Why Take a Tour to Egypt?Pros:
- Tours are often less expensive than planning your own trip. You can frequently find a package with airfare included that is cheaper than just the regular airfare alone.
- You can fit more sights into a limited time frame on a tour.
- Being part of a larger group with a guide that you trust can feel a bit safer than if you are traveling alone, especially if it's your first trip to Egypt.
- A knowledgeable guide who speaks your language will really benefit you at the numerous ancient sights.
- A tour is less flexible. If you find yourself bored by temples you'll simply have to wait it out on a tour.
- Local tour guides usually earn a commission by taking a group to specific shops and stores near major sights. You may find yourself in a perfume shop when it doesn't interest you in the least.
- Traveling in a large group makes it difficult to meet local people other than those involved in trying to sell you something.
- Some tour itineraries pack so much in that there's little time for rest.
You can of course have the best of both worlds. Arrive a few days before your tour and you will find you have more time to get over jetlag and acclimatize to Egyptian life. You can also stay on after the tour and do some independent sightseeing. Some people choose to book several smaller portions of their holiday with a tour, and then intersperse this with some independent traveling.
Basic Egyptian Tours 7 - 14 days -- What to Expect
Most tours include a few days in Cairo to see the bazaars, Egyptian Museum, the Pyramids and the Sphinx. Since most tours start and end in Cairo, you can split the sights between those two time frames. There's a lot to see in and around Cairo, so it's worth spending at least 2 days on each end of your trip to fit them in.
The next stop on most classic itineraries is usually Luxor. Luxor is the starting point of some of Egypt's most impressive archaeological sights. These include the Temple of Luxor, Karnak and the Valley of the Kings and Queens.
You'll want to spend at least 2 days in Luxor to see all the sights.
How your tour gets you from Cairo to Luxor is an important detail. If you are traveling by bus, make sure you have air conditioning. It can get very hot and uncomfortable on this journey. Some tours choose to fly from Cairo to Luxor, this will save you time but be more expensive.
One of the better ways to make it from Upper to Lower Egypt is to travel by train. There are several tours that include train travel on their itineraries. Overnight trains with berths travel from Cairo to Luxor and Aswan.
From Luxor many tours include a cruise down the Nile to Esna, Edfu, Kom Ombo, and end in Aswan. Some tours fly direct to Aswan and then work their way north down the Nile to the same sights.
Either way, you'll want to spend at least 3 to 4 nights on a cruise. The best time to go on a Nile cruise is between October and April. If you only have a week in Egypt, some tours do offer a short one day cruise from Luxor to Qena where en route you visit the Temple of Dendera.
A Nile cruise used to be the only way tourists could see some of Egypt's finest antiquities, and it's still a great way to see them. There are many boats to choose from and your budget will determine how luxurious your trip can be. The more luxurious cabins will be large, have AC, a private bathroom and a TV which can cost up to $300 a night. Most cruise ships will have nightly entertainment on board -- this may include shows with belly dancers, Whirling Dervishes, and Nubian dancers. A "Disco Party" is also a popular item.
If a floating hotel doesn't appeal to you, try the traditional Felucca instead. There are tours that include a cruise down the Nile in one these ancient sailing vessels. It won't be quite as comfortable as a large cruise ship, but it will certainly provide more adventure.
If you have longer than 7 days, you should see Abu Simbel. Abu Simbel is truly one of Egypt's best attractions, the temples are simply stunning. To get to Abu Simbel you need to take a bus plane or taxi from Aswan. By road it takes about 3 hours to get to Abu Simbel from Aswan, and the buses drive in convoy for security.
Recommended add-ons within EgyptAlexandria
Alexandria is a great place to just relax and soak in the Egyptian atmosphere. It doesn't have quite the bustle of Cairo and there aren't too many major sights you feel you have to see. The markets are wonderful, especially the fresh fish markets. The cafes by the waterfront are excellent places to just relax, enjoy a traditional coffee and watch the world go by. Alexandria is just 2 1/2 hours from Cairo by bus or train. More Alexandria travel info and photos.
The Red Sea
For many tourists, especially Europeans, the Red Sea is actually Egypt's biggest attraction. The big resorts of Sharm el Sheik and Hurghada are filled to the brim with hotels, nightclubs, and shops. The Red Sea is a mecca for divers. Diving packages are very reasonably priced and can easily be arranged upon arrival.
If you just want some R and R or if you're traveling with kids, a beach is a great way to end your trip. You're also close to the Sinai Desert which provides a wonderful opportunity to ride a camel and see the dunes, climb up Mount Sinai and visit St Catherine's Monastery.
The Siwa Oasis
Siwa is a long haul from Cairo, but with a quick flight, you can get there in just a couple of hours. If you like sand architecture, hot springs and olives, this is a great destination.
A Kenyan Safari
This is not a typo. If you have some time, a week long safari in Kenya is becoming a popular add-on to a tour of Egypt. Flights are frequent between Cairo and Nairobi, and a lot less expensive if you were to book this trip from the US or Canada on a separate occasion.