Indie Travel in Egypt for $35 Per Day

By Paris Marx on February 26th, 2015
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Egypt’s history is incredibly rich, and that has left it with a country full of important sites. Most of them are along the length of the Nile river, but there are so many it takes time to see them. Luckily, if you budget properly, you’ll be able to stay long enough to have a great experience and take in this country’s wondrous history.
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While Egypt can be seen for as little as $20 per day, maybe even less, a more realistic budget is closer to $35 per day. This will give you a great balance of comfort and affordability, allowing you to get a private room in a hostel or budget hotel, travel the country by bus or train, and occasionally treat yourself to nice meal.

Transportation

Getting In


There are numerous ways to enter Egypt, but because of conflicts and visa regulations in the surrounding area, most travelers will find themselves flying.

  • Plane: All of Egypt’s big cities have international airports, but unless you’re going to the resorts in Sharm El-Sheikh, you’ll most likely fly into Cairo or Alexandria. Both have well-connected airports, and Cairo is the hub of EgyptAir.
  • Bus: There are bus routes to Cairo from Israel and Jordan, though they are long journeys and can be quite uncomfortable. They can occasionally be interrupted by issues in the Sinai Peninsula, so make sure to check if they’re still running.
  • Boat: Few people take these crossings, but there are boats that will take you from Jordan to Egypt, which will skip over Israel if you’re hoping to avoid the issue of Israeli passport stamps.

Check your visa situation before heading to Egypt. While they do allow visas on arrival for most travellers, you should still check ahead of time. You don’t want to arrive only to be sent on the next plane out!


Getting Around


Most travelers in Egypt stay along the Nile, and if this is your plan, travel within Egypt won’t be too difficult. It’s still important to note that services aren’t as clean or comfortable as in Europe or more western regions.

  • Train: Most of the trains in Egypt run along the Nile, and if that’s your route they’ll be your most efficient form of transportation, though not the least expensive. The train between Alexandria and Cairo will cost you no more than $10, probably closer to $5 depending on which class of ticket you choose to buy. There are more options on the Cairo to Luxor & Aswan route, with a seat on an overnight train costing $30 or a bed for $100+. While there are daytime trains on this route, authorities aren’t supposed to sell those tickets to foreigners. They cost between $10-$20.
  • Bus: Buses fill the gap left for the areas where trains aren’t available. While there are buses running along the Nile, most travelers choose to take the train for a little extra efficiency and comfort. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a bus that costs more than $10, with most being closer to $5.
  • Plane: The only real option for flying between Egypt’s big cities is EgyptAir, and while fares are constantly in flux, if you book a little ahead, you should be able to find a ticket between cities like Cairo, Alexandria, and Luxor for less than $100, sometimes even as low as $50.
  • Boat: You can take a riverboat up the Nile, but expect to pay hundreds of dollars per night. It is nice and luxurious but will break the bank for many. There used to be a ferry service between Sharm El-Sheikh and Hurghada, but it’s no longer running.
  • Taxi: If you need to take a taxi within one of the cities you visit, don’t worry. They’re incredibly cheap. Try to agree on a rate before getting in the taxi, as not all of them will use meters.

    Accommodation


    Hostels aren’t always easy to find in Egypt, and in some cities you may have to settle for a room in a budget hotel. Luckily, even those aren’t very expensive, and while the cheapest ones might not be the nicest, if you spend a few extra dollars you’ll see a notable difference.

    The prices of accommodations in Egypt can fluctuate significantly depending on whether or not you visit in high season. It’s said that prices in Luxor can rise as much as 50%.

    • $5-$10: This is your basic hostel dorm room. Not all cities will have them, but those that do won’t charge much for them. You can expect wifi, a simple breakfast, linen, and towels to be included with almost every one.
    • $20-$30: Expect to pay within this range for a budget hotel room. While you can expect the same things listed above, the rooms at the lower end might not be very clean and could be in need of some upkeep. Those at the higher end should generally be pretty nice rooms.
    • $40+: Now you’re into proper hotels. The higher the price, the more luxurious they’ll be. Some hotels love to play off the idea of the wealth and opulence of the pharaohs, and charge higher prices as a result.

      Food

      The food in the Middle East is some of my favorite in the world. Being a vegetarian, I had my fill of falafel, fuul, and koshary in Egypt, and there’s plenty more for the meat-eaters out there.

      You won’t have any trouble getting your supper for less than $2 if you visit one of the family-run Egyptian food restaurants all over the country. There’s also a popular Egyptian fast-food chain called Gad with the same kind of prices, but they don’t have seating. If you did want to sit and eat, there’s another chain called Felfela with the same cheap Egyptian foods, as well as some more expensive dishes.

      You will find Western food in Egypt, but it will be more expensive than the Egyptian food. Western chains will be the most expensive, while family-run businesses selling Western food will fall somewhere in between.


      Highlights


    • Cairo: There’s no way you can skip the Egyptian capital. With the Great Pyramids on its outskirts and the Egyptian Museum in its downtown core, there’s plenty to do even if you only spend a few days here. The old Islamic buildings near downtown are another highlight.
    • Alexandria: Sitting on the Mediterranean Sea, Alexandria has a distinct feel from the rest of Cairo. While it’s not as cosmopolitan as it once was, you can still hear French if you listen carefully, and there’s still evidence of how the Greek, Roman, and Egyptian cultures were merged while Alexandria was one of the world’s most important cities.
    • Luxor: One of the most visited cities in Egypt, Luxor is a hub for Egyptian ruins. Some of the places you should consider visiting are the Luxor Temple, the Temple of Karnak, the Valley of Kings, and the Temple of Hatshepsut.
    • Aswan: The smallest of Egypt’s big tourism cities, Aswan is more relaxed than the others and has a large Nubian population. There’s still a lot to see in this small city, and it’s used by many as a base to go see Abu Simbel.
    • Hurghada: If you want to go scuba diving on the Red Sea coast, Hurghada is the place to do it. You can also take beach buggies into the desert surrounding the city.
    • The Oases: Want to do something most travelers don’t? Have a unique experience by visiting one (or more) of the five oases in the Western Desert.

      Read more about traveling in Egypt:


      Photo credits: Sophie McAulay