JT's Travel 411: Egypt Edition
Jt’s Travel 411:
I took a solo trip to Egypt and the whole experience was breathtaking. Here are all the dets…..
I am a full-time doctoral student. I received a fellowship through my program to study education and the history of apartheid in South Africa. My schedule the week before my trip freed up so I figured why not add on another destination. I wanted to add on another destination in Africa. I only had about 3-5 days to play with. I had three African countries on my list… Ghana because of “The Year of the Return'“, Tanzania because of its beautiful beaches, and Egypt because of all the ancient sites. The flight options to Tanzania were super long, like 20+ hours. I only had 3-5 days to play with so Tanzania was out because the flight would have ate up most of my time. I was able to find a reasonably priced flight to Cairo, Egypt that also had an extended layover in Paris. Two destinations for the price of one ticket is what had me sold!
How I got there…
I found my flight through Google Flights. I took a Delta flight from Boston to Paris. I had an eleven hour layover in Paris which gave me enough time to dip out the airport and go see a couple of sights. I was able to hit the Eiffel Tower, The Louvre (which is closed on Tuesdays so I couldn’t visit the exhibits), the Arc de Triomphe, and grab lunch. It was the perfect way to break up a long flight. I made it back to the airport with about 4 hours until my departure. I needed every minute to get through Passport Control, take the train to my gate and go through security. If you do an extended layover I highly recommend being very conservative with your time so you have enough time to get back through the airport to get to your flight. I then took an Air France flight from Paris to Cairo.
How I got around….
I booked private airport pick-up and drop off through Viator.com. Both experiences were absolutely wonderful and I would highly recommend the vendor, Emo Tours Egypt. Here is the link to their airport transportation services. Being a solo traveler and thoughtful of safety, I selected tours that provided transportation. I also picked a hotel that had all the amenities I needed on-site so I didn’t have to leave the hotel.
Where I stayed….
I stayed at the Marriott Mena House. I found out about this hotel through a posting on a black travel company’s IG page (@UpInTheAirLife). The hotel was about 40 minutes from the airport and right behind the Pyramids of Giza….so you can literally wake up to the view of the pyramids each morning and that is exactly what I did. I have status at Marriott which gave me discounted nightly rates. The customer service was AH-mazing! There was a personalized card from the hotel staff and a plate of fresh fruit in my room to greet me when I arrived! Seriously, everyone was so amazing! They have an onsite spa and two on-site restaurants, one American and one Indian. The restaurants were a little on the expensive side but the food was good.
Where I played….
I was only in Egypt for three full days so here were the three activities I partook in……
Spa Day - I scheduled a relaxing appointment at my hotel spa. Spa services abroad are usually much cheaper than the US. Most of the spa services at Marriott Mena House are about $30-40 USD each. I got a 50-min. reflexology massage and 50-min. rose body scrub. The spa at the Marriott Mena House offers complimentary sauna and jacuzzi for all guests.
A Day in Luxor - Luxor is about 400 miles south of Cairo and a completely different vibe. Luxor is often described as the “world’s largest open-air museum” because there are tons of ancient sites standing within the city. In Luxor you will find the Valley of the Kings which contains over 60 tombs of ancient Pharaohs, Luxor Temple and the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut (the 2nd female Pharaoh of Egypt). I booked a Luxor day trip experience through Viator.com that included:
A round trip flight from Cairo to Luxor (the flight was an hour)
Transportation to and from the Cairo airport and Luxor airport
A private tour guide and driver. My flight left at 6:30am, I was in Luxor by 7:30am.
My guide met me right outside the airport and we went all around Luxor sightseeing. I was done by noon. My departure flight wasn’t until midnight but I am about 90% sure this is because I booked this experience at the last minute, the week before I arrived in Egypt. I was grateful the flights weren’t sold out! I highly recommend booking this type of experience in advance so you can get convenient flight options. The tour company booked me a hotel in Luxor for an extra $50 USD so I had a place to hang out until my flight.
Here is the link to this experience on Viator.com. Be sure to read the what’s included and not included section. Admission fees to the sites are not included. The admission fees for the three major sites I saw was 100-200 EGP (Egyptian Pounds) each which is about $6-12 USD. This experience costs more than your average tour but it does include an airline ticket. You get what you pay for and I was not willing to cut corners as a solo traveler traveling domestically in Egypt. I actually ended up getting a first class seat on the flight to Luxor! :-)
Private tour of Pyramids of Giza and Sphinx - Even though I had a view of the pyramids in the backyard of my hotel, I wanted to see them up close. I also wanted to check out the Sphinx. I scheduled a private tour through Viator.com. It was a half day private tour which only cost $15 USD. I opted out of the 2nd half of the tour which was visiting vendors that sale Egyptian artifacts. I did something similar in Luxor. Given this, the tour ended up being about 2 hours which gave me a little more time to chill at my hotel before my flight.
My private guide was AH-mazing! He was so knowledgeable and committed to getting me all the best photos! He knew all the best spots to capture memorable photos. Since it was just me on the tour, he took a ton of pictures for me and was so accommodating. The cost of the tour does not include admission to the pyramids. You have to pay to enter the general area of the pyramids and pay if you want to go inside of the pyramids. I was told by my airport driver and tour guide that going inside the pyramids isn’t too exciting since they are empty so I just payed for the general admission which I believe was 150 EGP or $9 USD. During the tour you have the option to ride a camel. I am very observant with how animals are treated before I pay for an experience with them. The camels were treated well so I paid 200 EGP or $12 USD for the short ride. The longer ride I believe was 400 EGP. I got the best thigh workout because I was holding onto my camel for dear life! I was so nervous but glad that I took advantage of the once in a lifetime experience. If you ride the camels at the pyramids make sure you tip your camel boy who is a teenager who works with the camels. 20-30 EGP is an appropriate tip for them.
Here is the link to the tour on Viator.com.