For as long as I can remember, I’ve been drawn to seeing the Great Pyramids of Giza, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. As Covid-19 drew towards an endemic, it was time to put the exploring boots back on and book our trip to Egypt, inspired by a Facebook ad in my feed highlighting a hot air balloon ride over the Valley of the Kings – Facebook Viator ads do work!
We prefer to book holidays allowing flexibility (where we do the decision-making) rather than packaged holidays that might be a complete ‘Nile cruise’, for example. We did see a few of these on our trip, and there seemed a bit of discontent and confusion. Going with our itinerary, flights were booked first (BA from Heathrow) for two weeks, and the first five nights were booked into New Pyramids Eyes Hotel. We were paying a little extra to ensure a room with a view of the Pyramids, deliberately to inspire some ‘Mummy Nightmares’ for me. Subsequent bookings were the hot air balloon ride over the Valley of the Kings, followed by a full-day tour of Luxor’s East & West banks, internal flights to Luxor with Egypt Air, a full-day tour of the East & West banks of Luxor, internal flights to Luxor with Egypt Air and our hotel booking at IN LUXOR Nile Apartments booked next.
Now comes the dilemma, to ‘pre-book’ adventures/tours or wait until we arrive and book through the hotels? Everything in Luxor is pre-booked. We’re going to stay (perhaps) on the Pyramids of Giza bookings except for a half-day tour, including a camel ride. Items to be done are quad biking the pyramids, belly dancing, Nile cruise of some description, and all relevant museums.
Given Alexandria is home to another wonder of the ancient world, it would make sense also to visit there, and the Suez Canal was always of interest for me to see. When returning from Luxor, the plan is to hire a car and do a Tour De Delta for 3-4 days, including these places.
The Trip in Egypt
We fly out of Heathrow T5 to arrive in Cairo around 10 pm ‘ish’. We arrived in Cairo, picked up our bags, and expected a hotel pick-up. Walking out the exit doors, we were set upon immediately by ‘cab pimps’, explaining we should already have a ride organised and they would still not leave us alone. We didn’t see our driver inside the airport, so we tentatively moved outside (as there were many more cabbies there). There are more ‘pick-up’ signs but none with our names; we still have many ‘cab pimps’ following us, one even calls our hotel and gives me their phone, but this was now getting very intensive. Finally, I give in to one cab pimp, who initially quoted Egyptian £200, which would have been right. I’d not done my research, didn’t have a grip on exchange rates, and as we only heard ‘two hundred pounds’ – we were thinking UK £200! Well above our expectations, given we were meant to get a ‘free ride’. We end up paying UK £20 and tip the driver another UK £5, which counts to around Egypt £600, roughly 3=4 times what we should have paid. Not the first time this has happened to me. Bangkok in ’93 was another do-over, so many lessons were learnt while re-discovering travel after Covid-19. The first thing is to ensure you have everything necessary for travel. See out Essential Travel List (subscribe) for that, and you can reduce a lot of ‘arrival stress’. Another nugget is to ensure you know your data allowances/costs in your destination country on your phone, and you can then summon Uber if they operate there.
Arriving at our hotel ‘Pyramids Eyes’, we checked in fine; our room’s view was fantastic! Fantastic views and close enough to give me mummy nightmares!
View from our room of the Great Pyramids of Giza.
The following day was planned as rest/reconnaissance. We take a walk outside our hotel, again immediately accosted by cab drivers; we take one who was ‘forceful’ but politely. His price was about right, Egyptian £300 return into Cairo city. He takes us to get a local phone shop for a SIM card (now on the [Essential Travel List]). We now have access to data and can make local phone calls – and access to Uber. Our driver picked up some mango juice for us both; he was the epitome of excellent customer service. This was the anomaly in Egypt. They had suffered a massive amount from Covid-19 impacts on tourism. Most of the Egyptians were very polite. Some stood out as examples of excellent ‘consumer’ customer service, whilst others we encountered had much to learn; there is probably an entire blog on this topic; I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments below.
After a time, we wandered around Cairo based on Tahir Square and grabbed some lunch from KFC (only because we wanted to be cautious about what eat didn’t make us ill, Egypt proved to be acceptable in this department, but we did stay ‘selective’ in our choices). Our cab driver drops us off at the entrance to the Pyramids, which has a small ‘bazaar’ type area. We continue our steep learning curve on ‘crossing roads’ and Cairo-road etiquette; we are lucky this time as we have a lovely Egyptian policeman take us across the big bad one. Yes, he was armed, so cars stopped immediately.
Our Police escort to cross a Cairo Road.
We were ‘invited’ into The Egypt Papyrus Museum as we walked along with the Egypt Papyrus Museum. We managed to negotiate to get out without buying anything, and we’ll leave the details for you to fill in when you get there!
Dining out is interesting in Egypt. We didn’t want to get ill, so sticking with reputable chains (albeit maybe not healthy) or vegetarian dishes in the first instance was the plan. We found a restaurant next to the hotel called ‘Hills’, although empty the first few times we went in, the food was excellent value for money.
Next was visiting the Great Pyramids of Giza, which you can read here.
Followed the next day by a trip to the Egyptian museum, which you can read about here. Nile cruise belly dancing and Pyramid quad bikes are included in these blogs.
Before hurrying to Luxor, the final day in Cairo was planned for markets, and some other guests pointed us to Khan el-Khalili. We probably didn’t find the right place as all we saw were Ramadan light shops. We did see a cute little school lad having trouble with his shoe, it melted our hearts, and Egypt can do that to you as well when you see things.
Off to Luxor, which you can read about here.
We arrived late from Luxor; this time, we took an Uber (using our newfound knowledge) to the 3-star hotel we were staying at (Valencia), which cost Egyptians £150, including the tip. We moved to the 4-star Steigenberger Hotel El Tahrir Cairo the following day. We had a slightly cheaper room as we didn’t need any more views (I wasn’t convinced the hotel would have any decent views anyway). It was a fantastic decision. Although double in price to what we had been paying, it seemed triple in value and comfort. They had a great swimming pool, sauna, and massage facilities. The room service was convenient, although I’d suggest you be selective on dishes (we didn’t think much of the fisherman’s basket). I’d be interested in your views on three vs 4-star hotels.
After another rest day, we travelled to Alexandria [you can read about that here], followed by one of the more exciting day trips to the Suez Canal, which you can read about here.
Our last couple of days were dedicated to rest, relaxation, and shopping. We also took in all the significant aspects of the 4-star hotel, including the pool, sauna, and massages from Rasha (the resident masseur). Highly recommend shopping in Egypt. Things like leather sandals and shoes are cheap in Egypt, and we had only half-packed our suitcases on the way out. Hence, although there was a tense weigh-in at the end coming back, mainly due to the oils and alabaster, we managed to be within the airline limits and bring a lot of ‘souvenirs’ back. Another little nugget, if you travel to Egypt during Ramadan and like a tipple, make sure you have a corkscrew (we didn’t have one but managed to get a novelty one from the shop below).
Cairo Novelty Shop
Boutique novelty shop in the middle of Cairo.
We checked out and had terrific support from the hotel concierge assisting in getting Uber back to the airport. We gave ourselves a good few hours to get to the airport (we saw a couple more car accidents on the way) before flying home. On the flight, I started to learn about getting Wi-Fi on the plane, and Candy had downloaded many shows from Netflix, all ready to watch on the flight (Travel Tips will point out what to have prepared to take on the flights).
Two weeks in Egypt were exhilarating, I ticked off a few bucket-list items and learnt many things (my Egyptology is quite good now), and we highly recommend a trip to Egypt. We might head back again to do some Scuba diving, for which Egypt has an excellent reputation.
Things we would do again:
- Love to do the hot air balloon again, but on a different route.
- We’d stay at Luxor Apartments again and sail the Nile with Ramadan.
- stay at Steigenberger again.
- Take day trips and NOT hire a car.
- Take US dollars with us into the country.
Things we wouldn’t do again:
- Arrive without data on our phones somehow.
- Stay at a cheaper hotel in town.
- Book a tour to Suez Canal on Viator.com