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h2babe Feb 16th, 2007 01:40 PM

Taj Mahal - Hours
 
Is the Taj Mahal open on Sunday??? We are thinking that we might be able to swing a day trip to TM from Delhi. Thanks.

Yudith

rhkkmk Feb 16th, 2007 04:42 PM

it is open everyday but friday

Cicerone Feb 16th, 2007 08:12 PM

I would never do Agra as a day trip, as sunrise and sunset are just too beautiful, and seeing the old city is really interesting. (I don't recco day trips to places like Pompeii or Venice either, and would put Agra in the same group.) I certainly would not do a day trip to Agra by car. The drive from Delhi takes just over 4 hours each way, so you are looking at 9 hours in the car. This is a trip by Indian roads, which while I love India, 9 hours on Indian roads in one day would be too much for me. Also, the round-trip fare by car will be about US$250. (Even taking a car for an overnight will be about the same price. ) If you want to do this as a day trip, then IMO, you really have to take an early morning train like the 6 am Shabtabdi Express that will get you to Agra by 8 am and would give you maximum time in Agra. (Even then you will miss sunrise.) The most expensive train will be about US$35 for first class/executive class.

I really suggest you do yourself a favour and spend a at least one night so you can see it at dawn when it is quite beautiful and also at sunset. If you hit it in the middle of a bright day it will tend to look a bit washed out (especially in photos), and will be quite crowded with lots of OTHER day trippers. Also, you should really get out to Fatephur Sikri, the abandoned capital city. There is also Sikandra which I find impressive. Agra has its own version of the Red Fort as well, and a great old town area which is away from all the touts at the entrance to the Taj. You could take a late night train down, stay overnight, spend a day there and come back that night if you wanted to do a sort-of rush trip. (If you are staying at one hotel the whole time in Delhi, you can leave big luggage in Delhi and just take a small bag to Agra for overnight.)

Many, many people do not like Agra. I believe that is because they breeze into town for 4-8 hours and only “see” the part of Agra which consists of the 100 yards surrounding the Taj which is, admittedly these days, full of touts who are relentless in trying to sell you things. They then get in their car or bus and drive out, seeing some very crowded, dirty streets on the way (with maybe a stop of the Baby Taj), and they think “this is just a horrible town”. They don’t take the time to explore the area around the Friday Mosque or even just the old town areas away from the Taj entrance itself. If they did, they might find a lot more of interest than just a quick look at the beautiful Taj Mahal. (They also apparently never see really horrible parts of towns like Mumbai or Kolkata which make Agra look like Greenwich, Ct...)

There is one excellent hotel in Agra (Amarvillas, go to oberoi.com), and several other perfectly good ones (try the Taj View at tajhotels.com or the Sheraton).

If you drive down, do NOT consider driving any portion of this trip in the dark, other than perhaps the portion actually IN Delhi or Agra, like the last or first 30 minutes. The Agra-Delhi road is not a place you want to be driving at night. I am not a fearful passenger in India, but this is something I would just never do. There are some, very few, Indian highways I would do at night (possibly Mumbai-Pune but I have had some scary moments on that one at night, and that is an actual 4 lane divided highway with no people or bullock carts allowed on it), this is not one of them.




Janak626 Feb 19th, 2007 07:55 AM

cicerone; thank you for the most helpful feedback. Do you know anything about flying from Agra to Delhi? Can't seem to find an Agra airport on any of the inter-India carriers, but then again there may be another name for the closest airoport. Does this make sense: take train from DEL to AGR in the middle of the day, see Taj at sunset, again at dawn***) and then fly to DEL in order to catch a 1:40 India Air flight from DEL to KTM? (*** 20 years ago, I saw the Taj at these two times of day; unexpectedly seeing it at dawn was so viscerally moving that I found I was crying. am taking my 22 year old daughter on this trip and want to expose her to the same oppo.) appreciate feedback about staying over and exploring Agra. Question: do we need a guide to do this or can we poke around and explore the old town on our own and not be overrun by touts at every turn? As far as taking a train back to DEL if planes are not available, the scdule says that none of them originate in Agra. So, do you have any experience with the reliability of train schedules in India. If we took a train, I'd still want to get that md day flight to KTM and not sure that ould be the most stress-free way to do it. India is what it is and going with the flow is part of that. However, missing flights would be a bummer. thank you. Jan

rhkkmk Feb 19th, 2007 08:05 AM

india flights are very unpredictable often with delays...i would be careful with this choice...

John_Rambow Feb 19th, 2007 08:42 PM

I did the Agra day-trip thing and the stay-longer thing, and they're both worth doing. The day trip is a v. long day, though; I wouldn't want to do it right before a long flight home. I didn't pay $250 for round trip via car -- more like $150 or so.

h2babe Feb 21st, 2007 02:36 PM

Thanks everyone for your responses! We're flying direct to Delhi from Chicago on Friday night, and I believe that we will arrive on Saturday. The details are still on the works, but our next leg would be from Delhi to Pune on Monday morning. So we might be able to head straight to Agra from Delhi on Sat, stay the night there, and come back on Sun. I think we'll have a car and driver assigned to us so we wont fly ... I'm definitely open on the train option though.

Cicerone Feb 21st, 2007 10:44 PM

There are no flights into Agra any longer, they closed the airport to commercial flights several years ago. so Janka 626, you won’t be able to do as planned. However, you could take the train down mid-afternoon and arrive for sunset. Note that most of the very fast trains like the Taj Express leave in the early morning, so if you take a mid-day train, the journey will take about 3 to 3.5 hours. Trains generally run on time, of course there is always the chance of a delay. You might want to look at the schedules, and if the train times are 3.5 hours, then at that point if you don’t mind spending more money, then going down by car is not really that much longer and is certainly a little easier with baggage, etc and you can be taken right to your hotel. It is a lot more expensive. For sunset/dusk times all year, go to sunrisesunset.com.

For the return to Delhi, with a mid-day flight, I would say to take a car back actually, as he can take you right to the airport, which is south of the city (as is the Agra road). Also, ad with the trains down, unless you take the early morning express trains (and thereby miss the sunrise) the trains back to Delhi will take between 3- 4 hours, so you won’t save time and looking at their schedules, they may not even work with your flight. (Don’t know what you mean by “mid-day”, I don’t even know if driving back up will work, plan on 4.5 hours for the drive, it may only take 4 but I would leave a cushion.) Also if you take the train, you will have to fight traffic from the station in downtown Delhi out to the airport. Finally, while trains are generally on time, they can of course be delayed and you would not want to chance this on the day of your flight. The car option is of course more expensive, but if you train down than you have saved some there.

You do NOT need a guide for the Taj if you have done some basic reading on its history. Just walk around and enjoy it. I think a guide kind of takes away from the experience, as it’s one of those places that has to be contemplated, IMO. I am not a huge fan of the “baby Taj” certainly much less crowded; again if you have done some reading you don’t need a guide. A guide for the fort is helpful, IMO. With only an afternoon, you won’t have time for all these anyway. If you have not seen any other mosques in India, Agra has a very nice mosque and old town area around the mosque that almost no tourists go to. A car and driver to take you round is nice, you can get one at your hotel and walk outside the grounds of your hotel and arrange for one yourself with the horde of drivers who will be waiting to bargain with you.

Saw your other post on the Imperial Hotel in Delhi. I stayed there for the first time in 1992 and yes, it was funky and fun. Creaky hallways and chintz. You would not recognize it now. While it seems the same from the outside with the beautiful imperial palms and lawns, it is all marble and gleaming on the inside; but really, I have to say lovely and lovingly done, and I think what it really was meant to be and what it was when Mountbatten used to lurk there. Of course the prices are hugely different now too. Still an excellent location. Really totally worth the money if you want to splurge. For other very interesting lodging ideas, take a look at http://sawdays.co.uk/, click on the book for India.

h2babe, most long-haul international flights arrive into Delhi at night. If you are on the AA non-stop from ORD, you arrive at around 9 pm and between clearing immigration and baggage claim, you won’t be out the airport door until close to 10 pm. As I mentioned above, you do NOT want to do the drive down to Agra at night, the road is not safe. Also, I don’t think you will really feel like getting into a car for 4.5 hours after an 14 hour flight, esp. wearing the same clothes and unshowered, etc. If you want to take the train, unfortunately, I believe the last train to Agra is the Tamil Nadu Express which leaves at 10:30 pm and IMO you could not make that, as you have to get to the station in downtown Delhi and I don’t think you could do that with a 9 pm arrival. I could be wrong on the train schedule, you might want t check the schedule yourself or consult a guidebook, the website for Indian Railways is indianrail.gov.in. There may be a slow local overnight train down which leave later, but I really would not recommend that on top of an overnight flight...I also don’t know that you want to repeat the exercise with a return trip to Delhi by road or rail on Sunday afternoon.

Personally, with only about 36 hours on the ground in north India, I would not attempt the run down to Agra. there is lots to see and do in Delhi in one day. I would concentrate on the Red Fort and the Friday Mosque, which are very impressive and unique to Delhi and perhaps the area of Chandi Chowk around the Friday Mosque for some local colour. I find Ghandi’s cremation site to be very moving myself and always try to stop there. The Qutub Minar is an engineering feat in any age and considering how old it is, even more awesome, there is an excellent Italian restaurant nearby called Olive with a lovely courtyard. I am a big fan of Nehru, and really love his home, he and his daughter really came from quite the privileged family which is evident from this lovely large home, more like a palace. His daughter Indira’s home is also very interesting and worth a visit. The National Museum is excellent, esp the ground floor exhibits, and there is a good audio tour you can take. The Museum of Modern Art is small but has an excellent collection if you are interested in modern Indian artists, they have some pen and ink drawings by Tagore which are a treat, and they have about the only collection of paintings by WOMEN artists I have seen anywhere. IMO you cannot do all of these in one day, but this gives you an idea.

Janak626 Feb 23rd, 2007 06:04 PM

Cicerone; thanks for all the feedback. Even though we are New Yorkers, we are taking the ORD - DEL AA flight in May(frequent flyer miles allow us to return biz.class and will be a treat.)

The bulk of our trip will be in Nepal and the least expensive fair (India Air,I think) via gorilla. com is under $190 R/T DEL -KTM and leaves at 1:40. (truly mid-day). I am thinking now of taking a day trip to Agra, returning to DEL;spend the night and then fly on toKTM. Yes, I have seen the Taj at dawn (20 years ago) and tomy surprise, found myself crying at such a "token" of emotion that is truly magnificnet. Very diff. from seeing it the day before at sunset! Hopefully my daughter, who is 22, will have another opp. to see it at that hour....and we wish we had more days in KTM already.


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