For most travellers, visiting the Taj Mahal is an ultimate bucket list item. I mean truthfully, what is a trip to India without seeing one of the greatest wonders of the world right? This is the Taj Mahal Guide All You Need To Know.
Prior to our arrival, we delved deep into reading a number of blog posts, all of which featured a wide variety of information. Everyone seemed to have their own opinion. Some had great experiences, while others ranted about their unmet expectations upon arrival. Whatever it was, we did learn something from those posts; everyone will have their own unique experience and there is no place that will provide you with all the helpful information! While we don’t claim to be experts in the field, we hope that this guide will help you on your trip to the Taj Mahal. We did our best to pack it with all the information we wish we had prior to our visit.
Taj Mahal Guide All You Need to Know
For those of you planning on going without a guide, this brief history may be helpful for you to read up on prior to your visit.
The Taj Mahal is a large marble mausoleum located in the city of Agra, about a 2 hours drive from New Delhi. The structure was commissioned in 1632, by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, to lay the remains of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal who passed away during the birth of their 14th child. The Taj is a symbol of true love and loss and is still named one of the Great Seven Wonders of the World to this day. It is an iconic symbol of India and one that should not be missed.
*as of August 2019
Tourists: 1,300 Indian Rupees (small discount if you pay by card)
Locals: 40 Indian Rupees
Hours: 6:00 AM – 6:30 PM
It is important to do research prior to your visit to ensure you are not there on any special holidays. However, for the most part, the Taj Mahal is open everyday sunrise to sunset apart from Fridays. Fridays, the Taj Mahal is closed and only open to Muslims to attend prayers.
Taj Mahal Guide All You Need to Know
When To Go
This goes without saying… the best time to visit the Taj Mahal is at sunrise. If you are looking to catch it at not only the most beautiful time, but with the least amount of people, then be sure to go for a sunrise.
We arrived to the East Gate at 5:00am on the dot. The ticket counter was not crowded and we were in the line by 5:15am.
Getting There & Gate Information
Depending on where you stay, some hotels offer a drop off service. It is important to note that at a certain point cars are prohibited, so you will be required to walk, or take a tuk tuk. Be cautious if you decide to take a tuk tuk, they tend to scam tourists, so it’s best to just walk.
For us, we stayed at the Atulyaa Taj hotel just 600 meters from the East Gate entrance, so we were able to easily walk to and from. If you are interested in staying at the Atulyaa Taj, click here.
The Entrance Gates
There are three entry gates for the Taj Mahal, South, East and West. The West gate is mostly used by locals and is known to have some of the longest lines throughout the day. The East gate is the most popular among tourists and is the closest to most of the popular hotels in the area.
Do You Need A Guide?
Having a guide is really up to your preference. If you feel like you would like to learn more about the history of the Taj Mahal and India, then we would strongly suggest it. Another reason worth hiring a guide, is to have a third body taking pictures (which is what we did). We saw value in hiring someone to essentially capture the photos we wanted together once inside. We were also pleasantly surprised with the incredible details he was able to provide us about the construction of the Taj and the history behind it. Overall, we think it added to our entire experience as a whole. That being said, if you are tight on funds and are already well versed in the history then it is not a necessity.
How To Find A Guide
There are a few ways to find a guide. Some people offer guided tours where you can book ahead of time to visit with a trained guide and a group of people. Click Here for more.
Many 5 star hotels in New Delhi will also have a concierge service that can arrange guides for you during your visit.
Our top recommendation would be to book with a guide once at the gate, or ticket line (which is what we did). The pros of this is that you can barter a price and if you go early generally you can get a guide for a great deal. We got ours for 600 Indian Rupees. The con to this method is that it is hard to determine the legit guides from the scammers.
We learned that the real guides should carry a badge and most stand near the ticket line rather than the gate lines. Also, there are a few that are inside once you pass security.
Our guides name was Raj, and unfortunately we lost his contact details, but he was standing at the ticket line at the East gate and he had a brother that owned a souvenir shop on the side of the road.
Taj Mahal Guide All You Need to Know
Top Tips & Important Notes
When queuing up to purchase tickets there will be two lines. One for cash, one for card. If you decide to pay by card you do receive a small discount and the card line is typically quicker.
Included in the purchase of your ticket you will receive shoe covers for once you are inside and a complimentary water bottle
Pay attention to the time! They do not advertise it much, if at all, but you do have a time limit once inside. You are only allowed in for 3 hours and if you decide to go over that allotted time, you will be expected to pay again for another ticket. Thus, plan your day accordingly and make sure you stick to the 3 hour time limit.
No tripods allowed. This was a huge reason why we opted to get a guide for the morning. As a travel couple we were really keen on getting a photo together and it is really hard to find strangers who are willing to take away from there time in this special place to snap a photo. Therefore, we thought it was definitely worth having our guide there to help us snap some photos!
No dress code BUT be respectful. There is shockingly no official dress code for visiting the Taj Mahal, but with that in mind it is still extremely important to make sure you are respecting the culture of others around you. Refrain from any short skirts above the knee and keep your shoulders covered.
What to Bring- only take your phone, camera and wallet, seriously you don’t need anything else! Large backpacks, food, tripods, battery packs are all prohibited. Security prior to entry is tight. All your things will be checked and you will get scanned. Less is more in this case and you would hate to be turned back for bringing something extra.
Photo Tip: When you first walk in, most people stop immediately because they think that the famous straight on shot is there…its not. Assuming you are visiting for sunrise, you are likely to be one out of a small handful of people, so go around them. Once facing the Taj, walk along the left side until you see another central alcove where you can get the incredible shot!
You will also see Diana’s bench near there which is another great photo op. Keep right and walk to the side of the Taj Mahal to see it from another unique perspective! The key when taking photos at the Taj is to just be relaxed and quick, yet efficient. Although we were both overwhelmed at first, hoping to get that perfect shot, we also tried to put our visit in perspective and enjoy it for what it was. Take your time, don’t rush it and enjoy!
Expectations vs. Reality
Per what we read online, we were honestly prepared for the worst. Scammers, constant crowds, being harrassed and we were pleasantly surprised. This has somewhat to due with the time at which we decided to visit. If you go in the very early morning you will be happy you did. Come 9am, the grounds surrounding the Taj Mahal are packed and you are up for an entirely different experience.
We also wanted to note that although we didn’t feel harassed once inside, we did prior to getting through security. Throughout our time in India, we were approached by strangers, beggars, scammers, and locals looking to take our pictures. This had a part to due with our fair skin and blonde hair, but at a certain point it did start to become a pain. Just bear in mind that once you get inside there will be none of that! Which is great. Everyone has a different experience and definition of personal space, which is why we were wary to talk about it in this blog, however to be honest with our experiences we decided to include it!
Overall, we had the most incredible morning at the Taj Mahal. It was far more spectacular in person than we could have ever imagined and no photo can truly do it justice. We suggest that prior to your visit you go in with an open mind and with little to no expectations. Just enjoy the moment and take it all in!
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