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Egypt has always been on my travel list. Being drawn to the birthplace of majestic pharaohs, the great pyramids, and oriental mysteries, I set on an adventure to explore it. Below I’ve put together 7 things you need to know if you’re planning a trip to Egypt!
1. How to get to Egypt
So how did we reach Egypt? Getting to Egypt on our own was not an option, so we booked with a local Bulgarian agency. We spent six days at the amazing “Stella Di Mare Makadi Beach Resort & Spa” next to the city of Hurghada, which also has a small airport nearby. After this relaxing stay, we set out to Cairo for a day.
Firstly, what I advise you to do is book daily trips when you’re already at the hotel. Each day around 10 am, there are representatives from different agencies who can give you options for sightseeing at more reasonable prices than the one your agency provides back home. It is in your advantage if you speak Russian or German as the majority of tourists in Egypt come from these countries.
2. Where to stay in Egypt
What I really encourage you to do, is think carefully when picking the hotel you’ll stay at. Our hotel was just perfect from its location and cleanliness to its food and service. The big advantage for me was the fact that Stella Di Mare hotel is not targeted at families with kids per se, so peace and quiet are guaranteed. We also liked the fact that there is a coral reef right in front of it so you can experience the amazing sea life the Red Sea. I personally saw colorful fish, an octopus, jellyfish, and many starfish, especially during low tide, happening around 11 am – 12 am.
3. Fun Activities in Egypt
However, if you plan a trip to Egypt’s seacoast, diving or snorkeling is a must. Starting from approximately 35-50 USD per person, this adventure is truly unforgettable. You set off for a day to swim, snorkel and explore the beauties and vivid colors of the sea.
For the adventurers who prefer an out of the water activity, you could try quad safari. For about half a day, you drive a one-man quad, then hop on an off-road jeep and finally end up having dinner in the desert with Bedouins. I would not include in my program as I am more of a sea life lover, but there something for everyone out there.
4. What Else Other than the Pyramids?
Situated at about 250 km inland from the Egypt coast city of Hurghada is the majestic complex of temples and tombs of Luxor. On your list should definitely be the Valley of the Kings, the Hatshepsut Temple, the Colossi of Memnon and Karnak Temple. Prepare for an exhausting day with many tourists, the heat might be unbearable even in May, but it is totally worthwhile in the end. One thing to prepare for is to always bring a few bottles of water with you as even if your trip includes lunch, you will be overcharged for drinks on spot.
If your tour guide suggests an optional 5 USD boat ride on the Nile definitely jump for it. The longest river in the world is what impressed me the most during my stay in Egypt. To see how the locals make a living through farming right next to the river was really a once in a lifetime experience. Banana, wheat, and sugar cane plantations are among the most common sights with up to four harvests per year due to the constant water supply and warm climate.
On our last day of the holiday, we traveled to Cairo and saw the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities. The Egyptian government is building a new massive museum right next to the Pyramids so in case you visit in six months or so, plans are for the new building to be fully in use. After the museum, we saw The Pyramids of Giza and the majestic Sphinx. In case you want to buy cheap souvenirs, the best prices are at the last stop of the trip bus at the panoramic view of the three pyramids. You will be able to ride around on a camel or hop on a horse cart to see the place in more detail.
5. Foods and Tastes of Egyptian Cuisine
As we stayed at an all-inclusive hotel, food was very much adapted for the European taste. The more exotic foods we tried were fresh guava, dates, local desserts, a local beer made in Egypt – Sakara, fresh local fish and calamari cooked in various dishes. Interesting is the “black honey” as they call it, or molasses made of sugar cane syrup. It goes well with your morning muesli or pancakes.
6. What about Safety in Egypt?
The two cities I visited in Egypt were Hurghada and Cairo and they felt relatively safe, with military checkup points every few kilometers in between. However, it is advisable to always stay in your group. If a women traveler – dress in longer cover-up clothes to avoid uncomfortable looks. If you walk without a guide, try to stay on the main roads, avoid hectic and very busy locations, prepare to always have something put in your hands and asked to pay for it after. Street sellers are maybe the most annoying I’ve seen.
7. Peculiarities of Egypt
- On landing in Egypt, hurry up and buy an internet sim card from the airport in Cairo or Hurghada for 10 USD. 3G is not the best we’ve had, but still a better way to communicate. Internet at hotels is paid. Check if you pay for Giga Bite or Giga Bit.
- Always bring water with you as tours around Luxor and the Pyramids are long and exhausting. When you are attending a planned in the program lunch, drinks are paid for and usually overpriced.
- Do not agree on a free shopping tour to Hurghada as you will only waste your time being taken to overpriced souvenir, oils made in Egypt, perfume, and herbs shops, owned by Russians with a lecture on oils in Russian.
- Women should dress in covering clothes if they want to avoid local men staring.
- Tipping is the usual practice at toilets, when taking a photo with a Bedouin, when an Egyptian helps you to tie your scarf around your head, etc.
- Accepted currency in Egypt is the American dollar or the local Egyptian Pound.
- Bargaining is something usual when you want to buy souvenirs. They are the cheapest and best deals are in Cairo at the Pyramids, and more precisely at the panorama sight of all three pyramids.
So that’s it, feel free to ping me if you have some more specific questions. Would be glad to answer. Wish you a great and unforgettable stay in Egypt!
Fancy a more European destination? Check out our travel guides for Italy and Spain.