Agra is an industrial town, a few hours of driving south from New Delhi. Agra, Jaipur and Gwalior are visited together as the famous Indian Golden Triangle Tour. This trip can be arranged either by tour operators (the cost effective way) or independently. In this case, a train or bus is accessible; both of them have good and reliable services between Agra, Gwalior, Jaipur and Delhi. You can also go for more comfortable option and simply hire a taxi to drive you from one place to another.
The most popular way of getting to Agra from Delhi is by train (around 3 h) and road (around 5 h); from Jaipur to Agra by road (around 6 h) and train (around 4 h); from Gwalior to Agra also by train (1 hour) and road (2 hours).
Don’t drive a car in India. If you can possibly avoid it, do it by all means. The way the Indians drive their vehicles is, let’s be honest, absolutely crazy, super fast and out of any rules. They know how to survive on the road but you don’t. So please, be good to yourself and let someone more experienced drive you. You will save you nerves and probably your life.
The advantage of taking a taxi from Delhi or Agra or the opposite way is that you can also have a stop wherever you like and you are more flexible.
The Shatabdi Express is the fastest railway connection. It takes 2 hours leaving Delhi at 6am and reaching Agra at 8am. The return train leaves at 8:30pm and returns to Delhi at 10:30pm (check exact schedule on the Indian Railways website). Take a first class, you will need an air con.
It is smart to hire a guide when you arrive to Agra. Ask the concierge at your hotel for a personal recommendation. You don’t need a guide just to see the Taj Mahal but an expert English-speaking guide can be quite handy.
The Taj Mahal, listed as one of the Seven Great Wonders of the Modern World is the most popular place in Agra. It has become one of the world’s busiest tourist destinations.
The Taj Mahal is closed on Fridays. Bear this in mind when planning your trip. It opens at 6.00am. Entrance fee for foreigners is 750 Indian rupees (http://tajmahal.gov.in/).
You can actually see the Taj Mahal from the Mehtab Bagh garden located on the other side of the river (without paying the entrance fee). You can choose to go there for sunrise or sunset.
Be prepared that the Taj Mahal is super busy and you are going to fight for a photo spot :)
The crowd usually heads for the front gate of the Taj Mahal, creating a line that often lasts for hours in the heat. Only few people are aware that there are several entrances. Ask your guide to take you to one or grab a detailed map to the entire complex at the front gate. Look carefully for the eastern entrance, which is usually less crowded.
Remember to wear appropriate clothes. No shorts, no mini skirts and obligatory head cover for ladies.
The place is magnificent, yet there are the dark sides that authorities try hard to hide. The pollution from nearby manufacturing plants has been affecting the glistening white marble for years. Local authorities have quietly closed many factories and left thousands of people jobless.
I recommend you to stop in one of the small, family restaurants for a lunch.
There are a few around the Taj Mahal and if you have a guide with you, ask him – you will certainly get a good advice. Most of the Indians want to show their country the best way they can. Hence, you can really count on recommendations of locals.
Another must see in Agra is The Red Fort and Fatehpur Sikri. These architectural masterpieces were constructed during the Moghul (Islamic) rule of India, hundreds of years ago.
While the Taj Mahal was made of dazzling white marble, the others were sculpted from rare red desert sandstone. It’s really difficult to decide which is the most visually stunning. Don’t miss any of them.
No matter which place you visit, be prepared to have your guide/driver suddenly stop at a carpet shop, jeweler or marble factory for a quick tour or a restroom break. This is how they make extra money through a commission. In “my package” I had a visit in stone-cutter’s shop, but I knew about it in advance. In fact, I wanted to see it so it was fine for me.The place was a small workshop where you can watch how to cut the stones in a way it was cut in the Taj Mahal.
You may also buy a few stones in shapes of tables or vessels. I didn’t buy anything, but do whatever you like Folks :)
My trip to India was quite short so I wanted to do it as time efficiently as possible. I decided to hire a driver, who brought me from New Delhi to Agra. He was really a nice man, very helpful and caring. I stayed in a hotel in Agra and hired a local, private English-speaking guide, who showed me around. It was very convenient and I didn’t waste a minute wandering around. The guide was so professional that he even chose the perfect spots for photos and he made me pose adequately…
I know these guys from the recommendation of my friend, and now I can recommend them to you: http://www.heritageindiatourtravels.com :)