Very recently, I did a single day trip to Taj. I stay in Ghaziabad and like everyone else in and around NCR, when holidays are nearby ,I get confused and overwhelmed with options and my plans for the weekend outing and it is most likely that I wind up at home sipping a cup of coffee, watching cricket and bitching about work with friends over phone. Last weekend was no different but for my sudden desire to take my car and try the new Yamuna Expressway. And so I decided to head for Taj Mahal on a Sunday morning. Eventually it made a lot of sense, because last I was there when I was 2 :|
We planned to leave as early as 6:30 AM from Ghaziabad and we stuck to it. I think I spent 45 mins or so, driving around Noida(missed a turn or two and ended up around sec-78 where a lot of those new houses are coming up). Eventually, I made it around 7:15 AM on the Greater Noida expressway via the entry near ATS Village(if you stick around Noida, you would know these places). While on the expressway you need to be careful not to miss the left turn for Yamuna expressway(its a loop), just before Pari Chowk.
The whole stretch till Agra is around 189 kms from the Pari Chowk entry and though there was some traffic early morning, most part of the stretch is empty. It is truly a world class expressway and I easily was cruising at a speed of 150 to 160 km/h for most part of it. Just be careful of villagers who have at places cut the fence to ease their movement and the older men usually jump on to the road. I saw a speeding bike almost hit an old man who was standing confused at the middle of the road. The toll is INR 510 for a return trip. You will get three checkpoints at Jewar, Aligarh and Mathura before you touch NH-2 between Agra and Kanpur. Every toll checkpoint has public conveniences and a small restaurant for a quick pit stop. There are no gas stations on the way until you hit Agra, so tank up. There is a high probability that you would do less on mileage because of the speed you clock.
From the exit on NH-2, you are around 12 kms away from Taj Mahal and the road isn’t very crowded since you hit the place early enough. I think I was driving on NH-2 around 9:15 and reached Taj by 9:45 AM. When you cross the Yamuna near Taj, just be aware that you need to take a U-turn. The road there is pretty confusing and its in really bad shape.
I took the west gate parking @ Taj. It was reasonably crowded for 10 in the morning and you would see a lot of people willing to help you here. A guy helped me park my car and immediately offered a ride to the gate on a camel cart. Since I was travelling with two kids we did opt for it, but it is the slowest form of transport you could find there. And the gate is not very far, so you could walk as well. The person who will be there on the camel would usually throw tantrums like Taj gate being crowded right now, or closed etc. Note that Taj is open from 6 in the morning to 6 in the evening and usually these guys get paid if they take you to some shop in Meena Bazaar nearby. You could avoid all of that and ask the guy to take you straight to the gate.
There is a separate line for women there, usually that is longer. And you would have a bunch of touts who would offer you options to by pass the long queue. Totally avoidable. The line moves fast and shouldn’t take you more than 10 minutes. 20 bucks per ticket, if you are an Indian citizen and INR 250 for foreign tourists. Also kids up to the age of 15 have free entry. Do not carry anything except your camera and phone inside. Usually the security would withhold everything else, even my son’s dinosaur toys.
It is usually crowded and stuffed inside the tomb. Do not try to click a pic inside with your mobile. There is an old caretaker who would snatch your phone and throw it outside. Yes. Once you are out and on your way back, at the exit there would be people trying to sell you small mementos of Taj. The fair price is 20 bucks, so don’t get tricked like me. I paid 50 per piece and was superbly excited about my skills to bargain when another kid walked up and offered me the same for 15-20 bucks per piece.
There are a few places to eat near the Taj on the road that leads to the hotels like Oberoi etc. We had a brunch there and decided to come back.
Drive back to Noida was even easier since there were hardly any vehicles in the afternoon on the road. Once I reached home, I started hearing stories of tyre burst etc. happening in plenty on this expressway. The recommendation is to keep your tyre pressure at the right levels recommended because your tyre heats up due to the long drive at a consistent speed. I think this road is a truly world class highway and worth a drive if you are passionate about being on the road behind the wheels.
Short and sweet post !
Taj pictures are always treat to eyes.
Thanks for sharing.
Very nice description photos are so good, Your Truck (SUV) is very beautiful. Now like to add that tyres are made according to speed. Normal tyres are good for 120km/ph. but for higher speed 150 to 170 Vehicle need special tyres and there is rating on it. Entry fees for foreigners is Rs,750/- .
Thanks and regards
Hi Srijesh Ji, nice ride to Taj Mahal! Taj photos are pretty good. Experience of riding on Yamuna Expressway is really wonderful…just a correction, entry fee for foreigners at Taj Mahal is INR 750/-…:)…
Very interesting post, though short but undoubtedly interesting, informative and sweet. Pictures were fabulous. Last month itself I have been there and after coming from there the Taj mahal dominated my senses for so many days.
Taj Mahal happens to be one of the most photographed monument in the world and it is almost impossible to find a new angle for it which has not been tried already. However, you have successfully tried a new angle for it. You write naturally and it is a pleasure to go through your account. Please keep writing.
I am curious about one thing. Did you correct the colours of Taj pictures or is the Taj really white now? When I had last visited, it had turned pale – may be due to Mathura refinery or Agra’s own pollution. Someone had told me that the govt. is contemplating a ban on smoking in Agra while all the factories and mills and polluter vehicles are freely allowed to make life hell for the local people.
Breezy post, Srijesh. The Taj is probably the most visited monument in India, yet your narration has a certain freshness to it. Like, for example, the camel ride from the parking lot.
However, it looks as if visitor amenities are not upto the mark. If photography is banned inside the Taj, it makes sense to have a depository for mobile phones instead of having them snatched from your hands and thrown out. I also wonder if there are facilities like washrooms and benches.
Regarding the tyre bursts, I wonder what the tyre rating/condition is in those cases. Most car tyres can handle continuous speeds of 120 kmph and 140 plus if they have a rating of N or higher. As for villagers walking across the lanes, I think that it highlights the need for footbridges at such places and regular patrolling to ensure that the fences aren’t breached.
Thank you folks for all the comments. It certainly encourages me to write more here.
I think I got confused with a board that says 250 INR for foreigners only to realize now that there is a toll of 500 INR additional that foreigners have to pay as Agra Development Authority toll tax.
I am sure the speed that a tyre can handle is also a function of the air pressure etc.no?
@ Sushant: I did not correct the colors in my pics. They are as original as they come. In fact, even I had heard rumours of government planning to move Mathura refinery sometime back. Not sure though. I sincerely wish UP Government could have done more to the Taj surroundings. Currently everything outside the taj fences is pretty sub-standard. With the kind of traffic that this monument witnesses, arrangements are not there.
The caretaker inside, takes around 10-20 bucks from the guide and allows people to photograph. Mostly these are foreign tourists. I saw him snatch a mobile and throw it on the floor when a guy from India tried to do that for free :)
Glad to know that photography is not banned and that the caretaker expects a baksheesh for giving his permission. Funny how easily laws can be circumvented in our country.
Regarding tyre pressures, overinflation is unsafe at any speed. The ratings are valid only if the pressure is as specified. Underinflation is justified only in case one is driving on sand in order to give better grip.
My car’s OEM tyres are T rated which means that they are good for speeds upto 190 kmph. I rarely exceed 120 kmph; yet, I did have a tyre burst recently with brand new tyres on a lousy potholed “highway” in Odisha. It was the first such experience in over 25 years of driving. I wrote about it a couple of months back on ghumakkar.
Liked your description.. am geared up to visit Taj soon :)
Leaving Gzb at 0630 to arrive Taj at 0945 is sure a dream come true. Thanks for detailed info on the Taj e’way.
Enjoyed the post thoroughly,
Took the expressway recently upto Jewar. In fact the expressway has been built on our ancestral land in Mathura! It is truly awesome and compares with the American expressways.
They say the tyre bursts because it is concrete in most parts. If that was the case, then there would have been dozen class action suits in US and they would have stopped building concrete highways.
You just need to know your car and the condition of tyres. And some grey matter in head always helps.
It is amazing that I have never been to the Taj Mahal.
Thanks for the tips.
So it took you close to three years to return here with this beautiful and racy narration. Thank you. I managed to do my first drive on Yamuna Expressway, till Mathura. We were Bharatpur bound. It is indeed a long strip of nothing, a true blue dry highway drive where you can keep clocking miles without almost zero effort (and it gets pretty boring as well).
On the way back, we stopped at TollNo2 Refreshment place and it was pretty horrible. I looked around and it seems be run by nutrika.co.in folks. Poor quality stuff at steep prices with little to No investment in infrastructure. Guessing that it would get better.
Back to you story, I thoroughly enjoyed the log with some very useful tit-bits.
I am leaving the link of your first story for the reading pleasure of fellow Ghumakkars
Please respond to comment when you can. Look fwd to read more.