It was my second visit to Taj Mahal–the world-famous monument (the first being in 1995 as part of a school trip) that attracts large number of visitors from around the world and mesmerizes them with its sheer beauty. Taj Mahal in Agra is one of most visited places in India, though sometimes it gets competition from Qutub Minar in Delhi.
Directions to Taj Mahal
I was staying in a hotel in Gurgaon with a guest faculty from Wayne State University. We started at 7 in the morning and wanted to take the Yamuna Expressway that has been recently opened. It took us around 2 hours to cross Gurgaon, Delhi and reach Noida. It is indeed a fantastic journey from Noida to Agra (the expressway goes up to around 10 Km of Taj Mahal with clear directions). The toll is 360/- INR for one way and 510/- INR for return passage. There are 3 tool booths on the whole stretch and public services, small food-joints, and restrooms are also available alongside these booths. Overall, the journey is fantastic if you take this route. One of the only things that I thought was missing on the highway was a filling station–perhaps, in the coming future, we will see at least 2 fillings stations on each side of the road.
From Noida, we reached Taj Mahal in 2.5 hours with a comfortable speed and one pit-stop to have tea and snacks. There is a parking facility for private vehicles and we had parked our vehicle near the Western Gate of Taj Mahal. There are two more gates from where visitors can take entry. On the North side, the monument itself rests.
It is a very big area when you enter the precincts of Taj Mahal though it does not appear like that in the pictures. It usually takes around 2-2.5 hours if you want to explore all the sides and areas of this place. I would highly recommend to hire a site-guide instead of exploring the site on your own because there are lots of technical stuff that you will never come to know about this monument if you explore on its own (I have tried it both ways and have found that hiring a guide serves you better). Hiring a guide is pretty cheap sometimes 20/- INR or 50/- INR. They would come to you on their own and if you are a foreigner, they will almost serve you for free (they usually have a hidden agenda of making you shop from where they could get hefty commission and therefore they care less about what fee you pay them).
Tickets for Taj Mahal
The Tickets for Indian residents are 20/- INR per person and 20-25/- for the video camera but there is no charge for taking a still camera. For a foreigner, the charges are 750/- INR (roughly 15USD). You either will have to remove your shoes or buy shoe covers at the cost of 10/- INR. The ticket for foreigners already include this cover and also gives you a water bottle. Moreover, for the foreigners, there are 6-7 more monuments in and around Agra like Agra Fort, Fatehpur Sikri, etc., which will not charge you any tax if you visit them on the same day. For the citizens of SAARC and BIMSTEC countries, the ticket is 510/- INR. The monument in open throughout the week except on Friday.
The monument, as I mentioned earlier, is a big one. You have to walk around a lot if you want to explore all the nooks and corners and enjoy some good shots, if you are a photography enthusiast. It is situated on the bank of River Yamuna and is reflected in its water during evening time. There are certain points called middle points from where you can see all the four directions of the monument. I will not write too much about the monument, its history and why it was made because there are numerous articles on internet that you can read.
Shopping at Taj Mahal
If you have hired a guide, he very maneuver his way to the market if you refuse to buy something. You still don’t have a buy anything but if you have some desire to take some relics with you, you can try the market on the Southern Gate. Shopkeepers usually tend to increase the prices if you are foreigner. Take your time to analyze and don’t make haste while your purchase.
Apart form items of marble and granite, you can buy clothes, artificial jewelery, etc.
Recommendations while visiting Taj Mahal
- Wear a hat if you are visiting this place during summers.
- Take a camera with you. It’s gonna be a rare visit for you. Please note that photography is not permitted inside the mausoleum.
- Do hire a guide if you want to explore the site minutely.
- Do visit the Taj Mahal museum located inside the monument precincts. It’s free of cost.
- Do spend some time at the back of the monument just on the bank of River Yamuna. It’s a beautiful scene and usually a cool breeze blows which takes away all the heat that you would feel during your visit.
My guest remarked that it’s very beautiful and has been preserved pretty nicely. He said it was worth spending so much time in travel to see the monument. I would also reecho his feelings because you will come to wonder at the expertise of architects and engineers of those times who without any advanced technology or tools, built such a marvel. I hope you would enjoy it just like I did.