Egypt

Egypt: When to Go

Egypt gets sun all year round, but June, July and August are too hot for comfort, though this is low season in Egypt and prices drop. You’re better off avoiding Ramadan, when some businesses will close for the whole month. Finally, if you are travelling over holidays – Eid al-Adha, Ras an-Sana - expect the rest of Egypt to be competing for your seat. The dates for these holidays change every year, so check before planning your trip.

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TRAVEL ESSENTIALS

Getting There

Note: flight, boat, train and bus timetables change constantly, and airlines come and go, so please do not rely solely on this information for your travel planning. Check with relevant companies, or a flight search engine like Skyscanner, first.

BY AIR

The best connected airport in Egypt is Sharm El Sheikh, which has scheduled and charter services from dozens of countries around the world. Cairo and Luxor also offer plenty of scheduled flights - you can fly into one and out of the other - or you can use internal flights (see below) to do an open-jaw trip of your choosing.

Services from the UK include:

Egyptair: London Heathrow to Cairo and Luxor
easyJet: London Gatwick to Luxor and Hurghada, London Gatwick, London Luton and Manchester to Sharm El Sheikh
British Airways: London Heathrow to Cairo and London Gatwick to Sharm El Sheikh
Thomas Cook: London and regional airports to Sharm El Sheikh, Hurghada, Luxor and Marsa Alam
Thomson: London and regional airports to Sharm El Sheikh, Hurghada, Luxor, Aswan, Marsa Alam, Mersa Matruh and Taba
Monarch: London and regional airports to Sharm El Sheikh and Luxor
Jet2: regional airports only to Sharm El Sheikh
BMI: London Heathrow to Cairo

Getting Around

Private transfers
Quite expensive, but to be considered, as this is one of the most time-efficient ways to move across the country. You’ll pay anything from E£200 (€25) for a two-hour journey up to E£1,200 (€125) for a ten-hour trip. It is a very common way to get around and your hotel will be able to arrange one for you. And don’t be too surprised if your driver picks up a friend and takes him to the next town. Sometimes police ask for lifts at the numerous check points you will pass through and your driver can hardly refuse them. And always carry your passport with you, as the police may ask to see it when you stop at a check point.

Internal flights
Very useful as you will want to jump big distances every now and then. EgyptAir is the main domestic carrier and not a particularly reliable one at that (Air Sinai services the Sinai Peninsula). We took three internal flights and on no occasion did our boarding card show the correct destination or flight time, while two flights were delayed. So if you are using an internal flight to connect with an international flight, build in some safety time to make sure you get home.

EgyptAir flies between the following domestic destinations:
From Cairo: Abu Simbel; Alexandria; Assuit; Aswan; Hurghada; Luxor; Sharm El Sheikh; and Al Kharga Oasis x2 a week
From Alexandria: Cairo; Sharm El Sheikh
From Luxor: Cairo; Aswan; Sharm El Sheikh
From Sharm El Sheikh: Cairo; Alexandria; Luxor
From Aswan: Cairo; Abu Simbel; Luxor
From Abu Simbel: Cairo; Aswan

Air Sinai, which is effectively a subsidiary of EgyptAir and has no website at the time of writing, flies:
From Cairo: Hurghada, Al Arish, Taba, Sharm el Sheikh, St. Catherine’s Monastery, El Tor (and to Tel Aviv, Israel).

Bus
One of the most popular ways to travel in Egypt and buses ply their trade night and day, turning circles endlessly. Wherever you want to go, there’s a bus to take you there. They are easy to arrange, though you should buy your ticket the day before you travel to ensure you get a seat. They are also good value. An overnight trip from Cairo to Siwa cost E£60 (€12) in 2009, though we travelled on a pretty ordinary bus (blaring music videos until midnight) and smarter buses are more expensive (you won’t mind paying). Some have toilets, usually horrible, but there are loo stops every two hours. There are several different companies operating throughout the country and hotels can advise and often arrange tickets.

Taxis and service taxis
Service taxis are minibuses that run locally and deviate to drop people off on the way. They are very cheap – E£1 a trip in 2009 – and a great way to get about.
Taxis are more expensive, but you get them to yourself and for many they are the best way to get about. They are not too expensive, though tourists offer rich pickings, so ask the hotel how much you should pay or ask them to book the cab and agree the price in advance. Then check the price when you get into the cab; if you don’t, things might change. We found in 2009 that short taxi rides cost E£10- E£25; that longer rides cost E£40- E£70 and that to hire a taxi driver for two or three hours cost E£120-E£150. If you do the latter (and you probably will), drivers will wait while you visit each site and then take you on to the next. Your taxi will usually be ancient.

Train
A handy way to get about as you can travel overnight, but the service is limited and effectively runs between Alexandria, Cairo, Luxor and Aswan, stopping at towns along the way. Not all trains will take foreigners. Sleeping cars are available; more expensive, but better. For more info, see Seat 61.

Visa / Entry Requirements

Unless you're a citizen of Egypt or one of the surrounding Arabic countries, you will need a visa to enter the country. From May 2015 all visitors (unless part of a tour group) will be required to obtain a visa in advance of travel, via their local Egyptian embassy. More details from the British FCO and the Egyptian Consulate.

Other Essentials

Money
The Egyptian pound will prove more useful than dollars, Euros or British pounds. The only problem is that the highest note you are likely to see is a E€100 (€12), so you’ll have a wedge of them. Therefore, you might want to take along some dollars or Euros, too, and change them as you go along. There are ATMs in most towns, but they don’t always have money in them. Some banks will allow you to withdraw money on a credit card at the tiller’s window. You will need your passport to do this.

Health
You should be vaccinated against the following: Diphtheria, Hepatitis A, Tetanus and Typhoid. Make sure you have travel insurance to cover all medical emergencies and if you are ever unfortunate enough to need urgent help, insist on a private hospital.

It is not advisable to drink tap water and bottled water is not expensive. You should also carry sun block, a hat and mosquito repellent as you will need them.

Clothing
Egypt is a Muslim country and women especially should dress conservatively when in the streets; too much flesh can cause offence. It is fine to sunbathe by the pool of your hotel, but walking through the middle of Luxor in your bikini will not go down well with the locals. Please respect local custom and sensitivities.