How to Find and Photograph Wild Tigers on a Budget – Independently

Wildlife photography in India. A wild tiger on a budget!
We saw this tigress on a riverbank in Tadoba National Park

Have you ever dreamed of traveling to far-off lands in search of wild tigers?
That was my dream and I was determined to make it a reality. The problem was I couldn’t afford the tours, the prices were simply outrageous. And besides, I didn’t need nor did I want luxury. I had to find and photograph wild tigers on a budget, and independently. So that’s exactly what I did.

If you want to see and photograph a tiger in the wild go to India. The top three national tiger parks are, Kanha, Bandhavgarh, and Ranthambore.
Fly to New Delhi between March and June, book an overnight train to the nearest junction, and catch a bus to the park gate. Stay in a local guesthouse and arrange a seat on a jeep safari. It could not be easier or cheaper

Read on and I will show you how you can see wild tigers on a budget by arranging everything yourself, and for a fraction of the price of a tour.

I have listed the top 3 parks specifically for tiger viewing. They have the infrastructure to make your visit a success. Plus, as a bonus. I will highlight 6 more amazing parks where you’ll have a good chance of seeing wild tigers but without the crowds.

So sit back and relax, we’re going on a tiger safari!

The Best Wild Tiger Parks Are All in India (and the Cheapest)

If you want to maximize your chances of spotting a wild tiger you really have to go to India. The states of Madya Pradesh and Rajasthan in particular.

Madya Pradesh lies in the central/north of India and has two parks famous for prolific wildlife and healthy populations of tigers. (It’s marketed as ‘The Tiger State’ for a reason)

Kanha National Park with its beautiful wide-open meadows full of grazing deer and excellent game viewing.
Bandhavgarh National Park is a smaller and more wooded park but with the highest density of wild tigers in India.

Rajasthan has another world-famous reserve with its hillside fortress overlooking a stunning lake.

Ranthambore National Park is arguably the most famous of the three. If you have ever seen an image of a wild tiger resting in an ancient ruin, it was probably taken here.

These parks provide your best chance of seeing a tiger in the wild. They have the infrastructure and organization to make your stay both pleasant and successful. If your priority is to find a wild tiger then start with these three parks before going on to explore all the other amazing parks India has to offer.

If you go at the right time of year it would be unusual not to see a tiger. March to June is best, it’s the hot season, preceding the monsoon. The days are hot and dry, and the vegetation dies back, opening up the views.
Allow yourself a few days and you’re almost guaranteed to make a sighting. In fact, I’ll stick my neck out and say, if you visit Kanha or Bandhavgarh in the hot season you’ll probably see more than one.

Kanha National Park for Wild Tiger Safaris on a Budget

Kanha National Park. A wild tiger on a budget. A photo taken from a jeep on an independent safari
This tiger walked out of the bush and rested in front of our jeep.

About Kanha National Park

Kanha is 1945 sq km of wooded hills and meadows. If any park in India can claim to compete with an African experience then it’s probably this one. Famed for its wide-open meadows, Kanha represents the very best in Indian wildlife watching.

As well as the huge populations of spotted deer and numerous sambar deer Kanha is also home to the critically endangered hardground barasingha deer which can be seen in Kahna meadows, usually from a distance.

Further Reading: How to Plan a Wildlife Photography Trip

Bison are harder to find but I’ve seen them.  Nilgai antelopes exist but are even more elusive. Wild boars and monkeys are everywhere.

You are much more likely to encounter leopards in Kanha than in Bandhavgarh and I’ve seen wild dogs (dholes) quite a few times. Jackels are a common sight and I’ve seen jungle cats a few times. You are unlikely to see a sloth bear but they do exist.

There’s far more to Kanha than this small list. Not being an avid birdwatcher I haven’t even touched on birdlife. There is a guide in the village called Bafati Khan, ask around and get him to take you on the nature trail. He’s a real birder and such a good man. Hopefully, he’s still working. He was my jeep guide of choice for many years. We even encountered a tiger on the nature trail.

Where to Stay?

At Khatia, the village bus stand is just before the gate. Most of the cheapies are within a short stroll. In the past, you could stay in the village for about $7 (£5) a night but those days may be over. A quick Tripadvisor search online shows places advertising $20 (£15) per night which is fine.

If you are the type of person unconcerned by turning up without a prior booking I’m sure you will find some bargain places locally. If not, get your haggling together and see if there are cheaper walk-in rates. In my experience, prices are often higher online.

Another option is to travel on to Mukki Gate another 40km past Khatia and arrange your stay from there.

Getting to Kanha National Park

Getting to Kanha NP is straightforward. Take the overnight train from Delhi to Jabalpur. the most convenient is the 12122 MP Sampark Kranti train, leaving H Nizamuddin station at 17.25 and arriving in Jabalpur at 07.55 the next morning.

There used to be a direct park bus in the morning that went directly to Kanha NP, but I’m not sure it’s still operating. It doesn’t matter anyway, the local buses will get you there. It should take about 4 hours but I’ve taken as long as 6 hours in the past. You should arrive at Khatia Gate, the village and access point to Kanha, before nightfall.

If you wish to break the journey, you can always stay the night in Jabalpur and catch an early bus the next day.

Arranging a Budget Safari in Kanha National Park

In 2016 all prices changed in Madya Pradesh for the better. Fixed flat-rate prices were set across the board. Not only that, they are incredibly cheap!

Take a look at the rates, if you book a single seat on a shared Jeep (Gypsy) it’s insane! It works out at £3 quid that’s $4 bucks! (at the time of writing). There are a few extra costs met between all occupants of the jeep like guide fees and jeep rental but we are still talking peanuts.

You can buy a permit for the whole jeep for 1500 rupees ($21/£15) or a single seat on a jeep for 250 rupees.
Jeep rental is separate and that costs 2000 Rupees ($28/£21) divided by the number of occupants.
Lastly, there are guide fees of 360 Rupees ($5/£4) divided in the same way.

For the first time, foreigners are treated as equals and asked to pay the same fees. Woohoo

All in all, you could end up having a tiger safari for Under $10 (£7)!

That’s the good news.

The bad news is there is a quota system and you need to book in advance, up to 90 days.

Where’s the catch?

Well in a typically Indian way, they don’t readily accept payment from foreign cards. In other words, you can’t easily prebook. Try anyway and see if your card works.
You can also book at the gates in person, but considering the high demand, you would have to be very lucky to get a seat.

But you still have options.

  • Pay an agent about ($15) to book a seat for you.
  • Stay at a resort and buy their package
  • Go on the waiting list and hope to get a seat. (fully refundable)
  • Line up early for the daily quota

You can try to get on the open-top minibus is called a canter. I wouldn’t dismiss this option out of hand. I saw two tigers in Ranthambore from a canter and you will still get to see the park.

Another new option is exploring the buffer zone.

Further Reading: Best Budget Camera For Wildlife Photography

New walking and cycling trails have been opened up in the buffer zone. The most popular is the Bamhni Dadar trail for sunset views.

This is an exciting idea. I’ve encountered a tiger on the outskirts of Kanha before. Higher demand for Safari space could mean that yet more surrounding land might be made available for protection.

One-hour elephant rides are possible, so too are night patrols and elephant bathing.

This is the National Parks booking page

Let me know if you find a reasonable way around the foreign card conundrum.

In Madya Pradesh, the rules are similar for each park and the fees are the same. The difference is the number of jeeps allocated for walk-in visitors, they vary from park to park.

Bandhavgarh National Park for Wild Tigers on a Budget

A wild tiger on a budget in Bandhavgarh National Park. Photographed from elephant-back on safari.
The tiger we saw from elephant back

About Bandhavgarh National Park

Overlooked by Bandhavgarh fort, the park is 448 sq km of rocky hills dominated by dense sal forests and lowland meadows. It’s a compact park but packs a punch. There are more tigers per sq km than anywhere else on earth. The wildlife is prolific.

There are 3 deer species, the most common being spotted deer which can be seen everywhere, the much larger sambar deer, and the smaller but shy barking deer (muntjac). Bison (gaur) herds are seen, so too are nilgai (blue bull) antelopes. Wild boar, macaques, and langur monkeys are very common. With all these prey species in high densities it’s little wonder Bandhavgarh supports such large numbers of predators.

Chinkara and four-horned gazelle are also present but I haven’t seen any.

Leopards exist but are rarely seen. They keep a low profile around tigers. Wild dogs (dholes) are also present and you may encounter a pack if you are very lucky. You are more likely to spot jackals.

There are also jungle cats and sloth bears. Both need some luck to find them. The former because they are so small, the latter, because they are nocturnal.

Where to Stay near Bandhavgarh National Park?

I’ve always stayed in the cheapest place called Kumkum guest house. It’s basic but friendly and they can arrange safaris for you. I’m pleased to see it still exists. A quick search on Tripadvisor found other guesthouses for about £15 a night.

Getting to Bandhavgarh National Park

There are a number of ways of getting to Bandhavgarh

By far the best and most convenient way is to fly to Jabalpur for about $50 and catch one of the many trains to Katni which is only 1.15hr up the line and then catch the bus to Umaria.

There is a direct train from Delhi to Umaria called the Jammu Tawi Durg Superfast Express, leaving Delhi Safdarjung Railway Station at 15.35 and arriving in Umaria Station at 06.43.

You could also catch the overnight train to Jabalpur. Catch a train to Katni and then catch the bus to Umaria.

Be aware that these trains do not originate in Delhi so will run late.

I’ve always visited Bandhavgarh NP via Varanasi or Khajuraho.

Varanasi is the ancient city on the Ganges where they cremate the dead and scatter the ashes into the river. It’s an amazing place, like nowhere else on earth. You could stay for a few nights and then move on.

You can fly to Varanasi of course for about $50-ish.

There are two overnight Varanasi trains leaving New Delhi station at 14.02 and arriving at 15.10 and 15.35 respectively. Don’t worry about arriving so early because the train will be late. Be aware that Varanasi Junction is notorious for bag thieves so NEVER leave valuables unattended.

In the past, I’ve stayed a few days in this extraordinary city and caught the midnight train south to Katni.

Another option is to fly to Khajuraho ($80-ish) from Delhi, visit the erotic temples, and take a side trip to Panna national park nearby. Then take the bus to Satna the nearest railway station and wait for a train to Katni. Buses leave for Umaria regularly.

Arranging a Safari in Bandhavgarh National Park

In Madya Pradesh, the rules are similar for each park and the fees are almost the same. One exception is the jeep rental, it costs 2500 Rupees per safari in Bandhavgarh. The real difference is the number of jeeps allocated for walk-in visitors, they vary from park to park.

Ranthambore National Park for a Budget Tiger Safari

Ranthambore fort skyline. One of the best parks for finding wild tigers on a budget
This is the view from the far lakeside to Ranthambore Fort

About Ranthambore National Park

If you’ve ever seen those amazing shots of tigers roaming amongst romantic ruins or perfectly framed in an abandoned pavilion, this is probably where it was taken.

The landscape is a dry-deciduous forest ranging over 824 sq km of the Aravali hills. Upon entering the main gate you see a fantastic abandoned fort perched on the slopes of a thickly wooded hill and overlooking a large crocodile-infested lake. It’s everything you hope for.
If you are very lucky you might even see a tiger come down to the water’s edge to drink or cool off in the heat of the day.

Sambar deer can be seen in and around the lake. There are many peacocks too and if you are lucky you might see one in full display.

You’ll see wild boar and monkeys everywhere and nilgai antelope are also common. I’ve seen Indian gazelles on higher ground.

The predator list is impressive but tigers are probably easier to find than most. Leopards are seen occasionally and so too are jungle cats but there is an outside chance of spotting a caracal lynx which would be amazing.

Further Reading: Best Budget Binoculars

You might see a fox or a jackal. Striped hyenas are nocturnal and more likely to be seen by spotlighting around neighboring villages; same for porcupines.

The Rajasthan Forest Dept has an unattractive website for booking advanced tickets for Ranthambore.

Arranging a Safari in Ranthambore National Park

Please note that at the time of writing foreign visitors are expected to pay more than resident Indians to access the park.

You can, in theory, book your safari in advance but as usual, things in India are not so straightforward. Foreign cards are seldom accepted. If you do manage to navigate the booking portal successfully then you can book up to 1 year in advance.

If you arrive without a booking there are options. You can go on an open-top minibus called a canter or pay through the nose via an agent or local hotel.
I took the canter on my last visit, and believe it or not, l saw two tigers.
Unless rules have changed (likely but check anyway) it’s possible to walk the access road to the park gate. If that is not permitted you can still drive a private vehicle to the fort gate. I met a guy birdwatching there every morning. He actually saw a leopard but be warned, that’s where we also saw our first tiger!

Where to Stay near Ranthambore National Park

There are plenty of cheap places to stay. The hotels are mostly strung out along the main Ranthambore road. I haven’t visited for a few years but a quick check on found many places nearby and to suit all pockets.

Getting to Ranthambore National Park

Ranthambore is the closest tiger reserve to New Delhi. It’s also the most visited and overdeveloped.

It’s on the Agra to Jaipur line and only 2 hours from Jaipur. The jumping-off point is Sawai Madhopur Junction, about 10km from the park.

The direct services to Sawai Madhopur are mostly inconvenient, they should be fine but as they don’t originate in Delhi the timings are not to be trusted.

It is also possible to catch the very early Shatabdi Express from New Delhi at 6 am, arrive in Agra at 8 am, then change for a Jaipur bound train. It’s about 4 hours by train from Agra Station. 

Better by far is to break up your journey and stop in Agra to see the Taj Mahal, or stay in Jaipur and see the Pink Palace.

One side trip of note is Keoladeo NP near Bharatpur. It’s only 1.5hrs by bus from Agra. If the monsoon rains are good it floods, attracting vast flocks of migrant birds. The local guesthouses are cheap and pleasant.

Traveling to India for the first time

A typical Indian street scene.
Typical Indian street scene

If you can speak English, traveling in India is very easy. The hardest part for new visitors is the initial overwhelm.

Let’s be honest, India is in your face. It’s noisy, dirty, and chaotic.

Poverty is a part of everyday life. There are beggars, hustlers, and scammers everywhere. It’s little wonder that some visitors turn tail and get the hell out.

But if you can get over the culture shock, which will take a few days, you’ll adjust and be fine.

A few things to remember,

  • Don’t fight India, you won’t win. Go with it.
  • Never admit it’s your first time in India (says you’re gullible)
  • A polite ‘No thanks’ is not enough. Be rude if you have to.
  • ALWAYS agree on a price beforehand, for everything.
  • You will be tricked occasionally, let it go.
  • Keep your sense of humor, most of it is just funny

Above all keep things in perspective,

  • You are very unlikely to be hurt by strangers.
  • Everything is easy when you tune in to the system.
  • Most people are friendly
  • These days you can escape the chaos and grab an air-conditioned latte!

The Godsend of an economic boom is the technology leap has cut out most of the sharks.

It was once the case that arranging transport was the major stress point for most travelers. If you were going to be cheated, it was most likely going to happen while getting a taxi or an auto (tuk-tuk).

While it will still happen occasionally, now you have apps and online booking. This is a game-changer. The balance of power has shifted in the customer’s favor.

Indian Flights and Visas

Flights to India

A flight is going to be your biggest single expense, after that it’s a breeze.
I’ve just done a quick check on the comparison sites and Kayak, for a 1-month return flight from London to New Delhi and I came up trumps within 5 minutes.

I found a flight for £340 return with Etihad Airways, leaving London at 1500 hrs and arriving in New Delhi at 07.45 hrs in the morning.
Not only is Etihad a great airline but the timings could hardly be better.

It won’t be a direct flight, not at this price, but the layover will only be a few hours.
Inconvenience is the price you pay for a cheaper flight but this one really is a bargain.
If I was planning to go soon I would snap it up.

cheap flights screenshot

Another search Los Angeles to New Delhi brings up one flight with China Eastern for an amazing $530 return!
A great price if you don’t mind landing in New Delhi at 1.25 in the morning.

Flight screenshot

If you arrive late at night a search on brings up a number of budget airport hotels in the $15-$20 range.
You can arrange a shuttle or a prepaid taxi to your hotel, crash for the night, and head into town the next day.

Uber operates in India and its own version is called Ole.

Don’t rely on just one comparison site, try looking at others. They vary quite a bit. Try these:

  • Skyscanner
  • Kayak
  • Expedia

And I don’t always buy online either. I like to check some brokers, they often have good deals, plus I can get them to price match. 

Try looking at

  • Flightbookers
  • STA
  • Trailfinders

You should also buy insurance but a 30-day policy won’t cost you much.

If you travel regularly, buy a multi-trip policy that allows you to travel as often as you like for up to 3 months at a time. It’s valid for a year and is by far the best value.

If you know that this is to be a single trip only, buy a backpacker policy, and whatever you do, don’t buy it straight from a travel agent. Do the comparison search first.

It’s worth bearing in mind that India has very affordable medical care with some excellent doctors and hospitals. If you need minor treatment, the chances are you can afford to pay for it anyway.
The Apollo Hospital chain is well regarded if you wish to check them out.

Indian Visas

Visa rules in India seem to have a life of their own and are liable to change in both cost and process, so you MUST verify and double-check the rules before you leave.

Citizens of the USA and UK are currently charged $100 for a 60-day tourist e-visa, while most other western countries are charged $80. Add another 2.5% processing fee.

Apply for your e-visa on the official site only. There are lookalike sites that charge more.

Be aware that your visa will commence at the point of approval and not from the date of arrival.

For a more detailed breakdown of the rules visit

First Night Alone in India

Once you are in India the costs are generally very low indeed. You can easily find a place to stay in Delhi for $15, (£10). You might pay slightly more in Mumbai.

If this is your first time in India I urge you to consider booking a dorm bed in a hostel, to begin with. Not only are they super cheap, but being with other westerners will be a reassuring safe haven until you find your feet.

Further Reading: What’s it like to Travel Solo?

Makemytrip lists hostels in Delhi and Mumbai for about $7/£5 per night.

Let’s assume you have bought a flight and arrived at New Delhi Airport. Then what do you do?

Catch the express metro into town and alight at the New Delhi Railway Station. Cross the main station to platform 1 via the overhead walkway and the Paharganj area is across the road directly in front of you. 

Warning: Be aware that scammers, touts, and conmen hang around the station hoping to catch naive tourists. Walk past and ignore them. Unsolicited approaches are almost always a scam.

Paharganj is full of budget hotels and cheap eateries. and at the time of my last visit, they’d cleaned the place up and limited vehicle access. With luck, it’s still in force.

Pre-book a place to stay on:

Ignore the touts

You can conveniently catch the trains from here. New Delhi’s main station is at the end of the road and an easy walk.

Book your train online using the tourist quota on these sites:

You can also buy a ticket at the International Tourist Bureau on the first floor of the railway station. Remember to bring your passport and cash only or you won’t be able to buy a ticket. You will have to fill in an Indian railways reservation form and state your train name, destination, class of travel, and bunk preference.
Major trains are listed on the board at the rear of the waiting room or use the Indian Railways at a Glance Timetable which is bewildering and anything BUT a glance.

You might also like to try the Indian railways’ passenger reservations inquiries site.

Be aware that the ‘helpful’ strangers who hang out near the tourist office are touts trying to convince you the office is closed. They are all lying so totally ignore them, they are full of crap.

I’d advise anyone unsure of themselves to travel by 2nd class air-conditioned, 2 or 3 tier sleeper. You could even go first class but you don’t get much more for your money. Having said that, it’s all cheap by western standards.

The advantage of paying the extra money is not just about the aircon, welcome as it is, but the extra peace of mind that goes with it.

The higher the class, the fewer people in the carriage. The other passengers are wealthier and educated so they’ll respect your space. An important consideration in India.

There are fewer thefts in the higher class carriages but you must ALWAYS chain your luggage to the seating.
Chains can be bought on the station platforms for just a few Rupees.

The cheaper alternative is the backpacker’s favorite, 2nd class sleeper – non-air-con.

It’s half the price but usually crowded. It’s often noisy, gets dirty quickly, beggars work the carriages, and street urchins sweep the floors (for tips). There are buskers, hawkers, and chai wallahs (tea sellers). Kids run around and families picnic together.

For many tourists, traveling by train in India is half the fun. You strike up conversations, meet friendly curious people, and witness all Indian life go by.

Getting some kip can be a challenge (bring earplugs) but this is the India you’ll talk about when you get home.

Further Reading: The Right Backpack

Get the upper berth (U.B.) if possible. You can lie down at any time and your luggage is more secure.

The Indian railway system is amazing.
You get on an overnight sleeper, wake up in the morning and you’re there – er usually.

Trains tend to leave the main stations on time but arrive late. If you think about the logistics of running a service this size it’s not so surprising.

When you arrive you can usually find a prepaid taxi or Auto-rickshaw booth outside and get a ride to your destination at a fixed and honest rate.

Now you can also call a cab via the Uber app or the alternative Indian app called Ola.

If you encounter problems or need help you can enquire in the Stationmasters office. They are usually very kind. Alternatively, find someone who is well dressed and professional in appearance. They will speak English and most people will try to help.

Buses can be pre-booked with Redbus


I have visited all three parks and in my experience, they offer you the very best chance of spotting a wild tiger.

If I had to pick a personal favorite and revisit only one park, I would return to Kanha NP. It offers so much for wildlife enthusiasts. The game is prolific with large populations of deer and a wealth of predators. It really is comparable to a good African safari.

Don’t put it off forever. Go for it!

Further Reading: Wildlife Photography in India

Alternative National Parks with Wild Tigers

A wild Bengal tiger in Tadoba National park. Another budget safari

1. Pench National Park

Pench NP is the sister park to Kanha and Bandhavgarh national parks and straddles the border with Maharashtra further south. All the glamour predators are present including wolves if you are very lucky.

The access point is Turia gate on the MP side. It has most of the same attractions as its more famous sisters but with far fewer tourists. It has a healthy population of tigers, but there’s a greater chance of spotting leopards.

You can reach Pench via Nagpur about 90km south of the park. You can fly there or take the train, the nearest stop being Seoni Station about 30km from the gate. You can catch a local bus to the park from there.
Arriving from Nagpur or Jabalpur (200km north), take a bus along highway 7 connecting the two cities and alight at Khawasa. Take a shared jeep to Turia village and your resort.

I turned up unannounced and managed to negotiate a good deal with a local resort. They arranged everything for me so my stay was very easy.
Quickly scanning Tripadvisor underhotels near Pench tiger reserve/specialty lodging’ I found some bargains.

2. Tadoba Andhari National Park

Tadoba NP is India’s underrated gem. I was advised to visit after the prices in Madya Pradesh were unfairly hiked for foreigners, a policy now thankfully abandoned.

It lies further south from Pench in the neighboring state of Maharashtra and is usually reached via Nagpur. The nearest railway station to the park is at Chandrapur about 45km from the park. You can also reach Chandrapur by bus and change there for a local bus to Moharli gate.

I stayed in the government hostel block and ate in the basic canteen which was easy to arrange on arrival. The staff were very helpful and helped me to arrange a jeep.

I saw two tigers, a mother, and her yearling cub and shared the experience with only another 3 or 4 jeeps. A close and very special encounter.
It’s a mostly wooded park but with some notable meadows. Plenty of deer everywhere and we had good sightings of Gaur (Indian Bison).

The park fees were very low and only slightly higher for foreigners.

3. Bardia National Park in Nepal

I want to revisit Bardia NP, it has everything. This is the only park outside of India on my list. It lies in the lowlands of Nepal just on the border with India in the far southwest of the country.

Nepal has had amazing success in completely stopping tiger and rhino poaching and the numbers of both species are rising. Consequently, Bardia offers superb opportunities to see tigers. The rhinos are guaranteed and the tigers, almost.

Bardia is a pain to reach from Kathmandu or Pokhara, subsequently, all the tourists flock to Chitwan NP. That makes Chitwan overdeveloped and Bardia a rural delight. It’s like Chitwan was 25 years ago. The people are unjaded and friendly and the guesthouses are cheap and cozy.

The easiest way to get to Bardia is to fly to Nepalganj from Kathmandu. From there catch a bus to Ambassa on the main road and wait for an afternoon bus to the village of Thakurdwara next to the park.
Alternatively, catch a bus to Ambassa (or the through bus to Thakurdwara ) from Pokhara or Kathmandu which will take a long 12 hours.
I broke my journey in Lumbini but it’s still a 9-hour onward journey.
That’s the theory. In reality, national and regional strikes are a way of life in Nepal, and road closures can happen at any time. I got caught in a roadblock and had to break my trip in the middle of nowhere. I found a local guest house and stayed the night before I reached the park the next day.

4. Satpura National Park

Satpura is the only park on my list I have yet to visit. I include it here because all the feedback I have heard has been positive and I yearn to go there.

The chances of seeing tigers in Satpura are not great but they are present, and I have met people who have been lucky enough to see one. The appeal for me lies in the options available for visitors to explore the park. There are jeep safaris but also hiking, cycling, boating, elephant rides, and even night safaris.
Everyone who visits Satpura and the surrounding hills talk about their beauty and the pleasant climate, a good enough reason to go there alone. Apparently, Sloth bears are commonly seen.

The nearest access point is Pachmarhi hill station where you can find plenty of places to stay and organize your trip. Tripadvisor lists many budget options

Bhopal is the obvious major access hub where you can catch a bus (6hrs) to Pachmarhi or catch a train to Papariya station and hop on a local bus (2hrs) from there.

From Pachmarhi, enter the nearby Kajri gate to access the park. The alternative entry point is Madhai Gate in Madhai village, 100km from Pachmarhi. I have yet to find budget guest houses in Madhai so any information would be welcome.

5. Corbett National Park

Corbett was the first national park in India and its most famous. The park is stunning. It’s located in the foothills of the Himalayas and enjoys a much cooler and more temperate climate than the plains below.
Tigers are regularly seen but no one should visit expecting to see one. It’s pot luck.

Considering the relative proximity to New Delhi, Corbett is an inconvenient side trip. Unless you are on a tour, no public transport provides a direct comfortable link. I met people who rented a car (with a driver) in Delhi and visited the park that way. Between two or more people that would be very affordable.

An alternative route is via Nainital, a hill station only a 3-hour bus journey away and more convenient for public transport. I took this route on a state bus. There are plenty of buses but be prepared to take all day. There are private buses but I could only find night services. This may well have changed by now.

There are a few trains to Kathgodam the nearest railhead. The 6 am 12040 Kathdogam Shatabdi Express is your best bet. It arrives at midday which gives you plenty of time to hire a taxi to Nainital or find a local bus.

Cheap accommodation can be found in Ramnagar, the access town to the park, and the place to book a jeep.

It’s possible to sleep in a basic bunkhouse dorm inside the park at Dhikala Camp. The setting is beautiful with great views across the valley and there’s a hide overlooking the river and the grasslands beyond. During my visit, a tourist staked out the hide all day and saw a family of tigers come down to the river to drink.

If this all sounds great please be warned, foreign tourist fees are far higher than those for Indians. Anyone spending time in India quickly realizes that many Indian tourists are wealthy, so paying a premium may leave a bitter taste in your mouth.

Wild tigers found in Kaziranga National park with an elephant in the background.
Kaziranga National Park. Project Tiger Reserve

6. Kaziranga National Park

Last but by no means least there is wonderful Kaziranga. I saw a tiger here but make no mistake it was a pure fluke. The elephant grass in this park is so high it’s hard to see the elephants let alone a tiger. That said you have a 100% chance of seeing rhinos and you will see elephants as they emerge into open spaces.

Domestic elephants are used to view wildlife up close. There’s a maximum of 4 people per jumbo and lasts an hour. It’s the best option for seeing rhinos. Believe it or not, I saw my tiger that way.

Accommodation is available to suit all budgets along the main access road where jeeps can also be arranged. As yet online booking is not possible so arrangements can be made on the day. I stayed in Wild Grass Resort but other cheaper options are available.

Kaziranga NP is in Assam, way up in North East India. Fly or take the train to Guwahati and catch a bus to Kaziranga from the railway station in Palthan Bazaar. There is no need to prebook a bus. The bus takes about 5 hours.

Note that fees for foreigners are higher than for locals. The entrance fee is still low by western standards but paying double for the elephant ride to see the rhinos is still annoying. Currently, a foreigner pays 1950 Rupees ($27/£20) for the hour-long ride.

Finding Wild Tigers – Final Thoughts

There are 50 ‘Project Tiger Reserves’ in India and the good news?

Tiger numbers are increasing!

If you want to support the amazing efforts going on to save tigers in the wild, what better way to do it than to go and see them for yourself? And now you know how affordable it is, you really can see wild tigers on a budget.

This is a dream you can make come true.


I’ve funded my tiger trips by selling my wildlife art. If you have ever dreamed of doing the same thing I can show you how. Take a look!

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How to find and photograph wild tigers on a budget image for pinterest. A wild tiger photo.

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