We were staying at the Daawat Palace hotel in Agara and had booked it mainly due to its locality to the Taj, and it’s rooftop restaurant overlooking the Taj. Once we had checked in we headed to our room, the room was on an open terrace up a little stairway, one of the hotel staff helped us identify which room was ours as it was dark but it then took us at least 5 minutes to get him to leave our room as he was hanging around for a tip. We paid extra to upgrade the room to a Taj Mahal view room. By the time we arrived at the hotel it was dark looking out of the room window I couldn’t see anything but was reluctant to say anything to reception until the light of day.
We headed upstairs to the rooftop restaurant and had some food, Chris told me he could see the Taj and I thought he meant a floodlit area in the distance so I agreed yes I can see it too. Was about 20 minutes till I realised the looming silhouette was the actual Taj and not the floodlit playing field in the distance! I couldn’t believe it wasn’t lit at night but was excited to wake in the morning and see it for real.
Above is the view from both our room and the rooftop garden. Wasn’t quite what I had in mind but was certainly a view. We headed out late morning after breakfast of paranthas on the roof. We were only staying the one night in Agra so had to check out. Our check out time was 11am and every 5 minutes different hotel people were knocking on the door wanting to carry our cases. It was quite frustrating and we envisioned that by the time we were ready to leave there would be a queue of people waiting for us. The Taj was about 15 minutes walk from our hotel so we decided to do it on foot.
The minute we stepped out of our hotel, we were mithered, mithered by people selling services, food, wares, and transport. I appreciate to some extent we would get it but it was quite aggressive and very in your face. We eventually reached the entrance to the Taj Mahal. You can enter using either the East or West Gate we approached it via the West which was our nearest entrance. The amount of people queuing inside to enter the actual Taj Mahal grounds was crazy, I wish I had taken a picture but there were more people than I had ever seen the queues were expected to be around 3 hours for entrance.
When travelling I have often found entrance fees to heritage sites much more expensive for foreigners here was no exception! For Indian residents the entrance fee was 50INR which equates to around £0.50 other levels of entrance was also offered which had extras included. For us it was one price 1300INR each which equates to £13 more than we had paid for our hotel and 26 times the rate of a local Indian tourist! When we had eventually got our tickets which we had to queue for by gender we were given shoe covers and immediately a supposed government guide was offering us a tour for 2000INR £20 we declined wanting to enjoy the Taj at our own pace. The next tour guide offered us their services for 900 £9 and then the next worked for tips only. We were ushered round to a foreign visiter queue by a supposed guide which I’m pleased to report was much shorter than the other one and we were through security and inside the Taj in 20 minutes. The guide wanted 500INR £5 from Chris for showing us the right way to go. When he held his hand out Chris shook it and walked away. I did feel sorry for the other people waiting in line in the full heat of the day but felt the price of my ticket justified the quicker entrance. By the time we were in the Taj we were both quite worked up due to the constant hassle and hard sell, some guides had told us that they could get us to the front of the queue and by using them we would be able to have free use of the toilets and be able to enter the mausoleum both of which were possible without booking a guide! It’s hard to explain to someone who wasn’t there but it really wasn’t a nice experience at all, someone tried to get inside Chris’ backpack whilst we were queuing you felt like you had to be on high alert at all times it was almost a relief once we had entered.
We took some time just to sit in the shade and take the Taj in before heading through the gardens and towards the mausoleum. I think we were both still on edge and watching everything and it took a little bit of time for us to relax a little. The Taj Mahal was very busy people were everywhere trying to get the picture of the Taj Mahal that we all came for. Chris felt people were quite rude when it came to pictures walking in front of him and standing directly in his shot.
After strolling through the gardens we headed for the mausoleum, we had to put our shoe coverings on here to protect the marble that the Taj is built from. We spent a long time sat here people watching and enjoying the shade. I was asked for selfies and pictures from loads of different people but all were polite.
Once inside the mausoleum we were not permitted to take photos and were asked to be quiet in respect of the dead. Ultimately the Taj Mahal is a resting place. Unfortunately many people didn’t listen and were shouting, screaming and taking photos. The guards themselves were on their phones inside the mausoleum and were openly taking bribes of money from people for pictures. What a total lack of respect.
Once we were ready to leave our mission was to get away from the streets surrounding the Taj Mahal as quickly as possible as this is where we found most people hard-selling and following us. It’s not in my nature to ignore or be impolite when someone talks to you so I just put my head down and kept walking.
We were heading onwards later in the evening on our first overnight train so our plan was just to stay close, have some food in the hotel where they had kindly stored our bags after checkout and then head for the train station.
We ate at the hotel restaurant as we had enjoyed our food there the previous day. Following our meal the waiter reminded us that a service charge is not included on the bill, we left him what we believed to be an acceptable tip of around 50 INR to which he declared loudly that’s not very much! If we hadn’t been hanging round the hotel a few hours more I would have taken this off him ( in comparison we have given taxi drivers 10INR later on our trip who have been delighted and so pleased). It’s probably the tourists who have ruined this place. I’m happy to say I have seen the Taj Mahal but I would never come back to Agra again and I wouldn’t recommend anyone else to either!