We are planning a trip to Egypt in April/May 2011 for approx 2-3weeks.
Any tips on whether it is a good idea to join a tour group, small or private... or try and travel on our own? Will try visit Cairo, pyramids, Luxor, short Nile cruise, Aswan, Abu Simbel... Western desert if any time..etc
Is it difficult to arrange your own transport/entry to sites etc... or easier to join a group?
Any other suggestions much appreciated :-)
Welcome to the Forum!
With Egypt, if you take a tour, you will be paying a premium - basically you will pay triple (or more) compared to doing it on your own. Anywhere along the Nile it is easy to hop on a train and find your own accommodation. Guidebooks such as Lonely Planet are a great help, but there are other ways to find a place. I remember arriving in Luxor in 2002 with my plan to stay somewhere and a guy bailed me up at the station to take me to his hotel, and he charged me US$1.00 per night for my own room with a shared bathroom - couldn't really beat that price.
The big positive of going on your own is that you have the ability to miss the crowds and enjoy places (even if for a short time) on your own, and the ancient sites are fantastic places to relax in the solitude. Also, you'll find that some places resonate within you and it is easy to linger in them for hours, yet others have only a passing interest for you and you may want to pass quickly - and again, you have the freedom of changing of allocating your time to your needs if own your own.
My only caution would be the western deserts, it probably is better to organise a small tour for that part of the journey. It is possible to do it on your own (i.e. I went to Siwa Oasis on my own) but it is a bit of pain being on public transport in that part of Egypt and the cost of a private vehicle is going to be quite high, so even sharing with two others will reduce your costs by a lot.
Groups...Egypt, no way! You indeed paying a huge premium, but worst, you are not free of your movements and end up spending time in places you wouldn't...if you were on your own.
I will nuance a little with Shane. First point, every thing depend on your budget. Cairo, Aswan and some other places have some amazing places to stay....cheap or not cheap.
So if you look for comfort, my trick is to do it differently. I arrange my hotels ahead, and from there, I run everything independently, hiring locals guys when I want...or do not ant them.
I Egypt, private taxis are cheap and easy to organize, I'm thinking Aswan to Luxor...train have also a pretty good reputation, but i only went from Cairo to Alexandria...and flights are way better since Egypt Air joined Star Alliance.
For the desert, I would simply try to organize it with a local operator.
Enjoy Egypt, you'll love it!
Egypt trains are good, the daytime express ones are better value. I used the system to get between Aswan to Alexandria - and it is a great way to travel. Plus when in Luxor they are helpful for making day trips to places such as Edfu.
that is a great help to get first hand advice & info, really appreciate it! The tour I had been looking at was a private one, ie just us and a driver & seemed to be a good price with 5 * accommodation... But we are still looking into all the different options.
if you want to go 5 stars, independant will be way easier for you. The trick is to get a driver from one hotel to the next by using the hotel car. This is more expensive, but garantee you an insurance you have a proper car and guide most of the time.
In Aswan, try to get a room at the renovated Sofitel, the ones with the Nile view, this is a magical place. In Luxor, I know there is a newly open great place on the left bank, need to find the name. In Cairo, if you stay few days, the Mena House for the Pyramids, and in town, the two Four Seasons have amazing reviews....ok, there you don't hit at 5 stars, you hit at the best of the crowd.
I would really avoid a cruise on the Nile, I speak the 4 days ones...you drive from Aswan to Luxor in less than a day, and they do stop at all the sites...sorry, I hate travelling in group (except when I'm the guide).
If you have questions, ask, I've done Aswan, Luxor, Abu Simbel (really impressive), Alexandria...ok, also dive South Red Sea and been few times in Cairo. I'm back for a day trip or two in Cairo end of February...more to see.
Hope this help,
If we are heading into the attractions area, I spent 3 weeks on the area along the Nile and I concur with Abu Simbel, and would also add in Temple of Karnak in Luxor (amazing Hypostyle Hall), the Temple of Hathor in Dendara (allows you to explore the catacombs and the roof), and the Temple of Seti I in Abydos (the best temple paintings in Egypt - but you'll need a security escort to get there).
Shane, did you visit Nefertari Tomb in the Valley of the Queen....that place is amazing, I went there 9 years ago. At the time, they were selling only 100 tickets per day, price, a wopping 100usd or just below that if I remember well. It was an amazing experience as it was also a very private one. I had to wake up bloody early two days in a row to get the tickets, but on the second day we made it.
Seems today, it's another story, they only allow or let say "sell" access to the tomb for a max of 45 minutes, and this for a group with a maximum size of 10 people....price tag, a crazy 4500usd per "group". I heard they raise that money in order to built a copy of the tomb. As it is so fragile, and that our human breath is enough to damage the place.
I don't think it does worth that money to be honest, even if it is an amazing place.
Yes, I did happen to see the tomb in December of 2002, and within a few weeks it was closed to the public and is yet to reopen. I think they were selling 150 tickets a day when I was there and managed to get one on the first day - thanks to a lot of planning and cajoling. I was actually in the tomb on my own during my visit, and the 15 minute time limit for me was more like 20 minutes.
To me. it is one of the greatest things I've ever seen, and even for that price of $450 per person, I would seriously consider it.
Thanks again for all your tips & information! Although, now it looks like we may be changing our travel plans..... & heading to Syria instead in April /May & may go to Egypt later in the year around October, for a longer trip including Jordan & Turkey!
Seems like there is a bit of planning needed for these destinations, but really looking forwrd to it :-)
Hi...we are currently in Jordan...going around the region for 3 weeks....blogs will be coming in the next few days...
You'll love Syria, an amazing place and it is good at that time of year - make sure you see the two star attractions of Krak des Chevaliers and Palmyra. Also see the amphitheatre at Bosra, and the cities of Aleppo and Damascus. Travelling around Syria is easier than Egypt, but you'll be relying on buses instead of trains or you could hire a car and driver for your own private transport. Strongly recommend you avoid a group tour in Syria, as you do not want to put any buffer between yourself and its wonderful people.
Thanks! P-A, I will look out for your Jordan blogs..... & thanks again Shane. Yes we are looking at most of those places, Damasacas & Bosra esp, & we are looking at using local transport etc, Syria does look amazing & feels as if it may be easier to travel around than Egypt...There is so much to see!... :-)
When I first started to backpack I used a tour company to go through Egypt.. Mainly because I was just beginning and didn't really feel too comfortable to start with and second is that I wanted to go to the Western deserts. (I went to India before this as my first country outside Australia and this prepared me for anything
) The company I used is a backpacking tour company (don’t think I can mention the name on here) but I will also send you a private message with the details. The accommodation is basic and we were in tents in the desert. It is the only tour I have done during my travels and seemed fine.
But if I go back I would do it solo as I am much more confidient in backpacking now of course but still not 100% sure how easy it is to do the Western desert solo though. Even on our tour group we needed to bribe along the way to get through the checkpoints.
I have two blogs on the trip I did so you can get an idea
Amazing History and Shesha
Temples, Nile and Great People
I arranged a car and driver/guide from the hotel when I got there...cheapest way to go. The guide was useful for the normal things (where to go and what we were seeing), but mostly to keep the swarms of kids from pestering us.