Egypt might seem like a cliche destination for your vacation and as a backpacker, you might not feel like the country is not worth visiting but there is a reason why it is so popular among tourists. After traveling through Egypt for 2 weeks, I realize that even though there were many tourists, there is just no other place like Egypt. Within this article, you will find everything you need to backpack through Egypt in 2 weeks. Without further ado, let's begin!
Why go to Egypt
Egypt and its ancient culture throughout the Nile has captivated and amazed travelers for centuries. From the sand-covered tombs of lost civilizations to the dusty barren desert of the Sahara, Egypt will bring out the adventurer in all of us. You get to learn the history of Ancient Egypt, see firsthand the ruins of the pinnacle of human achievements while acting out one of your favorite scene in the Indiana Jones movies. Now, tell me why you would not want to visit Egypt? 😛
When to Go
October to April is usually the best time to visit due to mild weather but in my opinion, the crowds and the increase in price might ruin it for you. I would recommend shoulder seasons like June or September where you will have the best of both worlds, with fewer people, ok weather, and not too expensive.
How to Get Here
Cairo is a big city, in fact one of the biggest in Africa and you will have no trouble finding a flight to there but be sure to browse through Skyscanner or Momondo to find the cheapest possible flight for your trip.
How to Get Around
Trains and buses are well-connected with touristic cities. The cheapest mode of intercity transportation I found was buses but trains do offer a nice way of seeing the country from a different perspective.
To learn more about the schedule of the trains, I always consulted Seat61.com comprehensive guide to trains in Egypt
For buses, I always go with GoBus because they are comfortable, reliable and cheaper than the trains.
In Cairo, taxis and metros are recommended. Metros are only accessible within the main city premise so you might be required to take a taxi to go further, say from Cairo to the pyramids of Giza. If you are taking a taxi, hail it from the street and don't ever get on until you verify that their meter is not "broken". If you don't have much choice, say coming back from the pyramid, do bargain hard and don't ever get in a taxi until you and the driver agree upon a price.
Cairo - Freedom Hostel - 7.96 USD/Night (Best hostel in Cairo hands down. Well-located, friendly travelers and staff, very modern despite being in an old building, and fast Wifi)
Aswan - Keylany Hotel - 22.00 USD/Night (Single Room)
Luxor - Bob Marley House Hostel - 5.68 USD/Night (Owner is amazing, Maria understand how to create good hospitality. Service on par with European hostels.)
Alexandria - Triomphe Hostel - 11.00 USD/Night
How NOT to Get Scammed
Scamming is common in Egypt and it is important for you to know how they do it and how you can avoid getting scammed like I did. I have written an entire article about it so you can read more on ways to avoid getting scammed in Egypt here.
Here are a few things to keep in mind. Everyone got scammed at the pyramid may it be the taxi driver who pretends the meter was broken, a person impersonating to be a guard and attach to you like leeches until you pay them, people pretend to give you free stuff which in actuality it is not, people starting a friendly conversation out of no where, etc. so keep your eyes open and ignore any interaction that deems out of the ordinary.
This place is cheaper than most countries but not dirt cheap. Expect to pay around 30 - 50 USD per day per person including accommodation and food.
Keep in mind that this is just a suggested daily budget based on my style of traveling, which is leaning more toward the budget side of things. If you want to stick to this budget, expect to sleep in dorms, eat out only a few times, and be comfortable using the cheapest and most convenient way of transportation, which often times involves walking.
If you are looking for a travel insurance to go along with your trip to Egypt, I would recommend WorldNomads.com, which is what I use to look for a travel insurance that fits my kind of adventure. They have a simple and flexible search system that allowed me to find the right insurance for the right amount of time at an affordable price in seconds. If you need a travel insurance, give WorldNomads.com a try.
Egypt Two Weeks Itinerary
Cairo (4 Days)
The first day you arrive, you will likely want to hit the ground running and check the Pyramids of Giza off your bucket list. Unfortunately, the pyramids are not in the city so you will have to either hail a taxi or charter your own transport to the Pyramids. You can easily spend half a day there.
Be sure check out all 3 pyramids and the Sphinx while you are there.
The second day, you can spend your time seeing the real Cairo. First, you can go to the area called Coptic Cairo where the Coptic Christian resides. In this area, you will find the famous Hanging Church, one of the oldest churches in Egypt that dated back to 3rd century AD.
Also, be sure to spend some time walking around the markets in the area and you might find a hidden gem like I did. There was this book market tucked away from the crowds that stood out to me. With small alleyways and bookshops along both sides, you can feel the knowledge flowing into you just by walking through the market.
Mosque of Muhammad Ali is another must-see stop in Cairo. The architecture and the sheer size of the mosque will take your breath away.
From the Mosque, you will also be able to see the cityscape of Cairo.
In the evening, you can also visit the famous Cairo bazaar called Khan el-Khalili. Khan el-Khalili is the main hub of trade in the historic center of Islamic Cairo. You can find all kinds of souvenir here (bargain hard) or if you are not interested in shopping, this place can be a good place for you to grab a cup of coffee and watch people.
Not to say, the bazaar itself is one hell of a photogenic place.
If you have another day in Cairo, you can hit the museum and learn more about the history of Egypt. The Grand Egyptian Museum is a must if you want to see real artifacts from the ancient times.
Alexandria (2 Days)
After a few days in the buzzing capital, it is a good time to visit the coastal city of Egypt, Alexandria, named after the founder of the city, Alexander the Great. The city is easily reachable by buses or trains and some people actually do a day trip from Cairo but I would recommend staying 2 nights here so you can spend 1 full day in this historical city.
Citadel of Qaitbay, Montaza Palace, and Library of Alexandria are a few places you can visit while in Alexandria. You should also try out some of their seafood which the city is known for.
Aswan (3 Days)
From Alexandria, first you have to get yourself back to Cairo either via buses or trains and then you can take an overnight train across the country to Aswan.
In Aswan, you can take a day trip organized by your hotel to Abu Simbel, a Nubian ruin located right by the border between Sudan and Egypt. Abu Simbel is hands down my favorite place in Egypt. The scale of this place is best seen with your own eyes. The gigantic statues in front of the temple of Ramesses II were nothing I have ever seen in my life.
Nearby the main complex lies another temple dedicated to the queen Nefertari. Another impressive temple carved on a side of a mountain. This place reminded me why I decided to visit Egypt. It is truly the definition of Egypt for me.
After Abu Simbel, the tour should drop you back around 4 PM, just in time for a nice climb up the sand dune across the Nile to watch the sunset. In order to get across the river, you have to take a local motorboat from the pier next to the River Transport Authority. On the other side, you can either pay to go into the Tomb of the Nobles or you can hike up around the temple complex and go to the top of the sand dune for free. Hands down, the best sunset spot in Aswan.
If you have another day, you can also get a taxi and a boat to Philae temple, and the Kalabsha Temple. Bargain hard with both the taxi and the boat. In the evening, you can rent a felucca out on to the Nile and enjoy a quiet evening while watching the sunset. Again, bargain hard for those feluccas. Go half price or even lower when bargaining with them.
Luxor (3 Days)
Coming from Aswan, you can either take a bus or a train to Luxor which should take you no more than 4.5 hours by train and 6 hours by buses.
Luxor used to be a capital city of Ancient Egypt which is why you will find many ancient palaces and ruins all concentrated in and around Luxor. Some of the places like Valley of the Kings and Mortuary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut are located quite far from the city so I would recommend going with a shared tour among other tourists to save cost and time. The tour should take you to the most famous spots of Luxor such as the Valley of the Kings, the alley of the Queens, Mortuary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut, Medinet Habu temple, and the Colossi of Memnon.
The tour should take you the entire day so when you get back, you can splurge a little and enjoy a nice delicious meal at Al-Sahaby Lane Restaurant. Camel burger from there comes highly recommended.
With the yellow dusty landscape of the desert and all the stunning ruins scattered around the area, Luxor is one of the best and cheapest place in the world to go on a sunrise hot air balloon trip. Start your second day early with a hot air balloon tour and enjoy Luxor from above.
You can also visit the Karnak and Luxor temple which should be easy to reach as it is located not too far from the city center. The Karnak Temple Hypostyle Hall is one of the most impressive sites in Egypt and the most visited by tourists from around the world. The hall consisted of 134 gigantic pillars lined up in 16 rows that were supposed to support a roof, now fallen. Since this place is popular among tourists, it is best that you wake up early in the morning and be the first at the gate when it opens. I had the whole hall to myself for a few minutes before people flooded in.
For Luxor temple, I would recommend you to visit this temple last at sunset because the temple is best seen during sunset and at night with all the lights illuminating the halls of the temples. It is also one of the few places that are open until late. Plus, it is easily walkable from the city center so you can go there anytime.
Flying out of Cairo (1 Day)
From Luxor, it will take you several hours to get back to Cairo. The best and cheapest option I found was to take an overnight bus to Cairo instead of the train to save money on transportation and a night of accommodation.
And that is it for Egypt. What do you think of the itinerary? If you like it, please feel free to share or if you have some stories about Egypt, please tell us in the comments below.
The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by BucketListly where we will follow our founder, Pete Rojwongsuriya around the world as he singlehandedly travel alone and experience different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.
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