Finding a house to rent can be difficult, simply because there are still relatively few modern houses here, and many of these are already rented by expats on long-term leases.
However, there are always new houses being constructed, and these can be very good deals. Many locals will also be happy to construct a house to your specifications, in exchange for a long-term lease and enough of a down payment to help them with the construction costs. The rents in our neighbourhood for a 2-bedroom modern home on long-term lease is about $2000 a year. Utilities would come to about $20 - $50 a month.
The selection of furniture and household goods and appliances in the local market is extremely limited. We purchased all our furniture from the well-stocked furniture stores in New Delhi, and had it brought up in trucks for about $150 per truck, including insurance and loading. We also bought all household appliances - refrigerator, TV, digital washing machine, dryer - in New Delhi. Dishwashers are available as well.
If you have a vision for your home, you will find someone in New Delhi or even Chandigarh to execute it. You can choose from Italian modular kitchens which cost a fortune abroad but are priced more reasonably for the Indian market. Our brand new, custom made furniture came to about $7000 including all household appliances.
Groceries are fresh and inexpensive. Fresh produce tomatoes are 30c/Kg. Eggs are 50c a dozen. You can either buy full cream milk from the local cow owner or buy excellent toned and homogenized milk from the market for 50c a litre. If you would like to grow your own veggies you could either toil alone or hire a gardener for $20 a month to assist you. A neighbor popped around yesterday and sold us 5 heads of freshly picked broccoli from his farm - 20c for the lot. You can buy fresh baked breads at various bakeries in the market. Cigarettes are $15 for a carton of 10 Benson & Hedges special filter packs (made in the UK) .
We have two maids working for us. Between them they handle all the cooking and cleaning, as well as odd jobs. We pay them a total of $60 per month.
This is generally a very safe area, with almost no violent crime. But you could be robbed if you go off somewhere for 6 months without securing your home well. The best solution is to secure all your valuables in one room, with bars in the windows, and hire a caretaker or contract with your houselhold help to clean and look after your property while you're away. This would cost $20 a month.
Moving here isn't easy, as the work ethic of the plumbers, electricians, carpenters, movers, tilers, painters and so on in India often leaves much to be desired. We got quite exhausted getting our home set up, but now when we relax in our cozy living room by the glow of a fire, and look out at the sunset colors in the valley, surfing the Net at 256kbps, with a fresh, snow chilled breeze blowing through the apple trees outside, we know moving here was a great decision.
We have absolute peace to work. For my husband this means getting valuable time to finish writing the code for his projects. We finally have time to discuss our business ideas and accomplish much more because we are free of the distractions, and the cash-burn rate, of a city. I've read more in the two months we've been here than I have in the last four years.
For individuals with e-commerce other location-independent businesses or those who want to start their own businesses with really low investment, this area offers ideal conditions, as well as a chance to hang out in the mighty Himalayas and explore the region.
We've been living in our Himalayan home for a few months now, and can appreciate what attracts so many people from all over the world to settle here. The area's most famous expat settler was Nikolai Roerich, the Russian artist, archeologist, explorer and philosopher, who moved to the town of Naggar after his famed Central Asiatic Expedition and lived here for 20 years till his death in 1947. Roerich painted the peaks of the Himalayas and was inspired by their serenity and majestic beauty, just as we are.
Excerpted from "Living In The Valley Of Gods: Life In The Himalayan Highlands" in Escape From America Magazine, Issue 55.