Welcome back to This is India! I always have funny/weird stories about India to share with friends or family when I talk to them. This is just meant to be an honest portrayal of my life in India through short anecdotes. I also share here what I’ve been up to online outside Hippie in Heels.
What I was up to other than here:
- I just finished reading The Alice Network about a spy network in France during WWI which would have been good if it were more about history and not about some random romance.
- Are you guys watching This Is Us? I just watched the Superbowl episode and basically have been crying for an hour – how am I even seeing to type this!? This show is devastating.
- Clearly based on bullet points #1 and #2 above, I have not been up to anything of substance. Life has been beach, work, eat, play with dogs… the usual.
Now your story,
I thought I’d share with you about what our utilities are like in Goa. How we get water, gas, internet, phone, and electricity and how we pay for them. I guess this would help future expats moving out here. Based on my reader survey, you want to know more about the “boring” things living in India entails – and this is one of them.
I’ll start with water.
It’s something I never really thought about in the US. Growing up we had “well water” not that I knew what that meant – I just knew it wasn’t “city water” and tasted different. Here in India, we have a well, too. A truck comes around and fills it. Because I live in a gated area with about 5 other houses, this is something our management takes care of and it’s included in our management/rent cost.
Other people aren’t so lucky and actually RUN OUT of water here in Goa during the hottest months. Sometimes it’s hard to get a truck to come out to you last minute (like my friend who’s field was on fire found out). The wells seem to dry up in April/May and in Goa like other parts of India, there can be a lack of water. Because of that, we do think about how much water we use.
I’m not exactly sure how it works but sometimes the water runs out – as in nothing comes out of the tap (which is a bummer when you are covered in soap in the shower) and we have to go out and tell the workers at our complex. They go do something (I don’t know what) and then the water comes. I clearly know a lot about how the water works here, lol.
Next up: electricity
A/C’s here are always split level and stuck on the wall. You won’t find “central air” here in India and the A/C’s are definitely our biggest drain on the electricity. Our bill is maybe 13k Rs. per month which is around $200. Now, being the responsible people we are, we forget to pay our bill a lot. Sometimes it’s been like 6 months and our security guard will deliver the bill and say “you should really pay this….” To this day, we’ve never had our electricity cut off. So, why delay the payment? Because as foreigners we cannot pop online and pay it since they don’t accept foreign cards. We can’t go pay at the electricity department in cash, either. They stopped that earlier this year. You have to instead go to an ATM, withdraw the money, then go to a local bank and get a bank order (like a check) and go take that to the department. As foreigners, we cannot get a bank order, so we have to take a local friend with us to do it all under his name. It’s just a pain and get’s put off sometimes too long.
Hot water is from a geyser, which are in the bathrooms. You have to turn it on about 10 minutes before you want hot water. Our washer (and most people’s) don’t have hot water hooked up so we wash only with cold water. Our clothes don’t always get that clean, lol. The kitchen doesn’t have hot water, so yep – dishes are washed with room temperature/cold water.
Inverters are very important here as we have power outages fairly regularly during the monsoon. The invertor is basically two big batteries (they look like car batteries but I’m not sure if they are the same thing). They charge up and then when the power goes out they will keep some things going until those batteries die. Then when the power is back, they recharge. When they finally die which happened after about two years, they were $500 ish dollars to replace. The inverter is hooked up to specific plugs. Our runs our TV, internet, a few fans, and a few lights. They ran the electricity dumb and it doesn’t cover any upstairs lights or kitchen lights! It wouldn’t be strong enough to run an A/C and that would kill the battery pretty fast.
our electrical wiring is always coming apart and fans/lights falling from the ceiling but this is a standard light in our house before I redecorated and got cute jute-like covers!
Some people have diesel generators, too. We did have one from Ben’s worksite but eventually gave it back. It’s expensive to fill them up and they are really loud. Only rich people seem to have these or hotels/restaurants.
The biggest bummer of power outages is that long ones mean you have to throw away stuff in your freezer. A lot of people who get sick from food in India could be getting sick because mid-range to budget restaurants won’t always throw out food that has dethawed and frozen over and over again in the freezer.
Next is the gas/propane.
We have a stove top which has a gas container under it; it’s a big red thing on wheels. Okay, this might be dumb but I’m not entirely sure what gas it is, but I think it’s propane? I am not good at these things! I just know how to refill it. So, families can have up to two gas tanks: one large and one small (the laws change on this sometimes) but you have to show an Aadhar card (kind of like a really intense identification for Indians and permanent residents) to get gas or refill it.
As a foreigner, I cannot go get a NEW gas canister. I can refill it though. Once a year it runs out (probably says a little about how much we cook) and I have to take it to Mapusa to the gas place and swap it out for a new one. I have to take my landlords paperwork and ID card with me and sign some paper. We can’t get a second container, though, our landlord would have to go do it for us.
We have an oven, which was bought second-hand last year (after four years without one and baking only in a toaster oven). So, we can’t use the oven and the stovetop at the same time… so we have to plan our cooking out to make it work. To change the gas over, you just turn it off and unclamp it from the piping and then roll it over to the oven and hook it up and turn the gas back on. It’s annoying but we’re lucky to have an oven; I don’t know many people who do. Gas is really cheap. I honestly can’t remember but I think like 500 Rs. or under $10.
Gas for your car/scooter
Gas is around $1/liter – to be honest, I never pay attention to this because I will get gas no matter the cost. It usually takes about $50 to fill up the big Bolero (like a huge Jeep) and less to fill up the Omni (pictured above, but currently out of commission). A scooter can last a month with $8 of gas in it if you aren’t driving huge distances.
The guy who sprays your house
There’s this thing… where once a month someone comes out and sprays the perimeter of your house inside and out with super toxic stuff that kills cockroaches, lizards, snakes, and all of that. After he sprays, we find so many dead bugs and things! Cockroaches are a thing here, I see one or two a week dead in my kitchen or laundry room. I have gotten way too used to it. We have to take the dogs out when this guy sprays because it’s so toxic and the smell is really strong. We are meant to stay out all day, too, but never do. We actually haven’t had him come in a long time because we felt it was too toxic to have in the home and we don’t mind the lizards (they hang out on the walls, usually hidden behind A/C’s and probably eat flies or do something good! They were paid a VERY small amount like $60 to come do this once a month for 10 years. It was pre-arranged by our landlord. The stuff is gross and the day after it dries you have to clean it all up. It does help with ants though, which are bad for a few months each year. Here with the ants and humidity you cannot leave bread or anything out – everything goes in the fridge. Plus, most is made fresh without perservatives so the bread would be moldy in a day if it sat out.
Fiber optic Internet
Internet is a pain here if you don’t get a good company to run a fiber optic cable out to your house. I use Ethernetexpress and they charge about 7k Rs (under $150) to run a cable out to your house but more if you live more rural. I remember when we first looked into it four years ago and it was going to be 22k Rs. If you get neighbors to go in on it with you, it can be cheaper. Then you pay a monthly bill based on how much internet you want to use. Ours is 2,500 Rs and that gets us 100 Mbps for 160 GB then down to 6 Mbps unlimited. It’s enough to use a VPN and stream Hulu, Netflix, and even SkyTV. Ben turned our tv into a computer with an Android PC, so we are legit hooked up!
You could also have BSNL run a line out to your house for internet but the wait time to get them to do it is long and once when I called they told me there were “100 people in front of me”.
To pay the bill at Ethernetexpress as a foreigner, you have to go to their shop and pay in cash.
We stopped paying our Tata Sky bill like a year ago because we never watch Indian TV. The channels weren’t great and it was maybe $25 per month. We don’t have a landline phone to our house because our complex has one at the security door which we could use if there were an emergency or our cell phones didn’t work for some reason.
To pay our cable bill we have to go to a shop down the road who takes TATA payments and you just give them the cash and the account number. You’re meant to have your TV and box on when you do this for it to work.
Cell phone bill
When you get a SIM card, you should see what company has a good signal near your house (ask neighbors). We have a variety just in case lol, IDEA, Vodafone, Jio, and Airtel. The Jio SIM is for Indians only and is like 500 Rs ($7.75) for a month of the internet that gives you 1 GB per day. It’s SO much data for so little money! An Indian friend of mine got me a SIM card from Jio and I use IDEA for call/SMS. My phone is dual SIM so I keep both in it. Before we had fiber optic internet, we had a Vodafone SIM in a tablet that we would hotspot off of. That was a pain. To pay a cell phone bill as a foreigner, you cannot pay online you have to go to a shop and get “recharge” and pay them cash to top up your phone.
Bills in India are cheap overall but different than the USA
I have to say, I miss USA bills where I could just pay online. It was so easy. But, Indians don’t have the annoyances foreigners have here with bills – they just pay online like we do in the USA. The Indian government is known for having a “closed currency” and they are very strict about accepting foreign cards on most sites – for example, I cannot even buy a movie ticket online. Lots of people here hire local people to help them like housekeepers, drivers, and “house helpers” which are dudes that kind of run errands or do whatever you want done. You can send them to pay the bill as part of their job if you have hired someone like this. They can take the cash to the appropriate place and get a receipt. Read more about living in Goa like rent and finding a place here in this article.
This is India!
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Before I got my own account, my salary would go into my friend’s account, and he gave me his debit card number to use to pay my bills. I would make sure he was free and then pay all of my bills at the same time so that he could text me the verification codes. It was a pain to be reliant on him, but it was so nice to be able to pay everything online. You are so much more patient than I am!
Love this series – all the mundane, tiny things I would never think about but sound like a nightmare. I’m impressed you’ve lived in India for so long!
I see lot of problems written while living in India. I feel this is struggle to living. Change is constant if someone gives back to this country. 1. How to fix the problems 2 . Can I approach consulate with my recommendations
3. How to spread awareness to make this diverse country grow
I will focus as an Expat on these points. We all know you are great blogger and love india from your heart.
I think you can pay online all the bills and recharge your mobile and internet, you just need make your account on PAYTM. its an digital wallet app you can add money once by going to shop after that you can use the app for purchasing movie tickets,mobile recharge,electricity bill etc.
Foreigners cannot use PayTM.
Is India is really good to make a travel?