One of my favorite goals that I accomplished was to see all 8 Wonders of the World before I turned 30. It was a fun adventure, and in this series I’ll walk you through what the eight wonders are, and about how to visit each one.
The Taj Mahal was always the one on my list I had the least idea how I’d do. India is so far from the US, and I knew I’d need to fly into Delhi and then get to Agra. But I’m SO glad I took the time to make it to the Taj Mahal, and to India in general!
Location: Agra, India
Nearest Major Airport: Indira Ghandi International Airport in Delhi (airport code DEL)
Overall Difficulty to Visit (ranked among wonders, 1 is the most difficult, 8 is the least difficult): 1
Why That Difficulty Rating? I believe that of the 8 wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal is the most difficult one to visit. This has to do with travel to India (it’s hard to get to!) and also travel within India. The public transit system is not especially good, and Agra is a solid 3 hours or more from Delhi. So by the time you get to the Taj Mahal, it’s quite an effort!
How Much Is The Taj Mahal Entry Fee?
Entry to the Taj Mahal for foreign visitors is 1,000 rupees, which works out to about $15.70 USD. Unlike the Pyramids, once you’re in, you’re pretty much good to go!
Should I Take a Tour to the Taj Mahal?
Of all the places I’ve been, India is the one that scared me the most to travel alone in. The number of incidents with foreign tourists is rather large – in fact, objectively speaking, it’s more dangerous to your personal safety to be in India than it is somewhere that’s more typically thought of as “unsafe” like Egypt. I was also quite scared by my friends who are FROM India telling me to not travel alone there under any circumstances.
With all that said, I decided India was enough of a beast that I would take a group tour. I highly recommend it if you’re traveling alone! Even if you’re with someone else or in a small group, I recommend hiring some sort of guide and/or driver. The traffic in Delhi is insane (I’m of the opinion it is markedly worse than Cairo), and the drivers are nuts. The public transit is crowded and difficult – so at least hire a driver!
What to Know About The Taj Mahal Itself
How long should you go? You likely won’t need to spend more than a half-day at the Taj Mahal. It’s amazing, but compared to most of the other Wonders of the World, it’s incredibly compact – only Christ the Redeemer is more compact! You’ll want to wander the grounds and go inside the main mausoleum. And definitely plan on some time to soak up the atmosphere and gaze in wonder at the stonework!
What are the key things to see at the Taj Mahal? This one is pretty straightforward – you’ll want to see the Taj Mahal, go inside, see the grounds, and go into the mosque. Besides that, there’s not much else to see at the site itself.
Don’t forget to sit at the Diana bench! (Don’t stand on it – I got seriously yelled at for that, whoops.)
Pictures in the Taj Mahal
Pictures at the Taj Mahal are basically a competitive sport of their own. If you want great pictures without other people in them, you need to get in line about an hour before it opens, and then rush to get your pictures. It fills up fast, and some of the best spots are hard to get to!
Tips and Tripod Warning
There will be a lot of people who will try to give you photo “tips” when you walk into the Taj Mahal. Be careful talking to them or accepting their advice – it’s likely they will want a tip in return!
They are VERY strict about no tripods in the Taj Mahal. I have a GoPro 3-way that has a tripod that screws into the bottom. The guards are wise to that, and they took my mini tripod away!
Note that while they are strict about no tripods, you can still bring selfie sticks into the Taj Mahal. Though this is another reason I recommend taking a tour if you’re traveling alone – you’ll probably want someone to take your picture!
Places to take the best pictures of the Taj Mahal
The Diana bench is right in front of the Taj Mahal, and makes for an incredible, postcard-perfect picture. If you can only rush for one picture, this is the one to rush for!
Anything in front of the Taj Mahal will give you a wonderful view and picture.
When you go up near the mausoleum, one thing to remember is that the Taj Mahal is identical from all four sides. So if you take a picture of the side, you will still get the iconic look of the building, with perhaps fewer people. You will sadly miss the gardens!
Are there other events or activities to do in Agra?
Agra is an amazing place beyond just the Taj Mahal. It’s worth seeing just for everything else there! I’d easily spend half a day at Agra Fort, and I highly recommend seeing the “Baby Taj.”
The Baby Taj, or officially, the Tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah, is said to have been what inspired the Taj Mahal. It’s an incredible mausoleum, and it’s really quick to wander around.
Agra Fort is giant, and boasts some incredible views of the Taj Mahal just down the river! The architecture is incredibly varied throughout the fort, and if you’re thinking “barren military fort” you should think again! Agra Fort has a palace inside it, and it’s awesome!
What About Taking a Tour Group Through India?
If you’re traveling alone, or you’re new to India, I highly recommend you not “wing it.” It’s not well-known for its tourist safety or general ease of access. There are many countries that it’s easy to hop off the plane and never purchase a tour – I don’t think India is one of them.
I’ve heard that this changes with Goa and parts of southern India, but speaking for northern India, you will likely be very happy to have a tour! You’ll get to see a lot more than you likely would otherwise, and I appreciated that my tour group leader was very good about knowing which restaurants are likely to give foreigners Delhi Belly! She was also great at using each meal to introduce us to Indian cuisine, with an explanation.
India Tours I’d Suggest:
Low-End: G Adventures has options in India starting around $600 for 8 days. That’s pretty cheap! (But be careful with the airport pickup things with G Adventures.) On the whole, I would highly recommend this tour!
Mid-Range: Kensington Tours is extremely reputable, and has week-long tours in India starting around $2,000 per person.
High-End: For luxury, it’s hard to beat Abercrombie & Kent. Their tours start around $7,500 per person, and are top-notch everything! The Oberoi also does their own tours, starting at $320/night for two people, but that does not include anything other than the hotel and airport transfers. Note that the Abercrombie & Kent tours also stay almost exclusively at Oberoi hotels.
How Much Does it Cost to go to The Taj Mahal?
Like everything, the cost for a trip to India and the Taj Mahal depends on your taste and how you like to travel. I originally thought I wanted to do three days in India – get in, get to the Taj Mahal and see it, and then get out. I’m so glad I ended up spending 8 days and got to see Delhi and Jaipur in addition to Agra!
If you want to know how much I spent visiting, you can read through my costs to visit India.
Here are rough ranges you should expect to spend (in USD), and this assumes you’re making a trip to and from the US.
If you’re adding India to another trip overseas, you’ll save in places like flights! I went to India from Myanmar, and didn’t find it especially difficult (though it did require an overnight in Kuala Lumpur).
Just like everything in life, there are many ways to accomplish travel to India, each with a big variety of price tags.
Here are some ideas of how much things cost and how much to budget:
Low End India
This assumes that you’ll be doing as much as possible on your own, without tours or fancy hotels – just the basics! At the low-end side of things, with a budget-minded tour, food, tips, and the odd souvenir here and there, you’re looking at $900-$1,200 per person. Add about $1,000 – $1,500 per-person for flights from the US, and your total for a week in India to see the Taj Mahal will be about $2,000 – $2,700 per person.
Mid Range India
Some per-person ranges, assuming you like a bit of comfort but not a lot. This also assumes a tour with a bit more comfort and customization than the low end side of things. A mid-range tour, plus food, tips, and souvenirs or extra excursions is likely to total $2,500 – $3,500 per person for a week. And again, add about $1,000 – $1,500 for airfare from the US, and you’re looking at about $3,500 – $5,000 per person for a week.
Higher End India
This is the side of things where things get really fun – but expensive. A week-long high-end tour (which is likely to be private or with a very small group), starts at about $6,000 per person and can go up to $9,000 or more. If you’re wanting first-class flights, the roundtrip is likely about $8,000 per person. Of course – this assumes you’re not using frequent flier miles, etc. Your total costs for a luxury week-long trip to India will be between $14,000 – $18,000 per person.
Is the Taj Mahal Worth Visiting?
Yes! It was one of my favorite wonders of the world, and given that there are constantly rumors about it closing to the public, I highly recommend making a trip. They’re doing work on the building to restore the white of the marble through 2018. It’s highly likely that you’ll see some scaffolding on the Taj Mahal. The roof was supposed to be done by early 2018, so scaffolding should be removed from the dome by then. But it’s India – you never know how the timelines will work out!
India is one of the most remarkable and unique countries in the world. Combining that with the Taj Mahal makes for an unforgettable trip!