Package Tours vs. Independent Travel to Egypt:
Which is right for you?
(Revised and Updated)
by Jimmy Dunn
Frankly, the last few years has been a time when packaged tours, for the most part, are by far more favorable for many people than independent travel to Egypt. In fact, the main reason that most people would wish to visit Egypt independently is simply for the freedom of scheduling, unless they are very, very familiar with Egypt.
We at Tour Egypt have often promoted independent travel to Egypt, and we will continue to do so. Particularly for well-informed and experienced travelers, an independent trip to Egypt can be fun and fulfilling. But for many visitors, this is not the best way to visit, and for many more, it will certainly not be the least expensive means to view the country. For the first or second time visitor to Egypt, a guided package tour will work much more satisfactory. There are several reasons for this.
A number of readers have been emailing us in order to make rather complex arrangements for travel to Egypt. Independently, they are often attempting to include other areas such as the Holy Land, as well as various European destinations as part of their itinerary. That is all fine and good, and tour companies do this all the time, but it can get very tricky, as well as costly for a private individual.
The typical thinking is that tour companies must charge a profit for their services, and hence, traveling independently saves that money which would otherwise end up in the tour operator's hands. In many, if not most cases, this is an incorrect assumption.
Costs and Pricing
Most of the tour and travel companies bringing tourists to Egypt receive deep discounts from both airlines and hotels . Often, they may pay as little as half of the going rate for such services. This is due to the number of bookings they make, which entitles them to "wholesale" discounts. Package pricing varies among tour and travel operators, but it is safe to say that in some instances, a percentage of this savings is passed on to tourists, making the trip cheaper than they could have arranged it themselves.
In fact, recently travel companies have been making some fantastic deals with hotels , particularly on the Red Sea and in the Sinai , but elsewhere as well. We know of instances where, particularly involving large European charter services, the price paid for hotel rooms in some areas is but a fraction of the normal rate. It is not unheard of currently for some of these large agencies to pay as little as four or five US dollars per night for rooms. Otherwise, some airlines and particularly Egypt Air, are also providing tour organizations with deep discount from Europe, the United States and Canada, and elsewhere. Because of the competitive nature of travel to Egypt, many travel companies are passing these discount completely to the tourist. Hence, for example, we have seen many travel deals where offers are being made for ten days or more in Egypt for little more (if any) than what an independent traveler would pay for the air alone.
Once inside Egypt, independent travelers must always arrange to visit the antiquity sites that they are interested in seeing. This can be done in one of two ways; either by going it alone completely and only hiring transport to the antiquity sites, or by joining a day tour. Day tours can be arranged from most any hotel in Egypt, those the quality and pricing on these may vary considerably. Particularly from the standpoint of an inexperienced traveler, hiring the transport to sites can end up being as expensive or more so than a day tour. In either case, if one wishes to visit a number of antiquity sites throughout Egypt, day tours or transport can easily add up to more than the cost of a packaged tour. On top of that, making all these arrangements can take time out of the trip. One can easily find oneself spending several weeks in Egypt, but using several full days to make independent arrangements for various day tours or transport. Overall, it it likely that, given the same period of time, one may end up seeing only half the sites that an efficiently run tour would visit.
Aggravating this situation is the fact that many independent arrangements cannot currently be made prior to arrival in Egypt. Certainly one may arrange day tours prior to the trip, but transportation to certain locations can be a real problem. Trains, busses and Red Sea ferries, and of course taxis, are very difficult to book from outside of Egypt. Tour and travel companies receive no commission for simply booking a train, bus or ferry so about the only way for the independent traveler to make these types of transportation arrangements is to do so after arrival.
Other Concerns for Independent Travelers
Tour operators often provide somewhat of a shield for inexperienced travelers from hawkers and other potential tourist
Last Updated: June 13th, 2011