The Ultimate Ranthambore National Park Safari Travel Guide

Last Updated on December 28, 2022 by Natalia

Taking a safari to see the majestic tigers of Ranthambore National Park is one of the highlights of any Rajasthan itinerary. Home to over 60 tigers, the park is one of the best places in the world to see these magnificent creatures. The chances of seeing a tiger in Ranthambore National Park are quite good, especially if you take multiple safaris, but there’s plenty of other wildlife in the park including sloth bears, monkeys, deer, crocodiles and leopards. We were lucky enough to go on safari in Ranthambore 4 times in 2019, experiencing both canter and jeep/gypsy safaris, so have plenty of tips and information about visiting. Find out everything you need to know and our top tips for seeing tigers with this Ranthambore National Park Safari travel guide!

It’s not possible to stay inside Ranthambore National Park as accommodation and hotels aren’t allowed in order to protect the animals’ habitat, but check out our list of the best hotels and resorts nearby!

How to get to Ranthambore National Park

First up on our Ranthambore travel guide is how to get there. Sawai Madhopur is the closest city to Ranthambore National Park, which makes it the ideal place to stay when visiting the park. Thankfully the city has good public transport links with several major cities, so it’s both easy and relatively cheap to get there.

The best way to get to Ranthambore National Park is to take the train to Sawai Madhopur, with direct trains to the city running from Jaipur, Agra, Jodhpur, Delhi, Udaipur and more.

If you plan to take the train then it’s worth booking your tickets as soon as possible, as trains can sell out weeks in advance in India. There were a couple of times where we didn’t book trains early enough and had to rearrange our whole itinerary as a result – so learn from our mistakes!

Fortunately it’s easy to book train tickets to Sawai Madhopur online in advance through 12GoAsia, which is extremely useful as it’s not possible for non-Indian residents to buy tickets through the official Indian Railways website.

Click here to check schedules and book train tickets to Sawai Madhopur through 12GoAsia!

Ranthambore Safari travel guide a Monkey sitting down

Although it’s potentially possible to get to Sawai Madhopur by bus, we would recommend travelling by train instead. Trains are only slightly more expensive and tend to be a lot more comfortable than the buses.

If you don’t have the time to spend a few days in Sawai Madhopur then an alternative is to take a day trip from Jaipur to Ranthambore National Park. It’s a long day taking a Ranthambore safari from Jaipur though, so we recommend staying for longer if you can make it work.

Best time to visit Ranthambore National Park

There is no definitive best time to visit Ranthambore National Park for your safari. Whatever time of year you visit there are no guarantees of what wildlife you will see, so a lot of it ends up being down to luck.

Two of the best months for seeing tigers in Ranthambore are May and June. During these months the average temperature is around 34-35 degrees Celsius with highs of around 40-41 degrees Celsius.

As a result of the heat, the tigers are seen more often as they need to come out from shelter to drink from the lakes and other water sources. This does give you a better chance of seeing the tigers, but also means you will have to put up with the intense heat yourself.

Zone 3 is particularly good to visit during the hotter months as it’s home to 3 lakes, including Padam Lake – the largest lake in Ranthambore National Park. With some luck it’s possible to see tigers and other animals drinking from the lake due to the heat.

Some of the beautiful scenery you can see on your Safari in Ranthambore travel guide - Padam Lake

It’s worth considering whether you really want to put up with such high temperatures before visiting in May or June. When Natalia first visited India back in 2014 she was in the country during May and June and said the heat was unbearable.

If you would prefer to visit when it’s a bit less hot then any time from November to April is good for visiting Ranthambore for a safari – just make sure to bring some slightly warmer clothes to avoid wind chill if you visit during the winter months.

Visiting during October isn’t normally recommended as it’s just after the monsoon season and so tiger sightings are less common as there is more water in the park. That being said, we visited in October and we saw tigers on 3 out of 4 safaris.

Realistically tiger sightings can happen at any time of year, you just need a bit of luck. If you spend long enough in the area and take multiple safaris then hopefully you should see a tiger no matter what time of year you visit!

Beautiful tiger on safari in the grass which inspired this Ranthambore Travel guide

Monsoon Season in Ranthambore

Traditionally Ranthambore National Park closes and stops safaris for the months of July, August and September due to the monsoon season and to avoid disturbing the tigers during their mating season. In recent years however, the park has only closed zones 1-5 during these months and have kept zones 6-10 open to tourists.

It’s best to search for up to date information regarding the opening and closure of zones within the park during these months, as there is no confirmation that zones 6-10 will remain open during the monsoon season every year.

It’s also worth noting that some zones, in particular 7 and 8, may be closed if the rain causes the roads in the zones to be unsuitable for driving.

A crocodile in the water one of the many animals we cover in this Ranthambore Safari travel guide

Jeep vs Canter for Ranthambore National Park Safari

There are two different types of safaris you can take in Ranthambore National Park – a jeep safari or a canter safari. Jeep safaris are sometimes referred to as gypsy safaris, but it’s just a different name for exactly the same thing.

The difference between the two is the size of the vehicle and therefore the number of people on board. Jeeps seat a maximum of 6 people and are much smaller, whereas canters can seat up to 20 people and are significantly larger vehicles.

As part of our Ranthambore travel guide we would chose jeeps over canters.

This is because jeeps more comfortable with fewer people and are more mobile, meaning they can get to certain areas in Ranthambore the canters can’t.

On our first visit to Ranthambore we took a canter safari, but we didn’t enjoy the experience as much as we hoped – even though we saw a tiger within a few minutes of entering the national park!

A canter safari in Ranthambore

For our remaining 3 safaris we went in a jeep and found it to be a much better experience. The jeep safaris felt more personal as it’s easier for the guide and driver to point out wildlife to you.

In a canter the guide has to try and point out animals to 20 people at once, which can make it hard to see where you should be looking.

Jeep safaris in Ranthambore National Park do cost more than canter safaris, but the price difference isn’t too big. Considering it only costs slightly more to take a jeep safari we definitely think it’s worth spending a little bit extra for a better experience. If you’ve come all this way to go on a safari, why settle for second best?

A jeep which holds 6 people on safari in Ranthambore National Park which we recommend instead of a canter as part of this travel guide

The cost of a safari in Ranthambore National Park varies depending on how you decide to book. It is possible to book directly through the Forest Department of the Government of Rajasthan’s website, but the process is quite confusing and complicated.

If you book your visit to Ranthambore National Park through the government’s website then a canter safari costs approximately 1,428 rupees per person and a jeep safari costs approximately 1,698 rupees per person.

Alternatively, if you go through a 3rd party such as a tour operator or hotel then costs will vary but we paid 2,000 rupees each for a canter safari and 3,000 rupees each for a jeep safari.

A bird with the beautiful scenery in Ranthambore National Park

Which zone is best for a Ranthambore National Park Safari?

Ranthambore National Park has a total of 10 zones, but it’s only possible to visit one zone per safari. There is much discussion over which zones are the best for seeing the famous Ranthambore tigers, with zones 1-5 generally seen as the best zones.

Although these zones are considered to be better, it’s still not possible to guarantee tiger sightings. It also doesn’t mean that you won’t see a tiger if you visit any of the zones 6-10.

The best zones to visit in Ranthambore National Park for a safari actually vary from day to day depending on sightings. If a tiger or tigers have been seen in any zone over the past few days then you generally have a better chance of seeing the a tiger in a zone with a recent sighting.

We do not recommend a particular zone over another in this Ranthambore travel guide as it really does depend where recent sightings of a tiger are for near to when you are visiting.

Our first tiger spotting on our safari in Ranthambore, walking through the forest with a prey in it's mouth

Depending on how far in advance you book your safari it isn’t always possible to specify what zone you’d like to visit in Ranthambore National Park. There are limits on the number of jeeps and canters in each zone, and so booking further in advance gives you the best chance of choosing your desired zone.

Safaris in Ranthambore are split into two time slots – morning safaris and afternoon safaris. Every day at 10am additional jeep and canter safaris go on sale for all zones for that afternoon and the following morning.

By booking a safari this way you’re able to take into account recent sightings and hopefully visit a zone that gives you the best chance of seeing a tiger. To do this we strongly recommend using a reliable local operator who knows the booking system.

We were lucky enough to find an extremely good operator who was able to get us safaris this way. He was able to get us one safari in zone 3, one in zone 4 and two in zone 6.

The operator kept up to date on recent sightings and prioritised getting us safaris in zones where tigers had been seen that morning, or in the last few days. As a result we saw tigers on 3 out of 4 safaris – which was extremely lucky as sightings are normally less common during October.

A common sight is deer on a safari in Ranthambore

In reality there is no ‘best zone’ in Ranthambore National Park, as it just depends on recent sightings and a bit of luck. We recommend using a quality local operator to book your safari when the additional slots become available.

As part of our Ranthambore travel guide we recommend staying in Sawai Madhopur and do a number of safaris during your stay. This gives you the best possible chance of seeing a tiger, and also means the operator has more chances to get you a safari in a zone with recent sightings.

If you want to book through the same operator as us then visit the Cultural Safari Tours website and contact them via email or whatsapp to arrange your Ranthambore safaris. They’re experts at what they do and helped us achieve our dream of seeing tigers in the wild!

A falcon eating a snake

Ranthambore Safari Times

Safaris in Ranthambore National Park are split into two time slots – morning safaris and afternoon safaris. The exact timings of the safaris depend on the time of year due to the variation in daylight hours.

A safari in Ranthambore National Park lasts for approximately 3-3½ hours in general. Morning safaris run from 6am to 10.30am depending on the time of year. Afternoon safaris run from either 2pm to 7pm depending on the time of year.

Click here for a breakdown of safari timings by exact dates!

It’s worth noting that when we did our canter safari we spent considerably less time inside Ranthambore National Park in comparison to our jeep safaris. We were in the park for less than 2 hours on our canter safari, whereas we spent around 3½ hours in the park for every jeep safari we did.

The longer you spend in the park, the better chance you have of seeing a tiger regardless of whether you visit in the morning or afternoon. In our opinion it’s definitely worth paying extra for a jeep safari to increase your chances of spotting tigers!

A price list of safari costs in our travel guide to Ranthambore National Park

How to book a safari in Ranthambore National Park online

Booking a safari in Ranthambore National Park is relatively straightforward if you decide to book through a local tour operator or a third party such as Get Your Guide. As we’ve said above we recommend booking through Cultural Safari Tours as they are experienced in booking Ranthambore safaris and in our experience provide an excellent service.

The price will vary depending on who you book through but we paid 2,000 rupees per person for a canter safari and 3,000 rupees per person for a jeep safari. This price included all entrance fees, guide fees and vehicle fees, as well as return transport from our hotel in Sawai Madhopur to Ranthambore National Park.

If you want to book through Get Your Guide then they offer canter safaris for 2,000 rupees per person and shared jeep safaris for 2,500 rupees per person.

Click here to book a safari through Get Your Guide!

The sunlight hitting a tiger peering out in the grass

Although going through an operator like Get Your Guide is a good idea in many ways, you won’t have any say on what zone your safari is in. If you book through a local operator you have a bit more say about which zones you want to visit – although there is no guarantee you will actually get the zones you want anyway!

The final option is to book the safari yourself through the Forest Department of the Government of Rajasthan’s website. Doing it this way will work out cheaper, with the price for a Ranthambore safari in 2020 being approximately 1,428 rupees per person for a canter safari and 1,698 rupees per person for a jeep safari.

Unfortunately the website isn’t the easiest to navigate and we recommend paying the extra for the convenience of having it arranged for you.

More deer and monkeys grazing together - Ranthambore safari travel guide

Ranthambore Safari Tips

Take multiple safaris – If you really want to see a tiger in Ranthambore National Park then we recommend doing multiple safaris as said before in this travel guide. Even though it’s one of the best places in the world to see tigers, sightings are by no means guaranteed. If you visit more than once you increase your chances of getting lucky!

After our first 3 safaris we weren’t sure whether to take a 4th, but we ended up having our closest encounter with a tiger on our 4th safari so it was well worth it. Even if you get lucky and see a tiger on your first safari, it can still be worth doing more safaris anyway!

Bring plenty of water – Safaris in Ranthambore National Park last around 3½ hours from start to finish, so make sure you bring enough water with you – particularly if you’re visiting during the hotter months, such as May and June.

Get some binoculars – If you want to get a good view of the tigers or animals then it’s worth bringing a pair of binoculars. In an ideal world you’ll have a great sighting of a tiger relatively close up, but in many cases the animals are often in the distance.

Out of the 3 tiger sightings we had, only one was close enough to see well with the naked eye. By bringing a pair of binoculars you should still get a relatively good view anyway, so it’s worth the investment. We recommend checking out Amazon to pick up a pair of binoculars if you don’t already have some!

Kingfisher in Ranthambore National Park

Buy a zoom lens – As we’ve said above, tigers and animals aren’t always close up when you see them on safari. If you want to get the best possible pictures then it’s worth buying a lens with a good zoom, as well as a good quality camera if you haven’t already got one.

We got a 70-300mm lens before we visited Ranthambore, and it helped us get some lovely pictures that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. There are plenty of great cameras and zoom lenses available on amazon –  click here to take a look for yourself!

Wear suitable clothes – Check the forecast and wear appropriate clothes for the weather. During the warmer months you’ll want to wear light clothing for your safari, but during the winter months you may actually need some layers to keep you warm earlier or later in the day. It’s also a good idea to wear a hat for extra protection from the sun.

Use sun cream – Make sure to put on sun cream to keep yourself protected, especially during the warmer months!

Mosquito repellent – It’s also a good idea to use mosquito repellent to protect yourself against mosquito borne diseases especially for the evening safaris.

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