Budget and Independent Travel in Egypt
Part I1: Getting Around Egypt and Alexandria, Luxor & Aswan by Jimmy Dunn Travel Within Egypt Independent travelers in Egypt have any number of ways to get around the country. Most major, and even many minor destinations have airports, and even though the airlines available in Egypt are sparse, airfare is nevertheless not outrageous. Air Travel Currently, one way tickets from Cairo (reverse destinations are the same price) are priced as follows from EgyptAir (all prices are in US Dollars):
- Luxor $121.00
- Aswan $167.00
- Alexandria $72.00
- Hurghada $131.00
- Sharm el-Sheikh $138.00
There seem to be number of other small airlines in Egypt that come and go. Most do not have a web site at this time, and those that do have no on-line reservation systems. However, Orca Air seems to be one of the more aggressive of the small internal airlines.
In general, their prices for internal Egyptian destinations are from 20 to 25% less then EgyptAir, the national carrier.
Trains in Egypt, in general, are comfortable, particularly the first class variety. They are usually not the cheapest fare between destinations. That distinction appears to go bus travel. While the sleeper trains seem expensive, this may be somewhat deceptive. Traveling at night, one makes the trip, misses no real "Tour Time", and avoids the cost of a hotel room. All pricing and other information is far departure from Cairo, and are for one way only. Prices are in US Dollars.
Trains to Alexandria leave almost hourly. The duration of the trip is approximately two hours. Tickets cost $8.64 for first class and or $6.34 for second class.
Regular trains to Luxor (non sleeper trains) leave usually in the morning or late evening, as do trains to Aswan. The duration of this trip is anywhere from about 8 1/2 to 11 hours depending on the train. Tickets to
Luxor are $17.27 for first class and $10.37 for second class. The regular trains to Aswan are $21.00 for first class and $12.09 for second class. This trip can take from 14 1/2 to 18 hours, depending on the speed of the train.
Sleeper trains can vary. The Abelaegypt sleeper train costs anywhere from $89.50 per person for a double occupied sleeper all the way up to $241.00 for a single person cabin for a trip to Luxor or Aswan.
All trains depart from Ramsis Station (Mahattit Ramsis). It is a very good idea to make advanced reservations. For information, call 202 57 53 555 in Egypt.
Buses are the most economical way for a tourist to travel in Egypt. Buses available to tourists are air conditioned, fairly comfortable and generally in good condition. Again, all pricing and other information is for departure from Cairo, and are for one way only. Prices are in US Dollars.
Buses to Luxor and Aswan depart daily from Mahattit Aboud (Aboud Station) in Cairo-Shubra at 8:30 p.m. The trip takes 9 hours. From the same station, buses to Aswan depart at 5:30 p.m. This trip takes about 12 hours. For either, the cost is $14.39. It is best to get reservations a day ahead of time, though we are told that one need only make such arrangements within an hour and a half of departure. For more information, call 202 43 16 723 in Egypt.
Buses to Alexandria depart from a different terminal in Cairo, the Mahattit Tourguman (Tourguman Station) in Downtown, behind the building of the publishing house Al-Ahram. Buses to Alexandria depart at least once an hour, and sometimes more frequently. Reservations should be made at least one day in advance, though one may be able to arrange tickets as little as an hour prior to departure. One way tickets cost between $4.32 and $7.20 depending on the bus. Some buses are more comfortable then others. For additional information, call 202 75 60 261 in Egypt.
About the Destinations
This month we are examining independent and budget travel in Alexandria, Luxor and Aswan. Last month, our focus was on Cairo. Together, these three destinations account for most of the antiquity tourism in Egypt. It should be pointed out that Alexandria and Cairo are very different then Luxor and Aswan in one important aspect. Alexandria and Cairo are large cosmopolitan areas. Neither city's real focus is Tourism. On the other hand, Luxor and Aswan are very geared to the tourist trade, and it is somewhat more difficult to find bargain pricing in these areas.
Yet Luxor and Aswan are much smaller, more intimate cities then either Cairo or Alexandria. Transport is often not as necessary as in the larger cities, and one will find all manner of tourist walking along the streets anywhere one goes in Luxor and Aswan. Hotels
Actually, there are some great hotel values, particularly in Luxor and Aswan, and some are very reasonable indeed. Let's take a look as some of the very best budget hotels in Egypt. Hotels in this review will range in price from as low as about $15.00 to $50.00 per night (USD). Most are in the range of $20.00 to $35.00.
Traditionally, the Pharaon has been a favorite of many of our Tour Egypt travelers. It is a clean, budget hotel, with a large (and I might add, active) pool (with a bar) facing the Nile. Believe me when I say that after a long day of climbing down into hot tombs, a hotel in Luxor with a swimming pool can't be beat. The rooms have good air conditioning, private baths, color TVs, phones, and even private terraces. There is a restaurant with 24 hour room service, and Egyptian style coffee shop and a night club. The hotel is very clean, and caters to many tour groups. In addition the hotel is very convenient to Karnak Temple.
However, the Pharaon is not the only good deal in Luxor. The Philippe hotel is another in about the same price range as the Pharaon. It is so popular that reservations should be made well in advance. It too, has a nice swimming pool, as well as a restaurant. Rooms are well air conditioned, have TVs, mini-fridges and private baths. Some rooms also have terraces. It also has a pleasant roof garden with a bar. The hotel has a new addition, with rooms that are better than in the old section. This hotel is very clean, and has a nice, friendly staff. It is located in the heart of Luxor.
Another hotel, very popular with the British, is the St. Joseph Hotel. It is one of the cleanest of the budget hotels, has a swimming pool as well as a basement bar. Rooms are air conditioned, have TVs, phones, full private baths and large terraces. There is also a restaurant with good, inexpensive food. The Eight floor terrace has an excellent view.
We could really go on and on about hotels in Luxor, but must conclude this topic with one last favorite, the El Gezira Hotel Phone +20 95 310-034 Fax: +20 95 310-034. This is one of the least expensive but has lots of atmosphere. It is small, but has a pleasant roof top restaurant and bar. Rooms are comfortable and clean though Spartan. Some rooms are air conditions, while others have ceiling fans, and all have private baths.
There are certainly other good choices for budget accommodations in Luxor. Just to mention a few other hotels, the Emilio Hotel is somewhat pricey for a budget hotel, but has lots of facilities and amenities.
Probably one of the best choices of budget hotels in Aswan is the Cleopatra. This is a fairly large hotel with over 100 rooms, a restaurant, bar, and we believe the only roof top swimming pool in Aswan, with a great view. The restaurant stays open 24 hours a day. Rooms are appointed with air conditioning, private baths, telephones, and all are clean. The hotel is close to good market areas.
One of the best values in town, though somewhat more pricey then the Cleopatra, is the Amun. It is situated on its own island, which is beautiful and peaceful with well designed gardens and a view of Elephantine Island. This is a small, Club Med operation, and some would say the hotel needs an additional star. It has a huge swimming pool facing town, restaurant perched above rocks and the river, bar and steam room. Some of the 19th century structure it was build around remains. Rooms have private baths (with showers only) and balconies. The service is great and friendly, the food is excellent, and if you can afford a few extra dollars, this is the place to stay.
Another excellent choice, and less expensive than either of the above, is the Abu Simbel Hotel, though it gets some mixed reviews. Surrounded by shaded gardens, this inexpensive hotel has a restaurant, bar and disco, laundry facilities and a night club, along with a good view of the Nile. The rooms are air conditioned, and have small, but private baths (showers only). The rooms are clean, the view is good, and for the price, this hotel is hard to beat in Aswan.
Alexandria, or Alex as it is often called, does not have a huge selection of budget hotels. However, many agree that the Hotel Union is at the top of the list. Its outside appearance is somewhat dingy, but once past this, one finds great value. The hotel would probably add a star easily if it had a few more amenities. The rooms are very clean, with very nice private baths and a balcony that almost overhangs the Mediterranean. The balconies overlooking the harbor, and the great location really makes this hotel a great value. Inside, this is a bright hotel with excellent fixtures. There is also a coffee shop. Be sure to make reservations well in advance.
Somewhat higher in price is the Petit Coin. This is a simple hotel, with a restaurant, cafe and billiards room. The rooms are also simple, but clean and comfortable, air-conditioned and fresh. It is well located, but serves no alcohol, so bring your own. The restaurant has received mixed reviews, but the cafe offers and excellent sunset view.
After the above hotels, things get rather expensive for the budget minded. However, two hotels worth a mention include the Sea Star and Crillon. The Sea Star is a budget hotel with a certain shore front charm. It has a restaurant but little else in the way of amenities. The rooms here are small, but comfortable. The Crillon is a good, and very similar choice to the Union, if the latter happens to be filled. It is very clean, has a great view, and considerable charm. But again, reservations should be made in advance.
For those who have not discovered the first part of this article on budget travel in Egypt, this is a good place to remind you of this. There is much covered in that article which is not here. For example, buying food from a market remains one of the least expensive ways to eat while in Egypt. Buying food from street vendors remains a rather poor, and possibly dangerous means of eating on a budget. And while we will not specifically review fast food establishments such as McDonalds or KFC, these establishments remain a reasonable alternative to some more expensive choices.
One reason we do not provide a great deal of information on restaurants is, that as all over the world, they come and go. However, one will find, particularly in these cities, that the finest hotels have some of the finest food, at some of the highest prices. Budget hotels, will likely offer reasonable food, at often much more reasonable prices.
Aswan and Luxor are both small enough and many of the sights localized enough that many people may walk to their destinations. A short taxi ride in either of these cities is, and should be higher than in Cairo, because both cities cater so heavily to tourists. Expect to pay 5 to 10 L.E. (Egyptian pounds) for short rides, and more if more than one person rides. However keep in mind that 10 L.E. is only around $3.00 USD.
A very viable alternative for the budget or independent traveler is often the hotel supplied tours. Be careful with budget hotels, as many of these will supply local tours.
Check around some for pricing. Misr Travel will often be located at one of the hotels, and will supply good consistent local tours. Consider Alexandria much the same way you might Cairo when it comes to taxis. This is a larger town, but we have also found that general prices seem somewhat higher, and likewise one might increase the fees we advise in Part I by 20% or so.
Other costs Other costs which most people traveling to Egypt will encounter include the cost of tickets to monuments, largely uncontrollable for any specific attraction, telephone charges, alcoholic beverages, tipping, and shopping. These latter subjects are all discussed in Part I.
The only real addition that might be made, is that Luxor is well known for Alabaster, which is quarried near by. There are many places about to purchases it, including a number of "factories" on the West Bank where one may actually watch the products being made. Recent reports advise to be aware of a few peddlers of Alabaster as some tourists have returned with largely wax imitations.
Budget and Independent Travel to Egypt - Part II By Jimmy Dunn
Historical Hotels in Egypt - Part II By Jimmy Dunn
Editor's Commentary By Jimmy Dunn
Ancient Beauty Secrets By Judith Illes
Book Reviews Various Editors
Kid's Corner By Margo Wayman
Cooking with Tour Egypt By Mary K Radnich
Hotel Reviews By Juergen Stryjak
Egyptian Exhibitions By deTraci Regula
Nightlife Various Editors
Restaurant Reviews Various Editors
Shopping Around By Juergen Stryjak
Egyptian View-Point By Adel Murad
Medical Advice in Egypt By Omar Ragab.
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