Last week I penned a review of the Hyatt Regency Delhi from a trip our family took to India almost three years ago. During our stay we took the journey out to Agra to view the Taj Mahal. We made arrangements for transportation through the concierge and the level of service we received exceeded our expectations. Here is a brief summary of our time visiting the stunning marble mausoleum.
Getting to Agra
You can make your way to Agra from Delhi by bus, car or train. We did a little bit of research (we probably could have done more) and decided that with our young daughter (and inability to hang in the India heat), we were most comfortable hiring a driver to take us down the Taj Express Highway. The journey by car (and by bus) is approximately 3 hours and 30 minutes and can be booked by your hotel or through a tour agency. To travel by rail, there are a number of options for journey times and train stations. From what I’ve found online it looks like you could be to Agra Station in just under 2 hours when traveling by an express train. If we were to visit Agra again from New Delhi, I would definitely look into taking an express train and saving a little bit of time on our trip.
We made our arrangements for transportation through the concierge at the Hyatt Regency and were informed that there would be an air-conditioned van with a child seat installed for our daughter. I can not remember the exact amount we agreed upon for our journey but I do estimate it was somewhere around $150-175 USD. As far as costs go and knowing what we know now, it looks like one of the most economical and comfortable ways to get to Agra is by high-speed train (in 1st class) for about $22 and then hiring a tuk-tuk or taxi for the day in Agra for around $4-7 USD.
An Unexpected Tour
As we got closer to Agra our van pulled up to a small office and out came a smartly dressed gentleman who hopped right into the passenger seat. My husband and I exchanged confused looks but we decided just to go along with it. It was only seconds later that the gentleman introduced himself to us and told us that he would be our tour guide for our day at the Taj Mahal. There was still a bit of confusion on our end and being that we didn’t want to get roped into a longer time commitment or extra costs, we initially tried to politely decline. We explained that we just wanted to go and explore the site and take a few photos. Our guide informed us that he was at our disposal, that we had already paid when we booked the transportation and that he would be very flexible and go at whatever pace we would like (that our daughter could handle).
Arriving at the Taj Mahal
The van pulled into a parking lot and our guide informed us that we could take an umbrella, a camera and a few bottles of water. Our mobile phones were allowed in certain areas outside the Taj Mahal and on the grounds. Restrictions for inside the mausoleum stated that phones be switched off or silenced and no photography was allowed while inside. My small handbag (not much larger than my hand) was permitted but was checked at certain security points.
The first order of business was purchasing our admission tickets, which also came with a complimentary water bottle. The ticket cost is 1000 INR or just under $15 USD. The price for our admission was already factored into our package from the hotel. We proceeded onto a small rickshaw (that our daughter loved by the way) which then took us to the Western Gate Entrance. Here we were given a wonderful brief history and thus officially is where our tour commenced.
Going at Our Own Pace
Once we were inside the gates our guide continued to fill our ears with the history, facts, and stories about this magnificent architecture and the vast grounds surrounding. We were told of the love story behind the grandiose structure and of the memorial from a man to his (third) wife that was sitting just before our eyes. As we walked through the gates and stepped out in front of the blinding, white monument, I felt a swell in my eyes; this palace is truly magnificent.
We had been clear with our guide about taking small breaks whenever our daughter might need to cool down or sit. There was no stress to rush or continue and our guide was very understanding, often slowing the pace to keep everyone comfortable.
The tour included a full history and showcase of the Taj Mahal, a tour of one of the outlying buildings (there is a Mosque and “Mihman Khana” a replica built solely to balance the mosque) and a lunch to follow. As we covered a lot of ground from the gates to the Taj and little stops along the way, we politely declined a tour of the outer building. At just 19 months old, our Lucy was exhausted (as were we) and instead, we opted to finish our day in Agra and head back to the comforts of our hotel.
Expectations vs Experience
Initially, we were under the impression that we would be transported to Agra where we would buy tickets and find our own way around the Taj Mahal. In our minds we were not going to pass up the opportunity while we were so close, but also we did not want to push the limits of an already jet-lagged toddler. We knew it was possible that this may be our only trip to Agra, but also know that with our travel habits and the help of miles and points, we could always come back if the opportunity were to present itself again.
Surprisingly, our experience well exceeded our expectations. As I mentioned previously, I think we could have made other arrangements into Agra and then to the Taj Mahal and found someone to show us around on site, but there is also something so nice about pushing the “easy button” whilst on holiday (especially a quick 3-day trip). Our tour guide was wonderful, not just with the way that he showed us around, but his ability to be so flexible with our situation. We don’t typically opt for tours, but in this instance and similarly on a cruise through Ha Long Bay, when we can control the pace and the schedule, it has turned out to be beneficial and enjoyable.
Even in the high heat of the day touring around the Taj Mahal with a toddler was a success. The key is to be flexible and reasonable with your expectations. As I’m sure many will say (and some have already), our daughter may not remember this magical moment, and thats ok. We will continue to share stories with her from this adventure and the many others that we spend together traveling around the world.
If you find yourself in Delhi and have time to make your way to Agra, I recommend you do. The Taj Mahal is much more impressive when standing just below it and looking straight up into the intricate details put into the structure. The way the sun hits the ivory-white marble and completely lights it up is something that really can not be described. Prepare yourself for the heat, possible scammers outside the gates, and to be completely taken by the beauty of this love story. I recommend going at a leisurely pace and allowing yourself the time to soak in the “Crown of Palaces.”
>Read More: Review Hyatt Regency Delhi – Suite
Have you visited the Taj Mahal? What was your experience like? What tips or recommendations do you have for others planning a visit?