We just came back from Egypt and I booked tickets to go back..I usually almost never go back to the same place given my goal to visit every country in the world in my lifetime, but Egypt was quite smth! I also plan to visit some new places when I do go back. In short it is a perfect escape combo with the relaxed Maldives like waters of the Red sea, full of corals and underwater life, as well as an opportunity to see unique places such as Luxor, Aswan with a rich history, monuments, pharaohs tombs and learn about ancient Egypt mythology.
As far as corona prevention measures (as of Dec 2020), you are required to either take a test in your country of residence 72h beforehand or at the airport in Egypt, upon arrival (30$). We didn’t pay any visa fees (which is normally given upon arrival), and we presume this is because of corona. Always check the latest rules of entry from official government websites.
Many hotels on the seaside are all inclusive, with an average price of 100$ per night for 2 adults (room + 3 meals included). You also need to account for taxi costs if you plan to do more than just stay at the hotel (e.g. visit Luxor); to get an idea, an one hour trip was about 20 eur (always negotiate the price!).
When should I go there?
October-March seems to be a good period for Marsa Alam area, as summer is quite hot.
Where in Egypt should I go?
The main seaside resort areas are Hurgada (very popular, not such good corals anymore), Sharm el Sheikh (modern)/Dahab (good, I heard from locals!) and Marsa Alam (relaxed and highly recommended, with great corals!). You can also have a cultural getaway in places like Cairo, Luxor, Aswan or do a combo of seaside + culture town, like I did.
In Marsa Alam area, we really enjoyed Hilton Nubian hotel. In Quseer area (1h 45min from Hurgada airport and 1h from Marsa Alam airport) we enjoyed Movenpick hotel and highly recommend it, especially for the food quality (I recommend half board, not all inclusive!). We also stayed at Jaz Lamaya near Marsa Alam airport, but it was just ok, I would’t go back. In Luxor, we recommend the Winter Palace.
We researched on booking.com & google maps and then booked directly on the website of the hotel, for a better deal.
PS A 5 Star hotel in Egypt is like a 4 star hotel in Europe (in some more rare cases like a 3).
I recommend flying directly to Marsa Alam if you can. Else, both Hurgada and Sharm el Sheikh have an airport.
Food and drinks
We mainly ate at the hotels as most were half board or all inclusive, but in Luxor we really enjoyed going to Sofra restaurant for food. Other places friends told us about in Luxor: Al Sahaby Lane, Aisha, etc.
Beach recommendations & activities
- Abu Dabbab is a must do beach in the area which has a 7 eur entry fee pp (protected area); this fee includes chairs and umbrellas too. We stayed at Hilton which was on the beach, so the fee was already included in the hotel rate.
- Movenpick also had a beautiful beach
- I don’t recommend the Jaz Lamaya hotel’s beach
- snorkelling with turtles (on Abu Dabbab beach)
- snorkelling with dolphins (boat trip from Hilton Nubian near Marsa Alam 60 eur pp, the most exciting experience of the trip)
Luxor cultural city getaway impressions
I recommend spending 3 nights in Luxor. Ideas for activities:
- Hot air ballon at sunrise: ~40-65$ per person (we went with safariballoons.net but there are plenty of options on google maps)
- Falucca (traditional boat) sunset trip on the Nile ~6 eur per person (banana plantation included)
- West Nile bank trip (Valley of Kings, Colossi Memnon, Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut) -> do take a guide here
- East Nile: Luxor temple, Karnak temple (the most impressive one!); if you have time: Luxor museum (opened in the evenings as well)
- Each hotel had a few souvenir shops
- Luxor: we got beautiful postcards at Aboudi bookstore
- Luxor: West side of Nile – we were taken to the Sekhmet factory Baster by our guide spontaneously, still unsure if we overpaid, probably yes, do negotiate really well 🙂
- As will all travels, I recommend having a Revolut bank card for good currency exchange rates
- Most hotels will take credit cards
- You will need cash for taxis in between cities or from/to airports, souvenirs etc. (you can take cash out either at the airport ATM or at the hotel ATM – most have one). Taking out Egyptian pounds once you arrive is best..alternatively they accept euros or dollars (have small bills to avoid the “lack of change” story!)
- Do negotiate prices for taxis, souvenirs, hotel excursions (except for hotel room prices, they are normally fixed)
- Use local taxis which you can find with on google maps (rather than hotel airports) for both airport transfers and travelling in between cities; they are cheaper and you encourage small businesses. Make sure you pick a provider with good & many reviews on google maps for peace of mind. For Marsa Alam/Hurgada/ Quseer area I recommend Reef taxi (whatsapp: +20 122 2323 879).
- It is quite possible that in touristic places, folks will offer to take a photo of you and then ask for money, though this happened to friends, not us; we avoided this by taking our own photos.
- Do take a tour guide in historical places like Luxor; it is hard to find a good one for a reasonable price (we tried 3 different guides). Here you have the whatsapp contacts of the one we liked in Luxor: Randy (+20 100 937 2091). He will be glad about the referral 🙂
- In Luxor, book accommodation on the East Nile, somewhere near Luxor temple
- Touristic attractions are opened generally from 6-8am until 20 to 22pm (sometimes they take a couple hours break in the middle of the day). Do ask your hotel!
What I didn’t see and want to visit next time
- Grand museum of Cairo (which will open in 2021)
- Aswan city
- Abu Simbel (3h drive south of Aswan)