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20 replies
Egypt: Backpacking Paradise?
jonesy
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With the amazing things to do and see in Egypt, is it better to do the backpacking thing, or go with an organized travel group?

MeredithBlueEyes
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Do a search in this forum for Egypt topics — there have been quite a few lately. To answer quickly, yes, I would take an organized tour of Egypt. You’ll be spending a lot of time inlooking at really cool ruins, and I think my trip would have been enhanced by the services of a tour guide who really knew his history. It also would have helped escape the constant headache of demands for baksheesh and cab drivers and horse drivers who wanted to renegotiate the fare halfway through the trip. The people of Egypt are some of the friendliest I’ve ever encountered, but the tourist sites themselves are a real headache. Just find a tour that gives you free time to wander on your own and experience the real present-day Egypt.

DvsOne
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Just got back from 2 weeks in Egypt as well and i second Meridith’s opinion.
The sights are absolutely fascinating, but the day to day haggling REALLY becomes a pain. It’s fun and games when u do it during shopping times.. but to do it for EVERY thing it’ll hinder your experience.
It’s true you will be sheperded around in a tour, but in my opinion it’s being ripped off and lost in the middle of a megatropolis with 18 million people (Cairo).

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Agree with above.

When I went there, I spent a few days in Cairo on my own at the beginning, which was great and also took a quick trip up to Alexandria on my own. My tour group time ended in Amman, Jordan and from there I took a little trip up into Syria on my own.

The mix of solo travel and group tour worked out well for me. It was really nice to have an Egyptologist explain things—I feel like I got alot more out of my trip.

And yes, the constant haggling will wear you out!

I went with UK-based Imaginative Traveller in 2000. Our group was a mix of mostly young people with a few cool older folks thrown in. I would travel with them again. Eurotripper Tas is (or used to be) a tour guide with them.

Sunskin
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Sailor: Are you guys partners with Air Jamaica?

I am leaving from EWR with $4000 for 9 days

MunichBeerBoy

Sailor
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Actually, I’m not sure about Air Jamaica, mon. Perhaps on a few routes.

Syd Barrett
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God, I’d love to go. Cairo, Alexandria, Luxor, Abu Simbel, Suez Canal, hell even El Alamein(I’m a WWII nut). Someday……..

Have fun, jonesy, and be safe.

HomeSkillet
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I think it’s funny how Sailor always talks about working for the airlines, but won’t tell us which one.

carli07
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I always wanted to go to Egypt, but travelling by myself as a single young white girl made it pretty intimidating, and I’m glad I did a tour. The nicest people I met were in Egypt, and at no point did I ever feel in danger, but It’s a very different culture, Egypt doesn’t really cater to tourists (other than the obvious tourist sites) and that’s a fabulous thing, because you can experience more of the actual culture, go to the markets, ride the camels, take a crazy cab ride around Cairo, it’s fabulous. Also, I tied a scarf around my hair when I went into the city (I’m blonde, and yes, this DOES make a difference) and when you aren’t in touristy areas it’s good to cover your arms and legs. But all this is explained and made simpler by going on a tour.

Have fun, it was by the the best week and a half of my life.

Sailor
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<in defensive mode>

Everybody has dreadful airline stories that I get weary of hearing…

I work for the third largest carrier in the US, which is also the #1 carrier across the Atlantic. I’ve worked many departments, including reservations, ticketing, baggage handling, and I’m currently the Evil Gate Agent and Chief Assigner of Crappy Middle Seats Between Fat People Holding Babies

segacs
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Aha, so YOU’RE the person to blame for the screaming child on my 12-hour flight from Tel Aviv to Toronto, then!

tracygosnow
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Sailor-

Checked out Imaginative Traveller and I’m really impressed with all of their offerings for Egypt. But there are so many to choose from!! Which did you do? Basically, I am looking for a good mix between the touristy stuff (pyramids for example) and the real immersion kinds of experiences where you can meet and hang with locals and just relaly experience life as it ‘really’ is. I know it may be hard to get that last part while being with a tourist group—but I thought I’d try! I’ve never done an organized tour before but think it’s a good idea as I’m a little nervous to travel alone in Egypt (same old story: young white American girl traveling alone).

Also…any tips on a bus service to use from Jerusalem to Cairo? Have heard it’s about 9-10 hours and only about $35USD.

thanks! oh-and i’m going at the first of the year as i’ll already be in jerusalem volunteering until the 31st.

OH-and anyone ever spent New Year’s in Israel? Any tips? I finish my volunteer posting in Jerusalem on the 31st. Should I just stay put or try to get back to Tel Aviv for the night? Will I be able to even find accomodations?!

Kirsty
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I’ve just returned from three weeks in Egpyt. I’m pretty anit-tour generally but my good friend is working as a tour guide with IM Trav and she was able to take 9 of us on a private tour. We did the Sailtrek & Sinai because she said it was the best. As she’s led loads of tours all over, I’d trust her opinion!

It’s 15 days and we tacked on a couple extra days in Cairo at the beginning where we hired cabs for the day to take us all over. I’d defiantely recommend this… driving in Cairo is an experience and so much fun while being like a rollercoaster at the same time.

We spent an extra week at the end in Dahab. So instead of taking the IM Trav bus back to Cairo, we hired a bus to take us back to Dahab. Apparently lots of people do this and it’s at your own expense, but Dahab is a fantastic wee place to chill out, dive and eat wicked chocolate milkshakes.

My mate has made loads of Egyptian friends along the way and it was great to get to meet them all. She took us to a small village which is right next to the Nile. We made the stop on our felucca to go visit a couple friends of hers. She says if her groups are nice she brings them there. Even without her help it’s easy to get talking to Egyptians. They are amazingly friendly and will do just about anything for you.

If you decide to go to Dahab, make a stop at the shesha shop run by Omar. Your guide might take you there, but even if they don’t they’ll know where it is. He loves visitors and will let you smoke shesha all day with him and chat away – even if you have nointention of buying anything. We took a taxi with Omar back to Cairo (as I hear the public buses are a nightmare!) and spent my last night with him at his house in Giza eating ‘breakfast’ with his family. It was a huge Ramadan feast. We played soccer with his kids then went to the main bazaar bit to a restaurant overlooking the mosque and smoked some shesha with him. Was a pretty wicked night.

Got invited to a local soccer game in Dahab as well which was a pretty wicked experience too. I want to go back!

If you go with an open mind and figure out when people are just being annoying and when they’re being genuine, you’ll probably get up to all sorts of interesting things with the locals.

tracygosnow
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Kirsty,

That’s amazing…especially since I just got the last spot on the Sailtrek & Sinai trip that leaves January 1! If you don’t mind, I’d like to ask you questions off of the board. My email is tracygosnow@hotmail.com

thanks!
tracy

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Tracy—I think my tour was "Nile Valley and Red Sea" I remember there were several 14 day trips that were similar, but I picked the (higher priced) one that I did because I wanted an overnight sleeper train instead of a seat-only or day train, and I wasn’t sure if I’d be up for 3 days on a felucca: I went on the "Amy" which was like an oversized houseboat. I think I’d like to do a 1 or 2 night on a felucca.

Some people on my tour stayed in Dahab as well.

I arrived Cairo a couple of days early to do some exploring on my own and I’m glad I did.

Also, if you can, make sure to see the (free)Sufi dancers if the show is still going on. Best free show I’ve ever seen, but the building it’s held in near the Khan al Khalili has the nastiest toliets on the planet.

melissa_sunshine
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It has always been a dream of mine to go to Egypt but any tours I have found around here have been extremely over-priced. Just out of curiousity of those who have been … how much did you guys spend .. and was it worth the money?!

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Okay after leaving that last post I checked out the prices of the tours on Imaginative tours website!

However flights from Toronto to Cairo our $3000 round trip .. any ideas on finding cheaper flights???

carli07
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Melissa- try flying to a European country and THEN flying to Cairo, it might be cheaper. I flew out of Athens on Egypt Air for about 350 bucks Canadian roundtrip. Maybe you can find a deal from TO to Athens or another European city.

FYI, www.expedia.ca has flights from Pearson to Cairo for $1,500. Check up on that, and check lots of sites, prices vary dramatically and you might be able to catch a great deal.

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Thanks for the flight ideas … I did check the price to fly from London to Cairo and it’s only like $600 and I can get a round trip from TO to London for about that .. so that might be the route to go!

For those of you who have been on the imaginative traveller tours were you impressed? Would you do it again??

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Yes, I would go with them again. I’m not a "tour" person, but I enjoyed our guides and my fellow travelers were a pretty hip bunch. Since ImTrav is more budget minded, it attracts a younger crowd, although there were some older but young at heart folks on my trip. We weren’t herded around on a giant tour bus with a bunch of bluehairs

I will tell you one thing, though. The hotels they use in Cairo are out of the way and horrible. They are not an indication of the rest of the trip by any means. The other hotels weren’t 5 star, but were much more upscale than dive-y places I usually stay as a backpacker.

I did spend some time on my own before the trip. After a 14 day tour, I had a few days and went on my own up to Alexandria. After that, I did a 7 day tour of the Sinai and Jordan, which ended in Amman. At the end of that trip, I went up into Syria for a few days on my own, which I really liked. For me, the mix of do-it-yourslf and group travel was a nice mix, especially because Egypt can be such a hassle. BTW, Jordan and Syria were quite pleasant in comparison, as far as the hassle factor is concerned.

carli07
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The Contiki tour I did that went to Egypt had amazing accomidation, gorg. hotels with excellent staff and most of them had pools too (and staff to hand you towels and drinks- incredible). (comes in handy with plus 45 deg celcius weather). And that was a budget tour too….!