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Egypt

 
 
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Author david
Partaker
#1 | Posted: 7 Oct 2009 13:44 
I am planning a two weeks tour of Egypt, arriving by plane at Cairo (we are 3 persons). I have some questions to ask:
- Is it better to book an organized tour (considering also that we don't like it too much) or to plan on our own the tour?
- Is it safe to travel by a rented car? / are the main roads sufficiently safe and well mantained? and the secondary ones?
- Is it safe to travel on our own in the Nile Delta (to visit Cairo, Alexandria, Rachid, Abu Mena, Abu Mena, Wadi Natrun, Pyramid Fields and Memphis)?
- Are Abu Mena and Wadi Natrun easily reachable?
- Is it safe to visit Cairo in a group of 3 persons (considering also that we will have a quite valuable camera with us)? Is it necessary to stay only on the main streets?
- Is it safe to visit the Cairo necropolises (I have heard that they are inhabitated by poor people who shouldn't be happy with someone visiting their homes)?
- Is it easy to find an accomodation in Egypt? Is it better to book in advance? Is it better to find accomodation in higher category hotel?
- To visit the Nile banks is it better to book a cruise or is it possible to travel by some private ferry/boat/ship stopping several times along its way with the possibility to visit well the main sites (Beni Hassan, El Amarna, Hermopolis, Tuna El Gebel, Abydos, Dendera, Luxor, Karnak, Thebes Necropolis, Isna, Edfu, Komombo, Assuan, Philae, Saluga and Ghazal Islands, Lake Nasser, Kalabsha, Wadi es Sebu, Amada, Abu Simbel) along the way having all the time you need to do so? As an alternative, is it practicable and safe to travel by a rented car or by bus along the Nile?
- Is it easy to reach Wadi Al Hitan?
Maybe I will ask some other questions in the next days. Thanks for the (eventual) answers.

Author Solivagant
Partaker
#2 | Posted: 8 Oct 2009 02:31 | Edited by: Solivagant 
Over the years on different trips we have travelled around Egypt by Bus/Train, self-drive rental car (Cairo - Abu Simbel return plus Sinai) and "Cruise". The most recent (the "cruise") was 2 years ago but conditions change. If you spend time perusing the Lonely Planet Forum you should pick up the latest info on many of the subjects you are interested in http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/index.jspa (either select Egypt and go from there or use search limiting key words like "Egypt Car Rental")

You are wanting to fit in a lot over a fairly short time - a problem with public transport is that the logistics of travel can "waste" time. It is all very well for someone on the forum who is travelling for weeks/months to say how wonderful it is! For instance even all those years ago one couldn't guarantee getting a ticket on the night sleeper Cairo-Luxor the next day! And 3rd class "stop-everywhere" trains will use up your days.

The end of the convoy system nearly everywhere will have made self drive "easier" - We didn't find the police a problem as in some countries where getting hassled at checkpoints or for fictional misdemeanours gets very wearing. It is nice to be able to take the quieter roads on the "other" side of the Nile and it is a lot easier to pick up locations like Beni Hassan, Armarna. The car has all the advantages of flexibility , ease of trying different hotels before deciding etc etc. Downsides of course are the possibility of accidents, traffic (A rental car is a liability in Cairo - but I am glad I have done it!). With the cost split 3 ways and if you are confident with driving in such conditions it would probably be my preferred choice for travel. Actually the roads are not bad and, as I remember it (despite concerns in the Thorn Tree), all significant signs were in English as well as Arabic - though knowing the Arabic numerals for roadside distance markers helps - but this is easy enough and is worth having anyway.

the "Nile cruise" in my opinion is over-rated. The Luxor-Aswan stretch isn't very long and a lot of time is spent with the boat tied up alongside a dozen others with a "corridor" through all the boats -add the lock wait at Esna and some overnight travel then you don't see a lot of "The Nile Banks" anyway -if you want that experience i would think of a shorter day return trip from Luxor (there is a regular one whose details I can't remember e.g is it every day or not -- you will probably find it on the Web somewhere or in LP) or a Felucca.

Crowds at the sites are a massive problem in Egypt now - being on your "own" has its advantages and disadvantages - can you avoid the large groups or thread your way through or will you just get pushed to one side? Both will happen! I think that a good case could be made out for a "first time" visitor to Egypt to take an all-inclusive package and see the main sites with a guide -going back on another trip to see things by themselves together with the less common sites. From UK they are remarkably cheap. In much of the world a guide is of doubtful use but, despite myself, I have to say that they can add a lot to a visit to an Egyptian site - unless you are not particularly interested in the detail. On the other hand being stuck with a bad one or one whose approach doesn't "please" could be hell!

I have never felt "at risk" in Egypt. Hassled yes but no worse. Obviously all "normal" care should be taken

Re hotels -the only time we had any problem was in non-tourist towns between Cairo and Luxor - eg Assyut where the choice was limited because most tourists don't overnight there. Luxor, Aswan and Cairo have plenty of choice and we found 2* acceptable. But things can change re availability depending on world economic circumstances and time of year. If it is very important to you to have a guaranteed clean room then you have to travel and pay accordingly! A lot of 4* hotels in Luxor are geared to groups - whether that means they have knock down prices for empty rooms I don't know. Re prebooking - possibly for Cairo on arrival? It depends on your time of arrival - I personally don't like having to look for hotels after a long flight and at 2 in the morning! If you like the hotel you can probably stay longer and also book for the last night. Cairo is enormous and travel very slow unless you can use the Metro (though even "Giza" metro station is 10kms/20mins from the pyramids!) so there is an issue re best location which you will have to decide - out at the pyramids or city centre. Given that you want to visit other aspects of Cairo I would probably go for the city. I don't have a particular recommendation.

Finally - it IS "touristy" and someone did get killed (!!) the other month but I would recommend the balloon flight at Luxor - shop around for prices as always. We used Sindbad which was ok and we got a good deal despite buying it at the desk in the Winter Palace Hotel! We must have got the "special rates" for "last minute" as per this Web site E300 @ UK1 = E11 http://www.sindbadballoons.com/Rates.html

Author Zoe
Partaker
#3 | Posted: 22 Nov 2018 10:59 
Els,

can you share some info on your tour to Wadi Al-Hitan? Last time I was in Egypt it was closed to the public and some of the tour guides I'm in touch with say they are still being turned away now. Maybe you got lucky?

Author elsslots
Admin
#4 | Posted: 22 Nov 2018 12:09 
Zoe:
Maybe you got lucky?

I don't think so. It was easy to do and there were several other small groups around when I visited.
I organised it via Djed. They do not run the tours themselves but organized it via a local subcontractor with a 4WD from the Fayoum area (I don't have his details).

Author MichaelN
Partaker
#5 | Posted: 22 Nov 2018 15:12 
I visited Wadi Al-Hitaj in December 2012 and had no problem arranging with Egypt Panorama Tours (http://eptours.com). Same as Els' trip — door to door from my hotel in Cairo. Just a driver, no guide, as is my preference.

Author Zoe
Partaker
#6 | Posted: 30 Jan 2019 14:20 
Michael, that is a long time ago lol things have apparently changed quite a bit in Egypt

Els your tour agency also doesn't do it anymore. I had another agency booked and they cancelled 3 days before saying the police didn't approve, mentioned some accident but I'm unsure what they meant. Then I called up Djet and they said whereas tour groups do go it is illegal so they don't offer it. So knowing someone does it I found a local guide who took me along , using his connections with the checkpoint coppers to get through. Kind of annoyed with the Egyptian way this works.

Author Zoe
Partaker
#7 | Posted: 4 Feb 2019 05:29 
I realize now the "accident" the tour agency mentioned was the Dec 28 bomb at the Giza pyramids. Sad.

Author kintante
Partaker
#8 | Posted: 5 Feb 2019 05:59 
Did anyone recently visit Saint Catherine's monastery? That was the one I missed in 2014 as the tour was cancelled due to safety issues.

Author Zoe
Partaker
#9 | Posted: 5 Feb 2019 11:50 
I have been in 2016 but can't speak for more recently. The hotel found me a driver with permit.

Author nfmungard
Partaker
#10 | Posted: 30 Jan 2022 10:29 
Thinking about a week stint to Egypt.

Plan
Friday Hamburg=>Cairo
Saturday Cairo (day) => Aswan (evening flight)
Sunday Aswan: Abu Simbel
Monday Aswan=>Luxor: Tentative sites along the way.
Tuesday Luxor=>Hator (evening train): Luxor, Karnak, Hatsheput.
Wednesday Hathor=>Mallawi: Hator, Abydos
Thursday Mallawi=>Al Fayyum: Amarna.
Friday Al Fayyum => Cairo: Wadi al Hittum, El Fayyum.
Saturday Cairo
Sunday Cairo => Hamburg

Questions
* How long does it take to get from Cairo to Cairo Airport? Bus, taxi, metro?
* How do tours of Abu Simbel from Aswan work? What sites do they visit? Best to organize via hotel?
* Most seem to do Wadi al Hittum from Cairo. How much is a day trip? I thought it might be easier to stay at El Fayyum and arrange a driver there.

Author Colvin
Partaker
#11 | Posted: 30 Jan 2022 15:03 
I took a taxi to and from Cairo airport and Cairo. Traffic in Cairo can be crazy, so I'd err on the side of planning a little more time to travel between the two.

I did a daytrip to Abu Simbel from Aswan via Egyptair without an organized tour, but that was in 2012, and I have no idea how things have changed since then. I'd allow some time for Aswan; it is much more laidback than Cairo, and I enjoyed learning more about the Nubian culture there. The night tour to Philae was pretty cool, though I imagine it is just as nice during the day.

A week doesn't allow much time for downtime, but I usually recommend to folks interested in taking more time to look into dahabiya trips between Aswan and Luxor. Dahabiyas are smaller than cruise ships, with only a few people on each sailing, so you can avoid crowds when visiting sites. Plus, traveling the Nile by boat is very memorable.

Author Liam
Partaker
#12 | Posted: 30 Jan 2022 18:15 
Taxis can get you anywhere in Cairo, though how long it will take depends upon where you are starting from - it's a big city. Oh, and check the roadworthiness of the taxi. On one ride it was only when the driver braked that I realised that my passenger seat was not actually fastened into the car by anything other than my own bodyweight and the seat belt. Fortunately he didn't brake often (though he did drive directly at a traffic cop in the middle of a roundabout before swerving away and laughing that he was his friend).

For Abu Simbel from Aswan you have the option of travelling by land (4 hours each way in a specified convoy back in 2007) or via flights (quicker but much more expensive). If you're planning on a single day in Aswan you will need to fly if you want yo see the other key sites like Philae as well.

I only spent 24 hours in Luxor when I visited (Karnak in the evening followed by Valley of the Kings the following morning). In my view you need longer to include Luxor temple and a bit more of the west Bank.

Cairo can suck up however long you want to give to it. Giza and the museum can take most of a day. I spent a day on a really enjoyable walk from Ibn Tulun Mosque to the mosque of al-Hakim via the Gayer-Anderson museum, Citadel, Bab Zuweila and Khan al-Khalili. Coptic Cairo is a nice half day.

Author nfmungard
Partaker
#13 | Posted: 31 Jan 2022 03:54 
Should have mentioned that I already did the Pyramids and Luxor as day trips from a Red Sea cruise.

Colvin:
I did a daytrip to Abu Simbel from Aswan via Egyptair without an organized tour,

No flights. Probably because 20 Feb is one of the 2 days of the year. 200 EUR vs early morning sleeping on the bus... Would rather for the bus. Just wondering what stops the bus does apart from the main temples.

Colvin:
ahabiyas are smaller than cruise ships

Not really into colonial cruises ;) I rather travel with the masses on trains. Especially if short on time.

Liam:
I only spent 24 hours in Luxor when I visited (Karnak in the evening followed by Valley of the Kings the following morning). In my view you need longer to include Luxor temple and a bit more of the west Bank.

Valley of Kings I already did and not too keen on a revisit. Karnak, Luxor and Hatsheput.

Liam:
Cairo can suck up however long you want to give to it. Giza and the museum can take most of a day. I spent a day on a really enjoyable walk from Ibn Tulun Mosque to the mosque of al-Hakim via the Gayer-Anderson museum, Citadel, Bab Zuweila and Khan al-Khalili. Coptic Cairo is a nice half day.

Would be 1,75 days with the Pyramids already seen. Will manage ;)

Author Liam
Partaker
#14 | Posted: 31 Jan 2022 10:56 
nfmungard:
I already did the Pyramids and Luxor as day trips from a Red Sea cruise.

I reckon your timings will work then :-) Bit unsure over the TWHS sites between Aswan and Luxor - I did them over 2 or 3 days sailing downstream by felucca. But otherwise looks good. Cairo is your playground!

For Abu Simbel I went via a shared car arranged through a travel firm. There were no stops and at that time it was a police convoy so we literally were not allowed to stop. 4 hours out, maybe 90.minutes on site, 4 hours back. Even with the famed 'gyppy tummy' it was still worth it. But do include Philae if at all possible - its USPs are the Roman overlay and its (UNESCO approved) location which is highly scenic.

Author nfmungard
Partaker
#15 | Posted: 31 Jan 2022 12:22 
Liam:
For Abu Simbel I went via a shared car arranged through a travel firm. There were no stops and at that time it was a police convoy so we literally were not allowed to stop. 4 hours out, maybe 90.minutes on site, 4 hours back. Even with the famed 'gyppy tummy' it was still worth it. But do include Philae if at all possible - its USPs are the Roman overlay and its (UNESCO approved) location which is highly scenic.

flights booked now. 20 feb seems to be magical day in abu simbel :D

by your numbers, we should be back at 14:00h. should give some time to explore aswan in the afternoon/next morning. in addition, i could take a cab for the transit aswan to luxor and do the stops this way. have to see. :)

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