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Old 09-04-2010, 08:34 AM
 
4,502 posts, read 11,986,573 times
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Okay, so I've made a decision to go on a vacation to Egypt next year. I'm starting to save now since I know it's going to be minimum $2500 per person plus whatever other expenses (meals that aren't included, tips, souveniers, etc).

Has anyone here been to Egypt?

Can you tell me what to expect and how it was?

What are the best hotels?

How is the food? Do they have typical American food available?

Did you do a guided tour vacation or just wing it?

What time of year is the weather least hot or most cool?

How are the tours of the pyramids, sphinx, etc?

Did you do the cruise ship on the Nile River?

If you booked a guided tour, what travel agency did you go through, what was the cost, and was it totally worth it?

Anything else you can tell me, I would greatly appreciate.

Thanks!
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Old 09-04-2010, 06:11 PM
 
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I'll be there in a couple months and was there once quite awhile ago. I am quite suprised at the basic questions you have, you should know at least of the heat of a summer visit. You can actually enter "Egypt travel" into any search engine and get the same information I am giving you below.
I would suggest a more detailed travel book, like frommers, fodders, or better yet Lonely Planet if you are serious about going to Eqypt. One can only scratch the surface on the questions you have. Gather some basic knowledge and offer some more detailed questions. But anyways, I made an attempt to give you some basic answers:

What to expect? Well - what do you want to expect? You have ancient ruins, you also have resorts along the red sea. All depends what your purpose is for the visit. You tell us. Egypt is a third world country, Cairo is one of the largest cities in the world. Expect disorder, polution, bad air, bad water, poverty, a certain level of confusion, and neverending touts. Also expect some of the most amazing ancient sites you will ever see in your lifetime. It's also a Muslim country - you should be culturally aware.
Best Hotels - Egypt, particularly Cairo, have the typical very expensive 5 star hotels with every comfort imaginable.
How is the food? Do they have typical American food available? - Oh come on, you don't go to egypt for american food! The native food is lintels, breads, rices, soups made with greens and chicken stock, poultry, some seafood, etc.
Did you do a guided tour vacation or just wing it? You can try to wing it, but from your very basic questions that you are asking I would say that is not for you. There are some challenges in Egypt, it being a 3rd world country things are not as organized or tourist friendly as it is in Europe. I would advise you to use a tour group, as I would advise anyone going to Egypt for the first time. It can be overwhelming.
What time of year is the weather least hot or most cool?
The summer is unbearably hot. Scorching hot. The winter is short, Nov to Feb it's at least not as hot, and maybe cold enough for a light jacket in northern Eqypt.
How are the tours of the pyramids, sphinx, etc? All dependent on your guide. You will be overwhelmed by the number of touts at those sites that want to give you tours. Most of these guys are worthless. Best to choose your guide before you get there.
Did you do the cruise ship on the Nile River?
They are not cruise ships, they are river boats that fit several hundred. I have a reservation for one in October. I really like the set up although it might be a bit too generic for some independent travelers. Basically it is 3 or 4 night traveling from Answar to Luxor, it also includes the tours. It's actually a short route. There are literally hundreds of cruise ships to choose from, but from what I can tell they all follow the same route and visit the same sites.
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Old 09-04-2010, 06:54 PM
 
Location: MMU->ABE->ATL->ASH
9,123 posts, read 17,129,667 times
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Did a 4 day world wind tour thru Egypt. It will be HOT, Packed with people, Everything will take 2-3x longer then you expect. Plan to stay a 4 or 5 star hotels, American food?? why?? We arranged 'private' tours, there were 4 of us Me, My Dad, and two sister, If you take a cab, have the desk call one for you, Arrage with the driver to pick you back up in X hours. Get the cab #/Name so you can look for your driver. My dad & I came in from a Kenya, Sisters in from Greece, (Yes our family tends to meet up in airport/places).
Day 1. My dad & I flew in got there in mid afternoon, when to sound & light show @ sphinx. (Sister flight was 8/12hr late due to strike in Greece),
Day 2. All 4 of us flew down to Luxor, Toured the Valley of King/Queens, Our Tour guide/Driver had a Masters in Egypt history. (Pickup 2/3 x 1 liters bottles of water per person in town). The tour guides seem to want to 'go back to town' between each stop for 'tea' Make it clear what your itinerary is. They get Kickbacks from the hotel where you go for 'tea' and each 'trip' to town takes 1h/1.5h round trip. and the next thing you want to visit might be 10 mins away. Flew back to Cairo that night. Took 1st 6am to lux, 7p back.
Day 3. Toured the Pyramids. I went inside with 1 sister, Its HOT 110F+ Inside. Also heavily smells of sweat & urine. Rode Camels, Toured the Cairo Museum, (Woman need head covers).
Day 3.7 Sisters meet a guy in Greece and he invited us out on town. Meet his family eat dinner in a restaurant in some side ally. He (We) stopped by his Uncles apt to pick something up bout 10p everyone was up all the kids running round in the underwear, we came in they all vanished minutes later they were all dressed in there Sunday best, to receive us, Was suppose 2 be a 5 mins pickup a key, turned into 1h tea & cake. (Would be a Huge cultural fapa) to leave without excepting there hospitality. Took a ride up to the top of the Telephone tower to see city lights at night. He then walked us back to hotel, about 1h short of a schedule transfer to the airport at 4am.
Day 4. Flew out Swissair .
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Old 09-04-2010, 07:08 PM
 
4,502 posts, read 11,986,573 times
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Just to clarify the American food..... My daughter is extremely limited in what she eats and what she can eat and that's why I was asking. As for me, I would love to try Egyptian food.

Thanks for the info.
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Old 09-04-2010, 07:10 PM
 
Location: MMU->ABE->ATL->ASH
9,123 posts, read 17,129,667 times
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If you stay in a 'western' type hotel you can get American type food.
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Old 09-04-2010, 08:47 PM
 
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The main reason I want to visit Egypt are: The pyramids, the Sphinx, the Cairo Museum (thanks for the info on head covers for females), the light/sound show. I wanted to take the trip on the Nile as well.

I looked at several tour packages online and I like the 14 day trip the best. I'm just wondering about cost, etc. Also, if you purchase a tour package, wouldn't that include tour guides? Or do they just have buses that take you from the hotel to the sights?

I really need to get an idea of everything. This is my first vacation as an adult (I'm 48) and I have never flown before either (I know it's an 11 hour trip non-stop from JFK to Cairo)
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Old 09-04-2010, 10:55 PM
 
Location: MMU->ABE->ATL->ASH
9,123 posts, read 17,129,667 times
Reputation: 9979
A package Tour should include a tour guide. (in english). You are expected to TIP the guide and the bus driver at the end of the trip. (You do it in Cash, either in there money or USD are ok). Don't know what current tip rates are, but you can google it. You slip the money when you shake his/her hand a the end the trip. Done very privatly. Tour Guide educated, most have BS or Masters, have be licenced by the toursism boards. Since this is your 1st flight (And a long one, Plan a Free day the 1st day you get there.) Most international flight come and go in the middle of the night in Egypt. Do to weight of planes, they need the cooler temp at night to get off the runways. (The higher the temp on the field, the more runway they need, and less fuel they can take. ) The Tour website should tell you what all is included. What meals, admissions, optional trips the schedule for each day. The woman should have head cover with them at all time , Men should dress in 'biz' casual. Penny crime is high in lots of tourist area. So a money belt is good to have, Keep a list of all your credit cards, Passport numbers, Copies of your flight info, Notify the credit cards company that you will be going to egypt so there fraud check won't think your number has been stolen, (only take one with you at atime) in your room. Most hotels have safes. Only take the cash you will need for that day with you. Time did not allow me to go down the Nile, So I have no experence with that.

http://www.touregypt.net/egyptfamilytravel.htm found this web site looks good (for the info not the tours have not looked at them)

Last edited by flyonpa; 09-04-2010 at 11:06 PM..
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Old 09-05-2010, 04:00 AM
 
Location: NH Lakes Region
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What exact month will you be traveling to Egypt? What level of comfort are you looking for in a hotel? How long will you be in Egypt? If you are content with a clean, neat place with air conditioning, there are some options that are not too bad (the Mayfair is owned by some Canadians, I think... it is a VERY basic room, but since you'll just want to be crashing there for the nights between your trips, why waste money on a very expensive hotel? That hotel is on Zamalek, a small island in the Nile, only about a mile or so from the Cairo museum, for example, and there are plenty of really cool little shops and vendors and such right on the island... For better hotels, there is the Marriott on Zamalek $$$$ and the Semi Ramis or Four Seasons downtown $$$$$. You can always use the cheaper accomodations but have some of your better meals in the better hotel restaurants.
There is a restaurant right near the Canadian Embassy called "Taboulah", I think, that is really good. Although you want to be leary of eating fresh fruits and vegetables (things with a skin you can peel off should be fine... bananas, etc), typically that restaurant was fine... it is more Lebanese than Egyptian, because the only real Egyptian national dish, I think, is Koshary (a combination of rice, lentils, chickpeas, a vermicelli-type pasta, some little pasta tubes covered with a spicy tomato sauce... mild, medium, or HOT... and then topped with caramelized onions... delicious!!! There is one place downtown that specializes in Koshary and is 4 stories high... the locals eat on the first floor, a slightly higher price on the second floor (better dishes), 3rd floor gets you plastic dishes and about 50 cents more expensive, and the 4th floor gets you ceramic plates and real glasses for about 50 cents more than that. I can't remember the name... Abu-something-or-other ) Falfela's is a chain-type restaurant that has felafel (a fava-bean patty that is fried) and hummus, etc., and there are a couple of those around the city. Wrap a fresh falafel with tomatoes and some yoghurt sauce in fresh pita for a really great sandwich/wrap

For the weather, you do NOT want to be in Egypt between May and September... hot, Hot, HOT! Even in the winter months, it will be hot in Luxor, but just not unbearable. I brought an umbrella with me to tour the Valley of the Kings, Queen Hatshepsut's Temple, the temples at Karnak and Luxor, etc. I may have looked funny to begin with, but I had a walking stick for some of the uneven ground and portable shade in the heat of the day. Some people snickered in the morning, but by full sun after noon, I think I could have sold my umbrella for some big bucks!!! You might be surprised by some of the heat AND HUMIDITY you may find in Cairo in the summer, too. If you are unlucky enough to be in Cairo during a rain, do NOT stand under the trees!!! The leaves get coated with the dirt and residue from the pollution, and that's what hits you under the tree... those are clothes you can never get clean...

Make sure to have GOOD WALKING SHOES... the ruins have a lot of uneven ground, and even the streets and sidewalks and such are not exactly smooth. (Lawyers for lawsuits, if they ever discover this place, would make a killing!) You WILL do a lot of walking. The city itself is incredibly dirty... and dusty... and the air quality can be VERY bad. If anyone in your party has respiratory problems, be aware of this. You may find you get tired very easily, and the combination of jet lag and bad air (not all days, but some) can make you very lethargic. Cabs are EVERYWHERE in Cairo, but they have introduced - FINALLY - metered cabs. The old black cabs (antiquated is a nice term... be happy if the window handle doesn't come off in your hand) are still plentiful, but there are now either yellow or white (I forget, but I think they're yellow) that actually have meters on them, so you do not have to dicker on price. The cost from downtown to the Khan, for example, runs you about 15 LE (Egyptian pounds), or about $3.00 US - yes, give the driver a tip. They do NOT like the women to sit in the front seat, and prefer EVERYONE to sit in the back, unless you're trying to squeeze 4 people in, then one of them gets the spacious front seat. Good luck crossing streets.. once you make the decision to do it, do NOT hesitate or stop and start... they seem to do pretty well on timing to miss pedestrians.. when you second-guess them, you could be in trouble!

If you are at least semi-comfortable with doing some of the planning yourself instead of a big group, there is a company called SEEgypt in Maadi (a suburb of Cairo) that is run by an American Expat that can easily hook you up on day trips or tours down to the Nile, etc. They are very helpful... you can book a private car, guide, and tour of the Pyramids for a half day... or the Citadel for a day, etc., for some reasonable amounts... much better than going with a big tour group... I think they have a website.

Some places I found of interest were:
the Pyramids (yes, you HAVE to go, but a 1/2 day there is fine). There is a neat boat museum in the rear... the Sphinx is right there also...
The Pyramids at Sakkhara - there is a step pyramid and a bent pyramid and the red pyramid out that way and some neat views (on the way to these pyramids there is a place called Wissa Wassef, I think, that does weaving and crafts and pottery - you can watch them make some items and there are also items for sale).
The Cairo Museum... it's cleaned up a lot, but still not a lot of things are really labeled and easily identifiable. You pay extra to go into the "mummy exhibit"
The Citadel - old fortress overlooking the town

Realistically you do NOT want to spend too much time in Cairo... the Nile Cruise was phenomenal. I did this a couple years ago and went with a slightly more expensive company (Abercrombie & Kent) and was on a smaller boat... only about 80 people. They can also arrange your airfare from Cairo to your starting point. They divided us up into smaller groups of about 10 people each, according to language and lifestyle - i.e. did not tend to put singles and couples in with families with alot of kids, etc... You can choose a north-to-south (Luxor to Aswan) or a south-to-north (Aswan to Luxor) route... and basically there are 4 or 5 stops along the trip at various temples - which are all interesting. You see the Aswan Dam and go through one of the quarries, etc. and see an unfinished obelisk still in the rock... It 's worth taking the side trip down to Abu Simbel, if you're down in Aswan anyway... you may never get back again!!! Luxor itself is where you base to go to the Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Queens, Hatshepsut's temple, the Temple at Karnak has a really ketchy light show at night, but I thought it was pretty cool. There are a couple museums there in town also...

Khan al Khalili - the souq (in Cairo)... the shopping experience here cannot be described... "I have good price, special for you"... "Come, let me take your money"... "Ah, you came back, my friend! I remember you... special price!"... it is unending and don't make eye contact! It is like the most enormous junk shop you've ever seen, but with some incredibly cool stuff! Silver is at a reasonable price, but possibly not of the highest quality; they will make anything for you, if you have time... personalized cartouche pendants, etc., with your name in hieroglyphics, etc., bellydancing costumes, alabaster items, you name it... really neat old brass items... did you want an old brass artillery shell etched with a design to use as an umbrella stand in your foyer? yep, you can get it there... a camel saddle for a bench in your foyer? yep, you can get that too!! There is an alley nearby called the "Tentmakers" for obvious reasons, and you can find some incredible appliques, there are spices and perfumes galore...

You can also do a day-trip from Cairo up to Alexandria... Seegypt set up a nice tour that included transportation from Cairo to Alexandria (car/driver for the day or train), a private guide, and trips to the catacombs, Library, ruins, the grounds of an old mansion which has been turned into a private hotel, etc.

Another option is a trip out to the Sinai to see the Monastery at St. Catherine's... I haven't done that yet, but I'm told it's a great trip... you climb (walk or donkey) to the top of the mountain to see the sunrise)... or a couple days at Sharm al'Sheikh... for some good swimming or snorkeling at the resorts there.

Egypt IS a Muslim country, and there is a 10% Coptic Christian population there too. You can dress as a tourist, but I'd be conservative ... remember, if you have a female in your group, what SHE decides to wear is going to influence how she is looked at and treated... you can dress to keep cool with loose tops without being too skimpy. There IS a big culture difference... The Egyptians can be incredibly nice, but you will hear "bakSHEESH" a LOT.. there is an incredible amount of poverty and begging ESPECIALLY at the tourist sites... and this can really put a damper on your enjoyment of some of the sights.

I hope you have a WONDERFUL trip...
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