Agra India – Your Quick Travel Guide
In a nutshell
Experienced travellers may hesitate at first to say one of the world’s declared wonders was the favourite part of their trip, but after a tour of the city, a few meals of local cuisine, and a cozy night in town, visitors are sure to say that historic Agra is the highlight of any vacation to India.
Why go to Agra
The one attraction that will definitely be at the top of everyone’s list is the Taj Mahal. This gem of architecture and testament to love is everything it’s hyped up to be and dazzles the millions who visit it each year, but don’t think that’s the only thing Agra has to offer.
Other top sites in the area include Agra Fort, Fatehpur Sikri, and Itmad-ud-Daulah’s Tomb. All of these sites, along with the Taj Mahal, tell the story of the Mughal emperors who made Agra their home and capital and then left behind a monumental legacy that brings tourists to the city today. A visit to Agra is a trip back in time to the era of emperors, marble palaces, and glittering jewels. Just visiting these sites will have you feeling like royalty.
When to go to Agra
The best time to visit northern India is generally between November and March. The weather is perfect for strolling around the various sites in light pants or skirts.
Travellers may be tempted to think that summer would be beautiful, but most will find that the vast number of people trying to get to the sites makes the already sticky summer air even more stifling and uncomfortable. At the end of the November, it has already started cooling off, and travellers need little more than a light jacket to ensure that they’ll be warm throughout the day. And the good weather extends until the early spring when things start warming up again.
Because this is the peak tourism season though, savvy airfare trackers may want to try for the front and tail ends of the seasons for better deals (early November or late March).
Where to stay in Agra
Agra has a wide variety of accommodations to suit the needs of any type of traveller, and the neighbourhoods right around the Taj Mahal are a good place to start. There you can likely find everything you’re looking for, and it’s sure to be pretty close to Agra’s most famous site—some are even within walking distance! There are backpacker hostels with cosy rooms, suitable for a one-night stay and run by welcoming families.
Those who do choose to go in summer may want to do a little research to find out what hostels offer air conditioning, as a stay in the summer without it could be difficult.
Family-oriented hotels in the mid-range have the same amenities and features as hotels found in western countries (Wi-Fi, private restrooms, sanitary housekeeping, pools, and free breakfasts). There are also prestigious hotels that resemble something closer to palaces, for those wanting to live in India’s lap of luxury. At such hotels, the sky’s the limit, and (except for excursions out to the top sites) guests may never want to leave.
Where and what to eat in Agra
One of the best parts of traveling to India is getting a great taste of authentic Indian food, and Agra in particular has a rich tradition of Mughlai cuisine.
The best deal on food is going to anything that serves Mughlai dishes of various curries, rice, and flatbreads. The butter chicken is a must-try mouth-watering dish!
But those who are unaccustomed to spicy foods may want to steer clear of anything servers deem more spicy than mild—servers are very aware of how sensitive foreigners can be to hot foods and are good about indicating which dishes may be a bit of a danger.
Visitors who are looking for a little taste of home can also find some international options and pubs, but these are in short supply compared to other parts of the world. Your best bet is going to be trying to eat the local food during your stay—it’s the cheapest, the best deal, and the tastiest option in Agra.
How to get around Agra
Because Agra is one of India’s—and the world’s—top most see destinations, there is a plethora of ways to get around this bustling city.
If you’re staying near the Taj Mahal and have only enough time for that, you could get away with just walking to and from there, but that’s about it. Agra isn’t a terribly great city for walking.
It is much easier to catch a rickshaw or a tuk-tuk to wherever you’re going. These are going to be the cheapest and “close to the action” choices.
A rickshaw is a cart attached to bike and because it’s pedaled only by one person, it can hold two riders at most. So it might not be the best option for groups of larger than two, as you’ll need at least two rickshaws. They’re a good choice for very short rides in between sites where it’s a hassle for cars. Rickshaws shouldn’t be more than INR70, and if it’s more, consider just taking a tuk-tuk or alternative means of transportation.
Tuk-tuks are motorcycles attached to a carriage, so they’re able to carry about four or five people and can comfortably fit a whole family. These can be upward of INR70, but as with the rickshaws, the price really depends on how far you want to go (and maybe how much the drivers think they can get you to spend). Always agree on a price with the driver before you get in (for both rickshaws and tuk-tuks).
Fares for taxis can start in the INR200 range and go into the thousands, depending on the length of the ride. But if you think a car is going to be the best way to get around, consider just renting a car and driver for your entire trip.
How to get to and from Agra
Thinking about visiting the lovely and historic ancient city of Agra? Most international travellers choose to fly in to India through Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport and either take a car or the train down.
The ride between the two cities is around a couple of hours, but you can depart from either the New Delhi Railway Station (NDLS), near Paharganj or from Hazrat Nizamuddin Railway Station (NZM) in southern Delhi. The train will arrive at the main railway station in Agra, Agra Cantonment (AGC).
There are generally three types of trains, all of similar style and amenities—the real difference between them is speed. A ticket on the fastest train, which can go from Delhi to Agra in about 1 hour and forty minutes, is around INR755 for a coach ticket (12050 Gatimaan Express). The next train fastest option is the 12002 New Delhi Bhopal Shatabdi Express, where coach seating is INR555, and it gets to Agra in just under two hours, but it is known for running behind. The 12280 Taj Express Superfast is the third of the most popular choices for train travel to Agra. It is the cheapest ticket between the three at INR370, but that’s because it takes the longest at over two and a half hours. Be warned though, the trains can be delayed during the winter months due to fog.
For those looking for a more private mode of travel, renting a car and driver is also an option. There are lots of travel companies in the area looking to help tourists get to all the sites they want to see, and because driving yourself can be more than overwhelming in India, it’s recommended to get the driver along with the car. You can have your driver pick you up in Delhi and travel with you to Agra and back again when your time is over. However, many offer packages to see the entire Golden Triangle, which is highly recommended—see as much as this beautiful and culturally rich country as possible!
Is Agra a safe place to visit?
Be careful though: traveling to India is not a walk in the park. Travellers need to be aware of the prevalence of pickpockets, sanitary concerns with food, and safety issues on the roads.
Keep vigilant while out in large crowds and bring anti-theft bags to carry valuables.
Try not to eat anything that hasn’t been cooked or that looks like it has been washed in unpotable water. Don’t try to drink the tap water, and accept only sealed bottled water at restaurants.
And be careful when crossing streets because roads in India can be quite chaotic.
If you keep these things in mind and plan to have a good time, you’re sure to enjoy yourself in Agra, the city of emperors.