Last year i saw a picture of Taj Mahal on Instagram and was instantly blown away and stunned by its magnificence. It is no surprise it is one of the wonders of the world and it is one of the most visited places on the planet. The image resonated in my head and two months later I was on the route to visit it . I flew to Mumbai and then visited Udairpur and Delhi on the way , but i will put up a separate blog about it.
To visit Taj Mahal you need to go to the city of Agra . I travelled to there from Delhi getting a very early 6 am shatabdi ( express ) train . Having had my tickets booked in advanced the night beforefrom www.irctc.co.in I found the train station quite busy but easy to get aroundeasy get around. It costed around 555 rupees for a normal seat with first class costing double that. I have heard about people trying to scam you by sayingyour tickets are not valid pretending to be working there . I didn't come across any but do be aware of the possibility as they are supposed to hang around the entrance of the railstation. The train was very fast , clean , air- conditioned and there were food and drinks on board included in the price .
It took a little over two hours to reach Agra , delays can be expected and are quite common. I took an uber from Agra train station to my hotel and around 1 pm i headed to Taj Mahal by rickshaw as motor vechicles are not allowed very nearly the property to try prevent further pollution. I'm unsure of the price but i think it was within the 50 rupees range.
Things you should know about Taj Mahal
There are few entrances to Taj mahal . The western is the main gates and the queues are bigger. I got off at the eastern gate which is known to be less crowded. It took 10 mins walk to arrive at the ticket counters and on the way I was greeted by manyyoung children selling souveniors. I didn't mind but if you don't like being hassled it will probably annoy you. There are also golf cars and ponnys available to use if you don't fancy walking.
Queues and Fees
For such a visited place i did not find the queues at the ticket area that big. The wait to get a ticket was less than 5 mins. It costed 1000 rupees ( 14 euros ) as I was of foreign nationality. You get a free bottle of water and shoe cover as you are not allowed to wear shoes on the marble. If you do not chase a sunrise or sunset pictures i would be of an opinion that going after 11 am isa betterchoice to avoid long queues.
There were many people representing themselves as guides and photographers at the ticket gates. I read before that they are only 50-60 approaved guides. I guess i was lucky as I'm unsure if the person i picked was one of them but I was quite pleased with his service. For the price of 250 rupees he helped me skipped the queues , took pictures of me, fend off people asking me for money to take pics of me and provided very comprensive information about Taj Mahal. He knew the best spots and angles for taking nice shots and even had thought himself how to take optical ilussional pictures as the one below :
You can also pick up an audio guide at the counters for around 120 rupees
Have in mind that Taj Mahal is closed on Friday for viewing but local people can still attend prayers. it is opened from sunrise to sunset .The Western and Eastern open at 6.00-6.30 am and the Southern opens at 8 a.m .
Due to previous terrosts' attacks and recent threats around India and as highly visited place the security around Taj Mahal is quite heavy and strict. The security check points are separate for men and women. They scan and seach your bag and if you have any food and other items that are not allowed such as mobile chargers , video cameras , tripods , knives , smoking and tabacco items and other drinks other than the water included in your price ticket. I had a small pack of chewing gums in my bag and even that was taken:) . I didn't see any on the way but my guide told me there are avalaible lockers around the three gates for free if you carry any of those items or medium size travel bag and need to store them there.
You are allowed to wear clothing of your choice as there is no dress code. In general in India dressing appropiately to the culture with covering your legs and shoulders is advisable. I wore a long length dress and a satin shawl i bought in Delhi.
As it start raining very heavily after i entered inside I couldn't take many pictures and my visit was shorter than I had wished it was. Taj Mahal definetely lived up to my expectation and the hype and it was even more captivating in real. It is in my plans to go back there very soon and to see more of Agra as I had to leave very early next morning to catch my flight back from Delhi.