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LiterallyATomato
Mar 17, 2009

CONFIRMED FOR JAY

Hello,

I'm interested in travelling to Egypt. I'm a 32-year old American with a wife and no kids, living near Seattle. We're white, if that matters. We would like to see Egypt together, in a trip that lasted no more than 16 days including all air travel.

Does anyone have any advice or want to share any experiences? Has anyone taken any tours? Or would you recommend planning things ourselves? Anyone from Egypt want to weigh in?

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webmeister
Jan 31, 2007

The answer is, mate, because I want to do you slowly. There has to be a bit of sport in this for all of us. In the psychological battle stakes, we are stripped down and ready to go. I want to see those ashen-faced performances; I want more of them. I want to be encouraged. I want to see you squirm.

I went about six years ago with Intrepid Travel, as it was one of the first times I'd been to a third-world country. I'd definitely recommend Intrepid, particularly if you guys are new to travelling in third-world countries but still keen on exploring, because:
- it's a small-group tour, maximum 12 people, and they're intended for people aged 25-55
- your tour leader only really does logistics and background info, leaving you free to explore the area on your own rather than being trucked around like cattle on a bus tour

Check them out: http://www.intrepidtravel.com/uk/egypt

Also: Egypt is pretty friendly and safe, despite what you may have heard. The only real problem is that street vendors are the pushiest people I've ever encountered. Just stick to "la, shukran" (no thanks) with a smile and you'll be fine

PT6A
Jan 5, 2006

500 CIGARETTES!


My Egyptian friend says that you will be screwed over, somewhere between "inconsequentially" and "quite a bit" unless you know someone who knows the areas you're travelling in. He still goes back regularly and says the security situation isn't something to worry about, though. Webmeister's advice sounds great, definitely a way to avoid the worst of the problems without being constrained. I would not advise trying to do everything on your own for the first time, but I wouldn't even advise that for a place as relatively benign and touristy as Cuba.

Ramms+ein
Nov 10, 2003
Henshin-a-go-go, baby!

I lived in Egypt for a year and visited almost everywhere. Enough people speak English and are used to dealing with foreigners that you don't really need to do a tour and you can travel around on your own. Egypt is a pretty varied country and so depending on what you are interested in, you can find something to appeal to you. I assume you'll fly into Cairo and you'll want to spend a couple days here to include the Pyramids, the Egypt Museum (which I still think is downtown and hasn't moved to it's new location yet), Khan El-Kheili (market for souvernirs) and Islamic Cairo. Optionally, to the south are two other pyramid sites which I think are worth visiting including Saqarra (Step Pyramid) and Dahshur (Bent and Red pyramids). You can make it down there with public transport but it's difficult so you'll wanna hire a taxi.

A lot of people go to the Sinai Peninsula but I think that's a bit sketchy these days but if you do go, Dahab is a better place to go to the beach/snorkeling than Sharm El Sheikh and it's really cool to spend the night on Mt. Sinai and watch the sunrise and then go to Saint Catherine.

To the south, most of the area between Cairo and Luxor was off limits to foreigners when I was there in 2008. I'd recommend either flying down to Luxor and you can spend a couple days between Luxor and a bit further south at Aswan. There are a lot of Ancient Egypt ruins between both cities. About three hours to the south of Aswan is Abu Simbel which has an incredible complex of temples that were saved by German archaeologists. The tourist convoys leave at like 3/4 a.m. so I would skip it and take the public bus at like 7/8 a.m. and when you get down there, you'll have the whole complex to yourself.

I'd also highly recommend taking a trip to the White and Black deserts and spending a night in the White Desert. Incredible experience you won't want to miss. You can take a bus from Cairo to Bahriyyah and find a tourguide once you get there.

The pound is pretty weak to the dollar so everything should be really cheap although I don't know how inflation has affected everything. If you have any further questions or want to know more details, feel free to let me know.

Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

Roses are red
Violets are blue
Chocolate tastes bad,
also fuck you <3

Egypt is a really great place to visit (am part Egyptian, so biased, but hey!) I was last there in 2005, so I don't have any SUPER great advice, but here are my recommendations:

1. Make sure you are respectful of local social preferences. Even my local family, who are not Muslim, get irritated with tourists who wear tank tops and short-shorts and drink alcohol in random places/tourist sites. Ask your tour guide if you're not sure. We had a really great guide for the times we weren't with our family and she was very chill and liberal, but very clear about what to do where.

2. Don't go with someone who beckons you over to see something; it'll be nothing and they'll want baksheesh. Actually, lots of people will want baksheesh, and you are not obligated to pay it.

3. If you bargain for a long time over an expensive item, BUY IT. Don't waste their time for hours haggling and drinking tea. If you are really not interested, just smile, thank them, and move on quickly.

4. If someone tells you an item is [however many] pounds, restate it and specify "[number] Egyptian pounds?"

5. GET A DUKORAL SHOT BEFORE YOU LEAVE. Or whatever anti-diarrheal vaccine is available.

6. Bring hand sanitizer, bottled water, and toilet paper everywhere with you, and don't drink the water even in tourist restaurants. I learned that the hard way.

7. Don't eat molokhiyya (just my opinion!)

8. The snorkeling and scuba diving in Egypt is amazing, if you are into that.


Most of my advice is the same as Ramms+ein's except that you should also go to Alexandria. It's a beautiful city with amazing history and, if you like fish, good fish. Also my family is from Alexandria, so I'm biased.

We did a Nile cruise, which was a nice way to travel while sightseeing, but I was so sick I barely remember it. We booked with Misr Travel, IIRC, and they were pretty good and reliable.

Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

Roses are red
Violets are blue
Chocolate tastes bad,
also fuck you <3

Oh, and SMALL CHANGE. You will have to randomly pay for bathroom access, and TP if you don't bring your own.

webmeister
Jan 31, 2007

The answer is, mate, because I want to do you slowly. There has to be a bit of sport in this for all of us. In the psychological battle stakes, we are stripped down and ready to go. I want to see those ashen-faced performances; I want more of them. I want to be encouraged. I want to see you squirm.

Fleta Mcgurn posted:

Oh, and SMALL CHANGE. You will have to randomly pay for bathroom access, and TP if you don't bring your own.

Also useful for that baksheesh guy who just won't piss off, no matter how many times you tell him no. Even the guy who wrestled your backpack off your back at the airport, carried it six feet to a taxi and then demanded money

To be honest I wasn't super taken with Alexandria, the traffic was awful and once you've seen the Library, Qaitbay Citadel and walked up and down the waterfront there isn't much else to do. I know there's some pyramids out of town but I was a bit fatigued on them at that stage. I did enjoy the day trip out to the war museum at El Alamein though, but that was important to me personally since my grandfather fought there.

Definitely agree on the White Desert though, it's great and very surreal.

Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

Roses are red
Violets are blue
Chocolate tastes bad,
also fuck you <3

webmeister posted:

Also useful for that baksheesh guy who just won't piss off, no matter how many times you tell him no. Even the guy who wrestled your backpack off your back at the airport, carried it six feet to a taxi and then demanded money

I tripped on the curb once and stumbled. An older man caught my elbow, asked if I was okay, then immediately started asking for baksheesh. I think I was so overwhelmed and ill (dysentery AND a sinus infection; fun trip!) that I started crying and scared him away.

Fun story: My dad was offered five million camels for my lovely hand in marriage, top offer. His response? "That's just inflation." THANKS DAD

Ramms+ein
Nov 10, 2003
Henshin-a-go-go, baby!

Fleta Mcgurn posted:


Most of my advice is the same as Ramms+ein's except that you should also go to Alexandria. It's a beautiful city with amazing history and, if you like fish, good fish. Also my family is from Alexandria, so I'm biased.


I lived in Alex for a year and if I went back it would be the first place I'd go! But it's hard to justify it for a short trip. Now I'm all hungry for some Muhammad Ahmed. Although if the OP goes to Siwa, the buses leave from Alex so it might be worth a day then.

Boola
Dec 7, 2005


I was in Egypt and Dahab last October. It is a little sketchy - there's blockades and security checkpoints along all the roads. BUT the benefit is that there's very few tourists. Very very few. And everything is cheap - stayed at a beautiful 4-5* resort on the beach
for like $20 a night. I would also recommend climbing Mt Sinai if you're the adventurer type.

Blinkman987
Jul 10, 2008

Gender roles guilt me into being fat.


I am considering doing Egypt / Jordan / Israel from Dec 16 - Jan 1.

Any recommendations on an order in which to do the countries? I'm an American if it matters.

I'm not big on tour groups as I like to manage my own time and I have my hotels picked out (spending points and F&F discounts), but I'll likely stitch together some smaller / day tours in each place. So, more links to recommended tour groups would be super appreciated.

Saladman
Jan 12, 2010


Blinkman987 posted:

I am considering doing Egypt / Jordan / Israel from Dec 16 - Jan 1.

Any recommendations on an order in which to do the countries? I'm an American if it matters.

I'm not big on tour groups as I like to manage my own time and I have my hotels picked out (spending points and F&F discounts), but I'll likely stitch together some smaller / day tours in each place. So, more links to recommended tour groups would be super appreciated.

Make sure to fly between Jordan/Israel and Egypt instead of traveling through the incredibly-dangerous northern Sinai.

Also that's an incredibly short trip for visiting all 3 countries. That gives you time to... rush through Petra (spend at least 2 days there, one is definitely not enough, it's huge), rush through Wadi Rum, rush through Jerusalem, rush through Tel Aviv, then rush through Cairo? I guess the Dead Sea will be uncomfortably cold so at least you can cut that off your itinerary, but if you want to do Masada or something else it's going to be tight. IMO just go to Israel and Jordan since you have such a short time, especially as you're doing a super long flight to get there and will be jetlagged your first couple days.

webmeister
Jan 31, 2007

The answer is, mate, because I want to do you slowly. There has to be a bit of sport in this for all of us. In the psychological battle stakes, we are stripped down and ready to go. I want to see those ashen-faced performances; I want more of them. I want to be encouraged. I want to see you squirm.

Yeah 16 days to decently cover Egypt, Jordan and Israel sounds a bit optimistic, even if you don't mind travelling constantly. I did two weeks in Egypt, and while you could definitely shorten that I wouldn't want to do less than a week there. A couple of days in Cairo, overnight train to Aswan for Abu Simbel and a couple of temples, then a train northwards to Luxor for the Valley of the Kings and a few more temples, then another overnight train back to Cairo will basically take you a week.

I guess then you could fly to either Amman or Jerusalem? Only leaves you six days, which, yeah, isn't a lot for two countries with a lot of history. I've also been told that the land crossing between Israel and Jordan is pretty intensive as well, so that's another thing that might slow you down.

Saladman
Jan 12, 2010


The land crossing at Aqaba is a joke, takes about 5 min in either direction assuming you're white. I've crossed this twice in Eiger direction, once each time as a solo male, and it was fine. I even parked my car there for 3 days at the Israeli side, like 30 meters from the border post. aqaba border is annoying without a car as you have to deal with the taxi cartels on both sides from Eilat and Aqaba and it's like Us$10 each way. I've heard the north crossing is fine too though slightly slower.

The central land crossing from Amman to Jerusalem is one way only. You can ONLY go FROM Amman TO Jerusalem unless you have a pre arranged Jordanian visa (they do not give visa on arrival at that crossing). This crossing is much slower because it's the only crossing Palestinians can use, and as there is no airport in the West Bank, it's very highly trafficked. Takes about 10 hours if you're palestinian and about 2 if you're not (non Palestinians get to skip to the front of the line, so you feel like a dick but even the Palestinians tell you to do it if you stand there pissed off and wondering why).

Blinkman987
Jul 10, 2008

Gender roles guilt me into being fat.


I travel very aggressively. If I get bored of something, I want to bounce that day. And I usually get bored if everything starts to look the same. Like, I did maybe 6 hours at Angkor Wat and felt satisfied whereas other people spend multiple days there. Still, sure, three countries is possibly too aggressive.

I might just skip Israel. I'm atheist and it's so ungodly expensive anyway.

Saladman
Jan 12, 2010


Blinkman987 posted:

I travel very aggressively. If I get bored of something, I want to bounce that day. And I usually get bored if everything starts to look the same. Like, I did maybe 6 hours at Angkor Wat and felt satisfied whereas other people spend multiple days there. Still, sure, three countries is possibly too aggressive.

I might just skip Israel. I'm atheist and it's so ungodly expensive anyway.

I get skipping Israel, but OTOH it's Christmas season so Jerusalem would be neat even if you're only vaguely Christian-by-forced-inheritance and not any belief. I generally think terrorism threats are massively overblown and totally disregard them, but I'd be pretty goddamn worried myself to go to any Copt events during Christmas anywhere in Egypt since there have been major simultaneous bombings at every single major Christian holiday in many major cities the last couple years. (Seriously every single holiday, it's quite bad.)

If you do to go to Petra and you do it in one day make sure to hike all the way up to the monastery. One day is kind of reasonable if you start when it opens though Petra is actually QUITE large and you definitely can't do it all in one day even if you're quite athletic and don't like stopping. The monastery is not the treasury (i.e. the Indiana Jones place). It's on top of a hill, maybe an hour walk from the big plain with the ruined temple, and it has an absolutely amazing view of the Jordan valley. There'll probably be a guy selling tea up there, unless it's too cold and none of them go out.

One other cool place: do the hike up to see the treasury from above. Also takes around an hour from the main central 'flat/open' part of Petra. That won't be signed (though it is a clear path once you're on track) so you'll probably have to ask someone. If you say "treasury" then mime "look from above" then anyone will know what you mean.

One other thing: if you speak Arabic, Petra is actually still inhabited by a bunch of bedouins, so check out their village if you have the time. It's a few hundred meters down a river that flows through Petra, and if you ask someone will probably take you there. It'll be awkward if you don't speak Arabic as IME basically none of the people there, even the "guides" speak even conversational English. We also spent a couple hours with some Swedish chick--no older than 25, top--who had come to visit Petra, then ended up loving staying there and marrying a local Bedouin and she was living like a troglodyte (literally) there. YMMV, though since you're a male I don't think that could happen to you. Her husband worked somewhere nearby, he just happened to come from that tribe, so they lived in the caves like many of the other locals. (And drat those caves are pretttttty basic, though they did all have cell service and solar panels.)

Wadi Rum is neat but you need a guide, and it's expensive, at least $100. I did whoever the top-rated one was on TripAdvisor in 2013 and it was great, the guy spoke perfect English and etc.

There's absolutely no reason to go to Aqaba in winter, so if you do travel down by that crossing (which is probably the most convenient) I would not waste time in Aqaba unless there's some weird reason you have to. It's a modern, somewhat less dusty, small town. Eilat is also a modern, not dusty, incredibly boring small town that also has zero draw to it in mid winter.

I found Jordanians to be amazingly friendly, and I told everyone I was American. My diving instructor, a young Palestinian-Jordanian, for some reason thought I was Israeli until the very end of the day, and it was the first time I'd dived, and he didn't even try to drown me or stick a lionfish on me. Jordan has the most anti-American views of any country, apparently, but this doesn't seem to match their views of specific American people (especially those interested enough in Jordan to visit it) and is more towards the government. I did a bunch of sketchy things there too, like picking up male hitchhikers in the middle of nowhere (though single men only, obviously), paid cash for a rental car with no documents of any sort (with Hertz or Budget no less... somehow I doubt that rental made it into their records. Car turned out to be legit though, because I got stopped by a cop and had the documents checked.) etc. I also almost got a parking ticket in Petra, which is pretty goddamn amazing. I'd probably be the first person ever in the Arab world to get a parking ticket, at least judging by the average state of parking in Amman, which makes Naples look pretty organized.

Saladman fucked around with this message at May 29, 2017 around 19:21

Blinkman987
Jul 10, 2008

Gender roles guilt me into being fat.


Thanks man. I think you help me out nearly every year I plan my Christmas trip, so I think I owe you a drink or two or something.

Saladman posted:

I get skipping Israel, but OTOH it's Christmas season so Jerusalem would be neat even if you're only vaguely Christian-by-forced-inheritance and not any belief. I generally think terrorism threats are massively overblown and totally disregard them, but I'd be pretty goddamn worried myself to go to any Copt events during Christmas anywhere in Egypt since there have been major simultaneous bombings at every single major Christian holiday in many major cities the last couple years. (Seriously every single holiday, it's quite bad.)

Unfortunate. I definitely wouldn't go to any Christmas events anyway in Egypt besides maybe some hostel's random get hammered and hook up event. The original reason I started traveling during Christmas is because I don't care for the holiday much and I'm usually lonely while other people are doing family stuff.

quote:

If you do to go to Petra and you do it in one day make sure to hike all the way up to the monastery. One day is kind of reasonable if you start when it opens though Petra is actually QUITE large and you definitely can't do it all in one day even if you're quite athletic and don't like stopping. The monastery is not the treasury (i.e. the Indiana Jones place). It's on top of a hill, maybe an hour walk from the big plain with the ruined temple, and it has an absolutely amazing view of the Jordan valley. There'll probably be a guy selling tea up there, unless it's too cold and none of them go out.

One other cool place: do the hike up to see the treasury from above. Also takes around an hour from the main central 'flat/open' part of Petra. That won't be signed (though it is a clear path once you're on track) so you'll probably have to ask someone. If you say "treasury" then mime "look from above" then anyone will know what you mean.

Thanks. I plan to do 2 days at Petra. I'm in pretty good shape so getting around shouldn't be an issue. I was also planning to do Mt. Siani if it's safe enough as well, so I'll have reasonable hiking shoes.

quote:

Wadi Rum is neat but you need a guide, and it's expensive, at least $100. I did whoever the top-rated one was on TripAdvisor in 2013 and it was great, the guy spoke perfect English and etc.

This was something I was undecided on. It seems like people were hit-or-miss on Wadi Rum. $100 isn't really a deal-breaker for me, though.

quote:

There's absolutely no reason to go to Aqaba in winter, so if you do travel down by that crossing (which is probably the most convenient) I would not waste time in Aqaba unless there's some weird reason you have to. It's a modern, somewhat less dusty, small town. Eilat is also a modern, not dusty, incredibly boring small town that also has zero draw to it in mid winter.

I assume the water is far too cold to do anything? I was tentatively planning to stay at the Hilton there (F&F discount) and visiting Wadi Rum while there, then going to Dahab from Aqaba. This is also without me doing any firm research on what travel routes are safe / no-go, so forgive me if that laughably risky and stupid at this point.

quote:

I found Jordanians to be amazingly friendly, and I told everyone I was American. My diving instructor, a young Palestinian-Jordanian, for some reason thought I was Israeli until the very end of the day, and it was the first time I'd dived, and he didn't even try to drown me or stick a lionfish on me. Jordan has the most anti-American views of any country, apparently, but this doesn't seem to match their views of specific American people (especially those interested enough in Jordan to visit it) and is more towards the government. I did a bunch of sketchy things there too, like picking up male hitchhikers in the middle of nowhere (though single men only, obviously), paid cash for a rental car with no documents of any sort (with Hertz or Budget no less... somehow I doubt that rental made it into their records. Car turned out to be legit though, because I got stopped by a cop and had the documents checked.) etc. I also almost got a parking ticket in Petra, which is pretty goddamn amazing. I'd probably be the first person ever in the Arab world to get a parking ticket, at least judging by the average state of parking in Amman, which makes Naples look pretty organized.

Awesome. I usually keep my politics to myself when traveling, but yeah I get it and their position is completely justified.

As for Egypt, I'm thinking a 2D/N in Dahab, 1D climb Mt. Siani, 2-3D/N in Cairo, 2D/1N in White Desert, then 1-2D/N in Cairo for NYE and fly out Jan 1st.

Saladman
Jan 12, 2010


Blinkman987 posted:

This was something I was undecided on. It seems like people were hit-or-miss on Wadi Rum. $100 isn't really a deal-breaker for me, though.

I assume the water is far too cold to do anything? I was tentatively planning to stay at the Hilton there (F&F discount) and visiting Wadi Rum while there, then going to Dahab from Aqaba. This is also without me doing any firm research on what travel routes are safe / no-go, so forgive me if that laughably risky and stupid at this point.


Awesome. I usually keep my politics to myself when traveling, but yeah I get it and their position is completely justified.

As for Egypt, I'm thinking a 2D/N in Dahab, 1D climb Mt. Siani, 2-3D/N in Cairo, 2D/1N in White Desert, then 1-2D/N in Cairo for NYE and fly out Jan 1st.

It looks like I went with "Bedouin Directions" in Wadi Rum. I think we did a 4 hour jeep tour, which was enough, but also worth it for a tour of the landscape. I wouldn't just go there and stay without doing anything and camels are slow and smell terrible. They seem to have a pretty slick intro video now on their website ( http://wadirumjeeptours.com/ , 8 minutes). The oldest son of the guy, who was also our guide, was super into photography and filmography when we were there (2013). Glad he got to work on the project he was talking about.

It looks like water temp is about 20C in January in the northern Red Sea? Sounds like that's fine for diving if you really want, but would be pretty chilly if you're just looking for a day on the beach. I stayed at the Hilton while I was there, it's nice and dirt cheap even if you pay cash. I think it was like $70/night? I guess it's probably more over Christmas.

Northern Sinai is a war zone, but AFAIK South Sinai is mostly fine. You just can't go to (or even go through) El Arish, Rafah*, or Sheik Zuwaid, which were probably not exactly on your route anyway. Even so I'd still definitely recommend flying from Cairo to Sharm el Sheik to avoid having to take a bus from Suez to Taba just in case it's held up by terrorists which, again, is a fairly regular occurrence in Northern Sinai. I would be somewhat worried about terrorist attacks at Saint Catherines and at Mt Sinai even though it's becoming more militarized (which was previously forbidden regarding the Egypt-Israel peace treaty). That said, going to either of those places is not begging for death, unlike El Arish where you'd have a higher chance to get murdered than you would to get food poisoning. The Wikipedia page on this ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinai_insurgency ) is woefully incomplete, and also consider that that's a lot of terrorist attacks considering there are only 600,000 people living in the Sinai, although almost all of the attacks are at the northern coast. For instance, there was a minor terrorist attack at St Catherine's just last month: http://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/egypt/1.784140 , it's just so incredibly common now it doesn't make the news, just like you won't hear about 50 people getting beheaded in Idlib or whatever since it's not news if it happens every day.

*E: Jesus, apparently Sisi raised the Egyptian side of Rafah to the ground and destroyed all of its buildings about a year and a half ago. Welp, guess you're definitely not going there.

Saladman fucked around with this message at May 30, 2017 around 11:30

Chairman Capone
Dec 17, 2008



So a few questions peripherally related to Egypt, hopefully someone here can help.

On July 30, my girlfriend and I have a 12.5 hour layover in Cairo. We're flying from JFK in NYC and our destination is Asmara, Eritrea. We're doing Egyptair for both legs of the trip. I've been told that we could get day visas for just going around the city for a few hours... how difficult are they to get? I'm an American citizen and my girlfriend is Guatemalan; is it the sort of situation where I would be able to get one of those but she wouldn't?

I've been told that Karnak ( http://karnak.egyptair.com/ ) is a good tourist service to look into because it's affiliated with Egyptair. Does anyone have any experience with it? Looking into the site itself they seem to have short tours out to the pyramids and Citadel and stuff like that, but it also seems like the Captcha forms on their site don't work so it's impossible to submit anything, which does not fill me with confidence.

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webmeister
Jan 31, 2007

The answer is, mate, because I want to do you slowly. There has to be a bit of sport in this for all of us. In the psychological battle stakes, we are stripped down and ready to go. I want to see those ashen-faced performances; I want more of them. I want to be encouraged. I want to see you squirm.

According to Wikipedia you can leave the airport visa-free if your transit time is between 6 and 48 hours. This applies to everyone except citizens of Iran, Afghanistan, Yemen and a few others.

Otherwise, Americans can do visa on arrival in Egypt, I don't know about Guatemalans. You'd need to check with the Egyptian consulate in Guatemala i think.

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