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Agra, Journey to the Taj Mahal: Travel Opinion and Analysis

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Agra is the place which will simply make you say “Wah Taj!” (Wow Taj!) even if you do not know the meaning of it. Situated on the bank of the river Yamuna, Agra is the former capital of Hindustan, 200 Km (124mi) South of the national capital, New Delhi. It is commonly accepted that Sultan Sikandar Lodī, the Ruler of the Delhi Sultanate founded Agra in the year 1504. However, the city was founded much before and has its earliest reference in Mahabharat and Mahirshi Angira in 1000 BC.

How Should I Prepare My Itinerary for Agra?

If you are based in Delhi or if you are going to Agra from Delhi, then seeing the most important attractions in Agra requires only one day. The best way to travel to Agra from Delhi is by train. Almost every train from Delhi going to South passes through Agra. There are large number of morning trains that takes three to four hours to reach Agra, but if you want to save time for travelling in Agra, my advice is to book Bhopal Shatabdi Express (also same day return journey) powered by Ghaziabad WAP 5 engine that runs at 150 Km/hr. This train will take you to Agra conveniently and comfortably in just two hours. It starts from New Delhi Railway Station (NDLS) around 6 AM and reaches Agra Cantt Railway Station (AGC) around 8 AM. While returning it departs from Agra around 8:45 PM and reaches New Delhi at 10:45 PM. Beware, all the Delhi bound trains in winter from November to February are prone to be late from their scheduled time due to dense fog conditions in the region.Train is the cheapest and fastest option to reach Agra, There are also a number of daily bus and taxi hire services that you can chose from. You can easily book them from Indian Railways website irctc.com or travel websites like makemytrip.com. I recommend you to browse through makemytrip coupons and you may make your journey even cheaper.

The World Reporter in Bhopal Shatabdi Express
Bhopal Shatabdi Express (c) The World Reporter

Lots of tourists go to Agra and then return to Delhi on the same day, some also travel further to Jaipur completing the golden triangle of Indian tourism (Delhi-Agra-Jaipur).

What to do Once You Reach Agra?

As soon as you will get down at Agra Cantt. Railway Station, number of taxi drivers will surround you, usually in a group. They work for government pre-paid taxi service, but still they will insist and rush to you as if they are all individuals. I asked them the reason, “you work for government, seeing you insisting and forcing us to go with you so much looks a bit tricky”, but he replied that it is because he will also take us to the market, where he will get some commission which is his own. Hence, all the drivers insists you to chose them. This happens specially if you are non Indian, or if you are with foreigners because they are the ones who would actually buy something from those markets.

It is good if you book a taxi, it will be with you for the whole day and will bring you back to the railway station in the evening according to the time of your train. As soon as you will reach Pre-Paid taxi counter you will see list of travel packages covering many attractions. Agra is blessed with a number of historical monuments, out of which most famous ones are the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri which are also UNESCO world heritage site. What I have observed is that most of the tourists cover only Taj Mahal and Agra Fort.

The first destination in your trip would be Taj Mahal, which is nearly 7 KM from the railway station. You would be entering from the West Gate which is one of the main entrance. If the queue is long, then may be you can try entering from South Gate which is less busy. Your taxi would wait for you outside and you can admire the beauty of the Taj for as long as you want.

Visiting The Taj Mahal

the world reporter at the taj mahal
Taj Mahal (c) The World Reporter

Although I lived almost for all my life in Delhi just 200 Km away from Agra, but it was only last year in November that I actually made to Taj Mahal for the first time. It is really strange for everyone and for me that one of the most visited monument in the world was unseen by me till now. I had been seeing Taj Mahal many times in videos, and photos since my childhood and I used to say, yes it is beautiful! But when I actually went there to see, I was silent for a moment and “Wah Taj!” were the only two words that came out of my mouth. It is  magnificent and is brilliantly white. I have not seen something so white before, shining in the bright sunlight.  Before I could proceed even further I saw my teammate who was holding an SLR camera with her burst into tears, it was her dream to see Taj Mahal since her childhood in Russia, although it wasn’t the first time she was seeing the Taj.

Be informed that no eatables are allowed inside. You cannot eat inside. And of course no guns and ammunition is allowed inside. If you still have got something you can get it stored in a cloak room some 100 metres away from the security checking.

Taxis and other vehicles cannot go beyond a certain point and from there you will have to walk to the entrance of Taj Mahal. Correct distance of the entrance of Taj Mahal would be mentioned on sign boards. People will approach you to take horse cart, camel cart or battery car/golf cart to the entrance, you may chose any of them. If you are not interested, the you can simply walk as it is a short track.

For Indian citizens the cost of the ticket is only ₹20 and for the foreigners it is ₹750. I heard from many of my non Indian friends about this huge discrimination and I just tell them, we pay taxes and so we deserve subsidized prices 😉 Foreigners will get a half litre water bottle and shoe covers with their ticket for free, and Indians may also buy it just for paying ₹10 extra.

Taj Mahal is surrounded by lush green gardens and artificial lakes. If you walk over to the other side of the Taj you can enjoy a beautiful view of the River Yamuna flowing via Delhi, that takes a sharp turn right where the Taj Mahal is situated.

Many guides and photographers will approach you, chose only those who have a valid Identity card if you really wish to hire a guide. The best way is to learn about Taj Mahal before visiting it, or buy a audio guide or book at the ticket counter and spend good time learning and admiring the monument. Guides do tell interesting things and can speak almost all the major languages of the world, but they are very quick as they have to approach maximum group of tourists. They will cover the entire place in just half an hour, the place which actually deserves you spending two to three hours.

Do not buy anything on the street sold by the people who will aggressively approach you, unless if you really find the things interesting and of good quality. Every thing is negotiable, you have to bargain. These sellers are so aggressive that they will force you to buy things like map, keychains, photos, etc.

If you are a woman tourist, then beware of the guys who either in groups or individuals might approach you to get their picture clicked with you, if you are not comfortable, simply say no.

As you will go out of the complex your taxi will be waiting for you and can take you to a nice restaurant or Agra Fort whichever is your priority.

Visiting Agra Fort

The World Reporter at Agra Fort
Agra Fort (c) The World Reporter

If you have been in Delhi, and have seen Red Fort, then you will find many similarities. The fort is mere one or two kilometres from Taj Mahal. Agra fort  is very big and looks really strong. Its structure and architecture give the sense of the strength of the then Mughal Empire. The Fort was continuously built by many Mughal kings. Out of which work by Shah Jahan is the most prominent due to his fondness with white Marble. All his work is done with white marble, which is easily recognizable in a fort mainly built with red sandstone.

Guides are more aggressive here, and will tell you that it is worthless coming here if you don’t hire them, as it is a complex fort built with medieval military strategies. Hiring a guide is completely a tourist’s own decision. You might be able to learn interesting things, but if you wish to explore yourself it would also be great. Agra fort has some great picture taking points, one of which is just along the river and you can see only the river and trees between you and the beautiful Taj Mahal.

Keep your Taj Mahal tickets safe. If you have them, you can get a price cut of ₹50 in the ticket for Agra Fort. For Indians it is the same for ₹20 and for foreigners who have ticket of Taj Mahal it will cost  ₹250.

If you are in Agra only for one day, then a trip to another UNESCO World heritage site, Fatehpur Sikri may become really tight, as it is built in the outskirts of the city of Agra nearly 40 Km away. Most of the tourists who come here spend the rest of their time in shopping and eating. I would really encourage you to also visit Fatehpur Sikri, if you have no scheduled train or bus in the night or if you are in Agra for more than a day.

Exploring The Markets in Agra

Taxi drivers will take you to some fixed shops and restaurants where they take almost every tourist who come with them and earn good commission. Restaurants are generally multi cuisine, have good ambiance  and slightly costlier than others. Food is normal. If you have a request of going to a particular restaurant they will take you there as well, but still they might insist you to go to the one where they are offering. 

One of the shops where they will take you will be a marble workshop where same kind of work is done as  it is on Taj Mahal, people in the workshop may also teach you how they work and then will take you to their store where you can buy their items. Other places where you will be taken are semi precious and precious stones shops and shops where you can buy shawls and other Indian clothing and jewellery. All the shopkeepers or traders here will force you to see, but will not force you to buy, It is your decision.

Almost all the traders, shopkeepers, guides and even street sellers know many European and Asian languages, specially Russian. If you are Russian you will not face any language problem at all. However it is also the trick used by the sellers to lure you by talking in your language and then force you to buy. 

Agra is an important and must destination for almost every tourist who visits India. You would have seen the Taj many times on TV and books like me, but it really deserves a visit from you. Then only you will be able to do the justice to the monument and the admiration which it deserves. It will only take one day from you, but will leave an imprint on your soul for the rest of your life making you realize the preciousness of love. If it doesn’t bring the smile on your face or tears of joy in your eyes, let me know! 

Sanskar Shrivastava is the founder of international students' journal, The World Reporter. Passionate about dynamic occurrence in geopolitics, Sanskar has been studying and analyzing geopolitcal events from early life. At present, Sanskar is a student at the Russian Centre of Science and Culture and will be moving to Duke University.

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Enjoy a VIP Night in World’s Best Cities

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VIP night in London Barcelone MArbella ibiza

Go partying can become a routine if you don’t attend to special and outstanding clubs in world’s best cities recognized for their nightlife. So now we are going to talk about the best clubs where you can book and enjoy VIP areas and tables to avoid the crowds on the dance floors but, at the same time, be able to enjoy the music of the best DJs, the company of your friends and the exclusive drink service without waiting at the bar. Let’s take a look at the best cities to going out and their best nightclubs.

London

The United Kingdom’s capital has a large selection of the best and most exclusive and luxury nightclubs in the world. We are talking about Cirque Le Soir, Tape, Drama, The Box, Libertine, Cuckoo, Toy Room, Scandal, Reign, Charlie, Maddox and Mahiki Kensington. In addition, there is the possibility to book London Vip Tables in these clubs and enjoy the best night of your lives. Prices are around £1000 for 10 guests, and the service includes VIP access, bottle spend included in the minimum, designated hostess service for the duration of the party and a personal concierge, so we encourage you to treat yourselves one night.

Barcelona

What can we say about Barcelona? Without any doubt, one of the best cities in the world, if not the best, to go out at night and people are very cheerful. There are hundreds of clubs, but if we have made an exclusive selection, we choose Opium, Bling Bling, Pacha, Eclipse Hotel W, Otto Zutz, Catwalk, Shoko, CDLC, Café del Mar and Hyde. Of course, all of them have a Barcelona Vip Tables booking service where you can enjoy a special area for you and your friends and make that night something unique. Prices range between €250 and €1200 for 5 guests, depending on whether the table is (first, second or third row). The service include fast track entry, bar spend as per minimum spend included, designated hostess service and a personal concierge, so, it’s worth it!

Marbella

Marbella! The jewel of La Costa del Sol, near Malaga, one of the most beautiful areas in southern Spain. We can only imagine a fantastic night strolling through its beaches, marinas and, of course, dancing in its most exclusive nightclubs where the jet set meets every season of the year, not only in summer. If you are looking for the best clubs in Marbella, here you have them: Olivia Varele, Starlite, Aqwa Mist, Tibu, Mirage, News Cafe, Funky Buddha, Nikki Beach, Opium Beach, Nao, Plaza Beach and Sisu. The Marbella Vip Tables cost about €850 and €2500 for 10 guests depending on the club you choose and the services included, which can vary a lot. This is real luxury!

Ibiza

We leave the jackpot to the end: Ibiza! No matter which club you choose: Pacha, Ushuaïa, Amnesia, Hï Ibiza, Privilege, Ocean Beach, Es Paradis, Lío Ibiza, Destino Ibiza or Blue Marlin. You can book Ibiza Vip Tables from € 250 per person and you will live an unforgettable night in the best party island in the Mediterranean.

Have we convinced you to spend a VIP night in London, Barcelona, Marbella or Ibiza? Think of your birthday party, a bachelor or bachelorette party or a special anniversary and we are sure that the answer will be an emphatic YES!

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Visiting Peru: all you need to know before traveling to this beautiful country

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Peru things to know

Peru is one of the most popular trips in South America, where you will find the Inca ruins, the historic cities, the wild nature of the Amazon, incredible landscapes of valleys, deserts and beaches, along with one of the best cuisines in the world, with the ceviche as a star dish, which make this trip exceed all your expectations.

What to see in Peru?

There are many interesting and beautiful places to visit in Peru such as Lima, Cusco, Machu Picchu, Arequipas or Valle de Colca.  The impressive Andes mountains are cut by footpaths left by ancient civilizations shape dramatic landscapes that can only be explored on foot. This is why Peru is a dream destination for trekking through its staggering arrray of trails winding through Inca ruins and lost cities.

Inca Trail

The Inca Trail is the country’s most recognized trail. In just 26 miles it manages to combine beautiful mountain scenery, lush cloud-forest, subtropical jungle and, of course, a stunning mix of Inca paving stones, ruins and tunnels. The final destination of the trail just cannot be beaten: Machu Picchu, the mysterious “Lost City of the Incas”. You can make this inca trail in 4 days or in 2 days.

Salkatany trail

Salkantay trek is a high altitude 46 mile in Cusco region considered to be a less touristy alternative to the famous Inca Trail. It takes you through some incredible nature areas of the Andes with breathtaking scenery and amazing wild life. Salkatany trekking includes a visit to Inca sites: Llacpata, Machu Picchu and Aguas Calientes.

Required documents

Depending on the country of origin, more or less documents are requested to enter Peru, and some ports of entry, including land borders, require you to fill out an Andean Migration Card.

Passport

To enter Peru, it is an essential requirement to present a valid passport. Make sure your passport has been stamped on arrival, or you may not be able to enter Peru again. Foreigners must always carry photo identification with them while in Peru. A passport photocopy is acceptable.

Visa

Most of the countries of America –including the US- and Western Europe do not require a tourist visa to enter Peru. Tourists can stay for 183 non-extendable days. For longer business, study or work stays it is necessary to previously request the corresponding visa to the Peruvian consulates.

Currency

The “Nuevo Sol” is the official currency of Peru. U.S. dollars are widely accepted in Peru, but you will always get a better rate paying in soles than in dollars, and soles may be necessary for low-cost purchases. Credit cards are accepted in most of the cities in the country, and bank machines are plentiful there. When visiting other parts of the country, be sure to carry enough cash. Most prices are negotiable in Peru. Learn the going rate and negotiate fairly: Americans have a reputation abroad for overtipping and overpaying.

Health advice

The sanitary conditions in Peru are good, especially in the cities. In recent years, the supply of health services has been modernized and increased, both hospitals and clinics provide adequate care, but it is always advisable to have health insurance for your trip.

Vaccines

There are no mandatory vaccines for entering Peru, although routine vaccinations are wise for Peru, including vaccines for Hepatitis A and B, flu, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus and polio. If you wish to visit the Amazon region of the country, the Ministry of Health recommends vaccination against yellow fever – at least 10 days before the trip to be effective.

Watch out the sun, the altitude and the weather

Visitors to Peru need to take precautions with the altitude. Walk slowly, keep very well hydrated, get as much sleep as possible, and eat lightly to minimize negative effects. Oxygen is available free of charge at most hotels to help. Drinking coca tea and, especially, chewing fresh coca leaves can help deal with the effects of altitude. Also, UV rays are very strong above sea level, so wear sunscreen and a hat, even if the day is cloudy

The best season to visit the country is between September and December. In Peru it is usually very cold in the morning and then very hot at noon. Try to wear many layers of clothing so that you can take off as you need. And carry a backpack to carry the jacket, the scarf just in case.

Safety tips

Standard precautions apply for most of these destinations, including the need to be wary of pickpockets in crowded tourist. There are some neighborhoods in Lima that are best not visited by tourists, especially at night areas –check the Peruvian Government Website for further advice… When traveling to and from the airport, it’s wise to keep valuables out of sight, for example, underneath your legs instead of on an empty seat.

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A Historical exploration of Khajuraho

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khajuraho temple

The UNESCO world heritage temples of Khajuraho are situated in the Bundelkhand region of Madhya Pradesh. Built by the kings of Chandela dynasty during 950 to 1050 AD, these exquisite temples were lost to the world from 13AD onwards till they were discovered by the British in 1838 under the cover of dense date palm trees.

 This collection of Hindu, Buddhist and Jain temples are Khajuraho temples are famous for art on stone. Variously described as living temples, Temple of Love and consisting of unique erotic sculptures the Khajuraho group of temples are considered by many to be the pinnacle of India’s temple art. The temple complex creates an eclectic mix of spirituality, eastern philosophy, architecture and cultural heritage.

Khajuraho is best visited during winter on account of its extreme climate. Summer months can be very hot. The famous Khajuraho Dance Festival is held in March and attracts visitors from across the world.

 Khajuraho is well connected to major cities by train and by air. The airport is 5km from the city centre and links to Delhi, Agra and Mumbai. It is best recommended to use a trusted cab service provider like Savaari, where you can make an online booking by downloading the Savaari App.

Western Group of temples.

 The Western group of temples have the largest of the temples and are richly decorated and form the main area of attraction

  • Lakshmana Temple – The temple dedicated to the Hindu trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva is the oldest of the Khajuraho temples and has some the finest sculptures that can be seen in India.
  • Kandariya Mahadeo Temple – This Shiva temple is covered with beautiful carvings, sculptures and frescos that are known for their beauty, grandeur and finesse.
  • Devi Jagdamba Temple – This relatively dainty temple dedicated to Goddess Jagadamba has three bands of sculptures and the uppermost layer has some of the most erotic sculptures that Khajuraho is also famous for.
  • Chitragupta Temple – One of the rare temples of the Sun God in the country.
  • Vishwanath Temple – The temple is unique for its colossal bull statue dedicated to Nandi, the favourite companion of Lord Shiva.

Eastern Group of Temples

  • Parsvanath Temple – The Jain temple shows an eclectic mixture of Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim influences in its three roof architecture.
  • Ghantai Temple – This Digambar Jain temple has a beautiful frieze inscribed on stone depicting the 16 dreams as seen by the Mother of Lord Mahavira. The temple though gets its name from the remarkable pillars, carved with chains and bells.
  • Brahma Temple – Among the oldest temples in Khajuraho, the temple is built entirely using granite and sandstone and dedicated to Lord Vishnu.

 Southern Group of Temples

  • Chattarbhuj Temple – Situated 3 km from the main city, the temple is the only one in Khajuraho without any erotic sculpture and faces west. Best visited during the sunset, the temple is known for the intricate and beautifully detailed four-armed idol of Lord Vishnu.

Do remember to attend the Light and Sound Show conducted in the Western group of temples that describes the horary past of these beautiful monuments.

Khajuraho is surrounded by other places of interest, such as the Panna National Park and the Ranneh Falls. Do plan your visit and hire outstation or local cabs from the airport to visit these temple complexes.

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