First trip to India? Planning to visit Taj Mahal? Find out the DOs and DON’Ts, how to stay safe and make the most out of your visit.
To visit Taj Mahal has been a dream of mine ever since I was a little girl in kindergarten. I will tell you straight, it looks just like the pictures and it’s as impressive as you imagine it. That’s how it felt for me.
If you are planning your trip to India, make sure to read my other posts from India:
- What you need to know before travelling to India
- My first contact with India
- What to see and do in Delhi
- Discover the Indian cuisine
- What to do in Jaipur in one day
- Kumbh Mela 2019, the largest peaceful gathering on Earth
First of all, Let me point out that Agra, the city in which the famous Taj Mahal stands, is not far away from Delhi, and it is part of the Golden Triangle (Delhi – Jaipur – Agra). I met locals in Delhi complaining about Agra, saying that it’s probably one of the dirtiest cities in India. I can also understand why they would say that. It’s common to find garbage on the streets of Agra, and there aren’t many things to do around, except for visiting the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and the Baby Taj.
Two days are enough for Agra and to visit Taj Mahal. I spend 2 nights in Agra, and it was more than enough.
How to visit Taj Mahal
1. Get there early
The Taj Mahal opens at sunrise. The best would be to visit it early in the morning when the sun shines on the white marble, and it’s not crowded yet.
According to their official website:
Taj Mahal opens 30 Minutes before sunrise and closes 30 Minutes before sunset during normal operating days
2. Buy your ticket online
As anywhere else in India, as a foreigner, expect to pay more than what locals are paying. The difference is enormous in this case, but it’s the world-famous Taj Mahal, and it’s almost understandable why they try to benefit from it.
A foreigner is expected to pay 1100 IDR, while locals pay only 50 IDR. To visit the main mausoleum, which is beautiful and why miss it since you are already there, you will pay an additional 200 IDR.
I bought my ticket at the West gate and it was no queue for tourists at 8 am. As anywhere else, there are special counters for foreigners.
3. Don’t bring forbidden things with you: tripod, books, food, snacks
From my personal experience, if you carry any of the above, you will have to leave them at the gate or trow it away. Of course, any kind of dangerous weapons or the forbidden things at the airport is not allowed here as well.
I can understand the tripod rule, and I can almost understand why no food (they don’t want you to linger around there too much), but what’s wrong with the book?!.
My sick imagination came up with the following explanation. There are many local guides with a badge and everything, at the entrance, who offer their services to guide you and take pics of you inside the Taj Mahal. If you bring your own paper guide, the chances of hiring one of them are lower. So to avoid it, they decided to ban books.
My boyfriend always carries a book in his backpack, so that’s how I know about this issue. In the end, they checked the book, and since it had nothing to do with India, they made an exception, but don’t count on it. They are not exactly flexible.
The best thing would be to bring just what you need: Camera, wallet, water (the only kind of liquid allowed) and a scarf (because it gets hot and you can get sunburn).
4. You are not allowed to stay longer than 3h
This is a new rule. They didn’t have this rule in February 2019 when I was there.
We visited with a guide, and he finished the entire tour with taking pics and everything in around 3h. So even then they were trying not to encourage people to stay longer than that.
If you think about it, it’s a garden with a big tomb, and that’s it. How many pics can you take?!
5. Taj Mahal is closed on Fridays
Check before planning your trip to visit Taj Mahal if it will be open on that day you plan to visit it. On Fridays, Taj Mahal is usually closed. It’s on their website.
6. Beware of all scammers
As any famous place, scammers will be around trying to get your money. It’s not just India, it’s everywhere.
Of course, as a foreigner, you are expected to pay more. Even the government does that, and that’s why you way 20 times more to see the Taj Mahal than a regular local would.
But, when everyone you meet is trying to scam you and charge for everything 5 times more than what’s worth, it becomes annoying.
I get it, India is a big country, and most of its population lives in poverty. I understand, and that’s why I am visiting in the first place. I want to help, and I am spending my hard earn money to visit India, not any other country in Asia.
But, the lack of common sense of some vendors and tuk-tuk drivers is beyond comprehension. I expect to pay more every time for everything. Most of the times, double the regular price. But to ask 5 times more, and to make it the same price as it would be back home, I find it unacceptable.
I profoundly dislike the lack of respect I found, and I know I can’t blame India for it. I understand how complicated everything is, but the mentality is wrong.
From my point of view, this problem is a turn-off for many potential tourists. Half of my friends don’t want to go through all this hell and lack of common sense, so they dismiss India all together because if this. Is this fair? Of course not, but I hope this will change soon.
To hire a guide or not to visit Taj Mahal?
At the entrance, where the ticket counters are, local guides await. They have a badge on which the price of the tour is written. Again, the price for tourists was almost 1000 IDR, while the price for locals was around 600 IDR.
We were confused about how the visit will be like, and decided to hire a guide. Later on, I realized you can negotiate the price of the guide. Everything can be negotiated! But this was still my first week in India, so I wasn’t yet used to this.
If you plan to visit Taj Mahal on a budget, maybe you can skip the guide. You will be just fine. Just read some basic stuff before going there and enjoy your time.
The guide was friendly, helpful, provided information and stories about the Taj Mahal. He knew all the best spots for pics and took lots of pics of my boyfriend and me.
Also, I had my tripod with me and a tiny snack, and he left them somewhere safe for me because I wasn’t allowed to take them inside.
So if you really want to take pics everywhere, super-fast, discover the story of the Taj Mahal and see it through the eyes of a local, then it could be a good thing.
If you are on a budget, you can skip it, since it costs you the price of another ticket, plus they always expect a tip. For whatever reason, even when they charge you a lot, they expect tips and not just any tips, but big ones. I tipped him 200 IDR. So I ended up paying 1200 IDR for 3h.
In the end, after we got out, he insisted on taking us to the souvenir shop. They sell marble objects and jewellery. This is probably one of the most expensive souvenir shops in entire India, as it is right next to the Taj Mahal.
I told him I will not buy anything, and he agreed but still insisted to take us there to see and hear the explanations of the vendor. They showed us beautiful cup holders and jewellery boxes. I was afraid to touch anything because I didn’t want them to think I want to buy something.
I made it very clear I will not buy anything, and they said it was ok. In the end, after hearing all there was to hear about the souvenirs, we left and thanked our guide.
Planning to visit Taj Mahal? Check out my vlog too:
Booking is my go-to travel resource to check prices, accommodations’ reviews, map for accommodations.
Airbnb is an alternative, which can be cheaper if you are travelling in a group and/or planning for a longer stay. Use this link to sign up, and you will receive €34 off of your first stay with Airbnb of €65 or more.
Flights and transport
Kiwi.com is one of my favourite flight search engines. I can check all kind of flight connections and prices.
Crystal Travel is one of the most successful online travel agency globally. I recommend Sixt car renting company for renting cars globally.
HiHiGuide helps you get the local experience by helping you meeting with a local to be your guide!