How to See Tigers in Ranthambore National Park

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When I found out I might be able to see wild tigers in Ranthambore National Park, India, I was instantly determined.

Obviously, you need a bit of luck on your side when it comes to seeing wild animals anywhere. That’s always the risk you take. There aren’t many countries with tigers still in the wild so if you’re heading to India, why not try and tick seeing tigers in Ranthambore National Park off your bucket list?

Close up of tiger in Ranthambore National Park

RAMTHAMBORE ESSENTIALS

India Lonely Planet

Accommodation: Booking.com

Activities: GetYourGuide

Getting there: bus / train (12Go)

Travel insurance: World Nomads

Wondering how to see tigers in Ranthambore National Park?

This Ramthamore travel guide will make the logistics and booking process super simple. Enjoy!

Dreaming of India but not ready to take the plunge? Come with me on my February 2023 small group tour inc Ranthambore! See the itinerary, FAQs and booking details here.

Where is Ranthambore National Park?

You’ll find this national park in North India, two hours south of Jaipur. The nearest settlement is Sawai Madhopur, a city of 1.3 million (a small one by Indian standards), known as the gateway to the National Park.

Since it’s not far from the tourist-friendly Golden Triangle, it really isn’t hard to turn it into a square and see some incredible nature as a break from Rajasthan’s busy cities.

Tiger in Ranthambore National Park India

How to get to Ranthambore National Park

The best way to get to Ranthambore National Park is by train. The journey takes 2 hours from Jaipur and doesn’t usually get booked up in advance. I reserved just 2 days before and ended up on a waitlist which was granted.

I travelled to Ranthambore from Pushkar (Ajmer Junction station). Afterwards, I spent 3 days in Jaipur meaning I didn’t have to go back on myself.

As usual, you can book whichever class you want. I don’t believe this particular route has AC Tier 1 but it does have AC Tier 2 (a bunk with a curtain), AC Tier 3 (where a third bunk folds into the cabin), Second Sitting and AC Chair Class. It depends how much cash you have to splash, how much comfort you want, and whether you want to meet the locals (clue: you should!).

Close up tiger Ranthambore National Park

Is Ranthambore the best place for seeing tigers in India?

That probably depends if the person you’re talking to saw the Ranthambore National Park tigers! I had such a great experience in Ranthambore National Park that nowhere else in India could have topped it. In terms of likelihood, it seems to rank as the third best national park in India for spotting tigers. Bandhavgarh National Park and Pench Tiger Reserve are often put above it.

However, these places aren’t as accessible from Rajasthan. I’d argue Ranthambore is a winner based on having a high likelihood of seeing tigers and a convenient location. But if you go to Rishikesh, check out Jim Corbett National Park because I heard of people having luck there.

Where to stay in Ranthambore

I would recommend staying in Sawai Madhopur. This city is very well set up for tourists, making the majority of its income from people coming to see tigers in Ranthambore National Park.

Sawai Madhopur train station is a homage to the big cats, covered in murals of them. That made me feel confident on arrival but would probably have rubbed it in on leaving if I hadn’t seen them!

Side profile tiger Ranthambore National Park

There are plenty of accommodation options in Sawai Madhopur. There are currently no hostels but there are some cheap guesthouses that won’t blow the budget.

I stayed at Travel Soul Bed and Breakfast which was 1,100 rupees (£13) a night. Slightly more than I usually pay at hostels but I used it as an excuse to enjoy my own space. The room was comfy and the restaurant food was tasty which meant I didn’t have to go out to find dinner.

Sawai Madhopur is quite spread out with lots of hotels on dusty roads, so it isn’t the best place for easily getting around. But it didn’t matter because I was only there to see the tigers and go.

Note – this hotel had a different name when I got to it. A sign outside says Travel Soul Bed and Breakfast but the main hotel is called Treebo Rajputana. I found that odd at first but it didn’t affect the stay, and both hotels have very good reviews.

How to book a safari in Ramthambore National Park

When planning my trip, this was the bit that threw me. How to see tigers in Ranthambore?

There was various conflicting advice online. Some said to book your safaris on a website (which wouldn’t take international bank cards). Others said to show up at the booking office at 5am to sign up for the first safari of the day. Neither of these things seemed ideal but it turns out you don’t need to worry…

Just ask your hostel to book for you.

What an easy solution! I emailed my guesthouse as soon as I had their contact email and asked them to book my safaris which they were happy to do.

When I arrived I just paid for my room and the safaris together. They’d actually asked me to send them the safari money on PayPal in advance (I think because it comes out of their pocket if the guest doesn’t show) but I called them up because I was wary about sending money to a stranger, and they told me I could just pay on arrival.

2022 update – there’s now an even easier option, book your safari directly with GetYourGuide

Arriving in Sawai Madhopur

If you’re arriving into Sawai Madhopur train station (the main way to arrive in the area), you won’t be far from your accommodation. I arrived in the dark by myself but still felt very safe hopping in a tuk-tuk. I paid 100 rupees to my hotel a 10-minute drive away.

Related next: the best places to travel solo in India

Tiger by tree Ranthambore National Park

What to expect on a tiger safari in Ranthambore

Now for the fun bit!

Driving around Ranthambore looking for tigers was so much fun: I was full of adrenaline, flinching at every movement in the bushes.

The safari vehicle options

When you book your Ranthambore safari, you’ll be able to choose between a 6 seater and 22 seater car. The 6 seater costs 1,714 per safari, while the 22 seater costs 1,375 rupees for foreigners.

As a budget traveller, I went with the bigger car and found it totally fine. It was open-topped so you could simply stand up when you wanted to view something clearly. Of course, if you have the budget to spare you can go with the smaller one.

Read next: Complete India budget break down

As the only solo traveller on both my safaris, I always got given the best seat near the driver. Pairs were put in the back with everyone else. There would have been no benefit in me paying for the smaller vehicle.

Tiger side profile Ranthambore National Park

How likely is it you’ll see tigers in Ranthambore?

I did two safaris and had luck during one of them which seems to be average. The guides told me they see tigers a few times a week, so if you stay a couple of days, this should work in your favour.

How does it work?

The park is split into six zones. On the morning of your safari, your car will be assigned a zone. So you’ll never have a chance to see all the tigers in the park, just the ones who reside in your zone. I know there are 6 tigers in zone 6 and we got to see 4 of them (though sometimes they wander between zones to make it extra confusing).

Safrai car in Ranthambore

The drivers and guides communicate via a Whatsapp group. Whenever one of them makes a sighting, they message the others who quickly head towards it. So if your guide gets a text and tells the driver to put his foot down, you know you’re in for a treat!

I didn’t get to see any tigers during my first Ranthambore safari but during the second one, we got so lucky. After only 20 minutes driving around, we got a message and headed to a clearing where two tigers were lounging in the heat. They didn’t stay lounging for long, as this picture below proves!

Tigers in Ranthambore National Park
Two tigers in open clearing Ranthambore National Park

Seriously what an incredible thing to see in nature! It really is the circle of life, isn’t it? Even if it would have been a bit heartbreaking, I’d have also loved to see the cats hunting or making a kill.

The surprise sighting

After an hour watching the tiger couple, we left the clearing. I felt a bit disappointed as I could have watched them much longer.

It turned out to be a blessing in disguise because, as we drove home, we found the two youngest residents of Ranthambore: twin brothers approaching 2 years old. Most of the safari cars were still back with the first tiger couple so we had them all to ourselves, something that’s pretty rare for a safari sighting.

Male tiger walking Ranthambore National Park
Male tiger Ranthambore National Park

What else to see and do in Ranthambore?

Obviously, you’re coming to Ranthambore to see tigers. I understand if you’re not that interested in the deer and other wildlife. But I would say that the whole National Park is very interesting to visit.

With its dry countryside and crumbling stone forts and temples, it really made me think of the Jungle Book. Crocs lurk in shallow waters and monkeys swing from the vast forest canopy, unbothered by the safaris cars below.

Chipmonk in Ranthambore National Park
Alvin, Simon, Theodore
Deer in long grass Ranthambore National Park
Crocodile lurking beside the water Ranthambore
Talls trees in Ranthambore National Park

There are a few other things to do in the Ranthambore area which include:

  • Hiking up Ranthambore Fort (an ancient fort with views of the park)
  • Taking a safari in Kachida Valley where bears and panthers are known to live (very Jungle Book!)
  • Visiting Ranthambore School of Art – shop for wildlife-related art that also funds conservation efforts.

I have to confess I did none of them. They all seem like add-ons to the tiger experience, plus it was so hot outside. I was more than happy to relax inside before and after my safaris.

Thanks for reading my Ranthambore travel guide!

I hope you have a better idea of how to see tigers in Ranthambore. Finger’s crossed you find them!

Check out some of my other India posts:

See you next time for more adventures,

Rose

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Seeing tigers ranthambore

VISITING INDIA? 

These are my trusted resources:

Getting around by air
– it’s easy to get between cities by flight. I use Skyscanner and search by whole month to find the best value dates.

Buses
buses are comfy and efficient. Use 12Go to book.

Trains
these are a good option for long journeys because you have a bed rather than a seat. Use 12Go to book.

For hotels
, I use Booking.com – they also have self-catering apartments. You can filter by review score and price to find the best-rated budget places. For hostels, I use Hostelworld.

Browse tours and activities
on GetYourGuide. I also check Viator and Klook in case they have a better price.

For food experiences with passionate local chefs and foodies, check out EatWith.

Pack the latest copy of India Lonely Planet.

Need travel insurance? I use World Nomads. They cover 150 countries and have 24-hour emergency assistance. 

Check out my resources page for more travel discounts and tips!

2 thoughts on “How to See Tigers in Ranthambore National Park

  1. Gus Allen says:

    Hey Rose,

    How you doing! I was just reading this awesome blog about tigers in India and got to the bottom and saw it was yours!

    I’m going out to India in Jan, flying into Mumbai, down to Goa, across to Hampi then up to deli/Arga and Rajistan. Let me know if you have any ‘must see’ recommendations!

    Hope you are well!

    Gus (from Wowcher, lol)

    • Rose says:

      Hey Gus! Wow that’s so cool, glad you found it and it was useful.

      India is awesome, you will love it. I went to Mumbai in 2015 but haven’t done Goa or Hampi (yet, but I think I’ll be back!).

      Love Rajasthan too, Pushkar is cool and very near to Ranthambore if you’re planning a trip! 🙂

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