Travel to Egypt Do It Yourself: Guide and Practical Advice

Who I am
Alejandra Rangel
@alejandrarangel
SOURCES CONSULTED:

wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

Author and references

Egypt, the land of the pharaohs and one of the greatest civilizations in the world, with its temples, hieroglyphs, mummies and pyramids.

If you are planning a trip to Egypt do it yourself, get ready: theEgypt it truly has everything you could wish for: it is filled with iconic monuments and extraordinary landscapes, it has a rich history, a strong culture and boasts world-class diving, incredible beaches and an exciting nightlife.

  • 1 - Before leaving
    • 1.1 Information at a glance
    • 1.2 is it safe to travel to Egypt?
  • 2 - What to pack
    • 2.1 Personal health and safety
    • 2.2 How to dress
    • 2.3 Other essential things to bring
  • 3 - How much does it cost to travel to Egypt?
    • 3.1 Hotel e guesthouse
    • 3.2 Restaurants
    • 3.3 Transportation
  • 4 - What to see and experiences not to be missed
    • 4.1 Cairo, the capital
    • 4.2 Pyramids of Giza
    • 4.3 Saqqara
    • 4.4 Karnak e Luxor
    • 4.5 Nile Cruise
    • 4.6 Assuan e Abu Simbel
    • 4.7 Diving in the Red Sea
    • 4.8 Sandboarding in the Fayoum Desert
    • 4.9 Visit Alexandria
    • 4.10 the white desert and the oases of the western desert
    • 4.11 Visit a camel market
  • 5 - Things to absolutely taste
  • 6 - Getting around by public transport
Do you want to organize a DIY trip to Egypt and are you looking for a local guide who speaks English? Write me an email and request a free quote!

Before leaving

Essential information in a nutshell

People: Egyptians often have a reputation for being pushy, but I've found that isn't always true. Obviously, around the tourist sites it is worse, but away from the attractions the Egyptians are a warm and welcoming people.





When to go and weather: it's the desert, guys! November and December are the "coolest" months (it's all relative) but with some care you can travel at any time of the year.

As I said above, summers are terribly hot in Egypt. The best time to visit is from late October to March, especially for sightseeing!

The waters are colder in the winter, so if your purpose is to dive the spring and fall seasons are best. In October and November in Hurghada you can meet the whale shark!

Religion: 95% Islamic

Currency: Egyptian pounds (1 euro is about 20 pounds)

Wi-Fi: practically everywhere in hotels and tourist restaurants.

ATM: you can withdraw anywhere up to a maximum of 3000 Egyptian pounds (depending on the ATM)

Viewed: without stress. The VOA (visa on arrival) is possible at all airports and land borders for 25 USD. Bring the dollars if you have them, otherwise you can also pay in euros. The visa can also be done online before departure.

is it safe to travel to Egypt?

Un travel to Egypt is dangerous? Let me start by writing, no, Egypt is not dangerous for DIY travel, much less with an organized trip.

That said, the security in Egypt varies from area to area. There are certainly areas where the Egyptian government advises against (and others where it is forbidden) for tourists to travel alone, for example the North Sinai and the area of Suez passage.



When it comes to security, Egypt certainly doesn't have a great reputation. There have been terrorist attacks and some incidents in recent decades and the now not so recent revolutions still scare tourists today.

While I believe some concerns are valid, however, I firmly believe these events shouldn't stop you from traveling to Egypt.

Le tourist areas, Luxor, Aswan, Cairo, Hurghada, ecc. they are totally safe and heavily guarded by the armed police forces.
During your visit to Cairo you will also see the police forces guarding the areas most frequented by tourists and potentially at risk.
Ironically, in Cairo I found it much more dangerous to cross the street without being run over than a potential terrorist attack.

With regard to the Sinai Peninsula, every vehicle entering and leaving this region is regularly checked by the police.

Bear in mind that there was a terrorist attack in Dahab in 2006 and one in Sharm el-Sheikh in 2005, but we live in an age where sadly acts of terror and violence also occur in Western cities such as London or in areas of the French Riviera, and people still travel to those places.

At the end, who has to decide is only you.

As for me, despite traveling not alone but with my husband, I felt completely safe. The very open mind towards western culture on the Red Sea means that you can safely wear a bikini without being pointed at, but dress with respect in other areas such as Aswan where traditional Muslim culture is still very strong and "showing too much skin" could make the locals uncomfortable.



As usual, the only recommendation I have is to use common sense, stay away from potential messes and demonstrations, check the recent notices from the government embassy and the Farnesina and absolutely take out travel insurance.

What to pack

Personal health and safety

As I said, Egypt is a safe country, but as often happens where it is very hot, the risk of taking the “Tutankhamun curse” is very high.

Before the trip, take a couple of weeks of good care with lactic ferments that can help you a lot.

Here then what to bring for their own Health & Safety!

Travel First Aid Kit: unlike mine trip to Senegal, when I opened my foot with a glass, this time I was fine, but Massi had a stomach ache and fever for a couple of days.

Fortunately I was behind as usual a first aid kit like this inside which I had also put a broad spectrum antibiotic, intestinal disinfectant and imodium.

For intestinal problems the bimixin. Don't forget a anti-diarrheal.

Travel insurance: indispensable as always.

Sun and after sun cream: You cannot travel to Egypt without sunscreen, especially if you are wearing tank tops or if you are spending a few days on the Red Sea.

Wet wipes: they are always a good idea especially when traveling on public transport, you sweat a lot and since the dust in Egypt is terrible, the refreshing wipes give you a moment of respite.

Hand sanitizer: bring it because in some restaurants there is no soap, but not only: if you travel by bus it is absolutely essential.

How to dress

Since in the winter season (the driest and coolest) day temperatures are around 25 degrees or even more (I found 32 degrees), bring light clothing.

In the evening, however, it can be cool so a jacket or a nice sweater is better to put them in your suitcase.

During my trip I noticed many tourists in rather skimpy dresses, with very short skirts or sarongs.

Egypt is a predominantly Muslim country and the inhabitants are used to our clothing (especially in coastal and tourist areas). However, I believe that it is not respectful to go around half naked so you cover your legs or at least at least cover them up to the knee.

To wander the streets or visit sites of interest, it is best to bring closed shoes and light shoes.

  • Teva sandals
  • Costumes
  • light linen or cotton trousers
  • a sweatshirt or sweater for the cool temperatures of the evening
  • lightweight t-shirts that dry quickly.
  • hat
  • sunglasses (absolutely essential)
  • Beach towel

Other essential things to bring

  • Head torch: I always find it useful and this time in felucca it was indispensable.
  • Multiple socket: if you have several smartphones or cameras to charge, there are not many sockets in hotel rooms. Bring a multiple.

How much does it cost to travel to Egypt?

If Egypt was once a fairly inexpensive destination, today you can travel comfortably for less than $ 30 a day.

Hotels and guesthouses have very good prices, as well as restaurants and public transport.

Hotel e guest house

I hotel prices obviously they depend on the range to which they belong, but a good hotel with double room, air conditioning (in summer it is absolutely essential) and private bathroom is around 20 dollars a night.

There are a few especially in Downtown Cairo very cheap hostels. More than the classic hostels to which we are generally used, here they are mostly apartments of locals who decide to rent the rooms. For a good, clean hostel you would spend about 10 dollars for a double room with shared bathroom, but even less.

If you go to the Red Sea instead, the costs increase: a resort 4 stelle, all-inclusive costs around $ 50 per day each. The excursions sold within the resorts have, compared to the rest, a high and sometimes almost disproportionate cost.

The same snorkeling tour that I paid 30 euros by contracting is easy buy it for about half of it on GetYourGuide before departure.

From Hurghada a day tour to the pyramids it can also cost 150 euros each against 35 always on GetYourGuide.

Restaurants

Eating, like everything else, is also quite cheap. In restaurants for locals, you can easily eat for $ 5 each including a main course, beer and salad. In short, with $ 5 or less you will get up from the table with a full stomach.

Restaurants for tourists (in Cairo don't miss the Felfela!) Are obviously more expensive, around 10 dollars each.

Try to avoid the restaurants located at the entrance of Khan El Khalili in Cairo as they are very expensive (you can also spend 15 dollars each) and the quality of the food is a bit dubious.

Transportation

Although at the end of June 2018 the price of gasoline practically doubled, getting around by public transport is still really cheap. For small public vans you spend a few tens of cents, while renting a taxi for the whole day at your disposal costs about 25 euros.

Long-distance buses are cheap and standards vary (and consequently the price).

For example, with 15 euros, you take a ticket on a luxury bus from Hurghada to Cairo. There are even cheaper buses, but the journey may not be the best since the buses are often broken, dirty and without air conditioning.

The train is cheap for the Egyptians and a shot for foreigners. Just to be clear for the night train that goes from Cairo to Aswan, a local spends about 13 euros while a foreigner pays 80. The trick to save is to get tickets from a local person (ask at the hostel) and maybe at the market. black.

What to see and do

Cairo

There isn't much I can say about Cairo that hasn't already been said thousands of times. Obviously the Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx are something unique and special but I'll tell you about them later. Also a mandatory visit to the egyptian museum it will last a couple of hours, but be careful. By the end of 2018 the museum will be moved from the old historic building to a new modern museum near the pyramids!

Il Islamic neighborhood it's an interesting place, especially if you've never been to an Islamic country before, this section of Cairo exudes charisma. Don't miss that mess of streets it is Khan el Khalili, historic bazaar: very touristy to tell the truth, here you have to bargain here because the prices are very inflated, but if you go well you will also find small shops for the locals, and it is the most fascinating part.

3 days in Cairo are enough to experience the chaos (I love the chaos of Cairo) and see the main sites, including the Saladin Citadel (there isn't much apart from the beautiful mosque, count about an hour even less) there city ​​of the Dead and Coptic quarter.

Pyramids of Giza

Le pyramids of Giza, the last survivors of the seven wonders of the ancient world, are one of the most recognizable and most photographed places in the history of our planet.
Built as tombs for mighty pharaohs and guarded by the gaze of the enigmatic Sphinx, the pyramid complex at Giza has enchanted travelers since the beginning of time and has caused archaeologists to rack their brains for centuries to understand how they were built. .
No, it is not a "stargate" and the aliens have nothing to do with it, the pyramids are the result of the work of thousands of men.

Discover in this post the curiosities and secrets of the Pyramids of Giza!

What else to say except that the Pyramids are the undeniable highlight of any trip to Egypt?

Saqqara

It may not be as famous as the pyramids of Giza, but the Saqqara necropolis it is the place where the first pyramid was built. An easy day trip from Cairo (30 kilometers north), Saqqara and the surrounding pyramids of Dahshur and Abu Sir are a showcase of early pharaohs architecture.

The Step Pyramid of Djoser, the Curved Pyramid and the Red Pyramid are some of the most important treasures of the ancient kingdom, and are absolutely worth going there.
Don't miss the cute little museum of Imhotep (where his only existing figurine is) and the finely decorated double mastaba of Nebet and Khenut.

Karnak e Luxor

About 6 hours by bus from Aswan is located Luxor, the Capital of Ancient Egypt with its dusty yellow desert landscape: here are most of the musts of a trip to Egypt: the Valley of the Kings, the temples of Karnak and Luxor, the colossi of Memnon, the temple of Hatshepshut, the Valley of the Queens and that of the nobles.

Some of these, like the Valley of the Kings, are located quite far from the city, the advice I can give you is to join a shared tour or to rent a taxi for the whole day.

I templi at Karnak e Luxor instead they are located in the city center so it is easy to reach them either by taxi or with a delightful ride in a horse-drawn carriage.

The hypostyle hall of the Karnak temple is one of the most impressive sites in Egypt and the most visited by tourists from all over the world. The hall consisted of 134 gigantic pillars aligned in 16 rows that were supposed to support a roof, now fallen. As this place is one of the most visited in the whole country, go early in the morning to avoid the numerous tour groups. Or visit it in the evening during the Sound and Light Show which, believe me, is worth seeing.

The best time to visit Luxor temple is at sunset or in the evening when the statues and halls of the temple are illuminated against the starry sky.

Nile cruise

Since the Victorian era, one Nile cruise it is the most romantic and comfortable way to visit the sites of ancient Egypt. It takes about 4 or 5 days to get from Aswan to Luxor (or vice versa) and depending on whether you choose a motor ship or felucca cruise.

The options are so many, give it to you extra-luxury cruises with ship equipped with jacuzzi and swimming pool, to those low cost e last minute. The choice depends only on the budget available and the comfort as they all follow roughly the same itinerary which includes the temple of Edfu, Kom Ombo, Karnak and Luxor and Aswan.

You are looking for one economic Nile cruise but that includes all visits and places of interest with guide Egyptologist?

Guarda THIS OFFER from Civitatis, I don't think you can find better !!

Visit Abu Simbel and get lost in the Aswan market

In my opinion Abu Simbel, after the pyramids, it is by far one of the coolest things in Egypt.

Located about 300 km south of Aswan (which is already the southernmost city in Egypt), it is mandatory, unless you have a rental car, to go there on a tour from Aswan and leave early in the morning (in actually, rather than early in the morning, I would say late at night since the tours depart around 3:00).

The size of the Great Temple of Ramses II will sweep away the fatigue of the bus ride in an instant. When you turn the corner to enter the temple, there is a moment of "wow" in front of the 4 huge statues of the pharaoh. Arriving early will also save you the tourist hordes of organized travel!

On your return from Abu Simbel (usually you return to Aswan around one in the afternoon) and after a nap, towards sunset try to take a tour of the Aswan Spice Market that in the evening comes alive with the presence of the "locals". Bargain until you have no more voice!

To learn more read my post on what to see in Aswan!

Diving in the Red Sea

When most people think of traveling to Egypt, they imagine deserts and archaeological sites, but divers know that the Red Sea boasts some of the best diving and snorkeling in the world.

The seas that lap the east coast of Egypt are home to some of the most colorful corals and most diverse fish to be seen on the entire planet. The dive sites here are truly top notch.

For decades, South Sinai (especially Sharm El-Sheikh) was a top destination in search of sea and sun.

Over time, other Red Sea destinations have become popular: Hurghada, Berenice e Marsa Alam.

Some of the best sites in the South Sinai region include the Blue Hole, Thistlegorm, Sharks Reef, and the Strait of Gubal.

Maybe you might like: The best excursions from Sharm-El-Sheikh

Along the coast of the continent, Hurghada and Marsa Alam are located.

Marsa Alam is the gateway to dive sites to the south without a cruise.
The most famous dive sites are Elphinstone Reef and Sha'ab Samadai.

Read: Snorkeling in Marsa Alam, the best places to dive!

I highly recommend, especially if you are an experienced divers, to book a multi-day boat cruise: this allows you to get to places where the tourists of the resorts do not arrive and the coral reef is completely intact.

Sandboarding in the Fayoum Desert

Il Magic Lake is a beautiful lake located in the dunes of Wadi El Hitan in Fayoum; it was named so because the lake changes its colors several times a day depending on the time and the amount of sunlight it receives.

It is a wonderful place surrounded by the desert to sandboard, swim or just enjoy the wonderful waterfall. The lake also contains minerals that help treat rheumatism patients, and can be reached easily with an adrenaline-pumping 4 × 4 ride through the dunes.

Visit Alexandria

After a few days in the chaos of Cairo, it is a good idea to visit the coastal city of Egypt, Alexandria, named after the founder of the city, Alexander the Great. The city is easily accessible by bus or train or with an organized tour, although personally I would spend at least one night there to be able to visit the city calmly.

The Citadel of Qaitbay, the Montaza Palace and the Library of Alexandria are just some of the places to visit. You should also try the seafood that Alexandria is famous for.

White Desert and the Oasis of the Western Desert

The desert occupies more than two thirds of Egypt. Starting from the western bank of the Nile, the desert extends west to Libya and south to Sudan, forming part of the vast expanse of the Sahara Desert that stretches across North Africa to the Atlantic Ocean.

The desert, by definition, is dry and arid, but water is not lacking and even here in the dunes, it is the key to life.

In fact, below the desert there are huge aquifers, fed by the occasional rains, which in some points rise to the surface forming oases, real fertile gardens.

There are five oases in the western desert, Siwa Oasis, Bahariya Oasis, Farfra, Dhakla and Kharga. The White Desert, el-Sahara el-Beida, is the most famous attraction of all: it is a magical landscape full of strange limestones that are shaped like gigantic mushrooms.

Visit a camel market

Don't do this if you don't have a very strong stomach. There are various camel markets around the country, that of Birqash, about 30 km from Cairo is one of them. Very local experience, but the camels arrive on trucks from Sudan and are often very emaciated, injured and some die of starvation and fatigue directly when they reach the market.

If you want to go there I recommend you ask some agency because lately there have been some problems with tourists and they are not taken very willingly.

What to taste absolutely

Food is another reason why Egypt amazed me. As in most countries of the Middle East, a large part of Egyptian culture lies in gathering around the table, with relatives and friends: in short, food is an opportunity to spend time together… celebrating of course!

Here are some of the traditional Egyptian foods that I have personally tried and that I recommend you try too, at least once.

Falafel

Il Ta'meya (falafel) is one of the most commonly eaten foods in Egypt, it is a meatball made of crushed bean paste and fried. One of my favorite dishes and one of the cheapest. It's like poor people's burger. It is quite common in breakfast when Ta'meya shops are full of people: it is traditional for people to start their day with Ta'meya, because it fills their stomach and gives them energy. Ta'meya is also well known abroad, in countries such as Jordan e Israel, where it is known as Falafel. It is good, cheap and tasty.

Koshari

Definitely not one of my favorite dishes, but nonetheless the koshari it is a traditional Egyptian dish and an inexpensive choice for vegetarians. All my hesitation towards this dish is the fact that personally I don't like overcooked pasta, if it is mixed with overcooked rice too ...

Anyway, I tried the koshari of course and it is a homemade dish. Apparently, this dish originated in the 19th century, when lower-class citizens at the end of the month used to combine everything that was left over. Ingredients include lentils, rice, macaroni, chickpeas, tomato sauce, onions, garlic, oil, vinegar, and sometimes hot sauce.

Kabab e kofta

I don't think there is any need for an introduction if you are a meat lover and have already traveled to Middle East, then the kabab or kebab you know him very well! The kebab is prepared with grilled pieces of meat (lamb or veal). As for Kofta, it is a piece of ground beef and is also prepared on the grill. Both are served with Egyptian bread, salads and tahini (sesame sauce). Kebab is a very popular dish also in Iran.

Baba Ghanouj

A traditional Egyptian "mezzo" (appetizer), the Baba Ghanouj it is made by mashing the roasted eggplant with Tahini paste, a little garlic and a little white vinegar to help lighten the color. It is served as a cold appetizer with pita bread and some salty pickles such as cucumbers, (super hot) chillies and turnips.

How to get around by public transport

Move with i By public transport, especially over long distances it is easy and cheap.
Il night train from Cairo to Aswan it costs about 13 euros for Egyptians and 80 for tourists, it goes without saying that the best thing is to have the ticket purchased from a friend or from the managers of the hotel or hostel where you are.

The trains are nothing less than ours, indeed perhaps even better: the seats are spacious and you can sleep comfortably in them, but beware that the air conditioning is so strong that it gets cold (bring a heavy shirt and long pants) and the light. it is never turned off, not even at night (perfect the mask for the eyes that give on the plane).
On the trains, you can order both dinner and breakfast, but it's best to bring something to nibble on.

I long-distance bus, those of Go Bus, they are great, but you have to get the more luxurious ones if you want to travel comfortably. The Elite buses are the best: personal airplane-type screens, two floors, clean, free coffee and tea, and a "survival kit" with sandwich, water and some sweets is included. They travel safely and are really comfortable.

The others are a little bit untidy to be honest, the cheap ones are dirty, old and without air conditioning. In short, the price difference (a few euros) is so minimal that it is not justified to save money unless self-harm.
Long-distance buses travel between all of Egypt's most popular tourist destinations. You can download the app and buy tickets online.

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