Happy New Year and Greetings from India! We finally arrived in India last week. It really feels good to be home! We got up today to the doorbell ringing with neighbors bringing in sweets for Pongal/Sankranti festivals. We are staying with some close friends who had moved to Bangalore a couple of years back. They have been extremely helpful for our family (my wife, two young kids and myself) to get setup here. The past week has been extremely busy – finding a rental apartment, clearing customs, tracking a couple of our bags that Lufthansa managed to misplace, etc. But, finally things are falling in place. We are moving to our apartment next week. And I’m quite excited about starting work on Monday.Before work kicks in next week I wanted to jot down some points from our move to India for those of you interested in moving here. For others, please skip the rest of this post.Preparing for the move
- Identify a good mover: I did some shopping and settled with Sky2C Freight Systems. Tarun & Anu Tandon there were helpful in planning my move and executing it. Four of my friends had used them with positive experiences. Mine has been great so far (packing, loading the container, delivery to Bangalore customs, customs clearance in Bangalore). They will be delivering my stuff home next week and I’m hoping that will go smooth as well.
- Buying stuff: I would suggest buying as much as you can in the US and shipping it here. Particularly electronics such as a Home Theater system, BluRay player (and DVDs), Playstation/Wii and a good LCD/Plasma TV (ensure that it’s PAL compatible or buy a PAL to NTSC converter – I found this particular Blog helpful in deciding what specific electronics to buy). I was also advised by people to buy furniture from the US (Sofas, Dining Table Sets, Beds, etc.) – you get good furniture in India but it is more expensive. In our case, since my wife and I had planned this move for a few years, we accumulated stuff over the years and that made it easier.
- Customs: I would suggest spending a few minutes familiarizing yourself with this customs page http://www.cbec.gov.in/travellers.htm. If you have stayed for a couple of years abroad you are normally eligible for “transfer of residence” and in that case the customs duty is very less. Please note that if you are planning to bring expensive items (such as an acoustic piano), you might be levied 35% duty even though this is not mentioned in the customs webpage.
- Planning your travel to India: Once you ship your container, it takes about two months for it to arrive in your Indian city of residence. Plan your travel so that you arrive in India well in time to find an apartment before your stuff arrives (we cut it too close but luckily things worked out).
What to expect once you arrive here
- Missed Luggage: If you are moving here with family and checking in a handful of bags, there is a high likelihood that a couple of them might be misplaced (Lufthansa is particularly famous for this). The day I arrived, there were at least 20 people missing their luggage. Pack accordingly – especially if you have kids. I would suggest carrying valuables as well as stuff you need for 10 days in your hand luggage
- Apartment Hunting: It would be good to do some homework on where you would like to stay before you arrive. I found the MagicBricks website very helpful for finding an apartment in Bangalore. Most good apartments rent through real estate agents (who take 1 months rent as commission). It’s tough to avoid this especially since many of the apartment owners live abroad and prefer to rent via an agent. You will be able to find agents through MagicBricks listings. A few agents I found helpful in Bangalore are – Pradeep (+91 99450 60262), Saleem (+91 98806 60669) and Ram Rajpal (+91-98450 79698). I would also recommend living in one of the bigger apartment complexes that are quite self-contained (shops, swimming pool, gym, squash courts, etc.). Here are a few good builders here in Bangalore that I have checked out – Mantri, Prestige, Sobha, Salarpuria
- Transfer money to India: If you are renting an apartment, you will have to give a 10 month deposit + 1 months commission to the rental agent. In addition you will need to buy a car and household appliances (refrigerator, washing machine, etc.). As a rule of thumb, I would say it would be safe to have between Rs. 5 to 10 lakhs in an easily accessible account in India from which you can write a check or issue a draft
- Stay with family or friends: The first few weeks are the toughest, especially if you are moving to a city where you haven’t lived before. It is easy/cheap to find a service apartment to spend the first month. But if you have a close relative or friend living in the city you are moving to, I would suggest staying with them. Obviously this is a very personal call, but in my case my wife and I decided to stay with a very close friend and his family for the first couple of weeks and this has made our transition much smoother. In fact, we are renting an apartment in their same apartment complex just so that we have them (as well as another friend) close by for support and guidance in settling in
- Stay close to work: This is particularly important in Bangalore where traffic is quite unpredictable. I’m violating this advice that I got from multiple people mainly because I wanted to stay in the same complex as our other friends (as mentioned above)
That’s about it for now. If I can think of other things to add, I will append this post. For those of you who have been through this process before, please feel free to add what I might have missed. If you are considering a move to India and have any specific questions, let me know.