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Miscellany Road Trip

Driving Between States During the COVID-19 Pandemic? Here’s What You Need to Know.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most states have issued shelter-in-place orders and instructed residents to stay put in their homes to help flatten the curve. However, some people are still required to drive to reach jobs that have been deemed essential (or who work in states that have relaxed shelter-at-home ordinances). Others have driven to be with family or to hunker down at second homes. But is driving between states safe—or even allowed? There is some uncertainty as to whether Americans can drive domestically. Here’s what you need to know.

Can I legally drive between states during the COVID-19 outbreak?

Technically, yes. The U.S. Constitution protects the right to travel and move freely within the country, so it would be unconstitutional to prevent Americans from crossing state borders. However, the federal government does have the authority to impose quarantine orders on travelers to combat the spread of contagious diseases. State governments and local authorities also have the power to enforce such measures within their borders, and are doing so.

If you plan on driving within the United States, the only restriction you may face is a mandatory self-quarantine upon arriving in another state. This is particularly true for those driving out of New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey. At the time of publication, these states have the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the country.

For instance, governors in Rhode Island and Texas have implemented interstate travel restrictions. These measures stop drivers at the border to remind them of quarantine requirements. In other states, municipalities have added their own restrictions within their borders. Newark, New Jersey (and the nearby towns of Irvington, Orange, and East Orange) is turning around drivers when they suspect nonessential travel. In March, the Outer Banks in North Carolina closed its bridges and opened roadblocks and police checkpoints to prevent secondary home owners and renters from entering the isolated islands. The closures are an attempt to keep the virus out, but have also been enacted because the remote islands have limited hospital beds and grocery supplies.

Note that no states have blocked drivers from passing through on their way to their final destination.

Will I have to quarantine if I drive between states?

States are discouraging interstate travel by imposing quarantine requirements or recommendations for travelers or people returning home from other states. Many states, like Wisconsin, recommend residents cancel or postpone all nonessential travel, and if it can’t be avoided, to self-quarantine for 14 days upon returning to the state. In Arizona, new arrivals from New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut are required to self-quarantine for 14 days or the duration of their visit—whichever is shorter. Arrivals are not allowed to self-quarantine with anyone they did not travel with, including family and friends.

Florida has enforced a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine period for anyone arriving from New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, as well as Louisiana. Meanwhile, states like Hawaii and Alaska are requiring all arrivals to self-isolate regardless of which state they are arriving from (though it goes without saying that you can’t drive to Hawaii).

What should I consider before I drive between states?

First, is your drive essential? COVID-19 has been reported in all states, and some areas are experiencing rapid community spread of the disease. Staying home is the best way to flatten the curve and save lives. If you still must get behind the wheel, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asks you to keep some things in mind. First, is COVID-19 spreading where you live? You may not realize that you are infectious, especially if your symptoms are mild or you don’t have a fever. Before you drive to another state, consider the risk of passing COVID-19 to others during travel, particularly if you will be in close contact with older adults or those who have a serious underlying medical condition.

Second, if COVID-19 is spreading at your destination, but not where you live, you may be more likely to get infected if you travel there than if you stay home.

Which states have enforced border screenings?

Florida, Rhode Island, and Texas have set up checkpoints along interstates and border crossings. Keep in mind that these stops don’t restrict entry to out-of-state travelers. Drivers are required by State Troopers and the National Guard to fill out a form and declare where they plan to shelter in place for the duration of their 14-day quarantine (if required). That information is then relayed to the state’s health department and allows public health officials to follow up via a call or an unannounced visit at a later time to make sure that you followed self-quarantine orders.

In Texas, travelers who exhibit any symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, coughing, etc.) will be escorted by an officer from the Department of Public Safety to their place of quarantine. There are exceptions, though: commercial vehicles, law enforcement, emergency personnel, and essential workers who work in the state or are passing through to get to their place of employment are allowed to bypass checkpoints.

What is the punishment for driving between states?

There’s no punishment for driving between states, but the added roadblocks are in place to discourage non-essential travel. Anyone found guilty of providing false information may face fines or serve jail time as punishment. Citizens who disobey local government’s social distancing and self-quarantine orders could face either jail time, a fine—or possibly even both. Some states have announced even higher fines, such as $5,000 in Maryland and $25,000 in Alaska. Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that anyone who was caught ignoring stay-at-home orders in New York would face a maximum fine of $1,000.

How can I safely drive between states?

If travel is essential, driving is safer than taking commercial flights or public transportation. Renting a vehicle is still an option, though safety concerns need to be addressed. Renters should disinfect high-contact surfaces such as the steering wheel, dashboard control, and seatbelts, and should avoid touching their faces while driving.

Driving your own vehicle poses the least risk. However, you should remember that risk increases as you make stops to eat, fill your car with gas, or sleep in rented accommodations. Limit your interactions with other people as much as you can, and pack enough food and water for the trip to avoid having to make multiple stops.

If you have to leave your vehicle during the drive, maintain a distance of at least six feet from other people. To further protect yourself and others from infection, it’s best to wear a face mask—this is especially important if you are traveling to a state where wearing face masks in public is mandatory. States such as New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, Hawaii, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and certain counties within California all legally require face masks in public.

Before you decide to drive out of state, visit the destination state’s government website to find updated information on whether you are allowed to cross the state’s borders. Remember, staying home is still the safest option.

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Fashion & Beauty

10 Products You Need from Sephora's Spring Sale

It’s time to give your skincare and beauty routine a spring refresh, just in time for Sephora’s bi-annual sale. For top-tier Rouge members, the Sephora sale officially started April 17, with 20 percent off your entire order until May 1. VIB members get sale access from April 21 to 29 for 15 percent off orders, and Insiders can shop the sale from April 23 to April 27 with 10 percent off orders. If those terms don’t mean that much to you just know starting April 23rd, the entire site is 10% off with the promo code SPRINGSAVE.

This is the time for stocking up on your favorite Sephora products and finding something new to battle any stress-triggering skin issues (we feel you). Here are our 10 favorite products to get you through self-isolation and beyond. Beauty addict pro tip: Don’t forget to pick your free Sephora samples in the online checkout.

Living Proof Perfect Hair Day Dry Shampoo

Don’t feel like washing your hair? We get it. Skip the shower and spritz Living Proof dry shampoo into your roots instead. It actually cleans oil from the hair, instead of just masking it—and it smells heavenly. Spray, brush through, and join your Zoom call looking fresh.

Rose Quartz Facial Roller

Show your skin a little love with this Rose Quartz Facial Roller. Use the small or large rose quartz (known for its “love” energy) rollers to gently reduce puffiness, stimulate drainage, and apply face oil. Store the roller in the fridge for a boosted cooling effect. You can face massage away while bingeing your favorite shows—skin care is rarely this easy.

Ole Henriksen Banana Bright Eye Creme

When Ole Henriksen launched this game-changing eye cream in 2018, it was impossible to find the jars online and in shelves for months. Why? It works—and it does double duty. The cream contains vitamin C to brighten the under eyes, collagen to firm the skin, and it creates a canvas for seamlessly putting on concealer (if you want more coverage). Banana isn’t an ingredient, it refers to the yellow tone of the cream, which brightens and color corrects. P.S. Your writer is wearing this as she types.

Kiehl’s Since 1851 Midnight Recovery Concentrate

Kiehl’s miracle in a bottle has essential oils and distilled botanicals like lavender and evening primrose that work to soften skin and refine the look of pores overnight. You only need a few drops for results by morning—the reason it has almost 80,000 hearts on Sephora. Add yours.

Charlotte Tilbury Mini Pillow Talk Lipstick & Liner

Now might not seem like the time for a new lip look, but hear us out. The Charlotte Tilbury lipstick and liner basically broke the internet when they launched. Why? The subtle color re-shapes and re-sizes your lips for a natural, but noticeable pout. If you’re distance dating over Facetime (or dialing in for a work presentation), a few quick lip swipes will effortlessly amp up your look.

SLIP Silk Pillowcases

Spending more time relaxing in bed lately? We’re guilty as charged. Upgrade your linens with celebrity-favorite SLIP silk pillowcases. Unlike cotton and synthetic satin, silk allows the skin to breathe and the fibers won’t get caught in your hair—allowing for a perfect night of beauty rest. If these silk pillowcases are good enough for Chrissy Teigen to sleep on, they’re good enough for us.

Herbivore Coconut Milk Bath Soak

Since you can’t get to the tropics anytime soon, bring relaxing and healing coconut properties straight to your bathroom. Herbivore Coconut Milk Bath Soak is formulated with vanilla notes and coconut milk powder, which moisturizes, softens, and soothes the skin. A few scoops go a long way toward vacation bliss vibes.

Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides

Have you considered drinking your skincare routine? Collagen is a needed building block for the body, and adding it to your diet can help hair and nails grow. We love Vital Proteins collagen, it’s easy to digest, flavorless, and easily mixes into a smoothie, oatmeal, or with coffee and water. Drink up!

Olaplex Hair Perfector No. 3

You can’t get to a salon right now to touch up your roots (sorry) but you can give yourself a hair-restoring professional salon treatment at home with Olaplex Hair Perfector No. 3. Platinum blondes swear by this miracle worker—it actually relinks the broken disulfide bonds caused by chemical (hair bleaching) and thermal (your flatiron and hairdryer) processes. What does that mean? It basically fixes damaged hair. Seriously.

Drunk Elephant – The Littles

Looking to get a skincare system you can actually understand and that delivers results without spending hundreds? Look no further than Drunk Elephant – The Littles. It’s a stellar starter kit that contains eight of the beloved brand’s bestsellers for morning and evening skincare, with everything from a jelly cleanser to a hydration serum to SPF. See what works for your skin, then go ahead and invest in the full-size bottles.

Categories
Packing

Amazon Test: Repel Windproof Travel Umbrella with Teflon Coating

Amazon Test is a monthly packing column where Oyster.com Senior Editor Megan Wood road tests one of Amazon’s best-selling travel products. After multiple trial runs, she reports the good, the bad, and the ugly—saving you the time and stress of figuring out what to buy on Amazon. It all comes down to one all-important question: Is this product worth my money and suitcase space?

***

It’s raining, it’s pouring, and I didn’t pack a travel umbrella. I’ll admit, when packing for a trip, I usually leave my umbrella in the front closet. After all, no one wants to think about gray skies putting a damper on beach days or having to trudge through city streets in a downpour. Packing an umbrella also takes up serious space in a carry-on suitcase, and I like to pack as light as possible. But more than once, I’ve ended up regretting my laissez-faire umbrella choice when the forecast flipped from sunny skies to rainy days.

If you find yourself away from home without an umbrella, you have two choices. Check the hotel closet for a cumbersome golf-size umbrella you can borrow and try not to lose (some hotels charge your credit card for missing umbrellas), or hope there’s a nearby pharmacy where you can impulse purchase a cheaply-made umbrella. These generally last approximately one wind gust before flipping inside out and breaking, leaving you soaked and $15 poorer.

After one too many unexpected rain storms on the road, I decided to make better packing choices. I turned to Amazon to check out my travel umbrella options, and immediately noticed the best-selling Repel Windproof Travel Umbrella with Teflon Coating. It has over 6,000 Amazon ratings and an overall rating of 4.5 stars. And users love it:

“This umbrella is advertised as being almost instantly dry due to its Teflon coating. It is also advertised as being more rugged than its budget counterparts. The advertising is correct.”

“This is a fantastic umbrella. It is sturdy and well-built and I just know it will last me forever. Additionally, the look of it is awesome. I researched for a while before I bought a new umbrella, I wanted one that was an auto open/ auto close, wouldn’t turn inside out on me and was light enough to carry to and from work and night classes (oh and would keep me dry!). I have to say I found the perfect product.”

I decided to take the plunge, and got my hands on a black Repel umbrella. Shipping was fast, and the umbrella arrived in brand new condition, ready for me to test on the mean streets of New York and Miami. In the last three months, I’ve taken the Repel umbrella out for mile-long walks in some seriously heavy Manhattan downpours, occasional snow, and blustering winds that easily took out lesser umbrellas. To see how it traveled, I packed it in my carry-on suitcase for a week-long trip to Miami. Here’s how the Repel Windproof Travel Umbrella performed:

The Good:

  • At under $25 and with free Prime shipping, the Repel umbrella is a steal of a deal. Sure, it costs about $10 to $15 more than a generic umbrella, but the Repel should last you for years, even with regular use.
  • Um, it works. Nine reinforced fiberglass ribs and a double-vented canopy mean this umbrella is truly wind-resistant. I watched as New Yorkers struggled with turned-out umbrellas in majorly windy conditions, while my Repel didn’t even budge.
  • The canopy is coated with a layer of Teflon, making it waterproof. It kept me dry, and when I was safely out of the rain, the canopy dried quickly. I could tuck it in my purse within three minutes. Drippy umbrella messes, begone!
  • The Repel umbrella seamlessly opens with the touch of a button. When you’re out of the rain, the umbrella closes with the same automatic button.
  • Slip-proof handle is easy to hold and comfortable to carry, even with miles of walking.
  • It’s actually travel-sized. When the Repel is closed, it’s about 11 inches long, or a bit bigger than an insulated water bottle.
  • Despite the small size when folded down, the canopy opens to a substantial 37 inches. It’s almost big enough to keep two adults dry, but not obnoxiously big and cumbersome.
  • It comes in a range of 11 colors like sophisticated black, cheery yellow, and a fun rainbow print.

The Bad:

  • I have to press hard with both hands to get the umbrella to close up and fold completely. Not a deal-breaker, but worth noting if you have weaker hand strength.

The Ugly:

  • Since it’s more expensive than most umbrellas, I’m going to kick myself pretty hard if I accidentally leave the Repel umbrella behind at a restaurant or in the back of an Uber. The Repel is definitely worth a visit to the lost and found desk.

Is the Repel Windproof Travel Umbrella worth my money and suitcase space?

Reader, yes! An enthusiastic yes. This is my go-to umbrella for my daily commute and on domestic and international trips. It checks all the boxes for a dependable travel umbrella: it’s affordable, sturdy, easy to open, perfectly sized, and stylish. If you’re on my holiday gift list, spoiler alert: You’re getting a Repel Windproof Travel Umbrella from me. Let me know if you prefer the blue-sky pattern or hot pink.

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Active Travel Adventure Travel Booking Strategy Budget Travel Experiential Travel Group Travel Historical Travel Sustainable Travel

The Benefits of Visiting India and Nepal with a Group


Though I pride myself on being an independent traveler—I was in the United States Peace Corps in Paraguay for two years, have been to six continents, and spent multiple years reviewing hotels across the U.S. and around the world, by myself— India is one country that I’ve never considered visiting as a solo traveler.

I’ll book a trip alone to many destinations without a second thought, but India is… intimidating. Its reputation of crowds, chaos, and safety problems for women gave me pause. Of course I wanted to see the Taj Mahal, eat tandoori where it was invented, and experience the color, magic, and energy that makes India famous worldwide. I just didn’t want to do it alone. So, when I was invited to experience New Delhi, Agra, and Kathmandu (in Nepal) as part of a G Adventures group trip, the answer was immediately and definitely yes.

Pre-trip, as I filled out the India visa paperwork and shopped for conservative clothing, I was thrilled with the prospect of finally visiting India and Nepal, but admittedly a bit nervous about the group travel aspect. I’m used to planning my own itinerary, moving at the fast pace I prefer, and pivoting plans last-minute if I decide I want to linger at a landmark.

I also had a lot of questions. Is it safe to travel to India? Can you drink the water in India? And what about group tours in India? Would it still be a good experience if I didn’t totally click with my fellow travelers?

I need not have worried. G Adventures is a small-group travel company with an enormous emphasis on social enterprise, travel ethics, and sustainability. It offers hundreds of small group tours worldwide, all led by well-trained and English-speaking locals who absolutely know their stuff. I knew I’d be in good hands, but I had no idea just how good. After a week, I was completely sold on small group travel to India or anywhere else. Here’s how it went down.

The Easy Arrival

After a full day of flying Emirates from New York to a connection in Dubai, I arrived in Delhi. The airport arrival can be one of the most intimidating aspects of visiting India—especially for women. Can you hail a taxi? Is the driver trustworthy? G Adventures has a solution: Women on Wheels, a progressive program that has trained more than 500 female Indian drivers to provide airport pickup services.

Not only is WOW an important, empowering way to provide job training and security to women, it’s an easy service for tourists who want a welcoming face to greet and safely transport them from the airport. I was relieved to see a smiling woman holding a sign with my name on it amidst the arrival chaos at Indira Gandhi International Airport.

Feeling Welcomed

After the WOW driver safely deposited me at Le Meridien hotel, I got a second dose of group travel benefits: a G Adventures representative was waiting for me in the contemporary lobby. He greeted me warmly, made sure I had a cool drink, and assisted with the check-in process. I’ve checked myself into hundreds of hotels, but it was comforting to have someone there in case something went wrong with the reservation. I also received a full itinerary for the rest of the trip.

Another foreign feeling: I didn’t have to spend my arrival day looking up directions, making dinner reservations, and double-checking operating hours and transit schedules. I could actually take a shower and unpack, knowing that all I had to do was be in the lobby on time for the first group dinner.

Meeting Like-Minded Travelers

I was starting to see that there are some perks to group travel, but still I had a big group travel hurdle to overcome—the group. I felt a bit anxious as I approached the strangers in the lobby waiting to go to our first Indian restaurant. But I had nothing to worry about. I was among my tribe: international adventure travelers! I immediately hit it off with two women, and for the rest of the trip I enjoyed sitting next to new dinner companions, trading travel stories, and making friends.

I’m still in touch with a handful of my fellow group travelers, and am happy to report that meeting new people was one of the richest experiences of the group travel experience. Who knew?

[st_related]11 Important Taj Mahal Facts to Know Before You Go[/st_related]

Having a Guide

Employing local, well-trained, fun guides is where G Adventures really shines. The tour leaders on my trip (called CEOs, or “Chief Experience Officers”) were no exception.

Our trip ran like a well-oiled machine. When the itinerary said to meet at 8:30 for a New Delhi youth-led walking tour with Salaam Baalak Trust, our entire group was in taxis at 8:31. I would have been nervous about taking the subway in New Delhi by myself, but our guides had tokens in hand. They got us through the security lines and deposited the women in the women-only car without breaking a sweat.

I also loved having a guide on-hand to answer all of my India travel questions.

Sustainable, Local Travel

I’ll admit, as a solo traveler I don’t always think that hard about my impact on the local environment and culture. Of course, I try to follow local customs and research small businesses, but it’s not always the easiest to find that information using Google—especially in developing countries. G Adventures, on the other hand, comes through with its commitment to community tourism. Ninety percent of G Adventures small-group trips visit a community tourism project that supports women and kids, environmental conservation, and/or indigenous cultures.

In Delhi, we visited Kitchen with a Cause, which not only serves incredible Indian dishes, but also employs young adults who have been victims of trafficking and abuse. Another local highlight was stopping by Sheroes Café in Agra, run by victims of acid attacks, for chai and an education on how small groups of women are making a huge impact on local laws and domestic violence. I doubt I would have been able to find these small businesses on my own.

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It’s Easier to See the Big Sights

Our trip was focused on local and sustainable travel, but there was still dedicated time to see the biggest bucket list item in India: The Taj Mahal. Visiting with a G Adventures group was an absolute dream. There are loads of touts and scammers in and around the marble mausoleum, so having a friendly guide to shepherd us through security and provide factual historical information was ideal. I don’t think I would have gotten as much out of visiting the Taj Mahal had I gone alone.

Pro tip from the guides: Visit the Taj Mahal in the afternoon and again in the early morning to see how the light changes everything from the reflective pools to the gleam of the white marble and inlaid gemstones.

You Can Country-Hop

Group travel gets a bad rap for moving slow and staying in one place. That might be the case with some group tours, but G Adventures is almost always the exception to these group travel stereotypes.

After a whirlwind few days in New Delhi and Agra, my entire group hopped on an Air India flight to Kathmandu. There, we explored Hindu temples and saw Kumari (a living goddess), learned about earthquake relief projects, and experienced making momos with SASANE. We also had time to hike in the foothills of the Himalayas and made dinner with host families in Panauti town.

The sheer number of high-quality experiences I had in a well-led group tour in India and Nepal would have been impossible for me to replicate as a solo tourist. Now, I’m a group travel convert.

What to Wear on Your Trip

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Megan Wood was hosted by G Adventures on her trip to the Taj Mahal.

Categories
Arts & Culture Cities Historical Travel

11 Important Taj Mahal Facts to Know Before You Go


One of the most visited landmarks in the world, the Taj Mahal is worth the hype. It took more than 20 years and 20,000 laborers to build Mughai Emporer Shah Jahan’s Taj Mahal, the final resting place of his beloved wife. In recent years the Taj has undergone significant cleaning efforts to bring back its bright white marble sheen, and visitor time limits have been imposed to reduce overcrowding. Before you cross this landmark off your bucket list, here are 11 important Taj Mahal facts you need to know.

You Need a Reputable Guide

Where there are millions of tourists, there are scams, and the Taj Mahal is no exception. Both inside the complex and on the street, men aggressively advertise their tour guide services. However, the information they provide isn’t always correct, and you may be heavily pressed for tips. A better bet is to visit the Taj Mahal (and really, all of India) with a reputable guide, like one from G Adventures. You’ll get accurate information about the Taj’s incredible architecture and history, plus excellent advice on how to get the best photos using the reflecting pools.

Timing Is Everything

The Taj Mahal is open year-round, though on Fridays it’s only accessible to practicing Muslims who visit the mosque. Otherwise, tourists can visit the Taj from sunrise to sunset, all year. If you want to see the Taj Mahal on a Friday, you can view its exterior from the Mehtab Bagh, on the other side of Yamuna River.

The time of year is another consideration to take into account when planning a Taj Mahal visit. The temperatures are most pleasant from October through February; heat and smog are at their worst from March through June; and monsoon season brings rain from July through September.

The time of day matters, too. A sunrise visit offers beautifully soft light and fewer crowds, though mosquitoes are a problem (wear insect repellent). Afternoons see more visitors, but the strong sunlight makes the white marble glow. Full moon visits can also be arranged, and can be breathtaking.

[st_related]10 Things You Need to Know Before Going to India[/st_related]

You Only Get Three Hours

As of 2019, there’s a time limit to visit the Taj Mahal. To prevent overcrowding and damage, the UNESCO World Heritage site has already capped the number of visitors per day at 40,000 and raised prices from 50 rupees to 250 rupees for Indian citizens, and from about $16 to $19 for international visitors. The latest measure is charging visitors who linger longer than three hours; the amount is equivalent to the original ticket price. Turnstiles at the exits enforce the time restrictions. If you stay over the time limit, expect to pay up.

Don’t Miss the Big Picture…

It’s easy to get caught up in the crowds and vying for the best selfie angle at the Taj Mahal, but take a deep breath and appreciate what you’re really looking at. The Taj Mahal was built with perfect symmetry in a time before power tools. There’s nothing behind the complex to take away from or interrupt the view—an amazing feat in modern-day Agra.

… or the Small Details

Once you’ve absorbed the minarets, twin mosques, and sparkling white marble dome, narrow your focus. Emperor Shah Jahan’s artisans spared no expense when it came to adding exquisite details. Black onyx calligraphy, inlaid jewels, and sparkling gemstones are embedded throughout the walls and exteriors of the complex. The reflection pools and gardens add another layer of beauty and precision planning.

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Expect to Take Selfies—and Star in Them

Of course, you’re going to want a keepsake selfie at this marvel. One thing to note: If you’re a female Westerner, you may find yourself approached by Indians who want to take a photo with you. While the attention can be fun and flattering at first, past tourists have felt mobbed and uncomfortable with the attention. If you don’t want to take photos with strangers, it’s best to politely decline the first person who asks for one. Agreeing to a single photo sets the precedent that you’re open for selfie business.

Dress Appropriately

While there isn’t a strictly enforced dress code at the Taj Mahal, visitors should dress modestly. The rule of thumb, or really the rule of shoulders and knees, is to keep them covered. Women can easily wrap a lightweight scarf around their shoulders if they’re wearing a tank top. Don’t forget to apply sunscreen, and bring sunglasses and a hat. If you want to pop in photos, don bold colors like blue and pink, which look beautiful against the white marble.

For more tips, see What to Wear to Look Amazing (and Appropriate) in Taj Mahal Selfies on SmarterTravel’s sister site, What to Pack.

Expect Security Lines

Before visitors are allowed access inside the Taj Mahal gates, everyone must pass through a gender-specific security line that includes a pat-down from a guard. Here’s what you can’t bring: tripods, food, gum, drinks (apart from a water bottle), tobacco products, headphones, chargers, flags, books, and drones.

What can you bring? An umbrella, single bottle of water, camera, selfie stick, and cell phone. Women can bring small purses inside, though all bags will go through an X-ray machine and may be checked by hand. If you do bring contraband, there are lockers for rent just outside the complex gates.

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You’ll Have to Wear Shoe Covers

At the entrance, all visitors receive a pair of disposable shoe covers. You’ll need to wear them, or walk barefoot (lots of Indian kids go this route), if you plan on going inside the Taj. This is an effort to protect the ivory marble floors.

Expect to Walk

In an effort to reduce pollution, traffic of any sort is not allowed near the Taj Mahal complex. In fact, industry in Agra is severely restricted to cut down on damaging smog. Tour buses and cars park about a kilometer away from the entrance. Visitors either walk to the complex or hop on large electronic shuttles. The walk is lined with gift shops, casual restaurants, and aggressive pedestrian vendors trying to sell tourists everything from Taj Mahal snow globes to postcards. Sprinkle in stray dogs, roaming cattle, and food-snatching monkeys, and you’ve set the sometimes wild scene to and from the Taj Mahal’s entrances.

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Give Back

Visiting the Taj Mahal is an excellent way to support tourism in Agra, but it’s also important to give back to small scale local businesses. Sheroes Hangout, about a 10-minute drive from the Taj, is a must visit. The pay-what-you-can chai shop and cafe is run by women who were victims of vicious acid attacks. Apart from lunch and coffee, visitors can also watch a short documentary about the history of acid attacks in India and peruse a gift shop of items made by local artists. Proceeds go to supporting the women and changing laws. It’s truly an uplifting and educational experience that you won’t forget.

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[viator_tour destination=”4547″ type=”3-mod” tours=”9225P8,23399P43,61626P10″]

Megan Wood was hosted by G Adventures on her trip to the Taj Mahal.