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Travel Talk’s Felucca Odyssey Tour through Egypt has been rated as the Most Amazing Tour in Africa among hundreds by TourRadar and after going on the trip I can see why! It’s the perfect choice if you want to see all of the top attractions in Egypt for a budget price in just over one week in Egypt.
It’s a 9 Day tour on paper however Day 1 is the welcome meeting at 18:00 and Day 9 is jut breakfast so if you’re tight on time then you can actually leave late in the evening like I did on Day 8 and you only need to get to Cairo and be in the hotel by late afternoon on Day 1 and in between are 7 very full days exploring the length of Egypt and all its top attractions. I had the best time on this trip and definitely left feeling like I had throughly explored a new country and made new friends and new memories a long the way, so here’s what I got up to:
Technically I arrived on Day 0 as I left the UK early Friday morning and arrived Friday evening 24 hours before the official tour started on the Saturday.
I knew we would be met by a Travel Talks representative but I thought they would be waiting for us once we had collected our bags etc, instead they were waiting before the immigration section to take the money for our visa, go to the counter for us and come back with the visa in our passport.. super easy and helpful! After collecting our bags we started the 45 minute journey to the hotel. We cruised a long the highway (except for when we were stuck in traffic) and marvelled at all of the glitzy shopping malls with Western brands and advertisements that surrounded us and in between these were huge amount of half built, abandoned looking flat blocks, I wasn’t sure what I expected of Cairo but I don’t think it was this. Of course the other thing that made us realise straight away that we were no longer in the ‘West’ was the driving! Whole families were crammed into small cars and vans and switching between lanes like mad. (I was later told that lines on the road were put on because they looked nice but no one followed them and red lights are seen only as a suggestion in Egypt! haha)
Olivia who I was travelling with and I arrived at the Pyramids Park Resort Hotel and straight away we knew that we wouldn’t be staying in our usual budget, backpacker level accommodation and instead would feel very much like flash packers, even holiday makers! We were met by another Travel Talk Representative and then taken to our room, we had dinner in the hotel restaurant and then after a full day of travel got into our comfy beds!
After reading this post be sure to check out my preperation post for even more details:
Because myself an my friend had arrived early we spent the day in Cairo with a friend who lived there.
As 18:00 approached the hotel lobby became very full with all of our fellow travellers ready to start our Felucca Odyssey Tour with Travel Talk Tours. We got to view which group we would be in. Our overall group was huge with 100 people in total split into 3 groups, when I heard this I was a little worried there would be too many of us but the 3 groups were doing slightly different trips so it was ok.
We then had a 30 minute briefing where we met the tour guides (my guide was Zizo who was nothing short of incredible!) and they explained what would be happening over the next week and gave us some tips on Egypt which got us very excited!
Afterwards there was an optional extra to go to a buffet dinner on a boat on the river nile with belly dancers. I was super tired after a busy day in Cairo and with an early start approaching decided to get some rest instead.
After a full buffet breakfast, checking out and having left our luggage in the store room of the hotel we boarded our bus nice and early at 7:00am! The Travel Talk hotel is super close to the Pyramids so we got a great view of them but they were our second stop of the day, the first was to Sakkara and to the world-famous Step Pyramid of Djoser, the first Pyramid made in Egypt about 4700 years ago!
Due to leaving the hotel early we were the first tour group there, this is something that Travel Talk tries really hard to do throughout the trip and I quickly realised I’d rather get up an hour early and have these places to ourselves than not.
We had plenty of time for photos and we even got to go inside one Pyramid! Here however, we also got our first taste of the people who work around the sights trying to get us to take photos with them for money, buy trinkets and offering horse, camel and donkey rides.
The next stop was the Great Pyramids of Giza! First though we had to get there, the drive is about an hour from Sakkara and a long the way we started to see the real Cairo.
Rubbish is a huge issue here and our guide explained that primarily its due to a lack of education. Locals can be told not to just throw rubbish on the floor but they need to first understand why this is not right and the consequences, knowledge that we take for granted in our Western educated Countries i think. Working donkeys and horses are a common thing in Cairo and in Egypt in general, being a horse lover I found this hard to see and a couple of us on the bus also saw 2 dead horses on the side of the road. But to me, as sad and helpless as you feel this is what travel is all about, it’s seeing what really happens in day to day life in other countries and cultures and although part of me was surprised that the government hadn’t at least cleaned up the road that leads to the Pyramids which all tourists are guaranteed to travel up I’m glad that they hadn’t just to ‘impress’ tourists as this would have been a fake view of Cairo.
The Pyramids were pretty busy when we arrived but definitely not as busy as I’m sure they get. We had 5 minutes at the base of the Pyramids where Zizo talked us through some history but unfortunately we didn’t get any photo or exploring time (the only thing I was dissapointed about), instead we drove straight to the viewpoint where we could take photos with all 3 Pyramids and gave us a great panoramic view. There was also the option to do a 20 minute camel ride for an extra cost and a row of stalls selling the usual tourist bits. After this we drove straight to the Sphinx and again after a quick bit of history we were able to have a look around and get that oh so famous kissing the Sphinx photo with the Pyramids in the background.
Lunch is not included in the Felucca Odyssey Tour cost on most days but a stop is included, we had lunch a restaurant close by which included dips, pitta, salads and BBQ meat.
Before heading back to the hotel we visited the first of a few government shops that are included in the Egypt itinerary, the first being a perfume shop. I’ve been to a few places like this in other countries and they can be pretty boring however the owner was very funny and kept us entertained whilst also selling a few people some scents.
We made our way back to the hotel where we paid for our optional extras for the upcoming week, had the chance to buy a local sim as the wifi isn’t that great and also get changed into some comfy clothes for the 10 hour journey to Luxor that was ahead of us!
Our journey included some chip and falafel pitta’s, a police convey to (thankfully) shorten the journey, a half way stop at a random gas station and a bit of sleep, we arrived in Luxor at 1:30am and after checking into the Steigenberger Nile Palace hotel which was very nice sleep was the first thing on the agenda.
Meeting at 7:30am in the hotel lobby having had a few hours sleep, breakfast and checked out was an insight as to how our sleep patterns would carry on for the rest of the week but there was no time to complain as after an hour drive we were arriving at the Valley of the Kings. No photos are allowed here but we spent 2 hours exploring incredible tombs which had been found and wondering how the hell the Egyptians managed to do this, seeing inside the tombs is actually when I had my first real realisation of ‘wow I’m in Egypt!’.
We then had our second government stop which was an Alabaster store where they made vases and other items, the guys gave us another funny intro about what they made and then we had time to look around without being too pressurised.
Our next stop was Hatshepsut Temple (pronounced as either Hat Sheep Suit quickly or mispronounced as Hot Chicken Soup haha), this temple was built for one of the few female rulers and is rated one of the most striking monuments in Ancient Egypt. By now my phone was showing temperatures of 36° so an hour walking around was more than enough.
We had another good buffet lunch out on the deck of a restaurant and afterwards we started the journey further south to Aswan.
Zizo had told us that there was a quick route to Aswan- 3-4 hours or a longer route. The quick route however depended on the police not realising that our coach was a tourist coach so we had to close all the curtains and hope they didn’t see on one of the checks, if they did then we’d have to re-route onto another road which would take longer. Luckily we were fine, the journey took 4 hours and we arrived as the sun was going down which provided a pretty spectacular view from our rooms at our 3rd lovely hotel – the Helnan Hotel.
We had the chance to book onto a Nubian Dinner experience this evening on the Travel Talk Tour. Nubian people are an ethic group that originated in Sudan and Egypt so an evening with them is a good way to see an example of a family home, some local food and hear a bit more about them so after an hour relaxing in the hotel most of us in the group were boarding a boat down the River Nile with a beer in our hand. The climate was very different to our evening in Cairo, it was a lot more tropical and getting off the boat onto the sand roads leading to the dinner actually felt like I was in South East Asia or on a Caribbean Island!
We had a good evening, I had some henna done (which lasted a week!) and at the end the family played some music and it suddenly turned into a party! I personally I wasn’t a huge fan of the food and we were told that we would get back to the hotel at 9:00pm ish however didn’t get back until 10:00pm but I’m still glad I went.
If you’re not sure whether an organised tour is for you or not, have a look at what I think are the pro’s and con’s:
The reason I wanted to get back earlier the night before was because my alarm went off at 3:45am ready to meet the group all checked out at 4:15am(!!) to make the 4 hour journey even further south (we pretty much covered the length of Egypt on this trip) to Abu Simbel Temple, only 50km away from the Sudan border.
Although the Pyramids are the most famous attraction in Egypt if you’ve seen a photo of somewhere else in Egypt then it’s most likely to have been from Abu Simbel. There are 2 temples, the Great Temple and the Small Temple which were reportedly founded by Johann Ludwig Burckhardt the same person to discover Petra in Jordan!
What I found more interesting than the discovery is that in 1960 the government decided to build a dam and there were fears that the lake close to the temples would flood the temples, therefore a huge undertaking started to move both temples further up the mountain whilst keeping them in tact! The outside of the temples are huge but the inside’s are even bigger so this must have been incredibly hard!
We only spent 2 hours at Abu Simbel but it was enough, in my opinion Abu Simbel is the best Egypt Attraction and the early wake up call and extra cost was well worth it. (However the packed breakfast we were given which included about 8 bread rolls was not ha!)
After a sleepy 4 hour drive back to Aswan THIS IS WHEN THE EGYPT HOLIDAY PART OF THE TRIP STARTED! Up until this point as you can probably tell the trip had been very full on, not in the sense of moving from sight to sight quickly but just the overall travel and lack of sleep.
On arrival back in Aswan we had an hour to change into swimwear, have a quick chill by the pool and then board our Felucca boats which we would stay on for the next 2 nights.
A Felucca is a traditional wooden sailing boat which doesn’t have an engine and relies on the wind and the current. We had 11 of us per boat and the seating/ lying area is where we chilled during the day, ate and slept at night which sounds pretty intense although it wasn’t too bad. The other thing that it doesn’t have is a toilet, I was pretty worried about this as I thought we would be sailing for long distances at a time and when you add a few beers into that equation that didn’t sound too fun, however after sailing for a short time whilst watching the sun go down we pulled up at the side of a sand dune where we spent the night. Our first priority was to find covered bushes and then to have another few beers as well as dinner. We had 5 boats on our overall trip so it gave everyone time to mingle and have fun followed by a surprisingly comfy night on the boat.
If you’re already ready to check prices and availability head to the Travel Talk Website here!
I was woken up by the strong sunlight and a warming in temperature, thankfully I didn’t wake up to a huge amount of mosquito bites but some people on my boat did wake up to a lot! We were cooked breakfast by the lovely 2 local guys who worked on the boats and after one last slightly stressed toilet stop (the locals who live near by kept walking past us whenever we thought we’d found a covered spot) we were off again sailing down the nile.
This is the main day on the trip to catch a tan so we suncreamed up and chilled on the back and on the front of the boat soaking in that Vitamin D that we had been missing after the British Winter. We stopped again after a couple of hours where we stayed for another few hours with the chance to get off the boat and chat to people on other boats as well as have some lunch and a swim in the river. After another sail we were pulling up to our spot for the night which was a long side a field with some donkeys and cows in.
Due to having such a chilled day everyone seemed up for chatting and drinking this night so as the night wore on a bonfire was made, some local people joined and played some music and the drinking went on into the night.
During this evening we had a lot of big cruise ships pass us by and as much I wasn’t looking forward to the basic-ness of the Felucca boat, us sitting on the side of the river with about 60 other people all having fun and being at one with nature (in more ways than one) made me realise that I was glad I chose a tour which included a Felucca ride instead of a cruise down the river which seemed rather boring and too serious for my liking.
Our wake up call was quite early this morning at about 6:30 as the crew made us breakfast and soon we were sailing to the other side of the river to meet our coach drivers and we were looking forward to the promise of a real toilet pretty soon.
Our morning stop was to Edfu Temple, to be honest before visiting I felt I could have done without visiting this temple as I was still covered in layers of sunscreen and bug spray and wearing a dress from 2 days ago but the stop was fairly quick and actually the temple was pretty good as its the best kept temple there is. Before we knew it we were back on the bus for another 4 hour journey to Luxor as our boat ride had only taken us a short way up the Nile from Aswan.
This afternoon and evening was one that we had all been waiting for after a busy schedule. We checked back into the Steigenberger Nile Palace in Luxor where we actually had chance to enjoy it, we spent few hours having lunch and chilling by the pool followed by an evening in an Irish bar opposite where we had dinner and a few more beers and some rounds of pool!
Luxor temple was on our itinerary to visit the next day however the guides wanted to take advantage of the night show they do and offered us the chance to visit that evening before the Irish Bar instead. I didn’t go as I was looking forward to a relaxed evening without getting back on the coach but I did hear good things from the people who went who said it was very impressive at night with all the lights.
After reading this post be sure to check out my preperation post for even more details:
The optional activity this morning was a hot air balloon ride over Luxor. This is an extra cost of £80.00 and includes a 4:30am wake up call, because I had done a few hot air balloon rides before I gave it a miss but for the people who went and hadn’t done a hot air balloon ride before they seemed glad they did it, despite the landscape not being hugely impressive.
Us non-hot ballooners thought we might get a lie in this day but oh no, we were meeting in the hotel lobby after breakfast and checking out at 8:15am and then continued to Karnak Temple, one of the largest religious sites in the world. This was actually one of my favourites as it’s huge and a real example of how clever the Egyptians were, Zizo reminded us that they knew more than we know now! The colours on the walls are still in tact from 1250bc and it has the tallest surviving ancient obelisk on Earth.. pretty impressive!
Our third government stop was to a place where they made bamboo paper with prints on them, we were shown how they make them which was pretty interesting and we had chance to have a look around, this was probably the best shop we went to and prices started from $14 USD for a small print.
But of course as we were still in the South in Luxor and we were staying in Cairo that night so after lunch the 10 hour journey back up North began! This was actually one of the best bus journeys of the trip, by this point everyone in the group knew each other so we just chatted the whole way, one of the other buses broke down which added a bit of time onto the journey but apart from this it went fine and we arrived back at the Pyramid Park Resort Hotel at 11:30pm.
Our last full day of the trip and my last day in Egypt started with breakfast and meeting in the lobby at 8:30am where we drove into Cairo for our city tour. We got to the Egyptian museum for 9:00am as it opened, we spent 2 hours having a guided walk and a look round areas recommended to us by Zizo. I kind of wish we’d seen this at the beginning of the trip as it made a lot of the history come together and again made me realise just how clever the Egyptians were. We saw the famous Tutankhamen’s tombs which were so impressive and there was a range of jewellery which looked just like what we wear now, however no photos were allowed unless you paid, which I didn’t.
It also made me really want to go to the British Museum in London and see the artefacts they have in there!
After the museum we went to the Mosque of Amr ibn al-As, it isn’t the most impressive mosque in the city but it was a good chance for Zizo to give us some informtion on Islam which I had been looking forward to. Us girls were told to cover up for our day in Cairo however we still had to wear a robe in the mosque which sounded pretty normal until we realised they were bright green!
The next stop was the Hanging Church which is a coptic orthodox church and one of the oldest churches in Egypt followed by our last buffet lunch of the trip!
In the afternoon we had an hour to explore 2 of the main tourist shopping streets in Cairo which consisted of being called the Spice Girls, Shakira and so much more by the shop owners! This was followed by a visit to our last government shop which was a cotton shop however the prices were high and our attention span low so we left pretty quickly.
Back at the hotel in Cairo we said our goodbyes to Zizo who had been such an amazing guide! He is so knowledgable, approachable and some how he always remained upbeat and happy even on those early mornings! He 100% made the trip!
We did have the option of going to the Sound and Night show at the Pyramids this night which I initially signed up for however upon realising I had to leave for the airport at 8:30pm for my flight I decided to not rush my evening and instead have a few beers and dinner by the pool with the group.
This day purely includes breakfast hence why I said above that there’s no need to stay for it if you don’t have to however if you’re leaving later in the day you could enjoy a day by the hotel pool or head back into Cairo.
If you’re already ready to check prices and availability head to the Travel Talk Website here!
Yes! It’s a jam packed week but all of the major sights are included and as a person who usually travels independently I quickly realised that travelling Egypt on my own would have been hard and there would have been no way I could have seen all of this without travelling in an organised tour!
Travel Talk Tours is a brilliant tour company, I had great service from the team based in the UK as well as from everyone who worked for them in Egypt. They hire local people which I think is great as it is not taking money away from the local economy and is instead providing jobs, it also means we get told local knowledge by the guides.
Travel Talk is extremely popular with Aussie and Kiwi expats and travellers but there was a number of American, Canadian and British people on the trip too, generally all in their 20’s and living in London so you know that you’ll meet some great people!
Travel Talk is also so popular because of their competitive prices. The Felucca Odyssey tour is the cheapest tour they do, on certain dates you can get it for £249.00! And the tour runs from every Saturday!
To find out more information on prices and dates and to book visit their website here!
To check and book flights to Egypt, have a look at Skyscanner.
This post was written by me and brought to you by Travel Talk Tours but all thoughts and opinions are my own.
I’m Ellie Quinn!
I’m a travel addict who has been travelling on and off since 2010. In the Summer of 2018 I quit my office job in London, left my flat and I now travel and blog full time! Yes, I’m living that dream!
NOV-DEC: PROBABLY INDONESIA
If you want to join or read more about the details of the group tour.