A visit to India is often not complete without a tour of the famous Taj Mahal in Agra. This mausoleum sitting on the banks of the Yamuna river was commissioned in 1632 and continues to be one of the most celebrated sites of India’s history. The Taj Mahal was planned by the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan, to house the tomb of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. It also houses the tomb of Shan Jahan, the builder. The complex is on approximately 17-acres. Visiting this UNESCO World heritage site takes some planning. Below are some helpful hints. I hope you find these helpful.
Plan Time for The Lines and Getting Into The Taj Mahal
You will need to consider that timing is often everything when visiting this often very busy attraction with crowds beginning to increase throughout the mid-morning. Please keep in mind that the Taj Mahal is closed on Fridays. The following will add to your time and schedule, a) walking to the ticket booth, b) getting to the main gate, c) going through the security check points, and d) potentially, checking a bag into a paid luggage storage locker while you visit the site.
Don’t be overwhelmed by the swell of crowds as you first arrive to visit the site. One hint and please be advise that this just a way for them to get extra money. You can’t skip the line. You may be approached by a few locals who will offer you the option to ‘skip the line’ or go in front of the crowd. Don’t fall for this little ‘extra service.’ I recommend getting in the line as it often moves very quickly. There is often long lines for Indians and shorter lines for foreign travelers.
Consider Leaving That Large Backpack Behind for this Tour
If you bring any kind of bag (purse included), this will add time due to need for an extra security screening to have your bag checked before you can enter the Taj Mahal. You may wish to just take some water with you, your camera, and other essentials that you can carry on your person. This way you can avoid this part of the process as you will have to move over into the longer line to wait and have your bag checked.
What if your bag doesn’t pass the security check? This means you will have to check your bag into one of the luggage lockers (not very expenses (under $1 when I visited), but do you want to really go through this process? It is something to consider. If you do take a backpack or purse, you will want only things in there that you don’t think twice about if stolen. Remember, they will not be as secure as you would like them to be during your visit. A real oddity considering the guards with automatic weapons once you are in the Taj Mahal.
Read the Do’s and Don’ts prior to visiting The Taj Mahal.
Take Water With You and Enjoy the Tour More
I can only recommend bottled water for the Taj Mahal as sometimes you risk security not allowing you to bring in a reusable bottle depending on size. Fresh water is a must and please don’t drink the local water. I also recommend keeping an eye out for your personal bottle water to avoid a quick exchange by someone. This happened to my friend and he ended up with the Delhi belly for the next half our trip. Please read more about the remedy for Travelers diarrhea by visiting Dr. Kohn’s post here
Agra Fort – Another Option for Visiting
A Visit to Agra Fort is an excellent option and I would recommend this other UNESCO World heritage site near the Taj Mahal. We visited the Agra Fort and this site was far less busy than the Taj Mahal. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage site and offers some time to quietly reflect or enjoy a walk around the lush grounds. Depending on the day, you can see the Taj Mahal in the distance. Don’t ignore the small marble palace at the top as this is quite beautiful inside and worth the climb up the flight of stairs.