A Guide to visiting the Taj Mahal

Seven Wonders, the Taj Mahal
My visit to the Taj Mahal started incredibly early. I got up at 4.30am, stumbled around the hostel room trying not to wake anyone up, then headed to one of the places I'd most been looking forward to on my trip.

The Taj Mahal was definitely a place I won't forget quickly; it was one of the highlights of my trip to India. I was worried that it would be overrated because it's so famous but boy was I wrong! I thought I'd put together a post with information and tips for visiting the greatest declaration of love in history.

Planning your trip to the Taj Mahal

To visit the Taj Mahal you'll have to travel to Agra, either for a night or as a day trip. I would personally not recommend staying in Agra for more than one night; the city itself is not that nice. There are other places to see whilst in Agra but they're all pretty missable in my opinion. 

I stayed for one night so we could get to the Taj Mahal as early as possible. We purposely chose a hostel which was within walking distance so we could have a slight lie in (and by slight I mean getting up at 4.30 rather than 4am). In fact, it only took us five minutes to walk to the ticket office and that was a slow walk because my body still thought it was lying in bed. The hostel we stayed at was the Budweiser's Backpacker Hostel . The hostel was basic but for less than £4 a night for a four bed dorm you can't complain! The staff were helpful and there was an option for dinner at an additional cost. There was a laundry service and common room with really good air con; which is something we definitely needed. There are plenty of hostels (and hotels) to choose from in Agra.

If you choose to do a day trip you'll most likely be arriving at peak time along with all the other busses. However, there are options for private taxis or getting the train which would give you more freedom to choose when you arrive. If you want to beat the crowds it's best to get there as early as possible. The saying 'the early bird catches the worm' definitely applies to visiting the Taj Mahal. If you get there for opening time you'll get more chances to get a good photograph and explore the gardens and inside of the palace without being squished. I imagine it's extra squishy inside the palace at peak times so I'm glad we avoided that.

Taj Mahal archway

Arriving at the Taj Mahal 

The Taj Mahal opens at 6am. We ended up getting to the ticket office before it was even open!  I think the office opened at 5am because my ticket has a time stamp of 5:04. Tickets cost Rs 1000. You receive a free bottle of water and some shoes covers (these must be worn when you go inside the Taj Mahal) with your ticket. 

There are three entrances: the West, East and South gates. We entered from the Eastern gate and bought our ticket from the Eastern ticket office. A quick google maps will tell you the one closest to your accommodation. Motor vehicles are not allowed within 500 metres of the complex so if you're getting dropped there by car/bus they will drop you at the ticket office rather than the entrance. It is also worth noting that different entrances have different opening times. The East and West gates have the same opening time but the South opens later.

Once you've got your ticket you're off! But you have to get to the actual entrance first. The Eastern ticket office was not that close to the entrance to the palace. It was around a further ten to fifteen minute walk to get there. However, being extremely tired we ended up paying a man to pedal us on a cycle rickshaw (I had to google what these were called as I had no idea!) to the entrance. This was after he asked us about a hundred times and warned us that it was a very long walk. We paid 50Rs (about 50p) for him to take us to the entrance. The walk is not bad at all and is very manageable but at 5am the option of idea someone pedalling me there was much more appealing. 

There are also electric buses that will take you to the entrance but I didn't see any of these. I'm not sure if this was because it was so early or just because I didn't look in the right place (read: I didn't actually look for them at all because I was half asleep and forget they existed). 

Once you get to the entrance they'll be a ticket man. Show him your ticket, he'll scan it for you and off you go to security. We ended up being early for this too so waited in line until it was time to be let in. The bonus of being lazy and taking the cycle rickshaw was that the we overtook the other people who had been at the ticket office and were first in line! 

The line soon built up so getting there at least half an hour before opening is recommended, you still have to wait around but you'll get through security and into the grounds ahead of everyone else. 

Taj Mahal at sunrise

What to take with you 

Security is split into male and female tourists and male and female locals. You go through a metal detector and are briefly searched. Once you've done this your bag (if you have one) is searched. 

We were first in the security line and it was going smoothly until the women examined my go pro and told me that I couldn't take the handle it's attached to in with me (it had a tripod inside it). This meant I had to be taken to a shop where my tripod would be stored (safely and for free) until I'd finished my visit. I was very sceptical about both those points; I didn't feel like my tripod would be save and I was worried I'd get back and be charged. But it was absolutely fine, the man in the shop did try and get me to look around which I did and then kindly said I was not interested in buying anything. For once I wasn't asked another 100 times to look around!

After doing this I was no longer ahead of everyone else as I had to go through security all over again. The moral of the story: know what you can and cannot take in with you.

And I actually did do this! I googled the question and looked at forums to see what people had said and on the official Taj Mahal site. I'd even seen that it said tripods are not allowed but completely forgot that there was one hiding in my go pro handle! 

There were a number of other people who got caught out, most because their bags were too big. This was one thing I had known so I was surprised at how many people didn't.  A man behind me had a small outbreak because 'it was ridiculous that he couldn't take his bag in' and 'he had not seen this anyway online'. However, if you google the question it does say. 

So here's what you can and can't take with you (excluding the obvious weapons etc): 

1. Mobile phones are allowed but should remain switched off (we chose not to take ours as we had a camera for pictures and had no need for a mobile if it was off). It should also be noted that mobile phones are not allowed at all for night viewings.
2. Electric goods, apart from cameras, are banned. 
3. Tripods are also banned (including ones you may forget about because they're hidden!) 
4. Headphones are also not allowed
5. Food should not be taken in

The official website states only that you should avoid big bags but I would recommend not taking the risk. Leave rucksacks (unless they're tiny) at home and bring a small bag instead. The hassle of having to take everything out of your rucksack and into a plastic bag is not worth it. 

For a full list check out the official website

Additional information 

There will be a lot of 'photographers' pestering you. They'll offer you a good price for a photo in a prime spot but you can easily do these yourself. We did end up having one of the ticket officers sons take us around the grounds and take photos along the way, however, this happened accidentally. We kind of ended up being taken around because the son had taken me to the shop and then back into the grounds to help me find Kate. In all honesty, it was very useful having the boy (who probably was only 13) take us around because we were able to get group photos without having to pester other tourists. We also got pictures at all the prime spots, some of which I would have completely missed otherwise. 

We actually weren't able to give the boy much money at all because we'd only bought enough with us for our ticket and a snack for the walk back. I think he wanted around $5 for taking us around which in is perfectly reasonable. But as I said above if you do your research before hand you can avoid paying someone.

Where to get the best photos 

Seeing as I've just told you that you can get the best photos without any guides I thought I'd share the locations of some these so you know where to head on your visit. 

Taj Mahal Princess Diana bench

Here's a picture of me looking half asleep. This is probably one of the most popular pictures to snap when you visit. By getting there early I was able to get the picture without a million people in the background. It also meant I didn't feel like I had an audience when I was taking the picture. To get to the benches you need to head down the main path and up a tiny flight of stairs. 

Looking up at the Taj Mahal

This is a picture I wouldn't of even thought about taking myself but its pretty good huh? Although the bush in the centre does annoy me! To get this picture you'll have to crawl under one of the other benches (the one of the right hand side) of the pond in the previous photo. 

Jumping in front of the Taj Mahal

If you'd like to get a photo just like this fabulously awful one then you need to head down the main path towards the Taj Mahal then veer of to the right. There's a path up to the outer area of the palace and that's where you can get your jumping photo. I look truly awful but no trip to the Taj Mahal is complete without a set of cheesy photos. 

Those are the main areas for photos. Of course there are plenty other spots but if I showed you all of those this post would be super long and there would be a lot more embarrassing photos of me that should not be made public. After we had had enough of taking pictures we headed inside the palace. You're not allowed to take photos inside and must wear the foot covers you are given. Thankfully, when we went inside it was practically empty so we could enjoy the architecture at our own pace. 

We stopped for coffee on the way back to our hostel. There were quite a few small shops with snacks and drinks and also some restaurants. We chose a very small shop with a nice local family who seemed very pleased we'd chosen their shop to stop at. The coffee was about 10p and was lovely! It was spiced which I'd never tried before but was very yummy! We got back to our hostel before 8 and got straight back into bed! 

In Conclusion 

Here are the key points to take away from this post: 

  • Have a game plan: how you're getting there, what time you're going to arrive and allow time to get from the ticket office to the entrance.
  • DON'T take a big bag
  • Make sure you know what you can and cannot take in with you 
  • The earlier the better 
  • Don't get ripped off: either agree on a good price for someone to take you around or research and take your own photos 

Hopefully this post is useful for anyone planning a visit! Have you ever visited the Taj Mahal? I'd love to hear about your visit!


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1 comment

  1. Great blog post! I went to India 5 years ago and saw the Taj Mahal and it is beautiful!! Great list of advice! The only thing I would add is if you're part of a big group (there was 40 of us!), go to the Pizza hut that is nearby. We were the 9th year to do this trip and every year, the staff would dance for us as a thank you for filling out their quota in one sitting!! It was amazing! (although obviously not as amazing as the views of the Taj Mahal!) x


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