Agra, the hometown of one of the world’s most recognized landmark of love; the Taj Mahal. Although the Taj Mahal is the most well known tourist spot in the city, Agra is also home to two other UNESCO World Heritage sites namely the Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri.
In this particular visit to India, my friend Eunice and I have a tunnel vision. We came here on a mission and that is to meet a world wonder in the form of the Taj Mahal. We hopped on a plane to Delhi and hours later it was mission accomplished.
So, how does one exactly get to Agra?
OPTION 1: FLY
There are seasonal flights to Agra’s Kheria Airport (AGR) serviced by Kingfisher Airlines and Air India Regional taking the route Delhi-Agra-Jaipur and back. The flight time is a little under an hour each way. As of press time, this route is suspended due to the ongoing airport construction in Agra.
OPTION 2: TRAIN
Apparently, the most popular mode of travel to Agra is by train since it is on the main train line of India’s bigger cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai. With this said, it is a convenient way for both tourists and locals to be able to visit Agra’s treasured jewels.
The train ride from Delhi to Agra takes about two hours and you can choose your level of convenience or budget. Visitors usually take the train from Bhopal Shatabdi Station which departs at 0615am and arrives in Agra at 0812. The express train is the fastest way to get to Agra and back. The roundtrip fare includes breakfast and dinner. The return trip leaves at 2030 and reaches Delhi just before midnight. Train fare is 755 INR or 15 USD in an A/C Exec Car Chair and AC Car Chair costs 390 INR or 8USD one way.
From Agra station, you can hire a car or a motorized rickshaw to take you to the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri.
Honestly, I am quite hesitant in taking the train. I have this impression that their trains tend to be overcrowded, dirty and the smell might not be to my liking. Blame my ignorance brought about by lack of credible research and the movies, TV shows and photos I have seen. Despite the hesitation, I still tried to book a train ticket but the best thing I can find is a waitlisted ticket. We have a limited time in India and a waitlist ticket just won’t do. I found out soon enough that Indian trains are always full and gets sold out weeks in advance so it’s best to book it even before you get to India.
To know more about India’s train and railway system, you may read all about it at http://www.seat61.com/India.htm.
OPTION 3: DRIVE
Driving in India is definitely not for the faint hearted. Indian driving skill is a league of its own. The experience is like an “oh my God” moment. The roads are congested not with just cars, trucks, motorcycles and other motor vehicles but with human pulled rickshaws, bicycles, vendors, dogs, monkeys and cows. Yes, monkey and cows are everywhere! I think there are three extra special skills needed to get a drivers license in India:
Honking while driving is a MUST. Don’t ever forget to honk otherwise you might get into an accident. Apparently, the best way to let the other drivers to know that you are on the road otherwise they may think you’re invisible.
It doesn’t matter if the roads are meant to be a single lane, an Indian driver is crafty he will make his own.
The cow is a revered animal and is often left alone to do as it please. They will cross the road when they want or even lay in the middle of the road. If and when they do this, you must navigate yourself around them, applying special skill number 2 once again or use skill number 1 to try to get the cow moving and out of your way.
If you think you have the balls, the guts or the three special skills above then by all means go ahead for a different kind of challenge and experience. Better yet, just do what we did. We hired a driver.
The drive to Delhi to Agra can take up to five hours depending on the traffic. I personally think that driving to Agra is the best way to go.
Yes, the travel time is longer than taking a plane or a train but you get to see more of Delhi and the towns you pass by. The drive might give you a better view of India and its people. You might see something interesting that is unique in India. The drive is somewhat an indirect immersion.
Yes, hiring a car and driver is more expensive than the train ride but think of comfort and convenience. Need I say more? I don’t mind splurging a little in the name of the two Cs.
However or in whatever way you decide to visit Agra and its treasured jewels, you are in for a treat and an experience to last you a lifetime. Travel with an open heart and an open mind. It is not always the destination that makes traveling worthwhile but the journey itself is what makes a trip even more special.