Ask Lonely Planet: Seeing the animals of India

There are plenty of opportunities to see Bengal tigers in India. Photo / Getty Images
There are plenty of opportunities to see Bengal tigers in India. Photo / Getty Images

Next year I turn 60, and want to realise a lifelong dream of visiting India, hopefully with my husband or a friend. As well as visiting Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Udaipur, Mumbai, Goa and the state of Kerala, I have a strong interest in wildlife so would love to visit the Camel Fair, go tiger-spotting on a elephant, and see other animals. I would rather not "rough it", it being my first visit. What timeframe and itinerary would you suggest that isn't too rushed, and what would be the best way to travel? Should I engage a driver? What's the best time to travel in terms of temperature? What would you suggest in regard to accommodation? Can you give me a rough idea of costs? - Susan McClure

Lonely Planet's Sarah Bennett and Lee Slater write:

Your destination wish-list traverses nearly the length of India, from Delhi in the north to Kerala in the south, so you will need to either allocate a good couple of months, or travel briskly and include an aeroplane hop or two.

Alternatively, you could concentrate on a smaller area densely packed with wilderness experiences. It won't be hard to hit a sweet spot: India has some of the richest biodiversity in the world, spread through more than 600 national parks and reserves. Outlining many and varied itineraries, Lonely Planet's India guidebook will prove invaluable both in your planning stage and on the road.

India is vast, so climatic conditions vary greatly. Generally speaking, it is defined by three seasons - hot, wet (monsoon), and cool. Our India guidebook details regional variations. The most pleasant time to visit most of the country is during the cooler period, November to mid-February, although you'll want to avoid Delhi and its surrounds when the cold sets in around mid-December.

Find yourself in the proximity of Jaipur in November and you can tick the famous Pushka Camel Fair off your list. Around 200,000 people converge on Pushka for this must-see event with up to 50,000 camels, horses and cattle. The place transforms into an extraordinary swirl of colour and sound, thronged with Hindu pilgrims, mystics, musicians, and a quiver of snake charmers. The often-bizarre cultural programme that takes place alongside the traditional trading and religious ceremonies lasts around a week. Earplugs will prove handy.

Tiger-spotting elephant safaris go through numerous parks and reserves, including Corbett Tiger Reserve north of Delhi, and Kahna National Park in central India. Ranthambhore National Park, near Jaipur, is also highly recommended for viewing tigers.

Hiring a car and driver is easily arranged and an excellent way to see several places in one day, and proves cost-effective when shared with others. Rail is not only reliable and reasonably priced, but a quintessential Indian experience in itself. Night journeys are memorable, particularly in air-con sleeper berths with meal service. Buses range widely, from sleek, comfortable coaches, to beaten-up old jalopies that are as cheap as chips but often driven with wilful abandon. Air travel is quick and efficient for long distances, with numerous airlines offering competitive fares. Around town, motorised rickshaws make for easy and quick zip-arounds, with a few human-powered specimens still found here and there.

On the financial front, India pleases all pockets. Other than level of indulgence, key variables are location and time of travel: as a general rule you'll pay more in larger cities such as Delhi and Mumbai, and at popular tourist destinations during peak season.

Budget travellers can survive on Rs1000 ($22) a day by staying in budget hotels or family-run guesthouses, eating at stalls and in basic restaurants, and travelling by bus and rail. Mid-range travellers should budget up to Rs5000 ($112) per day.

Could you please advise the distance between terminals one and two at Barcelona airport, and if there is a shuttle? - Margo

Lonely Planet's Sarah Bennett and Lee Slater write:

Barcelona's airport, Aeroport del Prat, does indeed have two terminals: the big, new Terminal 1, with a whopping 101 gates, and Terminal 2, with 48. The two terminals, 4km apart, are connected by a free shuttle (the green bus) which runs every six to seven minutes, 24 hours a day. The journey takes 10-15 minutes.

To get into the city from the airport, hop on the Aerobus. It takes 30-40 minutes, with three to 12 services per hour depending on the time of day.

- NZ Herald

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