The Taj Mahal is one of the 7 wonders of the new world found in Agra India close to Dehli in the north of India. Taj Mahal means, ‘crown of all palaces’ in Persian. The Taj Mahal is an ivory-white marble mausoleum on the south bank of the Yamuna river in the Indian city of Agra. It was commissioned in 1632 by the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan, to house the tomb of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. It also houses the tomb of Shah Jahan, the builder. It is thought to be the perfect specimen of Muslim art in India, the white marble structure includes a number of architectural styles, including Persian, Islamic, Turkish and Indian. The Taj Mahal also encompasses formal gardens of raised pathways, sunken flower beds and a linear reflecting pool. The Taj Mahal is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site revered for its beauty. The Taj Mahal has between 7 – 8 million visitors yearly. The construction began in 1631 of the Taj Mahal. Masons, stonecutters, inlayers, carvers, painters, calligraphers, dome-builders and other artisans were requisitioned from the whole of the empire and also from Central Asia and Iran, and it took approximately 22 years to build. An epitome of love, it made use of the services of 22,000 laborers and 1,000 elephants. After an expenditure of approximately 32 million rupees, Taj Mahal was finally completed in the year 1653. The Taj Mahal only 3 hours outside of Dehli City is a great day trip from Dehli.
How to get there
The Taj Mahal is around 137 miles outside of New Delhi, and will take around 3 – 4 hours by road or train making it a doable day trip from staying in Dehli. Though the Taj Mahal makes for a good one-day trip, it is more restful to stay overnight so you can view the Taj during sunrise is an experience in itself and has way less visitors and better opportunities for pictures. The roads are also rough and the transportation is hot. I did a day trip myself out from the city but next time I am back would love to do a day trip and stay overnight there for the full experience.
Agra can be reached by air, rail, and road through private driver or shared taxi.
|Mode of Transport (to & fro from New Delhi)||Price in INR (approx. $ value)||Approximate Duration|
|Air||4000 – 7000 INR |
($ 60 – 100)
|1 hour one way|
|Bus(Public Transport)||1000 – 3000 INR|
($ 15 – 45)
|4 hours one way|
|Rail||1500 INR ($ 20)||1.5 hours one way|
|Car||5000 INR ($ 75)||4 hours one way|
|Rickshaw (within the city)||Max 50 INR per person per ride|
Taking a flight to Agra is the easiest and most comfortable option from New Delhi (only city with direct flights to Agra). The rest of the cities in India including the large cities like Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad, and Bangalore do not have direct flights to Agra.
Domestic airlines provide daily connections and the average cost of the ticket roundtrip is between 4,000 INR to 7,000 INR depending on the season. This is the most expensive option but if you only have a limited timeline for your trip this is the best way to go. From the airport there are many cheap rickshaws you can take to the Taj.
By Public Transport
There are state-run and private-run buses going between New Delhi and Agra daily. This is comfortable and cheaper to ride as the fare costs a maximum of 1000 INR roundtrip.
Pre-booking of bus tickets might not be needed since there are many buses with daily trips but don’t take the risk, have a ticket ready in advance. You can book your bus ticket on the popular Red Bus website.
Taking the train is a great experience to see India and the changing landscapes from the city to the country fields. There is the 12050 Gatimaan Express (non-stop), 12002 New Delhi Bhopal Shatabdi Express and the 12280 Taj Express Superfast departing from New Delhi’s Hazrat Nizamuddin Railway Station daily between 6.00 am to 8.30 am. The trip is only two hours long with catering services on board. This is a more comfortable ride than the bus or even a hired car and is faster than the car or bus. The bus and the car are ironically more expensive and take more time and are less comfortable. The train in India is a great way to travel. The main railway station in Agra is Agra Cantonment (AGC). You can book your tickets on the Indian Railways website.
******That being said about it being faster and more comfortable, try to take the train ride during daylight. Avoid traveling by train in the night roundtrip to and from New Delhi for security reasons, especially if you are a solo female traveler.
By Hired Car
If you want to hire a car to travel to Agra, then there are many available vendors in New Delhi. The cost of roundtrip costs up to of 5000 INR. There is the Taj Express Highway exclusively built to speed up travel to this heritage site. As the name suggests, this is a six-lane express highway, India’s longest expressway connecting Greater Noida which is outside New Delhi to Agra. You can book a cab here on Savaari Car Rentals or take Ola outstation trips or even an Uber. When I visited in 2014 I took a hired car because of time in Dehli I had and was in a shared ride with 4 other people which made for a long trip and carsickness. We asked a taxi on the street and took an impromptu trip which cost us more than bartering and booking in advance.
******Upon reaching Agra through air, bus or train, use the 24-hour official prepaid auto rickshaw and taxi booths just outside the airport, bus stand, and railway station to reach your hotel.
Getting to the Taj Mahal in Agra
You can get to the Taj Mahal by hiring a cab or a rickshaw from your hotel. All petrol and diesel vehicles are prohibited near the monument to get rid of pollution and further damage from the soot to the white marble of the Taj. There is a designated spot where you will be dropped from where you can walk 600 meters to the entrance. Or you can take a cycle rickshaw for INR 50.
Best Time to visit
Here is a chart showing the average temperature for each month of the year at Agra
|Month||High / Low (°C)||High / Low (°F)|
|January||21° / 7°||69.8° / 44.6°|
|February||25° / 10°||77° / 50°|
|March||32° / 15°||89.6° / 59°|
|April||38° / 21°||100.4° / 69.8°|
|May||41° / 25°||105.8° / 77°|
|June||40° / 28°||104° / 82.4°|
|July||34° / 26°||93.2° / 78.8°|
|August||34° / 26°||93.2° / 78.8°|
|September||34° / 24°||93.2° / 75.2°|
|October||34° / 19°||93.2° / 66.2°|
|November||29° / 12°||84.22° / 53.6°|
|December||24° / 8°||75.2° / 46.4°|
The Taj Mahal is open everyday except Fridays so make sure to plan your trip and schedule around that timeline. The best time to visit Agra is the winter which occurs October to March because of the high temperatures. The nights are cool and the days are mild sun which makes for a pleasant visit.
You can visit the Taj Mahal during the summer as well from April to June. But the temperatures during the day are so high, you can visit the Taj during sunrise or sunset when the temperature is better though. The positive of visiting the Taj during summer is that there are less people compared to the peak season which makes for a better experience.
Best Time of the Day to Visit the Taj Mahal
The best time of the day to visit the Taj Mahal is during sunrise and sunset. The time with the least amount of people and best experience is definitely sunrise. The gates open to travelers at 6 am daily. Even thought the gates open at 6 am you should try to get there around 5 am to be first in line and truly get in early and beat the crowds. This is the perfect time for three reasons: lesser crowds, the coolest part of the day and the golden sun on the Taj. You can be in the grounds as long as you want inside the premises of the Taj Mahal, so get your great shots of the grand mausoleum. The crowd is smaller at this time and makes for a better experience. As the day goes on, the crowd becomes massive and it becomes almost impossible to grab a good photo without a crowd of strangers in your shot.
The Taj Mahal reflects different shades of color depending on the time of the day. You could plan on entering multiple times if one of your values is photographing the Taj. Coming at various times of the day could be, sunrise, middle of the day and during sunset. Another idea is you can enter the complex and stay for as long as you want for one ticket cost. You could enter at 6 am and leave at around 10 or 11 am to get two times of day light. Or you could enter the complex at 3 pm and witness the sunset before you leave. There is no access to food and not many places to sit inside the complex, so be prepared. I visited in the late afternoon and stayed for sunset and it was beautiful with the light rays and clouds over the Taj (pictured above)! I would have loved to be able to stay overnight and see sunrise as well but I did not have time in my itinerary.
If you are flexible with dates, another fun opportunity to experience the Taj is to plan your visit around the full moon night when it is open to visitors in the night between 8.30 pm to 12.30 am. Night viewing of Taj Mahal is available on five days in a month i.e. on full moon night and two nights before and two after the full moon. Each visitor is given just 30 minutes to behold the glory of the Taj in the moonlight. The Taj is closed on all Fridays during the month of Ramzan. There is no other monument in the world which has special viewing allowed exclusively around the full moon day and is a pretty special experience.
Tips for a night visit:
– You need to buy the ticket in person at Archaeological Survey of India (A.S.I) 22, Mall Road, Agra 24-hours before the planned entry
– If you want to cancel the ticket, then you will only be refunded 75% of the amount
– Visitors are allowed in 8 batches of maximum 50 people each and are only allowed for 30 minutes
– For a quick glance as to when is the upcoming full moon days this year and the coming years, have a look at this list here
Ticket Prices for the Taj Mahal
Tickets to enter the Taj Mahal are sold at two entry points – the Western and Eastern Gates. There are different ticket prices based on the nationality of the traveler. If you are a foreigner visiting the Taj Mahal, then the tickets are priced higher at INR 1000 ($14USD).
|Visitor Type||Price in INR (approx. $ value)|
|Adult (Indian)||40 INR (< $ 1)|
|Adult (Foreigner)||1000 INR ($ 15)|
|Adult (Citizens of SAARC and BIMSTEC Countries)||530 INR ($ 8)|
|Children below the age of 15 (domestic and foreign)||Free|
Note: SAARC countries are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, the Maldives, Pakistan andSri Lanka. BIMSTEC member nations are Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan, and Nepal
Ticket prices for night viewing of the Taj Mahal
|Visitor Type||Price in INR (approx. $ value)|
|Adult (Indian)||510 INR ($ 8)|
|Adult (Foreigner)||750 INR ($ 12)|
|Children between 3 – 15 years (all nationalities)||500 INR ($ 8)|
I recommend buying the tickets online here before you get there. With an e-ticket, you avoid the stress of standing in long lines to buy the ticket prolonging the wait to see the Taj. I purchased a ticket in person last time in 2014 and the lines were long and frustrating and miserable in the heat as well.
Buying tickets is easy amidst long lines to wait, but you cannot get out of the mandatory security check. The length of the line for the security check early mornings at 6 am are short and the process goes faster. As the day goes on, the length of the line gets longer. Be patient and keep your tickets handy to show it to the police to gain entry. In 2014 I had trouble bringing in my DSLR camera and bag with some equipment. I recommend not bringing in too much equipment or multiple lenses because they seem to see anything beyond a simple camera as a professional who should be paying more to do photography so be warned.
***WARNING: Tripods for cameras are not allowed into the Taj! If you are in line you will be made to go all the way back to the entrance to leave it in a locker and lose your place in line. You must either have a tiny secret tripod that could be basically disguised and not obvious what it is and even then security on the premises walking around may confiscate it from you.
Do not forget to carry a government approved ID card with you when you visit the Taj Mahal. If you are a foreigner, you must have your passport with you at all times. The security check is strict and is necessary to get in.
There are many locations to exchange currency in Agra since it is a tourist destination in India. You can find a lot of them on the busy Fatehabad Road in Agra. You can exchange currency at reliable places listed here.
- No food or drink is allowed in the Taj! There are no food vendors as well so come after you have eaten a meal
- Wear modest dress and cover your shoulders and legs as a woman! In India women do not show their legs. Wear leggings and bring a scarf or shawl to cover your shoulders and chest.
- Tripods for cameras are not allowed into the Taj! If you are in line you will be made to go all the way back to the entrance to leave it in a locker and lose your place in line. You must either have a tiny secret tripod that could be basically disguised and not obvious what it is and even then security on the premises walking around may confiscate it from you.
- Buy your ticket online before you come to skip the lines!
- Be careful as a woman taking the train at night and be on guard
- Sunrise at 6 am is the least hot with the least amount of people
- Summer is the low season with less crowds
- You must wear the slippers they give you to wear over your shoes everywhere in the Taj marble area at the front.
The Southern Gate or the main gateway
The main gateway is the first to catch your glimpse when you finish the security check at the entrance. This is referred to as Darwaza-i-Rauza or ‘gate of the mausoleum’ which is one of the main elements of this monument. This is considered as the South Gate which in fact is the main entrance to the Taj Mahal.
The gateway is made of bricks covered with red sandstone. There is Arabic calligraphy bordering the doorway which is nothing but quotes from the Quran calling the visitor to enter the Paradise Gardens. The quote is etched in black stone into white marble. You can notice eleven little domes just above the entrance on the gateway. There is another set of eleven little domes on the other side of the gateway, totaling 22 little white domes, signifying the precise number of years it took to construct the Taj Mahal.
As you walk past from the security check towards this Darwaza, you can catch a glimpse of the Taj Mahal but it gets completely out of view when you stand in front of this splendid gateway. As you enter the gateway and stand inside the entrance, that you can see the Taj Mahal in its full glory through the gate which offers a really cool picture through this frame as well. The white mausoleum sits at the end of the long watercourse and interspersed garden.
***Tip: take a picture of the Taj framed by the red entrance gate called Darwaza-i-Rauza which makes a gorgeous backdrop frame. (pictured above)
Char Bagh or the Garden
The garden on the Taj grounds is called Char Bagh and is a perfect 300 square meters in dimension. Even the garden, when viewed from above is divided into 4 pieces by 4 calm water pools. These 4 waterways represent the sea of water, wine, milk and honey which signify paradise as mentioned in the Quran. Each of the 4 sectors is further equally divided into 4 quadrants, making it a total of 16 pieces of the garden with lawn. The garden is completely symmetrical and beautifully maintained.
The Char Bagh is referred to as the Paradise in this context as the presence of water and so much flora with birds. Documents say that the Char Bagh garden was full of fruit-bearing trees, and flowering plants.
Where to stay in Agra
Hotel Panna Paradise
This is one of the most modern and updated budget hotels for travelers in Agra and is located in Fatehabad. It has knowledgeable and helpful staff that speak fluent English. There is free breakfast, laundry and Wi-Fi. The hotel is close to the main mall which has a food court with cheap local good walking distance so you don’t have to rely on street food alone.
Price: $47USD per night, book & see hotel here
Tourists Rest House
This is more of a basic budget hostel with a homey and quiet atmosphere. The rooms are surrounded by a quaint garden and there are quality home-cooked meals. The hotel is only 10 minutes away from the Taj.
Price: $9USD per night, book hotel and see here
If you are looking for more of a comfy beautiful splurge this hotel is one of the best for your money with all the amenities of a 5 star hotel with a beautiful courtyard and pool and hanging lanterns and eastern decor asthetic. There are fountains and a 35 acre garden and named after the dynasty who built the Taj Mahal.
Price: $70USD per night, see hotel and book here