Though there are plenty of tour operators from Delhi offering an one day tour from Delhi that combines Agra & Fatehpur Sikri or Agra & Mathura, it may not be the ideal option if you wish to spend some time in this historical city. Moreover by the time the bus takes you to Taj Mahal, post breakfast and other stops midway, the place can get too crowded. You are not given enough time to actually spend in the monument as they prepare for the next place.
Agra Cantonment Railway Station
So the best way to go is on your own with plenty of direct options. The best is taking a train from Delhi. Though there are a lot of trains that pass through Agra Cant station from both New Delhi Railway station and Old Delhi Station, the best one is the Shatabdi express that starts at 6AM and reaches Agra at 7.50 AM ( in just 1hr 50 mins ) along with free breakfast & coffee.
Once you reach Agra Cantt, skip the barrage of people asking to take you on a half day Agra tour and rather book a Ola/Uber.
The Scams to AvoidThis way you get to reach the Taj (with a 10 min walk inside) by 8.30-8.45 AM and beat the crowd easily. The only people hanging around would be a few photographers and early bird foreigners, with no tour groups blocking your view of the spectacular Taj.
Right from the moment you step out of the train, there’s a hoard of people trying to rip you off in so many ways. Though I eventually managed to steer away from these people, I could imagine how much of a negative experience it could give to someone who’s new to this kind of environment. But on a comparative note , I haven’t seen anything like this in any of the tourist spots across the country.
The Taj Tour
As soon as I stepped out of the train, there were people trying to offer me the “Taj tour”. They quoted anywhere between 600-1000 INR for 3-4 hours in Taj Mahal and Agra fort. A trip to Taj would ideally cost you only 80 in Uber and another 50 to Agra fort from there. Not one but more than 20 people almost forced me to take their tour and kept following me even when I moved away to a corner.
Taj Mahal View from Agra Fort
Eventually when I booked an Uber. The driver arrived and asked me to cancel the trip and rather take his 4 hour tour for 600 , with him dropping back to a private bus stand (where he’ll get additional commission). I refused and said just drop me to the destination and leave
2. The Guide
Once I arrived at the Taj, five to six guides started offering a tour of the Taj and guide service. They started explaining things even before I replied in the negative. They followed all the way from the entrance gate till the security check persisting to avail the guide services. Thankfully didnt come post that.
3. The Photographer
As soon as I entered 5 more people with age old cameras approached to take the “touristy” pic posting in front of Taj Mahal. Even worse is they get to occupy all important spots for a good photo click for their customers and intentionally delay for people who wants to click on their own.
4. Socks inside the Main Mausoleum
A bunch of kids and a few old men caution you that you are not allowed inside the main hall without a specific type of socks and they trick you into buying a worthless piece of white socks. Thankfully this was declined too.
5. Agra Petha
Once you are back in a cab, you are driven to a “famous” shop in Agra that sells authentic Agra Petha sweets (where the cab driver gets a nice commission from the shop), despite you insisting on a different shop.
6. Private Buses to Delhi
Even when you insist to catch a train back to Delhi and avail an auto / TukTuk, they insist that a bus will get you faster. When I availed an auto and asked him to take me to Agra Cantt station, the driver took me to a private bus operator point and said why not take a bus. I literally had to give him a piece of mind to take me back to the station before I missed the train.
The above are only some of the nuisances and scams that completely ruin the experience of visiting one of the seven wonders of the world. Though the area is completely maintained by Architectural Society of India with utmost care for the monuments, no care has been taken by them or the Government to prevent the tourists from being scammed or taken for a ride. There’s an attempt at every step of the journey to rip you off your money or force you into buying something that’s completely unnecessary.
Attracting millions of national and international tourists , Taj Mahal is a pride of India and I wish we can display that pride by providing an unparalleled experience to those visiting it, instead of ruining it for them.