Mary Ann Issac
How to see only the Taj Mahal in Agra
Updated: Aug 27, 2020
Agra is synonymous with the Taj Mahal, and almost everyone visits this town just to see the Taj. There are quite a few other monuments in town that is worth a visit if you do have the time, & can brave the scorching heat, (if you made the mistake of visiting at the peak of summer like I did) but there are so many ways that one can enjoy the spectacular views of the Taj, that it may take you an entire weekend, and you won't be bored!
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How to get there
Now this can be done in a couple of ways, and most are really easy on the pocket- but, the cheaper it is, the more uncomfortable it will be (that’s a given, right?)
I was travelling from Delhi. I went to the New Delhi railway Station & bought a ticket at the counter for the next train to Agra. There are frequent trains that connect Delhi to Agra ( as frequent as 20 mins!), but that might depend on the time of day/week- so please have a look online. As long as you are there to buy a ticket some time during the day, it should be fairly easy to get a ticket.
They did not accept card payments- so carry cash with you. I’m not sure if it is a regular thing, or whether it was that day-but I had to finish off the cash I had on me to buy the ticket. ( I bought a 2nd tier A/C ticket for Rs. 600)
Also, don’t be surprised if more people than those that are supposed to be in your compartment ask you to move over so they can sit till the ticket collector comes along. ( you are better off just giving them a dirty look, and moving up the seat anyway (sigh sigh))
There are cheaper tickets you can buy- enquire at the ticketing office, & choose one that suits your budget.
For the return journey, check at the station soon after you reach, as on the day that I wanted to go back to Delhi, the trains weren’t as frequent as usual, so I chose to take the bus instead of waiting a couple of hours for the next train.
There are several bus services that ply between Delhi & Agra. I walked in to a travel office & booked a ticket on the next available bus. If you choose to do this, know that you can definitely bargain & bring the price down.
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A good trick to quickly bring the asking price down is to check bus prices online & show them how much cheaper it is, & to get them to match the price! I checked prices on redbus.in
The bus journey back though not as comfortable as the train cost only Rs.400.
The big problem I had with the bus is that they don’t start the bus until all the seats are filled! So they don’t really have a fixed schedule as to when they will start. This was extremely frustrating as the A/c in the bus wasn’t turned on during that wait!!
So for me-the train was definitely the better option-it was a very comfortable journey, & it was on time!
There is the option of hiring a car for the journey & back- there are self drive options & taxis available for hire in Delhi. This being the most comfortable option, is also the most expensive.
I went in the peak of summer in June, and it was unbearably hot, so much so that being outside in the day was just impossible. So I got out early in the morning, came back to my room by late morning, and then got out again only by early evening!
Should you get a guide for the Taj Mahal?
Since it was my first time to the infamous Taj, and quite the tick off my bucket list, I decided to go all out & get myself a guide. You don’t have to work hard to get a guide; you will most definitely be followed by multiple certified guides as soon as you walk in to the vicinity. They will quote a rate which you can negotiate to bring down. I paid between Rs.300-400 ( I don’t remember exactly how much), which at the time I thought was a decent rate, until the next day (yes I returned), someone quoted Rs.200!
The entry fees for the Taj Mahal are different for foreigners, NRI, & Indian Nationals. I was asked for my ID before I was given the ticket. There is also different pricing for those who want to just see the Taj from the outside, & for those who want to tour the inside as well.
On my first day, I took the all inclusive ticket, since I had the guide to give me information about all that I would see.
Advantages of having a guide
- You get all the information about everything you are seeing, & they are fairly knowledgeable, so they will be able to answer most of your questions about the Taj Mahal.
- He knows all the photo spots, will take you to all of them & take your touristy picture for you & make you pose like you never thought you could! It worked out well for me, since I was alone, & didn’t have anyone to click my picture.
- He will move the crowds so you get your picture to look like there is no-one else there!
-Having someone who knows his way around the Taj helps navigate through the large space much faster than one would otherwise be able to.
- He let me know before entering the security screening for the entrance, that food, sharp objects, & pens aren't allowed inside so I kept it at one of his friends' shops. Else, the security staff throw them out before letting you enter.
The tour lasts a little more than an hour, where he will guide you to some shops outside in the hopes that you will buy something, but no-one urges you to, so it was fine, & I walked out empty handed. The shops outside the Taj are as expected extremely overpriced, so best not to go inside.
You can choose to go barefoot ( I would not suggest this on a hot day) or buy shoe covers outside which you return after the tour. The shoe covers are only if you are going inside the Taj Mahal.
The experience of first seeing the Taj was surreal. It truly is an architectural marvel, and once you get to the inner courtyard, where there isn’t much of a crowd, you can experience its beauty in silence.
Does the Taj Mahal live up to its hype?
It most certainly does! The most striking feature for me of the Taj is its symmetry. Every arch is identical, and the way the minaret-like pillars are constructed plays tricks on your eyes- get a guide and he will show you!
What are the two buildings on either side of the Taj Mahal?
There are two almost identical buildings on either side of the Taj. The building on the west, facing Mecca is a mosque, which was initially built for the artisans to pray during the construction of the Taj (according to my guide). The building on the east is a guest house, which was used by those who came to pray in the mosque, or on the death anniversaries of Mumtaz Mahal. They are made of red sandstone, quite similar to the Mughal architecture in Delhi.
Can you take a boat tour to the Taj Mahal?
After the tour, I walked down the pathway along the eastern wall of the Taj to the river. I had seen multiple pictures of people in boats rowing close to the Taj. I was hoping to experience that for myself too.
Unfortunately, this area is now under police patrolling, and boating across the Yamuna to the Taj is banned. The view from the river bank isn’t much to talk about, as you don’t see it in its entirety. There is a small temple by the bank where locals gather, & that’s all there is to see, so it is best to miss this view point.
For sunset, I headed across the river to Mehtab Bagh for the infamous sunset shot of the Taj. It was a cloudy day, so I couldn’t see the colours of the sunset, but it is a spectacular view. From here you can see the Taj Mahal & the two identical mosques it is flanked by on either side. It is not possible to get a picture of all three buildings together in a frame from anywhere else.
The next morning I was a hoping to make it to the Taj for sunrise, but unfortunately I slept through all my alarms & managed to reach the Taj only around 7.30 AM. But I didn’t miss much that morning as it was extremely cloudy, and no-one could see the sunrise!
I chose to buy a ticket to tour the outside of the Taj this morning, at my own pace, without the guide hurrying me to the next spot for a picture. A leisurely walk around the grounds of the Taj, to examine it from different angles, & to just bask in the beauty of this wonder is the best thing I could have done the morning before I headed back to Delhi.
The Taj Mahal from above
You can also see the Taj from the heights of a hot air balloon, but it was way out of my budget. If you are looking to splurge on a one of a kind view that not many people have had- go for it! Do let me know what you thought of the experience as well!
The prices mentioned in this article are true of June 2018.
Drop me a comment below if you have any questions, or to let me know your thoughts!