Listed below are a few points that you will not regret reading –
- The entry fee to the Pancha Rathas and the Shore Temple is INR 10 for Indian citizens, and US$ 5 for foreign nationals. Children under the age of fifteen get in for free, possibly for historic karma-points. Admission to the surrounding monuments is free. Sale of entry tickets closes at 5:30 pm IST.
- While still photography is allowed at no extra charge, INR 25 is charged for video shoots.
- The sites are open all seven days of the week, and timings for all the sites are standard – 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- Common sense dictates avoiding the sites between 1 PM and 4 PM IST, as the sun is at its highest and harshest then. Since sunrise and sunset add exponentially to the beauty of the sites, try visiting at dawn or dusk for best views.
- Do not forget to carry a good sunblock with UVA and UVB protection. A matte or gel-based sunblock is recommended, as the humidity may cause moisturizing sunblocks to get ultra-sticky. You can also pop a container of aloe gel in your bag, for some post-sun TLC.
- Carry an umbrella, or a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses. Remember that in beach towns, the sun is not always your friend, even in winter.
- Wear light-coloured and loose clothes. To avoid sun tan and sun burns, I recommend wearing clothes that cover – yes, it is really tempting to wear shorts and sleeveless shirts, but keep in mind that the harsh sun will do nasty things to your skin. I wore a cotton tank top and layered it with a light scarf, and a pair of floral cotton harem pants. Additionally, while Mahabalipuram locals get tourists in a melange of outfits by the truckload, it is best to wear clothes that do not shock/scandalize them too much – be a Roman while in Rome.
- In terms of footwear, comfortable sandals/flip-flops are recommended if you intend to walk around, as quite a few of the sites are located in sandy areas. These should work even if you intend to take a bicycle to cover the area.
- It bodes well to carry a few bottles of water; it is best to carry a PET bottle filled with water, but in case you buy water bottles from stores, please discard the used bottles (crush them first) into bins. The town will thank you.
There are several places to visit in Mahabalipuram, besides the two that we did. A little planning goes a long way, so try to create a basic itinerary to make the best use of your time at this historical town, without making enemies with the sun.