THE BLOG

Ten Tips for Visiting the Taj Mahal

24/04/2015 16:00 BST | Updated 23/06/2015 10:59 BST

1. DO employ a guide. This breaks one of my regular rules of travelling. Those at the Taj will give you snippets of interesting information, but the main reason is to stop other touts pestering you.

2015-04-15-1429105251-7632374-photo42.JPG

2. DO give the tour to a carpet shop offered by your guide a miss.

3. DO pick your restaurant for lunch and stick to it. Guides gets kick backs from the tourist restaurants which are not the best in town.

4. DO let your guide take you to the marble shop. Yes, that's right, do visit the marble shop. This is another rule breaker. Shop owners want you to buy and your guide will get commission, but it's a fascinating insight into the trade that made the Taj Mahal the wonder that it is.

2015-04-15-1429106556-7598270-photo24.JPG

5. DON'T factor in any time in Agra, the city where the Taj Mahal is located: it's busy, dirty and there is nothing to see.

6. DO stay overnight at the Taj Palace Delhi. It may be a massive 20th-century building that looks more like a housing estate that a palace from the outside, but the Taj Palace Delhi is a hotel worth visiting. It's service, interior and its facilities are slick and arguably the best in Delhi. As soon as I walked through the door I was greeted by the effervescent and charmingly crazy Sheriz, who smiled and ran around doing everything she could for me.

2015-04-23-1429791605-8055691-waiterstaj

I have to say, though, that the glass partition between the bedroom and bathroom was a little bit Las Vegas, and a bit odd as I was sharing with a friend. For her birthday, we had a wonderfully kitsch dinner at the Orient Express restaurant. Modelled to look like one of the iconic train carriages, the hotel eatery may not serve the best food in town, but the service was very sweet. The waiters produced a photo of us through the train carriage 'window' and, smiling broadly, presented my friend with a bunch of roses and a big chocolate cake.

7. DON'T bring a packed lunch (unless you are travelling by car and can leave it there). No food of any kind, including sweets and chewing gum, is allowed past the front gates of the monument and no one wants to have to hand over their pack of Frutella to a security guard.

8. DON'T agree to a photographer at the gate. They will say it's 100 rupees (a couple of quid) for a photo print, but will try and make you buy a minimum of ten at the end of the visit. The various poses they make you do - a tea pot, bird, etc - are very amusing, though....

9. DO book train tickets from Delhi in advance. Tickets get sold out quickly, it's a fun way to travel and taking a car is a lot more expensive. Oh and do book your flights to India as far in advance as possible. I managed to get one from Oman Air - they start at just over 500 pounds, but prices generally seem to have skyrocketed in recent months.

2015-04-15-1429106138-7034281-photo43.JPG

10. DO stop for a chai en route each way if you are driving. The busy straight stretch of newly built motorway makes for monotonous, tiring driving and a splash of caffeine may help to keep you and your driver awake.