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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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A holiday experience for all the family

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dog family holiday

Finding the perfect location for your family holidays is often a tedious task, especially when kids are involved in the equation. Thankfully, there is a new 5-star resort especially created for the whole family.

A place for everyone 

Planning the perfect family holiday is never an easy task. We need to look for a place that would make everyone in the family happy, no matter their age. Traditionally, parents had to adapt their holidays plans to meet their kids needs for fun and entertainment. Thankfully, the tourism industry is aware of this issue and, over the last years, alternatives that fulfill the whole family needs have been developing. 

A place that has become renowned for having the best all inclusive family resorts is ESTUDIO Playa Mujeres. ESTUDIO Playa Mujeres is a 5-star resort located in Mexico, on a paradisiac beach just 15 minutes away from downtown Cancun. It was especially designed keeping the needs of the whole family in mind. 

It does not matter if the visitor is a kid or an adult, relax and a pleasure experience are ensured in this place. 

The perfect location for adults to relax

family resort

If you are looking to get away from the world and relax, Estudio Playa Mujeres has everything you need in order to have the best holiday experience of your life. 

The resort’s luxurious design and its wide range of activities available make it the best spot for your vacations

All the suites vanguardist concepts were designed by Mexican artists and on them you can see a modern architectonic display along with some luxury items like the revolutionary Total-Rest Beds®. These beds are especially designed to ensure you have the best resting experience during your stay and feature top-quality bed sheets. 

The suites are also equipped with a modern private bathroom, a 24 hours room-service and a minibar that is restocked on a daily basis. 

Once you leave your suite, a world full of marvelous experiences awaits you. The whole resort is decorated with artistic pieces created by contemporary Mexican artists. There are multiple installations you can make use of during your stay.  The resort has a 18-hole golf course, 6 restaurants to meet even the pickiest gourmet needs and, our personal favorite, the nuup spa. 

The nuup spa is equipped with everything you may need for relaxing in your luxury Spa Vacations. Distributed among three different levels, this luxurious  spa includes:

  •  18 treatments cabins equipped with  private showers
  • Relaxing lounges to chill before and in between treatments.
  • A fully equipped hydrotherapy circuit which includes a sauna, a steam room, a sentations shower and a ludic pool. 
  • A tea station with all sort of flavours from around the globe. 
  • A beauty salon with the best hairstyling, pedicure and manicure experts. 
  • A Bridal Dress-Up Lounge®. On this private space brides and their maids can get ready for the ceremony while enjoying features like a private bar or bathroom. 

Let your kids have the time of their lives

family holiday kids

At Estudio Playa Mujeres, kids are very important. They have a wide range of activities to enjoy while their parents relax. Kids can enjoy the Doodle Land® program, where creativeness is encouraged by the means of interactive workshops and programs and fun activities by the beach and the pool. Kids up to the age of 15 can also join the kids club, where they will learn while having fun. 

Your pet also deserves the best holidays

Estudio playa mujeres are Pet Friendly Resorts. Pets are welcome and encouraged on their installations just as one more member of the family

The resort provides all the things our furry friends could need for a fun experience. Estudio Playa Mujeres counts with a team of professionals that offer doggysitting and veterinary services. 

The food necessities of our pets are fully covered with a luxurious 5 plates menu especially designed to meet their needs. 

Fun is also assured for pets within the resort. There are a wide range of activities and happenings along the resort that will bring our pets and us an unique experience. Toys and accessories are also provided inside the suites so our pets are always entertained and feel just like at home.

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The Must-Know Before Booking Your Next Flight

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One of the essential things that will keep you happy throughout your traveling is booking a flight that caters for all your needs without necessarily paying much. Whether you are going on a business trip or you just want to spend your next holiday away from your country booking the right flight will be your very first crucial thing to do.

When it comes to flight booking, getting the right airline that will suit all your preferences, needs, and taste can be a bit tricky especially if it is your first time. Making even the minutest error in the choice of your flight can easily ruin your entire journey. That’s why in this article, you will learn some of the factors you need to know before booking any flight. So let’s get started.

Ticket Price

Of course, this is one thing that many people are sensitive to and definitely, it is one of the most crucial factors you should consider. Flight ticket prices usually vary depending on the airline you have chosen.

Definitely, you need an airline that will save some bucks for your ice cream, that’s more than often people tend to go for cheaper ticket prices. It is always advisable that you check whether the price of the ticket has included or excluded the taxes. Besides, check whether the luggage fees are separate.

The duration and stops of your flight

Sometimes, even if you are taking a direct flight, it has several stops before reaching the destination. It could be for technical checkups or fueling. By checking the number of halts and flight stops you will be having, you will easily determine the duration of your flight.

The actual value of your ticket will also largely depend on the number of stops and duration you will be in the air. The direct flight usually charge high prices because they are faster compared to indirect flights that have several stops. It is always advisable you check on the duration your flight will take besides the attractive ticket prices.

The Airline

This is one of the factors that cannot be overemphasized having in mind the many airlines that have stormed the air transportation industry. It is always advisable that you choose an airline that has a good reputation for its safety, prices, and treatment of its customers.

You also need to check the number of years they have been in the field and how well-maintained are their planes. Turkish Airlines could be your choice in your next flight because of their efficiency, effectiveness, the number of years in experience, and diverse quality services. Why not give it a trial?

Flight time

Well, the time of your flight is crucial in saving you some money and for your safety. You may have noticed that there is a peak hour where almost everyone likes flying. In such hours, you dig deeper into your pocket. Such hours are usually during the day, perhaps in the morning to afternoon hours.

It is advisable to travel at such peak hours if you don’t know your destination very well. However, if you are conversant with your destination, you can take odd-hour flights which are basically cheaper. 

Travel Dates

This is another crucial factor that you will need to consider. Always plan your trip very well to suit your preferred dates of travel. Choose different days for your flights and eventually choose the one that is best for you. However, this may be impossible if you are on an emergency schedule.

It is advisable that you be as much flexible as possible when it comes to the dates of your flights. If you stick to one particular date, you might end up spending more than you had planned for in case some ugly incident occurs.

The flight itinerary

For indirect flights, you will need to change your planes; you will need to take another flight to connect you to your destination. Some airliners are hostile enough that they don’t even provide you with transport to the next airport. If you have some tons of luggage it becomes chaotic for you.

Some passengers may be having Visas that don’t allow them in certain countries and this will be very frustrating for them. Always check at the distance between the airports and the entire itinerary to avoid frustrations in your flight.

Final Remarks: You can make your flight joyful or irritating by the choices you make. The above factors can make your flights comfortable. However, it is advisable that you book your ticket 6 weeks before your date of travel. This will save you some good money. Consulting travel agents is also a great idea. Now make it happen the right way.

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The 10 Best Design-led Hostels in Europe

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Hostels are no longer just for young people and travelers with low budgets. The once humble and cheap accommodation that connects people from different places has now evolved to poshtels, which allow you to spend less but still get access to the benefits of high-end hotels. A good location, careful decoration, a strong commitment to the environment and the common spaces is what offers this new concept that is getting huge in Europe. Here are some of the best hostels that you can find in the Old Continent.

Cats Hostel Madrid

Cats Hostels is the perfect option to stay right in the heart of the city when visiting Madrid, because the city centre is where all the cool stuff happens. Their fully equipped and comfortable rooms decorated according to the latests trends can accommodate from 2 up to 14 guests. 

The hostel stands out for its breathtakingly spectacular 17th-century Arab-Andalusian style patio, which is in fact a protected historical heritage site in the city. It has a stunning fountain right in the middle that is filled with sangria in their epic Sangria Party -they don’t claim to be the best party hostel in Madrid for no reason! Cats Hostel is perfect for group friends or solo travellers, since the common areas work as meeting points: a coworking space, a club, a bar or a multipurpose room where you can watch a movie on the big screen, chill on the couches, play board games, read, or sleep away your hangover.

For those who want to discover the city accompanied, there are activities in Cats Hostels every day of the week: from the city tour -where you can visit the most emblematic landmarks of the capital, to a pub crawl that costs 15 € and starts every day at 22:00 or a classic tapas tour (15 €), on Wednesdays and Fridays at 17:45.

Full Moon Design Hostel Budapest

Live music in one of the most vibrant cities, picturesque rooms, colourful common areas and a privileged location are just some of the things this designer hostel has to offer. But that’s not all this hostel offers: Morisons Music Pub 2 is in the same building. 

Generator Hostel Paris

Stroll through the city without leaving the building in this design-led hostel inspired by the photogenic character of Paris. Stay in the elegant lounge (with vintage armchairs and a large bar) or have fun in the game room when you’re not enjoying everything the French capital has to offer.

Cats Hostel Porto

Cats Hostel Porto is the first hostel of the brand to open in Portugal, and it brings to the city of the Duero river all the spirit that has made Madrid’s Cats Hostels famous: fun, activities and central accommodation to enjoy the city to the fullest.

ONE80º Berlin

This ’boutique hostel’ in the heart of Mitte stands out for having its own discotheque in the center of Berlin.  It offers music by its own resident DJs and other events. Guests can also use a special area to upload and share their photos. The interior is designed by Berlin artists.

Kex Hostel Reykjavik

Industrial aesthetics is the most characteristic feature of this Icelandic hostel that stands in an old biscuit factory (in fact, kex means Icelandic ‘biscuit’). Besides having all kinds of rooms, it stands out for its common spaces, such as a barber shop or a large library, where you can relax in the company of other travelers..

Casa Gracia Barcelona Hostel

The most modern hostel in Barcelona is just a step away from Paseo de Gracia and is all style and atmosphere. With its exclusive design and modern interiors, is the ideal refuge for any lover of modern and style. Enjoy the terrace, the lounges (it has spacious communal lounges to rest and chat) and its exquisite cuisine.

Youth Hostel Scuol Switzerland

This hostel is the most modern cabin in the Swiss country. This hostel, decorated to the last, has beautiful wooden interiors. Come out onto the terrace and breathe in the fresh air, while enjoying the splendour of the surrounding mountains. When the sun sets, make a ball in front of the fireplace and enjoy a hot chocolate before resting in your room.

Clink 78 London

Luxurious hostel frequented by young backpackers. It occupies what used to be a courthouse, where, by the way, the punk band The Clash was judged -according to their website. So if you book a room here, you can sleep in a cell or hang out in one of the courtrooms. And it’s worth attending one of the concerts at their nightclub, the ClashBAR. It’s ten minutes from King’s Cross train station.

Cocomama Amsterdam

It has a very exotic name, but a very European conception of design and decoration, with murals, paintings, ceramics and all kinds of elements that make up a beautiful environment. Everything is very clean and well cared for. There are cinema, communal kitchen and garden, as well as other spaces to share.


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