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Taj Mahal viewing practicalities

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A day ticket to see India’s most famous monument costs foreign visitors Rs750 (Rs250 to the Archeological Survey of India, Rs500 in local tax), but few regard the expense as money wasted once they are inside. To appreciate the famous play of light on the building, you’d have to stick around from dawn until dusk (ticket valid all day, but only for one entrance). Ticket queues are longest at the west gate, shortest at the south gate, and at the east gate the ticket office has been shifted half a kilometre down the road to the Shilpgram crafts village. You are not allowed to enter with food (and none is available inside), nor with a mobile phone or a travel guidebook – these can be deposited at lockers near the entrances. Foreigners are given a free bottle of water and a pair of shoe covers on entry. The Taj entrance ticket also entitles you to tax-free entry at a few other sites if used on the same day.

It’s possible to see the Taj by moonlight on the night of the full moon itself and on the two days before and after. Only four hundred visitors are admitted per night (in batches of fifty between 8pm and midnight, but not Fridays or during Ramadan). Tickets have to be purchased a day in advance from the ASI office. If a viewing is cancelled, you’ll get a refund.

You can see the Taj for free by climbing onto a Taj Ganj hotel rooftop, or heading down the eastern side of the compound to a small Krishna temple by the river, where you can see the Taj, and also take a little boat ride to see it from the river. Better still, head across the Yamuna River to Mehtab Bagh. From the opposite bank of the river the view is breathtaking, especially at dawn. You cross the river on the road bridge north of Agra Fort, and turn right when you reach the far bank, following the metalled road until it enters the village of Katchpura; here, it becomes a rough track that eventually emerges at a small Dalit shrine on the riverside, directly opposite the Taj and next to the entrance of the Mehtab Garden. You can see the Taj from the garden’s floodlit walkways, and from outside the gardens on the riverbank. Unfortunately, you can no longer access the gardens by boat from across the river by the Taj itself.

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