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December 8, 2013

Ask Me – Agra Travel Advice

Hi there,

So you are coming to Agra to see Taj Mahal…. I’m absolutely always interested in hearing from readers of this site.

Being born and brought up in Agra I can help you see the city the way locals see it and tell you the places where locals eat. Whether it’s your trip itinerary or hotels or regarding train tickets and arranging transport facilities or ideas where you can have the best food in the city, I’m happy to help as Agra destination expert offering you the best Agra travel advice.

Below I’ve tried my best to include some of the most common questions with detailed answers about travel to Agra. If you have any more specific queries, please feel free to leave your question in the comments section below.You can always expect a thorough and detailed response to your any travel related question(s).

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Agra Travel Advice

 

I’m planning the India trip in near future. What all i should pack for India?

India is a huge country with many different climates, so all that you need to pack for your India trip depends upon the areas of India you are going (Mountains or Beaches) and the season you are going. For a general idea, here is the check list of the items you need to pack for India : The Perfect India Packing List

What is the best time to visit Agra?

The climate of Agra is extreme and tropical. The best time to visit Agra is between October and March, when the sunshine is mild and the breeze is soothing. Summers are extremely hot (April – June) and the maximum temperature can be as high as 45 degree Celsius/ 113 degrees Fahrenheit. The high temperatures along with dusty winds make it uncomfortable to visit the monuments like Taj Mahal, Agra Fort, Fatehpur Sikri during the day as the stones get pretty hot to walk upon. hence, sunrise or sunset is best time to watch the monuments in summers.

Rainy season starts from June and lasts up to September sometimes and you may face heavy rainfall lasting for about an hour at times. It doesn’t rain all day, so you can expect a clear sky after about 30-40 minutes of rain. But there is high humidity during these months.

Winters are good except the end of December to mid of January time, when the temperature falls to 1-2 degrees centigrade and becomes quite foggy for the sunrise visit to Taj Mahal. If coming to Agra in foggy winters, don’t land up inside Taj Mahal before 9 am else you won’t be able to see anything in thick fog.

How far is Agra from Delhi and Jaipur? How much time does it takes to reach Agra by train or road?

Agra is 204 kms from Delhi and 235 kms from Jaipur – these two places along with Agra forms the very famous Golden triangle tour circuit where you can explore the diversity of India. The most popular method of reaching Agra from Delhi is by train (2 to 3 hours) and by road (3 to 4 hours). From Jaipur you can reach Agra by road (5 to 6 hours) and train (4 hours).

What are the main train stations in Agra?

Two main stations in Agra:

Agra Cantt (Station Code: AGC) is the main railway station and lies 5 km far from Taj Mahal and Agra Fort, both of which are a short ride from the station by car, auto-rickshaw, or cycle rickshaw. There is a prepaid taxi stand right outside the railway station that charges a flat Rs. 150 to any hotel in the city. This station serves the train coming or going to Delhi.

Agra Fort station (Station Code: AF) near Agra Fort, serves the train to Jaipur, Kolkata etc.

Which train is best from Delhi to travel to Agra?

Delhi to Agra – Close to 20 trains connects Delhi and Agra each day with journey times varying from 2 hours to 5 hours.

By railway, the quickest train is Gatimaan Express which takes 100 minutes, leaving Delhi at 8:10 am and reaching at 9:50 am, and on the return leg leaving Agra at 5:50 pm and reaching Delhi at 7:30 pm.

 

Is it safe to travel by trains in India?

Travelling by train in India is safe but make sure you travel by AC class and avoid Non AC sleeper class travelling and just make sure you have an eye on your luggage and have it locked under your Seats/Berths allocated to you.

Often you will find the train stations very confusing as they are huge and very crowded especially in the big cities. Best to arrive early and engage an official porter (determine the price first) to not only carry your luggage to the platform, but they will also find where your seat is and take you there directly.

What about bus travel to and from Agra?

It is also possible to travel to Agra via bus. From Delhi, at Sarai Kale Khan bus stand many buses run all through the day to Agra including the air-conditioned Volvo bus. There is a bus stand called Idgah bus stand near Agra cantt railay station in Agra where one can get on buses that head to Delhi, Jaipur, Mathura and Fatehpur-Sikri. However travelers should note that while the bus offers a good way to see the scenery of India, it is near impossible to predict the length of the trip since there can be bad traffic jams. The usual time for a tiring bus journey from Delhi – Agra is 5 hours. Not recommended.

How safe is India for single female solo travel? What should I keep in mind when traveling alone in India?

India is still has conservative approach when it comes to dressing sense except in places like Goa where you can wear whatever you want and whenever you want. Women travelers are expected to be modestly dressed, please avoid short dresses or skirts, and tight fitting or revealing clothes especially when travelling alone. For more detailed things to do & not do, check out: Practical Tips On Solo Trip India For Women and The Secret To Solo Female Travel In India

How and when to book train tickets?

Indian trains often get fully-booked weeks in advance, so it’s worth booking before you get to India if you have limited time or need to be on a particular train soon after your arrival.

However it’s not an easy process from outside India as you will need an Indian mobile number and American Express AMEX credit card to book tickets directly from the official IRCTC Indian Railways ticket sales website, irctc.co.in. The process has become more bureaucratic recently, and involves a couple of e-mails to IRCTC help center if you don’t have the Indian mobile number or the AMEX card.

So what should we choose : Car or train for Golden Triangle tour?

Delhi to Agra express highway is 8 lanes, perfectly ok and meet all international standard. You can enjoy this route. Agra to jaipur route is also Ok. There’s no doubt about it, that doing the Golden Triangle by car would be the best way as you would be able to see the countryside as well as the places on the way. You will have the option of start/end the day as per your convenience without worrying about the hassles of train bookings and delays.

So what all to see in Agra beside the Taj Mahal?

Agra is the only city in the world which has three UNESCO World Heritage sites, Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri. This ancient 500 years old city is home to many splendid monuments like Red Fort, Fatehpur Sikri, Itimad-ud-Daulah, Akbar’s Tomb, which should be in must see Agra tourist attraction list of every tourist. One has to look beyond the Taj to feel the essence of this 5 centuries old city which remained capital of India during Mughal period. Check out what all Agra has to offer: Beyond Taj Mahal In Agra : Great Things To See

I am confused about my travel itinerary to Agra from Delhi. Can you suggest how I should plan & what all to include in it?

Sure… ideally you should be making 2 nights stay in Agra to cover all the important monuments without hurrying up. For the complete suggested itinerary for Delhi – Agra – Delhi trip, read: The Perfect Agra Tour Itinerary

Okay, I made up my plans. Now where I should stay in Agra?

Agra has no scarcity of hotels or guest houses for every kind of budget. You can easily find budget basic rooms for as low as Rs. 400 / night in small lodges and guesthouses situated near the Taj Mahal. However such rooms are only suitable for backpackers. For more comfortable stay with your family or if you are a single female traveling solo, I suggest you stay in quality hotels which are mostly situated on Fatehabad Road. Here you can find the rooms starting from Rs.1000 per night in small budget hotels up to Rs.4,500 per night in 3 / 4 star hotels.

The luxury options start from Rs. 5,000 on wards to the very best in luxury Hoter Amar Vilas costing you around Rs.35,000 per night. To choose the right option for your budget and level of comfort check out: The No-Nonsense Guide To Luxury Hotels In Agra

Taj Mahal opening timings

The Taj Mahal is open from sunrise to sunset (approximately 6 am to 6 pm). It is also open for moonlight viewing 8.30 p.m. until 12.30 a.m., two days before and after each full moon, except for the month of Ramadan and Fridays. The Taj Mahal is closed to the public on all Fridays and during VIP visits for (3-4 hours). Fog, especially in the colder months, can drastically limit viewing, so check the weather reports before heading out pre-dawn. The tourists can spend any number of hours inside the Taj complex from sunrise to sunset.

How to book for Taj Mahal viewing at night?

Although I consider night viewing of Taj Mahal a total waste of your money and time (Read: Why I hate to see Taj Mahal by moonlight). Still if you are interested in getting ripped off, check out the following tips:

  • Night viewing of the Taj Mahal is not allowed on fridays
  • Only 400 visitors are allowed per night in 8 batches of 50 inside the Taj Mahal.
  • Advance booking of tickets only one day in advance from 10am to 6pm at the office of Archeological Survey of India,22 Mall road, Agra.
  • Entry to the Taj Mahal would be from eastern gate via Shilpgram.
  • Cancellation of tickets allowed on same day at booking counter from 10am to 12pm, 25% deducted as cancellation fees.

What is the best time to visit Taj?

Go Early, But Not Too Early is the mantra for Taj Mahal visit. Many tourists attempt to see the Taj at sunrise which is undoubtedly the best time to visit. It’s best to arrive early in order to enjoy the view before the crowds come up, but there isn’t any need to arrive when it’s still dark. The sun rises slowly, and if you show up at 4 or 5 a.m. in the hopes of getting that perfect sunrise view, you will be standing around for hours as the sun inches up over the horizon. In the winter months, aim to arrive by 7 or 8 a.m. to get a good view and avoid the crowds and early morning fog.

 

What can you take with you inside Taj Mahal:

This is very important as even after repeatedly telling tourists what not to take in your bag; they always end up taking all the wrong things with them. On my last tour one guy took the laptop in his bag & the other took a bottle of vodka with him. The locker room is situated far from the ticket checking line on each of the three entrance gate of Taj and always crowded so if you wish to deposit your expensive stuff in the locker, be prepared to waste another 30-45 minutes both on entry and exit to Taj Mahal. While the laptop guy had to walk out of security line and come back 30 minutes later, the bottle of vodka was confiscated and never returned.

Thanks to the many terrorist warnings we get every month of bombing the Taj Mahal, there is a security check including metal detector and x-ray check for baggage, similar to TSA checks in U.S. Airports, outside the complex with separate lines for men and women.

Things to avoid carrying with you:

Eating and smoking is strictly prohibited inside Taj Mahal. Arms, ammunitions, fire, smoking items, tobacco products, alcohol, eatables (Toffees, Chips, Chocolates), head phones, pocket knives, wire, mobile charger, electric goods (except camera), mini or big Tripods are also prohibited. No extra batteries or camera / mobile charger, playing cards, matches, cigarette lighters and other items typically considered unsafe as carry on items on board airplanes cannot be carried inside the Taj Mahal complex.

Please avoid carrying big bags and books inside the monument; this may increase your security check time.

Things allowed inside Taj Mahal:

Small backpack or ladies purse, camera (both still and video camera), Tablet or I Pad without the charger, mobile phone without charger. Still Photography is allowed free of cost (except restricted area which is inside chamber of Taj Mahal). Videography with Camcorder is allowed only up to the red sand stone platform on payment of Rs. 25/- per video camera.

  • Shoes are not permitted on the marble structure and must be removed or covered with shoe cover which comes free with the foreigner ticket.
  • Washrooms are located on both sides of the Royal Gate / Main Entrance. Foreigners can use the facility free of charge.

How to spend the evening in Agra?

For evenings there are many options… the best would be to go with us on Agra Food Walk tour where we will sample unlimited street food spread all over the city. All the places we go are completely safe, hygienic and without any worries of Delhi Belly.

If you are not a big foodie, you can choose the Culture Walk which involves the visit to the local markets of Agra like spice market, utensils market, vegetable market along with the taste of some of the best foods Agra has to offer like Petha, Kababs etc.

Also you can opt out to go and watch the live cultural show tour “Mohabbat the Taj “- presented at Kalakriti Cultural and Convention Center. The show includes laser light effects and an enormous marble replica of the Taj Mahal. The facility has state-of-the-art surround sound, 585 seats and access to translations in eight different languages.

Also there are a number of coffee shops on Fatehabad Road area near all the leading hotels.

Can you suggest some best places to eat where locals eat in Agra?

There are number of expensive touristy small restaurants in Agra which offer the cheap tasteless imitation of traditional Indian food. Most of the travel companies and car drivers will take you to fixed price buffet lunch at one of these places. However, we suggest you to go to popular non-touristy restaurants where locals eat. For Pizza and burger lovers, the Pizza Huts and Mc Donalds have opened their outlets on Fatehabad Road. Recommended non-touristy popular restaurant are listed here:  Top 6 Best Places To Eat In Agra

What all foods should I try in India without worrying about Delhi Belly?

The Indian cuisine is extensive and varies from state to state. However there are some popular dishes that you can find all over India and not to be missed in your India trip. Check out 52 Best Indian Food Dishes to try: What to Eat, Where to Eat in India

What about the Baloon safari over Taj Mahal?

It is fixed to a rope and goes up around 200 feet and stays there. After the time is over it is pulled back to the ground. You get an aerial view of the city and at distance can see the Taj but not right above the Taj. Best time to go is morning and it is a Helium Balloon not hot air. Stays fixed at one place and is 1.5 KM away from Taj Mahal at Kalakriti cultural convention center. Booking can be done on the day of arrival easily. Tickets start from Rs. 500 for Indians and Rs. 1500 for foreigners, available from sunrise to 8:30 pm.

Thanks for the information but that looks like too much to manage on my own. Is there an easier way out without any hassles of exploring India as locals see it?

Yes, sure! We recently started offering personalized all inclusive group and private tours in India. At present we are offering personalized small group or private India tours – India Through The Back Door Tours

These tours are different as they are informal, small group excursions or private tours designed by the travel bloggers. The focus is always on going local. We use local transportation as much as possible, we stay in quality accommodations, we eat at popular non-touristy local food stalls and restaurants and we visit destinations that aren’t always mentioned in guidebooks. And the most rewarding part is that our small group will share the entire experience together, having an incredible time in the process!

My aim is simple – charge less and offer more. All tours include accommodation (except day tours & food walks), transportation, many meals, entrance fees and activities as well as plenty of surprises along the way!

Let’s Wander Together….

Can’t see your question listed here? Need any more specific advice for your India tour?

For any more of your curious questions/advice related to travel to Agra (Taj Mahal) or nearby destinations like Fatehpur Sikri, Delhi, Jaipur, Mathura leave your queries down below in the comments section for the honest, un-biased Agra travel advice.

Look forward to hear from you!

Dr.Rituraj Pathak 

Travel Genes

2 thoughts on “Ask Me – Agra Travel Advice

  • Extensive travel tips for Taj Mahal travel… all at one place. Can’t tell you how many hours i have banged my head through websites and forums for these answers and tips. You are simple and straight to the point… just one quick question : How far is Fatehpur sikri from Agra? How much time will it take to cover? Can i cover Taj, Fort & Fatehpur sikri in a single day while travelling from delhi? Thank you again for the informative Agra travel guide…

    • Thank you Stacy for finding it good enough to plan your upcoming travel to Agra… Fatehpur sikri is just 38 kilometers far from Agra, usually it takes 1 hour drive from Agra due to the famous Indian traffic… And it will take at least 2 hours to explore this Ghost city of Akbar…so alltogther 4 hours is the arroximate time you need for Fatehpur sikri. Yes, you can visit all the 3 big monuments in single day starting from Taj, followed by Agra Fort, have lunch and than drive to Fatehpur Sikri. By 6 pm you can be back in Agra… check Same Day Taj Mahal Tour for more details. Happy travels!

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