Ever wondered what it would be like to take a group tour to one of the most fascinating countries on Earth? Specifically, Egypt? In this blog, I will outline what to expect on your group tour – where you’ll go, what you’ll see, how much things will cost, etc. I will reference the tour I did with Timeless Tours, called Egypt Explorer – Felucca Cruise & Red Sea. Of course, this company offers a variety of other tours of Egypt, depending on how long you want to tour and what your budget is.
First off, I book all of my tours through a site called Tour Radar – it connects to all of the tour companies throughout the world. They give you the companies’ prices and then offer further discounts for booking directly with them, instead of the tour company. If you need help booking a flight, they will help you but I find it’s way easier to book the flight on your own. I use Kayak to find the best deals. Proof of insurance is required to tour and there are many companies that offer competitive rates if you don’t have coverage through your work benefits. Egypt requires an entry visa for travelers from most countries; if you feel more comfortable obtaining it from an agency before you leave home – by all means. It just costs a lot more. I purchased my visa upon arrival at the airport in Cairo – but it MUST be paid in cash, in U.S. dollars. No exceptions. In 2019, that amount was US$25.
When you arrive at the airport, you will find the guy with the Timeless Tours sign and he’ll bring you to the customs area. He takes your passport and visa money and gets everything sorted. Then it is a quick pass through customs and on to collect your luggage. Then over to the shuttle bus that will take you to the hotel.
Oasis Hotel is a huge hotel that caters to tour groups, so there will be a lot of people here. There is security at the front door, and a scanner to put your bags through when you enter. There are a ton of reps from the tour companies, and you will get pulled aside to check in. Timeless Tours will do their best to make sure you’re taken care of – so if you’re new to touring, this is perfect! Even if you’re a seasoned traveler, it’s still nice to have this attention. The rooms at Oasis Hotel are decent – spacious and mostly clean – I found a huge wad of gum stuck to the wall. Yuck!
The pool area is fantastic; perfect spot to have a beer before the tour meeting.
The evening prior to the tour, you will meet with your fellow travellers and tour guide and they tell you what to expect over the next week. There is a list of the pricing for all of the attractions you’ll be visiting, and you pay the guide upfront for that and for the tipping kitty(for the drivers, waiters, hotel staff you’ll encounter along the way). Saves time when arriving at the sites! And put aside some cash to tip your tour leader at the end of the tour. Minimum $5CAD per day.
Expenses: Tipping kitty: $40CAD, dinner not included
Day 1: Start the day with an amazing breakfast buffet at the hotel. Then at 7am it’s off to the Pyramids of Giza. When you get to the attractions, your guide will talk for a bit and give you info about the history and what to see. Then it’s an hour or so of free time to explore the Great Pyramid of Khufu – If you want to go inside you need to purchase the upgraded ticket before going through the main gates.
If you’re wondering about security, there are bag and people scanners at every attraction and in some instances you will travel with an armed guard. Locals will harass you to buy stuff, to take your picture or to see your ticket. Just politely decline and move on. You’ll then get back on the bus and head over to the other pyramid viewpoint where you can take an optional camel ride – it’s fun!
On the bus again over to the Sphinx, with around an hour to explore.
After you finish here, get back on the bus for a 45-minute drive to Saqqara, a large ancient burial site and home of the oldest pyramid – the Step Pyramid of Djoser. Your guide will take you through some of the tombs and to have a look at the pyramid – eventually you’ll be able to go inside the pyramid but when I was there it wasn’t an option.
There will be a lunch stop either before or after Saqqara, at a local restaurant that handles large groups and offers easy Egyptian food – grilled meats brought to the table and plenty of veggies, rice, hummus and pitas. Then back to the hotel. When booking this tour, you can choose between a 12-hour overnight bus ride to Aswan (included in the tour price), or upgrade to a 1-hour flight the next morning. It doesn’t cost much -the total for the extra night in the hotel and flight was CAD$200. Totally worth it – although I wish the flight had been in the evening of Day 1 because it made for such a long day on Day 2.
Expenses: Entrance fees: $25CAD, camel ride $10CAD, lunch and dinner not included
Day 2: Breakfast at 3:30am. Yep that’s correct. Even though it’s way too early to eat, the hotel will put out breakfast for you. After a 1-hour flight, you’ll arrive in Aswan and immediately hop on the tour bus to the Aswan High Dam, built to control the flooding of the Nile.
Back on the bus and head over to catch a boat to the Philae Temple; you’ll have a couple of hours to look around. This place is highly regarded by Egyptians, as it’s believed the god Osiris is buried here.
Before heading to the hotel there is one last stop at a perfumery if you want to make a purchase. It’s customary for many group tours to make shop stops along the way. It’s usually more expensive than getting stuff at a market, but the goods can also be of better quality, so it’s up to you. After this you’ll head over to the hotel and check in with some time to refresh for the evening. You may not be in the same hotels as I was, but the one in Aswan is Basma Hotel – rooms are spacious and ok for one night – the pool is amazing but there’s not a lot of time for that.
Tonight is the optional boat trip to a Nubian village for dinner- – I highly recommend doing this. The sunset boat ride on the Nile is so cool, and the hospitality in the village is awesome.
The meal is great – potato soup, BBQ chicken, rice, veggies.
And after dinner they bring out the baby crocodile for you to hold. Crocodiles are very important to Nubian culture, and alot of families keep them as pets.
There are other cool things to see and do here in Aswan, and my only complaint is there is no free time to explore anything else. The time in between sightseeing and dinner is not a lot, and I felt it was better to use the time to have a nap and a shower!
Expenses: Entrance fees: $17CAD, Nubian Village optional : $30CAD, lunch not included
Day 3: A super early departure for an optional trip to Abu Simbel – and this is a MUST! It is two massive rock cut temples for Ramesses II and his wife. It was actually taken apart and moved here to higher ground from Nile flooding. You’ll depart for Abu Simbel around 430am and it’s a 3-hour drive to get there as it’s close to the Sudan border. It is heavily policed, so you should feel safe here. Because there are so many early mornings, the hotels will give you a breakfast box to go. It’s not great, but there aren’t any other options to get food this early in the morning. If the boxes don’t do it for you, you could always try to find a store ahead of time to purchase something else to eat.
You’ll spend a few hours at Abu Simbel, then back on the bus for another 3 hours to return to Aswan. This evening you’ll either be spending the night on a felucca on the Nile, or on a small cruise boat depending on which tour option you choose. A felucca is a traditional wooden sailing boat and it’s super fun – fits around 8 people, and you’ll cruise down the Nile with an option to jump in and swim.
Lunch, dinner, and breakfast is provided on the boat. Nothing fancy but yummy nonetheless.
I think this option is worth it for the experience, if you don’t mind sleeping on a cushion in the open air for the night!
Expenses: Abu Simbel Optional : $120CAD
Day 4: Breakfast on the felucca, then you’ll hit a few temples today on the way to Luxor. First is Kom Ombo, a temple along the Nile that is unusual because it’s a double design – dedicated to two gods.
Then Edfu Temple, one of the best preserved shrines in Egypt.
And finally Karnak Temple, a huge complex that is the second most popular site to visit after the pyramids.
Check into the Lotus Hotel, which is located on the Nile and if you’re lucky you’ll have a view from your window.
The evening is reserved for a visit to Luxor Temple, and that’s because it looks spectacular at night.
After a couple of hours here, you’ll head over to a papyrus shop for a chance to buy authentic papyrus paintings.
I found this shop offered good prices so I picked up a few and I recommend doing so. Tonight is a bit of a late dinner, but not too late because it’s another early start tomorrow!
Expenses: Entrance fees: $42CAD, lunch and dinner not included
Day 5: Breakfast Box. Yay! This morning is the optional hot air balloon ride over Luxor. As far as balloon rides go, the cost of this one is pretty cheap so I think it’s worth doing. And it really is an amazing feeling, and the views are beautiful. It’s also safe -the balloons are flown by trained pilots.
After the ride you’ll meet the bus at the Colossi of Memnon, two giant statues that once guarded Amenhotep’s mortuary temple.
Then over to visit the Temple of Hatshepsut, an incomparable monument of ancient Egypt. Hatshepsut was a female pharaoh, which wasn’t common back then so she was a very important ruler.
After that, a quick visit to an alabaster shop if you want to make a purchase. Then on to the Valley of the Kings, a famous burial site where they found many tombs dug deep into the ground. Explore the long tunnels underground where pharaohs were once laid to rest.
Then it is time for lunch at African Restaurant for some local cuisine. And finally, back on the bus for a 5-hour drive to Hurghada. Check in to the Caves Beach Resort, a huge all-inclusive hotel located in this beachside resort town on the Red Sea.
The rooms are designed to look like caves, with some Flintstones references throughout the hotel. You’ll arrive in time for dinner, and then have some time to relax and have a few drinks. The food is mostly Western style food, and the drinks seemed watered down.
Expenses: Entrance fees: $25CAD, Hot Air Balloon Optional – $170CAD. Lunch not included.
Day 6: The optional activity today in Hurghada is a day on a boat on the Red Sea, to enjoy snorkeling or scuba diving. If you’ve never tried diving before, it is a good time to give it a go because you’ll have a scuba guide all to yourself or with one other person. Lunch is provided on the boat.
Also, don’t forget your seasickness pills – the water can be choppy out there and you don’t want to feel sick! Buffet dinner back at the hotel, and an evening at leisure. If your group is splitting up, it’s the last night to hang out with your new friends!
Expenses: Boat and diving optional: $86CAD; cost is less if you choose to snorkel instead
Day 7: Depending which tour option you choose, you’ll either stay in Hurghada for an extra day or head back to Cairo. There is nothing planned for this day if you stay in Hurghada, but you can arrange to go parasailing or partake in other watersports, or perhaps take a taxi into the marina to have a walk around or go for lunch. I decided to just relax at the hotel, swim, do aquafit, day-drink, and go for a dip in the Red Sea. It’s up to you!
Day 8: Lasy day for the breakfast box. A super early departure as it is a 5-hour drive back to Cairo, and you’ll have a day of sightseeing in the capital. First stop is the Egyptian Museum, but I would imagine that a visit to this museum will be replaced by the newer Grand Egyptian Museum at Giza, opening in 2021. Other stops in Cairo include a walk through Coptic Cairo with a visit to St Sergius and Bacchus Church, where Jesus, Mary and Joseph rested after their long journey.
A stop at the Mosque of Mohammad Ali
and finally the Khan el-Khalili, Cairo’s most famous shopping bazaar. Here you will have lunch and hopefully more than an hour to explore the bazaar. Then back to the hotel to relax for the evening. Do not book your flight to leave this evening – it’s way too rushed. Book for the next day or a day after.
Expenses: Entrance fees: $12CAD, lunch and dinner not included.
Day 9: Stay in Egypt for an extra day, maybe spend it relaxing by the pool. Or better yet, take a day trip offered by Timeless Tours and go to Alexandria.
It is a 2.5 hour drive from Cairo, and you will visit the Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa, a burial site deep underground.
The Biblioteca Alexandrina(the Library)
and the Citadel of Qaitbay, where the ancient Lighthouse of Alexandria once stood
There may be an option to have dinner in Alexandria, or head back to the hotel to have dinner there.
Expenses: Alexandria optional tour: $125CAD, entrance fees not included: $18CAD. Lunch and dinner not included.
A trip to Egypt will be unforgettable, and will probably be one of the best places you’ll ever visit. Why not make it so much easier and go with the comfort and fun of a group tour with Timeless Tours!