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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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7 Travel Safety Tips You Should Know

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Travelling can be enthralling, but have you ever asked yourself what if you get robbed? What if you get kidnapped? Or you get lost? 

Leaving the comfort of your home to explore a foreign country can be an exciting experience. However, several worst-case scenarios can make you anxious when travelling overseas. From losing precious items and getting injured to theft or kidnapping, a lot can happen abroad. 

The first step is to acknowledge that bad things can happen, which is part of the adventure. With these safety tips below, you can protect yourself as a traveller and have peace of mind.

 Conduct Sufficient Research 

Research and gather a lot of information. Travel safety starts even before you board that plane. Google about your destination and know the common risks and prevalent scams in that country. Get to know the safe and unsafe neighbourhoods. 

Ensure you read reviews in the places you’ll visit or the hotel you’ll be staying in. Check if your rent property is in a safe environment. Read blogs from travel bloggers to find if there is anything written about your destination. You can watch videos on YouTube to learn a few things. You can listen to the accent, see attraction sites, and what the landscape looks like.  

TripAdvisor is also a great platform where you can search your destination before travelling. It’s great for hotels, restaurants, local attractions, and tour companies. Read reviews to get valuable information from previous clients. 

Doing research helps you feel confident and comfortable when travelling. 

Buy Travel Insurance 

A vacation isn’t a vast investment, like buying a car or house, but you still need a lot of money. Buying airfare, paying for tour guides, and accommodation needs tons of cash. The travel insurance cover protects you from lost or damaged items. 

It can be expensive to replace items like electronic devices, clothes, and medication. You might also get hurt or sick while in a foreign country. If you get hurt or sick before travelling, you’ll have to cancel your trip. With this, you’ll lose the full cost. In such a scenario, the travel insurance will reimburse the amount used. 

You may also need to get evacuated from a danger zone, and using helicopter transport can cost you a fortune. This is where travel insurance comes in. Early returns or losing a family or friend are other incidents that should motivate you to get insurance cover. 

However, ensure you get a comprehensive cover that will cater to almost every bill you might incur. Choose a reliable insurance provider to give direction and offer the necessary help. Check the reputation of the said company, their insurance packages, and don’t forget to read reviews. 

Share Information with a Reliable Friend or a Close Relative

Travelling is marred with uncertainties. Anything can happen when in a foreign land. That’s why you should let those close to you know about your whereabouts. 

In case of an emergency, you might not manage to communicate specific details. The insurance may require you to call before going to the hospital. They can help you find a reliable hospital nearby. 

It is always advisable to scan and print important documents and upload a digital cover of the insurance package.

Keep Your Money in Various Places

Never travel with all of your money in the same place. Stash emergency money throughout the luggage just in case you lose some. You can also place cash on your body but in different pockets. 

You may wear a money belt beneath your clothes or have a handy bra pocket to keep your credit cards and cash. Invest in an excellent zippered passport pocket that can hold a phone and a passport. This way, even if you get robbed, you’ll still have some cash and cards tucked away. 

More so, be mindful of purses and pockets when in a crowded place. It’s too easy to get pickpocketed in a crowded subway or bus. Criminals know their target pretty well, but you can give them a hard time trying to rob you. 

If you get into a crowded place, keep your hands-on any pocket that has your valuables. If possible, tuck the purse underneath your arm to ensure it opens towards your body and hard to access. Ensure the purse can be zipped, covered, or fastened. 

Avoid keeping stuff in your back pocket as it’s an easy target. Also, it’s recommended to ditch the purse and wallet altogether. 

Lock Your Bags

Locking your luggage can deter thieves. Zip your wallet and purse and lock your bags as well. A determined thief goes for easier targets. They know travellers carry tons of valuable items, and that’s why locking your luggage during transit is a great security measure. 

You can use non-TAS travel locks as they’re hard to break, unlike the universal TSA lock. However, you may use a TSA-approved travel lock for added security and peace of mind. 

Don’t Bring with You Your Precious Items

It’s easy to have items disappear while in transit. It could be a scarf you left in a park or sunglasses fell in the water as you were surfing. When packing for air travel, leave anything that will break your heart if it gets stolen or lost. 

For instance, leave your precious jewellery at home. Carrying education or property documents is risky. Bring cheap items like a travel-friendly necklace or wedding ring, an older smartphone, or inexpensive clothes. 

Watch Your Drinks 

When in a foreign country, you become an easy prey. No matter the circumstances, ensure you watch over your drinks. Make sure you see what’s being poured so someone doesn’t spike your drink

It would also be best to avoid getting drunk. If you usually take six drinks, reduce to two. If you didn’t travel with a buddy, go everywhere with your drink, even to the washroom.

Every day there is news of travellers who have fallen victim to several crimes while travelling. This should be your huge concern in taking the necessary measures. Don’t be too naïve or optimistic to think it can never happen to you. 

But don’t allow anything to stop you from having an enthralling vacation. Follow these travel safety tips, and you’ll enjoy a peaceful trip. 

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A unique perspective of Jamaica

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Over the last years, Jamaica has become one of the most visited destinations by tourists in the entire world. This beautiful Caribbean island with its stunning beaches, rich nature and delicious gastronomy has everything you could wish for in a holiday destination. However, if you want to experience Jamaican culture in a unique way while interacting with nature hand in hand, there is a place you can not miss during your trip: Yaaman Adventure Park.

The most original holidays

Jamaica is famous as a beach holidays destination. And who can really blame those that choose to visit the country because of this? Its white sand beaches with crystal clear waters and jungle right next to the shores make out for some breathtaking views. However, Jamaica has so much more to bring into the table. A good example of this can be found in the famous tours in Ocho Rios offered by Yaaman Adventure Park.

Ocho Rios is known as the most touristic area on the entire island. And in an area with such a wide catalogue of activities focused towards tourists, we can find Yaaman Adventure Park. Formerly known as Prospect Plantation, Yaaman Adventure Park original placement used to be an 18th Century agricultural property with a lot of history and cultural points. Yaaman Adventure Park offers its visitors the opportunity to interact hand in hand with nature in a lot of adrenaline filled adventures that will make out for unforgettable experiences. 

Do not limit yourself to simply laying on the beach, discover the beautiful island of Jamaica and its culture in a fun and original way. 

The perfect activities for everyone in the family

There are as many types of holidays as there are types of people in the world. Yaaman Adventure Park is aware of this, and that is why they offer a wide catalogue of activities in Ocho Rios that will adapt to everyone’s needs. Your age does not matter, there is the perfect activity waiting for you at Yaaman Adventure Park. Yaaman Adventure Park has a lot of fun activities that will allow you to interact with nature, as well as some more relaxing ones that will help you understand Jamaican culture better. Some of their most renown activities include:

Bird aviary tour

An activity that everyone in the family will surely love! In this aviary, you will be able to interact with exotic and local birds while they freely fly around you. The aviary is a tropical heaven for the birds that live there, and will make you feel like you have been transported to a fairytale world.

Swim with dolphins

Dolphins are some of the most beloved sea animals in the world. And in Yaaman Adventure Park you will be able to swim with dolphins in their unique shore excursions in Ocho Rios. These loving creatures are very smart and love interacting with the visitors. During these excursions, you will be able to swim with them and even hug and kiss the lovely dolphins. 

Cook genuine Jamaican recipes

Jamaica has one of the most delicious cuisines in the world. Their traditional colourful dishes are full of unique flavours that will not disappoint your palate. On the cooking tour offered by Yaaman Adventure Park, you will learn how to prepare the traditional “Jamaican Fare”. The famous chef Irie will teach you all the secrets of this dish consisting of festival, Steamed Callaloo and chicken. All of this while you enjoy some breathtaking views 1100 feet above sea level.

But these are only some of the activities you will be able to enjoy at Yaaman Adventure Park. From Mud buggies tours to tours across near stunning rivers, rides on the back of camels or a jitney ride, the possibilities at this park seem endless. So if you are looking for a fun and original alternative for your next holidays, then look no further, Yaaman Adventure Park is the perfect place to go.

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How much money do you need to live comfortably in Spain?

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There are plenty of reasons why you may be thinking about living in Spain: its population is friendly and kind; its climate, especially in the coastal areas, is enviable; its gastronomy is incredible… but, what about its prices? What is the most affordable way to live in Spain?

Perhaps the most important question if you decided to go: would it be better to buy instead of renting a property in Spain. Or yet living in a Spanish residence?

Spanish cities where to live cheap and well

In the geographical variety that Spain presents, we can find many differences in average salaries and the standard of living that reside there would require. The areas of Galicia, Extremadura, Castilla y León, together with Almería and the south of Alicante usually have a lower price of euros/square meter in their homes. The quality of life is really appreciable, but you should know that there are fewer possibilities for business and transports.

The autonomous community of the Basque Country, Catalonia, and Madrid, which have higher than average incomes (normally more than 24,000 euros per year), also have higher prices. However, Madrid has such a wide range of rents that it sometimes makes them cheaper than other countries. 

In addition, and taking into account the tourist seasons, the areas of Valencia and Andalusia are normally a preference when it comes to living in Spain for a while or even spending your retirement. Although day-to-day life can be more expensive than in other areas of Spain, the mild climate and variety of leisure options are often worth it in the long run. 

Whatever your option is when moving to another country, especially if you don’t know its legal system, can be very tiresome. That’s why our advice is to try to contact local agencies (that speak English) to give you fair and fruitful advice. For example, to move to Andalusia, we usually recommend Tejada solicitors

I have already decided on the place. Now what?

Well, if you have already fully immersed yourself in the streets of a beautiful city that we have talked about, what should be your first step?

Decide what kind of stay you want to be in (since your future economic situation will also depend on this: taxes, permits…). You may have already chosen, for example, property conveyancing in Marbella, but it is recommended that you also think about renting a property, because it can be very profitable while you are in your other place of residence.

To sum up, before moving to a Spanish city, decide if you want to spend a little more money per month in exchange for the exceptional conditions that their precious land can give you; secondly, contact a reliable agency that will help you make the best investment and even more, apply for a Spanish residency if you are decided to stay for a long time.

And remember: a move is always a new beginning.

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