The Ultimate Guide to Planning a Trip to Egypt
The land of the pyramids is often on traveller’s to-go lists. Famous sights like the Pyramids, the Sphinx, the Valley of the Kings, the Nile river and the great temple of Abu Simbel are really just the tip of the iceberg in a country where you come face to face with treasures of the ancient world every day. There is much here to explore and be amazed by.
Egypt has a more varied climate than most travellers realize and really the best time to go is spring or autumn so the hot places aren’t too scorching and the cooler spots aren’t freezing.
In summer it can get up to 40 degrees Celsius in dusty, polluted Cairo and Luxor and Aswan are equally unbearable. While they are best visited in the winter, you need a little warmth to enjoy the beaches of Sinai and it’s typically a little too rainy on the coast of Alexandria during the winter. So the autumn or spring is a good compromise to be able to experience most areas with relative comfort.
The tourist high season is considered winter (December to February) and if you come out of season you will also enjoy cheaper hotel prices. Religious holidays aren’t too much of an inconvenience for travellers although the fasting month of Ramadan is best avoided when restaurants are closed and other opening hours erratic.
Egypt is comparatively cheap if you’re coming from a developed nation. You can find dorm beds for as little as USD $8-10 or cheap singles/doubles for around $12/20.
Similarly if you’re prepared to eat locally you can get your fill for a few dollars while transport won’t cost the earth if you get around by bus, minibus or shared taxis.
You’ll get what you pay for in any case. You could get by on USD $20 by scrimping and saving all day, USD $30-50 might allow you a few more luxuries.
And if you can afford it and really want to enjoy yourself, you can easily find rooms for as much as USD $100-200 per night with a private bathroom, AC and a TV. While meals in better restaurants can cost USD $20 or more.
Things that really add to your travel costs in Egypt include the continual baksheesh (tipping) expected, the rather high cost of entry to major sights (for example to visit all the Giza Pyramids is USD $50) and the 10-15 percent tax added to hotels and restaurant bills.
Egypt does have a lot of touts and their persistent presence can be tiring. One way to avoid being hassled is to go with a tour provider. A tour guide will also arrange all your transport, accommodation and sightseeing, so you can sit back and enjoy the ride. Some of these elements can be more difficult for the independent traveller.
When selecting a tour provider make sure you understand the itinerary, the costs, the kind of accommodation and transport you’ll receive. You may also want to select a group size that’s more enjoyable for you and one with an itinerary that cater you’re your particular interests be it archaeology, scuba diving or culture.
If you really want an all-Egypt encounter you need 2-4 weeks. Cairo alone requires about three days to enjoy a few pyramids, take a camel ride, visit some mosques and enjoy the medieval core of its nooks and souks.
A visit to Luxor should not be missed and will require several days to revel in the magnificent tombs and temples, the Valley of the Kings and King Tutankhamen’s resting place. Luxor is the site of the ancient settlement of Thebes and was the capital of Egypt during the New Kingdom.
If you’ve heard of the felucca sailing boats, the place to take a journey is from Luxor to Aswan or beyond to Lake Nasser where you can visit the superb Abu Simbel temple. The felucca trip is one of the most romantic travel experiences in Egypt and will give you a real chance to see the mighty Nile River up close. Allow several days for your sailing trip to fully appreciate it.
If scuba diving, snorkelling or sunbathing are your thing, include a few days in your itinerary to relax at the Red Sea resorts of Sharm el Sheikh or Dahab. The former is more upmarket, while the latter a laid back village. From here you can organize dives, rent equipment or hang out on the beach.