These Are the Most Expensive Cities to Live in India

Mumbai | © Vidur Malhotra / Flickr
Arun Venkatraman

It is estimated that over 31 percent of India’s population lives in its cities. This is expected to grow to 40 percent by 2030. Thanks to this massive influx of workforce and India’s young population, the country’s major cities are going through an unprecedented period of growth. But while this growth brings better facilities, services, and overall prosperity, it also means that living in any city in India is going to be that much more expensive. Certain cities have grown in a more balanced way and have managed to meet new demand and keep the cost of living at the right level, while others have faced severe appreciation. Here’s a guide to understanding where India’s major cities rank when it comes to cost of living and livability.


It should come as no surprise that India’s financial and entertainment capital is also the country’s most expensive city to live in. With the sea covering three sides of the city and leaving little room to breathe, Mumbai has had to grow vertically, leading to higher demand and much higher density of people. According to some estimates, the Indian city is more expensive to live in than Frankfurt or Seattle. Mumbai has jumped up 25 places in this year’s Mercer Cost of Living Survey, coming in as the 57th most expensive city in the world.

A view of the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel and Gateway of India in Colaba, Mumbai


The Indian capital is best known for its large open spaces, parks and cheap street food. However, in recent years, thanks to the rapid development of its satellite cities Gurgaon, Noida, and Ghaziabad, Delhi has seen its cost of living rise sharply. While Delhi came a distant second to Mumbai in the 2017 Mercer Rankings, at 99, it also recorded the steepest rise, moving up 31 places. According to cost-of-living calculator Expatistan, housing in Delhi could cost anywhere between Rs 16,999 and Rs 32,083, while a meal outside could vary between Rs 281 and Rs 465.

An IT complex in Gurgaon, NCR


India’s fifth largest metropolis is also the country’s third most expensive, according to the 2017 Mercer Cost of Living rankings, beating Kolkata and Bengaluru. Government measures such as demonetization have adversely impacted the real estate sector, leading to higher rents. However, Chennai still remains one of the most popular cities for expats, and regularly draws more international traffic than any city in India other than Mumbai and Delhi. The average rent in Chennai is estimated to range between Rs 12,000 and Rs 29,000. The new two-line metro rail and an improved availability of expat housing have also ensured that Chennai has consistently improved in terms of quality of living, according to latest reports.

A view of the newly constructed Chennai Metro Rail in Guindy, Chennai


An ever-worsening traffic menace and increasing levels of pollution have caused recent hurdles for this city that was once moving forward at a breakneck speed. While rents have remained relatively cheaper than Mumbai or Delhi at Rs 12,000 to Rs 26,000, Bengaluru still ranks higher than cities such as Leipzig and Cape Town, ranking at number 166 in the Mercer rankings.

A view of the Vidhana Soudha in Bengaluru City


Kolkata is the least expensive city out of India’s five major metros. While it is one of India’s most populated, Kolkata has steadily expanded its boundaries thanks to a well-established transportation system that includes the country’s oldest metro rail system. Lunch with drinks in Kolkata costs around Rs 324, which is considerably less than in other cities of similar size.

An aerial view of Kolkata skyline at South CBD


Higher transportation and rental costs have meant that even though Pune is only India’s seventh-largest city, it ranks higher in terms of cost of living. According to cost of living estimates by Expatistan, housing in Pune ranges between Rs 10,000 and Rs 21,000. With strong industrial backing and a booming local economy, Pune has been on a steady growth path and is expected to continue growing steadily in the near future. Plus, Pune also boasts a higher quality of living compared to both Mumbai and Delhi, according to recent estimates.

An aerial view of the Pune City skyline


Among India’s major cities, Hyderabad is not only the cheapest to live in, it is also the top city in terms of quality of living, according to the 2017 Mercer Quality of Living index. Hyderabad is home to a robust IT industry and corresponding services such as internet and connectivity, also has to its credit considerably cheaper rental and food prices.

Hyderabad’s popular Hussain Sagar Lake


Gujarat’s biggest city, Ahmedabad, has consistently ranked better than its peers in terms of cost of living. While rental prices in the city range between Rs 10,000 and Rs 26,000 and are comparable to other metros, Ahmedabad scores high in terms of the cheap cost of utilities (such as the internet) and transportation. Ahmedabad also scores high in terms of quality of housing available, thanks to the robust growth of satellite cities and townships.

A view of the arterial SG Highway in Ahmedabad

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