On the banks of the Yamuna River and 130 miles south of New Delhi sits Agra, a city known for its architectural marvels and Mughal history. It's one of the stops on India's tourist circuit known as the "Golden Triangle"—along with the neighboring cities Delhi and Jaipur—and while it has a number of incredible sites worth visiting, most tourists are here for one reason: the Taj Mahal. This celebrated mausoleum is recognized around the globe and has been deemed one of the Seven New Wonders of the World and called "the jewel of Muslim art in India" by UNESCO.
Transportation around India may seem daunting, but an excellent rail service with a reserved ticketing system makes it easy. The train is fast enough that if you plan out your roundtrip ticket, you could visit Agra for a day and be back in New Delhi by the evening. Buses are the cheapest option, but the trip takes significantly longer and the price difference is minimal. Travelers looking for the most hassle-free option can hire a private car or taxi, which can take anywhere from three to five hours depending on traffic.
How to Get from Delhi to Agra
- Train: 2 hours, from $5
- Bus: 4 hours, from $5
- Car: 3 hours, 132 miles (213 kilometers)
The most popular way of getting from Delhi to Agra is by train. It's possible to visit the Taj Mahal in a day from Delhi if you catch the right trains, the fastest of which get you from city to city in two hours. The main railway station in Delhi is New Delhi Railway Station (NDLS), near Paharganj, although some trains to Agra also depart Delhi from Hazrat Nizamuddin Railway Station (NZM), which is about 20 minutes south of NDLS. The main railway station in Agra is Agra Cantonment (AGC), which is about a 20-minute drive from the Taj Mahal. Upon exiting the train station, use one of the prepaid taxi or rickshaw booths to pay a set price for the trip.
While the train ride itself is comfortable and quick, the process of buying your train tickets isn't always so easy. You can buy tickets on the official website for Indian Railways, but it requires signing up for an account and paying a small registration fee. Other travel websites are more user-friendly— such as Cleartrip.com, Makemytrip.com, and Yatra.com—but don't always show all available trains and they charge a commission fee.
Tickets can also be purchased in person at the International Tourist Bureau at the New Delhi Railway Station. It's located upstairs in the main building (Paharganj side) and is open 24 hours. Don't believe anyone who tells you that it has moved or is closed because they are trying to scam you. If you are already in Delhi and need tickets, visiting the International Tourist Bureau may be the simplest method for making your train reservation. However, Indian Railways carries millions of passengers every day and trains often book up, so get your tickets in advance if possible.
There are several trains throughout the day from Delhi to Agra, but some of the most popular ones for Taj Mahal visitors are:
- The fastest morning train from Delhi to Agra is the non-stop 12050 Gatimaan Express. It travels at a top speed of 160 kilometers per hour, and takes approximately 100 minutes to reach Agra. The train departs Delhi's Hazrat Nizamuddin Railway Station at 8:10 a.m. and arrives in Agra at 9:50 a.m. The fare in 1AC executive class (first class, seated, air-conditioned) is 1,495 rupees, or about $20, while CC (chair car, seated, air-conditioned) costs 750–1,000 rupees, or $10–$14, with the fare based on dynamic pricing according to demand. The train runs daily except Friday (when the Taj Mahal is closed). There is on-board catering, with both Indian and Continental cuisine served. Its cleanliness, food, and ticket availability are all excellent. Plus, it's a punctual train with minimal delays.
- If you want to get an early start, the best option is the 12002 New Delhi Habibganj Shatabdi Express. This train has one stop. It departs New Delhi Railway Station at 6 a.m. and arrives at Agra at 7:57 a.m. The train runs every day. Its ticket availability and punctuality are excellent, and cleanliness is good.
- The 12280 Taj Express Superfast from New Delhi Railway Station to Agra is also popular (and it stops at Hazrat Nizamuddin Railway Station, too) but the trip takes nearly three hours. It departs at 6:45 a.m. and arrives in Agra at 9:32 a.m. The train has four stops and runs every day. It has excellent ticket availability. Punctuality and cleanliness are good, but there's no pantry or onboard restaurant.
- Alternatively, try the 22416 Andhra Pradesh AC Super Fast Express if you'd prefer sleeper accommodations. This train departs from New Delhi Railway Station at 6:25 a.m. and arrives at Agra at 9:10 a.m. It's fully air-conditioned, runs daily, and doesn't have any stops. However, delays are sometimes an issue.
If you're looking for the cheapest way to get from Delhi to Agra, the bus is your best option. The company RedBus shows you itineraries for all of the different bus companies and lets you purchase tickets directly from their website. Standard buses can be overcrowded, overheated, and stop at multiple cities along the route, so look for buses that say "Deluxe" or explicitly list air-conditioning as an included amenity.
Even though the bus is the most affordable option, the price difference between the bus and train is minimal, and the speed and comfort of the train are worth paying a few dollars more. However, if you need last-minute tickets and the trains are fully reserved, then the bus is a reliable backup option.
Driving your own vehicle from Delhi to Agra is only for those with ample experience driving in India. If you aren't familiar with India's driving laws—or drivers' tendencies to disregard those laws—then driving your own vehicle is the most stressful and unsafe option for travel. However, if the train or bus is too much of a hassle, hiring a private car or taxi is the easiest option for getting to the Taj Mahal. Prices start at about $40 for a one-way trip in a sedan and get more expensive for larger vehicles. The drive normally takes about three hours, but traffic around Delhi is notoriously hectic and the actual trip may be much longer. The best method for finding a car is to ask at your hotel or accommodations. Not only will the driver pick you up directly from the hotel, but they can also arrange all of the travel details so you don't have to worry.
What to See in Agra
The main attraction in Agra is, without a doubt, the Taj Mahal. Many tourists go from the train station to the Taj Mahal and then directly back to the train, without seeing any of the other historical sites that Agra has to offer. If you have the time, don't miss out on the other UNESCO World Heritage sites also located nearby. The Agra Fort is a walled city that was home to the Mughal emperors of the 17th century, when Agra was still the capital of their vast empire. The town of Fatehpur Sikri is just outside of Agra and offers the same majesty as the Taj Mahal but with a fraction of the tourists. Read on to find out more about the top places to visit in and around Agra.
When to Visit
Like many parts of Northern India, the best time of year to visit Agra is between October and February, avoiding the scorching heat of summer and the monsoon rains. Regardless of the time of year, make sure your trip to Agra doesn't fall on a Friday when the Taj Mahal is closed for religious reasons.
A Word of Warning: Dangers and Annoyances
When arriving at Agra station, be prepared to be accosted by beggars and touts. Touts operate in sophisticated gangs that have counterparts in other cities who identify potential targets at railway stations. At Agra, the touts commonly claim to be guides or taxi drivers and use ploys such as free taxi rides or the promise of heavy discounts. There are 24-hour official prepaid auto-rickshaw and taxi booths just outside the Agra railway station; always use these to avoid any potential problems with a would-be scammer.