The Taj Mahal is on most people’s travel bucket list. The iconic testament to love, it was built in the 17th Century by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan as a mausoleum for his favourite wife Mumtaz Mahal. The stunning intricately carved white marble monument rightly deserves its place on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
As one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, it is an extremely popular attraction with over 35,000 daily visitors. To help you get the best out of your visit, here are some tips:
1 – Get there really early
To beat the crowds it is best to get there super early to queue for tickets. Seriously it is worth it! We arrived at 5.45am and were fifth in the queue at the booth, but it soon filled up and by the time I bought the tickets at 7am, there was a long snaking queue behind me. The tickets cost 900 rupees each (£10 at June 2018 prices and exchange rates) but include your shoe covers.
2 – Spilt up
If there are more than two of you, split up. One joins the queue at the ticket office and the other the queue at the gate. Coach tours tend to turn up around 6.30am and as they have all got tickets in advance you can end up behind them. Men and women queue in separate lines, but you should be able to get in around where your partner is in the queue.
3 – Befriend the staff
On our way to the ticket office, we chatted to some of the staff, who then kept my place in the queue at the gate, and when I arrived with the tickets I was ushered to the front of the ladies queue. I am not saying that it will work every time, but it better to be polite and friendly, you never know what might happen.
4 – Grab a chai along the way
You might be in for a long wait, so take advantage of the chai sellers along the roads leading to the entrances. Also, bring some breakfast to eat if you can to eat while you wait. Maybe some cake or fruit to munch on?
5 – Security at the Taj Mahal
Once the doors open, you will be scanned and your bag checked. Make sure you don’t have any sharp objects, lighters or food as generally they will be confiscated.
6 – Hire a guide or go it alone?
Many of the staff offer to show you around. Obviously, there is a fee for this, normally asked for at the end. You can negotiate, but expect to pay about 500 to 1,000 Rupee (£5.50 – £11 at June 2018 exchange rates). The advantage is that these guys know their stuff, can show you all the good angles for photos and give you some history along the way. If you go it alone, check out my guide to Top 7 Photography Tips for the Taj Mahal.
7 – Be respectful of the buildings
To the left of the Taj Mahal is the Mosque. When entering it and the actual mausoleum you will need to remove or cover your shoes – for foreign visitors, the shoe covers are included in the price of your ticket. You can take photographs, except in the mausoleum where all photography is banned.
8 – Be respectful of other people
The Taj Mahal can get very, very busy. All times of day people are trying to get their shots and there can be some jostling, but just be patient and stand in the informal queue for the “Diana” shot. Try not to get too irate when the umpteenth person stands in front of you just as you are about to take your perfect photo, they will move on and you will get your shot. Also be mindful of other people taking their photos around you!
9 – Be respectful with your clothing
It is hot in India and it is tempting to wear skimpy or revealing clothing. Although there is no official dress code at the Taj Mahal, you might attract some unwanted stares if your dress is a bit on the short side. Take a shawl or scarf to cover shoulders if you want to wear strappy tops. Maybe longer skirts or trousers to protect your modesty. I popped a pair of long shorts under my dress and took two scarves one heavier for the morning chill, then a lighter one as the day grew hotter.
10 – Don’t plan to visit on a Friday
The Taj Mahal is closed to the public on a Friday. Muslims can attend prayers on a Friday afternoon. Otherwise, it is open from sunrise to sunset. If you do find yourself in Agra on a Friday, there is plenty to do including visiting Agra Fort, the Baby Taj and the Mehtab Bagh.
11 – Get up close and personal
While the Taj Mahal is beautiful from a distance, get up close and really look at the building. Explore the work of the many masons, stone-cutters, inlayers, carvers, painters, calligraphers, dome-builders and other artisans who together created it. Admire the gardens, the pools, the symmetry. Look inside the Mosque at the floors which echo the silhouette, gaze up at the work on the ceilings.
12 – Enjoy the View
Once you have taken your photos, pause, stand back and just bask in the awesomeness of the Taj Mahal. It is truly breathtaking!
If you want to book a guide before you go, check out these Taj Mahal tours with GetYourGuide. Booking with GetYourGuide allows me to travel knowing that my tour is all sorted.