Ok, so my last post gave you an insight into what Travel Talk’s ‘Felucca Odyssey‘ trip includes and my experience on the trip so here is a post to help you prepare for it– things to make sure you organise beforehand, things to bring with you and things to just keep in mind.
*Note that most of this post could apply to all of the Egypt tours that Travel Talk run.*
Is Egypt safe? This is a question that you’ll probably ask the internet, fellow travellers and even Travel Talk before you book, and once you do book then you’ll be asked this when you tell people where you’re going.
Unfortunately Egypt is constantly being questioned as to whether or not it’s safe and I get it, the tour organisers get it, the tour guides get it, because even was I was there a bomb went off in a town outside of Cairo in a church on Palm Sunday and most of our parents were messaging us to check we were ok as the media had made it sound like it was in Cairo but the thing to remember is that tourists and tourist sites are not being targeted so i beg you to not make this a reason not to visit Egypt! Our tour guide said that this year he had seen the highest number of visitors to Egypt in a long time so its so good to hear that more and more people are considering it as a destination and not being scared off by the media because their economy relies a high amount on tourism.
Where you’ll visit
I wrote a blog post which you can find here all about the itinerary including which temples we visited, what journeys we did, etc etc.
What to Pack
I really didn’t pack very well for this trip and ended up not wearing half of what I took, I thought that as a female I would need to cover my legs to my knees and my shoulders all the time but this wasn’t actually the case. On day 1 our tour guide told us that it was only whilst in Cairo (on the last full day of the trip) that we needed to cover up due to visiting to a mosque, church and also the busy streets however all the sights we were visiting throughout our trip were archeological sites now and no longer working temples, therefore there was no need to cover up. I feel like knowing this would have helped me so much as I would have packed more shorts and less cover ups. Although a long pair of comfy pants are good for the bus journeys and sleeping on the Felucca boat.
Sandals/Flip flops/Jandals/Thongs are also totally fine and can be worn everywhere that is visited, it can be a little sandy in places but that’s all.
Make sure you do check out the weather at the time of year you are visiting though as in the winter it gets quite chilly at night so layers will be needed.
Guys do not have any restrictions on what they have to wear even in Cairo.
Don’t forget to pack:
Swimwear, Bug Spray (there are mosquitos around the nile when you go on the Felucca), Suncream, European Adapter, Travel Pillow, Imodium (just in case!).
You do need a visa to enter Egypt which you obtain once you land. It’s currently $25USD so I would recommend arriving with the exact amount on you in USD. Once you land and before you go through immigration a Travel Talks representative will meet you, take the money from you a long with your passport and issue you with the visa.
Alternatively have £25.00 or €25.00 cash on you as this is also accepted and you’ll be given the small exchange rate difference back to you in local currency.
Talking of local currency I went to a Travelex stand before my trip to exchange money and they told me that no one exchanges Egyptian pounds in the UK anymore (I don’t know if this is completely true though) so to save the stress I wouldn’t bother trying to exchange before you leave because there are ATM’s in the airport as well as in the first hotel in Cairo where you can get local currency out. There’s also a bank in the Cairo hotel where you can exchange your currency in cash really easily which I would probably suggest to ensure your card doesn’t get blocked using the ATMs.
Costs whilst on the trip
And whilst we’re talking of money make sure you budget for the extras- optional activities, meals that are not included, tipping, local payment, shopping etc.
I took £300 in cash to Egypt with me, I exchanged half for local currency, and kept the other half as GBP (and even went home with some pounds) and paid £25.00 for my visa out of this too. This is a good average amount to take if you do not plan to buy anything in the markets (otherwise take more).
Here’s a break down of what needs to be paid for:
Total – roughly £35.00 (see breakdown of costs on the pre departure file here), these are to be paid in local currency on the day you visit each sight.
Belly Dancing & Buffet on the nile – I didn’t go as I was too tired but as it’s on day 1 of the trip after the intro it’s a good way to mingle with people on the trip – £18.00
Dinner in Nubian Village – I recommend doing this – £15.00
Abu Simbel Temple – Although its expensive I highly recommend it – £60.00
Hot Air Balloon Ride over Luxor – If you have the budget and haven’t done a hot air balloon ride before then do it for the experience but if you’ve done one before, especially in Cappadocia in Turkey then honestly the landscape looks like it would be disappointing in comparison – £80.00
Luxor light show – I paid for this but didn’t end up going as it’s on the last night and the same night as I flew home so getting to the airport would have been too rushed, it sounded good though! – £18.00
*The optional extras are paid on Day 2 of the trip and can be paid in GBP, local currency or on your card but it’s easier to pay them in GBP in cash hence why I only exchanged half of my cash on arrival.*
Dinner – Most dinners are either included or not included because you’ll be on the bus so snacks will be your go to however where you do have to buy them (Cairo in the hotel bar & Luxor, most likely in the Irish bar opposite) you’ll be able to get a good main meal from 65EGP/ £2.80.
Lunch – Lunch is generally not included in the costs of the trip however a lunch stop is pre organised everywhere which will be a buffet and we always paid 100EGP for this which is £4.40 so make sure you budget this into at least 5 days of the trip.
Beers – this will probably be the biggest extra you’ll have, Stella which is a good Egyptian beer is on average 35EGP / £1.50 a bottle however in the hotel in Cairo they charge 50EGP / £2.20.
Soft drink – cans of coke, fanta etc are generally 25EGP / £1.10
Water – remember you cannot drink water from the tap so you’ll need to purchase bottles, cold bottled water will always be available on your bus for 5EGP / 25p for a small bottle, alternatively if you stop at a mini mart you can generally get a big bottle for this price.
Snacks – No bus journey is complete without snacks! The prices varied hugely between gas stations and mini marts in towns but generally a big packet of crisps was less than £1.00.
Now tipping is what I did not find clear and what became a bit of an unexpected additional extra so here’s the deal of how they organise it.
When you pay for all your optional extras above on your first full day of the tour you will be asked if you want to pay the tip kitty which covers the tip for your driver as well as all of the staff at the restaurants and hotels you visit as tipping is big in Egypt and is expected due to the low wages locals often earn. You will be asked to pay £14.00 for this whilst paying for your additional extras, this is what I didn’t feel is very clear on the pre-departure file.
In addition there is the tip for your tour guide at the end which is completely understandable and recommended as £2.00 per day so £18.00 in total so make sure you put this aside, it can be paid in local currency or GBP.
After this the only tip you should really need to pay is for the toilets at the sights which is about 3EGP / 14p.
Local Tour Payment:
Before departure check if your tour requires you to pay a local currency on top of the tour price as this will be paid in cash on your first day (a lot of the sale tours do not include the local payment though.)
Pre or Post night accommodation in Cairo:
If you arrive a night early or stay an extra night after the tour then the cost is £40.00 per night for a twin room which needs to be booked and paid in advance with Travel Talk.
All of the hotels had wifi but our first experience using it in the Cairo hotel was not good. We were the first group however to have Vodafone arrive at the hotel after visiting the Pyramids and sell us local sim cards. I have never brought a local sim before but with all the long journeys I was so glad I did. We brought a 7GB sim for 140EGP / £6.15 which was more than sufficient, there was also the option to get a 3GB for a lower price.
Just swap sims, wait a few hours and you’ll be connected on a Egyptian number with 3G! Although make sure your phone is unlocked first though otherwise it’ll be a waste of money.
If you’re wondering whether to leave room in your bag for things to bring back then there are definitely lots of shopping opportunities, as part of the trip we visited some government shops which included a perfume shop, a cotton shop and an alabaster shop, these are stores that the government trust to give you good quality at a good price. In addition there are markets at every tourist sight selling pretty much everything you could ever want or need.
I didn’t buy anything however and I don’t have any regrets of things I wish I had brought.
Extra things to be aware of
The bus journeys are pretty long! Included are 2x 10 hour journeys plus a good 4x 4-5 hour journeys especially if you go to Abu Simbel. The coach is reasonably comfy and you do break once during the 10 hour journey but just keep this in mind!
The two nights you spend on the Felucca boat which is a traditional sailing boat are very basic, the area you lie on and eat meals on during the day is also your bed which you all share (with up to 12 or so people), and there is no toilet on board the boat! However you do stop a long the riverbanks a lot and they stop overnight too which means finding a bush to go to the toilet in and of course the river nile is your shower! In the end it wasn’t as bad as I had thought it would be and the overall experience was so fun and laid back but it’s something worth noting and preparing yourself for, aka taking a stash of toilet roll from the hotel the night before.
Lack of sleep:
This trip is very fast paced, not so much in being rushed from one thing to another but a long with the long journeys and the early morning wake up calls to get to a sight as soon as opens it means there’s not much time for sleeping. Often we had 4-6 hours sleep in the hotel rooms, however it’s well worth it, you should be able to get a bit of sleep on the coach and I love that Travel Talk do get to the sights first thing whilst they’re as quiet as possible.
I also think the adrenaline and the people around you keep you going but again it’s something worth noting and it would be a good idea to give yourself a days rest after the trip finishes to catch up on sleep rather than rushing back to work!
I found the Egyptian people to be very nice, of course in the markets around the sights they do hassle you a lot to get you into their shops and can be quite persistent but it never felt hugely intimidating.
The only scam I found was not getting the right cash back at a mini mart or market and being tricked by being handed a lot of notes, but small notes, this happened twice to me, although luckily I counted my change when I was still by the salesperson so they did give the rest back but I could have easily just walked off and realised afterwards.
Firstly Vegetarians are catered for pretty well on the trip, on my trip one girl was a vegan too but because most of the meals are buffet there’s something for everyone.
Secondly to stay healthy and not get a bad tummy the guides do warn you not to eat salad in some places where they know bottled water might not have been used. Avoid the ice where possible too!
Thirdly be prepared to carb up! The food was really nice but the meals consisted of a lot of carbs including bread, pitta bread, potatoes and not too much fruit and veg. Saying that the hotel breakfasts were all good and offered a wide range of foods from pastries to fruit and yogurt to omelettes to salads etc etc.
I hope all of this information will help you prepare for the trip, it is such a brilliant tour and I would 100% recommend it!
To SEE my trip, check out my video!
If you have any further questions let me know in the comments or send me a tweet @wandering_quinn.
*All prices noted above are based on my trip in April 2017 and are subject to change*
*This post was written by me and brought to you by Travel Talk Tours but all thoughts, opinions and ramblings are my own.*