Egypt is a land of dreams for travelers looking for a bustling destination with a vibrant culture. For Europeans, Egypt has been a popular spot (among Turkey and Tunisia) to go for a resort getaway with occasional day trips to Luxor and Cairo. Growing up, I remember seeing many chartered flights to Sharm El Sheik and Hurghada, and everyone and their mother has been to Egypt.
It’s no surprise that Egypt has been the first place I traveled to solo after my high school graduation back in 2007, at the age of eighteen. However, Egypt for Americans has never been a ‘hot spot’, but after my second independent trip to Egypt I can say that it surely should be! Here’s everything you need to know about visiting Egypt.
Ultimate Guide to Visiting Egypt (2018)
Safety in Egypt
First things first: is Egypt safe? Absolutely! When I visited Egypt back in 2008 safety wasn’t the biggest concern. Unfortunately, nowadays most of the Middle East is currently in a political or social unrest, but we often forget to see the difference between Egypt and the rest of the Middle East.
Sure, there are some regions which are not safe, but there are also regions where are perfectly fine. Just like in any other country and city. That said, everywhere in Egypt I was told that the only rules for tourists in Egypt are to “enjoy and feel like at home”.
As you may know by now, Egypt is NOT on the travel alert or travel warning list for the U.S Department of State.
Tourist attractions are largely safe and not under any threat. Egyptians are one of the most welcoming people I’ve ever encountered on my travels (among Iranians!) and they love tourists. Not once I felt in any danger anywhere in the country, people constantly had my back when I looked lost or unsure
I was very saddened to read a lot of other blog posts saying that everyone in Egypt wants your money, as it’s absolutely not my experience. I met locals trying to help me on numerous occasions, asking me if I’m all right, feeding me good food. Everyone was nothing but nice to me.
When to Go to Egypt?
Don’t make my mistake during my first visit by going to Egipt in the summer. In summer, temperatures can get up to 45 degrees Celsius in dusty, so Luxor and Aswan are unbearable.
Remember that nights can be freezing so bring a sweater and a pair of warm socks. Trust me, you can thank me later.
The best time to go to Egypt is surely between October and April. The tourist high season is considered from December to February, so if you come slightly out of season you will also enjoy cheaper hotel prices and fewer crowds. Also, make sure to avoid traveling during Ramadan.
How Much Does it Cost to Travel to Egypt?
Not much. Egypt is comparatively cheap if you’re coming from a developed nation. For a bed in a dorm, you’ll usually pay about $4, guesthouse would be about $12 per night and a higher standard shouldn’t be more than $150. If you’re backpacking you could get by for $30 a day without any issues.
The most expensive thing I paid for in Egypt was my hot-air balloon flight ($50).
Always carry a lot of coins and small bills. You will have to “tip” many times a day, for all kinds of reasons. While you don’t HAVE TO do this, it’s customary to for instance give some coins to a bathroom lady who hands you a few sheets of toilet paper. I was completely fine with tipping here and there, especially after visiting some of the poorest neighborhoods of Cairo and Luxor.
Food in Egypt
I enjoyed the food in Egypt very much. I ate anything from basic kebabs to local vegetables and rice, through the most traditional dish – Koshary. It’s a mix of rice, macaroni, and lentils topped with tomato-vinegar sauce and fried onions.
If you’re staying in local hostels or hotels be prepared that you’ll be served a LOT of food. Quite often for breakfast, I was receiving a few bread rolls, 8 balls of falafel, hummus, omelet, hard boiled eggs, french fried, yogurt and a fresh smoothie. It was impossible to eat it all!
How to Get Around Egypt
Domestic flights in Egypt as affordable and great. You’d be looking at two airlines: EgyptAir and NileAir (I can only personally vouch for EgyptAir and they’re great). For a flight from Cairo to Luxor or Aswan, you’ll pay about $50-80 one way and the flight takes about an hour.
If you’re on a strict backpacking budget, you might want to look into Go Bus. Their buses are very comfy, cheap and easy to book on the website or app on your phone.
Sleeper trains are another popular way of traveling, but since my flight to Luxor cost me the same as the sleeping train would have, the choice was obvious.
Boat (Nile Cruise)
There is a cruise on the Nile that starts in all of the touristic cities, and most tourists decide to do it. Many travelers think the Nile Cruise is the only way to get to some places, which isn’t true as the same places can be reached by car or bus.
Keep in mind that it’s not going to be a very local experience hanging out at the pool and eating touristy food on the boat. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that but it might not be everyone’s cup of tea. I opted for a cheaper version staying in local guesthouses.
Uber & Taxis
In Cairo, you can take Uber anywhere and it’s extremely cheap. For instance, an average taxi trip from Cairo Airport to downtown Cairo should not cost more than 50-60 LE, whilst a journey from Cairo Airport to the Pyramids go for 100-110 LE.
What To Do in Egypt – Egypt Itinerary
The most popular and best places to visit in Cairo are spread throughout the country. But it shouldn’t scare you away, as there are easy and affordable ways to get everywhere. I would propose this itinerary:
Day 1: (Cairo) Arrival Cairo & transfer to hotel for overnight & Sounds & Light Show at the Pyramids.
Day 2: (Cairo to Hurghada) Visit the Pyramids, Sphinx & Saqqara. Afternoon visit to the Egyptian Museum. Flight to Hurghada.
Day 3: (Hurghada) Snorkeling with dolphins (wild, not captive), afternoon desert ATV trip.
Day 4: (Hurghada to Luxor) Morning relax at the hotel. Afternoon transfer to Luxor.
Day 5: (Luxor) A trip to West Bank (Valley of the Kings, Hatshepsut Temple, Medinet Habu & more…). Sound & Light Show at Karnak Temple. Overnight in Luxor.
Day 6: (Luxor) Early morning hot-air balloon flight. Visit Karnak Temple and Luxor Temple. Afternoon relaxing felucca.
Day 7: Domestic flight to Cairo for those finishing the tour here.
If you’re up for a long visit, you can also head to Aswan and Abu Simbel Temple.
Abu Simbel Temples
Ramesses II built two profoundly captivating temples. They were carved solely out of a mountainside in order to immortalize himself and his much-beloved wife Nefertari. However, it was relocated in 1959 when it got sponsored by international donations in order to save it from being flooded by the Nile river.
Thankfully, the iconic majesty of it was preserved thanks to the careful work overlooked by UNESCO. The four 20 meters high colossal of the Pharaoh himself is dazzling. The inside hall is supported by 8 gigantic Osirid pillars, all 18 meters long – walking down this hall in an enthralling experience itself.
Day 7-10: (Aswan) Transfer to Aswan from Luxor. Visits to Edfu, Kom Ombo & Abu Simbel Temples. Exploration of Aswan’s highlights: Nubian museum, High Dam & the unfinished obelisk. Late flight to Cairo.
Day 11-12: Tour to the Bahariya Oasis and white sand desert, therapeutic hot and cold springs, Gebel al-Ingleez, Gebel Dist and The Temple of Alexander the Great.
Day 13: Final departure from Cairo. For those leaving in the afternoon a visit to Hanging Church and Saladin Citadel.
More personal tips for visiting Egypt:
- Traffic jam and driving in Egypt, particularly in Cairo, can be quite intimidating. But don’t be afraid to cross the street.
- Egypt gets extremely hot, particularly during the summer, so stay hydrated. If you want to save on bottled water get a LifeStraw Water Bottle . You can fill it anywhere even with water from a puddle!
- Always haggle a bit and never say yes to anything without discussing the price first.
- Bring your own toilet paper. The toilets here have a built-in bidet spray nozzle.