As one of the seven wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal is the most visited and famous monument destination in all of India. It took 22 years and 20,000 workers to complete the tomb and believe me when I say, the pictures don;t do it justice. It really is a wonder and must be seen and experienced in person as it truly is magical. During our trip to India, we had the opportunity to visit the Taj Mahal twice, once at sunrise and once and sunset and for any of you who wish to go visit the Taj, which you absolutely should, I wanted to put together some information and tips before you go!
HOW TO GET TO THE TAJ MAHAL :
The Taj Mahal is located in Agra which is about 125 miles from New Delhi. It can be visited on a day trip from Delhi either by train, taxi or private car. I would personally suggest staying in Agra for 1 night in order to wake up early to visit the Taj.
BY TRAIN :
Agra’s railway station is Agra Cantt and has several options for traveling from Delhi to Agra daily. Booking train tickets in advance seems to be the best way to schedule your trip via Cleartrip. Second best way is to go to the departing railway station in advance when you’re in India o book tickets directly. I would suggest NOT booking tickets through your accommodation as they may only be working with certain railway companies and may not provide all train availability as to only sell you on the tickets they get a cut back from.
BY TAXI :
Taxis can be booked through your accommodations or on your own but be weary, that when you book ANYTHING through an accommodation you’re staying at in India, they always get a cut and will charge more or provide you with false information. We used Hippo Cabs to book our ride from Delhi to Agra and it was significantly cheaper than what an accommodation quoted us. And on the plus side, most of our hippo cab drivers were great and ended up being our private drivers for days exploring.
WHEN TO GO :
The best time of year to visit the Taj is between November - February as temperatures, rain and / or crowds can escalate in the other months. We visited early March and had awesome weather but the crowds were pretty crazy. But seeing as it was around the time of the Holi Festival, the crowds made sense. My biggest suggestion is to visit the Taj Mahal during the week and at sunrise. We visited the Taj at both sunrise and sunset and while both were beautiful, there were THOUSANDS of people visiting at sunset, and while there was still a good amount of people visiting at sunrise, it was significantly less and more enjoyable. Plus the morning light peaking out over the Taj Mahal is a wonder to see in and of itself.
6 am- 7 pm everyday except Friday ( when closed for prayer ) and also open for moonlight hours 8:30 pm - 12:30 am, two days before and after each full moon.
* Pro tip : If arriving for sunrise and you want to get photos without a lot of people in them, I would suggest arriving 1 hour before opening hours ( i.e. 5 am ) so you can get through security and to the Taj quickly for those photo opps as crowds begin to line up early.
ENTRY FEES AND GATE INFORMATION :
The entry fee for foreigners is 1,000 rupees. It doesn’t matter if you’re physically going inside the Taj Mahal or not, it’s the same price. The foreigners ticket does include shoe covers, in case you enter the Taj and a bottle of water which becomes necessary on those hot India days.
Tickets can be purchased at any ticket offices near the entry gates or online HERE.
West Gate : The main gate for local Indian visitors is the West gate. It generally boasts the longest lines throughout the day but seems to have the smallest crowds at sunrise compared to the East gate.
East Gate : The main gate used by foreign tourists as it’s closest to nearby hotels. The East gate generally has shorter queues throughout the day except for sunrise when larger groups tend to arrive. If buying your ticket in advance, it is still the better gate for entry during the sunrise hours.
South Gate : The least used gate is the South gate, mostly because it doesn’t open until 8am, so if you’re wanting to see the Taj at sunrise, use the East or West gates.
* Pro tip : Ask your tuk tuk driver to specifically take you to the gate entrance of your choice in advance
Strict security is in place at the Taj Mahal and at each gate entrance. When entering each gate entrance, there will be pat downs divided by gender and bag checks will be given.
Large bags, day packs, tripods, gimbals, phone chargers, head phones, ipads, weapons, tobacco products and lighters are prohibited. Only small bags containing essentials are permitted. This includes a small purse, cell phone, camera and 1 water bottle per person. While there are storage facilities located at each gate entrance, I would suggest leaving any unnecessary items back at your hotel.
PHOTO OPS :
I visit places for the experience and for, of course, the photo ops. During our few trips to the Taj, we found some amazing spots for photos.
FROM THE MOSQUE :
While everyone is trying to take the same photo in the same place from the front of the Taj, we married on over to the mosque which is located to the side of the Taj Mahal. It had stunning views of the Taj located within the stunning arches of the mosque and was exceptionally stunning at sunrise time when the sun peaked out over the Taj into the mosque.
THE BOAT ON THE RIVER :
If you’re heading towards the East gate, you’ll notice everyone lined up to enter the gate to visit the Taj Mahal. But if you want a different view of the Taj and a cool experience to go along with it, walk past the East entrance (on your left) on the dirt road and keep heading straight. When you come to a fork in the road, keep left until you see a small gate which is the entrance to the river. There lies a wooden boat with an local Indian man giving rides to the middle of the river for the perfect view of the Taj and the river. He charges somewhere between 500 - 800 rupees per person but was totally worth it.
THINGS TO BE AWARE OF :
Guides. With any destination in India, the Taj Mahal can be overwhelming. There are many beggars, touts, and locals asking to be your tour guide. Just say NO. Keep saying NO. There are apparently 50-60 approved Taj Mahal guides but over 3,000 touts claiming to be guides, photographers, etc. openly soliciting visitors at all gate entrances.
Selfies. Never have I ever been asked to take as many selfies than in India. You are treated like a celebrity if you are from another country. Firstly, when we normally take pictures on trips in public places, I’m usually dancing around and standing out more than I wish to. And while foreigners in general seem to be fascinating to the local Indian people, It seemed that every 30 seconds we were being approached to take selfies, mostly by locals and groups on men. While the first few were fine and seemed harmless it did turn sour as I was inappropriately treated and even touched by men while posing mid-photo. Ladies, be careful! I had two guys with me, but was still harassed. Never give out personal information and if you’re a woman traveling with male friends, always stand sandwiched in between your friends. If you’re on the end of the group for a selfie, more likely than not, you may be grabbed and touched mid-photo.
Tuk Tuks. When leaving the gates of the Taj Mahal, don’t take the tuk tuksnearby as they will always charge more. Walk a little ways until asking for a ride and always make sure they know where your hotel is. Even better, if you have data, provide directions yourself thanks to good ol’ google maps.
All in all, the Taj Mahal is a magnificent wonder of the world that must be seen and I hope this information has helped if you’re planning on visiting the Taj one day in the near future!