The land of the pharaohs and so much more. We came for the ancient history and were served all of that with a side of “You want a camel? Good price!” Star gazing in the White Desert, fish bothering in the Red Sea, hot air balloon rides, sunset felucca cruises, temples, tombs, and the dessicated corpses of kings and queens. From the chaos of Cairo to the relative (with the emphasis on relative) calm of Luxor’s West Bank, Egypt has been absolutely fucking amazing.
Jump to “Useful shit to know…”
BUDGET for one person (based on two sharing) for 30 days.
Visa: £22.53 (US$25)
Buses, trains: £37.68
Eating out: £93.29
Tea, coffee, drinks: £44.54
Tours, guides: £189.78
Entrance fees: £214.07
SIM card, phone credit: £22.64
Scuba diving: £370.21
Everything else: £37.17
GRAND TOTAL: £1629.85
Average per day: £54.33
This makes it look like Egypt is expensive but day to day shit is cheap. It’s the entrance fees and activities that drive the daily average up, but I guess there’s little point in coming to Egypt if you don’t indulge in the things that the country has to offer.
Daily average without flights and diving: £35.32
The Surreal Egyptian Desert
We’d both had our little hearts set on a tour to the White Desert and the initial plan was to catch a bus into Bawiti and sort one out from there. We had no idea how long that would take…
The Last Ancient Wonder Of The World
Here we go then, the actual pyramids! We read up on the scams and the tricks employed to part you with your money. We braced ourselves for the constant onslaught of touts doing their bestest to get you to ride…
The Other Pyramids
Dashur and Saqqara are a bit of a ballache to get to. We did contemplate Uber but the distances between the attractions within each site are also a bit of a bugger and, as we found out at Giza, traipsing…
Quite A Bit Of Dead Shit
We had a little wander into Cairo today to put some Coptic stuff in our eyeholes. After we’d filled up on fuul at our current favourite place to get the delicious beany goodness we braved the public transport system, because…
A Stroll Around Islamic Cairo
So I actually quite like Cairo. There. I said it. Is it noisy, busy, chaotic and a bit smelly in parts? Abso-fucking-lutely! But is everyone lovely and friendly and actually really helpful? I mean, mostly, yes. Some people want you…
“Don’t take the night train!” people will tell you, “You won’t get to see Egypt if it’s dark!” No, but I will save on a night’s accommodation and the night train becomes a day train when the sun comes up.…
The Biggest Ego In All The Land
Ramses II liked building fuck off great big things to remind everyone of his general badassery and the temples at Abu Simbel are a fine example of this. They reckon he built this particular imposing temple in that location to…
Luxor’s East Bank
We’re not staying on the East Bank of Luxor and thank fuck we’re not. It’s nothing particularly special and we’d read that the West Bank was a much nicer place to be. Our introduction to Luxor though, that pretty much…
Tombs Of The Pharaohs
CONTENT WARNING: DEAD DUDE! We saw the mummy of Tutankhamen and I’ve included a photo of him in this blog. Ancient Egyptians only lived on the East Bank of the river Nile. They worshipped the sun disc which rose in…
The High Life
There is a tourist activity in Luxor that doesn’t involve dragging your unwilling carcass through dusty archaeological sites, lamenting the fact you didn’t bring enough water whilst you try to stop your devices from heating up and the sun claims…
Okay, Fine, Just One Last Temple Then
The Horus temple at Edfu is very much worth the effort I think but oh my fucking gosh, what an effort it was! Trains in Egypt are ultimately a great way to get around but they’re also generally late and…
Fish Bothering In The Red Sea
The city of Marsa Alam is a bit of a shithole, the seafront property is mostly unfinished, apparently due to some bizarre Egyptian law whereby if you have land you have to build on it or the government will take…
Chilling Out & Finishing Up
I could have done more diving, I’d quite happily come back to Egypt one day and just spend 30 days diving here, but I wanted to spend some time with Tarrant in this little slice of oceanic paradise. There’s some…
Useful shit to know…
To & From The Airport
- I wish I could give you comprehensive advice on this but basically, use Uber to get to the airport. It’s hassle free and easy.
- You can catch the 356 bus from the station at 30.050324, 31.234191 which goes to the airport.
- To get from the airport we took the free airport shuttle to the bus station then asked around until we were pointed to a bus to Ramses Train Station. The bus was LE5.50 each. You just get on and a conductor will eventually sell you a ticket.
- To catch the airport shuttle turn left out of Terminal 3 and find the little Starbucks. Opposite that on the other side of the taxis is where we picked it up. You’ll know the bus station when you see it.
- I’ve heard the worst thing you can do is catch a normal taxi from the airport. You’ll be vastly overcharged and every scam known will be attempted.
- The Metro is fast and easy to use. Tell them at the ticket desk which station you want to go to and how many tickets you want.
- Some of the barriers are for the tappy tap cards only. Look for the ones with the little slot in them for your ticket. They’re taller.
- Some stations have “Tickets” written in English. If not, ask. Just because it looks like a ticket desk it doesn’t mean it’s a ticket desk. If lines are taking a long time and people in the queue have paperwork it’s probably not a ticket desk.
- The Metro, however, doesn’t go everywhere. I didn’t look into buses as Uber is so bloody cheap, even when it’s surging. It’s worth getting a local SIM just so you can use Uber in Cairo.
- They don’t like foreigners using local trains, they want us on the AC trains as these trains have security on board. People on the platform will tell you some trains are “Egyptian only” but in reality you can just get on and buy your ticket on board and no one gives a fuck. They’re very slow and outstandingly uncomfortable but they’re preferable for a couple of hours if the next AC train is hours away.
- AC1 and AC2 are really comfortable and the seats recline enough for sleep. You’ll need ear plugs and an eye mask though.
- You can easily book your long distance train online. See The Man In Seat 61 for details of how to do this.
- For shorter journeys you can just get on and pay when the conductor goes past. There’s a small penalty of just a few pounds.
- At Cairo Station, as soon as you’re spotted by tourist police outside of the station you’ll be steered into Tourist Information. If you’ve not bought your ticket yet these guys will tell you how, and if you have they’ll give you any information you’ll need.
- Making your way to your platform (at any station), you’re likely to be stopped by cleaners or porters wanting to see your ticket so they can direct you to your platform and/or carry your bags for baksheesh.
- Announcements are in Arabic only so you might need to accost people every time you hear one to make sure there’s not a platform change.
- At the four stations we used there was no information on the platforms in any language as to what train was standing on the platform. You have to ask but be prepared to pay for the help.
- Train travel can be really fucking frustrating, trains don’t run on time, but it’s ultimately one of the best ways to get up and down the Nile.
- Local restaurants and cafés don’t sell beer, nor can you buy it in the minimarkets it seems. We didn’t go to any larger supermarkets.
- Tourist restaurants sell Stella (an Egyptian brand, not the Belgian Stella Artois), for example, the restaurants along the Nile on Luxor’s West Bank.
- Drinkies has branches in Giza and Luxor (East Bank) for all your local and imported booze needs.
- There are going to be other places to buy beer, you’re best off asking a local or a tour guide.
- There are other beers available but Stella seems to be the go to. It’s kind of like carbonated piss water but it does taste noticeably better from a bottle than a can.
- If you want a beer in Downtown Cairo you can head to Al Horreya Café. Before you even sit down they’ll have popped a bottle of Stella for you. They were charging LE39 per bottle when we were there. The price list is printed and hung on the wall in Latin script.
- Cash is king.
- The Egyptian Pound (LE) fell off a cliff halfway through our stay which was great for withdrawing cash but less so when we overestimated how much we’d need and had to change it to USD.
- There’s a constant battle to obtain and hoard small notes to pay for minibuses, ferries and baksheesh. Break your big notes down as soon as you can in shops and restaurants.
- If you over estimate how much you need you’re going to have a bugger of a time changing your pounds into dollars as banks won’t do it for you and out of the five exchange shops we went to in Cairo only one had US dollars, and they only had $200.
- Not even the currency exchange at the airport had US dollars, they only had euros or British pounds.
- You will need to produce your passport to exchange currency.
- Tipping restaurant staff, your driver or tour guide goes without saying but you’re going to find men asking for “little something” or “baksheesh” because they followed you into a tomb and pointed at something, or gave you unsolicited advice, or just started guiding you whether you asked for it or not. It’s a bit annoying but you have to keep reminding yourself that you know this happens here, they’re asking for mere pence, and they probably get paid two tenths of fuck all so just cough up the pounds with a smile and get on with your day.
- It’s handy to have an Egyptian SIM, especially if you’re booking the budget accommodation on Booking.com. Sometimes it’s just someone renting out rooms in a flat so there’s no signage or reception desk and you’ll need to call them to come and pick you up from the ground floor.
- We went with the Vodafone Tourist Line SIM at the airport. Not cheap but includes a fuck tonne of data too which you’ll need as WiFi is unreliable, and 30 international minutes as well as more than enough local minutes.
- The preferred form of communication with hoteliers and drivers etc is WhatsApp.
- It’s helpful to learn Arabic numbers even if it’s only so you can recognise your Uber driver by his registration plate in Cairo. It’s also handy for reading prices.
- Always check the price of something before you commit and this includes food. Ask to see a menu. If it’s in Arabic, use Google Translate Lens to translate it, and learn the numbers.
- Also confirm the currency, they will often quote in dollars or euros.
- I don’t know how common this issue is but we were quoted an amount for a taxi in Luxor, then when he pulled away he told us that was for one person. I’m terrible at haggling so told him to pull the car over until he agreed to take us for the initially agreed price. Just check when they say LE50 they mean for the car, not per person.
- I cannot stress enough how wonderful Uber is in Cairo. It wasn’t in any of the other cities we visited but in Cairo it will save you so much fucking bother.
- The overwhelming majority of Egyptians are wonderful, friendly, kind and helpful people. It’s only a minority who will try and rip you off but you can protect yourself against this by familiarising yourself potential scams, finding out how much shit should cost, confirming which currency they’re quoting you in and whether the price is for both of you/your whole group or per person.
- “Best price” for me isn’t the local price or even the lowest price, it’s the price I’m happy to pay. I’m not going to argue with a man over 50p (but I’ll sure as fuck argue with him over £1.70!).
- Egypt Post deal with mail and parcels. Post offices are green fronted. Luxor has a big, green post office van not far from the ferry on the West Bank.
- You can buy postcards in Egypt but Egyptians are confused at the concept of them.
- No one seems to know how much international postage should be. Our friend, Silke, asked at her local post office and they said it would be LE20 each but they only had LE2.50 stamps. The next place wanted LE40 each but was eventually determined to be LE20. They only had LE4 stamps so we had to squeeze 5 stamps on each postcard. When we came to post them in Marsa Alam we were told LE14 would have been fine. So who fucking knows!