Day 3-4: Agra and the Taj Mahal 🇮🇳

Asia, India

We had pre-booked our train (#12002 / Bhopal Shatabdi Exp 0600-0805) from Delhi to Agra (click here to read our post about train travel in India) so we were up early and at the station in enough time for our 6am train. It was only a couple of hours long, and so we had booked in the standard seating area. We spent the majority of the journey asleep to make up for the 4:30am wake up!

We had also managed to be sneaky and arranged for our hotel to pickup our luggage from the train station to store it at the hotel so that we didn’t have to travel all the way to the hotel to then go to the bus station for our half day trip to Fatehpur Sikri. The bus to Fatehpur runs from Idgah Bus Stand, which is only a 15 minute walk from Agra Cantt train station, so once our luggage was safely collected, we walked to the bus stand and was directed onto a bus to Fatehpur that was the next to leave. We waited only 10 minutes and it cost us ₹40 (about 40p) per person for the hour trip.

Fatehpur Sikri

Once the capital of the Mughal empire in the 16th century, this magnificent fortified city is easy to visit on a day trip from Agra. Once we had arrived at around 10am, we made the most of our time and were only really here for a few hours, but mostly because we were excited to get back to Agra to get a glimpse of the Taj! Depending on how long you are visiting though, you may wish to stay to experience the red-sandstone palace during sunset and stay in one of the decent hotels in the village.

We got off the bus just before the last stop, as the entrance to the site began. The beautiful mosque, Jama Masjid, sits at the top of a huge flight of stone steps and the main entrance is a spectacularly high gate which you will see as you start to ascend the hill up from the main road. Once you make it up the steps and through the daunting gate, you will find courtyards and palaces inside, as well as the tomb of the Mughal saint Shaikh Salim Chishti, where women hoping to have children come to tie strings for fertile luck. This entire area is charming, and usually very quiet, so it’s perfect for contemplation and your first experience of ancient India outside of Delhi.

We ate at Ajay Palace for lunch atop the rootop, which served great homemade curries and chapati (note that it’s not ‘Ajay Restaurant By Near Palace’ – it’s 50m further down the road and also a hotel – walk through and up the stairs.

By spending a little too much time enjoying the views at lunch, we had just missed a bus Agra-bound. Our travel guide advised buses ran every half hour, but it seemed to be more like an hour than half hour. The bus station is on the main road and once we saw the bus arrive from our lunch perch, we rushed down to make sure we got on – they don’t see to wait long! Again, ₹40 (about 40p) per person for the hour trip back to Agra.

Agra Fort

Rather than heading all the way back to Agra’s bus stand, we got off the bus on the main road towards Agra fort and flagged down a tuktuk to take us to the entrance of Agra Fort. The Amar Singh Gate to the south of the fort is the only entry point and you can buy your entrance ticket here ₹550 (about £6) per person (foreign tourist charge).

Agra Fort is easily forgotten about, considering the countries most famous landmark is just downstream, but travellers that visit here will witness one of the finish forts in India within these walls. Courtyard after courtyard, and the many fairytale palaces and audience halls, it will take some time for the sheer scale of this fort to really sink in. You can also grab your first glimpse of the Taj from here.

The hotel we stayed at in Agra was the Hotel Taj Resort. We have already mentioned the pickup of our luggage which was very helpful, but the main attraction to this hotel was that it was only 500 metres to the entrance of the Taj Mahal. This would really help us out in the morning for our early morning visit to the sight. In fact we were so close, the road the hotel sits on is cycle tuk-tuk only – you aren’t allowed to ride a loud engine through this area!

The hotel also offered free breakfast, and a lovely pool. We ate in the hotel restaurant for dinner that evening, with silhouette views of the palace.

Taj Mahal

The magnificence of the Taj when you first see it is quite overwhelming. There is something magical about seeing one of the most famous buildings in the world, something that most have only seen in TV shows or films, right in front of you in the hazy morning glow.

I knew to be in with the best chance of seeing the Taj at it’s quietest we would have to leave pretty early. Matt was adamant we would would be fine getting there at 7:30am but as sunrise was around 6:30am, I knew we would have to there by then! We left our hotel at 5:30am, and as we were close it was around a 10 minute walk to the entrance. We entered at the East Gate, and the ticket booths were quite obvious once we reached the gate. You walk through the gate and towards the ‘Great Gate’ and the Taj will be right in front of you.

Entrance into the Taj Mahal is ₹1000 for foreign tourist (note the Taj is closed on Friday’s for prayer, so plan your trip accordingly). Tour groups tend to enter through the east and west gate, and therefore the south gate (where we entered) usually has less queues. This works well for you, as it is closer to the more budget hotels for the budget conscious traveller. Again, the gates have separate entrances for male and female, and then foreign tourists (a perk of your expensive entry price!).

Spend some proper time exploring the site – it really is beautiful. Pace through the ornamental gardens and then make sure you get a picture in front of the reflective pond, and on the Princess Diana bench – everybody that knows the Taj will ask to see this! You can climb up the steps and go inside the Taj (no photos allowed in here), and this is fascinating – look out for the “Pietra Dura” – 35 different precious stones used to create the marble inlay on the building, as well as the calligraphy that surrounds each side of the building (the calligraphy gets larger as it gets higher, giving the impression of uniform size when viewed from the ground!). The Taj Museum opens at 9am, but we were there at 6am so we were unable to go. Free entry so worth a look!

Tips for the Taj
  1. Leave your bag in your hotel – backpacks are not permitted, and the only storage facility is at the West Gate. Use a bumbag to keep money, phone and passport.
  2. Small cameras or phones only – use a small camera or camera phone (instead of bag with multiple lenses that you won’t get in). Video is only allowed in certain places, and you can’t take any pictures inside the mausoleum. Tripods and drones are banned.
  3. No food or drink in the site – but a bottle of water is included in your entry fee.
  4. Closed on Fridays – important in your itinerary planning! You wouldn’t want to get here and not be able to visit the site!

We then went back to our hotel for breakfast (it was too early when we left to see the Taj!) and then spent some more time around the pool as we were getting a lunchtime train, but if you have more time, it is worth visiting the following places:

  • Mehtab Bagh – relaxing gardens that have the perfect view of the Taj – go for sunset for the most awe-inspiring sunset view of the Taj
  • Akbar’s Tomb – further out of the city, but worth seeing this huge tomb of the greatest Mughal emporer
  • Kinari Bazaar – one of India’s most hectic, but mesmerising markets is worth a visit if you are the shopping mood

Our pre-booked train from Agra Fort to Sawai Madhopur (#12948 / Azimabad Express 1225-1625) (click here to read about travelling by train in India) was running late, so it eventually arrived around 2pm. This meant it was going to run late and we eventually arrived into Sawai Madhopur around 7:30pm.

Mayans, Macaws, and more: a day in Copan, Honduras

Central America, Honduras

Tucked away roughly 45 minutes from the Guatemalan border lies the often forgotten town of Copan Ruinas. Having falling off of the main tourist track, due to the country itself being in somewhat political turmoil, this charming town seems to be surviving, despite the lack of visitors. What it lacks in numbers, it makes up in warmth and friendliness; in fact, the hotel we stayed in was our favourite of the entire trip for host friendliness and helpfulness. We stayed at Hotel Cuna Maya, a family run hotel, and every morning included a freshly cooked breakfast consisting of eggs, plantain, guacamole, beams and ham. The family were always on hand to help, regardless of a somewhat complicated language barrier!


Arriving in Copan in time for dinner was just what we needed, and we headed straight for Café ViaVia, a great restaurant and bar with a quiet, relaxed atmosphere. This is also a well priced hostel, and they offer some well priced tours, excursions and travel options.

Our first morning in Copan was dedicated to the ruins that lay on the outskirts of town. An easy 20 minute walk from the main square, these ruins are the towns main attraction and on a good day, are very serene and peaceful. We hardly saw any other visitors (whether that’s due to Honduras being advised against travel whilst we were there, or just because bigger parks of more impressive ruins are to be found in neighbouring Guatemala, I’m not sure), and this allowed us to really take our time to explore, and enjoy our stay in Copan Ruinas.

Having made the ruins their home, a huge amount of red macaws live within the area encompassed by the grounds. It is very entertaining spending some time with these birds and watching them feed, fly, and communicate with each other. Having not spent enough time with these birds, we spent the rest of the afternoon at Macaw Mountain, a small holding dedicated to tropical birds and their rehabilitation.

Consider getting a taxi here if you will visit straight after the ruins. It is a long walk uphill, and at our time of visiting, the main bridge for vehicles connecting the road the park is located to the main town was broken. We walked the long taxi route, when we should have got a taxi ourselves. Tuktuks wait at the ruins to take you anywhere and are inexpensive.

That evening we ate at Carnitas Nia Lola and had fantastic barbecue and cocktails!

I have a fairly laid back mind set when it comes to …. and public transport, but be aware that Central American transport is not the same. We had arranged (and paid for!) a transfer with ….. (US$ ) and it was due to pick us up at 11am from our hotel in Copan. After half an hour of waiting, our friendly hotel landlady phoned the company who told us they would be with us shortly. In actual fact, the bus had forgotten to pick us up and, having already crossed through to Guatemala, had to illegally pass back through to Honduras, and back to Copan to collect us! If your gut is telling you to check, do it! We would have missed this transfer completely, and running only once a day, we couldn’t afford to not reach Antigua that evening.

Our Hotel: Cuna Maya

The hotel that we stayed at in Copan Ruinas was one of the best hotels of our stay. A fantastic family ran hotel (the three young boys are very helpful!) with great wifi, air conditioning, and an extremely tasty breakfast. Good cost, and super friendly. Would 100% recommend!

A dangerous journey through a dangerous country: Roatan to Copan, Honduras

Central America, Honduras

After a wonderful few days of laying by the beach, drinking $1 beers, and discovering underwater treasures, we were due to the catch the morning ferry across to mainline Honduras when suddenly, we realised that we didn’t have enough cash to pay for our taxi to the ferry port in the morning as well as our ferry tickets if they didn’t take card payment. The ATM’s in the West End were empty when we tried to get some, and we struggled the next morning (we were travelling early Sunday morning and ATMs hadn’t been refilled yet!) to find another that was working. Eventually, we managed to get some cash at the airport (cash machine in the terminal building), and when we arrived at the ferry terminal, realised they did have card machines and just paid with that!

We paid US$25 to get to from the West End to the ferry terminal, which is in Dixon Cove.

Galaxy Wave offers two departures daily, leaving Roatán at 7:00am and 2:00pm. These then return to the island, leaving La Ceiba at 9:30am and 4:30pm. They recommend that passengers check-in around an hour before departure, but we rocked up about half an hour before and were fine. The only point to stress is that these tickets cannot be purchased online for international passengers, and so if the ferry happens to be full (there is a lot of local footfall), you will have to wait until afternoon which could ruin your onward travel plans – maybe we were lucky!

The crossing takes around 75 minutes and currently, a one-way ticket Roatán to La Ceiba costs US$32 (~£23). You can also travel in first class, which is in a separate area upstairs, but this really isn’t necessary. Check out their website for updated prices and schedules.

On arrival at La Ceiba, there is a long line of tables greeting you as you disembark. Passengers queue up and wait for luggage to be unloaded and placed on the tables for you to grab an attendants attention and swap your luggage tags for your bags. Be prepared for slaughterhouse type fighting – I’ve never seen a collection of folk scramble before like it! Hold your ground, split up if there’s more than just you, and you’ll be fine!

Unfortunately, the only direct bus from La Ceiba to Copán Ruinas is operated by Hedman Alas and departs at 05:15am. This takes around 8 hours, but at least you arrive in Copan by around 1pm. As we were still on Roatán at this time, this wouldn’t be possible. In fact, when we were almost going to miss the ferry because of the ATM debacle, our next plan was to get the later ferry to the mainland and stay the night in La Ceiba to take this direct bus the next morning! This could potentially be preferential, as the party scene in La Ceiba is meant to be quite good, so it’s worth considering an extra evening here to then travel in comfort!

On exiting the ferry terminal, we flagged down a taxi (not hard – there’s lots of them) to take us to the bus station (most non-luxury buses use the main terminal which is at Mercado San José). We were planning on getting a 09:30am bus which is ran by Catisa or Contraibal. This is not what happened though. We got taken straight to another bus terminal which was ran by the company Trans-Mirna, who we had heard of, but not what we wanted! It was 09:15am by now, and they informed us that the next was at 11am. Knowing that we had probably missed the bus we were aiming for, and knowing we were quite a way from the main terminal, we decided to wait. We paid 121 HNL (£3.50/US$5) each for our tickets.

The fun really began at San Pedro Sula bus station. We were arriving into the bus terminal at 1:45pm, and we knew that there was a 2pm bus leaving to Copán Ruinas that we wanted to be on. We jumped off of the bus, and tried to find out way around the terminal, soon realising it was vast. There are lots of shops and a huge food area, but eventually we found the window for Casasola. We had just missed the 2pm as it was full, but the next (and last) was at 3pm. We had an hour to chill with some food and drink, which actually was a blessing having been travelling since 6am! We paid 140 HNL (£4.25/US$6) each for our tickets.

Be aware that if you don’t think you are going to make this 3pm bus from San Pedro Sula, you will not make it to Copán Ruinas on this day! Budget hotels in San Pedro Sula are mostly in the downtown area south of Parque Central and this area is very dodgy after dark. Hostels tend to be in the more suburban areas, and you may struggle to find any on just walking around. If you know that you are leaving La Ceiba too late to make it, I’d suggest staying put and making your journey the next day as early as possible. Honduras can be a dangerous place.

Casasola Express window
The Casasola Express window in San Pedro Sula bus terminal (code NC-57-2 will help you locate!)
Casasola Times
Casasola Express schedule

This bus was long! We sat at the front of the bus so we could see the road ahead – bad decision. After a few hours, having been stuck in traffic too, it started to get dark, and the roads started to get worse. There were no street lights, and the headlights on the bus weren’t working particularly well. It was a miracle we arrived in Copan Ruinas in one piece!