Agra Travel Tips
Keep in Mind...
- Avoid the double charge Two organizations, the Agra Development Authority (ADA) and the Archeological Survey of India (ASI), charge admission fees at each of Agra's top sites. However, the ADA's ticket to the Taj Mahal (500 INR or about $9 USD) will cover its fee at other monuments, like the Agra Fort, for a single day. Bring this ticket with you to avoid repaying the ADA's fee at other attractions. (Note: You will still have to pay the ASI fee at other top attractions.)
- Be your own guide Don't hire a guide at the Taj Mahal entrance. Many times, those that offer their services will scam you. Purchasing a guidebook in advance will be much cheaper.
If you consider yourself a world traveler, you're bound to make the pilgrimage to Agra. Each year, millions come from about the globe to this (relatively) small city in northern India. "Why?" you ask. Two words: Taj Mahal. This famous monument has immortalized the love of a Shah and his wife since its completion in 1648 AD. Epitomizing the ornate Mughal architectural style, the Taj Mahal has made jaws drop and hearts swoon for centuries.
However, you're wrong to consider Agra just a one-stop shop. With two additional UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the city boasts multiple windows into the past. Unfortunately, India's former capital during the rich Mughal Empire has fallen into a state of disrepair, and its world-class monuments seem to be islands of historical wonder. While you must visit its sites, it's unlikely that you'll to want to reside in Agra for very long.
How To Save Money in Agra
- There's more than just the Taj Mahal Don't make Agra a pit stop. With four world-class historical sites, this small city merits at least a day or two.
- The early bird gets the worm Early morning Taj Mahal visitors will be rewarded some peace and serenity before the crowds descend upon the holy site.
- Splurge on your hotel In Agra, it's smart to book the top hotels because they'll have the amenities that you're familiar with. You really do get what you pay for here.
Agra Culture & Customs
Agra's sites welcome thousands of tourists each year, and the city's residents have learned to capitalize on the traffic. You'll be approached by "tour guides" and shopkeepers pressing you to purchase their services or their wares. They will try to tempt you with stories and "discounted" prices; however, you need to assume everything they tell you is false. It's common for Western travelers to be offered goods for prices ten times that of the fair amount and to be sold cheap knock-offs of local specialties, like jewelry and inlayed plaques. Be on your guard, and should you be truly interested, always negotiate a price.
While packing your suitcase, two factors affect your wardrobe choices: the weather and the culture. How you address the former will depend on when you visit, although Agra is usually warm during the day. The latter is a year-round consideration. As you're visiting sacred and holy sites in Agra, you should wear appropriately humble attire. That said, because locals are accustomed to the deluge of foreign tourists, you won't be reprimanded for wearing casual clothing to the top attractions.
Traveling to India raises some health concerns, such as malaria and hepatitis A and B. The prevalence and severity of these concerns vary depending on the region you're visiting. Be sure to consult the Department of State's website and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website before visiting India.
India's official currency is the Indian rupee (INR). One American dollar (USD) equates to about 55 Indian rupee. Use this approximate exchange rate to estimate costs; however, remember that most things, such as souvenirs and clothing, should cost much less here than in the U.S. As a rule of thumb, the more aware you are of the currency, the less likely you are to get scammed.
In Agra, the official language is Hindi; however, some locals will approach you and speak in broken English. A translator can be helpful while you get around town and negotiate prices. Your hotel concierge can help you hire a translator if you're interested, or consult the regional tourism board's website. That said, the rising number of foreign tourists in Agra has caused the number of English-speakers in Agra's hospitality industry to increase. You should be able to make your way to the sites with just a handy phrasebook.