Writer at Taj Mahal

Tips for Visiting the Taj Mahal

Few things compare to the Taj Mahal—the most photographed site in India and perhaps one of the most recognized buildings in the world. When one finally visits the stunning white marble mausoleum of Mumtaz Mahal and Shan Jahan, it seems almost unreal. Here are a few tips to help make your once-in-a-lifetime visit a little smoother.

Protected site

Unlike other tourist attractions in India, there are strict regulations at the Taj Mahal. Gas-powered vehicles are not allowed near the complex; from the ticket office you’ll have to walk the rest of the way, or jump on one of the electric-powered carts or buses. Of course, smoking is also expressly forbidden within the complex.

Airport-style security

There are many restrictions for entry. You may not bring any liquids, food, chewing gum, or anything similar into the site. One bottle of water, provided at the ticket office, is permitted.

You may bring only one camera per person into the site; that means you cannot bring a camera phone if you intend to bring a proper camera. Video cameras and tripods require a special permit.

Like all security checks in India, women and men separate, and women are searched behind a curtain. You will be searched quite seriously, including a pat down. Your bag will be thoroughly searched and any contraband will be confiscated.

Jumping the line

Most tourist sites in India have very low fees for Indians (10Rs compared to the foreigner’s price of 250Rs). The Taj Mahal is no different. However, because of the crowds, there are different lines for different ticket holders. The different ticket tiers are most noticeable for entry to the sarcophagi—Indians will queue all the way around the building and wait for hours, but “high-value” ticket holders are waved in past the queue by the guards.

Both general and “high-value” ticket holders enter the mausoleum together, in a huge crush of people. Keep your wits about you—and keep up with the flow. It will be hot and stuffy, even in winter, and despite the signs forbidding it, the locals will take pictures (resist the urge to join them). You may also be touched inappropriately, either accidentally or by design—just press on through. Or skip the inside all together—all in all, the sarcophagi are the least interesting part of the building, and apparently the actual graves are on a lower level.

Shoes off

Shoes are not permitted in the mausoleum itself. Locals will remove their shoes and leave them all along the base of the building. But, along with your ticket and water, you will get little cloth or paper booties—use them or simply take off your shoes and go barefoot. But carry your shoes with you in your bag, as there is no proper storage, and they could easily be lost among the thousands of shoes left below.

Photo wallahs

At the best vantage points for taking photos, some very forward men will be managing the crowds, whistling people out of the way, trying to get everyone a turn. These men do not work for the historic site—they are “freelancers.” In exchange for a small fee, these men will help you get the best photos around and even take those famous shots of you dangling the Taj Mahal from your finger tips. They will demand 100Rs for their efforts, but 50Rs is sufficient, if you like their efforts. After they’ve taken your photo, they won’t waste their time haggling when surrounded by other opportunities.

 

The post originally appeared on Travel + Escape.