Visiting the Taj Mahal
Nothing can quite prepare you for that moment of awe when you step through the entrance gate of the Taj Mahal. Not even a prior visit. A wonder of the world, architecturally brilliant and historically significant, the Taj Mahal is certainly a sight to behold. (Look out for the video in this post)
What is the Taj Mahal
In case you need a primer, The Taj Mahal is a mausoleum that Mughal emperor Shah Jahan had built for his favorite wife Mumtaz Mahal.
Facts about Taj Mahal
- Construction was started on the mausoleum in 1632 and fully completed by 1643 – although finishing touches when on throughout the 42 acre compound for an additional 10 years.
- At the time, the project cost 32 Million rupees – which today is pretty close to a Billion USD.
- Approximately 8 million people visit the Taj Mahal each year.
- There are many myths surrounding the Taj Mahal. I’ve heard stories that the emperor cut off the thumbs of the 20000 artisans so they could never work on something so grand again. Others say the workers were even put to death after the construction. Some people say he simply made them sign a contract never to work on a project of similar design. However, scholars have uncovered no evidence to support such claims and they are therefore considered myths.
- It’s architecturally brilliant. The dome is almost 115 feet high – which is close to the length of the base. The four minarets are 130 feet tall and are perfectly symmetrical. I’ve heard a few people say they were underwhelmed by the size of the Taj Mahal. I say they’re nuts.
Taj Mahal F.A.Q’s
Best time to visit Taj Mahal
The best time of year to visit the Taj Mahal is between Sept-October and Jan-March. The other months of the year or either highly polluted (winters) or seriously hot (summers).
Taj Mahal timings
The Taj Mahal is closed to the public on Fridays. On all other days, you can enter anytime between one hour before sunrise and 45 minutes before sunset typically this is 7am-6pm. There are also special night viewings on the night of a full moon (unless that full moon lands on a Friday). The light of the moon bounces off of the marble and casts a beautiful, glowing light onto the monument.
In general, Indians are not morning people (I fit right in) so if you want the lowest crowds, go first thing in the morning. We reached an hour or so before sunset and it was stunning! It was crowded but not overly so, since people were mostly congregating in the center. If you walk to the outside corners you’ll find more breathing room.
If you go at sunset and don’t rush out of the monument after, you will find a long cue at the golf cart shuttles. With tired toddlers, I had no interest in waiting for the shuttle to arrive. We took a rickshaw (pedicab) back to the car, I had negotiated the rate down because I live in a culture that expects that but then I felt bad because it’s a ton of work and paid the original rate they had asked for. The auto-rickshaws and horse-drawn carriages were all already taken at the time. My advice is to take whatever transport is available and either skip the haggling altogether or keep it to a simple ask for their “best price”
Can I bring a stroller?
Strollers ARE permitted inside the Taj Mahal complex but I’m not sure about inside the mausoleum itself. I saw several around the grounds while I was there but inside is very tight. The complex has been retrofitted for accessibly as well so there are ramps. With older toddlers, I recommend leaving the stroller at home. It’s not that much walking and they’ll enjoy running around and climbing on the massive structure (which is a totally acceptable thing in India). For babies, I recommend babywearing.
Taj Mahal entrance fee
The entry fee is 1100 rupees for foreigners and 50 for locals. Children of all nationalities under the age of 14 are free! The foreign price helps to offset the price for locals so that it remains affordable to all.
The foreigner ticket includes a bottle of water and shoe coverings. If you are local or are a foreigner wanting to buy an extra bottle of water, you can purchase one for 10 rupees next to the ticket counter.
If you are a local that looks foreign, carry your Indian ID with your ticket. You will be asked to show your proof at every ticketing point and will encounter a lifetime’s worth of shock from officials.
Taj Mahal tour guide
My mother was in town and as this was her first visit to India and she had no prior knowledge of the monument or area history so we hired a tour guide. Here again, you will see different pricing for locals and foreigners – it’s about a 1000 rupees more for foreigners. Tour guides should present a badge to you before you hire them.
Our tour guide was lovely, I’m happy we hired him. He was amazing with my hearing-impaired mother and enjoyed helping me wrangle our twin toddlers.
Speaking of wrangling toddlers: If you are traveling with multiple young children, Indian guides are really great because they will help you keep an eye on your children in the crowds and many are more than happy to carry a toddler around all day.
Another option is to do an audio tour through the audio compass app which has partnered with India’s tourism department. Simply bring your headphones, download where you have wifi and play from your phone!
Taj Mahal Photography
Do NOT forget your camera at home folks! There are so many small details and big sights to capture. We gave ourselves some space form the crowds and found some unconventional photo angles.
What items are prohibited in Taj Mahal
Large bags/backpacks, food, chewing gum, flammable items, etc and tripods.
Be careful with that last one, they are super strict! I knew this rule and confidently went through security. They pulled out my GoPro and untwisted the tiny tripod from the handle. I had completely forgotten it was there but they knew to look.
What happens if you accidentally take something in that is prohibited?
You do not need to go all the way back to the car or throw anything away. There are secure lockers at the ticket desk just outside of the entrance.
What can you take into the Taj Mahal
When searching online before our visit, I couldn’t figure out if ALL bags were banned or just really big ones. I had absolutely no issues bringing in my medium-sized shoulder bag/purse. It was big enough to keep an extra lens, my GoPro with grip, diapers, wipes and later inside the monument, my sandals and one pair of toddler sandals.
What to wear at the Taj Mahal
You can really wear anything as there is no dress code for the Taj Mahal although if you show up in a deep neck top, with tons of cleavage, locals might find your outfit a bit scandalous. All in all, though, Indian culture is not as conservative as you may think. The most important thing is that you’re comfortable and you dress for the weather. I recommend wearing a bit of color so that you won’t blend into the white background of the monument. I opted for pastels because I wanted to be seen but not stand out too much in front of the beautiful monuments. Click HERE to read all about what to wear in India, how to dress your kids, etc.
Shoe coverings are NOT the only option
The requirement is to not take your shoes onto the monument, not to wear the shoe coverings. Which means you can also choose to remove your shoes and walk barefoot. I much prefer this option because I love walking on the cool marble on a hot day. I have always brought a bag large enough to fit my slippers (and 2 pairs of toddler shoes) and just carried them around. There is also then not any waste produced by our visit.
Tips for visiting the Taj Mahal
- Don’t linger too long at the entry gate. It is generally the most crowded area, full of people taking pictures. There are plenty of great photo opportunities once you’re through the gate.
- Consider hiring a driver for the day. Many people hire an autorickshaw driver for the day if doing multiple sites. Otherwise, Uber is always an option. If you’re traveling with toddlers 3 and up, I recently started using this ride safer vest. It folds up small enough to carry anywhere!
- For that iconic, across the river view, head over to Mehtab Bagh Gardens. This area is partially flooded during the monsoon season (July-September) so keep that in mind.
- Bring small bills.
- There are many other buildings surrounding the Taj Mahal. Don’t leave without visiting a few!
Shopping outside of Taj Mahal
Like most shops throughout the world located outside of tourist hotspots, the products will be lower quality and the prices inflated. If you have very limited time on your trip to India and you feel like you won’t get another chance to shop, don’t be afraid to haggle. Check out my tips on how to haggle in India.
What is there to do in Agra besides the Taj Mahal?
Agra Fort is Incredible. Multiple palaces in one massive site. It’s easy to get lost in and 100% worth a visit.
How to get to the Taj Mahal
Most people go to Agra from Delhi. There are three ways you can go.
Driving is by far the most common or rather getting driven. If you are local you can obviously take your own car (car seats) and driver which is quite the luxury. The drive time is about 4 hours. Unlike the roads from Delhi to Jaipur, the trip to Agra, is smooth and traffic is not usually an issue. If you are heading in from overseas, you can hire a driver from Delhi to drive with you Agra (they stay in a nearby hotel overnight if you wish) and then back to Delhi. If you are traveling with small children, you can rent car seats in Delhi from rentbean.
Tip: Pack snacks, and be sure to use the restroom before leaving. There aren’t many places to stop along the way.
Since the new bullet train opened up it’s becoming very popular, very fast. The problem I have with the train is that you will need to spend more time in the station getting checked in, boarding, etc. that it negates a lot of the travel time saves. Then you also need to hire a car for either the day or per trip leg after you reach. A lot of people have loved the experience of taking the high-speed train though.
Click play below to see footage of both the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort!!
How long to stay in Agra
For most travelers, 2 days is perfect!
2-day Itinerary when traveling from Delhi
Day 1: Fly, Drive or take a train in from Delhi. Settle into Hotel. Visit the Taj Mahal – plan to reach 1.5 hours before sunset that day.
Day 2: Ask your hotel for a late checkout. Visit Mehtab Bagh Gardens at sunrise. Then head to Agra Fort. Back to hotel for a late lunch, pack up and head back to Delhi or onto Jaipur!
Day trip from Delhi
Taj Mahal can also be a day trip from Delhi particularly if you take a morning high-speed train. It’s too much driving for me personally for just a day trip but tons of people do it. If you have a hired car you can always sleep on the way back home.
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