What a fantatic trip. Wonderful sites and experiences, great locations and the whole week is so well paced, you really get to see the highlights of the country.
- What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?
The highlight for me was the felucca trip from Aswan to Luxor. Really relaxing and enjoyable, some great sites on the way. Waking up at sunrise on the Nile was a truly memorable experience. The crew were very welcoming and hospitable and the boat itself was comfortable. If you've been camping, you will be fine on this leg.
Secondly, due to current events, tourism is about 50-70% down on usual numbers. Two things to remember about this - the sites are almost empty of tourists, which is wonderful for visiting and photos, especially at Philae and Hatshupsut's Temple, but please remember that the locals are desperate for your cash. They are still polite and relatively reserved, so if you don't want something a firm "no" still works. It is good fun to haggle over a few Egyptian pounds for a cotton shirt or similar souvenir, but play fair.
- What did you think of your group leader?
The BA flight arrives at Cairo at about midnight local time. First of all, its was great to be met by George at the airport on arrival. He speeds your progress through for visas, luggage collection and getting you to the bus. You arrive at the hotel at around 1 am on Sunday morning, the rooms were already ready and check in was smooth.
Our guide for the week, Tarek, was hospitable, patient, knowledgeable and a great ambassador for his country. The whole trip is well organised, superbly paced and has a great mix of activities.
- Do you have any advice for potential travellers?
Tipping or "baksheesh' is expected for a number of local services such as bag porterage, driving, waiters etc. The Exodus tour guide takes care of the majority of tipping for the group - you just pay him a pot of money at the start of the week. If you need to tip someone yourself, or possibly want to buy some of the local souvenirs, we found it hard to get small denominations of local currency. I would recommend taking some single US dollars or similar for this, plus you can use US dollars to buy your entry visa on arrival ($15).
For the night on the felucca, you need a small torch, plus either a 2 season sleeping bag or a cotton sheet bag. I just used the latter. Its about 15 degrees at night in September, rising to 20 as soon as the sun comes up. Take your pick, but my view was a sleeping bag takes up a lot of luggage space for maybe only 6-8 hours use on the whole trip. If you have space, taking a camping pillow for this and the overnight train would be a better idea.
With the exception of the food on the trains, which is pretty awful, the rest of the food is good, mostly chicken or fish dishes, vegetables, breads and sauces. Breakfast is a normal buffet type arrangement at the hotels. Avoid the tap water, even ice cubes, use bottled only which you can buy from the bus driver (three bottles for 10 Egyptian pounds which is the best deal around).
Finally, there are a number of points on the trip such as the felucca trip or the overnight trains where you want access to your key items. Take a small bag or a 25-30 litre dayback for your one-night overnight gear plus other essentials, then your main bag or case can be stowed away until the end of each leg of the journey.
- Is there anything else you would like to add?
Exodus have managed to get great hotel deals for this trip. At Cairo, we stayed at the Giza Mercure, Aswan was the Basma hotel and Luxor was a former Movenpick resort. All about 3.5 / 4 star. The accommodation for the week runs as follows: Hotel in Giza / Overnight Train /Hotel in Aswan / Felucca / Hotel in Luxor / Overnight Train / Hotel in Giza.
There are a number of optional trips on offer. We decided as a group to do the Aswan Dam / Unfinished Obelisk option. Also, at Giza a few of our group including myself did the Pharoah's tomb visit in the Cheop's pyramid. Its about a 5 - 10 minute climb inside up wooden slatted boards/steps, fairly steep and a little tight, but worth doing. Trying to figure out how they made the granite blocks lining the tomb so smooth still puzzles me. You can't take cameras inside, but take some water as it gets hot and sweaty climbing those steps.