When my partner and I decided to take a vacation trip to India, I immediately began studying Taj Mahal travel recommendations. I discovered a lot of information, but I couldn’t locate a single source that answered all of my questions. For example, what is the best moment to stand in line? Which is the best entrance? What can I do to avoid tourist traps at the entrance? Should I spend the night in Agra or make a day trip from Delhi? How can I take the ideal photograph of the Taj Mahal?
I’ll address all of those things and more in this article.
Even after all of my study, I was still nervous about dealing with crowds, spotting fraudulent tour guides, and being unimpressed by the Taj Mahal itself. This was one of the primary reasons I chose to go across the globe to India, and I wanted everything to go flawlessly.However, as soon as I stepped through the main gate, all of my concerns vanished. On Christmas morning, I was one of the first persons through the gate and got to see the dawn over the gorgeous castle.Because I had a portable wifi gadget, I was even able to share my experience with my mother! Take advantage of the opportunity to see the Taj Mahal. You will not be sorry.
We began our India experience in Delhi, the northern capital city, where we stayed for two days.On our third day, we travelled to Agra, which is home to the Taj Mahal. We spent that afternoon and one night in Agra, then went directly to Jaipur, the pink city, to see the Taj Mahal at dawn the following day. From there, we toured the blue city of Jodhpur before heading south to Goa and Kerala. This is my second blog entry on India, and there will be more soon!
WEEK 1: DELHI, AGRA, JAIPUR & JODHPUR
WEEK 2: GOA & KERALA
Shah Jahan, the fifth Mughal emperor, commissioned the Taj Mahal in 1631 as a mausoleum (tomb) for one of his wives. It was finished in 1643 and is a fine example of Mughal architecture. The Taj Mahal has a particular position in India’s lengthy and complicated history, but the objective of this essay is to provide you with as much practical information as possible before visiting it in person, so do your research before you go! I suggest visiting the UNESCO World Heritage website to learn more about it.
You may visit the Taj Mahal at any time of year, but I suggest going between November and February to escape the heat and the summer rainy season. In December, I paid a visit on Christmas morning.
Except for Fridays, the Taj Mahal is open from dawn to sunset, however the ideal time to visit is directly at daybreak. The building’s color changes as the sun rises above it, and the gems (hand-placed in the sandstone stones) that adorn its façade glitter as they become exposed to sunlight. You do not want to miss out on this!
Plan to be at the East Gate by 5:30 a.m. to guarantee you’re in the complex by daybreak. The ticket counter opens at 6:00 a.m., although lines will begin before then.(I realize it’s early, but I’m not exaggerating). You won’t be able to drive right up to the ticket desk that early, so you’ll have to walk approximately a half mile. There are two ticket lines: one for visitors and one for residents. The foreigners’ ticket is 1000 rupees and includes a water bottle and shoe covers. Don’t throw them away since you’ll need them when you get near to the Taj Mahal.
Take as little as possible inside the Taj Mahal. I traveled to India with my tripod in the hopes of capturing the ideal photo. Fortunately, I discovered that I couldn’t carry it inside the Taj Mahal complex before leaving my Airbnb. Aside from the water bottle that comes with your ticket, you are not permitted to bring any other food or beverages, nor anything made of plastic. My partner purchased me a flower necklace that matched my clothing at a street market, and even that was taken away at the entrance!
I also advise leaving any kind of purse or bag at home. If you need your luggage checked, you’ll have to go through a different queue, so save yourself some time and don’t bring one. I wore my camera around my neck and concealed my money belt. Nothing more is required.
The Taj Mahal is in Agra, about a three-hour trip from New Delhi. While a day excursion is doable, I suggest staying in Agra the night prior. I stayed at an Airbnb and have included a wishlist in the where to stay section below.
During my stay in the Golden Triangle (Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur), I had a driver, but you may also take a train or bus from Delhi to Agra. Having a driver was handy since I knew I had a transport from my Airbnb to the Taj Mahal at 5 a.m.
At 5:30 a.m., I was the first foreigner in line at the East Gate.The ticket office doesn’t open until about 6:00AM, but there was already a wait behind me, so I still suggest arriving early.
After purchasing your ticket, there is another wait to access the Taj Mahal compound. This line is divided into four sections: local women, foreign women, foreign men, and local men. I was approximately the 30th foreign lady in this queue when I started. I questioned the woman in front of me how she got her ticket since you can’t buy them ahead of time (despite what anybody tells you, tickets cannot be purchased the day before or reused), and she replied she had a local tour guide wait in the ticket line for her. This costs extra and may be done with pre-arranged guides, however “local” guides sitting outside the gate offering to acquire foreigners a VIP ticket should be ignored.Given that she was just a few steps ahead of me, it didn’t appear to make much of a difference so early, but it would be a good idea if you visit later in the day when the crowds get unbearable.
If you want to travel with a guide, insist on taking photographs first and then beginning the walking tour. As soon as I went in, there were approximately 30-50 people with tour guides halted at the entryway, so I walked right past them and directly to the Taj Mahal’s reflection pool. There were few people there, so I was able to snap the photos I wanted before everyone else came.
You’ll enter through a gate and view the Taj Mahal for the first time. To obtain the ideal reflection shot, turn right down the steps, go past the platform, and stand in front of the rope. If you want a picture with you in it, I suggest having your photographer stand in front of the platform at the same level as you, rather than shooting from the platform above.
When we arrived to the reflection pool, the sun was just rising, and the Taj Mahal had an amber light to it. After shooting a few photos in front, I recommend strolling to the right of the Taj on the side where the sun rises. On either side of the Taj Mahal, there are two red sandstone walls with beautiful arches. From this position, the arches provide as a lovely frame for the Taj Mahal.
If you want to be photographed at the Taj Mahal, I suggest wearing a bright color. I wore this red gown, and the color really stood out against the white backdrop.
Check out our guest article on improving your travel photography if you want to learn more about capturing the ideal shot.
We spent around 20 minutes on the Taj Mahal’s right side, watching the color of the edifice change as the sun rose higher and higher. The gems that adorn the edifice even glitter in the light. It was an amazing experience.
We strolled around the rear of the Taj Mahal, looking out over the river, exploring the left side, and ultimately joining the queue to get inside. The Taj Mahal’s interior leaves a much to be desired. The carvings and elaborate stonework are lovely, but they pale in comparison to the grandeur of the structure when seen from the outside; also, you must pass through this highly congested part single file, which might take some time.
We spent approximately an hour and a half at the Taj Mahal, and by the time we left, the queue was as far as the eye could see. You may leave by whatever gate you arrived, and the shops and merchants lining the streets will be alive with activity by that time. We went back to meet our driver before departing for Jaipur.
I adored the Taj Mahal but was underwhelmed by the rest of Agra. It is less developed than the other towns we visited, and the monuments outside of the Taj are a little disappointing. This is what I discovered after doing some preliminary investigation, and that is why we only spent one night. It was the ideal method to get the dawn shot I had envisioned, and I highly suggest arranging your vacation in this manner.
The Airbnb where we stayed was a nice residence with a great rooftop balcony. The family with whom we stayed was really nice and accommodating. They prepared us supper and provided us with bananas and crackers for our early morning ride since we arrived a little earlier for breakfast. I’ve also compiled an Airbnb wishlist to assist you in deciding where to stay. If you aren’t currently a member of Airbnb, you may join up here.
>Delhi is the ideal place from which to go to Agra. For first-time tourists to India, the Golden Triangle is an excellent starting place. This comprises Delhi, Agra, and the pink city of Jaipur.If you’re looking for ideas on things to do in Delhi, check out our Two Day Delhi Itinerary.
While it is not essential to pre-plan particular day-to-day activities for your vacation to India, I do suggest booking your primary transportation and lodgings before you arrive. This means you should plan your flights and railways, as well as a hotel or Airbnb.
You may require a visa to enter India, depending on your country of origin. An e-visa may be obtained online. The price also varies according on your country.
It’s also a good idea to check with your doctor to see whether you need any immunizations or prescriptions for your vacation. For my journey to India, for example, I was given a Typhoid vaccine as well as malaria medicines. I also requested a prescription for Azithromycin, which relieves traveler’s diarrhea swiftly. It is always better to be safe than sorry!
>With 22 official languages in India, it’s fair to assume you won’t be able to speak verbally with everyone you meet. The majority of folks spoke English in most of the cities we visited. “Namaste” may be used to express welcome and farewell.
>India has a gesture that is distinctively Indian. It’s a head shake, or “wiggle” as I call it. It doesn’t imply yes or no, and it’s difficult to describe EXACTLY what it implies. What I can say is that it’s a kind gesture, and you could start doing it yourself after a time! When they are assisting you or after you thank them, many service workers will wriggle.
We flew into New Delhi, drove to Agra and Jaipur, then flew domestically to Jodhpur, Goa, and Kerala for our vacation. Trains are a popular mode of transportation in India, but we had so much difficulties booking them in advance that we opted for a driver and flights. Our last flight departed from Cochin International Airport.
We pre-booked a driver to take us from Delhi to Agra and finally to Jaipur. Raju was our driver, and he picked us up every day and took us around Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur. The overall cost was around $250 USD. We were fortunate to have a contact in India via a colleague, however this Tripsavvy article can assist you with booking a driver. Throughout your two days in Delhi and beyond. This was particularly useful since we had a driver waiting for us at 5 a.m. to take us to the Taj Mahal.
You’ll need a converter for India’s plugs. This India power adaptor comes highly recommended by me, which has three inserts. It worked in every Airbnb we visited.
Keep an eye on your surroundings. I felt fairly secure in Delhi, however it is a highly congested city, so plan your trip carefully. I suggest having a travel money belt while out sightseeing, particularly in congested tourist locations to hold your passport and money.
>If someone approaches you on the street and urges you to buy something you don’t want, just say no. They may follow you and be persistent, but saying no in a firm tone always works in the end. You should never say “maybe later” since the vendor may decide to pursue you till anything occurs later. This has happened to me.
While the Taj Mahal has no dress requirement, I suggest wearing conservatively. If you want to be in the photographs, I suggest wearing bright colors that stand out against the marble background.
Bring a jacket or a warm scarf with you to the Taj Mahal in the morning. Before the light came up, it was freezing.
>In India, do not drink the water. It contains microorganisms that most foreigners’ bodies aren’t accustomed to. This includes avoiding ice as well as any fresh fruits or vegetables that have been washed or exposed to local water. The Lifestraw is one product that may be beneficial. You may use it if you don’t have access to bottled water.
>Indian cuisine is great, but it is also hot and, in most parts of India, your only choice. When you need a break, carry some granola or protein bars with you. I brought a whole box of RXBARs. I had these with me and they came in helpful. However, do not carry them inside the Taj Mahal Complex!
>As previously said, I suggest seeing the Taj Mahal without a guide. If you do choose one, be sure you enter via the East Gate. Our chauffeur attempted to persuade us to enter by the South Gate, and the Taj Mahal government website similarly suggests that all visitors enter through the South Gate.I had done my homework and discovered that the East Gate was the quickest way in, so I insisted on using that route.I can’t compare it to the South Gate since I didn’t wind up there, but it worked great for me. Do your homework and believe in yourself.