A trip to India is pretty incomplete without visiting its most famous landmark! The Taj Mahal isn’t only famous for India, it’s famous all around the globe, with millions of visitors every year. Here are all my best, little-known tips for Taj Mahal visit, so you can make the most of your trip.
The Logistics of a Taj Mahal Visit
First and foremost, if you’re not on a budget, I’d recommend planning your Taj Mahal visit with a tour. It’s a bit out of the way, and there are so many tours that will make it such a smoother experience.
ALSO, don’t forget to get your visa! You do need one to visit India in general, and it would be a shame to read all these tips, arrive in India, and realize you can’t even enter the country! I swear by iVisa. It’s easy and straightforward. Check out my post on getting a tourist visa for India here and check what you need on iVisa here.
IF you want to do it on your own, here’s my experience.
Visiting the busier Taj Mahal after such a zen experience in Rishikesh probably wasn’t the best idea. We had such a relaxing time at our ashram and were sort of dreading going to Agra. I’m not going to lie- I just wanted to fast-forward and have already seen the Taj Mahal. It was starting to feel like a chore.
Chloe and I hitchhiked to Haridwar, where we took a rickshaw to the bus stop. The bus to Agra was pretty unbearable. I was still suffering really bad from the side effects of dengue fever and the last couple hours I was in tears telling Chloe I think I needed to go to a hospital. I wasn’t eating because I knew I’d just get stomach cramps, and I think we were both dehydrated and tired. (Guys, get travel insurance. Dengue fever is no joke)
If you go to the Taj Mahal, I highly recommend not taking the bus. You can take a train or, much more easily, fly into Delhi or Agra. Check out Kiwi to see all your budget options.
The Taj Mahal is a World Wonder perfectly placed on the Yamuna River and stunningly magical, but the same can’t be said about Agra. If you want to plan a Taj Mahal visit, you will have to base yourself out of Agra. It’s a loud crowded town filled with pollution, touts, and litter.
I wouldn’t stay in Agra for longer than necessary.
I know some people will be offended by this, but hey, like I always say: I’m going to tell it on the blog like I would to a friend, and I wouldn’t be telling my bestie to book a few nights in Agra.
We got in and out easily thanks to catching up with a couch surfer. He even let us leave our bags at his place. He’s a police officer and drove us to the Taj area then picked us up later. So nice and helpful! He really was a saint especially with how sick I was feeling. This is where Chlo and I said our goodbyes and I went on to Varanasi while she went off to dusty Rajasthan.
Anyhow, here are my little tips for actually visiting the Taj Mahal!
13 Tips for Taj Mahal Visit
1. First of all, I recommend reading up on the Taj.
I’m not going to go into the past here, but it did take 22 years to complete. It’s made of all marble, and took 20,000 workers to build. All to show love to a woman. Some say the workers’ thumbs were cut off so they couldn’t ever build something like it again.
2. It is hard to get to if you aren’t doing the Golden Triangle all at once.
It’s less than 200 km from Delhi, but you’ll most likely book a local bus at the station. Follow my local bus tips to stay safe. You can hire a driver or tour guide from Delhi to plan a daylong tour. You can also take a train in or fly!
So many of my friends who come to visit me in Goa, first fly into Delhi so they can go see the Taj. They take a day tour from Delhi to Agra and back to Delhi where they then fly onward to Goa. These tours are easy breezy and take out all the headache. You can do a Viator tour by car or a tour by train.
3. If you have the budget and time to do so, stay at the Oberoi Amarvilas Agra Hotel.
You can see the Taj from your hotel window just like so many celebrities and royals have! Now, unfortunately, I am not a famous blogger who gets free stays at 5-star hotels, but in this case, if you own this hotel and are reading this, please, hit me up! ;) I will totally let you pour me a cup of tea at the Oberoi!
4. Get there EARLY.
It opens at 6 am and you should be there right then! I didn’t make it at that time, and it was quite crowded while I was there. To me, it wasn’t a big deal- I’m not much of a monument person anyway. I know some people would have been bummed though.
5. Be prepared to be hassled.
And I don’t mean by vendors. I mean by the nicest families ever… but there are just a few too many of them. If someone wants a photo with you (and they will), just know that once you agree, a line will form. I must have taken at least 30 photos with people, and finally had to say no which always makes me feel bad when it’s nice people. You have to make sure you get your experience there, not just help make other people get a photo they want.
6. There are a few different entry gates.
They all charge the same. Foreigners pay 750 rupees while nationals pay 20 rupees. At the time, I was a little annoyed, but looking back now that I live in India, I completely understand. Foreigners get a free bottle of water, and everyone gets shoe covers you must wear inside.
7. You cannot bring snacks in with you.
They will search your purse. Lockers are located outside the gate.
8. It’s a little bit of a toss up for what time of year to go to the Taj Mahal.
Read my tips on when to travel to India to know when the best time is for weather, but keep in mind, if you can handle the high heat off-season it would be ideal to miss the crowds.
9. Know ahead of time that although it’s gorgeous from the outside, the walk inside is… not…
It was like herding cattle and being pushed through the walkways of the Taj. It was quite stinky, hot, and crowded. I couldn’t wait to get to get back outside!
10. After the Taj, check out the Agra Fort before you head out of town.
11. Now for the shopping
Unless you want some wholesale marble (which is readily available) don’t shop in Agra. Prices are marked up 100x the real amount. Are you even surprised? I did buy a postcard here at 4x the normal price, but it was very pretty.
12. If you’re looking for the perfect photo, it seems all the best come from across the river.
I didn’t make it over there, and I am by no means a professional photographer, but if that’s your thing you’ll want to find a viewing point. They are not free.
13. Don’t plan your whole trip around seeing this monument.
If you can’t seem to fit it in your itinerary, it won’t be that big of a deal. You know, I once wrote a 4-page rant about my rickshaw driver in Jaipur, but in regards to one of the seven wonders of the world, I wrote, “I saw the Taj Mahal today”. That’s it. It was gorgeous just like the photos, but it wasn’t what made backpacking India special.
BONUS TIP: There is no dress code.
While there’s no specific dress code at the Taj Mahal, you do want to be mindful of your outfits in general. Check out my big post on the do’s and don’ts of how to dress in India.
And, on a more fun note, wear something colorful! Since the Taj is all white marble, it’s the perfect place to wear your bright reds, yellows, purples, and blues.
Here are some outfits that would be perfect!
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