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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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6 Things you can do in Tijuana

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Tijuana is one of the largest cities in Mexico. Located in the northern part of the country, its proximity to the US border has make it a popular tourist destination among American citizens looking to experience all the recreational activities this beautiful city have to offer. If you are planning to visit Tijuana, we have a list of our six favorite spots in the city, so make sure you do not miss them.

1- The Caliente Xoloitzcuintles Stadium

Soccer, simply known as football in Mexico, is the country’s favorite sport. And there is no football team with more devoted fans than Los Xolos. It does not matter if you like football or not, visiting the Caliente Xoloitzcuintles Stadium while you are in Tijuana is a must . On the days there is a football match scheduled, you definitely need to go to the stadium a few hours early, since there is a big party going on on the parking lots of this stadium. People park on the parking lots and eat roasted meat while drinking beer with their friends. Then you can head to watch the football match. Los Xolos enthusiasts are known to be among the most friendly football fans out there, and will make sure you feel welcome and have an experience you will never forget.

If you want to stay close to  the Caliente Xoloitzcuintles Stadium, we recommend you check out in a nearby hotel like Tijuana Marriott Hotel since its proximity make it pretty convenient.

2- Morelos Park

Morelos Park is one of the best destinations in Tijuana if you are traveling with kids. This park is the biggest in the city and features a lot of green areas, a huge artificial lake where you will be able to see ducks and fish, and even a small zoo featuring native animals like iguanas or jaguars. 

There is a small train that will take you for a ride around the lake. On this lake you can also find a small dock with small boats for rent. 

On weekends, you will also be able to enjoy public performances especially created for children, like clowns shows or puppet theatres.

3- Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe Cathedral

The cathedral Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe is also known as Tijuana’s Cathedral due to it being the most important one in the city. Although this cathedral dates back only to 1909, its beautiness immediately made it one of the most visited tourist spots in the city. This building design used as inspiration Mexico’s traditional temples, which made the local authorities give it the accreditation of historical monument.  

This monument is located just a few minutes away from the city centre, so if you are looking for accommodation in the heart of Tijuana, we recommend you check out Hotels like Fairfield Inn & Suites Tijuana due to its convenient location.

4- Wax Museum

Tijuana’s Wax Museum is one of its most original buildings. Across 10 different halls, you will be able to enjoy many wax figures, all divided according to different themes like Mexico’s historical figures or Mexico’s legends. One of the most curious things about this museum is that it has a Horror hall, where you will be able to enjoy the scary figures of Dracula or Frankenstein, although we do not recommend this if you are weak of heart. 

5- Tijuana’s Cultural Centre

Its modern sphere design has make this building one of the most visited locations in Tijuana. This Cultural Centre was created to try and promote art and culture in the area. On the different rooms of the building we will be able to find an art exhibition, an aquarium, an event room and a film library. 

6- El Trompo Museum

This amazing museum is the perfect mixture of science and fun, helping us to introduce our kids to new knowledge by using games and interactive activities. The museum also includes a 3D cinema and a concert room.

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The best places to stay during your holidays in Isla Mujeres

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When we dream about our dream holidays, we often picture ourselves in the middle of a Caribbean beach, letting the sand and the waves take away the stress of our daily lives. No place embroiders this ideal like Isla Mujeres. This small island is located near  the Mexican Caribbean coast and its white sand beaches with crystalline waters have make Isla Mujeres one of the most popular holidays destinations in the world. If you are planning to visit this island soon, then you should definitely check out our list of accommodation suggestions.

Staying in the island

Isla Mujeres may be a small island, but it features all the commodities you could wish for in a Caribbean island. But if you are looking for something intimate while luxurious at the same time, then you should definitely check out boutique hotels Isla Mujeres.

The main difference between average hotels and boutique hotels is their size. A boutique hotel features all the commodities a luxurious hotel could have while having a lower number of rooms available. One boutique hotel we can not stop recommending in this island is Hotel Casa Sueño. 

Hotel Casa Sueño is located between Punta Sur and and the center of the island in a truly idyllic location. The hotel is right next to the Caribbean Sea, which means that you will be able to enjoy some amazing views during your stay. The hotel is run by some of the most courteous staff members we have ever ever encountered and you will be able to enjoy an amazing gourmet restaurant and a Spa center among the services provided by the hotel.

Travelling on budget

While most people looking to travel to the Caribbean want to do so with all sort of luxuries and commodities within their reach, others prefer to discover the area on a more humble way.  One of the most popular ways to do so is by using the internet site Airbnb. 

This online portal allows people to rent someone else’s empty home for their next holiday. If you are planning to visit Isla Mujeres, you can use Airbnb to rent an apartment in the island or in a nearby city like Cancun. This will allow you to be more independent than if you stayed in an hotel. And if on top of that, you use a cupón Airbnb you will be able to save some extra money in a place that was already cheaper than a hotel. 

Discovering a foreign place does not have why to be expensive, and you can make your next travel the best example. 

Travelling with the family

Travelling abroad is always complicated, but it becomes especially tricky when we travel with kids. Traditionally, parents would need to sacrifice their own share of fun in order to find a place their kids would enjoy, but thankfully there are now luxury resorts for families. Resorts like ESTUDIO Playa Mujeres were designed keeping in mind the necessities of both, adults and kids alike. 

ESTUDIO Playa Mujeres is a luxury resort located in Playa Mujeres. This coastal area is the perfect location for your next holidays, since it is in the continental area in front of Isla Mujeres and near important cities like Cancun. 
This resort features everything you and your family could wish for in a summer vacation, making it by far one of the best luxury resorts for families. Kids will be able to enjoy themselves it the Doodle Land® program, which is full of funny activities created to incentivise our kids imagination. Adults also get their fair share of fun at ESTUDIO Playa Mujeres. This resort includes many facilities like a luxurious Spa or a fantastic 18 hole golf course. Then the whole family can spend time together visiting the art exhibitions host in this resort or enjoying one of its five different gourmet restaurants.

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Ibiza: not only a destination for young people but also a natural paradise with dream beaches, exclusive locations, and luxury villas

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Ibiza is one of the most beautiful islands in the world. This stunning island is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its paradisiac beaches and historical monuments. Traditionally, Ibiza has been associated with party tourism, which means that young people would visit the island due to its famous nightclubs or electronic music scene. However, since 2015 the government has stepped in to try and make Ibiza a more family friendly place to visit. With so many beautiful landscapes to discover and luxurious family friendly villas to stay in, Ibiza is without a doubt, one of the best options for your next summer vacations.

The best places to stay in Ibiza

The first and most important you need to decide when planning any trip is where you are going to spend your stay during the travel. Traditionally,when we travel to a foreign country we tend to look for our lodging at hotels. However, in places as touristic as Ibiza, you will often find hotels overcrowded during the summer season. Thankfully, there is a more private alternative for your stay: luxury villas. You can find numerous luxury villas available for rental spreaded across the island, but the ones which users recommend the most are the ones offered by IKH – Ibiza Luxury Villa Rentals. IKH villas offer everything you may need for a luxurious vacation. They are located near some of the most beautiful beaches and villages in the island, such as Es Cubells, Sant Josep, Talamanca, Cala Jondal, Rocallisa, as well as in Ibiza Town, the main city in the island. These villas are family friendly, and most of them either include sea views or are located at a very short distance from it. IKH villas are often equipped with everything you may need for your holidays, such as a fully functioning kitchen, internet and TV service, air conditioner to survive the Spanish heat, etc. 

The luxury features of these stunning villas and the amazing reviews from its customers make IKH villas an option you should definitely consider for your next Ibiza holidays.

The most stunningly beautiful beaches

The main attractive of Ibiza is, without any doubt, its gorgeous beaches. Blessed with pristine waters and white sand, these beaches make out for an otherworldly seaview. The whole island is surrounded in beauty, but if you are looking for some stunning views, we can not stop recommending you check the following beaches during your travel:

  • Es Cubells: this beautiful beach is surrounded by nature. Located near the mountains, it offers the perfect mixture between civilization and untouched nature. This beach is located beyond a cliff, which makes it harder to access. However, this can work as an advantage for us, since with a little more of effort we will have access to a stunning beach away from the main crows, which makes up for the recipe for a perfect beach day.
  • Sant Josep: this place groups some of the most stunning beaches in Ibiza, such as Ses Salines, D’Hort Cove, Compte Cove or Vedella Cove. It is near the international Ibiza airport and the natural reserves of Ses Salines, which means that this zone has an easy access. The beaches in this zone have turquoise waters and fine sand, which makes them some of the favorites among tourists
  • Talamanca: thanks to its easy access and calm waters, this beach is one of the favorites for families with kids. If you do not have access to a rental car, this beach is one of the easier to reach by bus. 
  • Cala Jondal:  a stunning beach of turquoise waters which shore has pebbles instead of sand. This makes up for a stunning beach view. This beach is located near some luxurious clubs, where you will be able to relax and have fun while watching the sea. 
  • Llonga Cove: this cove is located near the luxurious urbanization of Roca LLisa. Its calm waters make it a favorite among families and young people looking to practice water sports
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