how to visit Agra
We heard many rumours about Agra…do not stay there, only stay one night, get in get out. But who do we listen to?
In the end we decided to stay in Agra for two nights because why not make the most of being near one of the seven wonders of the world? After the exhausting week in Kolkata and the historical journey in Varanasi we needed some chill out time. Our train from Varanasi was a long trip with about a three hour delay. To fill the time we played numerous games of Punte and talked to friendly neighbouring Indians.
Our hotel arranged a taxi to meet us at the station. Pushy touts tried to ‘help’ us however our kind taxi driver was still waiting for us. Even he was surprised by the delay!
Agra is by far not the prettiest of places in India. The streets are wide and dusty, half built houses built using sand coloured bricks. I read that Agra has become polluted by large factories catering for the growing industries. Whilst this may be good for India economically it’s slowly destroying the old architecture like the Taj Mahal. This is a problem the Indian government are still grappling with.
My opinion: Definitely do not miss out on visiting Agra even if only for a day if your trip allows. The Taj Mahal is a beautiful monument the Indians are rightly proud of. I recommend staying one night so you can see the Taj during sunset and sunrise. Arrive in the afternoon then leave the following day. Easy!
Where to stay:
There are lots of hotels to choose from in Agra. I used Trip advisor to find ours and I’m sure there are many options in guidebooks. Remember rates will be higher compared to other places because they know everyone will want to see the famous Taj Mahal. You can always haggle for a better price especially when visiting out of season.
Our choice: Hotel Taj Resorts – 1600 rupees per night
A semi large white building set a little back off an empty road. It was just up from the famous Oberoi Hotel. The lobby is grandly lit by a huge chandelier with communal computers tucked away at the back. The photographs on the website are clearly nicer than reality but we were happily satisfied. After getting up incredibly early for sunrise we spent the rest of the day chilling out by the swimming pool. We found the staff welcoming and friendly. Rates seem to be higher online so, because we were out of season I emailed asking for their best price.Breakfast is also included.
We wish: Oberoi Agra from 150,000.000 rupees per night
By far the best place to stay in Agra. Alas our backpacker budgets did not cater for this kind of luxury however we did make it here for drinks in the evening (think London cocktail prices). Waiters in absurdly high but seriously cool turbans served us deliciously strong cocktails. We sat on the balcony overlooking the beautiful landscaped garden as dancers performed opposite balancing fire on their heads.
Another popular choice: The Retreat from 5000 rupees per night
For a mid range budget this pleasant looking hotel with has good reviews on Trip Advisor. The swimming pool looks nice and the rooms with have a modern design. It’s also close to the East gate of the Taj.
Booking a train out:
Okay so Agra isn’t really a place you want to hang out in. Our tax driver said he would help us book our trains, as we were still fairly new to the complicated Indian railway system. After he had waited three hours in the soaring heat for us to arrive, we decided to trust him. He drove us to a grotty looking shop front where us girls exchanged a weary look. We met two men and shook hands. The set up looked a bit dodgy. I’d read hippie-inheels blog post about her near-almost Delhi scam (read Rachel’s blog post here) so when I saw just a laptop on a desk alarm bells started ringing. We questioned the men over and over but our driver assured us it was all legitimate. Who else could we ask for help? We took the plunge and handed over our money and they promised to drop our tickets off the next day. Guess what – they did!
Tips: Ask your hotel for help to book train tickets as they are less likely to scam you. Be aware that an extra charge will be added as a booking fee.