If you are on a trip to India, the you will surely be planning visit the Taj Mahal in Agra. As one of the premier attractions in India it is on every bucket list, but there is a lot of information to know before you go to ensure you have the best visit.
This white marble magnificence was ordered to be built by Shah Jahan for his most loved wife Mumtaz Mahal. Often called a monument to love, the Taj Mahal is spellbinding, no matter how many times you see it.
After living in India for a decade and visiting the Taj Mahal many times throughout the years, with and without kids, I share with you my top 10 mistakes to avoid when visiting the Taj Mahal. Make sure to read all of this as it contains very important information that will make or break your once in a lifetime visit to this iconic landmark.
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10 Mistakes to Avoid When Visiting the Taj Mahal in India
Mistake #1: Visiting the Taj Mahal in the Middle of the Day
For many, their Taj Mahal visit is part of a tour, which means they come typically in the mid-morning to middle of the day. This is the worst time for photographs and it is also the busiest time to visit. Therefore, if you are visiting on your own, do not go in the middle of the day. Either go early in the morning for sunrise or go late in the afternoon for sunset, which is the best photos. The morning is always busy, but you will see the crowds start to disperse quite a bit as it gets towards sunset.
The Taj Mahal looks spectacular at both sunrise and sunset, making it difficult to decide which time to visit. I have been for both and personally prefer the morning. For sunrise, plan to arrive at the line around 5:30 am so you can comfortably check-in by the time the Taj Mahal opens. Sunset takes place around 6:30pm so make sure you reach well before that time for the full experience.
Mistake #2: Not Knowing What Your Ticket Includes
One of the biggest mistakes is buying the cheapest ticket and then not getting to explore the ENTIRE grounds of the Taj Mahal. Entry fee for a visit to the Taj Mahal is currently 1100 Rupees for foreigners for the basic entry and 200 Rupees more for entrance into the mausoleum.
If you want to see ALL of the Taj Mahal and the grounds, make sure to add on the extra 200 Rupee ticket. Otherwise you will not be allowed access to the upper area at the Taj Mahal. You do not have to go into the mausoleum if you don’t want to (as it is CHAOS!), but this ticket will allow you to walk up to that area.
All tickets also include a pair of shoe covers (to protect the marble from any further deterioration) and a single use plastic water bottle to take inside.
You can purchase a ticket online or at the Western Gate near Saheli Burj or the Eastern Gate. Both ticket offices open 1 hour before sunrise and continue selling until 45 minutes before sunset.
Mistake #3: Bringing in Things That are Not Allowed
The Taj Mahal is quite strict about what visitors can bring inside due to security reasons. When you enter the Taj Mahal, you will be thoroughly checked. It is difficult to sneak anything past these guys, so don’t even try.
Things that are NOT allowed include:
- Day packs or large bags. You can carry small bags containing only essential items.
- No food or drinks are allowed inside at all. This includes gum and mints.
- Absolutely no smoking items or other tobacco products including lighters are allowed inside.
- No mobile phone chargers or battery packs are allowed.
- No tripods of any kind are allowed inside the Taj Mahal, including those connected to selfie-sticks.
It is important that you do not bring any of these items with you. Otherwise you will have to get a locker to store your items, which is free but cumbersome to manage when arriving/leaving.
All that you are allowed to carry is your phone, camera and the water bottle that comes with your ticket.
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Mistake #4: Ignoring the “Photo” Helpers
There are a variety of guides offering services as well as unofficial “photo” helpers wandering the grounds of the Taj Mahal. On my first two visits I was worried they were just trying to get money off me, so I ignored them. My last visit, I said, sure – take me to some cool viewpoints. On that visit I was taken all around to see various spots that offered unique perspectives and photos with less people. These guides often only ask for a small amount of money and are well worth it. Negotiate a price in advance.
These photo helpers are also great people to ask more about the Taj if they speak English fluently. While I do not typically suggest hiring a local tour guide here, if you have one offered at your hotel, it might be a decent option if you want to know more about the history and details of the buildings and gardens.
Mistake #5: Not Budgeting Enough Time for Your Visit
The Taj Mahal is a beautiful building that for most will be a once in a lifetime visit. Given this, make sure to schedule enough time in your day for your visit. For example, do not plan to visit in the morning and then leave on an afternoon train. You will be surprised how much time you will want to spend here soaking up the beauty and sights.
Even with children in tow, we have spent on average, about 4 hours per visit once inside.
For late afternoon visits, plan to stay until closing time if you can as the sky changes to beautiful colors making the Taj Mahal glow in such spectacular ways.
Mistake #6: Skipping Alternative Viewpoints
The Taj Mahal is a spectacular building to see in different lights and from different viewpoints. If you were unable to see the Taj Mahal during sunrise, sunset or even the full moon, you can get a great view from the Yamuna River. The view is beautiful, entry is free and you can use a tripod (not allowed inside the Taj Mahal!).
Head across the water to Mehtab Bagh (Moonlight Garden), for views across the river. You will have to pay to access the garden, however it is a nice place to wander around during the heat of the day. Otherwise, there are also nearby streets where you can access a similar view for free. Ask your auto driver to show you where this is located.
Mistake #7: Not Eating in Advance
There is absolutely no food allowed in the Taj Mahal therefore it is really important that you eat a good amount of food before you arrive. This will be the one thing that makes you exit the building – hunger! If you plan to visit in the morning, make sure to eat a good full breakfast before you leave. Most hotels offer a basic take with you breakfast, but if you are prone to hunger make sure to have other snacks in your room to help tide over your hunger.
Similarly for late afternoon visits, make sure to have a good snack and drink lots of water before you enter the Taj Mahal. It is often hot and you will want food and more drinks before too long.
Mistake #8: Planning Your Visit for a Friday
The Taj Mahal is closed every Friday so do not plan your visit for a Friday! The best days to visit are Monday through Thursday as the weekends tend to be quite busy with local visitors. It is also important to check online for any holidays that could also make the Taj Mahal much busier.
Trust me, the Taj Mahal is busy on a good day, so you will most definitely want to avoid super busy days!
Mistake #9: Not Wearing Bug Spray and Sunscreen
As mentioned above, the items you are allowed to enter with are exceptionally limited. However, we have always been able to enter with a small sunscreen and bug spray. If you are visiting the Taj Mahal at either sunrise or sunset, you will need the bug spray for sure. Mosquitos are all over the area throughout the year.
Additionally, even in winter, the sun is strong and you will need to protect yourself with sunscreen and/or a hat.
Mistake #10: Dressing Inappropriately
While there is no official dress code for visiting the Taj Mahal, it is highly recommended that you dress modestly and respectfully. In India this means no shoulders or cleavage showing for women and typically no shorts for men.
Our recommendation is to dress like the locals and get yourself clothes in local fashions for picture perfect photos! Wear bright colors even if you don’t normally do so at home. They look stunning against the white backdrop!
Frequently Asked Questions About Visiting the Taj Mahal in India
What is the best time of year to visit the Taj Mahal?
One of the biggest discussions visitors have is when is the best time of year to visit the Taj Mahal. Some will tell you that the summer months, from March to June are the best before the heavy pollution and monsoon rains start. Others will suggest the winter months when the temperatures are cooler.
I have been a variety of times throughout the year. The late spring is HOT, but does offer more clear days. Additionally, I have visited several times in February and been lucky with beautiful days both times. That said, fog is a concern for early morning visits during the winter months.
If you are planning your trip around your visit to the Taj Mahal, here is some further information about the different seasons.
October – March : This is the most comfortable temperature wise, but can be heavily polluted in the early fall and shrouded in fog in December to February.
April – June: This time of year is hot hot hot. If you go during this season, go early to avoid the hottest parts of the day.
July – Sept : This is typically monsoon season, which means lots of rain. That said, if this is the only time you can visit, there are some interesting photo opportunities with reflections in puddles and surprise with blue skies after the rain.
How do we get tickets?
You can purchase your tickets online for the Taj Mahal here.
When is the Taj Mahal open?
The Taj Mahal is open from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Saturday through Thursday. It is also open from 8:30 p.m. to 12:30 p.m. for night visits – 2 days before and after every full moon.
Which gate is best to enter?
There are three entry gates at the Taj Mahal, with only 2 open at the time of writing. To be honest it doesn’t matter a ton which entrance you go in. There will always be crowds and security checkpoints. We recommend going to the one closest to your hotel. The East Gate tends to be closest to most hotels and the busiest in the morning.
What is the best way to get to Agra?
Agra, the town where the Taj Mahal is located, is easy to reach by either car or train. Most visitors arrive to Agra from Delhi. While it is possible to visit on a day trip/ day tour from Delhi, I would not recommend it as you will not have a good deal of time to spend here at your leisure.
That said, visitors can depart from from Delhi to Agra Cantt (AGC) many times a day via train. This typically takes about 3 hours.
If you drive, or have a driver take you, it will also take approximately 3 hours by the Yamuna expressway. For most their mode of transport depends on their budget and what their itinerary is. I have taken the train as well as driven as part of a multi-city itinerary with a car and driver.
What is the best way of getting around Agra?
Rickshaws are abundant here and the most common way to travel around the city for foreigners. Considering hiring an autorickshaw driver for a day, setting out exactly where you want to visit and for how many hours. This often turns out to be more economical than hiring them for each destination. Note however that they will ALWAYS want to take you to a shop where they receive kickbacks from your purchases. If you are not interested in this, make it clear (often repeatedly!) that you do not want to go shopping.
What Else Can We Do in Agra?
Undoubtedly the Taj Mahal is the main attraction in Agra for almost every visitor. However, that does not mean there are not other notable things to do while in town. Below are some of our favorite sites that we recommend to visitors coming to Agra for more than 1 day.
Agra Red Fort
For those of you have either only just begun your journey or love forts, Agra Red Fort is a great site to visit. Located only 3 km away from the Taj Mahal, the Agra Fort is worth visiting after visiting the Taj in the morning. Unlike the marble Taj, the Agra Red Fort is made of red sandstone. For families, the main attraction here tends to be the cheeky chipmunks rather than the expansive grounds of empty rooms.
“Baby Taj Mahal” – Tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah
Didn’t get enough of the Taj? Head across the Yamuna River for the Tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah, sometime called the “Baby Taj”. It is not as large as the Taj Mahal, but the detail of the marble inlays are remarkable and worth the visit. It does not take long to check out the tomb and only costs approximately 200 rupees.
Mehtab Bagh Gardens – Riverside View of the Taj Mahal
As I mentioned previously, there is a great view of the Taj Mahal from the other side of the Yamuna River. You can see this at the Mehtab Bagh Gardens. Admission is 200 rupees. Open sunrise to sunset.
Wildlife SOS – Elephant Sanctuary
If you love animals and want an opportunity to get up close and personal to some wildlife, make time to visit Wildlife SOS, an elephant sanctuary outside of Agra in Mathura. There are various programs for visitors, but a 2-hour “short visit” to the Elephant Conservation and Care Center will provide you with the opportunity to meet and interact with rescued elephants.
Where To Stay in Agra While Visiting the Taj Mahal
There are a ton of places to stay in Agra as it is loaded with tourists almost every day of the year! While I cannot recommend them all, I have experienced a few that I would suggest to anyone visiting town. If your main aim is to see the Taj Mahal, I would recommend getting a hotel that is within walking distance.
For those looking for luxury while in Agra, there is no better choice than the Oberoi Amarvilas Agra. If this is out of your price range, check out other high end accommodation options such as Hotel Radisson Blu.
However, my top recommendation is the mid-range ‘homestay’ Aman Homestay. The family that runs this hotel is lovely, the rooms are spacious and offer everything a guest needs and it is within walking distance of the Taj Mahal.
For more options on where to stay in Agra, check availability on the map below.
Don’t Forget Your Travel Insurance
India is an amazing country for travelers, but it also comes with some risk, therefore you should make sure to have international insurance in place before you go. This is the one non-negotiable item I make sure to book for any trip abroad. For me personally, I have a year long plan with Allianz. However, they also have 1 trip plans in a wide range of affordable options including coverage for both travel hiccups and medical emergencies. Check out their plans and rates here.
For a bit more of a comprehensive insurance with higher allowances for things like dental, repatriation of remains, etc, I also recommend World Nomads. World Nomads does tend to be a bit more expensive, but their coverage is much more comprehensive. Check their rates here. And as always, read the fine print to know exactly what is and is not covered!
My choice in insurance often is dependent on the location I am traveling too (the political stability, chance for great misfortune, etc) or if I am taking a tour that requires specific coverage.
I have used both companies myself as they are both known for being responsive to claims and are reputable.
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