considering places to study, work of live in India. But if you’re looking for a city which has a rich traditional culture juxtaposed with exciting commercial and education opportunities, Chennai is a must! With its tradition of intellectual thought, beautiful tropical location and access to the rich culture and economy of India’s south, Chennai will not disappoint. Although, the floods in late 2015 have taken a toll on the city, fortunately, much of the city is getting back on its feet – a testament to the mighty Chennai spirit.
The major technical university in Chennai is the IIT Madras (Chennai was formerly called Madras), which has connections to Australia: La Trobe University has an exchange partnership and Deakin University has research partnership with IIT Madras. The University of Madras has a number of notable Indian alumni and Anna University is worth considering as it has a partnership with the University of WA.
Chennai is the biggest commercial centre in south India. The internationally recognised International Observer Research Foundation has an office in Chennai and one of India’s opinion leading newspapers, The Hindu newspaper, is located in Chennai. Like most of India’s major cities, it is also home to a number of major multi-national companies, particularly financial institutions and professional service providers.
Living in Chennai can’t be beaten. It’s warm and tropical and the food is amazing (think appam, idly sambar and chutnies). It is a little smaller than other cities we have profiled and incredibly easy to get around. You can choose between the metro trains, buses and, hopefully, a soon to be implemented bike share system.
It also has a great film industry: If you thought Bollywood films are entertaining, wait until you see Tamil films! Kollywood, the Tamil film industry is not as big or as widely distributed as Bollywood but it is huge across South India.
Asia Options’ experiences in Chennai
- Tej’s internship in India with the Observer Research Foundation