Visiting Egypt with Travel Talk Tours on their Jewels of the Nile Tour was by far one of my top travel experiences to date. The following article will be providing a detailed review of the itinerary, optional activities and things to keep in mind before departure. Suitcase And I previously visited Morocco with Travel Talk on their Adventure Morocco Tour and was honoured to be a guest of theirs this time around after winning their 2015 photography contest. As always, the opinions in this article genuinely reflect my own personal experience.
Day 1 – Arrival to Cairo
Upon arrival to Cairo International Airport there was a Travel Talk Tours representative waiting to walk us through the Egyptian Visa process and take us to the hotel. In short, before you line up to go through border control you have to go to one of the banks that are directly in front of you when you walk into the airport. There you can purchase a visa for $25 USD (I had withdrawn the money out in USD before I arrived). They will then give you a visa sticker to put into your passport. After this you can line up to get your visa sticker checked and pick up your baggage.
Our flight was delayed so unfortunately we didn’t arrive until 7pm and missed the welcome meeting but all the information was repeated and explained again during the trip. We arrived just in time for the optional first night dinner and decided to go along to meet our tour group. It was a buffet dinner and dessert with a belly dancer and sufi entertainer afterwards. Dinner was 200 EGP and drinks were 40EGP. In hindsight, personally I wouldn’t do the optional dinner as I felt like it was not good value for money and half of our tour group did not attend. It was nice to meet some travellers before we departed but honestly you will meet everyone properly the next day!
The hotel we stayed at the first night was simple, clean and wifi could be accessed in the lobby. Make sure to utilise this internet as it will not be readily available throughout the trip. The rooms did have a bit of a mosquito problem so I do advise bringing insect repellent as I got bitten quite badly both nights we stayed here (second night at the end of the trip).
Day 2 – Cairo to Hurghada
After breakfast we went straight to Sakkura the first capital of Ancient Egypt where we visited The Pyramid of Djoserthe (The Step Pyramid), built by King Zoser in 2700 B.C.
The surrounding desert area was also spectacular, it was great to be back in the Sahara!
After this we made a brief bathroom stop back at the hotel before going on to the Giza Plateau to explore the world famous pyramids of Cheops, Chephren and Mycrenos. The Great Pyramids of Giza were definitely a highlight of the trip. Make sure to let your guide know if you have an International Student Card as all around Egypt entrance fees are heavily discounted for students.
We spent about 45 minutes wandering around, taking photos and climbing up (in the allowed areas).
After this we were taken to a lookout point where we had the option of a camel ride which I highly recommend.
We had the option to go inside one of the pyramids before making our way down to the Sphinx. I chose not to as our tour guide Sam advised us that there are no hieroglyphics or inscriptions, it is just a plain stone tunnel. He advised us that we would be better off paying to enter the extra tombs at the Valley of the Kings if we wanted to experience ‘more’ interiors. Advise like this was such appreciated!
At the Sphinx we learnt more about the history of the area, the Pharaohs and insights into Ancient Egyptian culture. We took some great pictures then went to lunch. Meals for the whole trip averaged at about 60 EGP for food and 30 EGP for drinks (breakfasts and most dinners were included). After lunch we relaxed at a local perfumery.
This place had the essence of literally any designer perfume you could think of. It was 250 EGP for bottle (not diluted, so the smallest dab would be sufficient). We then went back to the hotel to pick up our luggage and began the 5.5 hour drive to Hurghada. We checked into Festival Le Jardin Hurghada at around 10pm. We had a late buffet dinner on arrival and were treated to unlimited drinks (including alcoholic drinks!) for the duration of our stay 🙂
Day 3 – Hurghada to Luxor
We did not leave Hurghada until 1:30pm so we were able to take the oppotunity to swim in the Red Sea, relax by the pool with our (free!) cocktails and treat ourselves to the buffet breakfast and lunch.
After a 4 hour drive we arrived at Luxor where we made a stop to see the Luxor temple lit up at night! We would visit the temple again properly during the day later in the trip but it was great to also see it dramatically lit up at night.
Day 4 – Luxor to Aswan
Our first stop of the day was the Colossi of Memnon on the way to the Valley of the Kings.
You cannot take photos in the Valley of the Kings but basically – over a few hours you will get to explore some of the best preserved and most amazingly decorated tombs. In one of the tombs the hieroglyphics are so well preserved that they could have been painted a few years ago (let alone thousands!). Some tombs stretch over 100 meters below ground and all have unique aspects and fascinating stories. I love Ancient Egyptian history so to be standing at such a groundbreaking archaeological discovery ground was surreal. After this memorable experience we visited the beautiful Mortuary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut.
We proceeded to have lunch at a nearby restaurant (the lentil soup here was my favourite dish of the entire trip, it is a must try!). A three course meal was the usual price of 60 EGP and drinks were 20 EGP. It was a three hour drive before we reached Aswan where we checked in for our first night on the five star cruise!
Each room had a private balcony, large double bed, lavish ensuite, flatscreen TV, couch and table. To be able to sit at the window and watch the Nile pass by was so relaxing.
Above deck there was a pool and sitting area where afternoon tea snacks and drinks were served.
With the exception that the wifi was pricey (I did not try to connect so I cannot comment on its reliability), this was the best accommodation of the trip! There was an optional group dinner at a traditional Nubian household that was a really lovely and informative experience. Not only was the food great but we got to meet the family’s pet crocodiles!
Day 5 – Nile Cruise (Abu Simbel and Philea Temple)
It was an extremely early start of 3:30am today for the 5 hour drive to the optional Abu Simbel trip – my personal highlight. Just bring a pillow and blanket (the cruise staff pack you a lovely takeaway breaky!) and you are set to snooze during the early morning drive.
On arrival to the coast you are treated to a spectacular setting – the bright blue ocean against the yellow orange hues of the desert.
After a brief history lesson you are free to explore for the area for about an hour. The insides of these temples are just as impressive as their exteriors.
Abu Simbel is composed to two temples. The smaller and less recognisable Temple of Hathor and Nefertari is about 100 metres to the right of the iconic main temple.
This optional activity is 60 GBP ($120 AUD) and you cannot miss it! We left the area at 11am and visited Philea Temple on the way back to the cruise boat.
Philea Temple is on an island so you have to catch a boat to get there. The island is surrounded by really cool rock formations.
We had a late lunch on the cruise and a free afternoon to spend taking in the Nile and watching the beautiful scenery pass us by.
Dinner that night was at 8pm and an optional bellydancer show was at 9pm.
Day 6 – Nile Cruise (Komombo Temple and Edfu Temple)
After breakfast the cruise made a stop at Komombo Temple which was built during the Ptolemaic and Roman periods. The temple is dedicated to the crocodile god Sobek and god Horus.
Something really important to note about every temple or monument visit we made was the depth and knowledge our tour guide Sam provided. You could ask him almost any question and he would be able to comprehensively answer it. Something that I really appreciated was not only his grasp of Ancient Egyptian culture and history, but his willingness to inform and discuss the politics and culture of contemporary Egypt as well.
We boarded the boat again to find our rooms had been cleaned and plentiful lunch was awaiting us.
Our final stop of the day was Edfu Temple which is the largest and best preserved temple in Egypt. The temple is dedicated to the falcon god Horus and was built over a 180-year period from 237 BC to 57 BC.
We arrived in Luxor at 2pm and had a free afternoon and night.
Day 7 – Luxor, Temple of Karnak, Cairo
After breakfast we went to the Temple of Karnak, a city of temples built over 2,000 years ago. Next was the Temple of Luxor on the East Bank of the Nile which was constructed approximately 1400 BCE
Looking at these photos it may appear that the temples are very similar, but every temple we stopped at had a unique story and history. The hieroglyphics in particular depicted very different Ancient Egyptian traditions, rituals and gods. Sam made sure an in depth assessment of these factors were explored at each stop.
In the afternoon we drove to Cairo for an overnight stay. This is the longest drive of the trip and we did not make it to Cairo until 1am! We made regular pit stops and had a longer break at a papyrus making store. Dinner that night was purchased from a grocery store along the way.
Day 8 – Cairo City Tour
On the last full day of the trip we did a city tour of Cairo. The day started at the largest museum in Egypt which is home to the world’s most extensive collection of pharaonic antiquities. Headsets were given to everyone so it was easy to hear the guide and view the museum highlights. Free time was given afterward to explore more of the museum.
We continued on to the Citadel of Saladin and the Mosque of Mohamed Ali.
The Mosque of Mohamed Ali is the most amazing mosque I have ever been into, so if you are in Cairo do not miss out on this breathtaking experience.
Make sure to also explore the surrounding area of the mosque. However, do be prepared to be followed by dozens of school kids! They simply want to take photos so it’s funny and a lot of fun but it can get overwhelming at times so just make sure to keep walking when you do eventually want to leave because by the time we left we had a whole crowd (over 100!) around us haha! From what our guide said, it is because of our western clothing and features, at first it felt strange but we got into it and had a ball, language barriers are always a laugh 🙂
Following this we visited the Hanging Church which is considered the oldest church in the area of Al-Fustat (Old Cairo). It is known as Al-Muallaka (the hanging) because it was built on the ruins of two old towers that remained from an old fortress called the Fortress of Babylon.
Finally, we spent a couple of hours at the world famous Kahn El Khalili bazaar. There was so much to see at these markets and it was easy to get lost! There are plenty of restaurants to have tea and shisha but beware, because it is a large tourist destination people may try and scam you.
There was the option to participate in the Pyramids of Giza Sound and Light Show at the end of the day. I decided to participate i because I wanted to see the pyramids one last time before I flew out the next day but to be honest I do not think it is worth 15 pounds ($30 AUD). Majority of the stories told during the show you will have heard during the trip and the sound and lights are quite outdated, there was only about 15 tourists all up that came. If (like me) you want to see the pyramids once last time however, it is worth going!
Day 9 – Departure from Cairo
Buffet breakfast is included on your final day and a complimentary transfer to the airport is also included. Check out was at 11am which coincided well with our plane departure time. Due to the recent tragic attack in Egypt, security had been heightened at the airport so I do suggest arriving more than three hours before departure. We ended up waiting an hour alone to get into the airport as there was extremely lengthy lines stretching out into the car parks. This is because your bags needed to be scanned upon entry to the complex, scanned again going through to the check in area and then once again before heading into the gates.
On the topic of safety concerns I would like to take this opportunity to say that not once did I feel uneasy on this tour. The security measures at each site, police presence and well thought out itinerary meant that at no point would anyone have needed to raise concerns. The Egyptian economy relies so heavily on tourism meaning that the effects of such a sharp decline in international visitors due to recent turmoil has been devastating on locals. Despite this struggle, the locals we encountered were extremely friendly and many of the stall tenders (while pushy at times, same as most bartering countries) had a great sense of humour and really embraced tourists. I would not hesitate encouraging people to continue to travel to Egypt.
Overall, I had an amazing time on my Travel Talk Tour due to the professionalism and knowledge of our tour guide Sam, the smooth running of the program and an itinerary that really encapsulated the highlights of Egypt.
What to Wear
A question that came up via Instagram was “what did you wear in Egypt?”
During my time in Egypt I wore tops that had sleeves and I wore pants that went past my knees when I was in Cairo. However as many of the days were spent on the bus only stopping at tourists sites I did wear shorts because of the heat on other days.
Things to keep in mind –
- There is a detailed budget on the Travel Talk website for each tour they provide. For the Egypt tours in particular the optional activities and cost of lunches add up significantly, so it is important that you adequately budget for entrance fees and food.
- A complaint that others expressed on the tour was the length of the driving times on the bus. I had checked the distances before I embarked on the tour so I was prepared for this but if you are hesitant about 5+ hours of driving (keep in mind you do get pit stops) then this itinerary may not be for you. Our tour guide Sam did say that he has had patrons in the past take a flight from Luxor to Cairo on the last leg because (especially when booked in advance) this can be an easier and cheap alternative option.
- Because of the long drives, the days are also quite long (E.g. 8am – 1am on Day 7). So do try and be well rested before you embark on the trip!
- My final point to keep in mind is that wifi access is sporadic, I would suggest preparing for no access whatsoever so as not to be disappointed.
While I mentioned our tour guides excellent skills previously, I have to emphasise that the exceptional standard of the Jewels of the Nile tour could not have been achieved without the expertise of Sam. Being a qualified egyptologist Sam was able to share his vast knowledge as well as give a personalised insight into Egyptian history and culture. What makes his professionalism so unique is his ability to convey the information in an entertaining and captivating way. Sam is punctual, organised and his enthusiasm and passion for Egypt is contagious! Having used several tour companies previously (including Travel Talk) I can honestly say that Sam goes above and beyond what you expect from a tour guide and he is an amazing ambassador for his company.
The price of this tour depends on your departure date but on average it will cost AU$ 748 + £160 (cash local payment).
Make sure to check out all the Egypt Tours Travel Talk offers to see which one best suits you!
You can book the Jewels of the Nile tour by following this link.
I had the best time in Egypt and can’t stop raving about it! Feel free to add any questions or comments below 🙂
Suitcase And I was a guest of Travel Talk Tours after winning their 2015 Travel Photography Competition. As always, the opinions in this review are my own.