I was staying in Delhi, so I took the 8am train from Delhi and the 5:50pm train back to Delhi. I got the train tickets the day before at the New Delhi Train Station. It took me a while to figure out where the tourist office was because helpful, accurate signage isn’t very prevalent in Delhi. When I got to the tourist office, it was packed with people waiting to get train tickets. There were a couple of middle-aged Indian men working in the office. They were yelling at tourists and overall had an angry, annoyed demeanor. Luckily (maybe ultimately unluckily) for me as a solo female traveler, these men liked me so they helped me a ton and expedited the process for me.
The train itself was actually fairly nice and a smooth, easy transportation process. They serve pretty bad food, but I couldn’t complain when I was hungry at 8am. I arrived in Agra at 10:30am. Immediately, I was harassed by people trying to sell me things. One guy kept following me and someone next to me told him off because it was blatantly clear that I wasn’t interested. Eventually, I decided to take a tuk tuk because there isn’t Uber in Agra. I had a driver and like a driver assistant drive me around for the day for 800 rupees.
Of course, my first stop was the Taj Mahal, basically the sole reason why I traveled to Agra. There’s a special line for foreigners, so you get to go through things faster, but it’s also WAY more expansive than what Indian nationals pay. The Taj is obviously packed and mostly with Indian tourists. I was surprised by how truly breathtaking the Taj is even with high expectations. The white of the marble was blinding in the sun, and the stone designs were incredibly intricate. I also appreciated that the Taj Mahal literally impoverished a city because taxes were raised so high to build it. No doubt, the Taj Mahal is a world wonder.
Next, I went to Akbar’s tomb. As a history teacher, this was a must, and I paid more for my tuk tuk just to see it. I had to see where Akbar the Great, the emperor who was open-minded about religion and arts, was buried. Akbar’s tomb is a 20-30 minute drive from Agra, so it’s also way less crowded and fun to explore. One of the gates to the tomb was either never finished or poorly preserved, so its existence is in sharp contrast with the other three elaborate gates and the tomb itself.
Tomb of Itmad-ud-Daula
Often referred to as the Baby Taj Mahal, allegedly, the tomb of Itmad-ud-Daula was the inspiration for the Taj Mahal. This tomb was also less crowded and smaller than the first two. The designs on the marble seemed more intricate, but maybe that’s just because its smaller. It’s also located by the water so there’s pretty views of the river and the city.
Agra Fort, Back of Taj Mahal, Marble Shop
My tuk tuk driver took me to a spot to see the back of the Taj Mahal, and he took me to the front of the Agra Fort. I didn’t go into the Agra Fort because I was short on time. He also took me to a marble shop where I learned about how the designs are created on the Taj Mahal and the upkeep required to maintain the Taj Mahal. Apparently, tourists will chip out the precious stones and attempt to scratch their names into the marble.
My Tuk Tuk Driver
My tuk tuk driver was a character. He told me all about his sexual habits, but he also talked about religion and the government. He’s Muslim and Modi, India’s Prime Minister, is Hindu. He’s not the only one who I met in India who said that the government doesn’t have Muslim’s interests in mind. He said before Modi, he was dating a girl who was Hindu. They broke up because her father works in the government, and his daughter couldn’t be dating a Muslim.