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Help! I need an itinerary for a 3 week Egyptian vacation

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I really hope you all can help me! I started planning our vacation to Egypt a few weeks ago but abruptly stopped when my daughter was admitted to the hospital. She had surgery for a ruptured appendicitis then infection then pneumonia and thank God she'll be ok. So, I'm back to planning! Needless to say, my heart isn't into it. I'm finding this to be the most challenging itinerary I've had to plan.

Here's what I have so far (we're traveling in July and will be in Egypt for a month. We have family there so we'd like to reserve the last week to hang out with them in Cairo and do our shopping. We know it'll be burning hot but this is the only time we can go to Egypt and probably won't be back.). As you can see, we're trying to combine relaxation/beaches/resorts with ancient and Islamic Egyptian history :

Arrive in Cairo and spend 4 nights.
Places to explore: Pyramids of Giza, various mosques including Al-Azhar, Ibn Tulun, Al-Maridani, Madrassa of Sultan Hassan, Saqqara and Dahshur pyramids and Memphis Egyptian museum, walk between Bab Al futuh and Bab Zuweila, take a felucca ride on the Nile, eat at Citadel View.
{we'll shop at Khan Al Khalili our last week there}

Take a flight to Luxor and spend ? days there.
Places to explore: Temples of Karnak, Medinat Habu Temple, Tombs of the Nobles, Luxor Temple and museum

Take a Nile cruise from Luxor to Aswan and then I have no idea what there is to do in Aswan. We don't want to spend too many days as it'll be burning hot. Any suggestions?

Then we'll want to go from Aswan to Sharm El Sheikh. Any suggestions for number of days? Then we'll want to go from Sharm El Sheikh to Alexandria (maybe 2 days?) then to Sidi Abdel Rahman resort (days?)


Questions:
How much does it cost to take a nile cruise between Luxor and Aswan?
Our plan is to hire a private taxi driver to get around, approximately how much does this cost (for example to take us to Saqqara/Memphis and Dahshur)?
For flights between Cairo and Luxor, can we arrange when we get to the country? How much do they cost?
How do we get from Aswan to Sharm El Sheikh?
How do we get from Sharm El Sheikh to Alexandria?

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    Just get ahold of Lady Egypt tours and they can book the various boats,air flights,etc. for you. I usually do independent touring for our family but found out a year ago when we went that it was next to impossible to secure tickets not living there.You can decide how much you want them to help you versus a solid tour-think that it would save you alot of time and effort.

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    I am a little surprised that your relatives are leaving so much of the planning up to you. Egyptians are so hospitable that I'm sure they will handle some of this for you happily.

    What I do suggest is:

    4 nights at first in Cairo is fine, considering you will have the full final week here too.
    Plan one day for pyramids (all of them as you said)
    One day for Islamic Cairo (but considering you will be visiting the Khan during your last week, don't worry too much about this as you will be in the middle of Islamic Cairo when you are at the Khan and can go see some mosques at that time too)
    Ask your family there to take you up to Qannater for a day on the Nile and a good fish lunch. It is an activity all families like, and if you treat them to it, it will make for a wonderful day for all of you.
    If you drive up there, you can also work in a stop at the Camel Market the same day, if you want to see that.
    Another day can be dedicated to the Cairo Museum and maybe Coptic Cairo to complete the day.
    You can eat at the Citadel View restaurant either during this time or during that final week. Either lunch or dinner is nice there. Dinner time (sunset or later) will be possibly crowded - try to do this on a week day. If you go on Thursday or Friday night, it will be incredibly crowded at the park.

    Luxor can be done in 2 days, but if you are going to take a Nile Cruise, 2 days would probably be overkill since the Nile Cruise will be giving you tours of most of the sites. If you think you might want to see some of these sites with more attention given to them than a group tour will offer, then do the Nile cruise the opposite way (Aswan to Luxor) on a 3 night cruise and then get a hotel after the cruise in Luxor and repeat some of the sites you liked best, or see the additional sites you missed. 2 days would be enough though combined with the cruise.
    Keep in mind the possibility of a hot air balloon ride while you are in Luxor.
    Again, the sites of Aswan will be handled by the cruise mostly. I'm not sure they visit the Nubian Museum though and that is worth adding to the list of sites to see. Other than that you should see Phillea Temple, the Unfinished Obilisque, the High Dam, and the Botanical Gardens, and probably a falouka ride there is worth while as the Nile is quite different there than up north - a bit more rugged and rocky - but don't worry - it's not like there are rapids or anything.
    If you have done Aswan first and then cruised to Luxor, if you check with Egypt air and plan things right, there is a flight (one per week I think and it will be full) that flys from Luxor to Sharm el Sheikh. That will be the better plan if you can organize it and get the flight. Go to www.egyptair.com to find that flight if you can. Otherwise it entails flying back up to Cairo and then to Sharm. That can be a long day if you have to do that.
    Sharm will be HOT and probably a bit uncomfortable outside during the day unless you love the heat. Are you going to try to do something there like climb Mt. Sinai? Before deciding how many days in Sharm, look at the flights in and out and plan on at least 2 full days there - more if possible.
    After Sharm, you will have to return all the way to Cairo and then go to Alexandria and on over to Sidi Abdel Rahman via car or bus.

    To answer your questions -
    You can buy a Nile cruise from Lady Egypt as duty free suggested, or use my favorite agent in Cairo - Egypt Panorama Tours at http://eptours.com/ They have 4 star and 5 star cruises to choose from. You best rely on them to give you current prices rather than depend on people here to give you some outdated prices that won't relate to current conditions.
    Also remember that cruises are priced "by the night", so if you take my suggestion and go from Aswan to Luxor it will be one less night - ergo less expensive.

    Hiring a driver for your needs is one area I would let my family help me. They may well know of drivers that need the work that they like and they may get you a better price. Prices will vary from LE200 per day to $100USD per day. If you are looking for the LEAST expensive, you may get an old car with a driver that speaks no English (maybe this isn't a problem) and a driver that is counting on commissions he will earn by stopping at multiple Carpet Schools, Papyrus Factories/Institutes, Gold stores, and restaurants that will pay him for bringing you there. If this is what you want, OK. If not, be clear that you will pay more to NOT have to deal with this.
    In any case there are loads of good drivers available. You need to decide if you want a private driver with his own car or if you want to hire a limosine (not a real stretch limo - just a tourist licensed car) for this service. The limo service will be more expensive.
    Here is the name and number of one man I like quite a bit - Mr. Hamdy at 010-130-1763 I tend to pay him LE400 per day when he works for me, but he would probably work for less. Please be fair with him though if he drives you a long distance and is with you for many hours. He is a GOOD driver and a good man that won't cheat you.
    You can wait to arrange your domestic flights, but be aware that flights like that one from Luxor to Sharm will probably be sold out by the time you are here. Others are fine to wait as they will know which flights they are leaving in service and which they are cancelling. Flights that don't sell out are being cancelled to combine flights here and there now that there aren't that many tourists in town.
    Cost can be estimated on the Egypt Air web site. Again, flight prices vary a great deal, so don't take the word of anyone here on Fodors for that. I flew out to Hurghada and back a week ago and the costs for flights on a single day varied by $100+/-. I took the red eye flights that were the least expensive and that round trip cost me about $100.00 total....but I could have spent a great deal more to fly on more convenient flights.
    I think I've covered the How to get from A to B above.
    Ask if there are more questions.
    Good luck and thanks for coming to Egypt. I hope you enjoy it a great deal.

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    Hi Lyan....

    sorry to hear about your daughter! glad that she is on the mend.

    I had saw your email earlier this morning and thought, oh my, dont even know where to start to help you :-) so I left it in the hope that Casual Cairo would come and do the bulk of it for you :-) which she most certainly did :-)

    she has given you excellent advice, imo.

    Personally, if you are stressed out by it all, I would most certainly do what Duty free says and get an agent to plan it all, book it all and work everything out for you. The situation in Egypt right now means that most travel agents are getting great deals on the boats and hotels etc and they are always, in my experience, real happy to help you plan it all out. the one we prefer is Egypt quality tours (www.egypt-quality-tours.com) and you have been given Lady Egypt and CC has recommended EP tours also. That will give you a good base of agents to try.

    Let them do the hard work for you, planning it all out with what you want to do etc. Then sit back and relax a bit! see what they come up with for you and then get their ideas and put in anything else that you want. Even if you dont book with them, it will take most of the hard work out of the planning right? :-)

    Be sure to get a chance to see Abu Simbel because if you are going all the way to Aswan it would be such a shame for you not to take some time to get to Abu simbel. Also make sure that Hatshepsut temple is on your list of things to see in Luxor. and, if you have time you could do Abydos and Dendara.

    I'd maybe break my Cairo days up the first week with the trip to alexandria for the day, its only a few hours (if traffic ok) to go from Cairo to there as CC suggests to you.

    Other than that, remember that at the moment not all the cruise boats are sailing because of the shortage of clients. so choose one that has a good reputation and that can confirm that they will definately be sailing on the dates that you have.

    Other than that, I think Casual Cairo has given you a great base to work from.

    Definately contact some agents and take the stress away for a bit. your supposed to be planning an enjoyable experience not stressing yourself out in the process :-)

    Scotsgirl

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    Regarding Alexandria - I would never suggest driving up to Alex. I think it's a waste of time, and a very boring ride. The train goes there in less time and the trip is more enjoyable. Food and beverages are available on the train as are toilets (not beautiful toilets, but neither are the toilets on the road trip), and the scenery is significantly nicer as you travel through the green part of the Delta and can see villages and farms all along the way. It's so nice... and train tickets are pretty inexpensive - about $10 per person per direction. Add transport to/from the trainstation in Cairo and you still will spend less than hiring a van or car to drive you up there through the desert.

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    I, like many others here booked through Lady Egypt Tours. It was half the price than that of the Scenic Tours equivalent. It made everything so easy as they did all the bookings and running around. We had absolutely no stress. They suggest an itinerary, or, you can make the suggestions first and then they will follow up with an itinerary.

    I went to Egypt in Sept last year and would never have done it any other way. Put yourself in their hands and you will be absolutely delighted at the service you receive. You really will feel like a pampered celebrity with all the stress taken out of travel!

    Good luck.

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    Thanks everyone for your advice! I checked with Lady Egypt and honestly they gave me a very expensive, per person price (basically $1K per person and that's just for a small part of our 3 week stay). When I started looking at pricing everything on my own, the price difference is just way too big.

    Anyway, we got lucky and one of my hubby's friends in Egypt offered to do the travel arrangements for us. Yay!

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