Taking a picture of you pretending to pick up the Pyramids of Giza must be the most over taken tourist picture in the world…. still it’s a classic isn’t it?!
Egypt plays host to some of the World’s most famous sights and to be honest it’s more of a holiday destination than a backpackers’ hub. That being said, you can travel Egypt on a budget, you can ride camels to your heart’s content, eat falafel’s till your eyeballs explode and still pay entry fees to the sights all for less than $30 a day. Especially if you get a student ID card – you get 50% discount on every sight. (Feel free to contact me about obtaining a student card)
In fact, I would say that Egypt is actually quite cheap to backpack in and with the all landmarks on offer you’re sure to have a great time. If you find yourself backpacking in Egypt, here are the things you gotta see (regardless of your budget!)…
Abu Simbel: You’re not going to want to hear this but Abu Simbel, aside from the Pyramids, is possibly the coolest temple in all of Egypt! The reason you don’t want to know is that it is a mission to get to. Located nearly 300km south of Aswan (which is already the most southern city in Egypt), you’ll need to arrange a bus or tour from Aswan and leave early in the morning (actually, it’s more like late at night as the bus departs around 3am). The sheer size of the Great Temple of Ramses II will wipe away the fatigue from the bus trip in an instant. When you turn the corner to access the temple, there is a tangible ‘wow’ moment when you see the 4 enormous Pharoah statues. Get there early and avoid the hordes of tourists from the package resorts! The entry fee is 80 EGP and 40 EGP for students.
Luxor: Luxor is Egypt. The city centre is a great place to spend a couple of days, you can eat your Mcdonalds ice-cream cone (less than $0.30 and a Godsend in the heat of an Egyptian afternoon) as you gaze at the Temple of Luxor which is found bang in the city centre. You can read all about Luxor and the things to do there here. (LINK!) If you/re ina rush, here’s it in a nutshell: Temples of Karnak – incredible, Luxor Temple – pretty cool, valley of the Kinds – underwhelming but almost obligatory!
Cairo: There’s not much I can say about Cairo that hasn’t been said a thousand times. Obviously the Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx are something special. An mandatory visit to the Egyptian museum will take a couple of hours too.
Islamic Cairo is an interesting place as well, especially if you’ve never been in an Islamic country before – this section of Cairo oozes charisma. 3 days in Cairo is easily enough time to experience the chaos and see the major sites. If you want to know where to party in Cairo, the Cairo Jazz Club is one of the few clubs that actually resembles a club, but at $5 a drink your budget will get blown apart.
Mount Sinai: Whether you’re religious or not, the sight where Moses received the 10 Commandments remains an influential tale in the world’s history. It’s possible to hike to the top of Mount Sinai, normally you can take a day trip from Sharm or Dahab ($15 for transport and ticket). It leaves around midnight, you hike through the night and see the sunrise over some breathtaking scenery. I was dubious as to whether to bother with this or not, I was wrong to hesitate – it’s awesome, you’ll love it.
Budget: $20 a day is possible if you eat away from the landmarks AND you have a student card
Food: Street food is great and cheap. Shwarmas cost around 5 EGP, falafel sandwiches around 1EGP. Restaurants and fast food cost from 12 EGP+
Accommodation: Great and cheap. No need to book, most places have wifi too. If you search hard and bargain, decent rooms are found for 20 EGP.
Nightlife: Not a lot I’m afraid guys :S Sharm El Sheik and Hurgada feature bars and clubs full of tourists but then that’s like being back home! Cairo Jazz club, Cairo is your best bet and only on the weekends. Egypt doesn’t party hard.
Transport: Reasonably priced and luxurious. Trains are great but more expensive than buses. To get an idea, the 12 hour journey from Luxor to Cairo costs around 130 EGP on the train, with the bus costing around 90 EGP.
People: Egyptians often get tarnished with being pushy but I found that not to be true. Of course around the wonders you get hassled but away from the tourist attractions Egyptians are warm and welcoming.
Weather: It’s the desert – have a guess! November and December are the ‘coolest’ months (it’s all relative though)
Religion: 95% Islamic
Currency: Egyptian pounds: $1 USD – 5.75 EGP (Nov 2010)
Visa: Stress free. VOA (visa on arrival) is possible in all airports and land borders. For those of us who stress about these things, you can arrange it in the embassy in your home country for around $40, it’s only $15 if you wait for VOA.