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Going to Egypt - is a Tour the best bet?

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eirekay

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Posted: 2007-07-20 03:35:00   

My son (13) and I are starting to plan for Egypt. Do I need to take one of the cruise/land tours? I have never taken a group trip, other than the Inka trail, and never one on a bus or travel van - what do I need to look for in choosing a company? Some offer a couple of days on the Sinai Peninsula - is this worthwhile?



I would appreciate any thoughts!



Eire

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Life is not measured by the breaths you take but by the moments that take your breath away. Profile Pic: Tikal, Guatemala


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marianne

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Posted: 2007-07-22 14:52:00   

Eire,

We found public transport in Egypt very good and frequent. We travelled from Cairo west as far as Siwa oasis, we did not go to Aswan or the Sinai peninsula. I suppose if you want to include all, it may be a good idea to take a group trip as distances are greater than you would think. On the other hand you can fly from Cairo to Aswan, that saves time.

I know a good hotel in Cairo. I will upload it in my tips.

When will you be going?

Marianne

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“I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” Robert Louis Stevenson


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rangutan

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Posted: 2007-07-22 19:50:00   

I suggest you travel with a group or a personal tour guide or fly/hotel package deal. This is recommended for any Islamic or Arab country. Not a joke but reality till today, beautiful blond women have often been whisked away to be imprisoned in some remote fortification as collectors items. Travelling with your son helps a lot, shows you have a family. There should be no problem in Cairo, on the Nile or based at a tourist resort but be aware if touring orientationless around. A recommended personal tour guide/driver if you wish to travel without a group is easy and price worthy. They volunteer as backup as bodyguards evenings. Hotels generally offer short tours (also 2-3 days) private or in small groups. [This from my research and experiences in Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco are similar.]



Sinai is great if you can fly in. Reasonable fares I heard. At Cairo International expect usual African/Asian chaos, it is funny experience!



The Red Sea is very famous for it's colourful sea life, 2nd to the Barrier Reef they say. I hope you will catch a few dives there or at least snorkel.



RR

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eirekay

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Posted: 2007-07-22 20:09:00   

Thanks to both of you for the tips. We aren't going until next June but John is already starting to read up and decide what he most wants to see.



I am tempted to follow Rudi's advise, in part because this trip makes my husband nervous. My interest in the Sinai is two fold - I would like to dive for a day or two, and St. Katherine's Monastery is on the peninsula. It has some of the oldest religious icons in the world - I've seen some of them in an exhibition at the Getty Museum and they are amazing.



Marianne, thank you for the hotel tip. I would like to stay an extra day or two in Cairo. The tours I have seen so far only give you one afternoon in the museums and I think we would like to spend several. Did you feel safe in Cairo? We would like to be able to walk around the older section, but as a pair of tall blue eyed blonds, we are going to stick out. I hired a guide when a girlfriend and I toured Lima a couple of years ago and it turned out to be a wise investment. This might be the same.



Lastly, we would like to go to Alexandria - Marianne, did you have a chance to get there? And would a bus be the best way to go?



Thanks for the help!

Eire

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rangutan

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Posted: 2007-07-22 21:53:00   

Eire, you wrote "... I hired a guide when a girlfriend and I toured Lima a couple of years ago and it turned out to be a wise investment. This might be the same..."



I cannot stress more how helpful my guides were in the past. For Sahara Africa the rate is about $5-$10 per day ($1-$3 in central Africa), $20-$30 per day with car and driver including (seemingly unlimited) running costs. I took chances and choose these at the airport but I am sure your hotel can arrange recommended personnel too. They also save you a lot of money by getting non-tourist prices, fighting off vendors, beggars and other "would-bees"! My driver in Morocco became a friend over 3-days and like those brothers do, (unexpectedly) gave me a hug and kisses on departure!!!



I will keep an eye open for info till Jun 2008 and hope experienced "Red Sea" divers leave some note too.



RR

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marianne

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Posted: 2007-07-23 10:48:00   

Rudi,



{QUOTE}My driver in Morocco became a friend over 3-days and like those brothers do, (unexpectedly) gave me a hug and kisses on departure!!!{END QUOTE}



Rudi, be realistic. You mean money to them. Kisses and embracing is the normal way of saying goodbye in Arab countries. (men to men)



Marianne

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rangutan

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Posted: 2007-07-23 23:18:00   

... Marianne, this is NOT normal, the ritual is reserved only for relationships, very close friendships or diplomatic protocol. One will never for example be hugged and kissed by the bus driver or tour guide of a group, neither by hotel staff or anyone when saying goodbye. The same was not the case for me with my private guides in Turkey, Tunisia, neither in Egypt. My point to Eire is that touring CAN work without a large group too and that hiring a recommended and trustworthy personal guide is a much more close and personal thing (like a porter may be), can even lead to friendship. I met "Driss's" family and still have their address till today. Not all guides are friendly just for the money! ...

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mortimer

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Posted: 2007-07-24 14:28:00   

Hi Eire



If you think about going on an organised trip I think this company would offer you some great experiences. I have done a trip in China with them and was very happy with the trip. Depending on the trip style you live in very basic accomodations and have just the basics organised and loads of free time to explore by yourselfs.



http://www.intrepidtravel.com



Hope it helps

Mortimer

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eirekay

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Posted: 2007-07-24 21:30:00   

Martin,

Intrepid looks perfect - they offer an "independent" traveler series that appears to good transportation and basic accommodation but allows you to explore on your own. Terrific! One of their itineraries covers all the spots we had in mind except of Alexandria and I think we can add that on our own.



Thanks!

Eire

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ta-shy


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Posted: 2007-08-02 17:07:00   

Good health and high spirits!



Have fun on your trip to Egypt.. May I suggest using "geckos adventures" I used them in 2001



http://www.geckosadventures.com/mid_east/highlights.asp?HIGHLIGHT_ID=129



they are reasonably priced, not as much as a party trip like intrepid..

I used them for my trip and it worked out ok. I used the group just for transportation and my hotels.. I went off on my own at every chance.



I did the 14 day Felucca odyssey .. which encompassed "Cairo, The Pyramids, Sphinx, Aswan, Nubian Village Evening, Abu Simbel, 4 Day Felucca Cruise, Edfu Temple, Komombo Temple, Luxor, Donkey Trek, The Valley of the Kings, The Red Sea (Hurghada)



This trip encompasses most of the highlights of Egypt..



If you want to dive you may want to forgo Mt. Sinai and stay in Hurghada.. Though not confirmed now, I heard on the news there was a bombing at the monestary or if not there, somewhere in the Sinai region.. so that area maybe a hot spot.



When I did the trip we stayed in Cairo a couple of days, then on a train to Aswan ***I totally recommend the extra option of flying to Abu Simbel.** back then it was only around $120 *** it is a must see though, the tomb of Ramses..



After that we went by felucca **in my opinion it's better than the houseboat**

we checked out Luxor, and the valley of the kings by donkey.. then we took a caravan to Hurghada.. I don't know if they do the caravan thing anymore, I think the danger is over**there was a bombing of a tourist bus in Cairo then...(they always travel in a caravan when going through the Eastern Desert)...

Hurghada is a modern town built in the 60's but it has really cool places to go.. We went on a boat to some reef for diving and snorkeling. When your in Hurghada, try to find the store called the "Meya Meya" It is the best place to buy your souvenirs. It sells very unique items that are not the normal "tacky tourist things"



then we took another caravan to Cairo to end the trip.. It was worth it and you get to meet alot of people on the way.



As for what Rudi said,,, Ignore it all.. use your wits. Be aware that traveling through Egypt (as a western woman) is the same as traveling though any middle east country. You will get hassled, you will be hit on, you will be proposed to, you will be taken advantage of *if your not careful*,You will NOT be whisked away to be held in some harem, unless by chance you find a caravan of camel trekkers, leave your kid and hop a ride with them for a thrill!!.



You will notice that Egypt has a high population of males under the age of 25 and alot of them are "tourist Police" When the boys finish school they go to the military to keep them out of trouble or make them tourist police.. not all but alot of them. One thing I found funny was that when you ask how old they are.. the answer is always "25" I think in Morocco it was "22"



N'way, as with any travel through a Middle East Country, be respectful of the culture and remember that although Egypt is all about the tourists.. they are still Muslim.. Respect that and you should be all right. (cover up in most places, though not necessary because it is a high tourist area. You will get treated better)



One thing I should mention is, is that if you go to the Cairo Museum, although it is an awesome place to see, WOW is it packed!!! It can be very irritating when you have 5 or more large groups of people all hanging around you and the guide speaking through a mega phone or shouting loud to be heard in different languages. If possible break free and go on your own at your own pace.. remember though the place is HUGE!! Also spend the extra $ and go into the Mummy museum.. well worth it.



if you have anymore questions.. let me know.

Tashi











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