So, if you want to celebrate a milestone, you or your significant other just added a feather to their hat, a promotion, business expansion, or a birthday, maybe you just turned 40 and are thinking of the best way to mark the occasion, especially if money isn’t a problem.
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Perhaps a trip to Italy, but wait a minute that’s too much of a popular destination, there are going to be too many people there, and maybe you value your privacy and don’t want strangers in your business. So where else can you travel to that is exciting and affords you freedom with your partner? The possibilities are vast.
How about spending some time alone with your loved ones in Egypt? Such an exotic location with the prospect of a thrilling adventure that could let any curious imagination run wild with the promise such a trip would have for a short timeframe.
Hold up though, what do you know about this destination? Is it even safe for couples or solo travelers? Do they have gay rights over there? Should you opt for a guided tour or not? What are the key points to consider when planning a trip to Egypt as an independent excursion? What should you pack? These concerns and more will be addressed here.
Historical Conflicts In Egypt
Since the protests and revolution in 2011, Egypt has grappled with civil unrest, leading to a significant decline in tourism, subsequent unemployment surges, and political instability. The country has experienced significant amounts of demonstrations, leadership changes, sporadic outbreaks of violence, and periods of repression.
A new generation of activists injected vitality into the stagnant political landscape through nationwide protests that led to the removal of President Hosni Mubarak. However, they were subsequently marginalized by fierce competition between the military, secular factions, and the long-prohibited Islamist group, the Muslim Brotherhood.
During Egypt’s initial attempts at democratic elections in 2011 and 2012, the Brotherhood secured the presidency and a significant portion of parliamentary seats. Yet, their ascendancy was short-lived. The judiciary annulled the parliamentary elections and disbanded the legislature in 2012.
In 2013, amidst mounting tension, Egypt’s political turmoil reached a breaking point when the military, under the leadership of Abdel-Fattah El-Sissi, a former field marshal and chief-of-staff, ousted President Mohamed Morsi, who was the sole civilian president democratically elected in the Arab world’s most populous nation.
This action further widened the political divide in the country. While millions had protested against Morsi, a sizable number also demonstrated against his forced removal. The subsequent security crackdown resulted in the deaths of hundreds, prompting Egypt to declare a state of emergency.
Is This The Best Time To Plan A Trip To Egypt?
While tourism had suffered, by 2018 it had started to rebound, offering affordable prices and relatively uncrowded attractions. New immigration laws made it favorable for tourist to travel to Egypt. We’ll take you through all you need to be aware of when you plan a trip to Egypt.
Trip To Egypt By Way Of Tour Companies
Most tourists prefer planning their trips rather than joining organized tours. This of course is due to the flexibility of choosing your flight and accommodation and not being part of a large group led by a tour guide. However, considering the challenges travelers may face in Egypt, especially if they are an all-female group, a balance must be struck between independence and support.
It is recommended that you reach out to different tour companies in your country as well as in Egypt. And always have it at the back of your mind that offerings and prices vary significantly. For instance, US-based companies tend to be pricier compared to those in Europe or Egypt. Many of them usually insist on fixed tour dates and this might not align with your work schedule, others could require you to make all travel arrangements exclusively through them, which might not be feasible.
To be practical in planning your Egypt trip, a semi-independent approach is sometimes required. Taking charge of booking your hotels and flights to suit your preferences and schedules, as well as taking advantage of loyalty points and miles. However, daily tours and airport transfers could be done by enlisting the services of local companies in Egypt.
Word of caution: Thoroughly research tour companies before committing. Their offerings can differ greatly, so it’s essential to clarify what is included in the package and what is not. Inquire about additional expenses such as entrance fees, whether special attractions like King Tut’s Tomb are covered, airport transfers, the quality of guides, tipping customs, and other pertinent details.
Best Tour Companies: Egypt Vacation Packages
Your Egypt Tours
For tourists interested in outsourcing all travel arrangements to a company in Egypt, then opting for Your Egypt Tours is your best bet. With over 23 years of experience in offering exceptional packaged tour services which has left stellar reviews of their dedication to quality for all involved.
From their booking representative, who efficiently manage everything through email, to knowledgeable guides in Cairo and Luxor, along with their accommodating drivers, every aspect of your experience is guaranteed to leave a lasting memory (and no, we are not affiliates for this company lol). They are known to demonstrate flexibility and eagerness to cater to broad preferences.
For instance, tour guides in both Cairo and Luxor are well-educated Egyptians licensed as Egyptologists. Proficient in English, they will gladly engage and respond to numerous inquiries, not only about the sites being visited but also about everyday life, culture, and politics in Egypt.
Whenever you suggest changes, they respond with, “It’s your tour, we can accommodate your preferences.” Whether you have a predetermined itinerary, it’s easy to seamlessly adjust your schedule and tour destinations upon arrival.
The overall cost, approximately $50 per person per day, is quite reasonable, considering the fully customized and private nature of the tour. This encompasses guide services, transportation with a driver and van, airport transfers (four in Cairo, two in Luxor), and most admission fees.
There will be additional charges for optional experiences like entrance to King Tut’s tomb and a photo pass for the Valley of the Kings, so this should be anticipated. These tour guides also are receptive to tips after each tour in Cairo and Luxor.
The vans provided are comfortable and clean, equipped with air conditioning, and complimentary bottles of water are always available. Additionally, they recommend budget-friendly local eateries for lunch on several occasions (meal cost not included).
Word of Caution: While opting for an Egypt vacation package tour is more economical, it lacks the personalized attention and flexibility you would enjoy with Your Egypt Tours.
Tourist interested in vacation to Egypt from Europe or North America and want all the hassle of planning this adventure taken from them should definitely go with Encounter travels. Their tours are meticulously crafted to provide travelers with exceptional experiences in each destination, offering excellent value without compromising on quality to save time or money.
While striving to maintain consistency in the overall style and inclusions/exclusions across different tours, by adapting to highlight the unique attractions and activities of each city in Egypt. Group sizes for their set departure tours are deliberately kept small, typically accommodating no more than two to twenty travelers per tour group, ensuring a personalized and inclusive experience for everyone.
They have different Egypt vacation packages, like their Global Express Tour which sees tourists given an 8-day tour of Egypt that covers destinations such as the great Pyramids & Sphinx, the beautiful Philae temple by boat, Nile felucca cruise, traditional Nubian Villages Pharaonic sites of Luxor’s East and West Banks, back streets of the Khan-el-Khalili bazaar.
As well as accommodation in a 4-star hotel that comes with complimentary breakfast and dinner, they provide transportation in the form of air-conditioned minibuses/coaches and overnight trains. The tours are also given in small groups of 2 to 18 people.
Encounter travels plots your itinerary for the entire 8-day trip. However, all tourists are at liberty to make inclusions and exclusions were they see fit as the process is fully bespoke.
Word of Advice: Many hotels and Nile cruise ships in Egypt offer a special festive dinner with entertainment on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. While payment for Christmas Eve dinners is typically optional, it’s usually mandatory for New Year’s Eve, regardless of attendance. Costs vary, ranging from approximately US$50 to over US$180 per person at 5-star hotels. Final pricing and dinner requirements are usually determined closer to the event. Encounter travels usually choose hotels where Gala Dinners are optional, but this may not always be feasible, especially for New Year’s Eve. Gala dinner expenses are not included in their listed prices but will be added to individual bookings if necessary. It is thus advised to plan your budget accordingly.
How Much Is A Trip To Egypt?
The lowest air fares for a non-stop flight to Cairo from the UK for an Egypt vacation can go as low as £259. For people traveling from other parts of Europe such as Madrid, Spain the same flight cost €275.19. Independent tourists from the United States interested in making a round trip to Egypt from John F. Kennedy International Airport will have to budget $1,519 to make this trip possible.
There are several elements to be considered when one attempts to estimate the cost of vacationing in Egypt, such as your preferred travel approach and tastes. For those traveling on a tight budget, anticipate daily expenses ranging from approximately $30 to $50 in Egypt, while those opting for a more moderate experience might budget around $50 to $100 per day.
Advance planning and thorough research into activities and expenses are crucial for tailoring a suitable budget. Considering the earlier estimates, a solo 7-day journey to Egypt could amount to approximately $1000 to $1380, factoring in choices regarding lodging, transportation, sightseeing, and meals.
A Week Travels In Egypt: Itinerary
After selecting the tour operator, the next step is to determine your travel plan. Which destinations would you include, and which landmarks would you visit? Would you opt for a Nile River cruise? How much time would you allocate for exploring Cairo or Luxor? Would you include Alexandria or the Red Sea in your itinerary?
Is The Nile River Cruise A Must?
The primary obstacle you might encounter while plotting your itinerary will revolve around a “Nile Cruise,” a highly recommended experience by many. Various types and classes of vessels traverse between Luxor and Aswan (contrary to a common misconception, they don’t depart from Cairo).
These cruises typically span from 3 to 7 days. While numerous options were available, limited departure days of the week will make it challenging to find a company that is suited for both your preferences and budget.
Choices range from the historic Steam Ship Sudan (which, if circumstances allow, would be highly recommended given its inspiration for Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile), to the ultra-luxurious Oberoi ships, to numerous mid-range alternatives, and finally, to the leisurely-paced Egyptian sailing vessels known as Dahabiyas.
However, you would have to be aware of scheduling constraints, which could interfere with the Nile cruise departures, 8 days is really short, you could find out that you don’t have sufficient time to squeeze a Nile cruise into your itinerary.
If this is the case, you could opt to divide your time between Cairo and Luxor. Which in most cases is satisfactory, although in hindsight, most tourists always wished they had spent less time in Cairo and devoted more in taking leisure cruises. The view from the river is quite breathtaking.
Cairo And Luxor? What Should Make Your Final 8-Day Itinerary?
Whether you decide on Your Egypt Tours or Encounter travels, you will want to come up with an itinerary, as this will make your holiday getaway truly memorable. Below is an example of what a travel itinerary to Egypt could look like, but this can still be adjusted on arrival.
Day 1: Arrive and proceed directly to your hotel for rest.
Day 2 – Cairo: Exploring the ancient pyramids of Saqqara, including the newly unveiled Tomb of Mehu, Dashur, and the Colossus of Memphis.
Day 3: Visiting the Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx, followed by a tour of “Coptic Cairo” encompassing the Hanging Church, Monastery and Church of Saint George, Abu Serga, and Ben Ezra Synagogue. Having lunch before catching an afternoon flight to Luxor.
Day 4 – Luxor: Exploring Karnak and Luxor Temple, meandering through local food markets independently (optional).
Day 5 – Luxor: Exploring the Valley of the Kings, including three tombs and King Tut’s Tomb, as well as the Colossi of Memnon and the Temple of Hatshepsut. You could opt for a visit to the Howard Carter house instead of an “alabaster workshop”.
Day 6: Return to Cairo on a morning flight and tour the old Egyptian Museum in Tahir Square during the afternoon.
Day 7: Exploring Islamic Cairo, including the Fatimid area, Cairo’s three ramparts/gates to the city, the Al-Azhar Mosque, the Mosque of Al-Hakim, and Gayer Anderson House. Additionally, visiting the Khan el Khalili bazaar. You can finish off the day with a delightful food walking tour with Bellies En Route, which must be booked separately.
Day 8: You explore Islamic Cairo further while visiting the Mosque and Madrassa of Sultan Hassan, as well as the Alabaster Mosque at the Citadel of Salah el-Din. Then get transferred to your airport hotel in the afternoon.
Day 9: Departure out of Egypt.
Flights To Egypt
If money is not a problem and you have accumulated loyalty points with any of the airline companies that fly to Egypt, we recommend that you arrange your flight bookings yourself. Depending on where you are traveling from, Virgin Atlantic offers regular promotional events for travelers from the United States, which sees them secure tickets from Los Angeles to London, while traveling on Premium Economy class.
However, there are cheap flights to Egypt, which are direct and devoid of layovers, one of the ways to access such cheap flights is by using the ultimate rewards points that many Chase credit cards offer its cardmembers, which are otherwise called Chase Points.
This can be used to book premium economy tickets such as British Airways on the cheap, particularly for people traveling from London to Cairo. Additionally, loyalty points could also extend to acquiring Economy class tickets with Egypt Air for the Cairo to Luxor route. Which are mandatory for both outbound and return journeys.
Word of Advice: Explore opportunities to leverage points and miles for cost savings. This might be difficult, particularly in trying to amass enough points with every single airline to secure tickets to Egypt. Sometimes it’s more economical to directly book desired tickets through a loyalty point portal such as Chase Point instead of transferring it to the airline company. This could help maintain the value of your rewards.
Which Is Best For Your Egypt Trip? Premium Economy Or Regular Economy Class?
As mentioned earlier, it all depends on where you are traveling from on your way to Egypt. Travelers from the United States will discover that the direct flight from Los Angeles to London lasts ten and a half hours without any breaks.
If you can manage to snag a good deal on Premium Economy tickets, it’s definitely worthwhile for the additional roominess it offers. Both Virgin Atlantic and British Airways provide seats with a pitch of 38 inches in Premium Economy, whereas regular economy seats typically have a pitch of 31 or 32 inches (pitch refers to the distance between seats and relates to legroom).
Premium Economy also includes wider seats, separate cabins, and enhanced food service. On both airlines, there are footrests that extend from the seat in front and tray tables that fold out from the armrests.
Travelers will find the Premium Economy flights more comfortable. However, with Virgin flights, travelers have been known to complain about the lack of space under the seat in front of them due to the entertainment boxes and footrest mechanism, leaving very little room.
This means you can’t fit anything larger than a small packing cube under the seat. On the British Airways flight, hand luggage fit under the seats, but it could be a struggle to fully lower the footrests.
Airport Lounge: London Heathrow
While in London, you could experience a four-hour layover at Heathrow Airport, followed by a flight lasting four hours and forty-five minutes to Cairo, resulting in a total travel duration of approximately 20 hours per journey.
During your layover, depending on prevailing circumstances, you could utilize the Priority Pass Lounge located in Terminal 5 on your outbound journey and the one in Terminal 3 on your return trip. Notably, the experience in the Terminal 3 lounge is second to none, boasting an extensive menu with a variety of options available for selection. Such as different varieties of salads as well as wine.
Word of Advice: For frequent travelers, it’s worth noting that certain credit cards provide complimentary access to Priority Pass Lounges worldwide. Considering the benefits, investing in a Priority Pass membership or acquiring a credit card that includes such privileges, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card, could prove advantageous.
Upon boarding the Virgin Atlantic flight, you will be presented with a pre-departure Prosecco. Conversely, British Airways provides a choice between water or juice upon boarding.
The dining experience aboard Virgin features a presentation on a pristine white napkin, complemented by genuine silverware and porcelain plates, rather than plastic alternatives. Moreover, the meal, consisting of braised beef accompanied by polenta and a salad, is not only visually appealing but also genuinely palatable. However, the breakfast offering is normally skewed towards a higher sugar content than most people would prefer.
Flying economy class with Egypt Air for those traveling to and from Luxor, is usually smooth and last slightly over an hour each way. However, your return journey to Cairo could be delayed at security as they require a female agent to conduct secondary checks on female passengers boarding the plane.
Numerous travel agents offer assistance in arranging hotel accommodations for people traveling to Egypt, this sometime provides potential saving opportunities compared to online rates. If you seek to reduce expenses, you can opt to utilize a combination of cash and loyalty points to reserve your hotels independently.
For Cairo accommodations, you can utilize Marriott points, securing stays at the Marriott Mena House in Giza for two nights, The Nile Ritz Carlton Cairo in downtown Cairo for two nights, and the Le Meridien Cairo Airport for one night. Additionally, you can directly pay for a three-night stay at the Sofitel Winter Palace Luxor.
If loyalty points are unavailable, platforms like booking.com may offer more competitive rates than hotel websites. Moreover, they occasionally extend special discounts to members, making it worthwhile to explore their offerings.
Top Rated Accommodations: Where To Stay In Cairo
Regarding accommodation options in Cairo, it’s important to note that it’s a sprawling metropolis with nearly 10 million inhabitants and notorious traffic congestion. Due to this, you can opt to divide your stay into three different areas.
The iconic pyramids, a must-see for everyone, are situated on the outskirts of the city in Giza. If you can, we recommend that you get a hotel room with a view of the pyramids. The forthcoming modern Egyptian Museum will also be located in this vicinity (it’s slated to be opened sometime in February 2024).
For proximity to the (old) Egyptian Museum and to use it as a central point for exploring the city, travelers can select accommodations in Central Cairo, near Tahrir Square. Lastly, on your final night, you can opt for an airport hotel to facilitate easy access to your departure gate for your early morning flight.
Egypt Trip: Where To Stay In Luxor
Luxor presents a notably smaller setting compared to Cairo. Your decision lies between lodging on the Eastern bank of the Nile River, where the majority of hotels, eateries, and the primary temples are situated, or opting for the Western Bank for closer proximity to the tombs within the Valley of the Kings.
The absence of a convenient bridge near the city center on the East Bank necessitates a time-consuming drive to access it. You can opt for the East bank due to its livelier atmosphere. When you take an excursion to the Valley of the Kings, you could ask your guide to escort you across the river via ferry to a rendezvous. If you anticipate spending more than a day exploring the tombs, the Western Bank may be preferable, albeit with more limited accommodation choices.
What To Pack For A Trip To Egypt
We recommend that you travel with carry-on luggage such as the Pacsafe backpack primarily because it makes for easier mobility since you will need to board more than 1 flight during this trip. This will save you the hassle of having to retrieve and re-check bags at the airport.
The Pacsafe backpack boasts numerous theft-prevention attributes and offers ample space for a weekend getaway, albeit likely oversized for everyday use as a backpack. The Travelpro collection has remained a personal favorite of most travelers for more than two decades, and this particular bag is lighter compared to most compact four-wheeled hard-shell carry-ons.
Packing List For A Week In Egypt
- Linen pants
- Cotton travel pants
- A pair of capri pants
- Some t-shirts
- A long sleeve t-shirt for frigid conditions such as on the plane
- Loose sleeveless tops
- Loose lightweight rayon cardigan
- A long sleeve button down white shirt
- A white linen tunic top
- A multi-colored kimono-style cover-up
- A bathing suit
- A sleeveless dress
- Pajama pants
- Bras, underwear, and socks
- Packable straw hat
- Shoes; a pair flat sandals, a pair wedge sandals, a pair slip on Sketchers tennis shoes
- A pashmina scarf, a silk scarf
- A pair of sunglasses
Word of Caution: Closed-toe footwear is recommended for visiting the pyramids to prevent sand and dirt from getting inside your shoes.
What Women Wear In Egypt
Numerous women express apprehension about dressing appropriately when visiting countries with conservative cultural norms. It’s important to honor and acknowledge local customs, especially concerning attire when traveling to places like Egypt.
In Egyptian society, adherence to certain dress codes, such as avoiding revealing shoulders, legs, or excessive cleavage, is customary for most women in their daily lives. However, within tourist hubs, one may observe a departure from these norms, with some women opting for cropped tops and short shorts.
We recommend you abstain from such attire both at home and abroad. While recognizing potential variations in attire expectations, particularly in beach or cruise settings, during your travels, we suggest you dress conservatively.
This choice not only ensures comfort but also protection against the intense sun, minimizing the risk of sunburn. Regarding head coverings, some inquiries have been made regarding their necessity for women in Egypt, the general consensus is that it’s not obligatory.
While many local women in Cairo choose not to cover their heads, a visit to Luxor’s more conservative market revealed a range of practices, from veiling faces to wearing colorful headscarves. You could decide to only cover your head when visiting mosques, where it is required to borrow a full-body covering.
Travel Tips For Egypt
Do Your Research: The Trip Advisor forum is highly active regarding Egypt, boasting a plethora of individuals eager to provide answers to inquiries. It’s advisable to peruse the forum before posing a question, as the majority of queries have likely been addressed already.
Communication Tools: Most worldwide mobile carriers are present in Egypt; thus it becomes easier to get 3G coverage for both Cairo and Luxor as part of most plans. Additionally, many eateries and accommodations provide WiFi access; simply inquire about the password. It’s recommended to consult your service provider regarding the type of coverage they offer for Egypt. If your device is unlocked, you can also acquire a local SIM card upon arrival.
Air Travel Seating: Utilize Seat Guru to access detailed seating charts and select the optimal seat for your flight.
Currency Exchange: It is possible to obtain Egyptian Pounds from ATMs upon arrival at Cairo Airport and another from bank ATMs in Luxor. It’s essential to familiarize yourself with strategies to avoid fraudulent ATMs before embarking on international travel.
Guidebook: Invest in a comprehensive guidebook. We recommend buying a traditional travel guide and always carrying one for every journey. Both the Lonely Planet Egypt guide and the DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Egypt are optimal resources.
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