Fascinating, frustrating, thrilling and fulfilling – India is as much of an adventure for children as it is for parents. Though the sensory overload may be, at times, overwhelming for younger kids, the colours, scents, sights and sounds of India more than compensate by setting young imaginations ablaze.
Best Regions for Kids
- Keoladeo National Park
Here, the kids can let go of your hand and jump on a bike. Let them ride along the car-free road and tick off as many feathered species as they can.
Let imaginations run wild at mighty Mehrangarh; older kids can let fly on the exhilarating Flying Fox.
- Ranthambhore National Park
What kid won’t be thrilled to see a wild tiger? And there’s a mesmerising jungle fortress straight out of Kipling’s Jungle Book to explore.
Climbing up to Amber Fort and learning about the splendid, if tyrannical, lives of the ruling classes is sure to inspire.
- Sam Sand Dunes
Riding a gentle and dignified camel across the shifting sand dunes is a delight for young and old.
Before You Go
Remember to visit your doctor to discuss vaccinations, health advisories and other health-related issues involving your children well in advance of travel. For helpful hints, see Lonely Planet’s Travel with Children, and the 'Kids To Go' section of Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree forum (www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree).
What to pack
If you’re travelling with a baby or toddler, there are several items worth packing in quantity: nappies, nappy rash cream, extra bottles, wet wipes, infant formula and jars or dehydrated packets of favourite foods. You can get these items in many parts of Rajasthan, too, but brands may be unfamiliar. Another good idea is a baby backpack/carrier; a pusher or pram, though, is superfluous, since there are few places with pavements wide enough to use one. For older children, make sure you bring sturdy footwear, a hat, child-friendly insect repellent and sun lotion.
Rajasthan for Kids
Being a family-oriented society, Rajasthan is a very child-friendly destination. That doesn’t necessarily translate into a travelling-with-children-friendly destination, however. Smaller children, in particular, will be constantly coddled, offered treats and smiles and warm welcomes. And while all this is fabulous for outgoing children, it may prove tiring, or even disconcerting or frightening, for those of a more retiring disposition. Remember, though, that the attention your children will inevitably receive is almost always good natured; kids are the centre of life in many Indian households and your own will be treated – usually for better rather than worse – just the same.
Feeding your brood is fairly easy in the well-touristed parts of Rajasthan and you’ll find Western and Chinese dishes with a bit of searching. Look out for multicuisine restaurants, should your little one be saying ‘not curry again’.
Adventurous eaters will delight in experimenting with a vast range of tastes and textures: paneer (unfermented cheese) dishes, simple dhal (a curried lentil dish), creamy korma (curry-like braised dish), buttered naan (tandoor-baked bread), pilau (rice) and momos (steamed or fried dumplings) are all firm favourites. Few children, no matter how culinarily unadventurous, can resist the finger-food fun of a vast South Indian dosa (rice pancake).
Rajasthan offers such an array of accommodation – from budget boxes to former palaces of the maharajas – that you’re bound to be able to find something that will appeal to the whole family. Hotels will almost always come up with an extra bed or two for a nominal charge. Most places won’t mind fitting one, or maybe two, children into a regular-sized double room along with their parents. Any more is pushing your luck – look for two rooms that have an adjoining door.
On the Road
Travel in Rajasthan can be arduous for the whole family. Plan fun, easy days to follow longer car, bus or train rides, and pack plenty of diversions. An iPod, tablet or laptop with a stock of movies downloaded make invaluable travel companions, as do books, light toys and games. The golden rule is to expect your best-laid plans to take a hit every now and then.
Travelling on the road with kids anywhere in India requires constant vigilance. Be especially cautious of road traffic – pedestrians are at the bottom of the feeding chain and road rules are routinely ignored.
Health care of a decent standard, even in the most traveller-frequented parts of Rajasthan, is not as easily available as you might be used to. The recommended way to track down a doctor at short notice is through your hotel. In general, the most common concerns for on-the-road parents include heat rash, skin complaints such as impetigo, insect bites or stings and diarrhoea. If your child takes special medication, bring along an adequate stock in case it’s not easily found locally.
- Ranthambhore National Park Tigers, jungles, jeep safaris and an abandoned mountain-top fort.
- Keoladeo National Park The chance to go cycling on car-free roads to spot wildlife.
- Sariska Tiger Reserve & National Park Numerous deer, monkeys and other wildlife, and just maybe a tiger.
- Kichan Beautiful demoiselle cranes in astounding numbers fostered by villagers.
- Jhalana Leopard Safari Spot spotted cats on the edge of Jaipur.