The Taj Mahal is one of the world's great architectural wonders. Originally built in the mid-1600s as a memorial to a Mughal emperor's deceased wife, its palatial, marble exterior and circular domes make it one of the most recognizable buildings in India, if not the world. The Taj Mahal is located in Agra, about 130 miles outside of India's capital city of Delhi. Needless to say, this is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Northern India, and is the main attraction for many visitors. Because of its location, Delhi-based visitors can visit the Agra and the Taj Mahal as part of a day-trip before returning to the comfort of their hotel in the evening.
Visiting the Taj Mahal
Getting to Agra from Delhi is best accomplished by train. There are multiple options, though the most convenient choice is the Shatabdi Express, which departs New Delhi Station at 6:15 a.m. every day. The cost is $11, and a light breakfast is served en route. The Shatabdi makes the journey to Agra in about two hours.
If that timing does not suit you, there are other trains for Taj Mahal day-trippers. The best of these alternatives is the Taj Express, which departs H. Nizamuddin Station at 7:15 a.m.. The slower Punjab Mail departs New Delhi Station at 5:30 a.m. and makes the trip to Agra in three hours.
Taj Mahal visitors will get off at the Agra Cantt station no matter which train they choose to ride. Return trains can usually be caught between six and eight in the evening.
Hours and Admission
The admission fee to the Taj Mahal is about $15 (750 Indian Rupees). For an additional $5, visitors can also gain entrance to the nearby Agra Fort, another historic site in the area. It is very important to note that the Taj is closed every Friday. On all other days, the gates open at 6 a.m. and close at 7:30 in the evening.
Staying in Agra overnight and arriving at opening time can be worthwhile because the crowds don't arrive until a the trains from Delhi arrive in Agra (starting at about 8 in the morning). Also, the soft light of the early morning is best for taking the requisite Taj Mahal snapshots.
Tips for Visitors
The Taj Mahal complex has three entry points. Most tourists enter through the Western Gate, though the line to get in can be long here, especially on holidays and weekends. If the line is long at this main gate, visitors can head to the Eastern and Southern gates, both of which are generally much less crowded that the Western Gate.
A few things more you need to know before your visit are:
- Since the Taj Mahal is a religious site, security is tight.
- Baggage can be searched by security guards
- Cameras and video equipment are allowed (except in the onsite mausoleum).
- Cell phones must be switched off before entering the grounds.
- Eating is prohibited.
- Tourists are given a half-liter water bottle and disposable shoe coverings for free when entering.
- Self-guided English language audio tours are available beside the main ticket counters at each gate for about $2.
Package Tours and Guided Tours
Companies in Delhi offer guided tours of the Taj Mahal. These usually include door-to-door service from visitors' Delhi hotels to the Taj Mahal and back again, as well as meals and tours of Agra's other historic sites and shopping venues. Most tours rely on the Shatabdi Express train to get between Delhi and Agra. Be aware of what is included in the price of the tour. Some tours might seem cheaper at first, but the quoted price does not include admission to the Taj Mahal or other sites that are on the itinerary.
- Travel Force India provides a $70.00 day trip to the Taj Mahal. The price includes door-to-door service, three meals, and a guided tour of the Agra Fort in addition to the tour of the Taj itself. Entry fees to all visited sites are not included in the price.
- Taj Mahal Tours provides guided day trips the Taj Mahal for $149. The price is lowered to $99 per person for groups of two or more. The price includes admission, meals, door-to-door transfer service, and a guided shopping excursion.
- Classic Taj Tours offers a Taj day-trip as part of a 4 day package that focuses on India's so-called Golden Triangle. The tour includes a stop at the Taj Mahal, and also trips to the historic monuments in the cities of Delhi and Jaipur. Prices vary depending on group size and hotel choices.
Enjoy Your India Travels
The Taj Mahal is certainly a great addition to any India visitor's itinerary. The fact that it lies only a short distance of Delhi makes it an ideal candidate for a day-long excursion. Tourists who visit the Taj don't have to sacrifice the big city conveniences and modern accommodations of Delhi. With a wealth of information for those who want to plan a solo trip to Agra and a wide range of guided tour options, sightseers can find the way to visit this most-famous attraction that best suites their needs and traveling style.