February 2, 2019
I finally took some time to put together a comprehensive overview of my time in Egypt! Essentially, I wrote the blog I wish I read before going. There is so much to see in Egypt and it's actually extremely overwhelming to fit it all in. I of course, included my thoughts on solo female travelers, a suggested itinerary and things not to miss. But more importantly, I shared with you information you need to know. How to travel without a guide and how to understand and appreciate the local modern-day Egyptian customs.
For any other questions or travel advice contact me on instagram ↠ @alyssaya
10-day Egypt Itinerary:
Day 1 – Land in Cairo / Stay in Cairo or Giza
Day 2 – Visit Pyramids / Night Flight Cairo to Aswan / Airport direct to Nubian Village
Day 3 – Explore Nubian Village
Day 4 - Drive Nubia to Abu Simbel
Day 5 – Cruise from Aswan to Kom-Ombo
Day 6 – Cruise to Edfu
Day 7 – Cruise to Luxor
Day 8 – Cruise arrive Luxor / Night Flight Luxor to Cairo
Day 9 – Visit Old Cairo and Khan el-Khalili souk
Day 10 – Depart Cairo
We went in January and it was freezing. Like actually cold. Keep that in mind.
We ubered everywhere. Even from the airport! *The Cairo airport uber pick up location is down in the parking (not curbside) for international arrivals. We felt completely safe with every driver we had. This does not include the driving culture in Egypt. Meaning the driver was nice, we did not feel any “security” issues. But, beware of driving in Egypt, especially in Cairo. Generally speaking - if there are 3 lanes across on a highway, be prepared for 5 cars across nearly touching one another. And don’t be surprised if someone from the left lane just abruptly decides take an exit on the right cutting everyone off in their path. Oh, and someone might just stop and reverse in the middle of the highway, while cars are going full speed.
Use domestic flights. It’s the only way to see everything in a short time.
TAKE THE NILE CRUISE! We almost didn’t. It was on and off my list. I think I did not understand how hard it would to see all the ancient sites I wanted. And how magical traveling on the Nile would be. It is an unmatched experience. We did a 3-night 4-day cruise from Aswan to Luxor on the Nile Dolphin Cruise line for $350 total. There are “economy” and “luxury” cruise options. There are hundreds of choices. We got a recommendation from a local couple to take this particular one. The Dolphin is standard (not luxury!) and we were more than comfortable. For that price, we had a room with a balcony, 3 meals a day and cleaning service. There were free activities on board, a pool, bar, and lovely staff. We highly recommend this exact cruise ship.
Cairo: Khan el-Khalili souk. A must-see historic market in old Cairo.
Marriott Mena House: Luxury hotel overlooking the pyramids. I saved up all my money to go here. Don’t. They are rude. I could go on and on with negatives. But this is a positive blog!
Pyramids: An obvious choice! We did NOT go with a guide. We just paid our own entrance fee, found a driver with a horse and carriage and a camel. We paid $60 a person and told the carriage driver what we wanted to see. I showed him images I had saved on IG of locations and perspectives I wanted to witness. Our driver was AMAZING! (maybe we got lucky!) If you also choose to go alone - be prepared to fend off yelling, pushy guides trying to sell you tours, horses, camels, whatever they can! Decide what you want ahead of time and be firm.
We spent about 2 hours at the pyramids doing our own thing. This is our driver’s personal Facebook page. Not sure if he will answer and his English is not great. But, if you can get a hold of him, have him take you around!
Personally, we did not want to “offend” a guide when we just couldn’t pay attention or care about all the details of a professional 3 hour tour. I studied Ancient Civilizations and we were on vacation and wanted a more leisurely experience.
Luxor: We skipped the Luxor Temple and went straight to Karnak. That was a personal choice. We just hailed a horse and carriage on the street to go directly Karnak. We spend a couple of hours just exploring and taking pictures and marveling in the beauty of the structure. Our driver was kindly waiting for us when we finished! Karnak was unbelievable! Don’t miss it.
Nubia: Get down towards the Sudan border and stay in the Nubian village! Explore the market, smell the spices and shop for rugs. Here, they have their own language apart from Arabic and maintain their own culture and heritage different than the rest of Egypt. We stayed at the Katodool House. GORGEOUS and the staff was very nice. But do not book tours through them. We did, it was overpriced, and the driver never showed up at 5am. So we had to wait in the dark and cold and were late to see Abu Simbel.
Abu Simbel: This is a long trip, it’s all the way on the southern tip of Egypt. For me, it was worth the long trip because I was dying to see this ancient site. It was about 3 hours drive to and from the Nubian village, totally 6 hours in the car. For about 1.5 hour on the site. I’ve never seen anything like Abu Simbel. These structures are magnificent. If you’ve made it all the way to Egypt, try not to miss this.
* You can see in our itinerary we did Cairo to Aswan by flight, then Aswan to Luxor via cruise, and finally Luxor to Cairo via flight. You can actually do the other direction too. Cairo to Luxor via flight, then Luxor to Aswan via cruise, then Aswan to Cairo via flight. I wanted more time in the Nubian village, which was a choice based on my priorities.
* NOT on our itinerary is Hurghada. A resort beach town. If you have more time - do it! We have plenty of beaches and resorts close to us in the Caribbean, so it was not a priority for us. We focused more on the ancient sites and culture.
We were a little shocked at first when we arrived. That is normal when traveling to a new country. For example, when the plane landed, everyone just stood up. Opened the overhead bins. No one waited for that little DING or the stewardess to give permission. We landed and it felt lawless. The plane was still moving and people were opening their luggage. Coming from Guatemala, we are familiar with this type of culture. But we were still taken back, in Egypt anything goes! When we got in the first car, again lawless. Like I mentioned, people drove in any lane (I mean any lane!) at any speed, with no signals. There were 3 lined lanes across and 5 cars squeezed in. Drivers didn't go straight, they just merged the entire time on the highway. Merging with a centimeter between the cars next to them. The driving culture was a little scary and hard to get used to.
Egyptians do tend to speak rough and fast. They come across as hard and a little rude. If you can get passed that, you will find a sweet and caring culture. Don’t be taken back by any harshness you feel. Don’t take it as danger. Just take it as another culture and lifestyle. Slow down and try to start a conversation with someone. Use an Arab translation app and try to communicate! You will be pleasantly surprised!
At the sites and in the markets, they will just try to sell you souvenirs and more “experiences”. They will be pretty forceful about it. Don’t get mad, that is just their tactic. Say no thank you if you don’t want it. If they keep pushing, just continue to say no thank you. Don’t let the pressure get to you. If you don’t want to buy it, don’t! You are not the first tourist to reject them. If you do want to buy, just calmly say. Please stop. Use calm hand gestures and browse calmly the souvenirs you want. Whatever price they give you. Half it. Haggling is ok. Don’t pay the first price. They are tough bargainers, but you can be too!
I tried to dress appropriately and be covered as much as possible. It was VERY cold when we were visiting, so staying covered was not that hard! Many tourists are FINE wearing whatever they want. People wear shorts and t-shirts all the time. In general, at the sites this is accepted. But once you get to the cities and more public spaces where locals are, I suggest you are more covered. Out of respect.
Ladies, during hotter months just bring a light circle/infinity scarf to cover your head and chest. Wrap it around once and you are respectful and blocking the sun! Having multiple scarves with me was my saving grace. Also, bring long maxi dresses or skirts. They can be flowy to keep you cool and fashionably.
Remember, you are not in your country. Don’t put your standards and your lens on Egypt. You are a guest. Act like one. Dress appropriately and try to start conversations with locals.
In general, we felt NO security issues. My husband and I were together the entire time and are smart travelers. There are security checkpoints, bomb sniffing dogs at hotel entrances, and extra metal detectors at doorways. But, we just took that as a precaution and didn't overthink it.
It seems as though, us as North Americans are not encouraged to travel to this part of the world. Anyone I told I was visiting Egypt, asked me "but aren't you scared for your safety?" But then I saw there were tourists everywhere! The sites were filled with people from all over - UK, Spain, Brazil, China, and Korea. Out of all the tourists, we met 1 guy from the USA. In my opinion, it is a misconception that the Middle East or Arab countries do not welcome Americans. That is not true! Any local who asked me where I was from and I said "I'm American" they responded with "AMERICA! I want to live in your country!!!" Our horse and carriage driver at the pyramids was wearing a NY Yankees cap!
Female travelers, if you are a smart, well-rounded, seasoned traveler - you will be fine traveling alone. Try to link up with someone in country. Use instagram to connect with others. Pay a guide to be with you. Plan ahead. The nile cruise is a great place to meet others, I'm sure you could tag along with another group. My best advice is: don't get too comfortable and don't let you guard down. And, don't go out at night alone. That is my advice for females traveling alone anywhere.
- Follow ↠ @trannetastravels for Egypt Travel Inspo and Recommendations. Her advice built this itinerary!
- Visit ↠ @lebazar_gallery shop at the Khan el-Khalili market! Once you are standing in the central square - look at the mosque, restaurants should be lined up on your left side, their shop is down the alley to the left of the mosque. They have the best selection!
- Book the Nile Dolphin cruise and enjoy 4 days on the water! www.msniledolphin.com
- Don’t miss the Nubian Village ↠ www.instagram.com/p/BsTDobaFm1Q/
- Smoke Chicha aka Hookah aka Flavored Tobacco
Here are some more picture from our trip!