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Just back from Egypt--any questions?

Old Dec 7th, 2006, 03:48 AM
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Just back from Egypt--any questions?

Just back from our wonderful trip to Egypt and it might be a few weeks before I get my trip report posted. In the meantime, I'll be happy to answer any questions.
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Old Dec 9th, 2006, 09:45 AM
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Hi,
I want to add a few days (3 or 4) in Egypt to a safari in either June or September. I think it'll be hot but otherwise, did any particular thing stand out for you? Anything you'd pass on that you thought would be a must see? I'm not sure if I have time to do Luxor. Was it enough being in Cairo?
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Old Dec 11th, 2006, 12:53 AM
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lenlu

If this is going to you your 'only' trip to Egypt ever, then its got to be Luxor. Cairo is just a crazy, dirty and polluted city and without the pyramids, not worth the effort, in my opinion. That said, direct connections to Luxor are few, and internal flights to Luxor from Cairo aren't inexpensive or frequent.
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Old Dec 11th, 2006, 10:05 AM
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Thank you, that's important to know. Hmmm. I may not have enough time to get to Luxor then and with all the flying already going on, I'll have to think about this. Thanks!
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Old Dec 11th, 2006, 05:54 PM
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Oh dear, Lenlu, that's a difficult question. At the end of every day we'd come back to our room (or cabin), and say something like, "That was the BEST day". There was nothing that disappointed. If we had to give something a miss, though, it would be Coptic Cairo, Islamic Cairo and the Citadel, concentrating on the older "stuff".

Cairo was dirty and polluted, like amolkarnik said, but we still loved it. We were there 4 days at the beginning of our trip and another day and a half at the end. We spent one full day going from the oldest pyramid to the newest at Giza.

Luxor was most enjoyable, but then so was Aswan, Abu Simbel, and all stops in between. It was delightful going around the temples. I'd happily go back to any of them. However, if we hadn't gone to these places, we wouldn't have known what we'd missed.

It will be hot in the southern areas in June or September, less so in Cairo.

If you don't have time to do both upper and lower Egypt, then I'd say it must be Cairo. How could you go to Egypt and not visit the pyramids!!

If you have three full days in Egypt (not including the travel days to and from Egypt), this might work for you:

Day 1: The pyramids. Then either 1) the overnight sleeper train which leaves Cairo about 8 in the evening, about 20 minutes later from Giza, arriving Luxor around 5:15 the next morning; make sure you get the full lying-down sleeper, not the sit-up sleeping seats. Or, 2) the evening flight to Luxor that arrives a little over an hour later, spending the night in Luxor.
Day 2: Luxor: visit the sights. 1) overnight in Luxor, or 2) the overnight sleeper back to Cairo, arriving Cairo about 6:45 the next morning.
Day 3: Cairo (if flying back, the midmorning flight from Luxor). Visit the Egyptian Museum (not-to-be-missed) and the Kahn el Kalilli.

Taking the sleeper train is the cheaper option, but not that much--about half the cost of flying, If you can afford it, though, I'd recommend flying, at least for your return to Cairo, just to make things easier on you. Flying is around $190 pp r/t. There would also be hotel costs in Luxor.

You'd be best off using an Egyptian travel agency to book the travel and hotels. They get a much better rate than you could as a non-Egyptian. As your time is limited, I'd also arrange for them to have a guide with you, plus meet, assist and transport. Using an Egytian agency, it would almost be like having the guide/meet/assist/transport for free with what you'd save on booking the hotels yourself. They'd also have a minivan to get you around, so you wouldn't have to wonder what to do with your suitcases (i.e. you've checked out of your hotel in Cairo but have all day visiting the pyramids before you leave for Luxor that evening).

Well, that's a lot of information and makes sense to me, but I'm sure I've missed something. Please don't hesitate to keep this conversation going!
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Old Dec 11th, 2006, 08:54 PM
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I had a friend who did a hectic - but enjoyable - day trip to Luxor from Cairo. Early morning flight, pre-arranged tours, and late flight back. The travel agent even arranged for a day room at a hotel so she could rest a little/eat a little in the morning and before heading back in the evening.

It was a whirlwind - but she didn't have to worry about luggage - as that all stayed behind in the hotel in Cairo.
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Old Dec 12th, 2006, 07:23 AM
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I did Luxor in a day trip. Up at 3 am or so, fly to Luxor, explore Luxor in the morning, take a lunch break, explore Luxor in afternoon. At that point I was so exhausted that I stopped the sightseeing & went to the hotel. Didn't fly home until late at night. I didn't enjoy it because I was so tired.

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Old Dec 12th, 2006, 08:21 AM
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I couldn't imagine doing Luxor like that - but the way my friend's schedule was (she was accompanying her husband on a business trip) - that was the only option she had if she wanted to see Luxor. Not fun - but doable.
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Old Dec 12th, 2006, 10:25 AM
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Actually, this is all helpful. It sounds like it is possible and flying is the easier way and more time efficient. Any ideas for Egyptian tour operators or is this booked once I get there..I can't imagine. Thanks!
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Old Dec 13th, 2006, 11:30 AM
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Try Misr Travels. They are the government owned tour operators in Egypt. We went to on a 10 day trip using Globus Tours from the US, but Globus uses Misr and they were just wonderful.
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Old Dec 21st, 2006, 09:30 PM
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Hi, I am working with a company by the name of Royal Valley Tours. They want money wired to them and do not use credit cards, any suggestions?
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Old Dec 22nd, 2006, 04:44 PM
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Hi evecolorado, I am travelling to Egypt early April 2007 with hubby and 2 kids (14 & 8 yrs) We where thinking of doing to do a Nile cruise and then the rest of the sightseeing off our own backs. Or do you think it would be less stressful to book a complete tour which picks us up from airport and does entire tours etc then drops us back at airport at end of holiday? Many thanks Lisa
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Old Dec 23rd, 2006, 09:52 AM
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Lenlu: There are not many flights between Cairo and Luxor and it's almost certain they will be fully booked by the time you arrive in June. Ask your Egyptian tour operator to make the reservation as soon as you've decided on the dates and times you want.

Armity: You've plenty of time to wire money, so don't do it yet. I've an idea that might save you the exhorbitant wire costs. We used Royal Valley Tours.

Lisa: Will answer your question after Christmas, or sooner if I get time. Am just off to do some last minute Christmas "stuff".
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Old Dec 27th, 2006, 01:39 PM
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Armity,

I thought that maybe an electronic funds transfer would work for sending money to Egypt, after all it’s easily done for paying bills here in the States and doesn’t cost anything, but both my banks said “no”. You might check with yours.

It cost us $40 to wire the money and we paid 50%, but this was because it was only a couple of weeks before our trip and we figured they’d still be in business when we got there. We paid the remaining 50% in dollars to the company representative when we arrived at our hotel.

If you are willing to pay an additional $40 in wire costs for peace of mind, you might consider sending 10% now, 40% closer to the time of your trip in March, and take the final 50% with you. We had an unfortunate experience with our first tour company, Livingstone Tours in Cairo. After choosing them in the early Spring, and a couple of emails about details, we didn’t hear from them again. My final appeal to Ghada at Livingstone, who had taken over our trip after the person we were working with left them and moved to Royal Valley Tours, was at the end of July, with no response. Fortunately they hadn’t asked for, and we hadn’t sent, any money.

Who are you dealing with at Royal Valley?
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Old Dec 27th, 2006, 03:04 PM
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Lisa,

It would be less stressful to book a tour. With children along, you don't have time to be constantly navigating or haggling—you’ll be able to experience much more than you ever could have managed on your own. If you don’t want to be with a group, you can reserve a trip for just your family.

I would very strongly NOT recommend winging it after you’ve arrived. Having traveled around Egypt last month, and being a fairly experienced world traveler before that, I still wouldn’t try and do it on my own.

Also, you won’t save money by making reservations and arrangements yourself. Egypt operates on a two price system, one for locals and one for foreigners; this is government controlled and there is no way around it. Because of this, some prices can be two to more than four times as expensive for foreigners than for locals.

Questions: Why are you going to Egypt? Why April? How long? What do you hope to see and do?

BTW, we had a fabulous time.

Eve
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Old Jan 1st, 2007, 09:38 PM
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Africatravel: I put a request in to Misr Travel to get some information for an Egypt trip I'm trying to plan, and I received over 100 e-mails from "travel partners". I heard Misr was good, which I why I sent the e-mail request. My request was fairly specific, but most of the responses were obviously automated or canned responses because they bore little resemblance to what I asked for, and didn't answer any of my questions. I am now more confused than ever. Did you go on a group tour with Globus, or did they arrange an independent itinerary? If you were happy with them, could I get a contact name/#?

Evecolorado: Will a US based travel agent get the "local" price? I assume they might just rebook with an Egyption company, but I'm not sure. See my note to africatravel above. Of those over 100 e-mails about 25 had interesting itineraries, but I could not understand the pricing. Some seemed so cheap that I was afraid to even consider them. If a US company is quoting me $6,000 are you saying that the $1,000 trip cost from a local group should not scare me? How did you book your trip? Did you end up using Royal Valley, and the agent who went there from Livingstone? Seems like he/she should have called you and told you he'd changed jobs. Would you recommend them?

Evecolorado-is your itinerary anywhere on this site? If not, do you have hotel recommendations for Cairo, Luxor, Aswan and/or Abu Simbel?
 
Old Jan 5th, 2007, 01:50 PM
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Dmc:

A year ago I was mind-boggled, like you are now. I had the same experience after contacting Misr--flooded with emails from “travel partners”. My request, too, was specific, and often the only similarity in what I requested and what I received was that it was the same country! After tossing out the 90% that weren’t individualized in any way, I replied with my same itinerary to the dozen or so left, asking them quote exactly as I had laid it out and if they wanted to add on anything, or substitute, to do so separately. That eliminated about half, as many still wouldn’t (or couldn’t) do that. Like you, I wanted to compare oranges to oranges, and not “or similar”.

“Some seemed so cheap that I was afraid to even consider them. If a US company is quoting me $6,000 are you saying that the $1,000 trip cost from a local group should not scare me?”
Scared me, too! Knowing what the “foreigner” costs were for the hotels, cruise boat, transportation, etc., for our itinerary, I didn’t feel that the very lowest ones were realistic, even if the local prices were as low as one fourth of what outsiders would pay (and I didn’t know how much lower they were). I’d made up a spreadsheet with our itinerary, added the companies who got this far, then arranged them by price.

“Will a US based travel agent get the "local" price? I assume they might just rebook with an Egyptian company”.
You are correct, to get the local price they have to use an Egyptian company, then add their costs/profit on top of that—fair enough. The advantage of using a reputable US based company would be them standing behind the trip. You can pay by credit card, too, which is another backup if anything goes wrong. A few of the Egyptian companies would take credit cards but (like many of the US ones) required around 3%-4% extra to cover the fees that credit card companies charge them, which I can agree with.

“How did you book your trip? Did you end up using Royal Valley, and the agent who went there from Livingstone? Seems like he/she should have called you and told you he'd changed jobs. Would you recommend them?”
We did end up using Royal Valley, but not the agent who went there from Livingstone. Yes, I’d recommend them.

“Is your itinerary anywhere on this site?”
Here is our final itinerary:

Day 1: Arrive Cairo airport 23:05. Transfer to Mena House Oberoi, Giza.
Day 2: Debbie Senters of Casual Cairo Detours will pick us up at noon: Coptic Cairo, then falouka sail boat ride on the Nile to enjoy snacks and the sunset.
Day 3: Meet Egyptologist at 08:00 in our hotel lobby: Chronological tour of the pyramids from Sakkara to Giza.
Day 4: Meet Debbie at 08:00 in our hotel lobby: Citadel, Islamic Cairo, City of the Dead, Khan el Kalili, then cooking class.
Day 5: A return visit to the Giza pyramids on our own and then the Khan el Kalili. Depart 20:00 by overnight sleeper train to Aswan.
Day 6: Aswan/Nile cruise. Arrive Aswan 08:15. Transfer to Nile cruise ship (Sonesta). See the Unfinished Obelisk, the High Dam and the Temple of Philae. After dinner, visit the Nubian Museum.
Day 7: Nile cruise. Depart 04:30 to catch our flight at 06:00 arriving Abu Simbel at 06:45; fly back at 09:15 arriving Aswan by 10:15. Visit the temple in Kom Ombo. Sail to Edfu.
Day 8: Nile cruise. Visit the Temple of Horus in Edfu. Sail to Luxor.
Day 9: Nile cruise. Visit Deir el Medineh, Temple of Queen Hatshepsut at Deir el Bahari, Valley of the Kings and Queens, and the Collossi of Memnon. Early evening visit the Luxor Temple.
Day 10: Luxor-Cairo. Disembark after breakfast. Visit the Karnak temple complex, then a local market. Fly from Luxor to Cairo at 18:35 arriving Cairo at 19:55; transfer to Hotel Longchamps in Zamalek.
Day 11: Cairo-desert. To Bahariya Oasis. See the golden mummies and some of the tombs. Overnight at International Hot Spring Hotel.
Day 12: Desert. Crystal Mountain, Black Desert, White Desert. Camp overnight in White Desert.
Day 13: Desert-Cairo. Early evening arrive back in Cairo from desert visit.
Day 14: Cairo. 08:30 Egyptologist will pick us up from Longchamps to tour the Egyptian Museum. After the tour, Debbie will meet us at back at the hotel for a lazy afternoon visiting farms and floating on the Nile while enjoying a fish lunch with all the trimmings. Final visit to Khan el Kalili with Debbie.
Day 15: Cairo-home. Transfer to airport, 08:45. flight to Denver via Heathrow.

Except for when we were with Debbie, our Royal Valley guide was with us for the whole of the trip. It wasn’t originally planned that way but ended up being so, and worth it (long story). The other guests on the Sun Goddess complained heartily and often about theirs. The Nile cruise portion of our itinerary is based on but not identical to that shown on the Sonesta web site (one example, we wanted to see Abu Simbel which is not offered by Sonesta).

“Do you have hotel recommendations for Cairo, Luxor, Aswan and/or Abu Simbel?”
Both the places we stayed at in Cairo were excellent in their own way. The Mena House Oberoi, pyramid view, palace section (not garden), was first class (and expensive) and it was awesome seeing the pyramids as we went to sleep and as we woke up. We really enjoyed being out in Giza for the first part of our trip and would stay there again, but on our return wanted to be in Cairo, so we chose the Hotel Longchamps. It is a clean, friendly, budget hotel with a great breakfast buffet. We had one evening meal there and it was delicious. If you decide to do the Bahariya desert trip, the International Hot Spring Hotel was an oasis within the oasis--recommend it very highly. In both Aswan and Luxor we overnighted on the cruise ship; however, we did visit the Winter Palace hotel and would stay there if we were looking for a hotel in Luxor.
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Old Jan 6th, 2007, 01:20 PM
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Hi evecolorado,
We are working with Ahmed at Royal Valley and he has been a gem.
1. I transfered money already
2. any thoughts about flying or taking the train from Cairo to aswan?
3. what is the typical tipping practice ?
thanks a
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Old Jan 7th, 2007, 05:36 PM
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Yes, 2 questions
Are there any ATMs around, did you take U$ dollars and change there?.
Second one is how do you avoid getting sick??
Thanks
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Old Jan 8th, 2007, 02:06 PM
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armity:

"We are working with Ahmed at Royal Valley and he has been a gem."
Say Hi to him from me (and Leroy and Jeff and Jane!)

"Any thoughts about flying or taking the train from Cairo to Aswan?"
We took the overnight train from Cairo to Aswan, then flew back for our return to Cairo. It not only made the most efficient use of our time, but gave us another experience (the overnight sleeper train). I'd read some negatives about the train, but it was perfectly fine and we slept comfortably and soundly in our bunk beds. The rocking and "clickety-clack" of the wheels on the tracks was better than a sleeping pill!

"What is the typical tipping practice?"
It varies. There have been other discussions about the bothersome issue of tipping on this board--type in "tipping" in the search box in this Egypt forum for other views—there’s some good information. We took the advice of Debbie and Ahmed. As the trip went on, Ahmed either took care of it, or if we were going into a tomb or somewhere he wasn’t, he’d hand us an appropriate amount. We'd reimburse him at the end of the day. This wouldn't be possible with a big tour group, though. When we finally spent some time on our own, we had a grasp of what was appropriate. It’s not kind to use foreign coins as they can’t exchange them into local money. Some restaurants, including the Indian restaurant in the Mena House, add a gratuity right onto the bill. We were told afterwards it was customary to add an additional tip to this, but I wouldn't have done so even if I'd known that; I have a problem with a compulsory tip being added to my bill (unless it is a big group).

Eve
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