I’m going to try to do a better job of keeping my blog up-to-date in 2018. Wish me luck!
Last Friday, we embarked on our month-long adventure to India. After 20+ hours of travel from Boston via Amsterdam, we arrived in New Delhi on Sunday “morning” at 1:00am. We caught some quick zzz’s at a Holiday Inn near the airport, and the next morning we met our driver to head to Agra.
In India, rental cars come with a driver. It’s a bit weird, but you definitely do not want to drive yourself. If you do, you’ll probably run over a cow. I’m not kidding, there are cows in the middle of the street all over the place. There are also no stop signs, or stop lights, or any form of traffic control. It’s a free-for-all.
The drive took a bit longer than usual (about 5 hrs.) due to the fog and a few stops along the way. We arrived in Agra in the early evening, checked in at our hotel, and grabbed some dinner at Pinch of Spice (the Butter Masala and Butter Naan were out-of-this-world delicious!!). It was New Years Eve, but we fell asleep around 8pm. Thanks, jet lag.
Unfortunately, the pollution situation in Delhi and Agra is TERRIBLE right now, which put a big damper on our sightseeing experience. On Monday, the fog/smog/pollution mix was so bad that we couldn’t even see Agra Fort or the Taj Mahal until we were standing 10 feet from them.
We visited Agra Fort first, in hopes that the fog would clear before we got to the Taj Mahal.
Here’s a gorrrrgeous photo of Josh and Winston in front of the fort. Lol.
Winston’s favorite part was seeing the monkeys at the front gate. He has been looking forward to seeing monkeys for months.
The red sandstone and marble was intricately carved and inlaid with semi-precious gems.
Next, we visited the Taj Mahal. I’m sure it was breathtakingly beautiful, but we couldn’t see it. The inside was gorgeous, but you’re not allowed to take photos inside.
Here are a few random notes in case you visit Agra (especially with kids):
- Don’t stay longer than you need to. One day is PLENTY. You’ll want to see the main sights, but there isn’t much else you should stick around for. Agra is crowded and dirty and a bit scammy.
- Hire a guide! We probably wouldn’t have hired a guide on our own, but our driver hired one of his friends and said we would just have to tip him. This wasn’t actually true and he ended up charging us 650 rupees for Agra Fort and 650 rupees for the Taj Mahal. A trend we’ve noticed in India that people are generally NOT upfront about prices. Regardless of the price confusion, we were thankful to have a guide. Agra is chaotic, and having our guide with us made getting around much faster and easier. He showed us which lines to stand in, which path to take through the fort, how to get from the car to the rickshaw to the Taj Mahal, brought us back to our driver, etc. He spent the whole day with us, and I think we ended up paying him less than $30 including the tip. It was definitely worth it!
- Your guide will have “friends” who want to sell you something. Our guide took us to an “art gallery” that was actually just a gem store. The salesman gave us a long-winded explanation of the gems used in the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort, and then tried to goad us into buying some “local” pieces. I’m not sure if this place was a scam, but a lot of the “gem stores” in Agra will sell you fake gems. Our guide also took us to a “marble factory” that was really just a marble store. We didn’t mind the experience of hearing about the gems and the marble, but be prepared to be FIRM in saying no if you don’t want to buy anything.
- Don’t bother bringing your stroller. You might be able to get away with having a stroller at Agra Fort, but getting into and around the Taj Mahal with a stroller would be very difficult. We had to take a rickshaw to get there, and it was beyond crowded once we arrived (especially inside the Taj). If you can get away with just using carriers, you’ll have a much easier time.
- Don’t go during pollution season. We didn’t have a lot of control over the timing of our trip, but avoid pollution season if you can. At least, if you want to actually see the Taj Mahal. 😛 I think the bad pollution season usually starts around November and ends by mid-January.
- If you do visit during pollution season, BYOM (bring your own masks). They sell masks in Delhi and Agra, but it may be hard to find good ones, especially in baby or toddler sizes. We bought an extra-small mask from Cambridge Masks for Ella, and a small mask from Vogmask for Winston. They both work well, and the kids don’t mind keeping them on now that they’ve gotten used to them.
- Everyone will want to take a photo with you at the Taj Mahal. Maybe it was just because we had our cute kiddos with us, but a lot of people asked to take photos with us. We said yes at first, because we felt rude saying no, but eventually we had to start saying no. It was awkward. Some of the photos were with Indian families and kids, but a bunch of young guys also wanted to take photos with me and they were purposefully cutting Ella out of the photo so it looked like it was just me and them. Gross.
I think that’s all for now! If you made it all the way to here, you’re my biggest fan (hi, mom!). ❤