Be Prepared Before You Go:
Before you embark on your Egypt travel plans, read up on the country's unique culture. Many travelers who have visited most of the world's countries find that their "I've been everywhere, so I know all there is to know" attitude is questioned once they arrive in Egypt. 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, but you will also 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 will you see a man sitting on a cart pulled by a donkey dressed in a dirty-looking Galabeya (the male frock often worn in Egypt)? He sells fruit and vegetables or collects certain refuse around the street. And then he reaches into his pocket to answer his iPhone! This man is no better than a beggar back in your town, someone who can hardly afford to rub two pennies together, yet he has a piece of technology you may not own.
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Many people believe that Muslim women must keep their heads covered, either with 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, it would be best to ask your hotel's reception desk for one. They have assigned taxis to handle tourists daily. If you are traveling alone or in a couple and wish to organize everything yourself, let the hotel know your plans before you leave. If you should get lost, the hotel can act on your behalf! Take note of the hotel's name and telephone number if you need help or change your plans.
- Egypt is a Muslim country, so please respect their faith. Many things you take for granted, such as kissing and caressing your partner in public, wearing revealing clothing, etc., are frowned upon here, so try to be more conservative in your attitude. Homosexuality is illegal in Muslim countries!
- Do not rely solely on travel books such as Lonely Planet and Rough Guide. Though they give a lot of good information, they need to explain and provide more assistance 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!
- If you organize everything yourself, be prepared for the occasional "rip-off." Like many other tourist destinations, Egypt has its "wolves" who prey on unsuspecting travelers. The total cost of such an excursion can often 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 when crossing roads. Take special care in Cairo, where the traffic is much busier than in other Egyptian cities, especially outside the Egyptian museum! The UK and Japanese travelers should be extra careful, as they are used to traffic driving on the left.
- Buy (and drink) plenty of water. It's cheaper in the various shops than at your hotel or cruise boat. You may only drink a little water at home, but make sure you do in Egypt. It is straightforward 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 wealthy, 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 an insult. If you forget the "La Shukran" expression, 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, tell a member of the Tourist Police. You will see them everywhere in Egypt; their job is to protect you.
- Admission to all sites is payable in LE, so ensure you carry enough. Try planning each day, working on how much you will need for access, and keeping this money separate from your spending.
Take a small pocket flashlight with you when visiting the sites. Many tombs, temples, etc., use natural light for illumination (including a local with a large mirror reflecting the light!), and a small flashlight can be convenient. A small mirror, such as the one in a ladies' makeup, can also highlight relief. Please Note: Do not bring 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 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, not high heels and open-toe shoes, when visiting various sites. The floors of most locations are either sand or rough-cut, uneven stone. Wooden floorboards have been installed in many tombs, 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 severe 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 are on a "multi-center" holiday and will be returning to your first hotel before your departure, arrange to leave some of your luggage and items you bought with the hotel. Most hotels offer this service free of charge (or for a meager cost), saving you from carrying 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 every great civilization and empire rise and fall for over 5000 years. This longevity has made them some of the most giant 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 significant reason is to look after your welfare. The minimum Cairo/Nile cruise package lasts about 7 days/6 nights. For many people, especially those from colder climates, this is too long to be expected to continually walk around in the Egyptian heat. The heat of the sun, added to physical exertion, can damage the body, so it is best 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 three 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 enjoy yourself without stomach problems, do you not?
How to get cheap flights:
Thanks to the internet and the many search engines, finding cheap flights is as simple as typing “cheap flights to Egypt.” No matter where you live, companies offer discounted flights, and please do not ignore charter flights. You may think that because they land at airports outside of Cairo, they are useless, but any good and reliable travel agency can either change a package to suit you or even compose a special one for you. Do not be scared by the latter idea; a tailor-made package is not the millionaire’s playground type; you will find that the prices are 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 to stretch 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 refuse to book these cruises. No, every 4-star cruise does this; there are many superb cruises of this standard, but we will not risk our customers’ health.
We are often asked what the difference is between 5-star and 5-star deluxe cruises. Well, the star ratings get higher as the facilities and overall standard of the accommodation get better, so it is easier to imagine a 5-star deluxe (or any suffix added to 5 stars) as being six stars, something that those who fix the star ratings seem feared to utilize. Better amenities, better menus, more extensive and luxurious cabins, masseurs and masseuses, Jacuzzis: the higher the star rating, the higher the standard!
So please ensure you get yourself booked on an excellent standard cruise boat.
Prepare for the package before you go:
- Now that you have bought your package, your travel agent should have supplied you with an itinerary. Reading the itinerary is an essential part of your planning. The schedule has been composed to help you and can contain many hidden ideas.
- You are going on a Nil cruise, so you should immediately consider what you need. Swimwear and casual but intelligent clothing for dinner are two things you will need.
- You are visiting all the major sites; good, comfortable shoes will be needed, but not new ones that will cause blisters on your heels- break them in first.
- So go through your itinerary, find out what you must take, 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 ensure you have some spare ones (even though you can purchase them in Egypt).
- It will be hot, so pack your cotton clothes and underwear, which prevents irritations that artificial 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 a mini-medical kit with plasters, headache tablets, mosquito repellent, sun cream, safety pins, etc.
- Once you have everything ready, you will find it easier to relax before departure, and you will not have to make 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 where you are going once you get here. Remember 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 outdoor sites is before noon, when the sun has not yet reached its zenith. Sadly, ideal conditions are not always possible, especially when your schedule is tight, so the following offers some good tips on when to visit the various sites. Please note that only the “usual tourist sites” are included in this list. You should contact your tour agent for advice on locations not given here.
Giza Pyramids and Great Sphinx:
The Giza plateau has very little shade, and even the pyramids offer little due to their shape. Though the site is open all day, morning visits are advised.
Again, this site is very open, but at least it has some mastabas (tombs) that allow you to escape the sun. Some lovely high walls provide good shade if you can get near them without being hassled by 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 keeps you shaded at all times so that it can be visited any time, morning or afternoon.
Citadel of Saladin:
Though it is exposed to the sun, most of its little streets 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 okay to see 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 that another visit can be done at any time of the day.
The old market is well shaded so there will be no problems visiting here anytime.
Valley of the Kings:
Though people visit here from opening to closing time, the ideal period is in the early morning. The tombs are cut into the limestone mountain, and the rock conducts heat very well and retains it, so as the day progresses and the hot sun shines down on the valley, which is a sun trap, the rocks start to heat up. This heat is slowly given out into the tombs, which gradually become hotter and hotter. Add to this the heat generated by human bodies, and it is evident 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 valley's far end and has some steep steps to negotiate to reach the entrance. It is only a short tomb but steep inside ... and exceedingly hot, as the vast 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, with the Valley of the Kings on the other side. The site tendss thgetprogresses. A.M. visits are b, sost.
Valley of the Queens:
There are only a few tombs here, but rock-cut as well, so it needs the same warning as the Valley of the Kings: A.M. visit!
Colossi of Memnon:
These two 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 it can be visited anytime.
Luxor and Karnak Temples:
The high columns, towers, and walls give each building its natural interior shade. Karnak does have vast areas of exposed land where the sun relentlessly beats down, but these are punctured by walls and towers, 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 shade. You will only be exposed to the sun when you are 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 40 Km from the Sudanese border and are south of the Tropic of Cancer. Though the site is open all day, visiting it in the forenoon is strongly advised 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 two weeks off, so they head to a foreign country. This is okay in many parts of the world, but they may need help doing this in Egypt. Things should be booked before you set off to ensure you get what you want.
Hotels and Cruises:
Over Easter, and again from just before Christmas until just after New Year, Egypt has high seasons. These two periods are when school children are out of school when families realize they can all go on a foreign trip together. So the owners of hotels and cruises (as well as international flight companies) like to supplement bookings made then. These supplements can vary from hotel to hotel, cruise to cruise, 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, 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; a person is accommodated in a twin room, for which they are charged for the second bed not being used. Many hotels and a few cruises have this facility, so it is best to 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 turn up at a hotel or a cruise (very few cruises will let you purchase a cabin without prior booking anyway). So please book before you leave to ensure you have accommodation once you arrive and save yourself some money.
A Suggestion for some Tour Plans:
Cairo Short Break - 4 days and three nights:
If you only have a few days and wish to have a package allowing you to see the sites in Cairo, this package will be the best 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, allowing for relaxation after your flight.
The next day, you will visit the Giza Pyramids and Sphinx and, after lunch, the Step Pyramid of Djoser and the Memphis Museum at Sakkara. Once back at your hotel, the evening is free for you to do whatever you wish.
Day 3: You will be visiting the Egyptian Museum, where you will get to stand and gaze at the famous death mask of Tutankhamun. This museum has many rooms between two 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. A historical tour of Coptic Cairo follows this to see some of the churches built by the Coptic Christians and the museum that Museum uses 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 souvenirs for yourself.
The final day is spent relaxing until it is time to be taken back to Cairo Airport for departure.
Egypt Splendor - 7 days and six nights:
Egypt Splendor is the entry-level package for seeing Egypt's significant 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 and have 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 while 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, the Luxor Temple, and the massive 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 days and 11 nights:
Whereas Egypt Splendor is ideal for those who only have a week to spare, Egypt Odyssey is perfect for those who have two weeks, and as it is for one more week, this package allows more scope and freedom within it. Your first full day after arrival will enable you to visit the Pyramids of Giza, the Step Pyramid at Sakkara, and the Museum at Memphis. The next day, you travel 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 to prepare for your flight to Aswan 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 can 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 while 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, the Luxor Temple, and the massive Temple of Karnak before having your final night on the boat. The following day, you will be transferred to a hotel in Luxor, and this will allow you to either have time to relax or the possibility of return to Luxor's West Bank to see some more ancient sites or to be taken to Dendera and Abydos, two places rich with Pharaonic history. After your night's relaxation in the hotel, you will be flown back to Cairo, where you can see the Egyptian Museum, the Citadel of Saladin, the Coptic churches and Museum, and usually the Khan El-Khalili. One last night in a hotel, you will be transferred back to the airport for your departure.
Please do not think that if a package says ‘x’ amount of days, you are restricted to this. If your holiday/vacation is for more days than the package shows, you can easily add these extra days to more site visits. No package is “set in stone”. They can all be tailored to suit your requirements.
- A private tour is confined to only those 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 it will only be your party on excursions, your party in our air-conditioned vehicle, and your party with our guide, YOUR guide. This final point is critical as it allows you to get a rapport with the guide, something large groups cannot do so quickly, and this means that you feel more relaxed, allowing 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 our packages are private, there are no set start or finish dates. If we have to, we will alter the itinerary to fit 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 travel on a budget. This is something that companies that only offer extensive group visits cannot offer.
- If you are returning to Egypt and want to avoid seeing the same sites you have already visited, feel free to ask for changes. Just let us know when making your booking, and alternative visits will be suggested. Once again, our itineraries are not ‘set in stone’; this is your holiday/vacation, and we will fulfill any request if possible.