These tour companies will help you make the most of your trip of a lifetime to Egypt.
It’s not difficult to plan and book an independent trip to Egypt, but most travelers realize once they get there that Egypt isn’t such an easy place to navigate, even if you speak fluent Arabic. The psychic exhaustion of having to negotiate every little piece of business can also wear you down. There’s all the more reason to have someone else handle the logistics for you–something luxury travelers have long known. And the side-benefit is that having a company pre-book everything on your behalf and provide a guide to accompany you throughout your trip costs little more than doing it all yourself; a guided trip on either the low or high end (or even in the middle) can be a good value. It’s your guide, however, who will make or break your trip to Egypt, and having the same person with you throughout your journey is the real advantage of a tour.
Pricing: Starts at $2,600 for 10 days (including Egyptair flights from JFK)
If you’re looking for a reasonably priced, comfortable, small-group tour, you’ll be more than happy with Friendly Planet. Like many organizations, the company maintains their own office in Cairo and uses the same knowledgeable and helpful guides and tour manager on all their trips. The Cairo hotels are good, and you see a lot with relatively few hassles. The company will pre-purchase your visa in Egypt and have it ready for you on arrival, something many but not all companies will do.
Noteworthy: International flights are always included on Friendly Planet trips. King Tut’s Tomb is included in the Valley of the Kings, as is afternoon tea at the Old Cataract Hotel; you can buy a package that includes most of the optional tours for a small discount.
You Should Know: There are lots of optional extras on the Best of Egypt & Nile Cruise package, including the trip to the temple complex of Abu Simbel, which adds $300 onto the price; the cruise ship is reliable and comfortable but by no means luxurious, and you’ll be one of several groups, which is not at all uncommon.
Viking River Cruises
Pricing: Starts at $5,400 for 12 days
Viking River Cruises only began Egypt trips a few years ago, but it’s already expanded its trips in the country, offering services and comforts that are similar to those provided by more expensive tour operators but for less money. These are not quite luxury trips, but they also cost noticeably less. A longer than average cruise means you’ll get to visit the Dendera Temple complex in Qena and the Esna temple, which are not on most cruise itineraries. And Viking has an extensive on-the-ground team to help organize things.
Noteworthy: Viking has built its own ships for Egypt (a rarity) and fitted them in a style similar to their other river ships; they even have elevators. And you get a lot for your money, including a rare visit to Queen Nefertari’s Tomb in the Valley of the Queens, which is both expensive and not open to the public at all times.
You Should Know: Even at these prices, there are a lot of optional tours, including Abu Simbel, and they do sell out. And many departures are more than $6,000 (you tend to get the best deals by booking early). One noteworthy optional tour is a behind-the-scenes trip to the Grand Egypt Museum conservation laboratory.
Abercrombie and Kent
Pricing: Starts at $7,400 for 10 days
The premier luxury tour operator in Egypt, Abercrombie & Kent offers top-notch service and the highest levels of accommodations on small-group trips that are well thought-out with excellent guides and every comfort you can get. That’s expected at these prices, but A&K has a reputation for delivering in a destination that can be a strain for even the best tour operators. A&K maintains its own operations in Egypt, so you tend to deal with employees, not freelancers, which means you have more consistency in service. If you want to do their trips privately, that can be arranged, albeit at higher prices than the small-group tours.
Noteworthy: You stay at luxury hotels like the Mena House and Four Seasons in Cairo; your cruise ship is the top-rated Sanctuary Sun Boat IV, which has private docking facilities in both Luxor and Aswan; King Tut’s Tomb and a trip to Abu Simbel are included.
You Should Know: Most dinners are not included (except on the cruise), but that gives you the opportunity to explore a bit further afield.
Style: Budget to Affordable
Pricing: From $2,400 for 12 days (in the “comfort” tour)
Intrepid offers various kinds of budget tours, including some really cheap options that draw backpackers and allow you to see Egypt and even visit Hurghada in two weeks for under $1,500. For some travelers, the spartan accommodations and lack of comfort will not be sufficient on those cheap trips, so the “comfort” trips are usually a better choice. Unlike a lot of trips, this one includes Alexandria. And because of the extra cost, the age of participants is higher than on a typical Intrepid trip, but you usually get a nice mix of travelers. Intrepid has enough tours that they get consistently good guides on both the low and higher end.
Noteworthy: Abu Simbel by air is included in the “comfort” trip (that’s often a $300 addition to tours), but a lot of other temples and museums you may wish to visit are not. Though none of these is terribly expensive, the costs do add up after a while.
You Should Know: The trip from Cairo to Aswan is by overnight sleeper train, so keep that in mind (on the “comfort” trip, you fly back from Luxor, but on the “Adventure” trips, you take the train back). The hotels are decent but not deluxe. Intrepid tends to draw a somewhat younger crowd than most mainstream operators, but the more expensive “comfort” tours skew older than the most adventurous trips offering fewer creature comforts.
Overseas Adventure Travel
Pricing: From $4,895 for 16 days (including airfare from the U.S.)
One of the best-known small-group travel companies that cater to the 50-plus crowd, OAT has been leading trips to Egypt for years. The company has a long-standing presence in the country and tends to hire good guides. Because these trips tend to be longer, you go to destinations that are both on and off the beaten path. The company also tries to bring travelers and locals together by offering home-hosted meals on every trip and usually a visit to a school or other organization supported by the company’s charitable foundation. A trip to Abu Simbel with an overnight is included, giving you the opportunity to visit the temples later in the day, when most other travelers are long gone.
Noteworthy: OAT doesn’t offer a traditional river cruise but rather a trip on a chartered dahabeah, a traditional Egyptian river yacht. Since these ships carry at most 16 or 18 passengers, they offer a much more intimate cruising experience. Hotel accommodations are high-class, including the Winter Palace in Luxor, the Old Cataract Hotel in Aswan, and the Marriott in Cairo.
You Should Know: OAT tours seem more expensive than they are because they include airfare (in most cases, you can get a cheaper trip if you book your own air travel, but then you have to get yourself to the hotel on arrival). Most meals and activities are included, but Alexandria is not (it’s an optional extension tour). The trip to and from Abu Simbel is by road, not by air; you get to spend the night in Abu Simbel Village, and this allows you to avoid some of the crowds but means you are on the road for at least three hours each way. While accommodations are pretty luxe, they are usually in newer extensions of classic hotels, not in the more expensive historic rooms.
Style: Budget to Affordable
Pricing: From $1,150 for eight days
One of the long-time tour operators in Egypt, Memphis Tours offers mostly basic large-group tours but can also arrange for more comfortable and even custom trips. Their basic tours are affordable and cover the major sights, including a few nights in Cairo and a Nile cruise. This is a high-volume operator that offers both extended tours and day-tours in all the major destinations of Egypt, so they have a large group of guides to draw from, most of whom get pretty high marks from travelers. But this is not typically a luxury operator; however, if you want to visit places that are not on most tours, including the western desert oases, Hurghada, or even a Dahabiya river-yacht cruise, they can make those arrangements for you.
Noteworthy: Domestic flights to Luxor and back from Aswan are included in most tours, but Abu Simbel is an optional extra.
You Should Know: Most Memphis tours offer Abu Simbel by road and not by air, so you will be in a road caravan for more than three hours each way, making for a long an exhausting trip. Basic sights are always included, but there many options that aren’t.
On the Go Tours
Pricing: From $400 for nine days of budget travel, but “signature” trips start at $1,045 for six days
If you are looking for a true budget experience, including pretty basic hotels, the overnight train from Cairo to Luxor, and a two-night rustic felucca trip on the Nile (where you sleep on a mat on deck with no shower or toilets), On the Go Tours is your company. For little more than what it might cost you to organize and book the trip on your own, you’ll have the benefit of a local guide to accompany you throughout. Tours are very well received, but people do seem to know what they are getting themselves into (and want that kind of experience). The more comfortable “signature” trips are what most people would consider a mainstream trip to Egypt: relatively small-group trips with comfortable, air-conditioned hotels and a guide, but you still travel north and south on overnight trains, and most admissions and meals not included (other than breakfast).
Noteworthy: Guides are included on even the most basic trips. Signature trips offer an experience more like what the typical tourist might expect, including a short Nile cruise, some meals, and comfortable hotels. Abu Simbel is an optional trip, but only by road, adding three or more hours each way.
You Should Know: On most of these trips, admissions to sights are not always included, which may add $100 or more onto the trip cost. There are no domestic flights; all travel within Egypt is by bus or train.
Pricing: From $2,300 for 10 days (includes Egypt Air flights from JFK)
Like several companies, Smartours specializes in reasonably priced, air-inclusive trips catering to older travelers, and their Egypt trip is a favorite among their devoted clientele both for the price and the first-class offerings. These aren’t luxurious trips, but they are comfortable and offer good value, with knowledgeable guides and a tour manager who’s on top of things in Cairo. The cruise ship is the well-regarded Movenpick Royal Lily.
Noteworthy: Except on the cruise, most dinners aren’t included. These trips include one-night hotel stays in addition to the cruise in both Luxor and Aswan, as well as a hotel in Cairo, so there’s more than the usual amount of moving around.
You Should Know: Abu Simbel is an extra cost; the company also offers reasonably priced single supplements of about $400 or $500. It’s possible to buy a land-only tour, but you won’t get a meet-and-greet service at the hotel, and you’ll have to buy your own visa on arrival.
Pricing: From $7,000 for 10 days
Tauck pulls out all the luxurious stops for their tours, including charter flights to Abu Simbel (included) and a camel ride to St. Simeon’s Monastery near Aswan, which is not often included on these shorter trips. Your hotel nights are spent at the Mena House in Cairo, in the Old Cataract in Aswan, and (before the return home) at the Four Seasons Cairo at Nile Plaza. The company hires the best tour managers and guides, and as with A&K, this makes a difference in your in-Egypt experience, particularly when things don’t go as planned.
Noteworthy: Although it’s a river cruise company, Tauck doesn’t own ships in Egypt; instead, it uses one of the Oberoi river cruise ships, the original luxury cruisers on the Nile. Their trips include an after-hours visit to the Valley of the Kings, when there won’t be other tourists around.
You Should Know: Tauck touts its no-options trips. If something is included in the trip, you never pay extra. And they have a reputation for delivering. If you want, they will also book your airfare.
Pricing: From $5,700 for 12 days
Like other luxury cruise companies, Uniworld offers Egypt tours and includes a seven-night cruise, which provides a more calm and nurturing environment than a hotel. Because they operate their own ship, they have a stable of guides and a good tour management team in the country. On this trip, you spend two nights at the beginning and two nights at the end in Cairo, saving the Pyramids for last (and that may be a better way to see Egypt). Because the cruise is longer than average, you’ll visit both Dendera and Esna temples and also have more quiet moments sailing on the river.
Noteworthy: All accommodations, including both hotels and ship, are luxurious. Uniworld will introduce the S.S. Sphinx in 2020, a brand-new luxury cruise ship carrying around 80 passengers.
You Should Know: Abu Simbel is an optional excursion on these cruises.
Pricing: From $1,500 for nine days
For the price, you really can’t do much better than one of these popular Globus Tours, which hit the highlights but don’t take you off the well-beaten path, but that’s often enough of Egypt for a first-time traveler. It’s a professionally run, large-group tour company, which helps keep the costs down, but expect a large group of 40 or more, which mean early wake-up times and a bit of hurried sightseeing. However,the standard of accommodations is pretty high and the cruise-ship is pretty good.
Noteworthy: You stay in nice hotels in Cairo (the Sofitel) and Aswan (the Movenpick), and the motor coaches have Wi-Fi (though it’s not always reliable). Most dinners are not included, except on the cruise.
You Should Know: You really only get one day of sightseeing in Cairo, which gives you just enough time to see the Pyramids and the Egyptian Museum. Abu Simbel is an optional tour.