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  • Writer's pictureannasweekendonawhim

Exploring Egypt -8 Day Travel Tips

Updated: May 6

Egypt is my ultimate dream come to life. I have always had a fascination with the ancient Egyptian culture ever since I was a child and to finally be able to experience the people and culture first hand was nothing less than spectacular. The Egyptian hospitality was top notch and very welcoming. Even while boarding the plane in Paris to Cairo, Egyptians were eager to provide me with helpful tips and were so excited to have people come experience their country. This is especially true since their economy has been hit hard due to the lack of tourism from the recent pandemic. The pyramid complex, which previously hosted 80 thousand visitors a day is lucky to even have 50-100 visitors. Some places have been hit harder than others. I witnessed this while being in Luxor. I had several ask for horse and buggy rides and would even follow or wait outside the restaurant in hopes I would give in. You can tell the horses were severely malnourished and it definitely hurts to see them struggle. However, also due to the lack of tourism there are some deals to be made. We were able to negotiate a round trip boat ride from our hotel in Aswan to the Nubian village for 325 EGP (21 USD). Despite the pandemic, right now is the perfect time to visit Egypt. It's currently their winter so the temperatures are in the upper 60's and you'll be close to the only one visiting the sites.

Is Egypt Safe?

When visiting any new city, state or country you're always going to have your guard up. People are often cautious about visiting Egypt due to previous unrest they have had but it's no different than the recent issues that have been going on in the States. While walking the streets of Cairo, Luxor or Aswan I never once felt concerned for my safety. In fact, I have never felt more welcomed.

Baksheesh (tip):

Egypt is a huge tipping culture, so be sure to have small bills on hand. With that in mind, there's also the "side hustle". I was often frustrated walking around the Valley of the Kings. The people who were stamping our tickets kept trying to follow us into the temple to point things out or take our picture and was expected to receive a tip. Simply reply la shukraan (no thank you). Even the guy at the camera check who had given us a suggestion was looking for a tip but it's not needed. However, if you're traveling alone and want someone to take your picture you'll have plenty of opportunities for someone to do so for a small tip.\

Should I get a guide?

I'm typically someone who likes to explore the city on my own. However, when in Egypt, GET A GUIDE! One, they're full of so much knowledge and two, when you have a guide it keeps the peddlers down to a minimum. If tours aren't your thing, get to know a local and hire them to show you around for the day. Trust me, it's worth it!

Egyptian Hospitality:

When entering a shop and the store clerk offers you anything to drink do not decline. By declining the drink you are being rude.

Currency: Egyptian pounds

Language: Arabic

Cairo/Giza: day(s) 1-3

Transportation: Airport to Hotel

Check to see if your hotel offers airport service. Our hotel offered free pick-up from the airport and arriving late at night I did not want to deal with any taxi drivers. If you choose to get a taxi the prices are negotiable. Do not pay more than 200-220 EGP (13-14 USD). Uber is also available but I did not have any luck. Rumor has it the Uber drivers in Egypt cancel your request because they want you to pay in cash.

Where we stayed: Great Pyramid Inn

I had booked a room with a balcony and it offered some of the best views of the pyramids. Breakfast was free and the staff went above and beyond to meet our needs.

Cost: 78 USD per night

Day 2 (First full day): Cairo Full Day Tour with Sun Pyramid Tours

I almost didn't book this tour but glad I did. Our guide Mahmoud Emam was truly the best. He was very personable and took us to places I probably would not had been able to find on my own. This tour included the following:

  • Egyptian Museum

  • Mosque of Muhammad Ali

  • Lunch (Consisted of grilled chicken, kafta, rice, tabbouleh, baba ganoush and Egyptian bread)

  • Local boutique shops (silver shop, essential oils & papyrus)

  • Khan El-Khalili (we opted out of this and did the hanging church instead) and request to tour with Mahmoud.

Day 3: Half Day Tour of the Pyramids with Emo Tours

Our tour was scheduled for 4 hours but it finished in 2. My guess as to why it ended early is because the site wasn't full and there were no lines to get into any of the pyramids. The tour was good but our guide from the Sun Pyramid Tours was better.

This tour included the following:

  • Pick-up from hotel

  • Guided tour of the pyramids and Sphinx (cost to go inside the pyramid was extra)

  • 30 min camel ride

Watania Sleeper Train:

If you've never traveled by sleeper train then I highly suggest you try it at least once. It's definitely an experience and it's a hotel and transport all in one. I chose to use this as my source of commute to get from Giza to Luxor and for my return from Aswan back to Cairo. You can definitely travel by plane if you're short on time but I enjoy traveling by train and believe it or not but the time actually goes by quickly.

Commute Time: 13 hours

Cost: 80 USD per person or 120 USD if you want the cabin to yourself

Luxor Day(s) 4-5

Day 4-First full day in Luxor

We had arrived by Watania Sleeper Train at 0630. There are plenty of taxis sitting outside of the train station waiting to pick up travelers. However, if negotiating a price that early in the morning is too stressful for you, I would suggest checking with your hotel and see if they offer any pick-up arrangements.

Where we stayed: Nefertiti Hotel

Cost: 35 USD per night

I had booked this hotel due to its close walking proximity to the Luxor Temple and the Nile Ferry. It was also only a 10 minute walk from the train station and it was easy to find. If you chose to stay at this hotel and don't have a sim card just walk the road that is directly in front of the train station headed in the direction of the Nile river. Once you get to the main road, which is in front of the Luxor Temple, take a right and it's about 3 blocks down. The hotel offered complementary breakfast on their rooftop terrace which overlooked the Nile. There's also a restaurant located on the property which sits in an alley way. The rooms were not luxurious but seeing how I was only staying one night I didn't want to splurge. Had I had more days I would had stayed at the Hilton Luxor Resort and Spa. It was only 20 USD more.

Luxor Temple:

Cost: 160 EGP (10 USD)

The temple opened at 0730 so we headed straight there from the hotel. It was only a 5-10 minute walk. We were the only people in the complex which was amazing. I had all the time in the world to take as many photos as I wanted.

Crossing the Nile to Valley of the Kings:

Entrance Cost: 240 EGP (15 USD)

What's included: 3 Temples (extra cost for certain temples)

Hired Taxi Driver &Tourist Service: Mohamed Omar +20 106 462 6595

There are several docks along the Nile, which some are used by locals whom also offer boat services. We ended up negotiating a round trip boat service as well as taxi ride to Valley of the Kings for 325 EGP (21 USD). The main ferry to cross the Nile is only 35 EGP but figured since we were already at the following dock and our driver was also going to wait on us we'd go with it.

We decided to go without a guide in Valley of the Kings and right from the time we entered the ticket office we were getting hustled. This guy had pulled us aside advising we pay this price and was showing us this map. I finally caught on that he was trying to get us to hire him. I nicely declined and his response was you'll get lost. For one, that is not possible because there's only one way in and out of the tomb. DON'T BE FOOLED! At camera check, a guy had suggested the best tombs to visit that were at no extra cost were: Tausret/Sethnakht, Ramses III and Ramses I. They truly did have some amazing art work.

Where we ate: Al Sahaby Lane Restaurant

This restaurant is located in an alley way attached to our hotel, Nefertiti. Stuffed pigeon is an Egyptian staple and when traveling I like to try the local cuisine. When I had ordered this dish the server laughed. Apparently, this is a dish that men would typically order. It's supposed to give them stamina if you know what I mean.

Karnak Temple

Cost: 200 EGP (12.79 USD)

The temple was about a 20 minute walk from out hotel but we chose to take a taxi for 6 USD. We went later in the afternoon and there were a handful of people out. Still not what you would expect had you been visiting pre-pandemic.

Day 5:

We were planning to take the 1930 train to Aswan but we saw everything we wanted to see on the first day. So rather than waiting around we took the 1030 train. It's a 3.5 hour train ride between Luxor & Aswan and tickets can be purchased at the train station. First class for two people was only 10 USD. The Aswan train station is in the process of being revamped and it's going to be luxurious once completed.

Where we stayed: Tolip Aswan Hotel

Cost: $85 & $111 USD (cost varied depending on the day)

This hotel is only a 10 minute walk from the train station. The hotel grounds is huge and offers suites overlooking the Nile. Breakfast is complementary and they provided a plethora of food. My only downfall was that the beds were as hard as a rock.

Where we ate:

Koshary El-Safwa- Located near the train station

Cost: 6 USD for 2 meals, bottled waters and dessert

This dish is an Egyptian staple. The best way to describe koshary is it's an Egyptian version of goulash.

Chef Khalil- Located near the train station

Cost: Negotiable, we paid 800 EGP (51 USD)

This restaurant was recommended by our hotel and they're known for their fresh fish. This is a definite tourist trap but the food was really good and they gave us plenty of it.

Day 6:

Abu Simbel & Nubian Village

Temples of King Ramses II and his queen, Nefertari

First stop-Abu Simbel

Duration: 8 Hours (3.5 hour drive to get there and back)

Tour Company Coordinator: Mina Wasfy

Name of Tour: Abu Simbel Exursion 1 Day Trip from Aswan (Sharing bus & Egyptologist Guide)

Booked on: Tripadvisor

Cost: 36.05 USD per person (this did not include park entrance)

Entrance Fee: 240 EGP per person (15.31 USD) Be sure to have exact change.

This trip was well worth the 0400 departure time. Typically, Abu Simbel would receive around 5,000 visitors a day and there were only 6 of us exploring this site. Pre-pandemic there would be several buses lined up at the military check point waiting in line to be escorted to Abu Simbel. Luckily, there was no wait for us and we just had our own personal military personnel on the shuttle bus with us. He was super friendly.

Nubian Village:

We were able to negotiate a round trip boat ride from this guy who docks his boat at our hotel. We paid a total of 325 EGP (21 USD). Otherwise, to get the Nubian Village you can take a taxi to the main ferry dock or if you're lucky you may have several people flood you to ride their boat as you step out to the main road, which then there are deals to be made.

Day 7: Philae Temple/Temple of Isis

Cost: 180 EGP (11.48 USD) per person

Boat Cost: 170 EGP (10.85 USD) The cost of the boat ride is paid separately. As you're walking down the boat ramp you will see several boats which are operated by the Nubians. They will be the ones to take you over to the temple. The cost of the boat includes up to 8 people. Be sure that you do NOT pay more than 170 EGP. If you are being up-sold there are security guards at the ticket booth and they will assist. Our hotel had arranged a taxi for us and they agreed to wait while we explored the temple. Total cost of the taxi was 200 EGP (10.85 USD).

Day 8: Last full day in Cairo

We had taken the Watania Sleeper Train back to Cairo the evening of day 7 and arrived at 0630, so we had plenty of time for one more day of exploring. We had booked a hotel even though we were not staying the night just so we could have a place to rest during the day if needed. Our flight departure wasn't until 0150.

Where we stayed: Ramses Hilton

Cost: 721 EGP (46 USD)

This hotel is a 20-25 min walk from Ramses Train Station. There were plenty of taxis waiting outside the station and was only 6 USD, so I figured why not. The hotel staff was super accommodating and was able to get us checked in upon arrival, which usually they're unable to do. Our room had a balcony overlooking the city and the beds were super comfy. It's too bad I didn't have a full night stay. There was also complementary breakfast, a bank on site, a casino and a rooftop bar. The hotel does offer shuttle service to the airport for 329 EGP (21 USD). However, there are plenty of taxis driving past outside the secured gated area, so you can negotiate if you don't feel like paying hotel prices.


What we did on last day:

  • Cairo Tower-Cost: 200 EGP (12.75 USD)per person. This was a 15 min walk from our hotel. We chose not to pay the entrance fee to go in but it was cool to see it up close.

  • Khan El-Khalili-Bazaar Duration: 2-3 hours

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