No matter whether you consider the Taj Mahal one of the wonders of the world or not, the monument is definitely worth visiting. However, there are certain things you need to know to make your visit more enjoyable. I’ve been to Agra several years ago and I still have mixed feelings about that trip. I have never been particularly fixated on the idea of seeing the Taj, nor I believed in the love story behind it. For me visiting this place was one of the ways of getting to know the country I was going to call my home. Here I’m going to share my true and honest opinion about the monument, without any preconceived notions. Also, I hope you’ll find my tips for visiting the Taj Mahal useful.
In one word, the Taj Mahal is impressive. It has to be, considering it took 22 years to be constructed by 20,000 workers , who were obviously guided by someone with great vision. I’ve been fortunate to see quite a few brilliant examples of Maughal architecture, but none of them had the enchanting power of the Taj – light and massive at the same time, simple and glorious.
Tips for your Taj Mahal visit
1. There is a number of ways to get to Agra from Delhi: by bus, by train or by air. You can also hire a driver to take you to your destination by car. Whatever you choose, try to get there on your own and don’t go for tours, otherwise you may end up being taken to all sorts of shops where you’re expected to buy marble tables, statues, carpets, miniature (and not so miniature) replicas of the Taj and what not. Oh, you wanted to see the real Taj? No problem, we still have something like 40 minutes left! 🙂
2. Agra is not a very inspiring place – the city is noisy, dusty and full of touts and “helpers”. Stay there as little as possible. I apologize if this statement is too harsh, but these are my honest impressions. I’ll be glad to admit my mistakes if someone can prove me wrong. The ideal option would be to stay there for one day, just to see the Taj and Agra Fort.
3. If you arrive in the afternoon, it’s better to visit Agra Fort first and go to the Taj next morning. This way you’ll be able to avoid the crowds and see the monuments lit by the first rays of sunlight. It opens at 6 a. m., and you should be there a bit earlier – people will start gathering in no time.
4. Avoid “helpers”. There are lots of them in the city, and if you feel someone is trying to act smart, don’t associate with this person. For example, one can try to sell you the tickets to the Taj without having to stand in the queue (the tickets will be either overpriced or simply fake). Or they might try to show you “another secret entrance to avoid the crowds”. Don’t give them a chance.
5. They search you when you enter so don’t take any snacks, metal objects or anything sharp or flammable.
6. When standing in the queue, you can amuse yourself observing the monkeys – there were quote a lot of them.
7. The tickets cost 750 Rs for foreigners and 20 Rs for the locals – at least these were the prices a few years back. They also give you a free bottle of water (by all means take it!) and shoe covers.
8. There are always a lot of people near the Taj so it might be challenging to take a perfect photo. But be patient, it’s still possible – you just have to wait for a suitable moment.
9. If you’re a foreign female traveler, the chances are you’ll be asked to take a photo with. I’d suggest, take photos only if you feel comfortable about it – with families, women and kids. But if you feel that taking photos with 10-20 guys one by one is not something you would enjoy to do, don’t hesitate to refuse.
10. Even if you find it difficult to concentrate at first, try to take the most of your visit. Imagine there is only the Taj and you, and nothing else. Explore the structure slowly and listen to the stones – they have stories to tell you.
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Hope you’ll find these simple tips for visiting the Taj Mahal helpful. Also hope, you’ll enjoy every moment of your experience. As for me… If you ask me whether I would like to visit again, I would say no. But if you ask me whether I cherish the memories of “my” Taj, I would say yes, definitely!