Be Prepared Before You Go:
Before you embark on your Egypt travel plans, read up on the unique culture of the country. Many travelers, who have visited the majority of the world’s countries, find that their “I’ve been everywhere so I know all there is to know” is called into question once they arrive here. Why? Well, let us see if we can explain.
Egypt is an Islamic country, though about 15-20% of the population is non-Muslim, with Coptic Christians making up the majority. Throughout the world, Muslims are regarded as people who do not drink alcohol and are all virtually non-smokers … until you come to Egypt. Not only is alcohol tolerated here and reasonably easy to purchase, you will often find yourself in the company of a Muslim who is enjoying a beer and a cigarette, often finishing them in enough time to go and pray in the local Mosque.
Where else in the world will you see a man sitting on a cart being pulled by a donkey, dressed in a dirty looking Galabeya (the male frock that you will often see worn in Egypt). He is either selling fruit and vegetables or going around the street collecting certain refuse. And then he reaches into his pocket to answer his iPhone! For all intents and purposes, this man is no better than a beggar back in your own town, someone who can hardly afford to rub to pennies together, yet he has a piece of technology that you maybe do not own.
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Many people believe that Muslim women must keep heads covered, either by a scarf or with the all-enveloping cloak known as a burqa. yet many women here have their heads uncovered. Again, this is something that Egyptian women have been doing for many years and is perfectly acceptable. Granted, some of these women will be Coptic, but vast amounts of Egyptians have decided not to wear head coverings, and are doing it for a non-religious reason: they do not get advances from men when dressed like this!
Travel Hints & Egypt Travel Tips:
Here are some hints and Egypt travel tips that should help you throughout your stay in Egypt:
- If you must take a taxi, then it would be best if you asked at your hotel’s reception desk for one. They have assigned taxis handle tourists on a daily basis. If you are traveling alone, or in a couple, and wish to organize everything yourself, also let the hotel know your plans before you leave. If you should get lost, the hotel will be able to act on your behalf! Take a note of the hotel’s name and telephone number, in case you do get lost, or change your plans.
- Egypt is a Muslim country, so please respect their faith. Many things that you take for granted, such as kissing and/or fondling your partner in public, wearing revealing clothing, etc., are frowned upon here, so try to be more conservative in your attitude. Homosexuality is actually illegal in Muslim countries!
- Do not rely, solely, on travel books such as Lonely Planet and Rough Guide. Though they do give a lot of good information, they do not explain everything, or how to help if you get into problems. Too many people have come to Egypt armed with one of these books, and have left, very disappointed with their trip, vowing never to return again!
- If you wish to organize everything yourself, be prepared for the occasional “rip-off”. Like many other tourist destinations, Egypt has its “wolves” who prey on unsuspecting travelers. Often the total cost of such an excursion can be much more than if you had arranged it through your hotel, or a travel agent, and a lot less enjoyable.
- Egyptians drive on the right, so be mindful of this when crossing roads. Take special care in Cairo, where the traffic is a lot busier than in other Egyptian cities: especially outside the Egyptian museum! The UK and Japanese travelers should be extra careful, as you will be used to traffic driving on the left.
- Buy (and drink) plenty of water. It’s cheaper to buy in the various shops than buying at your hotel or cruise boat. You may not drink a lot of water at home, but make sure you do in Egypt. It is very easy to become dehydrated if you do not.
- Remember that Egypt is a 3rd world country. Many of its poor people think that all tourists are rich, no matter where they come from! Learn the phrase “La Shukran” (No thank you!) and do not be afraid to say it to anyone who tries to sell you anything, or asks for “baksheesh”. It does work. Please do not say “Emshi” (as many tour books advise), this can be taken as an insult. If you forget the expression “La Shukran” just politely say “No thank you” and walk away. Do not get abusive to the trader; he is only trying to feed his family.
- If you feel that someone is being too pushy, let a member of the Tourist Police know. You will see them everywhere in Egypt and their job is to protect you.
- Admission to all sites is payable in LE, so make sure that you carry enough with you. Try and plan each day in advance, work out how much you will need for admissions, and keep this money separate from your spending money.
Take a small pocket flashlight with you when visiting the sites. Many tombs, temples etc. use the natural light for illumination (including a local with a large mirror, reflecting the light!) and a small flashlight can be very handy. A small mirror, such as the one in a ladies makeup, can also be used to highlight a relief. Please Note: Do not bring along a bright halogen torch; these can easily damage the monuments!
- Make up a small “medical-kit” before you go! Include things like safety pins, plasters (different sizes), antiseptic cream, diarrhea tablets, headache tablets and sun cream (high factor advised)
- When shopping for bargains, keep your own currency and credit cards out of sight, and separate from your LE. It is easier to haggle over a price if you can show that you have only a few Egyptian pounds in your possession! Plus, some traders may try to insist that they meant $ or £, instead of LE, if they catch you carrying these currencies.
- Wear sensible footwear when visiting various sites, not high heels, and open toe shoes. The floors of most sites are either sand or rough-cut, uneven stone. Inside many tombs, wooden floorboards have been installed, but thin heels could get caught in the gaps between the floorboards.
- Many monuments have signs that say “No Flash Photography”, please obey these signs (you can be ejected from the site if you ignore them!). The very bright flash can cause serious damage to some of the ancient paintwork! Some reliefs have depictions that show male genitalia – this is not pornography, so there is no reason to be offended! If you are part of a group the leader/guide will explain the reason for the depiction.
- If you on a “multi-center” holiday and you will be returning to your first hotel before your departure, arrange to leave some of your luggage, and items you have bought, with the hotel. Most hotels offer this service free of charge (or for a very low cost) and it saves you having to carry too much to your next destination.
- Should Consider Cairo And A Cruise As A Good Way To See Egypt For The First Time!
The Pyramids of Giza and the Great Sphinx have watched the rise and fall of every great civilization and empire for over 5000 years. This longevity has made them some of the biggest magnets on the planet. Mention Egypt and the imagination goes wild picturing these ancient limestone edifices. So, when the opportunity arises, they are a “must see” for every visitor to Egypt. So why does almost every tour company have packages that combine a Nile cruise with a visit to Cairo?
One of the major reasons is to look after your welfare. The minimum Cairo/Nile cruise package tends to be about 7 days/6 nights long and for many people, especially those from colder climates, this is too long to be expected to walk around in the Egyptian heat continually. The heat of the sun, added to physical exertion, can have a damaging effect on the body and so it is best to be able to rest, even in the sun, to allow your body time to repair itself; hence the cruise.
After having to endure the 24/7 madness of Cairo’s traffic as well as the queues and hordes of fellow tourists at the various sites, the thought of a 3 or 4 night 5-star, or 5-star deluxe, cruise, and in some cases a 7 night one, is like an oasis in the middle of the desert: no traffic, no queues, no pressure; just a few days of self indulgence, with a couple of excursions to prevent laziness from taking over. Why a 5-star, or 5-star deluxe, cruise? Well, you do want to be able to enjoy yourself without stomach problems do you not!
How to get cheap flights:
Thanks to the internet, and the many search engines available, finding cheap flights is simple as typing in “cheap flights to Egypt”. No matter where you live in the world there are companies offering discounted flights; and please do not ignore charter flights. You may think that because they land at airports outside of Cairo that they are no use, but any good and reliable travel agency will be able to either change a package to suit or even compose a special package for you. Do not be scared by the latter idea, a tailor-made package is not the millionaire’s playground type of package; you will find that the prices are very comparable with pre-made ones.
Things to consider before booking your Nile Cruise:
Though you may be keeping to a strict budget, sometimes it is best stretching this slightly further for your health’s sake. One thing we never do is book cruises below 5-star standard and we are often asked why this is. This is because experience has shown us that more people suffer from stomach problems on sub-5 star cruises and so because we want you to enjoy every possible minute of your trip, we just refuse to book these cruises. No, every 4-star cruise does this, there are many superb cruises of this standard, but we simply will not put our customer’s health at risk.
We are often asked what the difference between 5 star and 5-star deluxe cruises are. Well, the star ratings get higher as the facilities and overall standard of the accommodation gets better and so it is easier to imagine 5 star deluxe (or any suffix added to 5 stars) as being 6 stars; something that those who fix the star ratings seem feared to utilize. Better amenities; better menus; larger and more luxurious cabins; masseurs and masseuses; Jacuzzis: the higher the star rating, the higher the standard!
So please, if you can, ensure you get yourself booked on a good standard of a cruise boat.
Prepare for the package before you go:
- So, now you have bought your package and you should have an itinerary supplied by your travel agent. Here is where a very important part of your planning comes in: read the itinerary! This may sound like a stupid thing to say, but that schedule has been composed to help you and can hold many hidden ideas for you.
- You have a Nile cruise; so straight away you should be thinking of what you will require for this … swimwear and casual, but smart, clothing for dinner are two things you will need.
- You are visiting all the major sites; good comfortable shoes will be needed, not new ones that will cause blisters on your heels … break them in first.
- So go through your itinerary and work out what you will need to take with you, and start putting them aside early, do not wait until the last minute when panic can cause you to forget that all important item:
- Your camera needs batteries so make sure you have some spare ones (even though you can purchase them in Egypt).
- It is going to be hot, so pack your cotton clothes, and underwear, which prevents irritations that man-made fabrics can cause.
- If you are on prescribed medication, make sure you have enough for your trip; again you can get prescriptions filled in Egypt, so bring it/them with you.
- Make up a mini-medical kit with plasters, headache tablets, mosquito repellent, sun cream, safety pins etc.
- Once you have everything ready you will find it is easier to relax before departure and you will not have that last minute run to the shops to get something. This will now give you many opportunities to start memorizing the itinerary so that you know, once you get here, where you are going. Oh, and do not forget to pack the itinerary … it is always handy to have with you.
Best Time to visit The Egyptian sites:
Ideally, the best time to visit outside sites is prior to noon when the sun has not yet reached its zenith. Sadly, though, ideal conditions are not always possible, especially when your schedule is tight, and so the following offers some good tips on when to visit the various sites. Please note that only the sites which are referred to as “usual tourist sites” are included in this list. For advice on sites not given here, you should contact your tour agent.
Giza Pyramids and Great Sphinx:
The Giza plateau has very little shade, and even the pyramids do not offer that much due to their shape. Though the site is open all day long, it is advised to visit in the morning.
Again, this site is very much open, but at least it has some mastabas (tombs) allows you to escape the sun. There are also some nice high walls which allow some good shade if you can get near them from the vendors! Therefore it is possible to enjoy Sakkara in the afternoon.
The Colossi of Ramses II is inside a building, away from the sun, and the gardens with the various statues and other artifacts are well shaded by tall trees. This allows this site to be visited safely in the afternoon (which is why it is often twinned with a visit to Sakkara).
Being inside this museum allows you to stay shaded all of the time, so it can be visited at any time, morning or afternoon.
Citadel of Saladin:
Though it is exposed to the sun, the majority of the little streets within it are shaded from the sun and the main places you will visit within the Citadel, the Mosque of Mohammed Ali and the Museum, are interior visits. Morning or afternoon is fine to visit here.
The only time you are exposed to the sun is when you are walking to each of the buildings, and the streets are shaded in the afternoon, so another visit that can be done at any time of the day.
The old market is well shaded so there will be no problems visiting here at any time.
Valley of the Kings:
Though people do visit here from opening to closing time, the ideal period to visit is in the early morning. The tombs are cut into the limestone mountain and rock does conduct heat very well, and it also retains it, so as the day progresses and the hot sun shines down on the valley, which is actually a sun trap, the rocks start to heat up. This heat is slowly given out into the actual tombs, which gradually become hotter and hotter. Add to this the heat generated by human bodies and it is quite obvious that by the end of the day, the valley is filled with little ovens, waiting to bake the next visitor. This is a definite morning visit only unless you like being baked.
Tip: One of the best tombs to visit is the tomb of Tuthmosis III (KV34). This tomb is situated at the far end of the valley and has some steep steps to negotiate to reach the entrance. It is only a short tomb, but it is steep inside … and exceedingly hot, as the huge electric fan in the burial chamber will testify. It is advised to visit this tomb first!
Deir El-Bahri (Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut)
This has to be one of the most beautiful buildings of the ancient world still standing. It is located at the foot of the mountain which has the Valley of the Kings on the other side and also has a tendency to become hotter as the day progresses. A.M. visits are best.
Valley of the Queens:
Only a few tombs here, but rock cut as well so needs the same warning as the Valley of the Kings: A.M. visit!
Colossi of Memnon:
These 2 gigantic statues are located on the road leading away from the sites of the West Bank and are not close to the mountains; they are actually on arable land. This site only takes a few minutes to see, so can be visited at any time of the day.
Luxor and Karnak Temples:
The high columns, pylons, and walls give each of these two buildings their own natural interior shade. Karnak does have huge areas of exposed land where the sun relentlessly beats down, but these are punctured by walls and pylons, giving a short respite. A.M. or P.M. visits are suitable.
Temples of Philae:
Like the temples in Luxor, these island bound buildings offer their own shade. To be honest, the only time you will be exposed to the sun is when waiting for the motorboat(s) to pick you up.
The most southerly, and possibly the hottest, a site on the majority of itineraries, either built-in or as an optional excursion. Built on the West Bank of the River Nile, now the West Bank of Lake Nasser, Ramses II’s phenomenal temples are only 40Km from the Sudanese border and are south of the Tropic of Cancer. Though the site is open all day long, it is strongly advised to visit it in the forenoon as the afternoon sun is too hot for most tourists to endure. Some shade is provided inside the temples, but there is a long walk from the bus stop and another one on the way back.
- Pre-Book everything before you GO, travel seasons and supplements explanation
- Many people plan their holidays/vacations without doing any planning ahead. They have 2 weeks off, so they head to a foreign country. This is okay in many parts of the world but they may find a problem with doing this in Egypt. To ensure you get what you want, things should be booked before you set off.
Over Easter, and again from just before Christmas until just after New Year, Egypt has what are called high seasons. These 2 periods are when school children are out of school when families realize they can all go on a foreign trip together, and so the owners of hotels and cruises (as well as international flight companies) like to add a supplement to bookings made then. These supplements can vary from hotel to hotel, cruise to cruise, and so the best way to get a good deal is to look for one in advance, not turning up with your $80 per night to find that it is now about 50% more than you expected. By planning this ahead you will not get a nasty shock.
Many solo travelers can also be hit with a supplement as many hotels, and most cruises, do not have single rooms or cabins and so a person on their own is accommodated in a twin room, for which they are charged for the second bed not being used. Lots of hotels, as well as a few cruises, do have this facility and so it is the best check before you leave to find out which ones do; this can be essential when on a tight budget.
Another good reason for booking before you go is that many special offers can be found that are not available if you want to just turn up at a hotel or a cruise (very few cruises will let you purchase a cabin without prior booking anyway). So please try and book before you leave to ensure you have accommodation once you arrive and to save yourself some money as well.
A Suggestion for some Tour Plans:
Cairo Short Break – 4 days and 3 nights:
If you only have a few days and so wish to have a package which will allow you to see the sites in Cairo, this package will be the best one for you. You are met at the airport by our representative and then transported, in our air-conditioned vehicle, to your hotel. The rest of the first day is free, depending on your arrival time, which will allow for relaxation after your flight.
The next day you are taken to see the Giza Pyramids and Sphinx and then after lunch, you are taken to Sakkara, to see the Step Pyramid of Djoser and the Memphis Museum. Once back at your hotels the evening is free for you to do whatever you wish.
Day 3: You will be visiting the Egyptian Museum, where you will get the chance to stand and gaze at the famous death mask of Tutankhamun. There are many rooms in this museum, built over 2 floors and you may even wish to pay the extra to visit the Royal Mummies Room, home to many of ancient Egypt’s famous Pharaohs. Once you have completed your visit here you will be driven to see the Citadel of Saladin, built to protect the fledgling settlement, which became Cairo, from the Saracens. This is followed by a historical tour of Coptic Cairo to see some of the churches built by the Coptic Christians, as well as the museum that houses many of their artifacts. The day is rounded off with a visit to the Khan El-Khalili, where you can get the opportunity to buy those presents that you promised everyone, as well as a few mementos for yourself.
The final day is one of relaxation until it is time to be taken back to Cairo airport for your departure.
Egypt Splendor – 7 day and 6 nights:
Egypt Splendor is the entry-level package for seeing Egypt’s major sites. As in most packages, the first day is for arrival, which can be at any time because of international flights, and allows you time for relaxation.
The first day allows you to see the Pyramids of Giza as well as having an enjoyable lunch before visiting the Egyptian Museum in the afternoon. You will then be returned to your hotel for a relaxing evening and sleep. The next day you will be flown to Aswan, where you will have a private tour of the Aswan High Dam and the Temples of Philae, before embarking on a 3 night Nile cruise, which will allow you to enjoy the temples of Kom Ombo and Edfu whilst en route to Luxor. Upon arrival in Luxor, you will be taken to see The Valley of the Kings, the Temple of Hatshepsut, the Colossi of Memnon, Luxor Temple and the huge Temple of Karnak, before having your final night on the boat. The next day you are flown back to Cairo and can spend your last day in relaxation before your departure on the following day.
Egypt Odyssey – 12 day and 11 nights:
Whereas Egypt Splendor is ideal for those who only have a week to spare, Egypt Odyssey is ideal for those who have 2 weeks and as it is for one more week, this package allows more scope and freedom within it. Your first full day after arrival allows you to visit not only the Pyramids of Giza but also the Step Pyramid at Sakkara and the Museum at Memphis. The next day has you traveling slightly further south of Cairo to see, and enter if you wish, the Red Pyramid at Dashur and then the neighboring Bent Pyramid. Once this is completed you will be driven back to your hotel, so that you can prepare for your flight to Aswan then the following morning. Upon arrival, you will be met and transferred to a hotel in the city before being taken to see the Aswan High Dam and the Temples of Philae. Upon completion, you have the opportunity to explore this ancient city before returning to your hotel.
The next day gives you the option to visit Abu Simbel before you embark on your 3 night Nile cruise, which will allow you to enjoy the temples of Kom Ombo and Edfu whilst en route to Luxor. Upon arrival in Luxor, you will be taken to see The Valley of the Kings, the Temple of Hatshepsut, the Colossi of Memnon, Luxor Temple and the huge Temple of Karnak, before having your final night on the boat. The next morning you will be transferred to a hotel in Luxor and this will allow you to either have time to relax, or the possibility of returning to Luxor’s West Bank to see some more ancient sites or to be taken to Dendera and Abydos, 2 places rich with Pharaonic history. After you have had your nights relaxation in the hotel you will be flown back to Cairo, where you will be able to see the Egyptian Museum, the Citadel of Saladin, the Coptic churches and Museum, and finally the Khan El-Khalili. One last night in a hotel and you will be transferred back to the airport for your departure.
Please do not think that if a package says ‘x’ amount of days that you are restricted to this. If your holiday/vacation is for more days than the package shows, these extra days are easily added, as well as more visits to sites. No package is “set in stone” and they all can be tailored to suit your requirements.
- A private tour is one that is confined to only those who you are traveling with; you will never be expected to join in with another group, nor will any others be expected to join in with you. This means that it will only be your party on excursions, only your party in our air-conditioned vehicle, and only your party with our guide; YOUR guide. This final point is very important as it allows you to get a rapport with the guide, something large groups cannot do so easily, and this means that you feel more relaxed, allowing for you to ask those vexing questions you have always wanted to know the answer to, something you may find hard to do in the company of strangers.
- Because all of our packages are all private, there is no set start or finishing dates. If we have to we will simply alter the itinerary so that it fits with the cruise embarkation, ensuring that no planned visits are missed, just rescheduled somewhere else. This allows you to get the best available flights, which is a huge asset if you are traveling on a budget. Obviously, this is something that companies who only offer large group visits cannot offer.
- If you are returning to Egypt and do not want to see the same sites that you have already visited, do not be afraid to ask for changes to be made. Just let us know, when making your booking, and alternative visits will be suggested to you. Once again, our itineraries are not ‘set in stone’; this is your holiday/vacation and we will fill any request; if it is possible.