Chennai – Detroit of Asia

The doorway to South India, Chennai is a miraculous gift the land of Tamil Nadu embraces. One of the oldest cities in the country, Chennai’s culture is reflected in the unique blend of its diverse population. It is both traditional and conventional in its cultural diversity.

Chennai Travel Guide

Chennai is located on the Coromandel coast of Bay of Bengal and is the fifth biggest city of India. It is the most popular services and manufacturing hub for India.  The city, previously known as Madras, derived its name from Madrasan, a fisherman head who lived in the coastal area of Madras. The original name of Madras was Puliyur kottam, which is a 2000-year-old Tamil ancient name. The region of today’s Chennai was ruled in the 2nd century CE by the Chola dynasty. Chennai was also known as Madharasapattinam under the British Raj. It was renamed to Chennai in 1996. The city acted as a major hub for the erstwhile British East India Company. 

The city is famous for its classical musical season. It is also known for the classical Indian dance, Bharathnatyam, the official dance of Tamil Nadu. It has the second largest revenue generating movie industry next to Bollywood of Mumbai. Chennai has played a pivotal role in the development of contemporary and traditional art in India.

The religious representation of Hinduism in Chennai city is over 80% of the total population. There are also various communities of Muslims (9%), Christians (7%), Jains (1%), with less than 1% of Sikhs and Buddhists.

Chennai is on the south-east coast of India and lies in the tropical zone of climate. As a result, it mostly experiences hot and humid weather. The best time to visit Chennai is from November to February. The temperature in Chennai is always hot, hotter or hottest, though it does rain at times.  During summer the temperature is usually around 35o C to 42o C in the day time and drops to around 25o C in the night. During winter, the temperature is around 28o C to 32o C in the day time and drops to around 20o C in the night. The weather in Chennai remains hot and humid throughout the year. Festivals take place all year around and can attract massive crowds (even by India’s standards), so always check ahead. 

Drawing the quality of ‘Unity in Diversity’  from the homeland country India, Chennai carries the legacy of rich cultural heritage imbibed in its fine arts, music and dance forms,  people and cuisines. The attribute of being a cosmopolitan city, Chennai mirrors a confluence of all the diverse cultures nourishing within  its boundaries. The residents of the city living in sheer harmony with each other confirm that the varied culture exists, but not at the cost  of peace and tranquility of Chennai. 

The festivals colour Chennai in the fun and fervor of the celebrations. Several monuments  silently express the glorious history of the city they witnessed, the traditional art forms they preserved and continue to keep it alive.  The spirit of Chennai, vibrant culture and reminiscent traditions all make the city wonderful and tremendously important as a part of  Indian heritage. Chennai is also the major center of Business. It is interesting to note that the culture of Chennai also shows some  influence of the people from nearby states & territories since many people from these states are present in Chennai.

Expats coming to Chennai will find themselves a part of a diverse ethnic population from across the world as the city has built a reputation of being one of the safest cities in India.

Chennai has people from a varied cultural background working together. It is home to a lot of expatriates from all over the world..

The Principal language of the city is Tamil but you’d find more people speaking in Hindi and English.


Chennai is among the most economical cities in the world when it comes to real estate.It is possible to get a house with sea views, a swimming pool, a garden, for an affordable price compared to the other cities like Mumbai or Delhi. Neighborhoods in Alwarpet, R.A. Puram and South Chennai are preferred by the expatriates while identifying housing options.  R.A.Puram and Alwarpet with an assortment of apartments and independent houses is a prime residential location. 

Housing in Chennai

The Boat Club area  boasts of some elegant and up-market options and is one of the most preferred areas by expats. There are few Luxury hotels and many  good restaurants in this part of the city. There are many supermarkets and a number of up-market boutiques and coffee shops.

Neighborhoods in “South Chennai” include areas such as Adyar, Besant Nagar, Thiruvanmiyur, East Coast Road (ECR) and Old  Mahabalipuram Road (OMR). The attraction of East Coast Road are the Beach houses, independent houses with landscaped gardens,  many with swimming pools as customized options. These neighborhoods have the advantage of being close to the beach, amusement  parks and various international schools. Their proximity to the IT corridor, and the availability of good physical and social  infrastructure and civic amenities, is what makes these areas popular. 

Restaurants, supermarkets, convenience stores, entertainment  options are in proximity to all these areas. Some of the newly constructed apartments, gated villas and houses are well planned and  luxurious with modular kitchen, modern fixtures, fittings and with various amenities such as clubhouse, swimming pool, gym, indoor games etc.

Unfurnished apartments lack all basic household and kitchen appliances including air conditioners. These can be sometimes negotiated with the landlord. Furnished apartments are very few and furniture is not always up to expat quality. There are very few Hotel service apartments in Chennai. Temporary accommodation for a few months is usually not available.

Due to lack of space some buildings have open areas such as balconies or terraces, a garden is rare. A vacant property may not always be very pleasant at first sight since most landlords do not start refurbishing until an agreement has been signed. Club house amenities may not be available in the same society complex.

Check if the rental quoted is inclusive of apartment associated maintenance costs. If the landlord is providing you with utility connections. The set up cost is borne by the landlord and the monthly rental and the tenant bears usage charges. The monthly payment will  have to be made directly to the vendors. Please note that there is always a due date for making payments.

When considering a property, keep in mind the general appearance of the property and its location, layout of the property, condition of all electrical appliances supplied including air conditioners and washing machines etc., provision for Electricity backup, water storage, humidity/mildew damage, and finally if the telephone, internet line and gas connections are provided by the landlord.

Chennai Cuisine

Street food, as in other areas of India, are popular in Chennai. Idli Sambar is a popular dish, which is served as  breakfast or dinner. The other variety of street food which is very famous in Chennai includes Pongal Sambar,  Samosa, Murukku, Parotta, Idiyappam, Muttai Dosai, Biryani. Apart from the local street food, and South Indian  street food, the city streets are also filled with several North Indian street food, Gujarathi and Burmese food outlets.

Cuisine in Chennai


Chennai has some of the best world-class hospitals where thousands of international patients come for treatment each year. However, public facilities don’t often meet international standards and you’re better off going to a private hospital. 

Healthcare in Chennai

You’ll easily find English-speaking staff at most private hospitals. But despite affordable medical facilities in the city, it is best to take medical insurance that covers all your medical expenses. 

Some of the best hospitals in the city are Apollo, Fortis Malar, Gleneagles Global Health City, Billroth Hospital and Vijaya Hospital.

There are however certain precautions that one needs to take to maintain the health of their family. For example, all water must be boiled and filtered before drinking or used for oral hygiene. Drinking tap water is not recommended and one should always use a water filter at home or buy filtered water. 


With India gaining popularity globally, Chennai stands to gain a lot, and this fact is clearly reflected in terms of education. Chennai, today, is considered a desirable destination to pursue education and is a favored educational destination among many nationalities. The schools and other educational institutions in Chennai are run by the Government or private organizations.

Schooling in chennai

The medium of learning is usually English, Tamil or Hindi and these schools are affiliated to either the Secondary School Certificate (SSC) Board, Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE) or the Central Board for Secondary Education (CBSE). Chennai also has several international schools and preschools are also available, offering both British and American curriculum. The American school early childhood education center has a program for three to five year.

Some of the top international schools in the city are American International School, British International School, German International School, Vaels Billabong etc. 


Chennai is one of the preferred destinations for expats across the world. Foreign professionals in the Indian metropolis earn higher than what expats make in cities like San Francisco and London. That’s more than enough to live a lavish life in the city. 

The official unit of currency is Indian Rupee. As a foreigner employed in India, binding to the Indian foreign exchange and Income Tax law, you are restricted to open one bank account per city. Foreign nationals have to obtain a PAN (permanent account number) card for applying for a bank account. 

Direct taxes are low in the city compared to most international cities but you’ll need an accountant to help you with your taxes, given the highly complex tax structure. Overall, depending on the income level, taxes vary from 5 percent to 33 percent. Additionally, there is a GST (Goods & Services Tax) charged at almost everything that you purchase in the city or any services that you avail. The GST rates vary between 5-28 percent depending on the type of goods and services being availed. 

Transportation and Shopping

Chennai is one of the most preferred places to stay due to  its excellent transport  system. Metro trains are plying in a few lines. Chennai is well-served by its suburban rail network. It can get extremely overcrowded particularly during rush hour. There are ladies-only carriages which are recommended for all female travellers. Buses are also useful for getting around town. 

Transportation in Chennai

Buses are often crowded and seats are hard to come by—only a small minority are fitted with air conditioning. Tickets are best purchased from the conductor. Taxis are available in plenty in the city. It can either be hired on the spot or prior booked. The fares are based on the distance travelled. Pre paid taxis are available in airports and railway stations.

Auto-rickshaws are a very easy mode of transport in the city. There are many shared autos that ply to and from specific locations. There are regular autos too but a little expensive and always need to check and finalize the fare before climbing in.

Plans are underway for an extensive metro system to ease overcrowding on trains and buses and to reduce traffic congestion. The first metro line is already operational. Chennai has plenty of taxis and private cab services like Uber and Ola plying the streets and they are the best way to get around. 

Shopping in Chennai

To go out and shop, malls are your best bet since local markets are often crowded. Some of the popular malls with high street international brands include Phoenix Market City, Express Avenue and VR Mall.   


Chennai is one of the safest cities in India and at par with most European cities in terms of safety. However, it is a large metropolitan city and it is advisable to take general safety precautions. It is advisable to follow safety rules which you would anywhere in the world. It is best to avoid secluded places late at night. But beyond that, you can indulge in the city’s nightlife with minimum worries. 

Safety in Chennai


Before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, the Indian government had made several changes to the country’s visa policies, making it easier for foreign nationals to travel to India for work or for leisure. Indian visas are divided between Regular Visas, e-Visas and Visa-on-Arrival. As per the recent changes now an applicant can apply for e-Tourist or e-Business Visa any time before his travel to India. The validity of the visa has now been made 365 days. Thus, an applicant can enter India any day post the grant to e-Tourist and e-Business visa until any time in the next 365 days.  

Immigration Services in Chennai

Maximum continuous stay period allowed under e-Tourist visa is up to 180 days for – USA, UK, Canada and Japan. For other countries it is 90 continuous days. Similarly, under e-Business visa, a continuous stay of 180 days is allowed and there is no requirement for registration. If the stay exceeds 180 days or if the aggregate stay in a calendar year has increased then 180 days then the applicant is required to register with the FRRO/FRO within 2 weeks of the completion of 180 days in India.

India also has a facility for visa-on-arrival, which has now been extended to nationals of South Korea and UAE also in addition to Japanese nationals. For UAE nationals though they are eligible for this category of visa only if they have applied for e-Visa and/or Regular sticker visa in the past. The validity of the visa is 60 days and can be used for tourism, business, conference and medical visit purposes. Pakistan-origin UAE nationals are not eligible for this visa category and would need to apply for a regular or e-Visa. 

Currently, the regular Tourist Visa, e-Visas and Visa-on-Arrival remain to be suspended until further notice due to the Pandemic. All other visa categories that is – Employment, Dependent, Student and Business Visa are being issued by the Indian missions abroad. In-country visa services like Resident Permit, Visa Extension, Change of Address/Passport etc are being processed smoothly.