Motor sport enthusiasts converging on Greater Noida for the annual Formula One Grand Prix can add another event to their plans: a visit to the Taj Mahal on the full-moon night of October 29.
The Yamuna Expressway makes it possible for people from Greater Noida to reach Agra in just 90 minutes. This, travel operators are hoping, will prompt more to flock to the Taj Mahal a day after the three-day Formula One event ends on October 28.
"This year, the Yamuna Expressway has made it possible for those coming to watch the Formula One event to plan a visit to the Taj Mahal at night," said Mohammad Rashid, a travel operator. "Last year, the racing enthusiasts stuck to Delhi," Rashid added.
Night-time visits to the Taj Mahal are allowed in half-hour slots between 8.30pm and 12.30am. "While Indians must pay Rs. 510 for the visits, foreigners have to shell out Rs. 750. Rs. 500 is charged for children under the age of 15," Mahipal Singh, another travel operator, said.
Jalandhar-resident Sukhvir Singh said, "I plan a visit the Taj Mahal between 11pm and 11.30pm. Last year, I had stayed back in a Delhi hotel."
"More foreigners opt for visits to the Taj Mahal at night than Indians," Lalit Barthwal, a travel operator, said.
Several others, however, choose to put up in Mathura for a chance to visit the birth place of Krishna. "Religious-minded people have been opting for Mathura for their stays during the Formula One event. This, they say, will give them the advantage of visiting temples before the racing begins," said Om Prakash Pandey, another travel operator. It takes an hour to travel from the Uttar Pradesh town to the Buddh International Circuit, the venue for the event.
"My parents will stay with me in Mathura. For them, it will be a religious tour. For me, it will be combo package," said Puneet Sharma, a Mumbai-resident.