Agra, India is one of the most visited cities in the world, thanks to the majestic World Wonder that calls this city home: The Taj Mahal. Agra is also a favorite stop along the Golden Triangle tour that connects New Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur (the capital of the Rajasthan state).
Are you traveling to India and want to see the Taj Mahal? Make the most of your stay in Agra with my guide! 🙂
In this story guide:
- Getting to Agra from Delhi
- The Taj Mahal at Sunrise
- Exploring the Agra Fort
- Departing Agra for Jaipur
- Our Hostel Experience at Spiritual Yoga Homestay
- Brief Guide to Booking Trains & Buses
We flew from Kolkata into Delhi, where we hid out on the outskirts of the city to relax all evening. The next morning we were heading to Agra, India for two days/nights, where we would finally see the Taj Mahal in all its wonder!
Getting to Agra from Delhi is not a big challenge, but it can be frustrating. Unless you hire a private car to take you from Delhi to Agra, then you’ll most likely want to take a bus.
Day 1: How to Get to Agra from Delhi
If you travel on a budget as we do, then you’ll want to take a local bus to Agra. Following our hostel’s advice, we took an Uber to the local bus station in Delhi. Where you’ll get dropped off doesn’t look much like a bus station, but stay hopeful! You’re there, and there’s likely a bus going to Agra.
Getting to Agra from Delhi by Local Bus
Cross the street under the bridge where you’ll see some buses and commotion. The locals are trying to herd as many people onto their bus as possible. As a foreigner, we were bombarded by offers left and right. Ignore the offers and just ask politely for the bus to Agra. Don’t fall into the tourist traps that offer expensive air conditioner buses that are like 900 Rs.
Instead, ask the bus drivers directly. Unlike their partners on the ground who are trying to collect as many people as possible, the drivers are just chilling and waiting. We asked our driver and he said, “Yes, Agra” gently and confidently.
Ticket Price + Road Time
We sat down in the front part of the bus, on the window bench opposite him. It cost us 286 Rs. each for a four-hour trip (which turned into 5 hours thanks to traffic exiting Delhi and for small pickups along the way).
Traveler’s Tip: The official governmental buses that run from Delhi to Agra will be local buses, not fancy tourist buses. You can recognize them because you will pay once you’re inside the moving bus and the helper will punch it in on his device and give you a little official receipt. Avoid getting scammed by refusing any tourist-looking traps or offers! A great way to know if it’s a scam is if they negotiate. If you think you’re getting scammed, refuse their offer and walk away. If it’s indeed a scam, they’ll try to lower the price. Just know, even with a reduced price, you’re probably still overpaying.
We had only initially planned one night in Agra, but with such a long bus ride in the morning, we were too late to visit the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort.
By the time we reached Agra and got to our hostel via tuk-tuk, we were simply worn out. So we rested for our first evening and planned our trains and buses for the next two weeks in Rajasthan.
Day 2: Taj Mahal at Sunrise
Our alarm rings out in the dark corners of our room at 5 am. We are ready to get up and see the Taj by daylight before the crowd swoops in like hawks. But little did we know that this would happen.
Our hostel was within 1-mile walking distance of the Taj entrance, so we decide to walk. We step out into the dimly-lit, dusty street and it seems like we are on schedule. We walk for five minutes and then see the first bus full of sleepy tourists passing by. “Oh no, are you kidding?” we say to each other.
Getting There Early
The dusty roads turn into a beautifully-paved and well-lit path. It almost feels like we aren’t in India anymore. Three more buses full of foreigners whizz past us.
Traveler’s Tip: Tuk-tuks will be waiting for their prey (foreigners) early in the morning, as they know they are going to the Taj. Keep in mind they will overcharge you like crazy to drive you 1-mile or less. It took us about 20 minutes or so to walk to the Taj Mahal from our hostel. A little exercise in the morning to start the day fresh. 😉
We arrive at the entrance, where a very long line of people is waiting to enter the closed gates. It’s not even 6:30 am, and there are hundreds of people waiting to get in. We eagerly buy our tickets and then scurry to the next window to collect our “shoe covers” and pick up our complimentary water bottles.
Manoeuvering Among the Crowd
We then join the crowd, which we didn’t realize is split into men and women. Meanwhile, the line grows longer. The gates are starting to open, and I realize I’m in the men’s line. I glance back at the end of the women’s line, and it will separate me from Paul quite a bit. Embarrassed, I ask a group of girls if I can “skip” in with them at the same level as Paul so that we could enter together.
After you pass security (don’t bring a big backpack to the Taj), you will walk towards where the official entrance of the Taj begins. The crowd storms inside and lo and behold, the Taj Mahal is entirely… covered in a thick layer of fog!
So, was getting up super early to see the Taj worth it?
Yes, it was! For one, although there are lots of people, the crowd is still not as big as it will be by noon. Two, you avoid the hot sun as long as possible.
Three, the Taj Mahal wakes up with the morning light, and the glow is just incredible! All your best pictures will be during this time.
Going Inside the Taj
After you take your classic forward-facing photos of the Taj, walk up the steps (making sure to put on your shoe covers), to go into the beautiful mausoleum.
Photos with flash are not welcome inside the Taj (which is surprisingly small, by the way!!). Besides, there’s little time to take pictures as the crowd is always moving. Inside are the empty cenotaphs of Emperor Shah Jahan and his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal, for whom he had the Taj built.
Take in the precious views; it’s not every day you witness such a World Wonder!
Besides exploring the inside of the Taj and taking photos of Princess Diana’s famous bench, make sure to scour the other sides of the Taj to get even more beautiful, unique views.
Day 2 Afternoon: Exploring Agra Fort
Of course, Agra’s most famous attraction is the Taj Mahal, but don’t discredit Agra’s other attractions such as the Agra Fort.
The Agra Fort is a 16th-century wonder that exemplifies the mighty Mughal Empire that ruled in India. The Agra Fort is impressively built in red sandstone which definitely attracts your eye when passing by. This fantastic structure looks like something straight out of Game of Thrones!
From our hostel, we took a man-powered tuk-tuk, aka a rickshaw! He was up for the mile-long ride, but I don’t think he realized how heavy we were (haha) so here’s Paul cheering him on.
Traveler’s Tip: Show your Taj Mahal ticket at the entrance of the Agra Fort to get a discount on the entry fee. I believe this works vice-versa, too! Correct me in the comments if I’m mistaken! 🙂
We spent hours in the Agra Fort just exploring. It’s a lot bigger in the inside than one might assume, so make sure to save at least 2-3 hours just to relax, take pictures, read the signs, people watch, and maybe feed those cute little squirrels.
The best part of Agra Fort is that you can go at your pace. There are several monuments to explore, with the most important being the Jahangir Palace which leads to a lavish courtyard.
It was said this place was mainly for the Rajput wives of Akbar (the third Mughal emperor). There’s also the Shah Burj (octagonal tower), where for some time, Shahjahan (the creator of the Taj) was imprisoned and where he later died.
It’s from this viewpoint that you can see the Taj Mahal in the distance. We overheard one tour guide speaking who said it was the most romantic way for Shahjahan to live out the end of his days because he could stare at the Taj Mahal (and his resting beloved) every day. Interesting!
Side Story: Tuk-Tuk Sex Talk
The most fun part about Agra was probably our tuk-tuk ride back from the Agra Fort. We waved a tuk-tuk down and right before takeoff, a young couple hopped in.
In India, there’s a recurrent theme that surfaced through nearly all of our encounters with people. The subject? The separation between marriage and “love marriage.”
When we met this couple (and other couples on the trip) the subject of whether Paul and I were in a love marriage was frequently brought up. When we told them that we, in fact, were not married after six years, the couple appeared shocked. They said, “But you are.. together?” as they clasped their hands together to symbolize togetherness. We smiled politely and said “Yes!” knowing what they were thinking ahead of time.
When the husband wanted clear assurance that we were indeed a couple, he politely asked Paul if we had “relations” outside of marriage. The poor lady, who didn’t catch on quick enough, asked “What??” to which he then loudly spelled out, “Sex!” The wife was so shocked and embarrassed; she couldn’t believe her husband was asking such a personal question! We died laughing and told them it was okay. The husband continued to explain to her that, “in America, it’s free love, open love” or something to that end.
But regardless of how humorous this little scene was at the time, it tells a terribly sad story about the freedom, or the limitations thereof, to choose who you love and love who you choose.
It’s in moments like these that you truly realize how fortunate you are to love who you want to love, without the pressure of marriage.
They were a happily married couple by choice.
Morning of Day 3: Departing Agra for Jaipur
Leaving Agra to head to Jaipur is pretty simple, as long as you catch your train!
We wake up bright and early (4:15 am) to head to the train station in Agra. Us two, along with two traveling girls from the UK, pack tightly into 1 (yes, one) small tuk-tuk and take off.
Traveler’s Tip: Tuk-tuks are hard to catch in the very early morning. If you need to get a tuk-tuk or taxi for the train station, make sure to ask your hostel to call one in advance for you. Our kind friend called for us the day before, and in the morning the nice tuk-tuk man showed up to the time we agreed on. Negotiate the price at the time of calling, rather than in the morning to avoid any upsets.
Find your platform, double-check the cabin you’re in, and hop on when the train arrives. You should have a seat number, so make sure to claim it while you can!
The trip from Agra to Jaipur is long and noisy. We slept with half-open eyes the whole way, enjoying the fresh yet chilly air from the windows. Soon enough, it’s time to strap on the backpacks again and start exploring another unknown place (but not for long!)
We are now in Jaipur, the capital of the Rajasthan state and the official “Pink City” of India!
Here are a few extra tips to help you plan your stay in Agra, India!
Our Experience at the Spiritual Yoga Homestay Hostel
When we were there in February, the Spiritual Yoga Homestay hostel had just recently opened. But we wouldn’t have known that if the owner hadn’t told us!
A young, charismatic lad, named Asim, kindly greets us and welcomes us to our room. We start chatting and get to learn a little bit about him and his endeavors with the place. He kindly cooks us a delicious chicken tikka masala meal which we enjoy in the comfort of our cool room. In return, we happily welcome his hospitality and funky humor.
All meals were homecooked and priced just right. There was no need for us to search the streets, which was out of the question anyway because we were so tired from our bus journey.
On our first and second night, he helped us plan our train and bus tickets. Thanks to Asim, we were able to book just in time. Who knew you couldn’t book trains unless you were a registered member?
Traveler’s Tip: Book your train/bus tickets in advance!! We almost had to change our travel plans completely due to a long and expensive train journey from Jaisalmer back to Delhi that had no more seats available. So thanks again to him, we were able to compromise and still book two trains and a bus which in the end, helped us avoid a crazy 20-hour train journey or something close to that!
He kindly let us use his credit, and then we reimbursed him in cash. I highly expect he still offers this service and I definitely recommend booking your future train and bus trips with him!
Most of all, the hostel is well-located. Just 15-20 minutes by foot from the Taj Mahal, which you can see in the distance from the rooftop of the hostel!
How to Book Train & Bus Tickets in India
We seriously underestimated the price and busyness of Indian trains and buses. If we hadn’t met Asim, we’re not sure how we would’ve managed traveling through Rajasthan.
So, this is how to plan/book train and bus tickets in India based on our personal experience!
- You need someone who is registered on the IRCTCi platform for trains (we could see the available trains but couldn’t book them without signing up) Or someone registered with redBus for bus tickets.
- Choose your fare and time (our friend bought our tickets using his credit/funds and then we repaid him in cash)
- The ticket details will be sent to your mobile (another reason why you should get a Vodaphone SIM Card when traveling in India)
- Show your e-ticket (in your text inbox) to the official when on the train or bus
2 Days in Agra, India | Story Guide to Taj Mahal + Agra Fort
Agra is often by-passed as a crowded city that only deserves a 1-2 night stay. And while it’s true we didn’t stay very long to explore the depths of its beauty, Agra is an exciting and memorable place to visit!
Just having visited the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort alone, we were very happy with our choice to come here and it was definitely worth the extra effort!