Agra & Taj Mahal: 7 tips for a perfect stay
Agra is one of most visited cities on earth. The main reason is of course the Taj Mahal. When you are on crowded places or in areas where many other tourists are you will find many traps. In and around Agra are many of them and they can make you loose lots of money in some ways. We give you some tips how to avoid those annoying traps so that you can spent an unforgettable time in Agra.
The most comfortable way to get to Agra is by plane. From New Delhi you only fly 30 minutes and from Mumbai it’s a 2 hours flight. If you have a big wallet or when you don´t have much time to visit India the plane is definitely a good choice. The other two options are busses and trains. Our first option seems to be the best choice on a first look but we highly recommend to take the train. If you´re really interested in the Indian way of life you must take the train to get around. 50 % of the Indian population is using the biggest railway system of the world.
You can book tickets online easily but the way of registering yourself is kind of complicated. If you´ve taken this step you can manage all your booking (including live status and pre-booking meals) with your mobile phone. To get more important information about train driving in India we recommend the page of Mark Smith. The Man in Seat61 will give you all the information you need for a safe journey on Indian trains.
The streets of Agra are full of rickshaws! Uncountable rickshaw drivers try to win you as their next guests. When you step out of a train or bus in Agra you´ll see, hear or feel the first driver within seconds. If you are not on a guided tour you´ll sit in a rickshaw more than one time in India. They are the best and also cheapest way to get around in the chaotic cities. If you decide to take a rickshaw you have to negotiate before you enter the rickshaw. Never sit in and ask for the price. You´ll pay more the 500 % of the regular price in the end. Always act like you don´t care much about it. Remind yourself that there are heaps of rickshaw drivers in Agra. Also trust in your feelings about the driver and don´t take the first driver next tot he bus or train.
For Agra we suggest you to book a driver for a whole or half-day tour. Next to the Taj Mahal there are other good places to visit. A reasonable price for a tour of 5 hours is 350 to 400 rupees. The most important thing here is: Always pay at the end of your tour. Never pay in the beginning and don´t let the driver make you another agreement.
The best accommodation in Agra
There are hundreds of hotels and hostels of every price range in Agra. Depending on your budget you can sleep from spare to luxury. We always take the spare version to save money. The most important thing is the location of the hostel. Your accommodation should be near the mausoleum of the Taj.
The Taj Mahal
Now we take a look on the main reason of our visit in Agra. The Taj Mahal! This really impressing building is a magnet for tourists from all over the world. In other words: The chance to be here without other people is close to zero. So come quite early to visit the Taj. Before sunrise you will be here with less people. We’ve written down all the important information about your visit in an separate post. But the most important thing is to get up very early even when its hard for most of the backpackers.
What should I visit in Agra?
Agra that not just Taj Mahal. There are much more things to see. Here’s a list of what else you should visit during your stay.
The Red Fort – View on Google Maps
Impressive Fort, not just because of the red color!
Itmad-ud-Daula (Little Taj Mahal) – View on Google Maps
Another tomb from the Mungal Empire that is often regarded as a draft of the Tāj Maha.
Akbar Tomb – View on Google Maps
And another tomb. But also worth a visit because of its architecture.
Chini Ka Rauza – View on Google Maps
Last but not least another tomb. Also with a visit.
On nearby every sightseeing spot in India you can book your own guide. Also here in Agra. You can book an guide at the Taj Mahal or at your hotel. The question is: Do I need a guide when I visit Agra? At the end you have to make your own choice. It depends on how much of detailed information you want to get. Normally we never book a guide. We use digital guidebooks or travel apps to get the information we need. But if you decide to take a personal guide there is the same rule as for the rickshaw drivers. Negotiating is always a good option to get a better deal.
No trip without local food. That’s or motto and always the best choice. Eating Street Food in India is quite more risky than eating it in Thailand, Laos or Vietnam. Most of the street food stalls don´t have any kind of cleanliness. When you eat street food in India you should look a bit closer. If you stay near the Taj Mahal it´s quite hard to find some good and authentic street food stalls. The streets are full of Indian and also Western restaurants but typical street food is really scarce. Our suggestion is a longer walk away from the touristic area of Agra. Watch out for small local places with many locals eating there.
The most important thing is: Don´t ask your ricksaw driver for an advice. The drivers always get some commission in restaurants when they deliver customers. And those restaurants aren´t the best choice for good food.
On the first glance Agra isn´t a good spot for low budget travelers but when you follow some rules you can save lots of money without loosing some experiences. Open your eyes, be careful with strangers and follow your natural instincts and you will have an unforgettable trip to Agra.
Are you looking for more insider tips about India: Click here to read more about backpacking in India.
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