A few weeks ago, I crossed the number one item off of my bucket list. Twenty-three years of desperate hoping and wishing finally paid off. I GOT TO SEE THE TAJ MAHAL IN PERSON! This was an experience unlike any other that I’ve had. If I had one word to describe this architectural masterpiece, it would be marvelous. Actually, I don’t think there are any words that accurately describe how beautiful the Taj Mahal is.
I grew up learning about this monument and seeing photos of it everywhere. It’s a huge part of my culture and it has always been a dream of mine to see it. When I saw it for the first time, I froze. I couldn’t move or speak. I didn’t know what to think. It felt like my heart was melting. The Taj Mahal was more beautiful than I ever thought it would be. It simply took my breath away and left me in utter awe and admiration. The air was full of love and tranquility. I felt a breeze and in that breeze, I felt the love that Shah Jahan had for his wife, Mumtaz.
It felt surreal to stand in front of this grandiose structure that symbolizes everlasting love. Seeing the Taj Mahal for the first time will forever be my favorite travel memory. That being said, I wholeheartedly believe that everyone should see this masterpiece at least once in their life.
To help you plan your trip, I’ve compiled a list of the best tips to make sure you have a smooth and dazzling experience at the Taj Mahal.
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1. Learn the History of the Taj Mahal Before Visiting
I could write about the history of the Taj Mahal in this post, but let’s be real here. History isn’t my forte and you’re here for these awesome tips… not my subpar history lesson. The story behind the Taj Mahal is beautiful and one you should familiarize yourself with so you have a better understanding when you’re there. Roughly, it took twenty years to complete with the help of 20,000 builders. The entire building is made from marble. Rumor has it that Shah Jahan cut off all of the workers’ fingers so they couldn’t build anything this magnificent again. I read online somewhere that it’s not true, but it’s a fun rumor.
2. Be Patient and Remain Calm
The Taj Mahal is incredibly crowded with everyone trying to get the perfect Instagram photos. At times, people will push and shove their way to the front of the queue for their photo and it gets very frustrating. But, take a deep breath and stay calm. Be patient and you’ll get your perfect photos too.
3. Go Early in the Morning
The Taj Mahal is always crowded, but it’s less crowded early in the morning. I recommend arriving around 5:30-5:45 am to secure a decent spot in the long queue to get in. Spoiler alert – don’t expect a gorgeous sunrise. It’s just not going to happen. The sun doesn’t actually rise behind the Taj Mahal and the gates don’t open until the sun has actually risen. They start letting tourists enter right after sunrise around 6:10 am or so. However, going early in the morning allows you to beat the afternoon heat and bigger crowds.
4. Buy Your Ticket Online
I highly recommend buying your ticket online to avoid standing in the horrendous queues. Here’s where you can buy it online. I don’t think they charge extra for buying it online. We paid 200 INR for the mausoleum, 550 INR for the entrance fee, and 500 INR for taxes which totaled to 1200 INR per person.
If you aren’t able to purchase your ticket online for some reason, please have exact cash ready. It will make your life and the ticket agent’s life easier. The ticket booth is about one kilometer away from the entrance of the Taj Mahal. It’s a rather pleasant walk, but there are rickshaws available if you don’t want to walk.
Your ticket should include a map of the Taj Mahal and shoe covers.
Pro Tips: The ticket restricts you to a three-hour visit only so be mindful of your time, although three hours is plenty to see and learn everything to your heart’s content. Apparently, if you go over three hours, they will make you pay the entrance fee again. I don’t know if that’s 100% true, but that’s what we were told. When purchasing your ticket online, it asks for a form of ID. Please have that readily available when you visit whether it’s a driver’s license or passport. Ticket agents will ask for it as verification before they let you enter. Further, expect to get separated from your travel partner when going through security screenings; men and women both have a different queue so find a meeting spot on the other side of security. Lastly, it is required to have your tickets printed off.
5. Pick Your Gate Carefully
There are three entrance gates to the Taj Mahal – East, West, and South. It’s imperative that you choose your gate wisely. I highly recommend asking your hotel/hostel to see which one they suggest.
- The East Gate: We entered from the East Gate since it was closest to our hotel. Although it was crowded, we didn’t have to wait too long to enter. It appeared as if this was the most convenient gate for tourists.
- The West Gate: I don’t know much about this gate, but it’s furthest away from most of the hotels. Hence, it’s a tad bit less crowded than the East Gate in the morning.
- The South Gate: We were told to avoid this gate because this is where all the touts are hanging out to sell tourists their souvenirs. They’re pretty pushy too. I suggest avoiding this gate because it’s not a good start to your day.
6. Get a Guide
A lot of travel bloggers tell you not to get a guide, but I disagree with them. I recommend everyone to get a guide. It allows you to learn more about the Taj Mahal and you’ll have your own bodyguard to protect you from the touts. They will also help you get the best photos since they know all the great Insta-worthy shots. If you want this process to go as seamless as possible, you should book your guide in advance through your hotel or a tour company. The Taj Mahal is notorious for people posing as guides. All 300 of them say that they’re government approved. In reality, there are only around 75 official guides.
Side story: We booked our tour through a tour company and the tour guide never showed up at the hotel to pick us up. They told us to be ready in the lobby at 5 am and we waited there until 5:40 am. Frantically, we called an Uber and we arrived at the Taj Mahal completely flustered because we didn’t have a guide. I read about the poser guides everywhere and didn’t want to deal with that. Unfortunately, I didn’t have an option. I wanted to learn more about the history of the Taj Mahal so I needed a guide. As we were walking to the entrance, this “guide” ran up to us and offered his services. We asked for the price and he kept saying, “As you wish.” As a well-seasoned traveler, this raised a major red flag. I demanded an official price and he said 600 INR plus tip depending on how well he does. I didn’t think that was a bad price considering I didn’t have a guide. After agreeing to a price, he pushed us along to his colleague. We were sketched out again, but we decided to give it a try. His colleague ended being the most amazing guide we could have ever asked for. His English was perfect and he was the absolute best photographer. I actually never took a single photo when I was there. He took all my photos for me. He posed us perfectly and he even protected us from the touts. Moral of the story: even though most of the guides are posers, there are a few diamonds in the rough. I was lucky enough to get one.
Pro Tip: If you have to get a guide upon arriving at the Taj Mahal, have your guard up. Don’t allow them to walk all over you. Always negotiate a solid price with them and don’t let them tell you, “As you wish on the price.” We all know that they’re not going to accept just anything that you offer.
7. Dress Appropriately
There is no official dress code at the Taj Mahal, but it’s still important to dress modestly. I recommend that ladies cover their shoulders and not wear anything above knees length. Don’t be that woman who shows up in shorts and a tank top. Wear light and loose clothing because it can get really hot and humid. You can see in the picture above what I wore. It was perfectly comfortable and modest.
8. Check the Opening Times
The Taj Mahal is open for visitors between sunrise and sunset every day except for Fridays. It’s a Muslim monument so it’s closed on Fridays for the Holy Day. It’s important to remember this so you plan your trip to Agra with enough time to observe the Taj Mahal.
Pro Tip: The Taj Mahal is also open in the night when there’s a full moon. I don’t know the exact times for this, unfortunately. Take advantage of this opportunity if you’re going during the full moon. It’s stunning from what I hear.
9. Check out the View from the Moonlight Garden
The view of the Taj Mahal from the Moonlight Garden was my absolute favorite view of the Taj Mahal. You can grab an Uber or a tuk-tuk across the river to the Moonlight Garden (Mehtab Bagh). It’s 200 INR for the entrance fee and well worth it. It’s the only photo I got of the Taj Mahal without anyone in it.
10. Don’t Bring Prohibited Items
Make your life easier and read up on this beforehand. The official website for the Taj Mahal has a list of items that you aren’t allowed to bring inside. Some of these items include food, inflammable/dangerous/explosive objects, headphones, gum, portable chargers and more. Just bring cash, your phone, your camera and a bottle of water. I highly doubt you’ll need anything more than that.
Pro Tip: If you accidentally carry a prohibited item with you, you’ll probably have to store it in a small shop that has lockers. In exchange for them safeguarding your belongings, they’ll pressure you into buying something. The other alternative is to throw those items away, which I highly doubt you want to do.
11. Get up Close to the Marble
Don’t just gaze at the Taj Mahal from afar. Get up close and admire the architecture. Soak in the intricate details of the marble carvings. My mind was blown when I saw the architecture up close. It was shocking and amazing to think that people 380+ years ago were able to construct something so incredible with just their hands.
12. Have a Few Photo Spots in Mind
I spent a few hours on Pinterest the night before I went to the Taj Mahal to make a list of everywhere I wanted to take a photo. Once you get inside the Taj Mahal, you’ll feel overwhelmed and you won’t be able to think about where all you want a photo. Create a photo plan in advance to make sure you get all the shots you want.
Pro Tip: Tripods are not allowed.
13. Dress in Bright Colors
If you want your photos to really stand out, wear bright colors. I saw so many Indian women wearing bright-colored saris and their pictures turned out gorgeous. Bright colors look stunning against the white marble.
14. Escape the Crowds ASAP
When you first enter the Taj Mahal, everyone and their mom stop there to take photos. Keep moving forward. The further you walk, the better the photo spots without tons of people in them. I made the mistake of posing for a few photos here and I don’t like any of those photos.
15. Wear Mosquito Repellant
For some reason, mosquitoes don’t like my Indian blood. However, Amos was getting eaten alive by them along with other tourists. It’s wise to bring some with you.
Resources for Booking Your Trip to the Taj Mahal:
Accommodation: If you want to stay at a hotel, use Hotels.com. I use it all the time because it provides the cheapest rates for hotels. Don’t forget to join their rewards program. Every tenth night is free!
Travel Insurance: India is safe, but you never know when accidents can happen. Don’t forget to protect yourself against flight cancellations, unexpected illnesses, theft and more. RoamRight has great customer service and benefits.
Have you been to the Taj Mahal? Do you have any tips that I didn’t mention above? Let me know in the comments below.
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