The Taj Mahal is a very big, very beautiful temple of remembrance
Emphasis on the BIG part, this surprised me more than anything at just how huge this building is.
The Taj Mahal. It was built because once upon a time a man fell in love with a woman (history of the Taj here) and lost her to death. The Taj Mahal, located in Agra India, is one of the 7 wonders of the world and is an essential visit for your first time in India.
Yes, it’s a touristy spot, yes perhaps it’s even cliche to go – BUT to visit India and NOT see the Taj Mahal is like going to France and NOT seeing the Effiel Tower. It’s something you just have to see, so I suggest for your first trip to India you do what I did and and experience the “golden triangle” of India which is New Delhi – Agra – Jaipur, with a trip back to New Delhi to catch a plane out of the country.
Once you get that out of the way, you’re ready to explore India in greater depth ( I suggest Varanasi next – the city of the dead).
First up, let’s talk about how to actually get there
Pro tip – The Taj Mahal is closed on Fridays.
The Taj Mahal is located in the city of Agra, a modest city with not much else going on besides the Taj Mahal and the Red Fort (the original seat of power and also a must see if you’re in Agra). The Taj Mahal was built built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in 1632, as a mausoleum for Mumatz Mahal, the favorite wife of the Mughal emperor. It took an assortment of 20,000+ slaves and craftsmen as well as over 22 years to finish completion on this stunning building.
The Taj Mahal is built out of marble and is adorned with jewels and Koranic scripture. It’s located on a 42 acre piece of land, it’s flanked by a Mosque and showcases a lovely garden leading up to the entrance. Lastly, it’s visited by around 7 million visitors a year.
Here is a map of where Agra is:
What’s the best way to get to Agara?
So I’m assuming you’re flying into New Delhi as that is the most common port of entry for travelers looking to visit the Taj Mahal. Before we jump into transportation options, plan on making it a 2-3 day trip.
Take a 1 Day Trip?
Totally possible! You could rent a private car at your hotel, they will take you in the morning and then back to New Delhi at night. Though I really don’t suggest this as you’re going to miss out on Agra and it’s other must see locations. Also, it takes a solid 2-3 hours depending on traffic if you’re going by car. So 2-3 hours to get there, then 2-3 hours to come back to New Delhi = 4-6 hours of travel. No thanks. You’re in India to experience the culture, not endlessly drive around.
2 Day Trip is ideal
Go the day before and arrive in Agra in the evening. This is what I did and it was perfect. You won’t be rushed and you won’t be spending 4-6 hours in a car driving to and from. By going the night before you allow yourself to get up very early and get to the Taj Mahal first thing in the morning. You’ll only be spending 2-3 hours at the Taj so it’s a perfect way to start the morning THEN head off to see the Red Fort and a few other places.
I found the train system to be a total headache in New Delhi and ended up renting a private car – and I could not have been happier. Why was it such a headache? Lack of English and no one at the actual train stop willing to help me + a bunch of scammers who kept wasting my time by telling me I needed to go to some special tourist train that was located somewhere else. Wanting me to get into a richshaw and drive me somewhere far away.
I fell for it one time and ended up in this random building where this Kashmiri guy tried to sell me on some expensive package. I just wanted to buy a train ticket! This then led me getting into a fight with a rickshaw driver for wasting my time driving me here and me demanding to be taken back to the train station I was at originally or I would call the police, embassy etc. They ended up taking me back.
Anyways, from what I found, these are the trains –
14212 +INTERCITY EXP NEW DELHI to AGRA CANTT 17:40 to 21:50
12191 +NDLS JBP SUP NEW DELHI to AGRA CANTT 14:05 to 17:10
12002 +BHOPAL SHTBDI NEW DELHI to AGRA CANTT 06:15 to 08:12 (01:57 duration)
12280 +TAJ EXPRESS H NIZAMUDDIN to AGRA CANTT 07:10 to 10:07 (02:57 duration)
Agra Cantt is the main train stop if it was not clear.
I’ve never taken the bus before in New Delhi and would not consider this a viable option UNLESS I was trying to be super cheap. Sure, a bus ticket is a few dollars; but combined with the fact that it will take you 5 or so hours or more to arrive in Agara – it’s just not worth it particularly when compared to the train so take the train instead if you can manage it. There are plenty of bus stops, the most popular one for Agara is located near the Kashmiri gate but ask your hotel staff where the best stop for you is.
Again, this is what I did and it was ideal. I had a private car show me all the spots I wanted in New Delhi during the day starting at 8 am. Then we left New Delhi in the late afternoon. Arriving in Agara in the evening. Which gave us time to check into our hotel, grab some food and relax.
Why is this best? Hassle free, FAST and not that expensive.
Fast in the sense that you leave New Delhi when you’re ready, you can travel around Agara and New Delhi quickly going to where you want when you want. Sightseeing efficiently around New Delhi as well as Agara.
Hassle free in that there is no need to deal with the annoying locals who will try to rip you off and waste your time (I love India and your average guy is nice, BUT I had such a bad experience trying to get around the city). With your own private car you can just go from one spot to another quickly and easily.
Lastly it’s not too expensive. For a private car to take me around New Delhi for the day, then drive 3 hours to Agara, then around Agara for the day, then 3 hours back to New Delhi and to a few spots in New Delhi then BACK to my hotel = 8000 rupees (110-120 USD depending on conversion).
Prices are always negotiable, but this should give you an idea.
Taj Mahal – Where to stay?
Honestly you should just Google “Taj Mahal where to stay” and book the hotel that fits your price point. All the hotel for visitors to the Taj Mahal are located on the same strip. It’s this long road, a few miles in length leading up to the Taj Mahal.
How To Actually Get To The Taj Mahal in Agra
Buy Your Tickets First Thing in the Morning
If you think you’re going to just roll up to the Taj Mahal and buy your ticket – your sadly mistaken.
You need to buy your tickets at a ticket office first (either the west gate or eastern gate in the morning). Your best bet would be to ask your hotel where the ticket office is and make a plan to get there at around 6 am. The ticket office IS NOT LOCATED AT THE TAJ MAHAL.
Also, the line for the ticket office gets substantial quickly so arrive there early. Once you get your tickets, it’s off to the Taj Mahal!
The ticket offices normally opens at 6 am and the gate to the Taj Mahal opens at 7 am. At least it did when I was there.
The ticket offices are about 1 kilometer, away so while you could techniclly walk from the ticket office to the Taj, it will take you some time. I took a horse powered rickshaw, paid a few Ruppees and arrived in 10 minutes.
How Much are the Tickets?
1000 Rupees for foreigners
20 Rupees for Indians
Check to see if your nationality has a special price. I was with a Thai girl and for some reasons she was able to get a 50% discount on all public attractions.
Other things to be aware of
If you want the Taj Mahal to yourself before the crowds so you can get a solo pic of you in front of the Taj, you need to get to the ticket office at 5:40 am and wait for it to open. Once you get your tickets, use a rickshaw to get to the Taj Mahal or run like hell! You should be first in line roughly 🙂
You can’t bring anything in with you except for a camera or a phone. I had a point and shoot camera with me which was fine.
What else is there to see in Agara?
A lot. Don’t skip the red fort!
1 – The Red Fort (Agara Fort) – I actually enjoyed this more than the Taj. An absolute must see.
…and here is a video to give you an idea:
2 – Mehtab bagh – Public grounds on the other side of the river where you can take pictures of the Taj Mahal from the back side. Go here after you’ve seen the Taj Mahal to get a different perspective literally.
3 – Akbars Tomb – A tomb built in the 1600’s
4 – Itmad-Ud-Daulah’s Tomb – A smaller tomb referred to as the baby Taj. No drinks allowed in. It’s quite and peaceful.
5 – Jama Masjid
6 – Tomb of Mariam-uz-Zamani
Conclusion – Taj Mahal Travel Guide
That’s it for Agara! If you’re planning on staying 3 days instead of 2 another place worth checking out is Fatehpur Sikri. It’s a small town founded in the 1500’s that have numerous historical sites.
Hope you enjoyed this. Consider sharing and have a great day! Change, standout, find your edge