So you want to visit the Taj Mahal?
You want a beautiful sunrise photo with as few people in the way as possible?
Sounds perfect! Want some tips up your sleeve to make this a reality?
Read on my friends!
It’s fairly well known that I am a nerd. I like to research things that are interesting to me, and anything that inspires a little day dream from me is all the better. So I have read a lot in preparation for our trip to India, and I continue to do so. I didn’t come across any Taj Mahal specific tips other than the usual ‘look out for the touts’ and ‘watch your belongings’ blah blah blah. And so, we learned the hard way, and I now have some useful tips to share with you!
Our day started at 5am, with high hopes of catching those sunrise photographs that Taj Mahal dreams are made of. We calculated that this would be at about 6.15 on this fine March morning.
We had breakfast at Jonneys, which is the only place we saw that opened early enough in the Taj Ganj for us to eat before the Taj, and happened to be in the LP guidebook when I looked it up later. The breakfast here is good; it comes out quickly and is well priced considering it is the only early morning option.The South gate is the closest to the Taj Ganj area, and is the entrance most backpackers use for this reason, but Jonney himself advised us that the South Gate does not open until 8am. He said that we were better off walking about 300 meters further to the West gate.
I knew the West and East gates were often frequented by tour groups, but we were confident our early start would still allow us to catch those magnificent rays beaming over the Taj Mahal as the sun rose.So we arrived at the Taj Mahal well before 6am and were confronted with what was not quite a sea of people. But it was enough to begin the first of many worried looks amongst the three of us, And the tour groups hadn’t even arrived yet! There were massive lines not only to purchase a ticket, but then a separate line to then enter the complex.If you want a morning with fewer hassles, beat all the queues and simply
Pre purchase your Taj Mahal tickets online!
You can use THIS website, and I wish I had read about this before we arrived! The only con is that you must know the date you want to visit the monument, they are not transferrable or refunded once purchased online.There are separate lines for males and females to purchase tickets, but the tickets are the same so a man can buy for a woman and vice versa. If you’re feeling a little bit sneaky and you didn’t pre-purchase, send one person to buy your tickets and the rest of you can jump in the queue to the complex as soon as you arrive.
Now, we were two females and one male, and the males and females line up separately. In hindsight we should have sent one female to buy the tickets and had the other female hold a spot in the female line and have the male line up in his line. But we didn’t know about the separate lines until it was too late. Luckily when Sha passed our tickets over to us, then men in the foreign men’s line let him in, so he was in line with us in the end.Oh yeah- there is actually four lines: foreign men, local men, foreign females, and local females. But the female line definitely ended up mixed.Ok. We have tickets, we are in line, and the sun is not up yet.
WE MIGHT JUST MAKE IT!
Unfortunately this isn’t where smooth sailing begun for us.So the reason there are separate lines is because there are frisking stations, and obviously a man frisking a woman as official business isn’t going to fly (they do enough unofficial frisking as it is).So we were hearded through a metal detecter that doesn’t work, frisked, our bags were x-rayed and then our bags were all individually searched.
If you can avoid taking a bag you’ll breeze through much faster!
Of course if your mates have bags- you will wait around for them anyway. But don’t say I didn’t warn you!Things that are not allowed at the Taj Mahal:
- Any type of food. I figure this is to deter animals from being attracted and also to prevent animals from littering…. Ahem… you heard me!
- Pens, Pencils or things that coud be used to graffiti the Taj.
- Torches or lights of any kind. This is annoying because I’ve read so many online guise TELL you to bring a torch to light the interior of the Taj, in order to view it at its luminous best. It seems the guides cottoned onto this and now they are the only ones who are allowed to have a torch. So if you don’t pay a guide, no torch for you! Sha found he could just take out the batteries and they were happy to let him keep the torch so try that to avoid losing your light, or having to walk to the cloak-room.
- Guns, Knives, Daggers etc. Self explanatory there.
If you get caught out with anything valuable (mum had a 1940’s bullet that had been fashioned into a whistle that was not allowed, and she couldn’t part with it), there are cloak-rooms available. They are outside the complex you just battled to get inside, and they are about 500 metres down the road.
IF YOU GO TO TE CLOAK ROOM LEAVE YOUR BAG WITH A FRIEND INSIDE.
You will skip most of the line to come back in, but you WILL have to be frisked and your bag re-searched. Save a little time by doing this- we wish we did! We were assured over and over we wouldn’t have to line up again, and in the confusion of it all mum slipped out with her bag and had to line up to have it re-searched whilst I only had to be frisked as I left my bag with Sha.So finally mum came through the crowd and we did a little jump for joy in our minds. We missed the main part of sunrise, but who can be upset when the Taj is literally looming out of the haze in front of you?!It’s hard to argue about the beauty of the Taj Mahal up close. The marble is stunning, and all the tiny intricacies really are breathtaking. If like us, your torch was confiscated, just shimmy up to one of the many tour groups inside who do have a torch to see it light up luminously inside the mausoleum.Even if you for some reason don’t enjoy taking in the beauty of one of the new wonders of the world, the gardens surrounding the Taj are a wonderful escape from the bustling Taj Ganj.
Most tourists walk the central path that you see in all the photos, that leads directly to the Mausoleum. But there is much more to the grounds than this, you can actually find many quiet and shady places to sit and contemplate life. It also makes for superb people watching as people pose for photo after photo and some people get creative and try to ‘pinch’ the top of the Taj.
I enjoyed the back of the Taj where you can watch the Yamuna river flowing past, and the cool breeze is almost like an ocean breeze.
So, just to remind you:
- Pre purchase your Taj Mahal tickets online.Don’t take a bag.
- Don’t take food, torches, dangerous items, or pens.
- Leave your bag with a friend if you go to the cloak room.
Follow these tips and have a great morning viewing the most romantic monument in the world, whilst relaxing in the serene gardens, and enjoying breeze by the Yamuna river.