Category Archives: Egypt

Egypt: Itinerary & Reviews

6

Hello y’all,

When I confirmed my trip to Egypt, I wanted it to be special since I was crossing off a bucket list item. Below is my itinerary and review. Remember, the review is a result of MY experience. You should still do your own research and use it to make an informed decision.

7 days, 6 Nights: Cairo, Luxor, Aswan, Alexandria & Wadi El Rayan

Day 1 (10th of June, Sunday):  Arrival + Giza Pyramids + Flight to ASWAN
      Arrive to Cairo airport at 11am in the morning. 
      We drive to Giza Pyramids & Sphinx.
  Transfer back to the airport for flight to ASWAN (Flight booked by Jakada)
  Overnight in Aswan [Helnan Hotel booked by Jakada].

Review: Flight landed on time, I did not check in a luggage and immigration was fast. Visa is USD$25. After seeing the Pyramids, Sphinx and visit to two shops, I was left with PLENTY of time before my 10.15pm flight to Aswan.

3

What I would do differently next time:

  • Schedule a visit to the Bazaar or somewhere else as a just in case if we have lots of time left.
  • Not buy stuff I don’t need. At the Oil shop, I felt obligated to buy something because they were nice. After 10 hours of flying, I felt afterwards that I let my guard down. Although, I only bought 1 small size of a mixture of oil (for $55 –negotiated from $90) that is supposed to treat eczema. I will update if it works, if not, the shop owner will get a massive side-eye lol. I also bought two painting for $70 made from Papyrus paper. Those I actually liked and do not regret buying. Update 1: at the airport duty free, they do sell the papyrus paper painting for really cheap, however, they are machine made vs. handmade.
  • I should have booked a different hotel. Helnan hotel is a 5 star hotel that in my opinion is living in past glory. The room was freaking outdated. Excellent customer service but the rooms was more like motel 6 #firstworldproblemsiknow.
Day 2 (11th of June, Monday): Abu Simbel
  Transfer to Luxor. Overnight in Luxor [Hotel booked by me – Hilton Luxor].

Review: I loved the vibes in Aswan even though I was just there for a few hours really.

8

What I would do differently next time:

  • Pick a different hotel or go with Airbnb for a local experience.
  • Add other sites in addition to Abu Simbel
  • Stay longer in Aswan and see other sites, interact with locals and meet up with couchsurfers. In Aswan, I saw many Egyptians that looked like me and I was very interested in socializing with them. This was when I regretted having a set itinerary. I will definitely come back to Aswan.
Day 3 (12th of June, Tuesday): Luxor
   Hot Air Ballon ride, Valley of the Kings, Clossal of 
Memmon, Valley of the Queen, Karnak & Luxor Temple.
   Fly to Cairo (Flight ticket booked by Jakada).
   Overnight in Cairo [Le Meridien Hotel booked by Jakada]

Review: I don’t like to say something is a Must Do because really nothing in life is a Must Do. I’m glad I decided to do the Hot Air Balloon ride, first time and I LOVED it.

4

What I would do differently next time:

  • Maybe stay one more night at Hilton. The hotel was AMAZING, Top Notch and everything a 5 star hotel should be. Although I booked the cheapest room for USD$72/night, I was not disappointed.
  • Also cramming the West and East Bank tour of Luxor in a day was a bit too much. I felt jaded after the second temple I visited. It didn’t help that it was 100F. So spacing it out might work better for you.
  • I should have advocated for myself when my guide somehow decided to cut off Valley of Queen from the itinerary –saying it wasn’t really that important. I felt that should have been my decision after seeing the site. I let it go because ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
Day 4 (13th of June, Wednesday): Day trip to Alexandria.
    Pompey's Pillar, Fort Qaitbay, Catacombs, Roman Amphitheatre, 
    The Alexandria Library.
    Overnight in Cairo [Hotel booked by Jakada – Le Meridien].

Review: I thought Alexandria was meh. Great for history buff I suppose. I was actually looking forward to it because of the historical nature. The highlight was the library – massive! I also liked that I was done with sightseeing at 6pmish. Gave me time to relax.

16

What I would do differently next time:

  • I think Alexandria would be a better use of time if you were actually immersing yourself in the local culture & staying for a longer period of time. The library was dope though. Glad I went, probably would skip on my next trip to Egypt.
Day 5 (14th June, Thursday): Al Fayoum Oasis and Wadi Rayan
     Overnight in Cairo 
     [Hotel booked by Jakada – Le Meridien].

Review: It wasn’t a big waterfalls but I still LOVED it. There are two waterfalls side by side. Worth a day trip. It was about a 2 hours’ drive from Cairo.

What I would do differently next time:

  • Nothing. I loved how the day’s activity was short. Gave me time to relax afterwards :).
Day 6 (15th of June, Friday): Cairo City Tour
          Egyptian Museum, Citadel & Coptic Cairo
          Overnight in Cairo [Hotel booked by Jakada – Le Meridien].

Review: My day started at 9am and by 1.30pmish, I was back at the hotel. The museum is massive with original artifact found from tombs. The section of the boy king was the most fascinating to me. Note, they are building a new museum, which should be opened by next year.

Coptic Cairo is also interesting – there are several churches including the famous hanging church and the cave in the church where Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus hid for a few months while fleeing Herod.

I didn’t get to see the Citadel because I was told it was overcrowded. It was the day after Ramadan ended so there were many people especially children out.  At the museum, a large group of young boys (about 12yrs old) was denied entry because the guards thought they would destroy the museum. Stupid & sad because they could have assigned a museum guide to them.

13

What I would do differently next time:

  • Nothing. Ok, maybe learn a few phrases in Arabic so I can interact with the many children that approached me (not for money). I loved how that every group of young girls I came across asked with gestures if they could take a picture with me or touch me/my hair and WAITED for my response. I happily obliged. They reminded me of my former 5th & 6th graders. Cute!
DAY 7 (16th of June, Saturday): Final Departure
        Transfer to airport. Flight departs at 7.45am in the morning.

Included in the tour package

  • Includes all sights mentioned and fees
  • Guiding all the sights
  • Private tour no sharing
  • 1 night Accommodation at Helnan Hotel in Aswan
  • 4 nights Accommodation at Le Meridien in Cairo
  • Domestic tickets (Cairo-Aswan & Luxor-Cairo) and all ground transfers
  • Lunch during the tours
  • All tax and services

Exclude 

  • Visa
  • International flights
  • Tipping
  • Dinner
  • Drinks
Le Meridien

Room at Le Mederien

                          Overall Review:

Proud of myself for making this trip a reality. 
It has always been on my list. I will definitely 
revisit. Do not let others (including me) project 
their fears on you. Remember that this review is MY
experience & yours might be different. 
Therefore, in the end, You Should Do You!

What I would do differently next time:

1.      Use different hotels in Aswan & Cairo. For the price of upgrading to 5 star accommodation, I could have gotten a better room on Airbnb or somewhere else. If you are looking for luxury, Le Meridien in Cairo and Helnan in Aswan are not it. Go with Hilton Luxor, they are top notch.

2.      Use Couchsurfing to hang out with locals to get a more balanced experience.

3.      Be more assertive. See next section for more on this.

4.      Put in a free day to explore on my own (with couchsurfers or people from my FB travel group).

10

What I Wish I knew before visiting:

  • Have my Resting Bitch Face on as soon as I deplane. It is very much needed in a place where it seems like some people seem entitled to receive a tip. No, I am not talking about tipping for rendering a service. I am speaking on when someone gives you unsolicited advice or directs you to take a picture of something you probably don’t care about then turns around to ask for a tip. Or when the cleaners at the airport toilet follow you and hassle you for a tip. The guides at the temples/sites will hassle you as well, even let you enter prohibited spaces or take pictures even though it is prohibit for a chance of getting a tip. No, thank you in Arabic doesn’t always help. Resting Bitch Face & no eye contact prevents them from even approaching you. I had mine on by day 3.
  • Still on tipping – have smaller bills for when you feel like you are being pressured into tipping in situation where no services was rendered.
  • Second hand smoking will get to you. Smoking is not restricted for outside so it is common that someone will be smoking inside beside you.
  • It is ok not to buy stuff (especially ones you don’t need) at every or any shop you are taken to. I said no to a shop in Luxor because honestly I had no need for the cravings they made. I felt bad for like 20 minutes because one of the old men cravers gave me a gift of a special stone. Afterwards, I was glad I didn’t waste my money.

11

Others

  1. Is Egypt safe? I felt safe throughout the trip. Strong military/police presence and tight security at all major hotels and tourist sites. Also several checkpoints on the road. Makes sense to stay updated as we live in a forever-changing world.
  2. Safe for solo females? IDK. I had a guide with me every time I left the hotel. I was left alone to explore more at one of the temples in Luxor. I was followed for like 10 mins by a perverted old man. At another temple in Luxor, one of the old men (guide) asked to take a picture with me, I obliged, and he proceeded to put his hands on my butt. Now, I don’t know if this was an accident or intentional but I do know that I felt uncomfortable and left to meet up with my guide ASAP. For my own sanity, I have elected to either roll with locals or use a guide when I visit countries that several women had complained about being harassed.
  3. Do you really need a guide to explore Egypt? No, you do not. It might actually be much cheaper if you just book everything yourself and take local transit or do those small group tours. I chose not to. In the past two years or so, my anxiety has gotten to a level that its affects my daily life. Therefore, to have a sense of peace, I chose to pay extra for a guide. If it’s your first visit and you don’t speak Arabic or are solo, having a guide might be much more beneficial though. 1
  4. What guide/tour company did you use and would you recommend them? I used Jakada Tours. Before deciding on them, I had contacted Habibi, Memphis, OMG Tours, Lady Egypt & Deluxe Tours. I didn’t like the generic small group tour package they all offered. I sent them all a draft itinerary for a custom tour. In the end, I went with Jakada because of word of mouth praise from two FB Travel Groups I’m a part of. I’m glad, I went with them, Ahmed Fayed – the owner is pretty cool. When we agree on the itinerary, I made a 20% deposit via Western Union and paid cash on arrival for the balance. He was my guide in Cairo, & for day trips from Cairo. In Aswan & Luxor, I had a different guide with the same agency. Some tips, you should be very explicit in what you want, ask clarifying questions and communicate any issues you have. I also like that Ahmed did not make me feel that he was solely doing this for a tip. He genuinely made me feel comfortable. I also liked that he is able to read his client & adjust his approach as needed. I would recommend them & use them again.
  5. What hotels should I stay in? Definitely not Le Meridien in Cairo or Helnan in Aswan if you are looking for a 5 star/luxury hotel. The view from the two hotels is dope though & customer service is excellent. Hilton Luxor to treat yourself because why not. Use TripAdvisor to view how the hotel rooms looks like (pics taken by travelers) & to compare prices, try Airbnb.
  6. Is the water safe to drink? IDK. I drank bottled water but used the water from the faucet to brush my teeth. Bottled water is super cheap.

 

I think I covered everything. Feel free to leave your additional comments/questions in the comment section.

Thanks for reading. 🙂

Advertisements