Egypt is not a easy and comfortable adventure to take on, but that’s what makes it so rewarding. At times you will feel uncomfortable and unsure. Then you will feel completely amazed. You will see sunsets that rival the best you’ve ever seen. Maybe you will see a different way of life and begin to understand a new perspective of the world. You will see things that make you appreciate what you have at home. If you open your mind, you will begin to understand that not everyone lives the same way and believes the same things — and that is ok. Are you ready to spend a week in Egypt?
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- VISA REQUIREMENTS
- GETTING AROUND EGYPT
- IS EGYPT SAFE FOR TOURISTS?
- WHAT TO EXPECT AS A WOMAN IN EGYPT
- WHEN TO VISIT EGYPT
- TIPS FOR VISITING EGYPT
- ITINERARY DAY 1 & 2: CAIRO
- THINGS TO DO IN CAIRO
- ITINERARY DAY 3 & 4: LUXOR
- THINGS TO DO IN LUXOR
- ITINERARY DAY 5 & 6: ASWAN
- THINGS TO DO IN ASWAN
- DAY 7: DAY TRIP TO ABU SIMBEL
- TWO WEEKS TO EXPLORE EGYPT
Most western passport holders can obtain a visa upon arrival at any international airport. The visas cost 25 USD and you can also pay in EUR, but you will get Egyptian pounds if you don’t have exact change. It is also possible to arrange a pick-up at the airport through your hotel and they will handle obtaining your visa at the airport.
GETTING AROUND EGYPT
We took a combination of transportation while in Egypt. We booked a flight between Cairo and Luxor and a train between Luxor and Aswan. The flight went very smooth, but was on the pricier side. The train from Luxor to Aswan was 11 EUR for two first class tickets, and would have been completely fine except the train was 1 hour late and we wouldn’t have known that as all announcements were in Arabic. Goes to show you how many tourists actually take this route. Luckily, another Egyptian tour guide who was taking the train Aswan to give a tour, saw us waiting for the train and had tickets for the same train and filled us in on the late arrival.
For our day trip from Aswan to Abu Simbel we hired a tour guide which came with a driver. Within Cairo we only got around by our tour guide and private driver. In Luxor, we took a handful of taxis. While we never took a taxi in Cairo, I have heard that they are notoriously bad for refusing to put on their meters. In Luxor when we took a taxi, we agreed on a price before we got into the car. This is a good general rule of thumb in countries where taxis are less regulated.
IS EGYPT SAFE FOR TOURISTS?
Since the Egyptian revolution in January of 2011, Egypt suffered 7 years of relatively non-existent tourism. These years were plagued with politically instability as the people of Egypt fought for their ability to have a voice. As of 2018, tourists began to return to Egypt as the tensions between the people and the government had cooled. While there are still obstacles to be faced while traveling around the country, the people of Egypt have been hurting for so long without the once thriving tourism industry that people will go out of their way to make tourists feel safe.
Now is the time to visit Egypt, as the once 2 hour lines to get into temples can be visited virtually without another soul around at the right time of day. Every major city and tourist spot even has what they call the “tourism police”. There are people that will still try to take advantage of you to get more money, but this is normal.
WHAT TO EXPECT AS A WOMAN IN EGYPT
To some, you are not considered an equal as a women in Egypt. This paragraph is inherently pointed towards half of the population, but for good reason. Never in all of my travels have I ever felt straight ignored like I did in certain places in Egypt. I am the one making the hotel reservations using my loyalty hotel points that I have accumulated from traveling for work, and when we go to check into the hotels the front desk only addresses my husband. When we are at dinner, only my husband is asked how his meal tastes and if there is anything else they can bring him. This didn’t happened everywhere in Egypt, but let me tell you when it did happen, you felt it. It actually made me very mad.
WHEN TO VISIT EGYPT
Winter (December through February) is the high season for Egypt tourism as temperatures are not too hot. However, by not too hot I mean 75 degrees (24 Celsius). We visited in September because that is when we could this trip happen, and let me tell you it was HOT HOT HOT in the middle of the day.
However, the hotels were cheaper, relatively empty and the we were able to visit the tourist sites in the early morning without anyone else around. We enjoyed traveling in Egypt during the off-season as we are early risers anyways. We would get up at 6AM to visit temples before the other tourists, and take naps during the hottest part of the day. It was a perfect compromise!
TIPS FOR VISITING EGYPT
- Hire a guide to show you around Egypt. This doubles as transportation and harassment control. We organized a private guide through Egypt Tailor Made, so we could customize each of our days to what we wanted. These private tours came with a tour guide and a private driver. They were very professional and always on time! There are some sights in Luxor that we didn’t hire a guide for and can easily be seen yourself.
- If you do not have a guide with you at a tourist spot, you will be approached and followed by people that will give you unsolicited tours by following you around and giving random facts and expect money. This only happened to us when we were at Luxor Temple without a guide. We paid the first guy a few Egyptian pounds to go away. If someone approaches you and starts to tell you facts about the sites, immediately start saying “la shukran” which means “no thank you” and walk away. This way they will hopefully understand that you are not willing to pay them for the unsolicited tour.
- Make sure a taxi either turns on their meter or you agree on the price ahead of time.
- Be prepared to be given exorbitant prices simply because you are a tourist. Haggling is a normal way of life in the Middle East and as a tourist without local knowledge of what things should cost, you are a prime target. If you have a tour guide and are interested in buying something, ask them what a reasonable price would be.
ITINERARY DAY 1 & 2: CAIRO
If you are planning a week or two stay in Egypt, I would suggest making Cairo your starting point. Not only will you find the most flight options to Cairo, but I also like to start with the most hectic city first so you have more energy to put towards it! Just get ready for a city like you have never seen before, even if you are well traveled through the Middle East. There are cars and people everywhere seemingly not obeying any kind of traffic laws. People walk along the highways to catch the mini vans that act like public transportation. Off the highways you will find horses, camels as normal modes of transportation along side the cars. Some love Cairo and most hate it, but regardless it is a city you need to see and experience.
THINGS TO DO IN CAIRO
- The Pyramids of Giza
- The Sphinx of Giza
- The Egyptian Museums
- Khan el-Khalili bazaar
- Coptic Cairo – tour the churches in Cairo
- Islamic Cairo – tour the mosques in Cairo
Related Posts: A Guide to Spending 2 Days in Cairo
ITINERARY DAY 3 & 4: LUXOR
As we continued to work our way down the Nile, our next stop on our Egypt itinerary is Luxor. It is everything that Cairo is not. It is calm. It is a small farming village along the Nile without much traffic. You can breath the air. You can walk the streets. Luxor was such a welcome change of pace after starting our trip in Cairo — and it was much needed. While Luxor operates on a much slower pace, there is no shortage of jaw-dropping things to see. We flew from Cairo direct to Luxor and it was stress-free.
THINGS TO DO IN LUXOR
- Karnak Temple – East Bank
- Luxor Temple – East Bank
- Valley of the Kings – West Bank
- The mortuary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut – West Bank
- Habu Temple – West Bank
- Relax and watch the sunset by the Nile
Related Posts: A Guide to Spending 2 Days in Luxor
ITINERARY DAY 5 & 6: ASWAN
Aswan is yet another stopping point along the Nile River with very important archeological sites in Egypt such as the Philae Temple complex, the Temple of Khnum from the Third Dynasty, and the Aswan Dam. Aswan is also a great stopping point if you plan to do a day trip to Abu Simbel.
THINGS TO DO IN ASWAN
- Philae Temple
- Visit a Nubian Village
- Sail the Nile on a felucca
- Lake Nasser dam
Related Posts: A Guide to Spending 2 Days in Aswan
DAY 7: DAY TRIP TO ABU SIMBEL
If you have made it all the way to Aswan, take the time to go a few more hours south to Abu Simbel, a village in Egypt near the border of Sudan. Here you will find two amazing temples carved out of rock commissioned by King Ramses II. Some are bold enough to say that if you haven’t seen the temples at Abu Simbel, you haven’t really seen Egypt.
Related Posts: A Guide to Spending 2 Days in Aswan
TWO WEEKS TO EXPLORE EGYPT
If you plan to spend two weeks in Egypt after Cairo, you can extend this itinerary by heading north after Cairo via a daily 3 hour bus ride to explore Alexandria and the Suez Canal. From there you can explore the Sinai Peninsula and then take a ferry to Hurghada. From Hurghada you can head straight to Luxor and pick up the itinerary above.
Other additions to the above itinerary are a day trip to Kom Ombo Temple from Aswan which is a unique double temple dedicated to Sobek the crocodile god, and Horus the falcon-headed god. In addition, you can add a visit to the Temple of Horus in Edfu which is a city that lies in between Luxor and Aswan. This temple was built between 237 and 57 BC, is one of the best-preserved ancient monuments in Egypt.
Another addition to your Egypt itinerary would be a cruise down the Nile! Unfortunately due to time and traveling during off-season we did not get the chance to experience this for ourselves, but you can book a cruise for a varying number of days which can start at many different places along the Nile – whatever fits your schedule.