Avoid the crowds
Arriving early after sunrise is the only sure way to avoid the crowds. From 10 in the morning until sunset Indian tourists arrive in large numbers and in large groups of tourists.
The mausoleum itself stands on a marble platform. Access is controlled to avoid overcrowding. Put on your boot covers and join the queue on the left for foreigners.
There is another queue to enter the mausoleum which contains marble cenotaphs of Shah Jehan and Mumtaz Mahal decorated with floral designs using semi-precious stones and surrounded by a sculpted marble screen. (These are commemorative sarcophagi, their graves are located on a lower inaccessible level).
The hard stone inlaid stone around the walls is surprisingly beautiful. However, it is difficult to see details in the dark, so use your phone’s flashlight.
There are aggressive and whistling security guards in the grave room to keep people moving. The thrust and thrust worsen as the day progresses and sadly, one must also beware of pickpockets.
To avoid the afternoon crowds – and get beautiful sunset photographs of the Taj Mahal – take a car or rickshaw across the Yamuna River to Mehtab Bagh Gardens on the opposite bank. On the way visit the “Baby Taj”, the marble tomb of Itimad-ud-Daula, father of Mumtaz Mahal.
Dangers and annoyances
Visiting the Taj Mahal can be overwhelming for all the wrong reasons. Be prepared to meet many beggars and vendors there. According to this news report, it has become an increasingly problematic problem and many visitors return home feeling scammed, threatened and abused. Touts operates in sophisticated gangs that have counterparts in other cities who identify potential targets at train stations. Once tourists reach Agra, tourists start harassing them by claiming to be guides or taxi drivers. They commonly use tricks like free taxi rides or the promise of big discounts.
Note: There are official 24 hour prepaid taxi rickshaw and taxi stations just outside Agra train station. Use them to avoid the hassle, and if you book a tour, check the quality of your vehicle to make sure it’s satisfactory.
Be sure to tell the auto-rickshaw drivers which Taj Mahal entrance gate you want to reach, otherwise you are likely to find yourself abandoned in the area where expensive horses and carts or camels wait to take groups of tourists to the west gate.
Apparently, there are only 50-60 approved guides at the Taj Mahal. However, more than 3,000 touts posing as photographers, guides or intermediaries, openly solicit customers at the monument’s three doors (especially at the west gate, which receives around 60-70% of visitors). Hundreds of street vendors (paying bribes to the police) are also a problem at the Taj Mahal, despite being officially banned.
Additionally, foreigners, particularly women and parents with young children, are often asked to pose for photographs (or even be photographed without permission) by other people, including groups of children. This can be intrusive and uncomfortable. This news article warns about selfie seekers at the Taj Mahal.
Finally, beware of the infamous gem scam, which is alarmingly prevalent in Agra.