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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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Travel to Mallorca or Ibiza, from the sea

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Thousands of tourists every year visit Palma de Mallorca or Ibiza through the sea, by renting a boat with or without captain and enjoying the contact with nature on a trip that will be remembered for a lifetime.

Palma de Mallorca is the largest island on the Balearic Archipelago and a destination that no one should miss, the island has conquered many hearts as the musician Chopin and writers like Richard Graves. A good way to get to know the island is by sea, so those who do not have their own boat, have the option to rent one from any Mediterranean marina and get ready to enjoy the experience with the most extreme nature.

The little ones will have a wonderful time while groups of friends can enjoy secluded beaches and make the most of boat parties, all day and night. This is the latest fashion: rent boats for private parties, in years go by this privilege was reserved for the rich and famous; celebrities had made famous the balearic islands by having the most incredible parties onboard on their luxury boats. And today this is accessible to the general public.

Another destination that you can not miss is Ibiza, the island of fun and light; to make it even more special you can look into Nautal.com, the definitive website to connect boat owners with people who want to rent them. This website works in the same way as Airbnb;

the world-wide reference platform for renting houses between individuals; and Nautal.com is the chosen one when it comes to boats, -click here for more information-, offering a great deal of them.

A win win for boat owners and sea lovers with no boats

Buying a boat is a big investment, so by using this platform, boat owners will have the chance to recover some of the cost by renting them per hours, days, weeks or even months.

From Nautal.com you can access those ones available right now: choose your destination on the search box and the system will immediately show the available boats. You can also choose the boat length, from bow to stern or If you need any kind of help onboard or pattern services.

Everybody will have the opportunity to rent a boat and begin an adventure of a lifetime: experiences that make navigators fall in love with sea trips. Price depends on destination and times when reservations are made. During the summer season, rates are higher, but if you book in advance you can get cheaper prices.

Any better idea to spend a weekend?

Boats are high demanded by groups celebrating bachelor parties, but also for families: because enjoying the sea is an experience suitable for all types of people.

Do not miss the opportunity Nautal arises, the startup created by young entrepreneurs who are revolutionizing all kinds of sea trips and giving the opportunity to many to live an unforgettable new experience.

Knowing Greece or getting to know Croatia it is also a great adventure. The entire Mediterranean coast is full of secrets and places to discover, so If you are fortunate enough to have a good captain, he or she will tell you the secrets of the sea and make of the trip a far better experience.

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Start planning the best holidays of this year

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Traveling is one of the most fulfilling life experiences. And today more than ever, there are accessible travel options accessible to all family situations.

Before choosing a destination for your next holiday you will need to consider some important decisions:

– Number of people and budget for each one: travel agencies as centraldevacaciones.pt offers different holiday packages that includes flight and good quality hotels with a final price per person (this price usually excludes children under certain age)

– Flight hours and holiday duration: If the destination is far away and flight hours are long, that can be uncomfortable for small children. You have to think if you’re going to have enough time to enjoy your holiday time away.

– What is the weather like at that time of the year?: Some of the best places in the world can only be visited in some seasons. Many Europeans choose winter time to travel to the southern hemisphere to escape the cold and wet weather of the northern hemisphere.

There are other factors to consider depending on your personal situation, but once you have decide where to spend your next holiday is time to enjoy looking for maps, viewing documentaries, deciding accommodation and plotting to the route to follow.

Places to visit this winter and spring 2018

In general terms, there is not a bad time to get on a plane and explore the world, and Peru is one of those magical destinations that always make it a good plan.

The region where the city of Cusco is located, has 2 very marked seasons: the dry season when it is cold and clear (end of april until october) and the rainy season (end of november until april) when it’s lush and green. It is compressible that rainy season term, confuse many people who are planning to travel to Machu Picchu during these months. “Summer” is also the rainy season in Cusco and Machu Picchu, when the weather is slightly warmer compared to the dry season.

Less people, lower prices and warmer weather

A typical summer day in Cusco and Machu Picchu means a clear sky in the morning, a possible rain in the afternoon (can be very strong or lasts a couple of hours), then it will be cleared again. It is a great time to visit one of the world’s seven wonders and join the choquequirao trek, an expedition that will take you to two of the major archaeological sites in the Cusco-area: Choquequirao and Machu Picchu.

When preparing your luggage keep in mind that you will have sunny, cloudy, rainy and cold days and finally get ready to enjoy one of the biggest adventures of your life.

Lovely Spain all year round

Spain is one of the most popular destinations in Europe for its warm weather, friendly people and good food. A report by the Expedia travel agency ensures that Spain is the most popular beach destination in the world, followed by Australia and Italy. 13% of international tourists traveled to Spain for holidays last year, which increases the demand for Holiday rentals on Tenerife, all over the peninsular and Balearic Islands.

During the summer months, urban tourism has it difficult to compete with beach and sunny destinations, yet Madrid is one of the most popular destinations in Europe. Visitors greatest interest include but not limited to culture, artistic-patrimonial, gastronomy and trade tourism, identifies Madrid outside the spanish borders.

One of the most popular activities to get to know the city are bike tours. The bicycle rental for individuals and groups includes alternative routes to get to know the city from a closer and real perspective. A great variety of destinations and routes and a good opportunity to remove yourself from the beaten path and get closer to nature, or visiting monumental tours and Madrid most emblematic places.

Now it is time to start planning your next holidays and enjoy every step, from deciding, planning and traveling!

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The Main Safety Concerns For Frequent Travellers

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Air travel

If you are someone who tends to enjoy travelling as much as you possibly can, you might well be keen on ensuring that you also remain perfectly safe. This can sometimes be hard to do, but the main thing is that you know what to expect, what to look out for, and what you can do to remain as safe as possible. As it turns out, there are a number of the most common safety concerns, and as long as you pay attention to those in particular, you should find that you are able to remain perfectly safe on your travels. Let’s take a look at what they are, and what you should be doing to keep safe.

Flying

For many people, flying can be a particularly scary part of travelling. This can even be a concern, sometimes, for those who fly all the time. After all, there is little you can do in a flying emergency, besides following the received wisdom of the airlines, and it can be worrying when you hear horror stories of flights going awry. However, the statistics do show that you are safer in the air than on the ground, so the main thing to be concerned with here is trying to keep your own sense of concern and worry down. Above all, try not to panic, and enjoy the flying experience for what it is. If something happens which you feel could have been prevented, or you are not sure about, consider contacting aviation lawyers like Slack & Davis. They will be able to inform you of whether what happened was up to standard, or if you might even have a legal case against the airline in the works. Above all, do what you need to to keep calm during the flight, and you should be fine.

Pickpocketing

If you have ever been mugged, you will know that it is a truly terrifying experience. However, it’s not just muggings to watch out for when you are travelling, but the much harder to detect act of pickpocketing. This is when someone takes your belongings without you knowing, and it is obviously hard to protect against in most circumstances. However, you can ensure that you are a much less likely target simply by making sure that you are not displaying your valuables while you are travelling. This is generally good advice when you are travelling anyway, so it’s something that you should ensure you are doing at all times. As long as you do that, you are a less likely target, and you will also be much more likely to minimize your losses if you do still get targeted. Nobody wants to be stolen from, so be sure to think about this when you are going travelling in the future.

Illness

Depending on where you are thinking about travelling, there might or might not be certain illnesses you need to be wary of. In some cases, the advice of your government will be to get certain immunizations, and in those cases you must ensure that you pay attention to that advice. Not getting them could result in serious illness or even death, so it’s not a gamble that you want to take. But keeping safe from illnesses does not stop there either – you also need to make sure that you are practising basic hygiene while you are travelling too. As long as you do that, you will find that you are much less likely to get ill, and as well as being generally better for you this will also mean that you are much more likely to enjoy your travels as well. It is a win-win situation when you take care of your health.

Diet & Water Changes

Going to certain countries means that you should be careful about the water, as in many cases it can lead to illness or worse. This is generally true in Asian countries and African countries, but you should always check before you go even in more trusted places. The same kind of approach should also always be taken towards food, as you never know what kind of a reaction you are going to have to foreign foods. The general rule of thumb is to try a little before you dive right in with new and exotic foods. That way, you hopefully won’t be too ill if you do get ill at all. Paying attention to your diet and water consumption is hugely important if you plan on travelling extensively, so take care.

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