A few (unexpected) days in Agra with Kids
We never actually planned to be in Agra, and although the circumstances of our arrival were not acceptable we were determined to make the most of it.
There isn’t a huge amount to do, but it’s the home to one of the 7 wonders of the world, The Taj Mahal. An absolutely amazing structure and grounds.
Where to stay
The main budget sleeping area for Agra is just south of the Taj Mahal. However, we had no idea where we were going to be staying in Agra as we didn’t book it (hmmmm… see blog post here if you don’t know why!!).
We were in fact at a hotel with a nice owner who was pleasant during our stay, hotel Grand SM Regency. We had a comfortable stay in our family room which was at least something.
But as it was a little out of town you need a rickshaw to get anywhere.
Getting to and around Agra
There are regular trains travelling to Agra, and can be reached as quickly as 1 ½ hours. However, in our case we had a private driver (again not something we had ever planned on!). Getting to Agra took around 3 ½ hours.
The roads were highways, although traffic rules here are definitely not the same as at home. I would not recommend driving at night on Indian roads. Trucks taking up 2 lanes and moving suddenly, cars with no lights on, car driving the wrong way up the road – oh my!!
Once you are in Agra you will need to make use of the Auto Rickshaws or taxis as distances are further than you think. We wandered from our hotel to the Sadar Bazar area and it took longer than we expected.
It’s much easier and fairly cheap to get an Auto rickshaw. Wherever you go in Agra you won’t be short of a rather persistent auto rickshaw driver asking if you need a ride.
Places to eat
As I mentioned our accommodation was a little further out of the main town, but were still located within Taj Ganj district. The area itself had a couple of backpackers and cafes round the corner which we found on the second day.
There were a number of cafes here, Bamboo Cafe, Bob Marley Cafe and Good vibes cafe. We also visited a couple of other eateries…
Cafe coffee Day – this is a regular site in the main Indian city centres. Decent enough coffee and a range of Indian snacks. Although slightly more expensive the cafes we’ve visited are always clean and deliver the same food (when in stock!)
The greens restaurant
Our driver suggested this as a dinner option for its more upmarket dining experience. To be honest, we were just hungry and not many options available to us. The food was decent but more expensive than we would have liked.
We ordered a platter with a mixture of vegetarian curries. It came well presented and the boys enjoyed the meal.
Good vibes cafe
We managed to find a street nearby which offered a number of cafes. We stopped at this cafe which had a nice balcony over the street, great for people watching. The menu was extensive and the staff were fabulous. They had a number of family games available and even gave the boys free choice on music to play while there.
Unfortunately the food wasn’t that great, it was a little too oily and bland for our liking.
That evening we returned to the cafe across the street, Bamboo cafe, which was a family run small restaurant. I have to admit it was the most authentic and fresh Indian food I’d tasted. It was so lovely. We could see the mother cooking up a storm in the kitchen. The family were very welcoming and the kids were given a keyring gift as they left too – true Indian spirit and kindness.
Things to do
Visiting the Taj Mahal
It’s the main reason to visit Agra, so make sure you get the most out of your visit. It only takes a couple of hours to explore, but make sure you are organised. You need to take your passports for identification.
There is a list of items you cannot take into the grounds, including any large bags, tripods or food/drinks (but you are given a free bottle of water!). Just take the bare minimum. Click here for our visit to Taj Mahal, Agra with kids and top tips.
Sunset at Mehtab Bagh Gardens
In case you take the option to visit the Taj Mahal sunrise then you can enjoy a different sunset view of the Taj Mahal.
Most guides recommend visiting the gardens directly opposite, in Mehtab Bagh Gardens. It’s on the opposite side of the Yamuna River and the Taj changes colour as the sun descends.
The entrance to the area is along a small road and parking is hectic. You can easily organise a auto rickshaw or taxi. It’s about a half an hour drive.
The gardens themselves are quite nice and our kids, once they’d ‘wowed’ at the Taj Mahal just spent the rest of the time playing chase and shooting games. There’s actually few places in Indian that you can run around and go a bit crazy so this is a good spot to let kids roam.
There’s a few benches in the garden but they don’t afford the best view until the crowds disperse. most people tend to stand or sit on the wall with the obligatory poses.
This is a fortified ancient city, situated some 40km on the outskirts of Agra and a UNESCO world heritage site.
We were dropped, by our driver, at a car park next to a market area. Beware there are touts everywhere who would love you too see their brothers shop. It’s the usual charm offensive, just politely decline. Unfortunately, you have to walk through the market area to reach the shuttle bus. Note: there are a couple of snack shops and a cafe coffee Day if you fancy some drinks/refreshments as there are no facilities at the site.
The shuttle buses run frequently but there is no order. Get your elbows ready and hang onto your kids! It was also unclear where the buses would actually stop so stick with the crowds. The cost of the bus is Rs10 each. The buses are quite crammed but it’s only a short drive down the road – one you get on a bus!!
Once you get off there is a ticket desk next to the entrance. Cost is Rs 500 per adult (kids under 15 are free). You then go through a quick and non-eventful bag check before you enter the main complex. The boys didn’t have much space to roam and the wasn’t much which drew your eyes.
Overall, we were not impressed with the facilities. Having travelled to a number of sites this one lacked features and ambience. We also arrived in the afternoon and the red sand fort walls made it very hot.
The site itself was very open plan and you could wander freely between the various rooms, but there was no draw. As usual, we chose not to have a guide as we like to go at our own pace and the boys would be unbearable if they were dragged around having to listen to the architectural structure and history.
After leaving the main fort area there is a mosque a 5 min walk away. Again, more touts are trying to sway you in different directions and sell you everything. Some even persuading you that you can only enter via the southern entrance (although locals are using other entrances)..
By this point we’d had enough of touts and heat and decided it was time to leave. We wandered back through the grounds and caught the bus back to the car park.
This wasn’t one of my favourite locations in India and unless you are desperate for some mughal history and into your architecture I’d give this one a miss.
Agra red fort
If you find yourself in the area for longer than a couple of days then an alternative walled city is Agra red fort. It’s based on a more central location and is another walled city which is typically find throughout India.
As we were planning visits to Jaipur and jodhpur, we decided against visiting another walled city while in Agra. However, depending on your itinerary you may want to include this as it does offer views across the city.
The cost to enter for foreign visitors is Rs550.
Agra is part of the golden triangle tour. Although, you only need to spend a couple of days in Agra with kids. The main attraction in the area us the Taj Mahal and even that can be seen in just a few hours. However, whether you decide to view at sunrise or sunset you can squeeze your adventure into just one overnight stop if stuck for time.
Our preferred option would be to travel via train to Agra. It’s a quick (1 1/2 hours) and an easy option from New Delhi. Alternatively there are regular buses, the drive takes around 3-4 hours. However, we weren’t given that option (read about how we were scammed in Delhi here).
Whilst the Taj Mahal is a big draw, the other sites weren’t as exciting as we had come to expect from India.
There’s only so many temples and structures that the kids will absorb, so choose wisely. They can soon become bored and overloaded. Also, try (where possible) to visit these sites first thing in the morning or early evening to avoid the midday heat.
Agra, for us, is a must see destination. I mean who can say they’ve travelled to India without saying they’d seen the Taj Mahal! Bucketlist tick ✔️