Egypt is the last country of a one month four country tour that I have just completed. It really just fell on my lap after a good friend of mine suggested it and I said “why not?” I am very spontaneous like that. I have to give my friend Kristen all the credit on this one. She did all the research for a one-week stay since I was already busy with two other travel itineraries.
Egypt is majestic. I liked that I was able to visit in a time not invaded by tourists. I really wish I was able to read up on Egypt before I went on this journey but like I said before, it was a spur-of-the moment decision and now is when I will be doing my reading. The slaves that carved the rocks and filled them with stories, art and history is proof they were intelligent beyond their time. It is a shame they spent a lifetime working on just one tomb for the Pharaohs. The most impactful moment for me was when I was able to see King Tut Ankh Amun’s tomb and his mummy. To be able to see and touch his tomb was beyond priceless. It is quite sad there is not more security protecting his mummy or any of the other temples for that matter. I asked why and the guards simply said there simply was not enough money for it. My favorite Queen resulted in being Queen Nefertari. The great royal wife of Pharaoh Rameses II. Her name means “The beautiful one has come.” I fell infatuated with her by the end of my trip. I want to be Nefertari for Halloween! Too much?
To be able to walk amongst Kings and Queens is indescribable. I liked being confused with being an Egyptian. I even got to wear a Crown Snake outside the Karnak: Temple of Amun. Partying it up with Nubians in their village was a special experience as well. A whole group of dancers and musicians stopped by a local hotel that my group and I visited to welcome us. I danced, saw crocodiles and learned about different spices.
What I did not like at all was that there is a lot of pollution. I had to be really precise on how and where I would take my shots in order to keep the trash out of my pictures. Hopefully tourists posting pictures on their social media accounts will entice more tourism that way. I would really like for the government to exercise stricter policies on pollution. The history and beauty this place bears is epic. The world needs to witness it.
First off. Egypt is a year-round destination, with fall (Sept-Nov) and spring (Feb-Apr) being the best seasons to travel. I am actually writing this article right now from my boat cruise on the Nile on this amazing eighth of February. Even though it is still hot during the day, temperatures drop significantly during the evenings and mornings. I had a pashmina and light jean jacket with me at all times during our tours.
I do travel a lot so I like to keep my costs down whenever I can; lodging is one of the main areas where I get to do just that. I stay in hostels that I can find at Hostelworld. I find it is the best option for me. By doing this, it allows me to better use my funds for what is more important. I stayed at Meramees Hostel in downtown Cairo. My friend and I shared a private room with its own bathroom for only ten dollars each. It had a great view with our own balcony and a great restaurant recommendation nearby. It included airport pick up, breakfast and hookah time with the rest of the guests and Ahmed, the owner. This guy is quite the character. The great thing about hostels is they offer tours and packages with other guests in the hostel for minimal prices. I love meeting new people and it is a great way to get to know other cultures.
What to do
In the previous paragraph I mentioned the hostel included tour packages and they gave us a great deal that included the following for $470 USD- NOT included are Temple and Museum entrance fees:
- Egypt Papyrus Museum (Free)
- Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx (we paid extra $380 LE for a guided tour that lasted 1.5 hrs on a horse. They give you an option to ride a camel as well. Make sure you wear pants that day.)
- Saqqara (we passed by it and took a scenic picture)
- Dahshur (free entrance. I got to be inside a pyramid!)
- Memphis (we passed by it and took a picture)
- Transportation included
Sleeper Train to Aswan – One way
- Transportation to train station
- The train ride takes 12.5 hrs
- You have your own cabin, bunk beds, sink, mirror, removable trays, A/C controls
- Bathroom is down the hall from your cabin and there are no showers
- Dinner and breakfast
- Café on board
- Transportation from train station to cruise ship
Cruise Ship – 3 nights 4 days
- Twin bed rooms
- Your own bathroom
- Breakfast, lunch and dinner
- Afternoon free tea/coffee and cookies
- Entertainment for two nights
- Free wifi (very slow)
- Swimming pool/Sundeck
- Room gets cleaned at least once a day
- Aswan-The Temple of Philae
- Abu Simbel (a 3.5 hr journey by van)
- Kom Ombo
- Free time
- Check out at 8:00am from cruise ship and leave bags for safe keeping until you return from your day of seeing Luxor.
- West Bank- Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Queens, Temple of Hatshepsut, Colossi of Memnon
- East Bank- Karnak: Temple of Amun, Luxor Temple
- Transportation to train station
First Class Sitting Train to Cairo
- The train ride takes 9 hours
- Reclining seats
- No meals/drinks
- Public bathrooms
- Café on board
- Transportation from train station back to hostel to finish with Egyptian Museum
*Egyptologist guides that speak multiple languages of your choice are included for most temples, but not all. You have to plan the preferred language at booking.
Lodging: $20 USD per day
Temples and Museums: $130 USD for the museums that were included in our tour including the Egyptian Museum in Cairo (tip: try and get an International Student Card for half price discounts. Your regular student ID will work 75% of the time.)
Tips $$: Everyone asks for tips and more tips, even to use the bathrooms. Set a separate budget for tips all together. It depends on you on the percentage you feel like giving.
Meals: $20 USD per day
Souvenirs: Egypt is a haggle-friendly country. You should decide how much you want to spend. My friend haggled one baby t-shirt for $35 LE down to two baby t-shirts for $25 LE.
Things to know
Egypt is recovering financially from the fall of tourism due to the revolution that started early 2011. Just late last year the U.S. government removed the travel alert from their website going to Egypt. I strongly recommend traveling with someone else if you are a woman. Everyone we met were very kind but it is better to be safe than sorry. You do get men that get close to you wanting you to buy from them or asking you where you are from. My friend and I would simply ignore them or say “La Shukran”. That means, “No, thank you.” Some would just start walking with you offering to provide their protection but keep on walking and ignore them. Always keep your purse in front of you. I carry a cross-body bag and usually put a lock in between the zipper and the ring connecting the strap (I am paranoid like that). You can also wear a small backpack to carry bigger belongings. Always leave your passport locked in a safe if possible along with credit cards. I strongly recommend not carrying them with you when you are out and about.
Taxis are fairly inexpensive but drivers will try and get more from you. Our hostel contact said taxis should be between $80 LE to $100 LE. I did not know any better and the driver charged us $120 LE. After much thought about taking the sitting train back to Cairo from Luxor, I decided to take a flight back to Cairo for eighty USD. I thought it was a reasonably good price considering I booked it just hours before the flight departure at an Egypt Air ticketing office in Luxor right next to the Winter Palace hotel. I honestly think you should book a flight from Cairo to Aswan and then from Luxor to Cairo ahead of time after my experience on the train. The flight is only one hour and it is just better on your body and comfort level. If you book those ahead of time, I am sure the prices will be less expensive. Make sure and tell the tour contact your plans so you can workout a better package deal.
My Must Mobile Travel Apps
XE Currency is a great app to help you convert your currency. Almost all airlines have apps so you can check in through them and avoid those lines at the check in counter. If it is an international flight sometimes you will still have to go to the ticket counter but does not hurt to try. Snap Chat lets me share my journey on video for my followers and contacts for 24hr periods. I can save them if I wish. Uber. Yes there is Uber all over the world. You can use it at your own risk. I have people with me at all times when I use Uber in other countries. Be safe and be smart. Google Maps. Preload your maps and your addresses and locations while you have wifi, that way you will be ready to use it when you are at your destination and do not have wifi readily available. Not all airports have free wifi. Flight Aware. If someone is going to pick you up it is helpful to be able to give them your flight number that way they can track your flight and not be waiting for you if there are any delays.
“Man fears Time, yet Time fears Pyramids.” ~Proverb
A few helpful links: