Advice for the LONELY/SINGLE TOURIST---"Taj Mahal" Touts

#1 Mar 9th, 2005, 18:15
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  • walrus is offline
#1
Here's my experience about the Taj Touts. I was single traveller & first time.
(Spelling errors may exist---not intentional!)

1. You will be met by touts immediately when you de-train at AGRA CANNT Ry. Station.

2. The govt tourist counter offers guided tour of Taj at Ind. Rs 1650/= all inclusive (i.e----Taj Ticket price included). Tour start at 10:00 AM and returns to ry.station by 6-7 pm.

3. When you are at this counter a a group of three people /touts (?) approach you and offer a CAR and Guide for the full day with driver for
Rs. 650/=. You have to buy the Taj Mahal entry ticket on your own---IND rs 750/=

4. You and the guide will be dropped at the gate. The tout/guide buys your ticket for you-----the "tout/guide" becomes important at this point since there's no orderly queue for ticket issue with an ensuing "big mayhem" to get a tkt!
The guide wriggles in through the crowd and gets the ticket in under five mins! But you need to keep an eye on the guide as it is VERY possible that he might simply vanish among the crowd with your ticket money...

5. In my case, he seemd to be a little honest since immediately after buying the tkt, i saw him looking for me!

6. He takes you in to Taj Mahal compound, and volunteers to take the essential Taj Mahal backdrop photos (with you posing to the camera). He knows the correct postures to pose and the key spots within the Taj premises and the garden. You hand him over the camera at key spots he suggests and... bingo! (Back in home after processing, I find the photos great !)

7. My "guide" then managed to rush me through tight spots / tourist annoyances and gave me the low down on other fancy expenditure plans/ purchases i planned at Agra---this saved my time and money to some extent.

8. Getting back to entry gate, we find our car & driver missing----assuming that we might be late to come back, he has gone on his own errand. We take a pedal rickshaw back to Agra Cannt station. On our way, my guide manages to locate our Taxi and gives the driver a "shelling"----on behalf of me!

9. The guide however, has his own plans too. He will take you to show some of his own clients------A muslim marble polishing/sculpting shop and a gem studded carpet seller. At the marble polishing shop I end up buying a palm size Taj Mahal made in marble (said to be from Rajastan) for Rs. 200/=. Something tells me that i can get the same from pavement vendors for even better fare----but then i'm not sure! The gem studded carpet seller gives you a good overview of some original Indian gems (Tiger's eye, i guess) but would not force you to buy his products. He's ready to bargain with you. having some basic appreciation for gems, I find them of good quality.I am keen to buy---but find they are simply not affordable...

9. Though the guide is not to be paid, I pay him Ind Rs. 150/= anyway for his overall help---considering my single traveller situation.

10. After Taj, Agra does not offer anything much and frankly, its not a worthy place to spend a whole day (unless you are in a group). Instead of paying Rs. 650/= as originally agreed, I pay 500/=, which they accept. Since I returned by noon and only half the tour is done, I want to pay only around 350/= but since i agreed to reserve the car, I pay 150/= more....

11. I return to Delhi by Kerala Express that arrives at Agra Cannt at 12:30 pm and start to pull out at 12:38 pm. I just buy a 2nd class ticket for Rs. 70/=
The train arrives at Delhi by 4:30.

ADVICE:

1. Reject & Ignore the offer of the Car. If necessary, hire the car only to drop you at the gate---which is at maximum, only Rs. 100/=.
In fact, Take a pedal wheeler to Taj gate which will save you a lot of money. But the tourist guide will be valuable to you IF YOU TRAVEL SINGLE/LONELY TOURIST. If you have a partner, then you don't need the guide either.
But REMEMBER>>a guide can get your Taj entry ticket faster, and is useful in overcoming the usual tourist annoyances.

2. Take the BHOPAL Shatabdi Express from 6:00 am Delhi (Platform no 1) to agraa cannt----I arrived at agraa caant by 8:40 am despite an unscheduled stop for 5 mins somewhere near Surat. DO not venture to buy a Shatabdi return ticket -----the return train comes to Agra cannt at around 8-8.30 pm and arrives in Delhi by 11:00 pm.

3. Never been subjected to embarrassment as booking a Railway ticket in Indian railways (namly Shatabdi Expresses). You have to fill a reservation form stating name, destination from - to and EVEN your age and male/female! Then, you will be given a token number (as in a bank/hospital) and need to wait, wait and wait till your turn comes to make payment and receive the ticket---such a relief at last. Sometimes the Indian bureaucracy makes it feel as if it bestows a great honor upon you when they issue the damn railway ticket. And If you choose to cancel the ticket, Rs. 100/= will be penalised.
DO NOT BUY A DIRECT TICKET FROM A BOOKING COUNTER FOR SHATABDI EXPRESS EVEN IF THE COUNTER CLERK TELLS YOU ITS VALID FOR SHATABDI...THE TICKET FOR SHATABDI COMES THROUGH RESERVATION AND LOOKS DIFFERENT FROM THE USUAL TICKET (Note>> I took the Shatabdi Air Conditioned carrier coach which serves you morning "wake up" tea/coffee, delivers you a free newspaper of your choice--the Hindu/Indian Express---and then, ----whoa---a warm breakfast tray!

Take care to occupy the exact seat number given in the ticket. I wanted a Window seat but my ticket gave me a middle seat. But another kind Indian passenger travelling to Bhopal readily let me have his window seat...though the windows are darkened to maintain the cool temperature, the early morning Indian sunrise thru these windows are still memorable to me......
( Unfortunately, cameras to capture outside views are useless in AC compartment since the windows are somewhat darkened, firmly secured and not openable!)
Last edited by walrus; Mar 10th, 2005 at 20:04.. Reason: spelling mistake
#2 Mar 9th, 2005, 18:32
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  • beach is offline
#2

Thumbs up

walrus,
Thanks for that details to the forum

Also welcome to the IM (as this is your first post)

-beach
#3 Mar 9th, 2005, 18:44
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#3
Hi Beach,

THX---but do not have IM right now----send me mail maybe??

ALso pls visit my dull site if u got some time>> www.ejoseph.org

PS: Have no Hindi knowledge whatsoever!
#4 Mar 9th, 2005, 19:07
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  • beach is offline
#4
oops

IM=IndiaMike
#5 Mar 9th, 2005, 19:47
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#5
Hello Beach!

R U on MSN IM or YAHOO..etc?
#6 Mar 11th, 2005, 07:00
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  • xealot is offline
#6
Hey Walrus, thanks for the tips as I fall under the single traveller category .. although not yet (planning a trip to start in October )

btw .. i think you may have scared Beach off with your enthusiastic curiosity people will generally be more keen to use this sites private message facility rather than give their private email adresses out immediately, just a thought.

Georgie
#7 Mar 11th, 2005, 08:13
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#7
Quote:
THX---but do not have IM right now----send me mail maybe??
IM could also stand for IndiaMike and not Instant Messenger
#8 Mar 18th, 2005, 14:55
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#8
Walrus, thanks for all the info.
i am new to this forum and to India, so i am wondering, based on your comments about not buying a return ticket to Agra, whether i should also not buy one.
Is the ticket buying process easier/quicker when in Agra rather than Delhi?
I am hoping to get the Shatabdi epxress at 06:00 from Delhi and then would like the flexibility to leave when i am ready (so i may not wait for the return express at 8pm).
Is this an easy thing to do?
Thank you!
#9 Mar 18th, 2005, 16:43
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#9
Hello!

Welcome to my thread

HERE U GO!

Yes, apart from the Red Fort and TAJ, AGRA does not offer much else, and both 'spots' can be toured withing 2-3 hrs.

1. You arrive at AGRA by 9:00am on Shatabdi (usually it's by 8:45 am)
2. Be inside TAJ by 9:30 pm
3. Finish Taj 10:30, leave for Red fort
4. by 11:30 finish Red fort visit (if you need that long, that is----If you see Delhi Red Fort, i guess there's no real need to tour AGRA Red Fort since most Red Forts---and even most Indian architecture---are more or less SAME anyway!)
5. You are free by 12:30 pm------what will you do for six-hour period in AGRA till you catch the 8:00 pm Shatabdi?
AGRA is not such a GOOD place to hang around idly especially If you have nothing to do...

ALTERNATIVE>> The Kerala EXPRESS en route to N/Delhi Central Ry. Station, arrives somewhere from South India (ANDRA PRADESH, I guess) at AGRA CANNT Railway Station by 12:30 and leaves Agra at 12:35 / 12:38 pm to Delhi. The speed of KERALA Ex. is same as Shatabdi Express--except it does a brief stopover in a couple of stations not exceeding 5 mins each.
KER/Ex arrives at N/DElhi and you can de-train at N/Delhi by 6:00pm latest...And U have N/Delhi for the rest of the evening...

ADVICE>> DO you really need to buy a SHATABDI Return Ticket? I guess not!
When you return on Kerala EX, if u buy a 2nd class NON A/C tkt, you pay only Ind Rs. 70/= AGRA-N/DElhi and no more. Worth the price for the inconvenience. But a seat is NOT gurenteed. Instead, if necessary, you can go for the KEral Ex. A/C van. Check with the station for details.

Agra station issues TKTs faster than N/Delhi? Do not gamble on this---Agra is less crowded than ND, but i found sudden crowds can appear from nowhere....but in general, it's a much more peaceful spot than N/Delhi and shorter Qs...

BUT if you do not like to moderate your Agra Tour based on these Train Schedules and want flexibility of your own time, hiring your own car from Delhi would be the best option---if you do not mind the $$$$ taxi fees!!
#10 Mar 18th, 2005, 18:47
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#10

excellent, thanks walrus.
2 single tickets it is then.
i heard that Agra station has a good milk bar anyway..

cheers
#11 Mar 18th, 2005, 18:56
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#11
Great thread walrus, just like to add: -

I've heard that the Baby Taj is worth seeing, and Fatehpur Sikri is not to be missed.

Do not rely on long distance trains to get from Agra to Delhi, these can easily be 4 - 8 hours late.

The Taj Express (train 2179) departs Agra Cant daily at 18:55 and gets to Nizamuddin (Delhi) at 22:05.

The Bhopal Shatabdi (train 2001) departs Agra Cant daily at 20:43 and gets to New Delhi at 23:05.

These 2 trains are the most likely to run on time, any other train and I think you would be better buying a 2nd class single (Rs 69) and then waiting for the first train to Delhi, when it arrives, try to find a seat in Sleeper class and pay the difference. (an extra Rs 62 at most)
#12 Mar 19th, 2005, 09:10
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#12
If you get a regular 2nd class ticket couldn't you just take any train back? Agra is not far and you wouldn't need any special coach or nothing.
#13 Mar 21st, 2005, 19:12
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#13
teacchik, steve_ber---thx !
#14 Mar 21st, 2005, 22:19
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#14
thanks all.
so, single to Agra on 06:00 shatabdi express
then when we decied to leave agra, buy a 2nd class single and see what time it is to determine the train we get.
excited now
#15 Mar 21st, 2005, 22:32
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#15
I may have misunderstood you....

Don't go by the timetable at whatever time you are at the station, just buy the 2nd class single, go onto the platform, then get the first Delhi bound train, they announce all the trains in English.

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