When I first caught a glimpse of the Taj Mahal, I stopped in my tracks. I felt my hairs stand on end and a lump rose in my throat, as it sank in that I was finally there. The Taj Mahal is somewhere I’ve always wanted to visit, ever since I was a little girl and spotted the beautiful, ivory-white marble structure in my parents’ Indian cookbooks and on calendars we’d been given by our local Indian takeaways.
Find out more about my visit to the Taj Mahal now over at the link in my bio. Also featuring Agra Fort, marble shopping and Fatehpur Sikri. . . . . . @unesco @unescoworldheritage #tajmahal #agra #india #unesco #unescoworldheritage #travel #traveller #travelgram #travelingram #instatravel #wanderlust #travel blog #travelblogger #blogger #travelling #travelpics #travelphotos #solotravel #solofemaletraveler #traveltheworld #linkinbio
Recently, Netflights included my Instagram picture of the Taj Mahal (above) in their round-up of the world’s 11 best fairytale destinations. Built by Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan in memory of his late wife, Queen Mumtaz, the Taj Mahal is seen as a symbol of true love and it is said to have driven the idea for Sultan’s Palace in Disney’s Aladdin.
Seeing my photo featured in Netflights’ article made me think back over the time I spent at the Taj Mahal; although it was only around 3-4 hours, it was one of the most memorable moments of my life. Visiting the Taj Mahal is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many – and one which you want to make sure you remember for the rest of your life.
With this in mind, here are my top tips for making the most out of your visit to the Taj Mahal:
1) Get a good night’s sleep the night before
Go to bed early the night before, so that you feel fresh and alert the following day. Don’t do what I did and tire yourself out the night before, go to bed late and sleep through your alarm, so you only have ten minutes to get ready before your transfer departs, and then you look like crap in all your photos…
2) Make an early start
The best time to visit the Taj Mahal is at sunrise, when the rays from the sun illuminate the white marble, turning it a pretty pink in colour.
The other advantage of arriving at the Taj Mahal early in the morning is that it will be relatively quieter, and so the entrance queues won’t be as long and your less likely to have your perfect selfie ruined by passing tourists. The gates open at 6.30am, but the queue starts growing from 6am onwards.
3) Hire a guide
Most of the time, I prefer to explore somewhere new at my own pace, discovering information for myself. However, when you visit the Taj Mahal it pays to hire a decent guide because they’ll share an insight into this historical structure that you might not get to discover if you go it alone. Plus, if your guide is anything like mine, they’ll willingly double up as your photographer too. I hired my guide as part of a package that came with a driver and I booked through Viator, but I’m sure you could hire a guide on the gate if you haven’t managed to arrange one in advance.
4) Don’t bring a bag, if possible
If you bring a bag with you to the Taj Mahal, you have to join a separate queue for a bag search and it will take you longer to get in. My driver advised me not to bring a bag with me and after seeing said queue, I’m glad I took his advice! Lockers are available to rent if you wish to leave your belongings behind.
5) Leave your packed lunch behind, along with any lighters and sharps
You can’t bring any food, flammable objects or sharp items into the Taj Mahal, and these will be taken off you at security if you are carrying them. Save yourself some time and don’t carry them.
6) Bring your passport
Entrance to the Taj Mahal is much more controlled than you’d think. The reason the queues are so long on the way in is because many visitors are required to have their passport checked by a guard upon entry; make sure you don’t leave yours in the safe back at your hotel!
7) Ignore the street hawkers
When you approach the Taj Mahal, you have to park up your car (as cars aren’t allowed to drive up to the building itself) and catch a small bus up to the main entrance. When you get out of your car, the street hawkers will try to sell you tacky souvenirs, often at inflated prices. Try not to engage in conversation with them and be firm if you don’t want to buy anything from them. If they are persistent, break eye contact and walk away. Or, just do what I do and don’t even make eye contact in the first place.
8) Don’t take photos inside the mausoleum
Take all the photos you like on the lead up to the Taj Mahal, but once you step inside the Taj Mahal, you are forbidden to take any photos of the mausoleums (tombs), as a sign of respect to the dead. Guards patrol throughout the building and I saw them warn a couple of people about using their phones inside the mausoleums.
9) Take your shoes off before you enter the Taj Mahal
As the Taj Mahal is a mausoleum, it is another sign of respect to remove your shoes before stepping inside. You will be given elasticated white paper shoes to place over your own shoes when you enter the building. The guards inside the mausoleum will apprehend you if you’re not wearing these white paper shoes and you haven’t removed your own shoes. They’re not exactly the most fashionable of items to wear, mind you (see below).
10) Bring some cash if you want professional photos taken – and haggle
Professional photographers are dotted around outside the main gate leading in to the Taj Mahal, and they’ll offer to take your photos in return for a set number of rupees. Haggle with them. They offered me ten photos for 2000 rupees (around £23) and wouldn’t budge at first, even when I explained I didn’t want this many photos. Eventually, we settled on 5 photos for 1000 rupees. They will also offer you the option of having the photos put on a CD, but this would’ve cost 2000 rupees and so I gave it a miss.
As these photographers spend pretty much every day at the Taj Mahal, they know how to take the best photos. They will take your photo from a good angle with the Taj Mahal in the background and on the famous Princess Diana bench, and they can even help you to pose so that it looks like you’re holding the Taj Mahal in your hand. Here’s a photo of me with the Taj Mahal reflected directly upon my sunglasses.
11) Ask your guide to take you to the marble shop
As the Taj Mahal is built in marble, Agra is famous for the stuff. Let your guide take you to the local marble shop, just a short five-minute drive away from the Taj Mahal. Here, you will be offered a drink and shown how the marble is cut, shaped, polished, coloured and formed into beautiful pieces of furniture, statues, ornaments, photo frames, jewellery and more. At the end of this mini-tour, you’ll be shown around the shop in the hope that you’ll buy something. Everything in the shop was beautiful but as it’s all made using genuine marble, it has a hefty price tag. I had my eye on a photo frame for one of the photos I had taken at the Taj Mahal, but I couldn’t justify paying £95 for it!
This post is in collaboration with Netflights.