ULTIMATE Do-It-Yourself Egypt Itinerary for 5, 7, 10, or 14 Days In 2023

Want to travel Egypt without a tour? This incredibly detailed self-guided Egypt Itinerary has you covered!

If you only have 5 days, or even if you’re staying a full two weeks, this Egypt Itinerary has everything you need to have the best time visiting Egypt in 2023.

The Best 5, 7, 10, & 14-Day Itineraries For Egypt

From Nile River Cruises to camping in the White Desert, these are the perfect Egypt travel itineraries I would recommend for a trip from 5 days to two weeks long. ⤵️

Best 5-Day Egypt Itinerary

Day 1 – 2: Cairo

Day 3 – 5: West Desert 

Best 7-Day Egypt Itinerary

Day 1 – 2: Cairo

Day 3 – 4: West Desert 

Day 5 – 7: Luxor 

Best 10-Day Egypt Itinerary

Day 1 – 2: Cairo

Day 3 – 5: West Desert 

Day 6 – 10: Nile River Cruise 

Best 2 Week Egypt Itinerary 

Day 1 – 2: Cairo

Day 3 – 5: West Desert 

Day 6 – 10: Nile River Cruise 

Day 11 – 14: Red Sea 

Keep reading for a more in-depth breakdown of why these are the perfect itineraries for visiting Egypt + Everything you need to know to have the best trip! 

Why Visit Egypt In 2023?

✅ Amazing history

Egypt is one of the most historically rich destinations you can visit. Dating back all the way to 5000 B.C. Ancient Egyptian is one of the most widely studied and interesting historical cultures in the world, just one of the many reasons Egypt attracts millions of international tourists every year! 

two egyptian men smoking hookah in traditional clothes

✅ Cultural diversity 

Even though Egypt is 90% Muslim, during a one-week trip you can visit distinct communities like the Bedouin people who live in the desert, Coptic Christians in Cairo, and the villages of the Nubian people outside of Aswan. 

black desert in egypt in the west desert, perfect addition to any egypt itinerary
Black Desert, Egypt

✅ Awe-inspiring nature 

Did you know that Egypt is home to 30 National Parks? Most people come and only go to the temple complexes and miss out on all the amazing natural beauty Egypt has to offer. 

I got the chance to visit the White Desert National Park on my last trip to Egypt and it was the most magical experience of my life (so far)!

✅ It’s open! 

Egypt is one of the very few countries that remained 100% open for tourism throughout the pandemic. 

Check your embassy’s website for current entry requirements for Egypt before you go! 

5 Things You Need To Know Before Traveling to Egypt

a woman standing in front of one of the great pyramids of Giza in Egypt

1. Is It Safe To Travel In Egypt? Is Egypt safe for solo female travelers?

I made a whole post on safety in Egypt for female travelers. To sum it up, Egypt is a difficult country to travel in, but a safe one! 

You’re less likely to experience petty crime like pickpocketing in Egypt than you are in places like France, but you’re more likely to experience harassment and petty scams in Egypt, especially if you’re a woman. 

Violent crimes like physical assault are uncommon against tourists in Egypt. 

Tips for staying safe while traveling in Egypt

✔️ Take Uber everywhere in large cities like Cairo, Hurghada, and Alexandria instead of using local taxis. 

✔️ Arrange airport pick-up before you arrive. 

✔️ Avoid Egypt’s borders with Libya and Sudan 

✔️ Dress respectfully for both men and women 

✔️ Feel comfortable saying NO when someone is bothering you 

✔️ Avoid areas of protest

✔️ Make a fuss if someone is bothering you so others will know to help. 

✔️ For women, tell people that you are married (and wear a fake ring, if you have one!)

A woman drinking purified water
(Photo by Brandon Shaw via Flickr)

2. Drinking Water in Egypt

You can’t drink tap water in Egypt. Most tourists opt to instead drink bottled water during their stay, but I like to travel with a water purifier so I never have to worry about running out of clean drinking water. 

👉 I travel with a Grayl water purifier so I can drink the tap water wherever I am, you can buy one on Amazon here. 👈

If you don’t have a travel purifier, bottled water in Egypt is affordable. The cost of 1-Liter of cleaning drinking water in Egypt is between 5 – 20 EGP (.25 – 1 USD). 

Egyptian money called pounds

3. Money in Egypt

🚨Note!! The value of the Egyptian Pound has been in freefall this year, so these prices might be the same in USD but much higher in the local currency due to inflation now.

Cash is king in Egypt! It seemed like no matter how much cash I took out, I was still constantly running low. 

My advice would be to skip the money exchange counters that charge high fees and go straight to getting your Egyptian Pounds (EGP) from a bank-affiliated ATM. 

After you pass customs in Cairo airport there will be a row of bank-affiliated ATMs before you reach the exit. It’s important to use a bank ATM because independent ATMs try to charge sneaky fees. 

Bank ATMs I used in Egypt: 

  • HSBC
  • Banque de Caire
  • CEB: Central Bank of Egypt

Facts about Money in Egypt

  • Egyptian currency is the Egyptian Pound.
  • The Symbol for the Egyptian Pound is E£, it has an E in front of it to distinguish it from the British Pound symbol, £.
  • Sometimes the Egyptian Pound is written as “LE”.

Egyptian Pound conversion rates as of 2023

  • USD: $1 = E£ 30
  • Euro: €1 = E£ 32
  • British Pound: £1 = E£ 36

💡 Tip: An ATM will ask you if you want to use the bank’s conversion rate, and give you the option to choose yes or no. Always choose no! The banks’ rates are always higher than the official Interbank exchange rate. 

A travel sim card, necessary for travel in egypt

4. Cell Phone/SIM Cards in Egypt

Most of the public wifi, like in the airport and at Starbucks, requires you to have an Egyptian phone number to use it. To get an Egyptian phone number you need an Egyptian SIM card. Luckily, SIM cards are very easy to get in Egypt! 

You can purchase your Egyptian SIM right after you exit customs at Cairo airport, it was very inexpensive at around 1 USD per GB of data. All of the kiosks should accept credit cards, I recommend going with the telecommunications company Orange.

A tourist visa on arrival in Egypt in a passport with two stamps. It is very important to get a visa for egypt before embarking on any Egypt travel itinerary

5. You need a visa to enter Egypt

You can get a visa on arrival at Cairo Airport at a money exchange counter before you reach the baggage claim. The kiosk doesn’t accept credit cards, so you need to have 25 dollars in cash.

How Long Should You Spend In Egypt? 

You could spend a month in Egypt and still not see half of all it has to offer! Trust me, I spent a month in Egypt and I still want to go back as soon as possible! 

If you’re pressed for time I think you should still definitely budget for at least a week in Egypt, but this guide shows you how to still have a great time even if you only have 5 days!

When Is The Best Time To Visit Egypt?

Egypt only has two seasons, summer and winter. Egypt is the best to visit during the winter months, with its high season running from December through February. 

Karnak temple in luxor during a sunny day, karnak temple is a place most tourists visit on their egypt travel itineraries
Karnak Temple in Luxor

Best places to visit in Egypt during the Winter, October – March 

October through March is called “winter” in Egypt, but it’s still very warm compared to the rest of the world. I visited Egypt from late October – to early November. 

The only places which were a little chilly at this time were by the sea in Alexandria and Dahab due to the wind chill coming from the coast. 

In Cairo and along the Nile you can still expect “winter” in Egypt to be scorchingly hot. Just maybe, a little bit more bearable. 

Winter is the best time to visit most of Egypt. 

The Red Sea in Egypt is the best place to visit during the summer

Best places to visit in Egypt during the Summer, April – September

While the temples along the Nile might be unbearably hot during the summer, there are still some terrific places to visit in Egypt in June, July, and August! 

The summer months are the best time to visit Egypt’s world-renown dive spots along the Red Sea. 

During the summer the Red Sea is warmer and has better water visibility, which makes it the best time for serious divers to visit Egypt.

West Desert, Egypt

Which Months Are The Best To Visit Egypt? 

In my opinion, the very best time to visit Egypt would be during the transitory months. October/November, just when Summer is turning to Winter, and March/April, just when spring turns to summer. 

November, December, and January are considered the high tourist season in Egypt. During these months the weather will be best for temple-hopping, but there are also the highest prices and most crowds.

I went in late October, and we actually celebrated Halloween in the West Desert, and I think it was the perfect time to travel to Egypt. 

In late October the Red Sea was a little chilly, but not too cold, and in places like Aswan, the desert was still hot, but not too hot. 

(Photo by Diego Delso, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Traveling To Egypt During Ramadan 

Ramadan is a Muslim time of fasting and prayer that lasts for one month. Ramadan falls on the 9th month of the Islamic calendar, so it’s during a different time every year. 

You can still travel to Egypt during Ramadan, but be aware some businesses might have reduced working hours. 

It might also be harder to find restaurants open for lunch, since practicing Muslims will be fasting from sunrise to sunset. 

When Is The Worst Time To Visit Egypt? 

The absolute worst time to visit Egypt would be during peak summer from June – to August. During this time the main attractions like the Pyramids of Giza, Luxor, and Abu Simbel, will be unbearably hot. 

So, Egypt is not the perfect place to plan your summer vacation! Summer in Egypt is actually considered the low season due to the weather. 

If you can bear the heat during peak summer months you can find low-season discounts on tours and hotels.  

RELATED ARTICLE 🐪 My Surreal Experience Traveling INSIDE The Pyramids

Travel Guide For 2 Perfect Days In Cairo 

Cairo will most likely be your fly-in city and the perfect place to kick off your 5, 7, 10, or 14-day itinerary for Egypt! 

I wouldn’t recommend spending more than 2 days in Cairo, due to the craziness and air pollution, but 2 days is the perfect amount of time to experience all of the highlights Cairo has to offer. 

Three girls doing an iconic photo at the great pyramids of giza in egypt.

Best Things To Do In Cairo 

✔️ Visit The Pyramids Complex 

The number one attraction in Egypt! The Great Pyramids and Sphinx are what most people come to Egypt to see. The Great Pyramids are also the craziest spot in Egypt in terms of touts and scammers. 

I recommend visiting the Great Pyramids first thing on your trip to Egypt, it’s both a highlight and something you want to get over with! 

How to book a tour of the Great Pyramids 

A full-day tour to the Great Pyramids Complex includes stops at Memphis and Sakkara. I booked our private full-day tour through my hotel in Cairo but our tour guide wasn’t the best. He was more like just a driver instead of a guide. I recommend booking a tour ahead of time with good reviews so you have a better trip! 

👉 Giza, Sakkara, Dashur Private Tour – Includes Lunch, driver, and tour guide. 👈

Do you need a tour to visit the Great Pyramids? 

I think so! You definitely need at least a driver to visit the Great Pyramids. The pyramids complex is huge. If you don’t go with your own driver you’ll be at mercy of the camel-ride operators to get from the entrance to the exit, and they probably charge 3x as much as just going with a driver or tour! 

✔️ Tips for visiting the Great Pyramids
  • Go with a private tour and never leave your tour guide’s side! There’s an unspoken rule at the Pyramids that you will be left alone by the relentless harassment of touts if you’re accompanied by a guide. Our guide kept leaving to go “park the car” and there was a BIG difference in how we were treated with and without him there.  
tourists riding camels in front of the pyramids of giza in egypt.
Camel rides at the Pyramids of Giza are a well-known scam

RELATED ARTICLE 🐫 Dealing With Insane Harassment At The Pyramids

  • Don’t get pressured into taking a camel ride. If you do want to take a camel ride, negotiate the entire cost upfront. There’s a long-running scam where they take you out into the desert and shake you down for more money. 
  • For female travelers, don’t take photos with men or boys. You can read about the harassment my group went through from touts and boys wanting to take pictures with us here.
  • Don’t buy anything from “artisan shops”. On our tour of the great pyramids, our guide brought us to a “papyrus artisan shop” where they sold glow-in-the-dark papyrus to tourists for hundreds of dollars. These gift shops are all wildly up-charged, and if you have a private tour you can request your guide skip them. 

sakkara pyramid
Sakkara pyramid
Sakkara & Memphis complex 

An all-day tour of the Great Pyramids Complex should also include stops at both Sakkara & Memphis complexes. 

Sakkara (also spelled Saqqara) is famous for the recent Netflix doc “Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb”, which deep dives into the excavation of the Sakkara complex. I loved being able to watch the doc in preparation to visit Sakkara. 

Ancient egyptian writing with blue paint you can touch at the sakkara arhceological complex as part of your egyptian itinerary.
Underground tomb at Sakkara

Sakkara is also great because it’s a lot less stressful than the Great Pyramids Complex. There are still wonderful sights to see at Sakkara, like underground tombs, pyramids, and ancient statues, but it’s just less hassle to be there. 

You’ll also visit the Memphis complex. Memphis was once the capital city of Ancient Egypt during the Old Kingdom regime, around 3000-2000 BCE. Since its glory days, most of Memphis city has been washed away by Nile floods. 

Today, Memphis isn’t the most eventful stop in Giza. It’s mostly known for having a colossal statue of Ramses the Great. 

We actually fell for a small scam when we visited the Memphis complex. Apparently, a popular tourist trap all over Egypt, a man at a kiosk said he had a little ‘museum” in the back of his stall where he sold antiques.

✔️ Explore Cairo’s museums

The Classic Egyptian Museum in cairo, egypt. Visiting the Egyptian Museum in Cairo has been a stop on any Egyptian Itinerary for decades.
The Egyptian Museum

The Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in Cairo, also simply known as “The Egyptian Museum” was built way back in 1901. It’s home to over 120,000 Egyptian artifacts and is a premier tourist destination for anyone visiting Cairo. 

The Egyptian Museum is soon set to be superseded by the Grand Egyptian Museum, which is opening in 2023. Until then you can enjoy the original Egyptian Museum. 

Hours: 9 AM – 5 PM every day 
Address: 26XM+4CH, وسيم حسن, Ismailia, Qasr El Nil, Cairo Governorate 4272083, Egypt

The Grand Egyptian Museum viewed from a highway in Giza
(Photo by Keith via Flickr)
Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM)

The Grand Egyptian Museum is said to be 99% completed as of 2023! That means by the time you’re reading this it will probably (fingers crossed) finally be open! 

The Grand Egyptian Museum has been in production for over 20 years. Driving past the Great Pyramids Complex you can’t miss it. It’s HUGE, and at over 500,000 Square Meters, GEM is going to be the largest museum dedicated to one sole civilization in the world. 

The Grand Egyptian Museum is planned to open in 2023. 

national museum of egyptian civilization model
(Photo by Roland Unger, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
The National Museum of Egyptian Civilization 

Have you ever wanted to see a mummy up close? Well, now is your chance! At the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization, dozens of royal mummies are on display, along with a selection of historical artifacts. 

Hours: 9 AM – 5 PM every day, open late on Fridays
Address: Ein as Seirah, Old Cairo, Cairo Governorate 4245001, Egypt

the coptic museum in cairo, egypt
(Photo by Radosław Botev, CC BY 3.0 PL, via Wikimedia Commons)
The Coptic Museum

Coptic Christianity is the unique sect of orthodox Christianity that originated in Egypt in the 1st century. Founded in 1908, the Coptic Museum in Cairo now has the largest collection of Coptic Christian artifacts in the world! 

Hours: 9 AM – 4 PM on weekdays, 3 PM on weekends.
Address: 3 Mari Gerges, Kom Ghorab, Old Cairo, Cairo Governorate 4244001, Egypt

iconic photo spot in khan el khalili market in cairo, egypt

✔️ Shop In Khan El-Khalili Market 

Khan El-Khalili Market is an important historical location in Cairo. Established way back in during the Mamluk Sultanate, the market is thought to be over 1,000 years old! 

Today Khan El-Khalili is still a center for international trade, in the way that it sells lots of goods made in China to foreign tourists visiting Egypt (lol).

the gold market at khan el Khalili market in Cairo, Egypt
The Gold Market at Khan El-Khalili is the most popular with Cairo locals

The truth is, there aren’t many “artisan-made” things being sold in Khan El-Khalili market anymore. Instead, it’s mostly foreign-produced “Egyptian-style” items that are sold to tourists at highly up-marked prices. 

We were told by the guys who own our hotel AND our Uber driver not to buy anything in Khan El-Khalili. 

So, why go? Well, even if Khan El-Khalili isn’t the best place to go shopping, it’s still a pretty amazing historical location. 

Egyptian gold bowls and serving items

Also, while locals don’t typically shop in Khan El-Khalili, there’s a small corner called the Goldsmiths Market that is still used by everyone. 

In Egypt gold is sold by weight, so make sure to check the daily price of gold before heading to the souks! 

Address: El-Gamaleya, El Gamaliya, Cairo Governorate 4331302, Egypt
Hours: 9:30 AM – sunset 

Neguib Mahfouz cafe 

Nestled in Khan El-Khalili is the famous Neguib Mahfouz cafe. Named after the famous Egyptian writer Neguib Mahfouz who won the 1988 Nobel Prize for Literature, Neguib Mahfouz Cafe is one of the most renowned cafes in Cairo.  

Considered a time machine to “Old Cairo” the waiters at Neguib Mahfouz Cafe still wear livery and Tarboosh caps. Neguib Mahfouz is the perfect place to take a pit stop from shopping in the market and get a break from the Cairo heat.

Address: 5 ش Sekat Al Badstan, خان الخليلى، El Gamaliya, Cairo Governorate 4331310, Egypt
Hours: 10 AM – 12 AM every day 

✔️ Visit the Garbage City & St Simon’s Cave Church 

This is one of the more unconventional things to do in Cairo. The “Garbage City” is an unofficial name of Manshiyat Naser where the Coptic Christian minority lives. 

The Coptic Christians who live in Manishiyat Naser are also called the “Zabbaleen” (which literally translates to Garbage people) all work in recycling.

Tourists come to Manshiyat Naser for ethno-tourism, to see the alternative lifestyles of the Zabbaleen people, and also to visit their famous Cave Church.   

The cave church of the zabbaleen people
St. Simon’s Cave Church 

The largest Christian church in both Egypt and all of the Middle East, the Cave Church of St. Simon is both an architectural and religious tourist destination. 

Address: 27JG+3PW، البيدق، Ghayt Al Adah, Abdeen, Cairo Governorate 4421240, Egypt

The streets of Cairo's Garbage City of the Zabbaleen people. Visiting the Garbage City is an interesting thing you can do as part of your Egypt Itinerary.
The Garbage City of the Zabbaleen people 

Garbage City is definitely the most fragrant destination in Egypt! If you’re coming to see the Cave Church you’ll have to drive through the Garbage City anyway, so why not stop and see? 

The Zabbaleen people are very nice and welcoming to visitors, but it’s important to remember to be respectful if you decide to visit. It’s very interesting to see a whole community dedicated to recycling, but this isn’t a tourist attraction! They’re working. 


✔️ Go on a guided tour of Cairo’s Old Town 

Cairo has so many historical sites to see beyond just the Great Pyramids and Khan El-Khalili Market! If you want to see more of what Old Cairo has to offer I’m linking some tours: 

👉 Islamic Cairo Old Town at-night tour 

👉Full day Coptic & Islamic history in Cairo’s Old Town

👉 Khan El-Khalili tour + Cairo’s Old Town 

Cairo from an aerial view.

✔️ Take a dinner cruise down the Nile 

If you don’t have time for a multi-day Nile cruise during your trip to Egypt, you can still get a taste of sailing down the Nile by taking a dinner cruise in Cairo! 

Yes, Cairo dinner cruises are touristy. But they’re fun! You can expect a buffet dinner and a belly dancer or some other essentially Egyptian entertainment on your dinner cruise. 

👉 Classic Cairo Dinner CruiseIncludes hotel pickup & dropoff, cruise, buffet, and entertainment 


Where to stay in Cairo for every budget 

🏨 Cairo Hotels

👉 Kempinski Nile Hotel 5 – star hotel in Cairo with a Nile view.

👉 Villa Belle Epoque Boutique hotel in the suburbs of Cairo with impeccable interior design housed in a converted 1920s mansion.

👉 Marriot Mena House Famous 5-star hotel in Giza with panoramic views of the Great Pyramids. Rooms start around $250 per night. 

👉 Pyramids View InnBudget hotel that has a fantastic view of the pyramids for low prices.

🛌 Cairo Hostels

Where to eat in Cairo 

Koshary, which is the national food of Egypt. Everyone who travels egypt will be given the opportunity to try Koshary on their Egypt itinerary.
Egyptian Koshary

Try Koshary, Egypt’s national dish

Egypt’s National Dish is Koshary (also spelled Koshari). It’s a mix of lentils, rice, macaroni, and garbanzo beans, topped with marinara sauce and fried onions. 

Koshary is the perfect street food, it’s very cheap (usually under $1!) and also nutritious. 

A man selling fruit and nuts at night at a street market in cairo.
(Photo by Tinou Bao from San Francisco, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Join a food tour 

Egypt is the perfect place for a food tour! There’s terrific street food in Cairo if you know where to look.

👉 This Cairo food tour goes to all the classic spots and includes all meals. 👈

The Nile river in Cairo at night
The Nile in Cairo at night

Le Pacha 1901 – 7 restaurants in one! 

Le Pacha 1901 is a famous barge that hosts 7 different themed restaurants. You can have French, Italian, Irish pub-fair, etc. It’s an easy dining experience on the Nile river that has something for everyone. 

Classic egyptian food
(Photo by Dan Lundberg via Flickr)

Have classic Egyptian food at Abou El Sid 

Abou El Sid offers authentic Arabic-Egyptian cuisine in an upscale setting. You can try traditional dishes like Grilled Stuffed Pigeon, and Molokhia (Jute Leaf Stew). 

Naguib Mahfouz Cafe

As mentioned earlier in this post, Neguib Mahfouz Cafe is the most famous place to eat in Khan El-Khalili Market. I loved taking a break to sip an Arabic Spiced Coffee in Neguib Mahfouz after strolling the souks in the market all morning. 

The Great Pyramids of Giza at sunset

Have dinner with a view of the Pyramids at 139 Pavilion

139 Pavilion is the restaurant at the Marriott Mena House Hotel in Giza. Mena House is famous for having the very best view of the pyramids out of all the hotels in Giza, but it charges a lot for its perfect view! 

If staying at the Mena House isn’t in your budget I would still recommend splurging and having a view of the Pyramids with your lunch or dinner at 139 Pavillion.

A mosque at sunset on the streets of Cairo, Egypt. Cairo is the first stop on everyone's Egypt Itinerary.

Egypt Itinerary: 2 Days In Cairo 

Day 1 in Cairo – Great Pyramids, Memphis, and Sakkara all-day tour 

The tours to the Great Pyramids are usually 8 AM – 5 PM, which leaves time for dinner (and a show!). 

You’re probably going to be exhausted after Pyramid-hopping all day, but if you have a little energy left the Great Pyramids hosts a “Sound and Light Show” every night at 7:30 PM. 

A KFC in Egypt. A KFC and Pizzahut is actually one of the best places to get a view of the Great Pyramids of Giza on your Egypt Itinerary.
The Giza KFC / Pizza Hut combo restaurant actually has a great view of the Pyramids!

Tickets are $20, which I personally don’t think is worth it. However, there is a KFC / Pizza Hut combo restaurant (yes, really) with a perfect view of the Pyramids where you can enjoy the Sound and Light Show for the price of some Popcorn Chicken. 

The pyramids complex closes at 4 PM in the winter and 5 PM in the summer, so you will have to occupy yourself for a few hours to catch the show! 

I recommend drinks at Pavillion 139, so you can get lovely sunset views of the Pyramids. You can also have dinner here, but while Pavillion 139 has excellent views of the Pyramids you cannot watch the Sound and Light Show from this restaurant. 

💡 Note: You’ll need a reservation for dinner at Pavillion 139! 

The cairo cave church of the Zabbaleen people in Egypt
Cairo Cave Church (Photo by FABIAN KRONENBERGER via Flickr)

Day 2 in Cairo – Khan el Khalili market, Cave Church of St. Simon, Garbage City, & Museums

After visiting the Great Pyramids complex you can choose from all of the different activities in Cairo listed above to fill up your second day. 

Almost everywhere in Cairo is accessible with Uber, which is both affordable and safe to use in Egypt. 

You don’t need to have a guided tour in Cairo except for the Great Pyramids complex, but here are some tours that will make planning your second day in Cairo a lot easier: 

👉 Cairo old city, Citadel, and Museum of Egyptian Civilization full-day tour 

👉 Cairo’s Old Town plus Khan El-Khalili Market half-day tour 

Girls sitting on a white chalk rock at sunset in the white desert in egypt

RELATED ARTICLE 🏝 Ultimate Guide To Visiting Egypt’s West Desert!

Travel Guide For Visiting The Western Desert For 2-3 Days

Egypt’s West Desert and Indonesia‘s Komodo National Park are tied for the top most amazing, special, and awe-inspiring places I’ve visited on my travels. If you’re an adventure traveler or a nature enthusiast, the West Desert will be the highlight of your trip to Egypt! 

Why Visit The White Desert In Egypt? 

The West Desert is home to the White Desert National Park, which is just one of 30 national parks in Egypt – parks that most tourists never see! 

The vast majority of tourists only come and visit the ancient Egyptian temples and the coast, but Egypt has so much more to offer. 

The landscape in the White Desert has been described as alien-like and otherworldly. It’s a truly magical place to see, and definitely the closest you’ll get to visit the surface of the moon while still on Earth. 

A campsite in the white desert in egypt.

Do You Need A Tour To Visit The West Desert? 

Yes! The West Desert can only be accessed with off-roading vehicles. Most of the time you’re in the middle of nowhere without a single landmark in sight, so you need to go with a tour company that both knows the terrain and has the right equipment. 

A car parked under a white ventifact in the white desert in egypt

How To Book A Tour To Visit The West Desert 

You can book one of the tours I’m linking below to pre-arrange your tour to the White Desert.

👉 2-day / 1-night tour of the West Desert

👉 4-day / 3-night tour of the West Desert

How To Get To The West Desert 

Your tour company will provide transportation to and from Cairo to the West Desert, which makes it the perfect easy 2-3 day trip to add to this itinerary!

Egypt Itinerary: 2-3 days in the West Desert 

Girls on top of Pyramid Mountain in the West Desert in Egypt. Climbing Pyramid mountain is the first stop on your Egypt travel itinerary after cairo.
View from the top of Pyramid Mountain

Day 1 – Depart From Cairo, Bahariya Oasis, Pyramid Mountian

Your guide will pick you up on the morning of Day 1 from your hotel/hostel in Cairo and drive you 4 hours to Bahariya Oasis, which is a small town known as the “gateway to the West Desert”. 

In Bahariya Oasis you can see sights like Pyramid Mountain, Date Palm Groves, and the Black Desert. 

On your first day, you’ll have the option to take a short 15-minute climb up Pyramid Mountian which gives impressive views of the desert below.


Girls camping in the White Desert in Egypt.
Camping In The White Desert 

Whether you’re doing a 1 or 7-night tour, you’ll be able to camp in the White Desert National Park, which is a truly special once-in-a-lifetime experience. 

All of the tours camp in secluded locations so it seems like you have the whole White Desert to yourself. 

Tip: During our 4-day / 3-night tour we also camped in the Black Desert. While the Black Desert is a great place to visit I wouldn’t recommend camping there because the black desert has a fly problem! 

Mineral-rich spring in the West Desert where tourists can bathe as part of their tour itinerary.
Mineral-rich spring in the West Desert

Day 2 – Freshwater Spring, Crystal Mountain, Bonfire Party 

On the second day, you’ll wake up in the gorgeous White Desert and make your way to the famous natural springs. 

After a night in the desert without modern plumbing, you might want a bath! Your tour guide will take you to a natural mineral-rich spring that has a manmade basin perfect for bathing. 

You’ll need to keep fully clothed during this “bath” because of Egyptian modesty rules, but it’s very refreshing after a night of camping! 

💡 Tip: The minerals in the spring tend to dye clothes so make sure to wear only dark colors! 

After your swim, you will take a short drive in the off-road vehicle through the white desert to Crystal Mountain. 

Crystal Mountain’s name is a bit of an exaggeration. It’s more like Crystal … mound. It only comes up around 4 feet. Even though it’s not that big it’s still an incredibly impressive geological formation. 

Bonus: If you find crystals on the ground you’re allowed to take them home as a souvenir (but don’t break parts of the formation off!). 

Men playing music around a bonfire at night in the white desert in egypt.

At the end of the day on your last night, there’s a great bonfire with singing and live music played by local Bedouin musicians. Everyone gets up and dances and it’s a very special way to finish an unforgettable experience. 

Day 3 – Sandboarding, Picnic At An Oasis, Return To Cairo

Depending on if you’re doing a 3 or 4-day tour this might be your last morning or your last full day in the desert. 

If you’re staying another night you’ll get up and be taken to another spring for a “bath” before setting off for the day. 

Girls at an iconic photo spot under a natural arch in the White Desert in Egypt. Visiting the White Desert is an essential addition to any Egypt Itinerary.

After breakfast, you’ll be taken to a Natural Arch in the White Desert which is a famous photo spot. After the pictures, you’ll be able to enjoy the drive through the White Desert National Park where there are tons of other interesting white chalk formations. 

For lunch on your last day, you’ll be taken to a gorgeous oasis in the middle of the White Desert where your guide will set up a whole camp kitchen. 

Girls sandboarding in the white desert in Egypt.
Sandboarding in the White Desert

After lunch, it’s time for sandboarding! The West Desert is home to the “Small Sand Sea” which is a large expanse of sand dunes that look like waves in an ocean. 

Your tour guide will have boards and wax in the back already prepared for sandboarding. 

Your last day is when you’ll be driven back to Cairo after lunch. 

The round trip is included in your tour price, and you should be back in Cairo no later than 7 PM – Just in time to take an overnight train or bus to Luxor from Cairo for the next section of this itinerary! 

Luxor at night

RELATED ARTICLE 🚌 How To Get To/From Luxor To Cairo

How To Have The Best Self-Guided 24 Hours In Luxor 

If you’re following this itinerary, Luxor will be your third stop after Cairo and the West Desert. 

How To Get To Luxor From Cairo

There are a bunch of different ways to get to Luxor from Cairo for every budget. 

Even if you’re taking a guided tour via a Nile Cruise you will still need to get yourself to Luxor since that’s where the boats depart from. 

Keep reading for all the different ways to get to Luxor from Cairo ⤵️

A bus in Egypt on a sunny day.

🚌 Cairo to Luxor by bus 

One of the cheapest ways to get to Luxor is via bus. The premier bus company in Egypt is GoBus. 

👉You can easily book your bus to Luxor ahead of time via GoBus.com👈

There’s a night bus every day which departs Cairo around 10 or 11 PM and arrives in Luxor between 7 AM and 10 AM the next morning which is the most popular with tourists. 

A one-way ticket from Cairo to Luxor via GoBus costs around $15-$20. 

💡 Tip: Even though both the bus and train are a bit uncomfortable for overnight travel, the buses are newer (and cleaner) than the train. 

✅ Tips For Taking GoBus In Egypt 
  • The buses very rarely leave (or arrive) on time! 
  • Bring a travel pillow, earplugs, and an eye mask for overnight buses. 
  • GoBus tends to blast the AC, so bring a sweater or travel blanket! 
  • Prepare for police checkpoints. On my overnight bus from Cairo to Dahab, we were woken up over 5 times by police checkpoints and had to show our passports. 
  • Bring small change to use the toilets at rest stops. 

A train station in Egypt. Taking a train in Egypt is a great way to save money while traveling on your Egypt travel itinerary.

🚃 Cairo To Luxor By Train

Even though the train and bus are similarly priced (a first-class train seat is $13, first-class GoBus seat is around $15), the train is better for people who want to get up and walk around during their trip.  

While you can book the train ahead of time online at enr.gov.eg, it’s limited to only show trains 2 weeks ahead of time.

If you’re unable to book online, it’s very easy to buy tickets in person at the train station. 

There’s usually a midnight train that departs Cairo every night and arrives in Luxor around 10 AM, but when we took it the train arrived 2 hours late. 

A man eating a meal in a sleeper car on the Watania sleeper train from Luxor to Cairo.
Sleeper car with the beds folded up (Photo credits to Jorge Láscar via Flickr)
Taking The Deluxe Sleeper Train From Cairo To Luxor 

For the overnight train, you’ll have three options – 2nd class (called AC 2) and first (AC 1), as well as the option to book a sleeper car on a separate train that only has sleeper rooms. 

Called the Watania Sleeping Trains, the sleeper car is more of an experience than just a means of travel. 

Sleeper cars are much more expensive than booking a seat, but you actually get to lie down! A bunk in a 2-bunk sleeper car is around $85, and a whole cabin costs around $126.

The trains are very old and run down. It’s not unheard of that they break down and get stuck, sometimes all day. 

If you have it in your budget to spring for a sleeper car I would recommend just buying a flight since it’s around the same price, unless you want to take the train for the experience. 

👉 Click here to reserve a spot on the overnight sleeper train 👈

An Egypt Air flight taking off. Flying Egypt Air is the most convenient way to get around in Egypt, and will save you lots of time on your Egypt Itinerary.
EgyptAir flight (Photo credits to Colin Cooke Photo via Flickr)

✈️ From Cairo To Luxor By Plane

Traveling by plane from Cairo to Luxor is by far the easiest option! 

The flight only takes one hour and there are multiple EgyptAir flights per day. On average, a one-way flight from Cairo to Luxor costs $70. 

The Sofitel winter palace in Luxor is the most luxurious hotel you could include on your egypt itinerary.
Sofitel Winter Palace (Photo credits to VasenkaPhotography via Flickr)

🏨 Where To Stay In Luxor 🏨

Best Hotels In Luxor 

👉 5 star heritage resort – Sofitel Winter Palace Luxor

👉 Boutique hotel with Nile views – Howard Carter Hotel

👉 Budget Luxury Hotel – Jolie Ville Hotel & Spa

Best Hostels In Luxor 

👉 Venus Hotel & Hostel – Dorms from $7 

👉 El Mesala Hotel – Private rooms from $15 

👉 New Everest Hostel – Private rooms from $8 

Karnak temple statues of pharoahs in Luxor, Egypt.

Egypt Itinerary: 24 hours In Luxor

Day 1 in Luxor – Karnak Temple, Luxor Temple 

Once you arrive in Luxor, and after dropping your things off at your hotel or Nile Cruise, you can set off for Karnak Temple. 

One of the two amazing temples in Luxor, Karnak Temple is actually a huge complex constructed over hundreds of years by more than 30 pharaohs! 

Karnak temple obelisks in luxor on a sunny day in Egypt.
Karnak Temple

Today, only some of the complex remains, but what does is truly astounding. If you’re touring Luxor with a Nile cruise, it will include a tour guide that can explain the site. 

If you’re touring Luxor independently, I recommend hiring a guide at the temple complex or taking one of the organized day tours I’m linking below. 

👉 Click here to book a Full-day guided tour for $50 per person

Note: You can see more of Luxor if you take a guided tour, but you need to make sure you arrive in Luxor on time since most of the full-day tours leave early in the morning! 

Luxor temple is unique because it’s the only temple in Egypt best viewed at night! I recommend arriving around 5 or 6 PM so you can see the temple in all its glory in the daylight and after dark. 

Luxor temple doesn’t close until 10 PM, so you can go in the evening and see how they light the complex up in different colors.  

Hot air balloons flying over Luxor at sunrise in Egypt.

Day 2 In Luxor – Sunrise Hot Air Balloon

At 4 AM you’ll set off from your hotel or Nile Cruise while it’s still dark to take a small boat across the Nile to where hot air balloons set off. 

This was the most magical thing we did in Egypt. Even better than the hot air balloon ride was seeing dozens of other balloons dot the skyline as the sun rose. 

You’ll need to book your hot air balloon ahead of time, here’s the best budget tour you can book online: 

👉 Click here to book your sunrise hot air balloon for the absolute cheapest price, only $35 per person

👉 Or, book a Nile cruise that includes a hot air balloon ride for free. I’m linking the 4-day, 3-night Nile Cruise I went on here. 

Tip: All of the hot air balloon rides are the same, and should be $50 or less per person. Some companies charge $100, or even $200 per person, but it’s all the same ride! 

If this was your last day in Egypt you can take a bus, train, or plane back to Cairo. 

Read my guide on traveling from Luxor to Cairo here.

Boats floating down the Nile River in Egypt on a sunny day.

All About Taking A 4-Day Nile River Cruise

Is a Nile River Cruise worth it? Why You Should Take A Nile River Cruise In Egypt

Most of Egypt is desert that can’t sustain life. According to Unicef, even today only 7% of Egypt is inhabited! 

Because of the lack of water in Egypt, Ancient Egyptians built their empire in ports and along the waterway of the Nile River. 

While you could drive or take a train from Cairo down to Aswan and make stops to see the ancient temples along the Nile, it’s much easier and more enjoyable to go via a Nile River Cruise. 

Is A Nile River Cruise safe?

YES! Taking a guided Nile River Cruise is one of the safest ways to travel through Egypt because you’re with a guide the entire time.

How Expensive Is A Nile River cruise? 

We paid $360 per person for a 3-bed room on a 4-night cruise. For a 3-night cruise, it would have been around $300 per person. This didn’t include admission tickets to the sites, water bottles we purchased, transportation to and from Cairo, or tips for our tour guides.

All in all, our 5-day 4-night Nile River cruise cost us around $500 per person. 

A room on a nile river cruise in Egypt
Our room on our Nile Cruise

There are tons of different cruise companies and they all have slightly different itineraries and prices. I chose our tour because it was the best price I could find online and I would recommend the company we used. 

The boat was spacious and clean, the staff was nice, and the food was amazing. 

The buffet food served on a nile river cruise in Egypt
Food on our Nile Cruise was always buffet-style

How Many Days You Should Spend On A Nile River Cruise 

The Nile cruises are perfect for any itinerary because they run on a 7-night schedule. You can choose to stay onboard between 2 to 7 nights as the cruise sails from Luxor to Aswan, and back. 

Most of the cruises are picking people up in Luxor, doing a 4-day tour, and then picking up more people in Aswan for a 4-day tour on the way back. 

I would recommend anyone spending two weeks or less in Egypt to book the 3-night / 4-day Nile cruise or the 4-night / 5-day Nile cruise because you can fit most of the main attractions into these itineraries. 

There are also 2-night, 3-day Nile cruises available if you’d rather take a cruise than visit Luxor independently. 

If you’re spending longer in Egypt, or want to take things slow, you can do a full 7-night / 8-day cruise that will take you round-trip down the Nile and back to Luxor.  

A cruise ship floating down the banks of the Nile River in Egypt. Taking a Nile cruise is a vital addition to any Egypt itinerary.

What To know Before You Go On A Nile River Cruise 

  • It is HOT. Bring a fan, sunhat, sunglasses, etc to beat the heat while temple-hopping. 
  • While food is included in your Nile Cruise, all drinks (including water) are not, so you need to pay for them separately. A 1 Liter bottle of water on the cruise is 20 EGP ($1), but you can buy water out in town during the day for 5 EGP (25 cents). 
  • Everyone expects a tip (Baksheesh) so keep some small bills on you. 
  • The Nile Cruise price doesn’t include entrance fees to the temples! Entrance fees need to be paid in Egyptian Pound. The cruise advised us to bring 1,400 EGP ($75) but I would recommend bringing at least 2000 EGP ($107). 
  • Some of the boats are a lot nicer than others. This is a luck-of-the-draw situation because unless you go and book in-person at Luxor or Aswan, you’re booking through a middle man who is assigning you a ship based on capacity and what day you want to depart. 
  • Tourist Traps. As with many of the other organized tours in Egypt, your Nile cruise will stop off at gift shops. Ours went to a perfume store and an “alabaster factory”. I wouldn’t recommend buying anything from these stores as it’s all overpriced and a bit shady. 
  • A 4 or 5-day Nile cruise from Luxor will pick you up in Luxor and drop you off in Aswan. Only the 8-day cruises are round-trip to your port of origin. 

🚢 Nile River Cruise 4-Day Itinerary 🚢  

Day 1 Of Your Nile cruise – Luxor, Valley of the Kings, Temple of Hatshepsut, Alabaster Factory 

Temple of Hatshepsut in Egypt
Temple of Hatshepsut

On the first day on your Nile Cruise, you’ll be taken to the boat after arriving in Luxor to drop off your things, then it’s time for the first full day of activities! 

The first stop is the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut. A 45-minute drive outside the center of Luxor, the temple of Hatshepsut looks like you’ve walked back in time 3,500 years. 

Facts About The Temple Of Hatshepsut 

  • Hatshepsut’s temple is special because she was the only confirmed female pharaoh of Egypt 
  • Hatshepsut had herself carved as a man with a beard and presented herself as a “king”, but always inscribed the statues with terms calling herself “her majesty” or “Daughter of the sun god”.  
  • At the temple, you will see some of the faces of Hatshepsut have been chiseled away. This is because her stepson followed her on the throne and set about destroying Hatshepsut’s legacy after her death – no one knows why! 
  • Hatshepsut is considered one of Egypt’s greatest pharaohs
Inside the valley of the kings in egypt
Valley of the Kings
Valley Of The Kings

The second stop is the Valley of the Kings. One of the most famous sites in Egypt, the Valley of the Kings is the final resting place of more than 60 Egyptian pharaohs! 

There are three tombs included in your (240 EGP) entrance ticket, and after that, you need to purchase entrance to individual tombs separately. 

There are attendants at all of the tomb entrances checking tickets, and they are very strict! 

Tomb of Ramses the V in the Valley of the Kings in Luxor, Egypt. Paying a little extra for entrance to the tomb of Ramses the V is a valuable addition to any Egypt itinerary.
Tomb of Ramses the V
Tips For Visiting The Valley Of The Kings 
  • If you have a camera, keep it in your bag when entering the tombs. Bags aren’t checked, but if the attendants see it out of your bag at the entrance (whether you plan to use it or not) they will insist you pay a 300 EGP ($15) camera fee. 
  • Photography with a phone is allowed for free.
  • King Tut’s tomb is the most famous and expensive (300 EGP) in the Valley of the Kings. Since the contents of King Tut’s Tomb are all in museums, our guide advises we skip it. 
  • Instead of King Tut’s tomb for 300 EGP, I recommend visiting the tomb of Ramses the V for 100 EGP. It’s 1/3 of the price and has more things inside to see. 
  • There are no bathrooms at the Valley of the Kings excavation site, only at the entrance. 
  • It’s VERY hot underground in the tombs so dress in light clothing! 
A craftsman carving tablets at an alabaster factory in Egypt. If you take a nile cruise you will have a visit to an alabaster factory included in your Egypt Itinerary.
Alabaster Factory 

A group tour in Egypt wouldn’t be complete without at least one stop at a scammy overpriced gift shop

The “Alabaster Factory” in Luxor has become synonymous with Tourist Traps in recent years. 

When we first pulled up in front of the “factory” there was a row of workers who all started pretending to hammer and chisel little rocks. A guy went around with pieces of alabaster and gave them to the tourists to hold, and then pestered them for a big tip at the end. 

There was one actual craftsman who was working, and it was very interesting to see him carving. 

They were trying to sell me a vase for $80, and I saw an identical one in the markets for less than $15. It’s interesting to see the Alabaster items, which are all hand-made (but way overpriced) – Just don’t let anyone hassle you into buying anything. 

Hot air balloons in egypt taking off at sunrise from luxor launching dock.

Day 2 Of Your Nile River cruise – Luxor, Sunrise Hot Air Balloon Ride, Luxor Temple, Karnak Temple

Sunrise Hot Air Balloon Ride

Day two of the Nile Cruise starts out excitingly with a sunrise balloon ride over Luxor. 

This was one of the most memorable experiences from our trip to Egypt. 

A small boat will pick you up at 4 AM from the cruise and ferry you across the Nile to the hot air balloon launching site. 

Even more memorable than the ride itself was seeing dozens of hot air balloons taking off at once as the sun rose. 

Karnak Temple

After the hot air balloon ride, you’re taken back to the ship for breakfast. All of the meals on Nile Cruises are buffet-style and the food is actually very good. 

In the afternoon you set off on the next tour to Luxor and Karnak Temple. 

Karnak Temple is actually a complex of different temple ruins that were built over hundreds and hundreds of years. 

Luxor temple at night lit up by multi colored floor lamps. If you take a Nile Cruise as part of your Egypt Itinerary it will stop at Luxor temple.
Luxor temple at night
Luxor Temple

Luxor Temple is unique among Egyptian historical sites because it closes at 10 PM. At night they set up the temple with multicolored lights so it looks just as impressive in the dark as it does in the day. 

Your tour will arrive at Luxor Temple around 6 PM, so you get to see the complex as the sun is setting. 

Day 3 Of Your Nile River Cruise – Edfu temple, Kom Ombo temple, Crocodile Museum

Edfu Temple

On your third day, you’ll be sailing down the Nile from Luxor to Aswan and stop for a few hours at the Temple of Edfu. 

Edfu is a Ptolemaic temple, which was the last ancient Egyptian dynasty, so it’s more recently built than most temples in Egypt. 

The Temple of Edfu is also called the Temple of Horus. Horus was the ancient Egyptian god of the sky and is frequently shown with the head of a bird.

Horse and carriage tourists are forced to take to Edfu temple if they take a nile river cruise.
The horse and carriage ride we were forced to take in Edfu

I do need to mention that there is a bit of a corruption problem in Egypt. When you’re visiting the Temple of Edfu with your Nile Cruise the ticket price includes a horse-drawn carriage ride from the boat to the temple. 

Some members of our group didn’t want to take a carriage ride due to animal-ethics issues. Unfortunately, in Edfu, no taxi will stop for a tourist visiting Edfu Temple. 

This is because they want you to take a carriage ride, which costs more than a taxi, and then when the ride is over they shake you down for tips. 

Kom Ombo Temple at sunset. If you take a Nile Cruise as part of your Egypt Itinerary it will stop at Kom Ombo temple.
Kom Ombo Temple

After Edfu, the cruise sets sail again. Late in the afternoon, the boat will stop again at Kom Ombo Temple. 

The Kom Ombo Temple is unique because it’s right on the banks of the Nile, so even though it’s a smaller temple it’s one of the most beautiful because of the view. 

Watching the sunset over the Nile from Kom Ombo Temple was gorgeous. 

There’s an interesting scam at Kom Ombo Temple I didn’t see elsewhere in Egypt. Lots of people and children are selling things at the entrance, and if you say “no thank you” they say “maybe later?”. 

If you say yes they give you a bracelet or some trinket for free, and later when you exit the temple they come back demanding an exorbitant price for it. 

Mummified crocodiles at the crocodile museum part of Kom Ombo temple complex.
Mummified crocodiles
Crocodile Museum 

The Crocodile Museum is right next to Kom Ombo Temple and even though it’s just one room, I thought it was the most interesting museum we visited in Egypt. 

Kom Ombo Temple is partially dedicated to the ancient Egyptian god Sobek, who was represented as a crocodile.

When Kom Ombo Temple was in use, they would keep a crocodile believed to be the earthly incarnation of Sobek himself.  

The Egyptian crocodile god Sobek
Ancient Egyptian crocodile god Sobek

Every time a divine crocodile would die, the priests at Kom Ombo would mummify it and then select a new chosen crocodile to represent Sobek. 

For some reason, you can’t have a camera at the crocodile museum, but they do allow photography with a phone. 

Day 4 of your Nile cruise – Aswan High Dam, Abu Simbel, Philae Temple

The Aswan High Dam. The dam is usually visited by tourists on their way to Abu Simbel as part of their Egypt itinerary.
Aswan High Dam
Aswan High Dam

The Aswan High Dam is …. well it’s just a dam. I’ve never been too interested in dams, and it feels a little like they just bring tour groups here to pad for time on the way to Abu Simbel. 

The Dam is on the way, so there’s no time wasted just stopping by and enjoying the Dam for a few moments. 

Girls sitting in front of Abu Simbel Temple in Egypt. If you take a Nile Cruise as part of your Egypt Itinerary it will stop at Abu Simbel.
Abu Simbel

After visiting the High Dam your tour bus will drive 3 hours outside of Aswan to reach one of Egypt’s most famous sites, the Abu Simbel temple complex. 

Your tour on this day will likely leave very early in the morning, around 4 or 5 AM so that you can reach Abu Simbel before the hottest time of the day, but it’s still scorchingly hot at this complex, so bring a hat! 

Abu Simbel Temple in Egypt. If you take a Nile Cruise as part of your Egypt Itinerary it will stop at Abu Simbel.
Facts About Abu Simbel 
  • Abu Simbel was built by Ramses the II, who is more commonly known as Ramses the Great. 
  • The Abu Simbel complex houses two temples, the larger one is called the Grand Temple and is dedicated to Ramses the II, while the smaller temple is dedicated to his favorite wife, Queen Nefertari.
  • Abu Simbel isn’t the original name of the temple, but rather of the little Egyptian boy who rediscovered it in the early 19th century. The whole temple complex was buried underneath the sand, and a little boy named Abu Simbel lead explorers to the site. 
The temple of philae in Egypt. If you take a nile cruise as part of your Egypt itinerary, it will stop at the temple of Philae.
Philae Temple

Save the best for last! Philae Temple, also known as the Temple of Isis, and the Cat Temple (!!!), is located on a tiny island you need to take a speedboat to. 

This was my favorite temple out of all the ones I visited in Egypt. Philae Temple being on a secluded island, plus the little kittens everywhere gave it an extra enchanting appeal. 

A girl playing with temple cats at the temple of philae in Egypt. If you take a nile cruise as part of your Egypt itinerary, it will stop at the temple of Philae.
About The Cats At Philae Temple 

Depending on who you ask you will get a very different answer for how many cats reside on Philae Island. Some say 100, others 1,000! 

The cats on Philae Island aren’t feral, but they also haven’t been socialized with people, so they aren’t cuddly lap cats. 

There are charities set up dedicated to neutering/ spaying and feeding the cats on Philae Island. You can get in contact with The Temple Cats organization via Facebook if you’d like to donate or see how the Temple Cats are living. 

Locals on Philae offer tourists handfuls of cat food for a small fee all over the island so they can feed the cats.

Tourists at the temple of philae in Egypt. If you take a nile cruise as part of your Egypt itinerary, it will stop at the temple of Philae.
Facts About The Philae Temple 
  • The proper name of Philae Temple is “The Temple of Isis at Philae”. It’s dedicated to the ancient Egyptian Goddess, Isis, her husband Osiris, and child Horus. 
  • Isis is the ancient Egyptian goddess of motherhood, magic, death, and rebirth. 
  • When a dam was built on the Nile in the 20th century, it accidentally flooded Philae Island. You can still see water markings today on the temple walls from when it was partially submerged. 
  • In the 5th century, the Temple of Philae was converted into a Christian church dedicated to Saint Stephen. You can still see chisel marks where the Christians tried to erase the ancient Egyptian stories from the walls. 

Beautiful blue water at the red sea in egypt.

How To Have The Best 4 Days On The Red Sea At Hurghada

Relaxing, beautiful, and with lots of things to do, the Red Sea is a world-renown vacation spot where you can finish your trip on a high note. 

After your 4-day Nile Cruise, you will disembark the ship in Aswan. From Aswan, you can easily visit the Red Sea at Hurghada. 

Coral reef in the red sea in Egypt. Visiting the red sea is an essential addition to any Egypt itinerary.

Why Do People Visit Hurghada?

Hurghada is on Egypt’s Red Sea, which is a world-famous destination that has beautiful white-sand beaches, fantastic diving sites, and gorgeous coral reefs.

Formerly a small fishing village, Hurghada is now Egypt’s largest tourism center on the Red Sea.

How To Get To Hurghada From Aswan / Luxor 

There are a lot of world-famous vacation spots on the Red Sea in Egypt that are more than worthy of a trip. But for this itinerary, I’m going to recommend you visit Hurghada due to its proximity to Aswan, where your Nile Cruise will drop you off. 

It’s very easy to get to Hurghada from Aswan. Here are a few different ways to travel:  

🚌 How To Get To Hurghada From Aswan By Train & Bus 

Your Nile cruise will drop you off in Aswan – unfortunately, there are no direct buses or trains from Aswan to Luxor so you will have to first travel to Luxor and from there go to Hurghada.

Trains from Aswan leave hourly for Luxor and it’s a 3-hour train journey. From there you can take a GoBus which leaves 3 times a day for Hurghada.

Buses from Luxor to Hurghada take 4 hours, so it’s a 7-8 hour trip total from Aswan to Hurghada.

It’s a long trip, but the total cost should only be around $20. If you have more room in your budget I suggest taking a flight to save time.

✈️ How To Get To Hurghada From Aswan by flight 

As of right now, there are no direct flights from Aswan or Luxor to Hurghada, and all flights involve a layover in Cairo.

Since you have to do a layover in Cairo, a flight from Aswan to Hurghada will take around 4 hours and cost $130.

Things To Do In Hurghada 

Take The Ferry To Sharm el-Sheikh

Sharm el-Sheikh is the luxury resort capital on the Red Sea. 

You can easily visit Sharm from Hurghada via a fast-boat ferry that only takes 90 minutes. 

Scuba divers in the Red Sea in Egypt. The Red Sea is a world famous diving spot, people come from all over the world to dive there.
Abu Nuhâs coral reef (Photo by W.Strickling, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Go Diving Or Snorkeling In The Red Sea

The Red Sea has world-class snorkeling and Scuba Diving. In addition to being a great place to enjoy the sea, you can also take diving courses and get your Padi certifications. 

Here are some scuba diving and snorkel tours in Hurghada: 

👉 3-Day PADI Open Water Diving Course with Pickup from Hurghada 

👉 Full-Day Diving Tour with Lunch & Two Dive Sites

👉 Orange Bay Island Full Day Snorkeling Trip

While it’s beautiful everywhere on the Red Sea, if you take the ferry to Sharm el-Sheikh there’s a world-famous dive spot called the “Blue Hole”.

You can dive the Blue Hole if you have your certification, and if not it’s easy to snorkel. 

People taking a submarine ride in Hurghada, Egypt.
(Photo by Anne and David via Flickr)

Take A Ride On A Submarine! 

Hurghada is the perfect place to take a ride in a submarine because of the coral reefs and shipwrecks. 

You can either take a ride in a semi-sub, which is more like a glass-bottom boat, or a full-on underwater submarine. 

👉 2-hour Underwater submarine tour for $50 per person. 

👉 Semi-sub ride for $18 per person.

a couple riding horses on the beach in Hurghada, egypt

Go Horseback Riding On The Beach

Riding horses in Hurghada is different from other places because you can go to the beach and the desert.  

The Red Sea is so shallow in Hurghada that the horses are known to take a swim during the ride, which makes for a fun photo opportunity. 

👉 Here’s a two-hour tour for only $28 per person. 

A waterpark in Hurghada.

Visit A Waterpark 

There are tons of waterparks and amusement parks in Hurghada, but three of the biggest ones are Jungle Aqua Park, Makadi Water World, and Serenity Fun City. 

👉 Here’s a package for $41 per person that includes hotel pickup, lunch, park admission, and dropoff to Jungle Aqua Park. 

A street in Hurghada with colorful painted houses

Where To Stay In Hurghada 

👉 If you want a 5-star luxury resort, try the Oberoi Beach Resort at Sahl Hasheesh

👉 For budget travelers, the Sunny Seaside Villa offers a pool and resort feel. It also offers a full kitchen in a lot of its units. 

👉 For backpackers, Marina Square Hostel is one of the best in the area and offers $10 per-night beds. 

Where to eat in Hurghada

  • For tea-time or a late breakfast try the Purrfect Cuppa cat cafe 
Aerial photo of Hurghada. Hurghada is the best place for tourists to visit on the red sea if they're doing a classic egypt itinerary.

How To Get To Cairo From Hurghada 

At the end of your trip, you’ll need to travel from Hurghada back to Cairo to catch your flight out of Cairo Airport. 

Here are all the different ways you can travel from Hurghada to Cairo. ⤵️

✈️ By Plane

Depending on your budget you could catch a flight from Hurghada airport to Cairo for around $130. Flights from Hurghada to Cairo airport are only around one hour. 

🚌 By Bus

If you’re on a budget, you can take the bus for only $13 at Gobus.com. 

The drive from Hurghada to Cairo is 7 hours and the bus lets you off in Tahrir Square. 

Buses from Hurghada to Cairo run every hour, every day of the week.  

🚗 By Driving 

Unfortunately, renting a car and driving yourself in Egypt isn’t an option unless you have an International Drivers License and a guarded traffic convoy sent from the Office of Tourism. 

You can always hire a private car with a driver, but expect to pay a premium for long-distance journeys. 

Tourist Scams In Egypt To Watch Out For

A woman trying to hail a taxi in Egypt
You can use Uber in big cities like Cairo to avoid taxi scams

🚩Taxi Scams 

This is the most common scam you’ll encounter in Egypt. All of the taxi rides are massively overpriced for tourists. 

The best way to avoid this is by using Uber in big cities like Cairo, Alexandria, and Hurghada. 

You can also arrange with your hostel or hotel for airport pickup in Cairo since Ubers can’t come into the airport terminal, or you can book it online ahead of time. I recommend booking your airport transfer (both ways) before you arrive in Egypt. ▶︎ Book Your Cairo Airport Transfer Now!

🚩 Tour Guide Scams 

Tour guides in Egypt love to take tourists to over-priced gift shops selling fake goods. I wrote about the fake “artifact museum” our guide took us to in Giza. 

They do this because they get a fat commission on top of whatever you buy. If your tour guide insists on taking you to an “artisan store” of some sort I’d ask them to skip it. 

🚩 Don’t Give To Child Beggars 

This isn’t a scam, per se, but it’s a very important thing to know for traveling to Egypt. You’ll encounter a lot of child beggars and it’s very important you don’t give money to them! 

It’s difficult to see a cute kid with their hand out, but at best begging is taking these children away from school, and giving them money/gifts is encouraging their absence. At worst, the children are being trafficked by gangs that use cute kids as beggars and take all their profits. 

The pyramids of Giza at sunset. The Pyramids of Giza are everyones first stop on their Egypt itineraries

🚩 Scammers At The Great Pyramids 

I wrote about the crazy experience I had with touts (illegal guides) harassing me at the Great Pyramids. 

The scammers at the Great Pyramids complex give Egypt a bad name. A lot of people come to Cairo, go to the Great Pyramids, and then go home. 

Tourists leave thinking all Egyptians are as nasty as the guys who trick tourists at the Pyramids, but nothing could be further from the truth! 

Everyone who comes to Egypt wants to go to the Great Pyramids because it’s one of the wonders of the ancient world. But there are so many aggressive touts at the Great Pyramids that even if you go with a guide it’s still incredibly stressful. 

This is why I think everyone should visit the West Desert after they go to the Great Pyramids Complex. It’s a great place to destress in Nature after the craziness of Cairo. 

A camel in Egypt. Camel rides are a very common scam in Egypt that tourists need to watch out for, especially if they're doing a self-guided Egypt itinerary.

🚩 Camel-Ride Scams 

There’s a saying in Egypt, “it’s one price to get on the camel, and another price to get off“. 

One of the most popular scams in the Great Pyramids Complex and other spots in Egypt is the “camel scam”. Someone will offer you a camel ride (or pressure you to take one), and then they’ll take you far out into the desert on the camel. Once you’re out there, they’ll hit you up for more money to take you back. 

Sometimes tour guides are in on it, so be wary to negotiate everything upfront if you’re planning on taking a camel ride! 

This photo is of lots of different Egyptian bills, from 5 Egyptian Pounds to 200.

How Much Does It Cost To Visit Egypt? 

If you follow this itinerary, these are the costs for each activity. ⤵️

💵 Cost Of A Tour Of The Great Pyramids, Memphis, and Sakkara Complex

Booking through our hotel in Cairo the tour was only $33 per person. This didn’t include entrance fees or tips, so altogether it was around $60 for the day. 

However, the guide we booked through our hotel wasn’t great. I have found a few tours you can book online ahead of time for the same cost as what we paid, but they have terrific reviews: 

👉 Option 1: $45 Per Person – Private tour. Giza, Sakkara, Dashur tour. Includes Lunch, driver, and tour guide. Excludes entrance fees. 

👉 Option 2: $65 Per person – Private tour. Giza, Sakkara, Memphis. Includes Lunch, driver, tour guide, and entrance fees. 

The white desert in Egypt. The White Desert is an essential addition to any Egypt Itinerary.

💵 Cost Of A Tour Of The West Desert 

You can find companies charging absurdly high prices to visit the West Desert but these are some tours I found with great reviews and fair prices.

All of the West Desert tours include transport to and from Cairo.

A view of aswan from the Nile.

💵 Cost Of A Nile Cruise

Although a lot of the standard Nile cruises are similar in price and quality, the biggest price difference is for how many days you choose to cruise for, and any add-on tours you choose on your cruise. 

Click On The Links Below To Check Rates & Book Your Nile Cruise ⤵️

👉 4-day / 3-night Nile cruise, $460 per person 

👉 5-day / 4-night Nile cruise, $580 per person 

🚨 Note: These prices are only for the cruise, which includes your room, transportation, tour guide, and all meals – it does not include entrance fees to the sites visited. 

Inside of the valley of the kings in Egypt.
Valley of the Kings

💵 Cost Of Entrance Fees For The Temples In Egypt 

Admittance fees to attractions like the temples and Pyramids complex are rarely included in tour prices in Egypt. Instead, you need to pay admittance fees in-person in cash. 

Here are the current entrance fees to the most popular sights in Egypt: 

  • Giza Pyramids Complex: 200 EGP ($11, €10) 
  • Entry into the Great Pyramid: 400 EGP ($21.5, €20)
  • Entry into the 2nd or 3rd Pyramid: 100 EGP ($5.50, €5)
  • Sakkara Pyramids Complex: 180 EGP ($10, €9)
  • National Museum of Egyptian Civilization or Egyptian Museum: 200 EGP ($11, €10) 
  • Karnak Temple: 200 EGP ($11, €10) 
  • Luxor Temple: 160 EGP ($8.5, €8)
  • Hatshepsut Temple: 140 EGP ($7.50, €7)
  • Valley of the Kings General Admission: 240 EGP ($13, €12)
  • Tomb of King Tut: 300 EGP ($16, €15)
  • Tomb of Ramses V & VI: 100 EGP ($5.50, €5)
  • Philae Temple: 180 EGP ($10, €9)
  • Edfu Temple: 180 EGP ($10, €9)
  • Kom Ombo Temple: 140 EGP ($7.50, €7)
  • Abu Simbel Temple Complex: 240 EGP ($13, €12)

A hot air balloon flying over Luxor at sunrise. Luxor is an essential stop for any Egypt Itinerary.

💵 Cost Of Riding A Hot Air Balloon In Luxor 

If you’re doing a Nile cruise the sunrise hot air balloon will be included in the overall cost. 

If you’re touring Luxor independently, I recommend booking your hot air balloon experience online.

👉 Click here to book your Sunrise Hot Air Balloon Tour 👈

a photo of a 5 pound egyptian bill. Egypt is a cash country, so you will need a lot of Egyptian pounds for your Egypt itinerary.
(Photo by Ivan Radic via Flickr)

How To Save Money On Your Trip To Egypt 

💰 Go Without Tours 

There are some experiences, like camping in the Western Desert, which you absolutely cannot do without a tour because you need a 4-wheeler and extensive knowledge of the terrain. 

I would 100% recommend stretching your budget to fit at least one night in the West Desert because it’s such a unique experience. For everything else, it’s possible to go without a tour.

💰 Travel Slow 

If you want to travel to Egypt on a strict budget I would recommend spending more time in the country, two weeks at least. In Egypt cheap travel = slow travel. 

Ramses train station in cairo - if you're taking the egypt itinerary detailed in this guide you'll depart for luxor from Ramses train station in cairo.
Ramses train station in Cairo (Photo by Mark Fischer via Flickr)

💰 Take Buses & Trains Instead Of Flights 

One of the biggest expenses on a trip to Egypt will be internal flights. For example, a round-trip flight from Cairo to Luxor is around $140, while a return train ticket is only $25. 

The trade-off is the flight is only one hour, while the train is 12 hours 😬, but that’s how you save money with slow travel! 

A hostel dorm room in egypt, staying in a hostel is a great way to save money during a self guided egypt itinerary for budget backpackers
(Photo by Andrea Vail via Flickr)

💰 Stay In Hostels 

Egypt doesn’t have a huge hostel culture but you should still be able to find affordable hostels in the tourist hubs like Cairo, the Red Sea, Luxor, and Aswan. 

Staying in hostel dorms can drastically decrease your trip budget for Egypt. For example, a budget hotel room in Luxor goes for around $20 a night, while you can stay in a hostel dorm for as little as $4 a night. 

A koshari store in Cairo, Egypt. Koshary is a super cheap egyptian street food that's perfect for a budget self-guided egypt itinerary
A Koshary restaurant in Cairo (Photo by Mohammad Aboelkhier via Flickr)

💰 Eat Like A Local 

In Egypt food does not have to compromise a large portion of your budget at all. There’s always delicious (and cheap) street food around.

A world-class meal of Koshary in Egypt can be had for less than $1! It’s also usually better than the western-style food being sold to tourists in cafes. 

An egyptian man in a market in cairo selling coconuts on the street

💰 Haggle! 

The Egyptians do it, so why wouldn’t you? Egyptians love to haggle. 

I actually wrote a whole guide on how to haggle in Egypt and Morocco here, but the main thing you should know is that almost everything is up for negotiation in Egypt.

💡 Rule of thumb: The prices quoted to tourists for tours, taxi rides, goods, and hotel stays are usually at least 2x what they should be, and sometimes as much as 10x. 

A woman hailing an uber off of her phone app in egypt. Using Uber is a key way to navigate a self-guided egypt itinerary

💰 Use Uber

So, you could stress yourself out trying to haggle with a taxi driver for 20 minutes to get a fair price, OR you can just use Uber. 

Uber is available in Cairo, Alexandria, and Hurghada, and it makes traveling these cities 100% easier. 

Uber also has safety features normal Egyptian taxis don’t have. Uber tracks your rides and gives you the option to share your location with friends and family back home, which makes it my favorite way to get around Egypt as a female traveler. 

💰 Book Everything Online 

In some parts of the world, it’s better to book things on the ground in person so you can get a better rate, but that’s usually not the case in Egypt. 

I had more success getting good deals online in Egypt as an English-speaking American woman. If I spoke Arabic I probably could have gotten better deals in person. 

Egypt Itinerary: Conclusion

I hope this helps you have the BEST time in Egypt! I spent one whole month exploring Egypt this year and honestly, it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life!

Please feel free to reach out via my contact page if you have any more questions about your self-guided Egypt Itinerary!

Traveling to Egypt?
Here’s a quick list of what to pack!

✔️ Water Purifier: For Egypt, I recommend having a travel purifier so you can drink the tap water wherever you go!

✔️ Sunscreen: Self-explanatory, but since I was covered up (for modesty) during most of my trip in Egypt I really just used this on my face/neck and didn’t need to use too much.

✔️ Sunhat: Necessary, the sun is so strong!!! If you don’t have room for a proper sunhat I just always pack a baseball cap in my big bag because it takes up almost no room.

✔️ Sunglasses: Self-explanatory but really necessary for visiting all the ruins!

✔️ Bugspray: Lots of mosquitos around the banks of the Nile / bodies of water in Egypt. I love these little mini applicators so I can always have it with me.

✔️ Travel Pillow: I love this travel pillow by Coop Homegoods. It’s seen me through so many overnight bus/train trips, and it packs down pretty small (but I usually just hang it on the outside of my bag with a carabiner).

✔️ Wet Wipes: Toilet paper isn’t the norm in Egypt, usually they use a Shatafa which is a type of bidet

✔️ A Travel Adaptor: I originally bought this exact adaptor for my first trip to Morocco in 2019 and it’s still going strong with 3 years of nearly daily use.

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