Egypt Feature Story
by Jimmy Dunn
In Egypt, many of the tour companies are run by people who's families have been in the tourism business for generations. While we may not be able to say that writing was invented in Egypt, tourism almost certainly was. The best of the tour companies are extremely good, and this allows for possibilities that many people never much think about.
We have frequently discussed package tours and independent tours, but there are some other options, some of which are more popular than many might believe. One obvious example is the private, packaged tour. Normally when we refer to a packaged tour, we are referring more to group tours, but even though they tend to be considerably more expensive, private packaged tours are an option for many, and not as expensive as many people might imagine.
Private tours are also usually custom tours, where the tourist specifies what they wish to do. Sometimes, this might be little more than the same tour taken by groups, while at other times tourists who have researched Egypt or been there before will be very specific about what they wish to do and see. In reality, private tours are much like independent travel, but with a little additional help. One can do most anything, but at the same time, arrangements have been made prior to arrival in Egypt and this allows one on a private tour to see as much as anyone in a packaged group tour, and perhaps even more. At the same time, there is much considerable freedom to do as one wishes.
Cost wise, the real difference between a group tour and a private tour is, of course, the cost of the guide, the cost of setting up the tour and the cost of transportation. These are what make a private tour more expensive, but one alternative is to take along some friends. Its fun to tour Egypt with people one knows, and including a few friends or family will also spread out the cost of a private tour.
More than a few requests we receive are for people wanting transportation only. This is a good option, because the main problem with completely independent travel in Egypt is getting to the various places one wishes to go. These arrangements can always be made, but in country they take time to arrange and distract from the time allotted to actually touring. However, many of he tour companies will make transfer and transport arrangements only (in advance of arrival). This allows people to visit the ancient sites independently without the worry of getting around. Of course, hotels can be booked in a similar manner, though most of the larger ones have on-line reservation systems where one may book them directly, as opposed to using a tour operator. Otherwise, many of the smaller hotels, or at least those that are not a part of a chain and do not have significant on-line presence, must be booked by a tour operator.
Another excellent idea, and one that I have personally taken advantage, is combining a package or private tour with completely independent travel. Many of the tour companies provide short tours. For example, Cairo and Environs tours are popular, which will normally take in the major sites in and around Cairo. Such tours usually last for several days. This works out well because Cairo is a big city and getting around to all the sites can take a lot of arranging if one is doing so independently and not very familiar with the city. However, afterwards, it would be a simple matter to fly or take a train to Luxor for some independent time. That city is much smaller and the monuments are more tightly grouped, so touring around independently is much easier.
One might even set up several packaged tours together with some independent time. One good example would be to arrange a Cairo and Environs' tour, then head to Luxor for some free time, and then a Nile Cruise package. The Cairo tour and the Nile Cruise could almost certainly be arranged by the same company, along with the transport to Luxor and back to Cairo for the flight home.
In fact, many tours feature an aspect of this type. For even completely packaged classical tours that offer extensions to places like Sharm el-Sheikh or Hurghada, once in Sharm or Hurghada, the tourists are frequently left on their own to enjoy the beach and the hot night spots. In many respects, they are completely independent once in one of those locations, though the tour company might arrange for a day tour to places like St. Catherine's monastery. On the other hand, it is also very common for those flying into Sharm, Hurghada or one of the other beach resorts by way of a vacation package to also arrange private or group tours to the ancient sites.
Of course, private tours can be arranged in the same way. One could set up a private, custom tour to almost any location in Egypt through a travel company, and then head off to a specific location for some independent time after that tour. Also, the possibility also exists to arrange a normal packaged tour and then to combine it with perhaps a custom private tour, or even another, perhaps shorter, packaged group tour. This might typically be done if, for example, one wished to take a very standard classical tour and add to it a visit to the Siwa Oasis in the Western Desert.
We may assist you with your travel arrangements if you opt for a private tour. Contact our travel department at firstname.lastname@example.org