16/12/2021
Indian Safaris: Frequently Asked Questions

When you start planning a safari trip to India, or any other wildlife paradise, you’ll have a lot of questions. Such as what is the best time to visit the country?  Where can you see royal Bengal tigers? How do you get to India? What should you pack for the safari? Your safari tour operator will help you with such queries.

In addition, to give you a gist of things to think about when planning an Indian safari, below is a list of frequently asked questions that will help you.

1. When is the best time to travel to India?

Indian summers are probably the best times to visit the country’s sought-after tiger reserves. The hot summer temperatures from March to June drive the wildlife to the park’s few perennial waterholes. The thinning grass makes it easier to spot the tigers and other wildlife that gather around these waterholes. Although this remains the best time to visit most of the Indian tiger reserves, there are a few exceptions such as the Jim Corbett National Park, when the ideal time to visit is from November to February.

For bird watching, visitors can plan a trip between October to February. The jungles of India flourish during the monsoon (June to October). As the rainfall stops, it leaves behind a lush and blooming jungle that attracts migratory species. Siberian cranes and greater flamingos are two species that make their way over to these flourishing forests.

2. What are the best places to see Royal Bengal Tigers in India?

  • Jim Corbett National Park, Uttarakhand
  • Bandipur National Park, Karnataka
  • Kanha National Park, Madhya Pradesh
  • Tadoba Andhari National Reserve, Maharashtra
  • Sundarban National Park, West Bengal
  • Nagarhole National Park, Karnataka
  • Ranthambore National Park, Rajasthan
  • Bandhavgarh National Park, Madhya Pradesh
  • Pench National Park, Madhya Pradesh
  • Satpura National Park, Madhya Pradesh

Refer to our guide of Top 10 Tiger Safaris in India to learn more about these destinations.

3. How safe are open vehicle safaris?

Parks such as Jim Corbett National Park and Ranthambore National Park take visitors on a safari in open vehicles such as jeeps and canters. Whenever you come across any dangerous wildlife such as tigers, follow the lead of your tour guide and certainly don’t get outside the vehicle. Once you start the jeep safari, you will spend at least 4-5 hours inside the jeep. As long as you don’t get out of the vehicle or make any sudden movements which might disturb the wildlife, you’ll be completely safe.

Refer to our India travel safety tips guide for information on how to have a safe and fulfilling journey to India.

4. What should I wear and take on safari in India?

Remember there is a luggage restriction for a trip to India, so packing light is highly recommended.

  • Pack comfortable casual clothes and neutral colours such as khaki, beige and stone, so you blend into the environment. In addition, the national parks are very dusty so neutral colours work well for this too.
  • I Pack comfortable clothes for rugged safaris as you can spend quite a bit of time in vehicles so you want to be comfy.

Consider the seasons in which you are visiting the park:

  • Summer: Pack modest, loose, and comfortable clothes. Also, pack sunscreen, masks as protection against the dust, a hat to protect yourself in the open vehicles and sunglasses to shield your eyes.
  • Monsoons: Some of the Indian parks will be closed for monsoons from June to October, while a few that remain open during the Indian rainfall include:
  • Bandipur National Park in Karnataka
  • Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary in Karnataka
  • Hemis National Park in Ladakh
  • Jim Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand
  • Kali Tiger Reserve in Karnataka
  • Nagarhole Tiger Reserve in Karnataka
  • Periyar National Park in Kerala

So, for your monsoon wildlife safaris, you’ll have to pack raincoats (covers) and jackets for yourself as well as any electronic equipment you’ll be carrying around.

  • Winters: Pack layers and warm clothes because night and early morning temperatures can drop as low as 10-15°C. Often these low temperatures are accompanied by a continuous breeze.

For more information on what to pack on your first safari, refer to must-have items to pack for your first safari.

5. What languages are spoken in India?

As a diverse country, a multitude of languages are spoken in India, more than 121 languages throughout the country.

A 2019 survey of English speakers across India found that around 87.6% of people living in the Indian cities can speak English, whereas only 3% in rural regions understand it. So, while you are sightseeing in the cities, you shall have no trouble interacting with the locals. However, some of the Indian national parks are set in rural areas where English speakers are few. As such safari packages usually provide visitors with an English speaking tour guide, who’ll act as a translator throughout your journey.

6. What currency is used in India?

Indian rupees is the official Indian currency used at all Indian outlets and merchants. Visitors can get rupees at Indian exchange centres in metropolitan cities, hotels, or airports. They can also use the Indian ATMs to dispense cash.

Based on the 2017 survey, there are around 2,36,199 ATMs throughout India. For getting cash at the ATM, you need to have Amex, Visa, and Mastercard credit cards. Visitors from European countries can also use their debit cards. Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted throughout India. Some merchants in the country also accepted Discover and American Express credit cards. Contact your safari tour operator before you visit the country and they can give you all the information regarding currency exchange centres in India.

To make things a little simpler, we have shared a quick currency conversion (2021)

Currency Indian Rupees
1 Pound Sterling 101.19
1 Euro 86.71
1 United States Dollar 73.11
1 Canadian Dollar 58.23
1 Australian Dollar 54.31
1 Japanese Yen 0.67

7. How safe is the water and food in India?

Eating Indian food outside India is a pale imitation of the meals served at your Indian safari accommodations. Although you are likely to have light lunches before any safari, once you return, you’ll be in the mood for a hearty meal. If you aren’t used to Indian cuisine, know that it can be a bit spicy. The food prepared at the hotels is not only safe but also a delicious feast. Avoid eating at unknown places.

With regards to water, avoid drinking tap water in India. Stick to the bottled water provided by your guides and accommodation.

8. How much money should I carry on my Indian safari?

The majority of your expenses on safari, including accommodation, activities, and vehicle transfers, are covered by safari packages. Some safari packages also cover domestic flights. So, the only times you’ll need money is for either tipping the guides and staff or purchasing souvenirs and snacks at the local shops. As we have already seen, some shops accept credit cards, but it is advisable to have at least some cash for additional expenses. Carrying 1000-2000 Indian rupees on your safaris should be sufficient.

9. Do I require a visa to travel to India?

Yes, you’ll need a visa to travel to India. You can acquire it through an online application process. You can also visit the local Indian embassy and consulate, where you can fill out a visa application form.

The citizens of Bhutan, Maldives, and Nepal do not have to get a visa to gain entry to India. Even with that exemption, citizens of Maldives can only stay for 90 days. As long as these citizens do not arrive from China, they gain free entry. Furthermore, only citizens of Japan can get visas on arrival in India although there are certain exceptions. For example, the Japanese citizen shouldn’t be of Pakistani or Bangladeshi origin.

Also, people of Indian origin up to the fourth generation settled throughout the world can get visa exemption cards, provided they are not citizens of Pakistan, Bangladesh, or other countries specified by the Indian Government.

10. What about mosquito nets and repellent?

India is one of the low-risk malaria regions so you might not need to take any malaria prophylactics for the trip, but you should always talk with a medical practitioner before you leave for the trip to get up-to-date advice. You’ll rarely need mosquito/bug repellent and nets, but could consider packing bug spray. Safari accommodations usually provide them if it is necessary.

11. How to make an emergency call in India?

To reach the nearest police station, you can dial 100. Dial 102, to reach the ambulance. You can also reach the fire department by dialling 101. Only contact these numbers in case of emergency.

12. Where are India’s best birding spots?

  • Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary: Located in Uttarakhand, this wildlife sanctuary has over 200 bird species. It is home to the grey-winged blackbird, white-collared blackbird, Bonelli’s eagles, crested serpent eagle, spotted forktail, little forktail, and red-billed blue magpie. Other species seen in the park are a blossom-headed parakeet, slaty-headed parakeet, and plum-headed parakeet.
  • Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary: Located on the banks of Vembanad Lake in Kerala, the sanctuary has over 100 bird species. A majority of the bird species migrate to the Kuramkom in a flock of thousands. Most birds migrate from the Himalayan regions, while others, such as Siberian cranes, travel a large distance to reach the park. It is also home to the golden-backed woodpecker, egrets, kingfishers, and Indian paradise flycatcher.
  • Nalbana Bird Sanctuary: Located on Lake Chilika in Odisha, Nalbana Bird Sanctuary has over 160 bird species. The large flocks of flamingos come to the sanctuary to quench their thirst on the shallow water of Lake Chilika. They travel from Iran and Gujarat. Other waterbirds include black-headed ibis, goliath heron, purple herons, spoonbills, and storks.
  • Keoladeo National Park: Located in Rajasthan, Keoladeo was once known as Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary. It is seen as a playground for exotic birdlife. Indian winters are a great time for birdwatching at Keoladeo. With over 360 bird species, the park is a bird-watching paradise. It is home to painted francolins, Indian grey hornbill, peregrine falcons, an eastern imperial eagle, and marshall’s iora.
  • Nal Sarovar Bird Sanctuary: India’s most popular birding destination, the sanctuary, consists primarily of lake and marsh areas. With over 250 wetlands bird species, Nal Sarovar is home to millions of birds. Some of the most commonly seen species are ducks, flamingoes, fishing eagles, painted storks, swallows and white-necked storks.

Other birding destinations include Bhigwan bird sanctuary, Eaglenest wildlife sanctuary, Kitam bird sanctuary, and Rangananthittu bird sanctuary.

13. What kind of electric plugs are used in India?

India has a different electrical system when compared to the US. It runs on 220/240 volts and 50 cycles systems similar to that of the United Kingdom. So, people travelling from the United States might have to carry a power converter for their devices. These will lower the power from 220/240 to 120 volts.

14. What are India’s top cultural attractions and historical monuments?

  • Delhi: Qutub Minar, India Gate, Jama Masjid, and Red Fort.
  • Punjab: Golden Temple, Jallianwala Bagh, Wagah Border, and Akal Takht.
  • Tamil Nadu: Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple, Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, Vivekananda Rock Memorial, and Sripuram Golden Temple.
  • Karnataka: Mysore Palace, Lalbagh Botanical Garden, Hampi, Gokarna, Udupi town, and Nandi Hills.
  • Goa: Basilica of Bom Jesus, Church of our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, Mahadev Temple, and Palácio do Deão.
  • West Bengal: Darjeeling, Bishnupur, Mayapur, Pandua and Gaur ruins, Murshidabad, and Barrackpore.
  • Madhya Pradesh: Khajuraho, Gwalior Fort, Orchha palaces, Sanchi stupa, and Maheshwar.
  • Rajasthan: Hawa Mahal, Jal Mahal, City Palace, Jaisalmer Fort, Thar Heritage Museum, Sam Sand dunes, Junagarh Fort, and Ranthambore Fort.
  • Uttar Pradesh: Taj Mahal, Temples of Mathura, Temples of Vrindavan, Temples of Ayodhya, Jhansi Fort, and Rani Mahal.

15. What wildlife can be seen in Pench National Park?

One of Madhya Pradesh’s 40 well-known wildlife sanctuaries, Pench National Park is part of the Project Tiger reserve in India. Pench National Park forest was used as a setting in Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. Visitors will come across several of the animals mentioned in the books. The park has reported sightings of a rare lone black panther who people have taken to calling Bagheera. It is also home to sloth bears and Indian wolves, both of which have a representation in the book. Amongst its reptiles are the Indian rock python and then there are the royal Bengal tigers. As of 2021, Pench has over 53 royal Bengal tigers. Other wildlife species found in the park are:

Mammals

  • Blackbuck
  • Four-horned antelope
  • Indian fox
  • Indian wolf
  • Indian wild dog
  • Indian wild boar
  • Jackal
  • Jungle cat
  • Muntjak
  • Sambar
  • Spotted deer

Reptiles

  • Banded kukri snake
  • Buff-striped keelback and checkered keelback
  • Common sand boa and red sand boa
  • Common cat snake
  • Common vine snake
  • Common wolf snake
  • Rat snake
  • Russels’s viper

Birds

  • Asia pied starling and Chestnut-tailed starling
  • Black-shouldered kite
  • Crimson-breasted barbet
  • Flame-backed woodpecker and yellow-crowned woodpecker
  • Indian black ibis
  • Indian Scops owl
  • Indian grey hornbill
  • Jacobin cuckoo
  • Laughing dove and spotted dove
  • White-eyed Buzzard
  • White-throated kingfisher
  • Yellow-throated sparrow

16. What wildlife can be seen in the Himalayas?

The Himalayas, one of the world’s largest mountain ranges, stretches across five countries, India, Bhutan, Nepal, China, and Pakistan. Throughout these countries, the vegetation in the Himalayan region varies based on altitude and climatic conditions. The foothills of the Himalayan mountain range has tropical deciduous forest, then a little higher it becomes temperate forests. Above that, at a higher altitude, are the alpine and coniferous forests. And before you reach the snowline, the Himalayas are covered with high-altitude meadows and alpine grasslands. These diverse habitats are home to several of the Himalayas unique wildlife. Listed below are some you are likely to come across on your journey.

Animals

  • Himalayan gora
  • Himalayan/Indian black bear
  • Himalayan marmot
  • Himalayan serow
  • Himalayan tahr
  • Himalayan yak
  • Indian rhinoceros
  • Musk deer
  • Red panda
  • Snow leopard

Birds

  • Asian paradise flycatcher
  • Black-necked Tibetan crane
  • Blue-throated barbet
  • Chestnut-bellied rock thrush
  • Himalayan monal pheasant
  • Khalij pheasant
  • Long-tailed broadbill
  • Maroon oriole
  • Mountain bulbul
  • Plumbeous water redstart
  • Red-billed blue magpie
  • Ultramarine flycatcher
  • Wedge-tailed green pigeon
  • white-capped redstart
  • White-throated fantail

About author

MD and Co-Founder. Born in Zimbabwe, Robin has a long history in Africa, and safaris in general, from running lodges to marketing. He is always on the look out for new ideas and products from around the safari world.

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