At the end of 2015 we were thrilled to be invited to two new countries for us, Egypt and Morocco, with tour specialist Travel Talk Tours. I’ve already written about our ten day tour of Morocco, so check that post out if you’re interested in learning about the Travel Talk Tours Morocco experience.
This post is all about our trip to Egypt, land of Pyramids, Pharaohs, and the mighty Nile River. Growing up as a child of the eighties, and learning about all these things through fun school activities, this was truly a country I was very excited to visit, and the trip with Travel Talk Tours certainly looked like it checked all the boxes.
If you visit the Travel Talk Tours Egypt site, you’ll notice they have a number of options for Egypt, some of which seem quite similar. We opted for the Jewels of the Nile trip, but I’ll explain in this post about some of the other tours and the pros and cons of each. Our itinerary was also slightly different from that listed on the website, which I’ll go through as well.
First, let’s talk a bit about Travel Talk Tours. These guys specialise in really great value guided tours, across a variety of destinations, most of which are around the Mediterranean Sea. Their primary market are backpackers and budget travelers, generally in the 18 – 35 age range, and the vast majority of folks who come on their tours are from Australia and New Zealand, many based in the UK.
That’s not to say that if you don’t meet the target demographic that the tours aren’t for you. Speaking to the guides in Egypt and Morocco, they’ve had all age ranges come on the tours, and a wide range of nationalities. Just bear in mind that it’s a 90% certainty that the other people on your tour will fit those criteria, and the tours are definitely aimed at the young at heart.
Despite being great value, and aimed at younger travelers, Travel Talk pride themselves in offering decent quality accommodation. All the hotels they use are at least four star rated by the Egyptian Tourism Board, and we certainly had no complaints with the quality of accommodation – the river cruise ship in particular was excellent.
Now, let’s take a look at the tour we did, day by day, and then I’ll go into some details as to the pro’s and con’s, and key considerations for this trip, so you can make your own decision as to whether or not a tour of Egypt with Travel Talk Tours is for you!
Touring Egypt with Travel Talk Tours – A 9 Day Itinerary
Day 1 – Cairo
The first day of a Travel Talk Tour is just about arriving, with the goal to have everyone installed at the hotel by 6pm.
In our case we arrived a day early, which meant we could take advantage of a day trip to Alexandria, which was an optional add-on to our tour. Jess will be writing about our day trip to Alexandria in an upcoming post. It’s just worth bearing in mind that if you arrive in Egypt early that you might have the option to do a bit more – so do contact Travel Talk prior to booking your flights if that’s something you might be interested in.
Back to our meeting, which we turned up at fairly exhausted after a long day of touring Alexandria. This was where we met with our tour guide, who in our case was an amazing chap called Sameh. Sameh was full of enthusiasm for our upcoming adventure, the highlights of which he went through with us, including some of the sights we were going to be seeing, as well as the various optional activities.
After the meeting, folks were able to book onto any of the optional activities they were interested in, and this was also the point where they paid what Travel Talk refers to as the local fee. All Travel Talk tours have their price split between the upfront payment, and the local fee (this is all very clear on their website, no bait and switch tactics here). This helps folks to manage the cost of their holiday, rather than having to pay on lump sum, they can split it across the two payments. Folks also pay for any optional activities at this point.
I’ll talk a bit more about budgeting at the end of the post, but I would say that Travel Talk do a really good job of laying out a recommended budget for all their trips on their website, with each tour getting a full list of optional activities, estimated meal costs, and an idea for incidentals.
Back (again!, I promise I’ll stop diverting shortly) to our first evening. Here, there was an optional evening excursion, which was an evening cruise all belly dancing show. We were absolutely exhausted from a full day of travelling the day before, followed by an all day trip to Alexandria, so we decided to get an early night and be a bit fresh for the following day. Most people went on the trip though, and had a good time by all accounts. We went to bed, where we had a bit of a battle with mosquitoes. Hint – bring insect repellent to Egypt!
Day 2 – Pyramids and drive to Hurghada, overnight at Red Sea Resort
After a night’s sleep, we were ready for our first big day of exploring, and this was going to be a big one – it was time to visit the Pyramids! These, like France’s Eiffel Tower or England’s Houses of Parliament, are an instantly recognisable world symbol, and have been for thousands of years. They’ve captivated travellers to Egypt for millennia, so as you can imagine, we were fairly excited to be visiting them.
After a decent breakfast (breakfast is included every day on the trip), we hopped into our bus (a vehicle we were going to become intimately acquainted with over the next few days), for the short ride to the Pyramids.
Travel Talk have intelligently set up the trip so that the first hotel you stay in is only a ten minute drive to the Pyramids. You can actually see the Pyramids from the roof top if it’s clear. Which it wasn’t when we visited. So drive it was.
Driving around the Cairo area, you notice very quickly that littering is a serious problem. Rivers in particular are heavily polluted, full of garbage. We asked Sameh about this, and he said this was generally the first question he got asked, and that it was a source of national embarrassment. It’s definitely an eyesore! Still, the main tourist sights we visited seemed to be litter free.
The first stop on our Pyramid tour was the Saqqara burial ground. This is a huge necropolis, noted for being the place where the oldest surviving pyramid in the world can be found: the Djoser step pyramid. This is thought to be the pyramid that started the whole large-scale stone-cut template of pyramid building – with later models losing the steps. Dating from the 27th century BC, and housing the remains of King Djoser, this 5000 year old building is definitely one of the oldest man made structures surviving today.
It was a fitting spot to start our tour, as it let our guide Sameh set the stage for explaining the history of pyramid building and burial in Egypt, a trajectory of construction that led ultimately to the creation of the Great Pyramids of Giza. Sameh definitely knew his stuff, teaching us all sorts of fascinating facts about the rites surrounding life in ancient Egypt, from birth through to death. This continued throughout our entire tour, and it was clear that this was a subject in which he was both passionate and well-informed.
Another area of Egypt that Sameh was well equipped to deal with was a more modern-day detail – that of the vendors who exist at every tourist site.
Another aside, if you’ll indulge me. Tourism in Egypt when we visited was at a serious low point, and has been since the revolutions in 2011 and 2013. It was just starting to pick up, when there was the airline bombing in late 2015. Since our visit in late 2015, there have been additional terror attacks in early 2016, both near the Pyramids, and at a resort in Hurghada.
Terror attacks and revolutions, as well as the coverage that these tend to get in the media, tend to put folks off from visiting a destination, which can seriously impact the lives of those who rely on the tourism dollar. It would definitely be a lie for me to say that Egypt is a “safe” country to visit, on the other hand, I’m not sure I could guarantee safety for any country in the world. For an excellent piece on why you shouldn’t let fear stop you from travelling, read this. I will say that we never felt in any real danger whilst we were there.
The purpose of bringing all this up is to stress that whilst we were there, there were very few other tourists visiting, even the major tourist sights such as the pyramids. This meant that the folks who usually make a living from selling trinkets and services at these locations were seriously struggling, with any tourist bus that arrived being greeted with some desperation.
Sameh was very helpful in these situations. Realising that being grabbed, cajoled and hassled by vendors desperate to make a living can make visitors both uncomfortable (and as a result, less likely to want to buy anything), he would give us a briefing prior to arriving at any destination, giving us an overview of what we would likely encounter for sale, a fair price to pay (haggling is key!), and reminding us that these folks were genuinely just trying to make a living. Sometimes he would even negotiate with the vendors, and show us the products on sale, rather than having us be mobbed. This made the whole process a lot easier for everyone, and reduced the stress levels somewhat.
Back to the step Pyramid. We started the tour with a fifteen minute or so talk on the history of pyramid building and the rituals surrounding death in Ancient Egypt, before being given around 20 minutes of free time to explore. In this time we could haggle with the vendors, take advantage of a donkey or camel ride, or just wander and take pictures. Quite a few of the group did take a camel ride, and Jess found herself quite surprisingly hoisted onto a donkey. In exchange for this, we felt obligated to give the man some change who was nice but somewhat pushy. If you don’t want to take part in this sort of activity, you have to be really firm and say no.
For any service you receive like this, there is going to be a cost, and it will often only be presented after you’ve taken part in said activity. Remember that all the prices are negotiable, and you are under no obligation to take part in any of them if you don’t want to! In our case, we agreed a price before hand, and refused to pay any more after we’d taken the photos. This is something that you might need to practice a bit first, but it’s just a part of the culture, and you’ll get the hang of it (like haggling!).
Once we’d seen the step pyramids thoroughly, it was back in the bus, and on our way to the main event – the Great Pyramids of Giza.
These are pretty much instantly recognisable symbols of Egypt, but I have to admit, they still blew me away. They are just so darn big! When we visited, they were also relatively quiet, which was of course nice for us, and we were able to walk around, touch them, and take as many pictures as we wanted. This was a truly incredible place to visit, and an experience I’m not going to forget for a long time.
From the Great Pyramids we headed up to an overlook which gave a great view of the Giza Pyramid complex, and from where an optional camel ride was available. Many people in the group did this, but we’d pretty much had our fill of camel riding in Morocco, so opted to hang out and take pictures instead. A few people also bought entrance tickets to go inside one of the pyramids.
Once the camel riding and pyramid visiting was done, we headed down to the Great Sphinx for more photo opportunities, and learnt more from Sameh about the people who built all these incredible monuments.
Finally, it was time to leave the Pyramid complex, and so we headed to lunch, a five minute drive away. Another note on Travel Talk – not every meal is included, in particular lunches and dinners. You are generally presented with an option or two for meals, but in our experience, and talking to Sameh about this, he said that most people go with the group and the first option. Sameh never steered us wrong, and nearly every meal was good value. As far as I’m aware, no-one got ill on our trip, which was a good sign.
Following a delicious lunch, there was a brief stop in a perfume shop, where we had some lovely tea, and a wonderful gentleman took us through the history of perfume making in Egypt, and showed us a whole number of his perfumes, many of which are used as the base for brand perfumes in the West. Of course, there was the option to buy at the end of this experience, but this was a very low pressure environment, and many people opted to pick up perfume as gifts for friends and family. These were presented in really beautiful glass bottles, and well packed – a really nice gift option.
And then it was time for the less exciting part of the day – the bus ride! Egypt is a large country, and the sights are spread out from the top to the bottom of the country. In our 8 days, we’d be covering over 2,000km, which inevitably meant quite a bit of time on a bus!
The bus, I have to admit, wasn’t quite as comfortable as the bus we had in Morocco. Sure, we all fit in fine, but it was a little older, and the seats were less comfortable. Still, it was good enough. The first drive was to Hurghada, a resort town on the Red Sea, and took around five hours. As with Morocco, you have to accept the bus rides as part of the experience. Bring a book, or some music, chat to folks around you, or spend time enjoying the landscape. Just be prepared, and you’ll be fine. There are plenty of bathroom breaks, usually with the option to buy snacks as well, so you won’t go hungry.
Finally, after dark, we arrived at our resort. This stop is where the itinerary diverges from that on the website, as the website has you driving straight through to Luxor. That would be a very long drive, so I’m certainly thankful that we had this overnight stop in Hurghada. Even better, this stop was at an all inclusive resort (including alcoholic drinks!), so we were able to enjoy a few beers before and after dinner, which was nice.
Day 3 – Half day relaxing in Hurghada, then half day drive to Luxor, overnight at Luxor
After a jam packed day of Pyramids and driving, our third day was a lot more relaxing. We had a half day at the resort, where we could take advantage of the pool, swimming in the Red Sea, a leisurely breakfast, or of course, those inclusive drinks. After lunch, we boarded the bus, and it was another long drive to Luxor, where we also arrived after dark.
Here we went, rather bizarrely, to a local Irish pub for dinner. The food was generally ok, although the Irish options were somewhat more dubious than the Egyptian options. Here there was also the option to get some engraving done, with a local engraver available to engrave various things in hieroglyphics. Then, it was time for bed, with another full day ahead of us.
Day 4 – Valley of the Kings, Temple of Hatshepsut, Luxor, drive to Aswan, Nubian Dinner, night on cruise ship
In the morning, we rose fairly early for a full breakfast. On this tour there is the option of a sunrise balloon trip. Whilst this was excellent value for money, no-one opted to take it, largely I suspect because it was required a super early start on a day that was already going to be jam packed. Still, we saw some balloons going over, which was nice.
After breakfast, we headed to another incredibly famous Egyptian location – the Valley of the Kings, stopping on the way to visit some statues.
The Valley of the Kings was the Egyptian solution to graves being robbed. Whilst a pyramid is all well and good, it’s a bit of an obvious construction, and the Pharaohs who were buried in them often had their tombs robbed at some point after their burial. Filling your tomb with treasure and then making it a giant landmark was probably never going to work as a long term security-focused plan.
The solution was, rather obviously, to start hiding the tombs. Admittedly, it took a thousand years or so between the Pyramids being used and the Valley of the Kings being used, during which time Egypt was busy having some history happening, with dynasties coming and going, new rulers, invasions and the like. That’s one thing you quickly realise when visiting Egypt, these guys have been around for A Long Time.
Anyway, the Valley of the Kings was picked as the resting place for at least 20 Egyptian rulers over a period of around 500 years. Obviously, a pyramid would have been better as a resting place, but those cunning Egyptians found a valley with a hill that looks rather like a pyramid, and must have concluded that on the whole, getting to keep all their treasures was worth not having a real pyramid.
Sadly, despite all their careful efforts, many of the tombs were robbed anyway. A notable exception to this being the world famous tomb of Tutankhamun, whose tomb was discovered almost intact in 1922.
Visiting the Valley of the Kings was a fantastic experience. There are twelve tombs that are generally open to the public, although they are often rotated so as to minimise the impact of visitors on the delicate interiors. Other measures to reduce damage to the tombs include no photography being allowed at all on the site, and guides not being allowed to lead tours inside the tombs themselves.
What happened therefore was that we were given some suggestions by Sameh as to which tombs he thought we would most enjoy visiting, representing a cross-section of different styles. He explained all sorts of things about the history of the tombs, and the people who were buried in them, and then we were able to explore them at our leisure. Our tickets gave us access to three tombs (although you can buy more tickets for more access). Jess and I decided to visit three tombs plus bought an extra ticket to visit the tomb of Tutankhamun.
Visiting Tutankhamun’s tomb is an optional extra ticket, but in my mind very much worth it. The mummy of King Tutankhamun is still in his tomb, and visiting it was something that both Jess and I wanted to do. It was definitely worth the extra ticket price!
Following on from the Valley of the Kings we headed to the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut. This has been almost entirely reconstructed, and is unusual for an Egyptian temple in that it is more like a classical Greek temple. It’s spread over three levels, and is thought to be one of the most beautiful temples in Egypt, although to be honest, competition is high for that title!
From here the group was definitely starting to get hungry, and so we headed for lunch in a nearby village. This was, in my opinion, the best meal of the whole trip, featuring a traditional BBQ of meat accompanied by all the classic Egyptian side dishes, including flat breads and dips.
Then, it was back to the bus, and a drive down to Aswan. Here, our group split depending on what exact tour they were booked on. We were booked on the Nile Cruise, so we checked in to our rather nice river cruise ship, where we were to spend the next three nights. Other members of the group had slightly different itineraries, so checked into a hotel.
Once checked in, it was time for an optional evening activity, which everyone chose to do, that being the experience of a Nubian dinner. This involved a half hour boat ride, followed by a dinner in a traditional Nubian household. The food was really excellent. Then, after a half hour boat ride home, it was time for bed, because our fifth day involved a seriously early start.
Day 5 – Abu Simbel Temples, Philae Temple, Nile Cruise
I’m not going to lie, this is one busy tour. There’s a lot to see in Egypt, and this tour definitely does its best to get you around the highlights. One of those highlights is of course the Abu Simbel temples – the incredible temples carved out of the rock, way down in the south of Egypt. As part of the Nile damn project, these were to be flooded, but after an incredible effort, the temples were moved in their entirety about thirty meters above their original location, and rebuilt in their original splendour.
It’s about a three hour drive from Aswan to the Abu Simbel temples, and for security reasons, tour buses travel in a convoy. Which departs Aswan at 4am. Yes, that is early. Particularly since I wanted a bit of breakfast, and we had to get to the convoy start point. Long story short, it was a 3am wake up call.
Thankfully, the bus was comfortable enough to get a bit of rest as we drove down, and I was able to wake up for long enough to watch a glorious sunrise. So that was nice.
The temples themselves were, as you might imagine, pretty stunning. Originally built in 1264BC, they fell into disuse and were buried by the desert sands for centuries, before being rediscovered in 1813. Today they are a UNESCO world heritage site, and very much near the top of the list of incredible Egyptian temples to visit.
Wandering these two temples is incredible, especially when you consider everything in them, including the pillars, was carved out of the solid rock. Photography inside the temples isn’t allowed (they are quite strict on this!), but the chap at the entrance did let me get a shot looking into them. For a few Egyptian Pounds, he’ll also let you hold the key to the temple. This ankh represents the concept of eternal life, and often appears in images of Egyptian gods, so is generally considered good luck to hold.
From Abu Simbel, after a strong and reviving Egyptian coffee, it was back in the bus for the convoy ride to Aswan. From Aswan we hopped on a boat to visit the Temple of Philae. This sits on an island in the reservoir formed by the Aswan Low Dam, where it was moved in the 1960’s so as to be above the water level permanently.
Built in the 4th century BC, the Temple of Philae was believed to be one of the burying places of Osiris, god of the underworld and resurrection. The temple feels very Roman, largely because much of was it was constructed by the Romans during their time in Egypt.
I also found the graffiti on the walls to be interesting, left as it was by Victorian-era travellers. You can find this sort of writing engraved on many Egyptian monuments, obviously leaving a mark on an artifact that is potentially thousands of years old is pretty uncool, but those Victorian travellers clearly had a slightly different set of values.
On from the temple and it was back to the boat, where the group split up. Those of us taking the cruise remained on the boat, where we were to spend the next couple of nights cruising up the Nile. Other members of the party were doing the other itineraries – one, the Felucca trip, which involves sailing up the Nile on a traditional Felucca, and the others were doing a land based trip, which meant they had another full day to explore Aswan, before we would meet them again in Luxor.
Personally, I think the Nile Cruise represents best value for money, as all our meals were included for our time on the boat, and we had a wonderfully relaxing trip up the Nile, stopping to take in various highlights on the way.
Certainly, the Felucca version of the trip offers a wonderfully authentic experience, and our guide said it was his favourite of all the Egyptian tours. I think the land tour option would be my third choice – you get an hour of sailing on a Felucca, but then have to handle a bus ride from Aswan to Cairo, which is around a fifteen hour drive!
Day 6 – Nile Cruise, Kom Ombo Temple, Edfu Temple,
Our sixth day dawned with us cruising up the Nile on our cruise boat. This was a very comfortable vessel, with nice rooms, lovely big windows to enjoy the view, and a huge top-deck that ran the length of the boat. It was from here that I went to watch the sunrise as we cruised up the Nile.
I was the only one up there at that hour of the morning – everyone else opted for a lie-in! If you can motivate yourself though, I can definitely recommend popping above deck to watch the sunrise – there’s always something magical about watching the first light hit the world around you, especially in a country with so much history.
The sixth day was definitely one of my favourites on the trip. There’s something so relaxing about a river cruise (something I discovered in Russia), watching the scenery go by, enjoying excellent food, and stopping off for a bit of sight-seeing as you go.
In our case, we stopped at the Temple of Kom Ombo (also home to a rather interesting mummified crocodile museum), and the Temple of Horus at Edfu. This latter included a buggy ride to the temple, which was a lot of fun (I even got to drive the buggy briefly!), and personally, was one of my favourites of all the temples we visited in Egypt, not least because of the huge scale of it.
Then, it was back to the boat, and an afternoon tea, followed by a lovely sunset, and a few drinks with my fellow travelling companions. We also passed through a number of locks on the river during this part of the voyage. This was a fun experience too, as many vendors came alongside the vessel, and threw their wares up to us in an attempt to sell them. Had we been interested, we would have thrown money back at them. As it was, we just had to throw their wares back at them. Not as easy as it sounds from the fourth storey of a cruise boat!
Day 7 – Luxor Temple, Karnak Temple, Papyrus Scrolls
Our final day on the river cruise and I didn’t quite make it up for the sunrise, opting instead for what I thought was a well deserved lie-in. The boat arrived into Luxor, where we set off to explore the impressive Luxor temple.
One of the most interesting things about Luxor temple, in my mind, is the enormous obelisk that stands outside it. This was once a set of two – the other now sits in Paris’s Place du Concorde. Given the size and scale of this monument, carved out of solid rock, I can’t imagine how challenging this must have been to move!
From Luxor Temple we went to Karnak Temple. Karnak temple was originally connected to Luxor temple by a three kilometre long avenue of sphinxes, but only a part of this survives today.
Karnak Temple is the second largest ancient religious site in the world, after Angkor Wat, so as you can imagine, is fairly impressive also. This is a bit of a thing with Egypt, everything is just so impressive.
By now you might be wondering why I keep going on about these temples, and surely maybe by this point I’d seen enough. Nothing could be further from the truth. Each temple held it’s own unique points of interest and fascination, and Sameh’s guiding was always top notch, keeping us informed and entertained throughout.
In the case of Karnak, easily the most impressive part was the sheer scale, a feature that was particularly obvious in Hypostyle Hall, a 5,000 square meter hall consisting of 134 enormous columns, the majority of which are 10 meters tall, with a few being 21 meters tall! There are also a number of obelisks here – one is missing, as it was borrowed by the Romans in 357AD, and is still standing in Rome. That happens to be the largest obelisk in the world, and originally weighed 455 tons – the mind boggles as to how the Romans transported it from Egypt to Rome!
Following our temple tour of Karnak, our last stop was at a Papyrus store, where we learnt all about the art of making papyrus scrolls, and were able to purchase any artworks we were interested in. As I had enjoyed the temple of Horus so much, I bought a little scroll featuring a depiction of Horus as a memento of the trip.
Then, the day became rather less exciting, as we loaded up into the bus for the final big trip – all the way from Luxor to Cairo. This was a long trip, running from around 4pm to just after midnight, and I can’t say it was hugely enjoyable, but we got through it ok.
Day 8 – Cairo Museum, Mosque of Muhammad Ali, Sound and Light Show
Our last full day with Travel Talk Tours was dedicated to exploring Cairo. Unfortunately, Sameh had come down with the flu, so we had a new guide for our last day. He was certainly very knowledgeable, but the last minute nature of the change meant we started our trip a little late. Still, these things happen.
The day started with a visit to the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, most often known as the Museum of Cairo. This is one of Egypt’s largest museums, home to over 120,000 items, with arguably the most famous being the Gold Mask of Tutankhamun.
Unfortunately, the famous mask was out for cleaning when we visited, although the upshot of this was that we were allowed to take photos inside the museum, which is normally not permitted. Mask aside, there were still plenty of interesting artefacts on display, although to be honest, I did prefer to be out and about visiting the actual temples rather than seeing the items in a museum setting. I guess I’m just never going to be much of a museums person!
From the museum we headed to a few other areas of Cairo. We visited the incredible Mosque of Muhammad Ali, also known as the alabaster mosque, where we learnt a little about the Muslim religion and worshipping practices. Then we learned went to the Hanging Church and Citadel. We also visited a famous shopping district the Khan El Khalili Bazars – this being the last day of the tour, this gave everyone a last chance to pick up some souvenirs or gifts for folks back home. Finally, it was back to the hotel.
Most people were pretty tired by this point, so the final optional activity wasn’t well subscribed to, but I’ve always wanted to see the Sound and Light Show at the Pyramids, so after a quick bite to eat, it was back in the bus for a trip to the pyramids.
This show, which runs for around an hour or so, was a lovely way to finish off the trip. The Pyramids were without doubt the highlight of our Egypt adventure for us, and seeing them beautifully lit up, as a story about their history was told, really wrapped everything up nicely.
It was also at the sound and light show that the dire state of the Egyptian tourism industry really became obvious. There are literally thousands upon thousands of chairs here waiting for people to visit, and on the night we attended, I counted 21 visitors. Like I said earlier in the post, I can’t guarantee that Egypt is safe, but my experience was that we were well looked after, had no issues, and had a fantastic time. If you have the opportunity to go, I would definitely consider a trip here.
Day 9 – End
Our last day was much like the first day – folks were heading home, and so were we. We had a ridiculously early flight, so it was a quick transfer to the airport and away, having said all our goodbyes the night before.
Phew. Hopefully this gives you an idea of what to expect on a Travel Talk Tour of Egypt like the one we did! Now, let’s go through a few pro’s and con’s.
What was good about the Travel Talk Tour of Egypt
Excellent Guide. A great guide can really make a trip, and in our case, Sameh really was fantastic. He knew his stuff, he was always hugely enthusiastic, and if anyone had any problems, questions or queries, he went above and beyond to help out. He was definitely a highlight of our trip to Egypt.
Nice Hotels. Other than being bothered by mosquitoes on our first and last nights, all the hotels we stayed at were comfortable, clean and well-presented. I particularly liked the river boat, it was a lovely space and the views from the full length windows were unbeatable!
Good Food. Throughout our trip, Sameh took us to well-priced restaurants that served excellent local food. The only exception was the Irish Pub, where the food was not that great. But really, one slightly below par dish from nine days of meals is hardly worth writing home about!
Great Value For Money. Many of my thoughts on the pro’s and con’s of this tour echo those that I put together for the Morocco tour with Travel Talk. Value for money is another one of these. You can get Travel Talk Tours at an excellent price, and they often run promotional deals. It is worth noting that the tours don’t include admission prices, tips, or all meals, but even once everything is factored in, the value is definitely high.
Egypt is Mind Blowingly Awesome. Finally, and this has nothing really to do with Travel Talk, other than how well Sameh made this obvious – Egypt is a truly incredible country. I’d often thought that Italy was a good place to visit for history, but Egypt blows that right out of the water. When you think the by the time of Cleopatra, the Pyramids had already stood for over two thousand years. In fact, we’re closer to the time of Cleopatra now than she was to the time of the Pyramids. It’s a fascinating country to visit, and one that everyone with even the vaguest of interest in the development of civilisation should add to their list.
What wasn’t so great?
Of course, not everything is perfect about a trip. Whilst the below definitely weren’t deal breakers for us, I do want to bring them up so you are aware!
Long Bus Rides. As is likely quite obvious from the post, this tour does involve some fairly prolonged bus journeys. The Egyptian scenery is not quite as varied as the Moroccan scenery, and the roads weren’t always great, so this can get a little tiring. I can’t really see any other way to get a group of people around the country though – the trains are also fairly slow, and flights would likely significantly increase the cost of the trip. So just be prepared – Egypt is a large country, with the key attractions stretched out from North to South, so some time on the bus is the price you’ll have to pay.
Lack of WiFi. Again, not really a deal breaker – we could all do with a bit of time away from the internet, right? WiFi was not reliably available, except in the odd hotel lobby, so don’t be expecting to keep folks up to date with your every move.
It’s a tour. Fairly obviously, this is a tour, made up of a group. So, there are downsides to this sort of travelling compared to independent travel, in terms of flexibility, timing, what you are going to see, and so on. Of course, there are advantages, in that everything is taken care of for you. So this isn’t really a downside, just a fact, that a group tour isn’t for everyone. Although you probably already know if that’s you by now!
Who’s going to be on a tour like this?
As previously mentioned, Travel Talk Tours are predominantly aimed at a younger market, with most tour attendees being 18-35 years olds. Unlike the Morrocco trip though, which featured many more single girls, the Egypt trip we were on was nearly all couples, with one family group of four (all adults).
Everyone apart from ourselves was either Australian or from New Zealand, and many of them had been on Travel Talk tours previously as well, always a positive sign.
What do you need to know about travelling in Egypt?
Egypt is definitely a country experiencing some turmoil. Security is high, and we often had an armed truck escort of police escorting our vehicle. The low state of tourism has really impacted the country, and you might find yourself somewhat more hassled than usual as a result.
This said, I would definitely still recommend travelling to Egypt. The people are friendly, the Travel Talk guides know their stuff, and the country is home to some of the most impressive historical sights you are ever going to see. You cannot fail to be impressed by the Pyramids, and the way they have stood for thousands of years, as world civilisations have risen and fallen around them.
Beyond the safety, there are some basic considerations to take into account. As with many other countries, tap water isn’t safe to drink, so only buy and drink bottled water. The local currency is the Egyptian Pound – you can change this into other currencies before you leave, which I would recommend doing, as it can be hard to change once you have left the country.
The electrical system is the same as the UK / Europe at 220v. Power sockets are also similar to European style sockets (two hole), so if you’re travelling from the US or UK you will likely need a travel adaptor.
WiFi is available at many (but no all) of the hotels, but is not always free, so do be prepared to go without internet for prolonged periods of time.
Is a Travel Talk Tour of Egypt for you?
If you’re keen to explore Egypt, like to meet new people, and enjoy having most of your trip being taken care of for you, then you will definitely enjoy this tour. To be honest, Egypt can be a bit of a challenging country to travel in solo, so a tour like this is really an excellent way to have a minimum hassle experience.
I would definitely recommend this trip to anyone who is young at heart and wants to see Egypt. At the time of writing, Egypt is really struggling for tourists, which means that even sights like the Pyramids and the Valley of the Kings, which are usually swarming with thousands of people, are eerily quiet. Travel Talk makes the experience really easy, their guides are absolutely first class, and we had a wonderful time. So yes, if you’ve read this post and think it’s for you, I’d totally suggest you go ahead and book a trip!
So you know: our trip to Egypt with Travel Talk Tours was provided complimentary by Travel Talk, who covered our flights, accommodation, tour costs, and most of our entry fees and meals for the duration of the trip. All opinions remain our own – do check our Code of Ethics for more on how we choose who to work with.