Seeing Taj Mahal has always been something I’ve always wanted to do. After speaking with many travelers, they all told me it’s worth it and definitely a must see in your lifetime.
Despite originally having no plans on going to India, I spontaneously decided to go to India since its fairly close by to Thailand (where I was at the moment I booked the flight tickets)!
After a lengthy India E-VISA application, I was approved and I started planning my trip to see one of the Seven Wonders of the World!
First impressions of New Delhi
I flew on Air India from Bangkok to New Delhi. The flight was pretty good and the airline wasn’t bad. However, I did notice there was tons of empty seats in the plane and made me wonder if the airline is losing a lot of money.
Upon arriving in New Delhi, I got stuck lining up in customs for a good 2 hours. It’s hands down one of the slowest immigration lineup I have ever experienced in my entire life.
After finally getting through customs, I booked a taxi outside the airport for 400 Rupee (which I’m glad I did because the airport taxi is a big ripoff trying to charge me between 900-1200 Rupees) and off I went to my hostel.
The taxi drive from the airport to my hostel was insane! Drivers in India are crazy, my taxi driver actually hit someone and didn’t even stop. After looking out of the taxi window, I noticed all cars have scrapes and bumps all over. Yep, it’s definitely normal to hit other cars in India.
New Delhi also has one of the most polluted air I have ever inhaled. The air quality is seems to be equally or worst than Beijing, China.
After navigating through insane traffic, I finally made it to my hostel at Madpackers Hostel.
The hostel was great, one of the better ones I’ve been to thanks to the amazing customer service of the staff members. They helped me get settled in and booked my train to Agra the very next day for me to see the Taj Mahal.
I paid 755 Rupee for a 2-hour fast train ride from new Delhi to Agra and 495 Rupee for a 4-hour sleeper train from Agra to New Delhi.
Journey from New Delhi to Agra
The next day, I took an Uber for 139.5 Rupee to take me from the Madpackers Hostel to the train station going to Agra. I ended up teaming up with two other backpackers I met in the hostel.
One thing to remember when you arrive in the train station is not to accept help from anyone. People are trying to scam you or get money from you. If you need help, it is best to approach someone that looks like a regular passenger. Indian people are very nice and from my experience and are more than happy to give you directions or assistance.
The train from New Delhi to Agra was surprisingly pleasant (except the toilet, of course). Included in my fare was a vegetarian meal which tasted quite decent.
After the 2-hour train ride, I finally arrived in Agra train station.
Negotiating a taxi ride from the Agra train station to the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort
Upon arrival, myself and the two other backpackers (Doka and Linda) from my hostel got together and started negotiating with taxi drivers to take us to the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort. Thankfully, Doka was born in India (she’s Nepalese descent) and is able to speak Hindi.
After applying her bargaining skills, we managed to secure a taxi to take us around for 270 Rupees each included tip.
Buying tickets to the Taj Mahal
As soon as we arrived in the Taj Mahal, we were quickly swarmed by endless amounts of touts trying to sell us their tour guide services or handicrafts. One particular tour guide followed us for a good 30-minutes before I was able to persuade him that we are not his ideal client.
The whole process of trying to get him to leave us alone was quite hilarious. I learned that the best way to get rid of aggressive touts is to compliment them and make them laugh.
As soon as we arrived to the counter, we paid for our tickets to Taj Mahal (1000 Rupees). They then provided us with a “tour guide” and a shoe cover to prevent the Taj Mahal from getting dirty.
There’s also a gift shop nearby where you can exchange your US dollars to Indian Rupees and also store your belongings. To my surprise, the storage service was legitimate and I later got all my stuff back and nothing was stolen!
Touring the Taj Mahal
We were glad to get an official tour guide provided to foreigners at the ticketing office. He did an amazing job showing us around. He even helped us take pictures from the best angles possible. Another funny thing that the tour guide did was made other tourist move out of the way so we can get really nice pictures taken.
Seeing the Taj Mahal in person was a surreal experience. It’s one of the most beautiful man made structure I have ever seen in my life.
It was originally designed by an architect from Turkey and every detail of the palace has a purpose.
For example, the four outer pillars of the Taj Mahal was specifically made to lean out just a little bit. That way, in case of an earthquake, the pillars won’t fall on the palace and destroy it.
I truly enjoyed my experience visiting the Taj Mahal and highly recommend everyone see it at least once during your lifetime.
Lunch and Agra Fort
We suspect that our taxi driver is probably getting a huge cut from restaurants. During part of the taxi driving around, they took us to an expensive restaurant and paid 600 Rupees for our meal. Thankfully the food was good but it was still too expensive for our taste.
After eating lunch, we quickly went to Agra Fort and took some pictures. I had to leave early because I booked the sleeper train.
Sleeper train from Agra to New Delhi
I waited in the Agra train station for awhile completely confused. Turns out the train I was suppose to take was 2-hours late. Several Indians tried helping me figure out the train schedule. Despite their help, I was still confused and ended up just sitting where my train is suppose to arrive and hoped for the best.
After waiting for awhile, my train finally arrived and off we went to New Delhi.
The sleeper train is definitely not a pleasant place to be for tourist. It was dirty and some locals were sitting on the bed that I booked. It took almost one hour before they cleared out and I was able to use my bed to actually sleep. The locals also put their belongings all over the bed sheet on my designated bed making it quite dirty by the time I got to use it. At this point, I just accepted this is normal in India and did my best to get some rest.
I also noticed many of the locals in the train kept staring at me making for an uncomfortable train ride. Why did they keep staring at me? I’m sure they’ve seen a Chinese person before especially since China and India are neighbours.
After a long, uncomfortable but interesting ride, we finally arrived in New Delhi.
Booking a tuk tuk to take me from the New Delhi train station to my hostel
Upon arriving in New Delhi, I tried booking a taxi but everyone kept trying to price gouge me. I finally found a ticketing counter for a tuk tuk and ended up paying 190 Rupees including tip to the driver.
The drive back to my hostel was very uncomfortable. New Delhi is very cold at night and I was wearing shorts since I was exploring the Taj Mahal during the day when it was very hot. The tuk tuk ride back to my hostel was long as we navigated through insane traffic.
When I finally reach my hostel after almost one hour on the road, I was both starving and exhausted.
Final thoughts on New Delhi, Taj Mahal, and India
I flew out of the country the next day to go to my next travel destination in Asia. Traveling to India is definitely not for the feint of heart. At any given time, things can go bad for you and ruin your time in this country.
Thankfully for me, I had a good experience. I didn’t experience the famous “Delhi-belly” which is what they call food poisoning in this city. Many of the locals were mostly friendly to me and I made a few Indian friends. One Indian guy even bought me beer and told me stories of what life is like in the country.
However, I also saw many things that made me feel bad for the people. Poverty is extremely high in India and many poor children kept walking up to me begging for money. I also encountered an Indian guy I met in the train station who added me to Facebook only to barrage me with messages later on asking me to help him get out of the country.
Going to India made me feel grateful my family moved to Canada when I was a kid. Many of the Indians I met don’t have the opportunities that people who live in Western countries take for granted on a daily basis. In India, I met people who wanted to work hard to earn money but they can’t because the opportunity is just not there. Where I live in Canada, if people want to earn extra money, it wouldn’t be hard to get a second job even if the pay is terrible. I hope the living conditions improve in India one day.
In the end, I leave the India with fond memories and I highly recommend everyone to visit this country.