Headed to India and wondering if a Taj Mahal visit is worth all the hype? In our opinion, YES. You can list off all the accolades – UNESCO world heritage site, modern wonder of the world, finest example of Mughal architecture. All that is true, but that won’t be what you remember. You will remember the thrill you felt when you first saw the white marble edifice rising above the reflection pool. You will remember your awe at the craftsmanship of the inlay work. All that said, this is India. Don’t let the serenity of celebrity photos fool you. Any visit to the Taj Mahal will include crowds, hawkers, and eager selfie-takers. Read on to learn everything you need to know to plan your visit to the Taj Mahal and find your moment of wonder.
Visiting the Taj Mahal
Our Recommended Plan
Visit Timing & What to Bring
We recommend a sunrise visit. You will need to cope with a crowded entry line. After that, you get the benefits of fewer people inside the monument, beautiful light for photos, and cooler temperatures. To breeze through security, bring almost nothing – just camera/phone, water, passports, and money. Anything else will be confiscated or slow you down at security. Ideally, do not bring a bag for those items. Luggage check is available at the gates, if absolutely necessary.
Tickets & Where to Enter
Most likely your hotel will be closest to the East Gate. Although this entrance is more crowded at sunrise, it’s still manageable. Plan to arrive at the entrance no later than 15 minutes before the gates open (earlier would be even better). Vehicles drop you 1km from the entrance gate. Budget time to take the free electric shuttle (included in a foreigner ticket) or walk. If the shuttles are full, do not wait. Just start walking.
Ideally, you bought your tickets online. If not and your group has more than one adult, send one person to the ticket office and the rest of your group to line-up. Women line-up on the left, men in the middle, and Indian nationals on the far right. There are no barriers between the lines. Arrange yourself as best you can, embrace the chaos, and enjoy the historic Taj Mahal photos on the wall. Your ticket buyer will need to come down the far left or through the middle to reach you.
Once the gates open, the line moves quickly. First, your ticket will be checked. Then you will go through security (this is why women and men are separated). If you don’t have a bag, you are done. If you have a bag, you must go through the bag security check as well. Luggage storage is available if you can’t avoid bringing larger bags or banned items.
Enjoy Your Taj Mahal Visit
After security, you are in the forecourt of the Taj Mahal complex. Walk straight ahead and to the left through the main gate. Eager guides will approach you. Feel free to hire one, if you like, but make sure to check their credentials first. The Taj Mahal is famous for its imposter guides.
Once you enter pass through the main gate, you can explore as you wish. We prefer to head down the central courtyard first in order to take photos with as few people as possible. Bypass the “Princess Diana bench” and head to the raised marble platform in the center of the garden. The wooden stairs at the front of the platform are a great spot for photos.
As you approach the mausoleum, head to the left as indicated by the “High Value Ticket Holder” signs. If you have an Indian ticket, you head to the right. Security guards will check that you remove your shoes or use shoe covers.
Try to visit the interior of the mausoleum early. The entrance line will already be long one hour after opening. It’s nice to appreciate the inside with some room to breathe. Our first visit, the kids asked to go through twice!
After you finish your visit to the mausoleum, make sure to finish your visit with the red sandstone Mehman Khan and mosque. The buildings themselves are beautiful and you can get some great shots of the Taj Mahal from the doorways. Very few people visit these buildings so they offer a nice respite from the crowds.
Unless you are an extremely prolific photographer, your visit will likely last 1.5 to 2 hours. If you plan to visit other sites in Agra, we have you covered with our one day Agra itinerary.
Opening Hours & Entry Gates
The Taj Mahal opens 30 minutes before sunrise and closes 30 minutes before sunset, except Fridays when it is closed.
Friday closure! The Taj Mahal is closed every Friday for prayers.
The Taj Mahal has three gates: East Gate, West Gate, and South Gate. You can enter through the East Gate or West Gate. The East Gate and West Gate ticket windows open one hour before sunrise and close 45 minutes before sunset.
The South Gate is exit only. No entry is allowed through the South Gate. Many outdated sites say that you can enter via the South Gate after 8:00 am. You can’t.
Adult Foreigner tickets are 1300 rupees. If you want to save 200 rupees, you can skip the mausoleum. Personally, I don’t know why you would come all the way to the Taj Mahal and skip the mausoleum, but to each their own. A Foreigner ticket includes shoe covers and a 500mL water bottle. Make sure to bring your passport, just in case an official asks.
Go Green! We encourage you to do your part for climate change and decline the shoe covers and water bottle. Bring a reusable water bottle and carry your shoes instead.
Indian tickets are 250 rupees (50 rupees if you skip the mausoleum). Indian ticket holders enter after any Foreigner ticket holders in line.
All kids under 15 are FREE. We love how many Indian tourist sites give free admission to kids!
Both Foreigner and Indian tickets can also be bought online through the Archeological Survey of India. You get a minimal discount on the ticket price and get to skip the ticket booth line.
Taj Mahal Security & Dress Code
Security at the Taj Mahal is thorough. We described the process above, but here are some key takeaways:
Men and women go through separate security screening. Be prepared to separate and meet up after security. Young children can go with either parent.
Bring as little as possible. Only small bags are allowed. If you can avoid a bag altogether, you can skip an entire, potentially lengthy security screening step.
The following items will be confiscated: food, tripods, drones, electronics (except cameras and one mobile phone), mobile chargers, headphones, knives, smoking-related paraphernalia. The list goes on, but you get the idea.
Taj Mahal does not enforce a dress code, but it’s always appropriate to dress conservatively when visiting a mosque or mausoleum.
Tour Guides & Tours
Official tour guides cost 675 INR for a 90-minute tour of the Taj Mahal. Make sure to check your guide’s credentials. Posing as a guide is a prevalent Taj Mahal scam.
Personally, I don’t think you need a tour guide to visit the Taj Mahal. Read up online or in a guide book beforehand. If you have children, we recommend Where is the Taj Mahal? Our 7-year-old gave us an entire tour based on what she read in that book.
If you’re making a quick day trip from Delhi or Jaipur, it may be easier to join an organized tour. If you prefer the ease of an organized tour, take a look and see which one suits you.
Full Moon Night Viewing of the Taj Mahal
Someday, I would love to see the Taj Mahal under a full moon. If your trip takes you to Agra near a full moon, here’s everything you need to know about full moon visits to the Taj Mahal.
Night visits to the Taj Mahal are possible five nights a month – the night of the full moon, two days before, and two days after. No night viewings on Fridays or during Ramadan. 400 visitors are allowed per night in batches of 50. You will be assigned a 30-minute slot between 8:30 pm and 12:30 am.
Tickets can be purchased one day in advance from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm at the Archaeological Survey of India (22 Mall Road). Adult Foreigners cost 750 rupees, adult Indians 510 rupees, children 3-15 years 500 rupees, and children 0-3 years are FREE. Tickets are issued in the name of the viewer and are not transferable.
If your Agra itinerary allows, include a visit to Mehtab Bagh directly across the Yamuna River. Mehtab Bagh is part of our one day Agra itinerary. Legend says that Shah Jahan used to view the Taj Mahal from these gardens, especially on moonlit nights when the reflecting pool perfectly reflected the Taj Mahal. The best time of day for photographs is an hour before sunset, but any time of day offers great views.
Recommended Reading Before Visiting the Taj Mahal
Before you visit the Taj Mahal, we recommend reading up on the history and architecture. Any good India guide book will have a section devoted to the Taj Mahal. We like Lonely Planet, but you can pick the one that you prefer.
For kids, we recommend Where is the Taj Mahal? This simple chapter book has enough detail for anyone to enjoy the history and construction details.
Where to Stay in Agra
If your budget allows it, the most luxurious hotel in Agra is The Oberoi Amarvilas Agra. Each of its rooms has Taj Mahal views and electric golf carts whisk you to the East Gate.
We stayed at the Courtyard by Marriott Agra and highly recommend it. The staff was excellent, the outdoor pool was refreshing, and kids under 8 eat free in the restaurant.
No matter your budget, Agra has accommodation to match. Use the search below to find Agra accommodation for your Taj Mahal visit.
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