Note: This Egypt on a Budget Travel Guide was first written in September 2015, shortly after our initial trip to Egypt. As this article has become a resource for travelers planning their own Egypt itineraries, we continue to update this post with the most current information, most recently in November 2017.
When we decided to go backpacking in Egypt, we were determined to step things up for nice trip to this bucket list destination. Yet it was still important for us to experience Egypt on a budget. As we began planning a two week Egypt itinerary in the summer and estimating prices, we slowly began to uncover that there was only a negligible difference in prices between a fairly barebones Egypt backpacking trip and a quite luxurious vacation in Egypt on a budget.
We began discovering some great deals, which would allow for an incredible trip to Egypt on a budget. A devaluation of the Egyptian Pound only further helped to make the country a fantastic value.
Since this article was first written, the Egyptian Pound has plummeted even further, particularly so in Nov. 2016, which is great for your travel dollars, pounds, or euros to go even further!
Egypt Budget for Two Week Itinerary
We managed to plan a luxury Egypt two week itinerary for a budget of about $55 USD per person, per day. This $55 per day budget includes all expenses, accounting for everything from bottled waters and tipping the bathroom attendant, to an entire luxury Nile River cruise, 5-star hotel in Luxor, and a week-long stay at an 4-star all-inclusive beach resort on the Red Sea. It’s pretty incredible how far your dollar can stretch in Egypt!
We now want to share all of our tips and strategies to show exactly how you can afford these luxuries during an entire 2 week itinerary to Egypt on a budget of only $820 per person ($420 per week).
Note: because USD-to-E£ rates have changed since this was first published in 2015, the currency conversion for local on-the-ground costs will be different than we’ve tallied throughout the charts. That means, it will likely be even cheaper for you! We have updated prices to reflect current (2018) rates throughout this post, but the tables remain unchanged to reflect the exact 2015 pricing we experienced.
Here’s Why To Consider Combining Backpacking Egypt with Luxury Egypt
Although relatively inexpensive, Egypt can be a notoriously difficult country to travel in, particularly during summer months. You will encounter extreme heat, some of the most persistent touts we’ve encountered, and the need to haggle hard over just about everything. It’s unlike anywhere else in the Middle East we’ve traveled to and it can all become exhausting!
After traveling to over 60 countries and countless far-flung destinations, we concede that Cairo was one of the most maddening cities we’ve been in. Egypt can become a taxing destination to travel through, even for seasoned backpackers. But it doesn’t have to be. Prices in Egypt are such that it can be very affordable to make yourself much more comfortable in this far-off land. So we strongly urge you to do just that. We found that stepping up your comfort level and doing a little planning can often make the difference between an enjoyable trip to Egypt and a miserable one.
And with what seems like a complete lack of mid-range range accommodation, we wholeheartedly recommend, stepping things up rather than adjusting downward in Egypt. Backpacker accommodation in Egypt can be pretty bleak throughout the country. But when you can stay at a 4-star all-inclusive resort at prices that are less than the cost of a hostel bed in many places around the world (starting at $28 per person per night), and includes all of your meals and even unlimited alcoholic drinks, well, why not? “Beer please!”
Most people’s travel style seems to be firmly planted as either backpacking independent travelers or those who prefer packaged tours with a little luxury. But it doesn’t have to be one or the other. We’ve found that Egypt can actually be a perfect place to meld these two mindsets together for a fantastic semi-DIY trip to Egypt, incorporating the best of both worlds and maximizing value!
If you follow our blog, you’ll know that we are very active travelers and are not at all the type of people who like to just sit on a beach for a week relaxing. Yet after a very full week of touring around ancient Egypt’s many sites and the sheer craziness of Cairo, it was absolutely heavenly to be able to unwind in such a relaxed environment as a Red Sea resort, snorkeling by day and sipping beers by night.
But the relaxing doesn’t have to last too long as we intersplicesd our week itinerary along Egypt’s coastline with adventure activities like Scuba diving in the Red Sea and other outdoor pursuits.
After a week that is filled with touring all of those famous pyramids, temples, and museums, you may grow exhausted. So we recommend trading in those ancient sites to instead explore some of Egypt’s natural wonders in the underwater world. The Red Sea beaches provide a wonderful contrast to the first week’s intensive touring itinerary, and provides for a well-deserved “vacation after your vacation.”
Right now is truly a special time to travel to Egypt. Not only are the prices low, but so are the tourist crowds that once swarmed the county’s most notable sites. Today you can visit the Great Pyramids and have them nearly all to yourself to enjoy. It’s absolutely incredible!
So come take an in-depth look to see how to have a little luxury while backpacking Egypt on a budget of $55 per day during a two week itinerary in Egypt!
Luxury Egypt on a Budget: Table of Contents
Sample Two Week Egypt Itinerary
This two week Egypt itinerary is almost exactly what we followed ourselves. The only difference between our exact trip and our recommendation here, is that we advise traveling the opposite direction down the Nile because we find it to be a slightly better value and it also makes for much easier connections logistically, pre- and post-Nile cruise.
- Day 1: Arrive into Cairo and transfer to hotel in Giza
- Day 2: Tour Pyramids of Giza
- Day 3: Tour sites around Cairo and overnight train to Aswan
- Day 4: Tour Aswan and begin Nile Cruise
- Day 5: Nile Cruise, Aswan to Edfu (overnight)
- Day 6: Nile Cruise to Luxor (overnight)
- Day 7: Tour Luxor
- Day 8: Bus Luxor to Hurghada
- Days 9-14: Unwind at Hurghada Red Sea resort
- Day 15: Depart Egypt
A few minor tweaks to this two week Egypt itinerary that you may want to consider incorporating are:
- Add an extra day in Aswan to make the journey to Abu Simbel (which tends to be a highlight of Egypt for many).
- Add an extra day in Giza/Cairo to explore additional sites such as the pyramids around Saqqara.
- Consider one day less in Luxor to squeeze in one of the aforementioned considerations.
- Do it in reverse! If so, we’d recommend bus from Hurghada to Luxor, Luxor to Aswan Nile cruise, train from Aswan to Cairo.
Giza and Cairo 2-Day Sample Itinerary & Costs
Day 1: We recommend an easy first day afternoon. Have an airport transfer waiting to get you to your hotel where you can get settled, have dinner, and rest up to get an early start to the following day.
Day 2: Head directly to see all the sites of the Great Pyramids. After lunch have a relaxing afternoon splashing around at the hotel’s pool as you admire the pyramids in the background or unwind in the complimentary spa. Alternatively, for a more action-packed itinerary, consider squeezing in some of the sites of Saqarra instead. That evening, go see the Sound & Light show.
Day 3: Now that you’ve been in Egypt for a few days, perhaps you’re ready for the madness of Cairo. Grab an Uber to the city’s main attraction, the Cairo museum. Use whatever remaining time after lunch to visit any secondary attractions that are of interest to you around Cairo. With most attractions closing around 4:00 or 5:00, use the remaining time before your departing train to indulge in a few beers in one of Cairo’s cafes. Then take the overnight train from Cairo to Aswan.
Where to Stay in Cairo
We recommend not staying in Cairo and instead in neighboring Giza, near the Great Pyramids. While some may recommend staying in downtown Cairo, we firmly advocate to stay near the Great Pyramids. This recommendation is for four reasons:
- Location: The Great Pyramids will most certainly be on your list of things to do in Cairo, and being close to the pyramids will allow you to get an early start to beat the heat. You can even walk directly from your hotel and not to have to deal with deceptive taxi drivers. And it can be pretty special to look out your hotel window or go for a swim in the pool while having those ancient marvels as your backdrop!
- Value: The hotels near the Great Pyramids tend to offer better value compared to those in downtown Cairo.
- Calm: Downtown Cairo can be a maddening and hectic place. Meanwhile we found the suburban area around the Pyramids to be more tranquil.
- Safe: Our research found that the majority of occasional incidents in Egypt have occurred in the downtown Cairo area. While such occurrences are infrequent and not targeting tourists, it may be a safer bet to stay outside of the downtown Cairo area.
Giza Hotel Luxury-for-Less Strategy
Le Meridian Pyramids is our recommendation in Giza. It has beautiful Pyramid views and very nice rooms. But most importantly, it has tremendous value, priced at $59 per night during our stay. Yet don’t pay that or whatever it’s listed for today. We instead recommend staying there for free!
Pay Your Own Way: If you don’t want to deal with the points game or don’t qualify for this offer, we still recommend Le Meridian Pyramids Giza if you can find a good price during your travel dates. It was awesome to stay at a 4-star resort right at the base of the Great Pyramids! At the time of research, we found the best rate through HotelsCombined.com, which searches all the main booking sites.
An Even More Budget-Friendly Option Directly at the Giza Pyramids: If you’re paying your own way and looking for a more budget-friendly accommodation, then we suggest the Sphinx Guest House Giza. This small guest house known for the friendly owner’s warm hospitality and affordable prices. Perhaps best of all, it couldn’t be better located. It is right next to the Sphinx entrance to the Great Pyramid site. The Sphinx Guest House may not be quite as comfy as in the Le Meridian, but this is a good choice for those seeking a more independent option and wanting to save.
Things to Do in Giza/Cairo On A Budget
Of course you absolutely must visit Giza’s Great Pyramids, which carries a modest entrance fee of 80 LE per person to walk around the grounds of all three Great Pyramids and the Sphinx.
Entering the Pyramids Price-Cutting Tip
Skip the additional 200 LE entrance fee into Khufu (the largest of the three Great Pyramids) and instead go inside whichever of the two other pyramids (Khafre or Menkaure) are currently open. This tradeoff will save a duo traveling together 120 LE.
Many people are underwhelmed by going inside the Great Pyramid, while others rave about it and say it’s totally worth it. For us, it didn’t make sense to pay what amounted to $40 USD at the time for the chance of being disappointed when a similar experience can be had for much less. We were happy we spent 40 LE per person to go inside the neighboring Khafre Pyramid instead of pay five times more (200 LE) to go inside the Great Pyramid.
Cheops Boat Museum: requires a separate ticket (60 LE) and is a worthwhile detour located behind Khufu. It is here that you will see what is said to be the world’s oldest boat! The Cheops Boat Museum will also give you a break from the heat, as there is a small air conditioner inside.
To Camel or Not-to-Camel?
If you want that quintessential photo at the pyramids, expect to pay an additional 20-100 LE for a camel ride, depending on length of time and your haggling skills. We found the pyramid grounds to be very walkable, so we chose to forgo the hassle of dealing with a camel handler. And it is a hassle. They are aggressive. A simple “no” or “la shukraan” (no thank-you in Arabic) is never enough to shake them off. They’ll think you’re just negotiating. It takes several minutes and heavy assertiveness for them to fully understand that you’re not interested. Also, some of the camel handlers are notable scam artists with very deceptive practices, so be extremely careful if choosing to deal with them.
There are also other animals who can take you around the site such as donkeys and horses. We received multiple offers to take quick jaunts in a horse carriage for 20 LE. That may sound like a good option, but also consider the horse’s well-being in the intense heat and know that the 20 LE price is likely a deceptive quote just to get you in their carriage.
How To Avoid Being Bothered or Scammed at the Great Pyramids
There are so many touts swarming all over the Great Pyramids. Many will be persistently hassling you to buy their camel ride. Some even go as far as jumping into taxis uninvited! (Taxi drivers allow this since they get a cut.) Others may be performing some of the many known scams that occur regularly. You may or may not get scammed, but you’ll certainly be hassled many times throughout the day.
One way to avoid this is to have a guide with you. We’re usually proponents of independent travel and generally avoid tours. But having a guide to accompany you at the Great Pyramids will not only provide in-depth knowledge about this ancient site, but touts don’t ever bother you when you’re accompanied by a guide! Guides are like instant repellent to touts. And unlike most other places around the world, guides are very budget-friendly in Egypt! You can book Egyptologists for half-day tours for about $10-$15 USD per person. These guides include hotel pick-up too, so the price of this can often come out even cheaper than taking a taxi from your hotel to the Pyramids and back.
Make arrangements with a good guide before your day of visiting the Great Pyramids and ensure they have a consistent track record of great reviews.
For example, try this one on Viator which is only $14 including lunch, currently has all 5-star reviews, and recently (Oct 2017) someone even reviewed it saying “it was one of the best days of my life!”
If that’s not exactly what you’re looking for, you can also try sifting through the many listings at our affiliate site on GetYourGuide.com, which is a trusted website used to book local guides in destinations all around the world. Again, just be sure to choose one that’s not only priced well, but also has consistently great reviews. For example, take a look at this one currently listed at $10/person, which even includes a short camel ride. So you can get that Instagram shot without all the hassle.
Sound & Light Show Price-Cutting Strategy
Every night there is a sound and light show at the Pyramids narrated by the Sphinx himself. It’s dated, dull, monotone and, in our opinion, not worth the 75 LE per person admission. But it can still be a neat experience to see this legendary site all lit up at night. So instead of paying 75 LE per person, go to the fifth floor rooftop of the only restaurant that overlooks the entire site.
Unfortunately, that place is Pizza Hut. (Sigh.) But it can be worth going there to take in a free light show, once you consider the economics of it. A large pepperoni pizza (more than enough for two people) with bottled water and tip will run about 100 LE, while simultaneously providing arguably the best seats for the sound and light show for free. Both the pizza and the light show are ensured to be equally cheesy. So instead of paying 150 LE for two people to watch the light, those two people can watch it for free with the purchase of a few slices.
How To Get to the Sound & Light Show: To get from Le Meridian to the Light Show is a hefty walk. Catch an Uber or consider a taxi. Shoot for 20 LE each way.
In Cairo: The Egyptian Museum
After the Pyramids, the other must-see attraction in Cairo/Giza is the Egyptian Museum. There’s no price cutting strategy here. Pay the 75 LE admission fee and enjoy what is the best collection of Egyptian antiquities in the entire world!
Other Things To Do In Cairo On A Budget
There are many sites and attractions to see in Cairo, but that’s a whole ‘nother post entirely. Here are a small handful of notable and budget-friendly Cairo recommendations you may want to consider to fill the remainder of your day:
- Bargain at the Khan al-Khalili souk (free + souvenir costs),
- Climb up the Bab Zuweila minarets (LE 20),
- Visit the Cairo’s impressive Citadel (LE 60)
- If you have your Le Meridian room key, you’ll have access to the Egyptian Modern Art Museum which provides free admission as part of their #UnlockArt promotion.
Transportation Around Cairo on a Budget
Price Cutting Tips: Airport Transfer
After a long flight to Cairo, you won’t want to deal with public transportation in Egypt. The savings of doing so is somewhat negligible and having a private transfer will do wonders for your sanity. You’ll avoid being bombarded with a hoard of about 100 screaming taxi drivers all aggressively pouncing on you upon exiting the airport.
We arranged transportation using the listing that came up in Google, which had competitive rates of 140 LE (now more), plus tip. It seemed like a great value to get all the way from the Cairo airport to Giza. But we do not recommend this often-used company because upon arrival they changed the price on us. The ol’ switcharoo caused an hour wait to sort out while we refused to pay the inflated price. Also, the driver was a disaster who didn’t know how to get to the Great Pyramids. He had to stop at least 10 times to ask directions. (Really.)
Instead of the main airport transfer company, we now recommend the private airport transfer from GetYourGuide, as the best value we could find among all services offered. Their airport transfer to Cairo or Giza are currently only $12.50 USD per person (singles, couples) or even lower – down to $6 per person – for larger groups. For comparison, other companies charge upwards of $40 USD for an airport transfer to Giza.
Use Uber to Get All Around Cairo
Dealing with the taxis around Cairo can be a maddening experience. Many taxis don’t speak any English at all, so communicating with taxi drivers to inform them of your destination and negotiate prices can be extremely difficult unless you happen to be fluent in Arabic. And as a foreigner, you’re likely to get grossly overcharged no matter how hard you try to bargain. Also, many of the cabbies drive like maniacs. We watched one taxi crash at a high speed right into a pillar in downtown Cairo – crazy!
Uber in Cairo is a saving grace. The rates are fixed. You input your location and destination into the Uber app, which eliminates the need to have to explain to the taxi driver where you’re heading. The driver is tracked, lessening any safety concerns you’d otherwise have in a taxi. Our nearly hour ride from the Pyramids to central Cairo came out to 37 LE ($5), driven by a very friendly local guy who even spoke some decent English. During other Uber rides within Cairo, we just hopped in the car and were seamlessly delivered to our destination, without even uttering a word to the Uber driver other than thanking him upon our safe departure.
We also found Uber to be a nice alternative to using the Cairo metro. Although the metro is extremely inexpensive, we found it to be crowded, hectic, and it often didn’t have direct routes to where we needed to go. For just a wee bit more, Uber provides your own private driver to anywhere you need to go in Cairo!
To see just how cheap Uber is in Cairo, you can check out their fare estimate page. In 2017, the 20 km ride from downtown Cairo to the Giza Pyramids was 44-58 LE, or less than $4 USD!
Eating Around the Great Pyramids on a Budget
Skip the Overpriced Hotel Restaurants, Except the Garden
If staying at our recommended hotel – Le Meridian Pyramids Giza – the restaurants are predictably marked-up and overpriced, except for one. For lunch or dinner, consider eating at the hotel’s Garden Restaurant. The local Egyptian fare on the menu here is not only shockingly well-priced, but is also a very tasty introduction to local cuisine. The koshari, shwarma, falafel, and fatuous salad all come highly recommended by us and are priced at only about 10-20 LE per item.
Know Before You Go: While the food items are very reasonable, drinks (even bottled water) are still a bit overpriced, so take that into consideration when ordering.
Breakfast: Eat a Light In-Room Breakfast
If you take our recommendation to stay at Le Meridian, the buffet breakfast for two is predictably overpriced, 110 LE each, which is a lot to pay in a country that otherwise offers fantastic value. But with coffee and tea provided in the room for free, you can get your morning caffeine fix right there. Bring some breakfast snacks with you and enjoy a nice breakfast-in-bed from your beautiful room. There are also some reasonably priced pastries at the resort’s coffee shop you can snag on your way out to the Great Pyramids.
A 2-3 minute walk from Le Meridian towards the Pyramids will yield a stall slinging shwarma (22 LE) and other local eats. If you walk much further to Mansoureya Road, in the evening you’ll find a pleasant night-market-of-sorts with cafes and tables in the median of the road. Despite being so close to the major tourist attraction of the Great Pyramids, you’ll find a surprisingly local environment here that is refreshingly both void of tourists and hassle.
Eating & Drinking Around Cairo
Downtown Cairo has plenty of local eateries that are both delicious and easy on the budget. You can find countless restaurant recommendation in Cairo online, so we won’t attempt to do it injustice within this travel guide. Just plan 30-50 LE per person for a decent sit-down meal or 10-25 LE for to-go street eats such as a shawarma.
For those pre-train beers we mentioned earlier, try finding the somewhat hidden entrance of El Grillon. At this oasis, just a few blocks from Tahrir square, you’ll receive complimentary “Egyptian peanuts” to snack on alongside friendly service (Stella half-liters, 30 LE in 2015).
Plane vs Train From Cairo to Aswan
There are two main options to get from Cairo to Aswan:
- Take an overnight train from Cairo to Aswan
- Or fly Egypt Air Cairo to Aswan
Both options are nearly the same cost, so go with whichever one that you personally feel more comfortable with. If you have SPG points to cover your hotel to stay an extra night at Le Meridian Pyramids Giza, perhaps consider staying there an extra night and flying out to Aswan the following morning.
Egypt Air has a few daily flights from Cairo to Aswan that are usually $90-$110 per person, although there are sometimes fares as low as $50, so it’s worth taking a look at dates. The flight is a quick jaunt, lasting about an hour and twenty-five minutes. At some points in the year these flights can be awkwardly timed (either really early or late at night), so be sure to check the flight schedule before making a decision. If you can find a good time and a price closer to $50, flying is likely a better option.
Yet if flight prices are high and/or you’re paying for accommodation out-of-pocket instead of points, then it may make more sense for your budget in Egypt to take the train. The train from Cairo to Aswan may price similarly as the flight, but you must consider that it will include a night’s sleep and two meals.
Know Before You Go on the Overnight Train from Cairo to Aswan
Unlike the rest of our accommodation recommendations in this guide, don’t expect the overnight train from Cairo to Aswan to be luxurious. It’s not an awful experience either, but we recommend to come with low expectations. You’ll be sleeping in small bunk beds with clean sheets. If you’re backpacking Egypt, this will be a breeze.
Dinner and breakfast are both included and is very heavy on carbohydrates. There is a lounge car that serves only a few soft drinks, water, and coffee. The lounge car consists of just a couple of tables and was usually filled with men smoking cigarettes during our trip. But there’s not much of any reason to visit the lounge car, as there is currently no beer or alcohol served on the train from Cairo to Aswan. So bringing your own is recommended if you want a little nightcap to help you fall asleep on this bumpy rail journey across Egypt.
Cairo to Aswan Overnight Train Safety
There have been some reports that the train from Cairo to Aswan is not safe, as it travels through some supposedly dangerous areas. Despite these generalized warnings, we could not find any major incidents to support the claims. We felt safe the entire time and our cabin steward was pleasant and helpful. Be sure to have some small change for tipping him at the end, of course.
Cairo to Aswan Overnight Train Experience
If you really enjoy train travel, this may be a journey to take. But if you value a good night’s sleep, you may want to fly instead. The ride gets bumpy at points and oncoming trains blaring their horn will most certainly wake you a few times throughout the night. You’ll likely be woken up in the morning by the prayer calls from nearby mosques before the knock on your door for breakfast. Despite some of these downsides, it all makes for an interesting travel experience. So choose your own adventure!
Booking Cairo to Aswan Overnight Train
At time of writing, it seems that the only site you can use to book your train travel in advance is: wataniasleepingtrains.com. The train ticket price is $110 USD per person for foreigners. Be sure to have a printed ticket with you onboard the train as showing your ticket on your mobile screen likely won’t get you onboard.
Aswan to Luxor 5-Day Sample Itinerary & Costs
Moving on to the Nile portion of this two week Egypt itinerary, we’ll begin here with “Day 4,” because it picks up where the Cairo/Giza itinerary left off. Once you get onboard your Nile cruise, travel will become much easier, as the next several days are completely planned out for you, so you won’t have to worry about a thing. Just get on the ship and enjoy!
Day 4: After eating breakfast on the train, arrive to Aswan where your included transfer will be awaiting to take you to get checked in to your Nile River cruise. Have lunch and settle into your room before an afternoon feluca ride to the Botanical gardens of Kitchener’s Island. Return to the ship for a Nile sunset, dinner, and dancing.
Day 5: After breakfast, visit the Aswan Dam, the unfinished obelisk, and then the Philae temple. Have lunch onboard as you sail away down the Nile. Pull into Kom Ombo in the afternoon to see the famed temple shared by two Gods and the adjacent crocodile museum. Return for dinner and a Galabeya Party as you cruise towards Edfu.
Day 6: After breakfast on the ship, take a horse and carriage ride to tour the Horus Temple in Edfu. As the ship glides towards Esna, have lunch and then go watch the lock crossing from the upper deck. Arrive in Luxor that afternoon where you’ll tour both the Karnak and Luxor temples.
Day 7: After breakfast on board, use the morning to tour the Kings & Queens, the temple of Hatshepsut and the Colossi Memnon. Bid farewell to the guide that’s been with you during the past four days and ask for a lunch recommendation before he leaves. Make a quick pitstop at the Luxor bus station to purchase bus tickets from Luxor to Hurghada, to ensure yourself a seat the following day. Then unwind at the pool of your affordable 5-star hotel before dinner on your own in Luxor. Alternatively if you still haven’t gotten your fill of temples, consider taking a jaunt back out to the west to check out Medinat Habu, since that wasn’t already visited.
Day 8: After a relaxing room service breakfast, head out for a visit to the Luxor Museum to admire its impressive collection of antiquities. Find a local lunch spot before returning to your resort to pack up and checkout. Catch a taxi to the Luxor bus station for the 4-5 hour bus from Luxor to Hurghada.
Cruising the Nile River Valley: Aswan to Luxor by Boat
The best way to tour the Nile Valley is by boat! This classic journey runs from Luxor to Aswan and makes the return trip from Aswan to Luxor. The entire experience was our highlight of Egypt and we highly recommend it as part of your two week Egypt itinerary. You can read our full experience and review of the Amarco Nile Cruise here.
It is interesting to note that attempting to see all of these sites as an independent traveler backpacking Egypt would likely end up costing more than the cruise, would be extremely inefficient, and perhaps even impossible to do. These reasonably-priced Nile River cruises are really the way to go and it has been one of our favorite experiences throughout our entire travels.
Pricing and Where to Book Nile Cruise for Cheap
Lock in Your Dates: While planning your budget-friendly Egypt itinerary, we recommend booking your Nile cruise first and planning around that if possible. The ships are scheduled to leave on only certain days, so once you have your Nile cruise agenda, you can then plan your pre- and post-Nile plans after locking in your exact dates.
Don’t Get Price Gouged: Most websites offer Nile River cruises for prices that run well into the thousands of dollars per person! It was a pleasant surprise to find these same exact ships, itineraries, and cabins listed in a few other places for a fraction of the cost. Many prices are further discounted for the Nile cruises offered during summer months, which makes for incredible value.
To find these low Nile cruise prices, we recommend booking through either:
- Memphis Tours
The absolute best prices for a 5-star Nile River cruise that we tracked down were through Viator. Here’s what we found (2018 pricing):
- 4-day / 3-night Nile River Cruise Deal: from $295-$374 USD per person.
- 5-day / 4-night Nile River Cruise Deal: from $375-$486 USD per person.
And while a $300 trip may not seem like a particularly budget-friendly proposition, you must consider that this breaks down to less than $75 per day, which includes all your meals, luxury lodging, transportation down the Nile, all entrance fees, and even a personal guide. We think it all adds up to one of the best travel values out there! It’s not possible to organize an independent itinerary over the same route for less than $75 per day.
Seasonal Price Changes: Understand the the lower prices ($295) for Nile River cruise deals are only available in summer. Prices fluctuate based on the date you’re booking for. Taking this Nile Cruise during winter months yields prices of $374 (3-night) and $486 (4-night). So you’ll be saving about a hundred bucks per person by going in the middle of summer. Although we can tell you from experience of roaming around Egypt in 115 F (46 C) degree temps that it may be worth the slight splurge to go during this much more comfortable time of year. Prices during shoulder season (e.g., May) have both moderate prices and moderate temperatures, so that’s a great consideration.
These Nile Cruises offered on Viator are the best deal you can book online. However, you are limited by your departure dates. The 4-Night Cruise from Luxor to Aswan only departs on Mondays. The 3-Night Cruise from Aswan to Luxor only departs on Fridays. If you can make those dates work, this is the way to go. For additional dates, consider booking through Memphis Tours (below) at slightly higher prices.
Consider Memphis Tours only if Monday or Friday doesn’t work: Memphis Tours was one of the few other agencies that offered fair rates on the Nile cruises, with summer rates on 5-star ships starting at $425 per person for the 3-night trip and winter rates, $485. For the 4-night trip, you’re looking at $565 per person during May to September and $635 during the winter months. So these prices are higher than what was found on Viator, but you’ll have more departure dates to choose from by booking through Memphis Tours.
But you’ll definitely save a few hundred bucks per couple with Viator, if you’re able to work out a Friday or Monday departure. That’s the Nile cruise we took and would highly recommend it.
Group Tour vs Private Tour
Also understand that all the cruise prices we’ve mentioned are based on touring the sites with a group rather than a private guide. If you noticed that the prices listed were higher than we mentioned, go back and ensure that you changed the pricing to reflect Group Tour. (Higher priced Private Tours are selected by default.)
The difference between group and private tours is about a hundred dollars or so per couple. While it’s actually very affordable to have your own private guide, we recommend choosing the group tour, as it will save you some money that you can spend elsewhere on your Egypt trip. Being part of a group tour will also provide for the chance of meeting & mingling with other passengers who speak your same language. We never saw more than four people to a group anyhow, so you’ll still likely to have a small and intimate tour. We were fortunate to get paired up with some lovely Aussie ladies.
Nile River Cruise Price Inclusions and Exclusions
Prices typically include all of your transfers, taxis, entrance fees to sites & museums, guide service for all days, accommodation and all meals. The only expenses not covered are drinks and tipping on the Nile cruise.
Nile Cruise Price-Cutting Tips
With beverages and tipping being your only added expenses during this portion of your trip to Egypt, there are definitely ways to minimize each.
For water, stock up on plenty of bottled water while on land. You should always be able to find large bottles for 5 LE. Bring this water back onboard with you too, as the savings will add up compared to the 15 LE charged on the ship.
Bring Your Own Booze: For booze, bring it with you. Some ships don’t allow outside beverages to be brought on board, so perhaps enquire in advance and plan accordingly. Our Nile voyage on the M/S Amarco thankfully did permit bringing drinks on board. Your room is equipped with an empty refrigerator to cool down whatever beer, wine, or liquor you may bring. But be warned: it can be difficult to find stores selling alcohol in Egypt, so bring some booze with you from home or stop by the duty-free store when disembarking your flight. Beers onboard our Nile cruise ran 45 LE ($5.75 in 2015) during our trip, so this strategy will save you loads if planning to kick back a few while drifting down the Nile.
Tips on Nile Cruise Tipping: Tipping is a way of life in Egypt and it’s a must on these cruises. For gratuities, recommended tipping on Nile River cruises is 50 LE per couple per day for the guide. It’s also also recommended to tip the service on the boat another 50 LE per couple per night. If you were very pleased with the service, consider being extra kind with the gratuities you leave behind and adjust upward.
You will also run into situations during your daytime excursions on land in which you should tip. Taxi transfers, boat trips, horse carriage rides, or even a quick stop in the bathroom will all require a nominal tip. A 10 LE tip per couple seemed about right for each of most instances. Consider tipping more if a driver was with you all day and kept the A/C cold. Be sure you are prepared with lots of small 10 LE notes. If you only have a 50 or a 100, good luck on getting change.
3-night vs 4-night Nile Cruise
The 3-night Nile cruise runs from Aswan to Luxor, while a 4-night voyage runs from Luxor to Aswan
Reasons to consider 3-night Aswan-to-Luxor cruise:
- The 3-night trip will cost less in total and still manages to squeeze in all of the same sites, which provides for better value.
- It saves what is arguably the best for last, touring the highlights of Luxor as your final excursions.
- The 3-night Aswan to Luxor trip also provides for more convenient connections if following our recommendations onward to Hurghada.
- You will be able to (attempt to) sleep in longer on the train to Aswan instead of an early wake-up call to get off in Luxor.
- Perhaps more importantly, at the conclusion of the cruise you won’t have to backtrack to Luxor at an awkward time. The train from Aswan to Luxor leaves either very early in the morning or late in the afternoon.
Reasons to consider 4-night Luxor-to-Aswan cruise:
- You’ll have an extra night to enjoy on the cruise.
- You will travel at a slightly less-rushed pace and will have a bit more daytime cruising on the Nile.
- If you’re doing the reverse version of our suggested Egypt 2-week itinerary, Luxor to Aswan may fit better logistically into your Egypt itinerary.
We would recommend the 4-night Nile Cruise if it weren’t for the awkward onward connection times once in Aswan. So if you can make that work out, do the 4-night cruise. For smoother connections following the rest of this itinerary, the 3-night cruise.
A Day in Luxor
Your inclusive tours during the Nile cruise will have already taken you to Luxor’s star attractions along the West Bank (Valley of the Kings and Temple of Hatshepsut) and the East Bank (Karnak & Luxor Temples).
That said, you could easily disembark from the Nile river cruise and head out to Hurghada later that same afternoon. Yet we’d instead recommend considering an extra night in Luxor. This will allow time to explore other attractions around the city that were not included on the cruise excursions. It will also give you a moment to relax before immediately rushing off the cruise to catch a bus. But if your time is short, it could make sense for your Egypt itinerary to make an early exit from Luxor that same afternoon you get off the ship.
The Luxor Museum (100 LE) is a great option to either fill that afternoon or the following morning. Also, after a full week of heavy touring around the country, take some time off to just relax. If taking our recommendation and staying at the Achti Resort, their Nile-front pool will certainly aid in this.
Where to Stay in Luxor: A 5-Star Resort for < $50!
We recommend staying at the Achti Resort. This 5-star property features an amazing pool right on the Nile! The Achti was formerly a Sheraton property and hence you could redeem SPG points. Although this Nile resort has since changed ownership, incredibly low prices have remained. You can currently find rates as low as $47 per night (2018). Where else in the world can you stay at a 5-star resort for what amounts to $23.50 per person? This is another fantastic value to experience luxury for less.
Free Nile View Upgrade: One benefit of coming to Egypt in the middle of the summer while this property is empty is that you’ll likely get a free upgrade to a Nile view room. (We did.) Check out this view above!
Late Check-out: The Achti Resort also allowed a super-late check-out at 3:00 pm at no extra charge which will be very convenient if following the remainder of our suggested itinerary, given that the only bus to Hurghada leaves in the late afternoon.
Eating Around the Achti Resort: Unfortunately there’s not much in the way of restaurants near the Achti itself unless you want to subject yourself to KFC 🤢. If you want to stay on property, most restaurants at the Achti are on the pricey side. But if you do want to take a break from Egyptian fare, there is an Italian restaurant with very reasonably priced meals and perhaps the best service we had during our entire stay in Egypt.
And if you’re feeling particularly lazy after a full week of touring Egypt, we found some very well-priced breakfast items on the room service menu, which was even lower than the reasonable breakfast buffet (125 LE, 2018 pricing).
Luxor to Hurghada Bus
As of 2018, there are now two buses from Luxor to Hurghada running each day. The Luxor to Hurghada bus timetable is 8:00 am and 3:30 pm. The Luxor to Hurghada bus is operated by Go Bus. You can check the English version of the Go Bus website for up-to-date Luxor to Hurghada schedules. We personally took this bus and it was smooth sailing, comfortable, and with cold air conditioning.
The Luxor “bus station” is next to the train station. It’s not really a bus station though and rather a small parking lot in front of a small white office building where you can purchase your Go Bus tickets. But you can now also purchase Go Bus tickets online on their website. Ticket prices from Luxor to Hurghada run a modest 90 LE.
Week 2: Hurghada Red Sea Resorts – Luxury for Less
By now you will have spent a full week touring some of Egypt’s most famous sites, mostly in style. And while it’s hopefully been an awe-inspiring trip-of-a-lifetime, you’re likely going to be tired. The heat, the touts, and the madness of Cairo may be starting to wear you down a bit. This is now the perfect time to end your Egypt vacation with a relaxing all-inclusive stay at a Red Sea resort in Hurghada. The bargains here are amazing. And during the summer months, there are some particularly incredible rates to take advantage of.
All inclusive resorts ae typically shunned by anyone backpacking Egypt. We’ve actually never stayed at an all inclusive resort during our entire four-year trip around the world, other than here. But in Egypt, it just felt right to continue sprucing up our trip with a little luxury, and it was so worth it given the incredibly low prices. You can have an all-inclusive experience here for less than the cost of a hostel bed in most places in Europe!
Hurghada Red Sea One Week Itinerary
This sample itinerary begins with “Day 8” and picks back up right from where the prior itinerary left off, from the entire two week Egypt itinerary.
- Day 8 (cont.): Arrive from Luxor to Hurghada by bus and transfer by taxi to check into resort. Have dinner, followed by drinks at the bar.
- Day 9: Enjoy breakfast at the onsite restaurant. Take a dip in the pool and join the scheduled bocce ball tournament. Have lunch on the beach and take an afternoon snorkel. Sit back in one of the beach cabanas and order a beer (or seventeen beers, up to you). Freshen up before enjoying dinner al fresco. Then go play a game of pool in the billiards room before the nightly show in the theatre. Wind down the night at the onsite club or relax with a cocktail in one of the lounges.
- Day 10: Repeat
- Day 11: Repeat
- Day 12: Repeat
- Day 13: Repeat
- Day 14: Repeat
- Day 15: After breakfast, check out and taxi to the airport.
Other Things to Do in Hurghada
There’s really a lot to keep you busy on the resort property itself. But if you’re like me and have a hard time sitting still, not to worry as there are other things to do in and around Hurghada. So after you’ve rested and relaxed for a day or two, consider some additional excursions offered in the area. Here’s just a few recommendations to get you started:
Scuba Diving and Snorkeling in the Red Sea: Scuba diving in the Red Sea is rather incredible, but you’ll need to budget an extra $66 for a 2-dive trip all day trip (including equipment). We dove with Aquarius and have no complaints.
Swim with Wild Dolphins: You may also want to consider the all day excursion that takes you to the Dolphin House which is not a “house” and is rather an area where pods of these sea mammals swim freely. (~35 Euro)
Quad Bike Desert Safaris: are another popular adventure that you can embark upon. (~35 Euro)
Note: These suggestions of things to do in Hurghada were not included in the total budget, so be sure to factor that in yourself.
Know Before You Go:
There are dozens of all-inclusive resorts to choose from. All-inclusive is the way to go. Prices not only include your meals, but also domestic beer, wine, and spirits. Your nightly rate also incorporates loads of daily activities and nightly entertainment. You really get quite the bang for your buck.
How to Book a Budget-Friendly Hurghada Resort Deal
Stay 1-week: The key to scoring these deals is to stay for at least one full week. When searching, be sure you look for exactly a seven-night stay. When staying in increments of less than a week, nightly rates will be significantly higher. Seven is the lucky number.
Incredible value: We found prices as low as $386 (including taxes and fees) for a weeklong stay at a four-star property. That’s only $28 per person, per night for an all-inclusive! You could easily spend $28 on a few beers in Hurghada. So to get those beers and three meals per day and snorkeling and an awesome pool and luxury accommodation, all for the same price – this is incredible value.
Where to book: We started off searching on hotelscombined, but ultimately found all of these Hurghada Resort deals on Booking.com, which has better search functionality such as the ability to filter on “all-inclusive.” There is a seemingly endless number of resorts to choose from, so we narrowed our selection down to 14 contenders. Our selection was based upon price, recent reviews, wifi availability, photos, and whether it was adult only. To save you the trouble of doing a similar exercise, you can see our findings below, sorted by price of a one-week stay, including taxes and fees (it’s 2015 pricing, but most of it still holds up today).
|Hotel||Price||pp pn||Stars||TA Score||Sq m||Adults-only||Wifi|
|Makadi Garden Azur||$386||$28||****||3.5||25||Yes||Free in lobby|
|Bel Air Azur Resort|
|****||4||42||Yes||Free in lobby, $7/day in room|
|Sunny Days El Palacio||$541||$39||****||3.5||28||No||Paid wifi (cost unknown)|
|Palm Beach Resort||$550||$39||****||4||24||No||Free in lobby|
|Sea World Resort||$560||$40||****||4||32||No||Free|
|Aqua Vista Resort||$560||$40||****||4||40||No||Free|
|Iberotel Makadi Beach||$675||$48||*****||4.5||25||No||Paid for use in lobby|
|Club Azur||$685||$49||****||4||24||No||Free in lobby|
|Hilton Long Beach||$686||$49||****||4||43||No||Free in lobby, $8/day in room|
|Sol Y Mar||$730||$52||****||4.5||31||No||Unknown|
|Sunrise Holidays||$735||$53||*****||4.5||31||Yes||$12/day in room|
Prices and review scores will change from this snapshot in time, so be sure to vet them out on your own before booking, of course. The table reflects 2015 prices, although many still hold up to be about the same today. Some are even less now!
Best Value in Hurghada: Bel Air Azur Resort Review
We recommend the Bel Air Azur Resort because it offers what we have found to be the best value in Hurghada. As of 2018, you can stay at this 4-star, beachfront all-inclusive resort for what amounts to $30 per person, per day, including all your food and even alcoholic beverages! Week long stays at this paradise are currently being offered at $420.
The property itself truly is gorgeous. There are two fantastic pools and the beach cabanas that jut out on a peninsula into the Red Sea make you feel spoiled. Just call over a cabana boy and you’ll have a few adult beverages delivered to you at your every beckon call. It’s one of those rare occasions in which the property turns out to be even better than in the pictures online.
Jumping into the Red Sea, directly in front of the hotel reveals a very healthy reef ecosystem that we were pleasantly surprised to find. If you enjoy snorkeling, this house reef will provide for hours of enjoyment during your weeklong stay.
Sounds great – so what didn’t we like? In an effort to provide a balanced review, the room, while large, was not up to 4-star standards that we had experienced throughout the rest of Egypt. However we’ve heard this is a common sentiment among all Red Sea resorts. Simple additions such as shampoo & conditioner along with some more plush bedding, would go a long way here. Yet given our typical accommodation standards elsewhere in the world, this resort still felt quite luxurious in comparison.
The meals were good overall and we enjoyed the themed dinners each night of the week. It was interesting to see an Egyptian take on Mexican food, but it was the local fare that shined the brightest. Lunch and dinner are all served outside which was pleasant for dinner, but would have been nice to have an indoor alternative for lunch. It gets hot in Egypt!
Another thing to note about this resort is that most guests are largely from Eastern Europe and Germany. That sometimes made mingling difficult as English speakers, as there can be a language barrier to overcome. Yet many also spoke English. This also means the resort is catering to that crowd, so you may notice minor inconveniences you’re not accustomed to. For example, drinks were always served without ice, by default. So just be sure to specify that you want ice in your cocktails.
But despite these somewhat minor misgivings, if you’re looking for an excellent-value resort to relax and unwind on the Red Sea coast, this most certainly will get the job done. We’ve never come across anywhere else in the world where you can enjoy a 4-star, all-inclusive resort for $30, per person. The value is mind-blowing.
Minimizing Additional Expenses While at an Red Sea All-Inclusive:
With food, drink, accommodation and activities covered for the week, the only other expenses you may encounter are as followed:
- Tipping at all-inclusive resorts in Hurghada is still the norm, so have small bills and be kind to exceptional staff members. Consider tipping the bellboy, housekeeper, servers, and bartenders. Tipping is by no means mandatory but it’s a nice gesture and the cultural norm in Egypt. For the servers and bartenders in particular find the good ones and be kind to them. It’ll pay itself off with excellent service.
- Laundry at the resort was costly but there are many local laundry facilities in Hurghada, a few right across the street from the resort, charging a very modest 1.5 LE per piece.
- In-room wifi was an additional 45 LE per day, but week long packages could be purchased for 200 LE.
- Optional excursions varied in price and you can usually find better values outside of the resort walls than at the resort.
Luxury Egypt on a Budget
So that is how we experienced a little luxury while in Egypt on a budget! If you add up all of those prices and expenses, you wind up having only spent about $820 per person on a two week luxury trip to Egypt! Not too bad! We hope you agree that while backpacking Egypt, it can fun to include a little luxury.
If you are following this itinerary, we’d recommend to budget for at $1,000 to be on the safe side. There may be additional expenses that fit for your travels that we didn’t account for. For example, we rarely ever buy souvenirs, so we didn’t account for them in this daily budget.
We hope you found our Egypt budget & guide helpful and that you are well prepared to go on an epic journey of your own. Egypt is a fascinating place and now is a most interesting time to go.
Enjoy it! And feel free to drop us a comment with any questions.
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