When we decided to come to Egypt, we really wanted to have a nice trip. Yet if we wanted to prolong our two-year trip around the world, it would be critical that we experience Egypt on a budget. As we began planning our two week Egypt itinerary in the summer and estimating prices, we slowly began to uncover a somewhat negligible difference 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. The recent devaluation of the Egyptian Pound only further helps to make the country a fantastic value right now.
(USD to Egyptian Pound exchange rate September 2015. Rates are constantly changing, so be sure to check the current rate for an up-to-date reflection.)
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 and a week-long stay at an 4-star all-inclusive beach resort. 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).
Here’s Why You Should Consider Combining Backpacking Egypt with Luxury Egypt
Although relatively inexpensive, Egypt can be a notoriously difficult country to travel in, particularly in the summer. There’s the heat, some of the most persistent touts we’ve ever encountered, and the need to haggle hard over just about everything unlike anywhere in the Middle East we’ve traveled to. It can all become absolutely exhausting!
After traveling to nearly 50 countries and countless far-flung destinations, we concede that Cairo was one of the most maddening cities we’ve been in. Egypt can become 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 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 some 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. But the relaxing doesn’t have to last too long as we intersplicesd our week itinerary at a Red Sea resort with adventure activities like Scuba diving in the Red Sea, among other outdoor pursuits.
After a week that is filled with touring all of those famous Pyramids, temples, and museums, you will be exhausted. Trade in those ancient sites and instead explore some of Egypt’s natural wonders in the underwater world. The Red Sea beaches provide a nice 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 come to Egypt. Not only are the prices low but so are the tourist crowds that once swarmed the county’s notable sites. Today you can visit the Great Pyramids and have them nearly all to yourself to enjoy!
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
- Two Week Sample Itinerary
- Giza and Cairo 2-Day Sample Itinerary and Costs
- Where to Stay in Cairo
- Things to Do in Cairo on a Budget
- Transportation Around Cairo on a Budget
- Eating Around the Great Pyramids on a Budget
- Plane or Train: Cairo to Aswan
Aswan to Luxor
- Aswan to Luxor Sample Itinerary and Costs
- Booking a Nile River Cruise Deal
- A Day in Luxor
Hurghada / Red Sea
- Luxor to Hurghada by Bus
- Hurghada Week Long Sample Itinerary
- Finding a Hurghada Red Sea Resort Deal
Sample Two Week Egypt Itinerary
This sample two week Egypt itinerary is nearly what we followed ourselves. The only difference between our exact trip and our recommendation 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, 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 for an early start tomorrow.
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 now 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 ride the rails overnight to Aswan.
Where to Stay in Cairo
We actually recommend staying in neighboring Giza, near the Great Pyramids. Many people will recommend staying in downtown Cairo yet we firmly advocate to instead 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 to this article, it has tremendous value at $59 per night. Yet we instead recommend staying there for free.
Egypt Travel Hack: Stay for Free: Staying at the 4-star Le Meridian Pyramids Giza for free is easy to do using SPG points even if you don’t currently have a single SPG point. Simply open up a Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express, which has a 30,000 point sign up bonus if you can spend $3,000 on it within the first three months. Since the Le Meridian Pyramids is only 2,000 Starwood points per night, you will be able to stay at this beautiful hotel with Great Pyramid views, for two nights (4,000 points) and still have more than 26,000 points leftover to do whatever you want with. (Perhaps use them at the Sheraton Luxor Resort or even consider converting them to airline miles to use towards a flight to Cairo.)
Pay Your Own Way: If you don’t want to deal with the points and/or don’t have time or don’t qualify for the credit card to earn the points, we still recommend this hotel and you can also book Le Meridian Pyramids Giza online for $59 per night, which is still a great rate for this resort. At the time of research, we found the absolute best rate through hotelscombined.com, which searches all the main booking sites. You can use the following link to go directly to the Le Meridian Pyramid’s page to check prices for your specific dates.
An Even More Budget-Friendly Option: If you’re paying your own way and looking for a more budget-friendly option than $59 per night, then we would suggest the Spinx Guest House Giza. This guest house known for its friendly owner couldn’t be better located to the Sphinx entrance to the Great Pyramid site. You won’t be quite as comfy as in the Le Meridian but this is a good option those seeking a more independent option and wanting to save an additional $30 per night.
Know Before You Go: If using the credit card for SPG points to stay at Le Meridian, know that the credit card is free for the first year but carries a $95 annual fee after that, so be sure to cancel within 12 months in order to avoid this fee (you still keep the points).
Things to Do in Giza/Cairo on a Budget
Of course you absolutely must visit Giza’s Great Pyramids, which has 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 $40 USD.
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 an extra $40 for the chance of being disappointed when a similar experience can be had for much less. We were happy we spent $5.20 per person to go inside Khafre instead.
Know Before You Go Inside the Great Pyramids:
- Be aware that the interiors of either Khafre or Menkaure will be open, but not both.
- The interiors of Khafre or Menkaure are a bit smaller than the Great Pyramid, so take this into consideration.
- Cameras are not allowed inside any of the pyramids, although guards will watch them (or turn a blind eye) for a tip.
- You must buy your ticket at the front gate, not at the actual pyramid.
Cheops Boat Museum: requires a separate ticket (60 LE) and is a worthwhile detour behind Khufu to see what is said to be the world’s oldest boat! This also gives you a break from the heat.
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’s still neat to see the 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. 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 in the house 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.
Know Before You Go: It is, well, Pizza Hut. We always advocate to eat local food while traveling, so it hurts us to actually recommend eating at Pizza Hut (I cringe just typing this). Yet it’s a solid way to save a few bucks on the light show while eating a semi-reasonably priced meal. We stand by this recommendation as a way to see this attraction and not for the food, of course. Also know that the lightshow often gets canceled when attendance is low so you could get stuck eating Pizza Hut with a dark view of the Pyramids.
Also, it’s a hefty walk, so consider a taxi. Shoot for 10 LE each way but pay absolutely no more than 20 LE.
In Cairo: The Egyptian Museum
Other than the Pyramids, the other must-see attraction in Cairo is the Egyptian Museum (75 LE). No price cutting strategy here. Just pay the admission fee and enjoy what is the best collection of Egyptian antiquities in the world!
Know Before You Go:
- The museum has little signage, so it may be worthwhile to splurge on a guide (~60 LE per hour).
- Also know that the optional mummy room is an additional cost of 100 LE per person.
Other Things to Do in Cairo on a Budget
There’s lots of sites and attractions to see in Cairo, but that’s a whole ‘nother post entirely. Here are just 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 for free as part of their #UnlockArt promotion.
Transportation Around Cairo on a Budget
Price Cutting Tips: Airport Transfer
After a long flight, you won’t want to deal with public transportation in Egypt. The savings is somewhat negligible and having a private transfer will do wonders for your sanity, as it will avoid being bombarded with a hoard of about 100 screaming taxi drivers all aggressively pouncing on you upon exiting the airport.
If you’re traveling solo, your best bet may be booking through Viator at $16. But since this rate is per person (meaning its $32 per couple), you can find better value elsewhere, for those who are traveling to Egypt with a companion or as a group.
We had arranged transportation using the most common airport transport company at 140 LE ($18 plus tip), but do not recommend them because they attempted to change the price on us upon arrival, which took over a half hour to sort out. And the driver was a disaster who didn’t know how to get to the Great Pyramids and had to stop at least 10 times to ask directions. (really.)
Egyptian Sidekick: So instead, we recommend perhaps trying Egyptian Sidekick, where $19 (and tipping is actually discouraged) will get you from the airport to your hotel at a reasonable rate. Other companies charge upwards of $30 in which you’ll need to tip on top of that. Keep in mind you likely won’t have yet acquired small change, fresh off your flight, so such an awkward situation is avoided with Egyptian Sidekick.
Egyptian Sidekick also offers a variety of other affordable local transport and guide services and they just seem like a great operation. Traveling around Cairo can be unnerving for even the most seasoned of travelers. Having a sidekick with you can make that experience all the more pleasant, without any hassle. So consider giving them a try and let us know how it worked out.
Use Uber to Get All Around Cairo
Dealing with the taxis around Cairo can be a maddening experience. Many don’t speak a lick of English so communicating with drivers on where you want to go and negotiating prices can be extremely difficult if you don’t know Arabic. And as a tourist, you’re likely to get grossly overcharged no matter how hard you try to bargain. Also, many of the taxi drivers drive like maniacs. We watched one taxi crash at a high speed right into a pillar.
Uber was our saving grace in Cairo. The rates are fixed. You input your location an destination into the Uber app, eliminating 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 English-speaking guy. During other Uber rides within Cairo, we just hopped in and were seamlessly delivered to our destination, barely uttering any words to the Uber drivers.
We also found Uber to be a nice alternative to using the Cairo metro. Although the metro is extremely cheap, 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 provided our own private driver to anywhere we needed to go in Cairo!
Know Before You Go: The same Uber app that you use at home, works here, so just be sure it’s downloaded. Also ensure your phone’s data plan includes coverage in Egypt (we always use and recommend T-mobile), otherwise you may end up with exorbitant roaming charges.
Walk To and From the Great Pyramids
Walking the 10-15 minutes from Le Meriden Pyramids to the Great Pyramids will only save you a few bucks each way compared to a taxi. But you also may be saving yourself aggravation, which can be priceless. You will likely need to haggle hard with the taxi drivers in order to get anything even near a fair price (10 LE). Even then, they’ve been known to let aggressive camel ride salesmen into the car, detour to other places, and other deceptive tactics. For us, its better to walk and also provides the opportunity to pass by the Mobil On-the-Run convenience store where you can pick up some reasonably priced bottled water and other supplies at fixed prices.
Know Before You Go: Walking does come at the expense of dealing with the blazing hot sun and you may still be hassled along the walk too.
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. Note: Some of the camel handlers are notable scam artists, 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. The horse drawn carriages seemed to be a good option if the drivers are honest. The carriages provide not only transportation between some of the ground’s further reaches but also gives some much-needed shade. We received multiple offers to take on quick jaunts for 10-20 LE, which may be the way to go in the intense heat.
Eating Around the Great Pyramids on a Budget
Skip the Overpriced Hotel Restaurants, Except the Garden
If staying at Le Meridian Pyramids Giza, the restaurants are completely 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 ($1-$3) 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.
Breakfast: Eat a Light In-Room Breakfast
The buffet breakfast for two at the Le Meridian is predictably overpriced, 110 LE each. That’s $28 plus tip for two people, which is insane 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. Our go-to is granola bars, but pack whatever you may fancy. Alternatively there are 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 that is both void of both 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 I won’t attempt to do it injustice within this guide. But I can tell you what to budget for restaurants in Cairo. 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).
Plane or 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 at a cost of $122 per person. It’s 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.
Yet if you’re paying for accommodation out-of-pocket instead of points, it makes more sense to your budget in Egypt to take the train since it includes a night’s sleep, two meals, and is slightly less expensive.
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 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 starches. There is a lounge car that serves only a few soft drinks, water, and coffee. The lounge car consists of just a few tables and was usually filled with men smoking cigarettes. But there’s not much of reason to visit it anyways, 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 journey.
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, but we could not find any major incidents to support these claims. We felt safe the entire time and our cabin steward was pleasant and helpful (be sure to have some small change for tipping, 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
There are a few different sites you can use to book your train travel in advance and they all charge slightly different fees. We found e7gezly.com to be the lowest. The total price for two people after all fees came to $211 and was an effortless booking process. Be sure to have a printed ticket with you onboard the train.
Aswan to Luxor 5-Day Sample Itinerary & Costs
This sample itinerary begins with “Day 4,” because it picks up where the previous itinerary left off, as part of the entire two week Egypt itinerary. 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 awaiting 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, 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 sail towards Edfu.
Day 6: After breakfast on the ship, take a horse and carriage ride to tour the Horus Temple in Edfu. As you sail to 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 tickets from Luxor to Hurghada, to ensure yourself a seat the following day. Then unwind at the Sheraton Luxor’s pool 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 bank for a visit of Medinat Habu.
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 the Sheraton to pack up and checkout. 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, would be extremely inefficient, and perhaps even impossible to do. These reasonably-priced 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: Many websites offer Nile River cruises for prices that run well into the thousands of dollars per person. So it was interesting 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 prices for the Nile cruises offered during summer months, which makes for incredible value.
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:
- 3-night Nile River Cruise Deal: from: $240 per person ($480 total).
- 4-night Nile River Cruise Deal: from $307 per person ($614 total).
Seasonal Price Changes: Understand these super low prices 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 $317 (3-night) and $414 (4-night). So you’ll be saving about a hundred bucks by going in the middle of summer. Although we can tell you from experience of roaming around Egypt in 115 (f) 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 may be a consideration as well.
These Nile Cruises offered on Viator are, without question, 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: 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 $325 per person for the 3-night trip and winter rates, $435. For the 4-night trip, you’re looking at $425 per person during May to September and $550 during the winter months. While prices are higher than what was found on Viator, you’ll have more ships and departure dates to choose from by booking through Memphis Tours.
So you’ll definitely save a few hundred bucks per couple with Viator, if you’re able to work out a Friday or Monday. Of course, 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. The difference 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 you can spend it elsewhere in Egypt. Being part of a group tour will also provide for the chance of meeting & mingling with other passengers who speak your same native 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 were 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), so this will save you loads if planning to kick back a few while drifting down the Nile.
Tips on Nile Cruise Tipping: 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 Luxor to Aswan, while a 4-night voyage runs from Aswan to Luxor.
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 sights, 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.
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 tours and give you a moment to relax before immediately hopping on a bus. But if your time is short, it may also make sense to make an early exit from Luxor that afternoon.
The Luxor Museum (100 LE) is a great option to either fill that afternoon or the following morning. Also, after a full week of pretty heavy touring around a country, take some time off to just relax. If taking our recommendation and staying at the Sheraton, their Nile-front pool will certainly aid in this.
Where to Stay in Luxor
We recommend staying at the Sheraton Luxor Resort. This lush resort with beautiful pool right on the Nile, is another wonderful property you can stay at for free by redeeming only 2,000 SPG points per night. Otherwise, search for the lowest rate at the Sheraton Luxor Resort on Hotelscombined.com, which is a great value for this Nile-front property.
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 pic) for only $49 per night!
Late Check-out: The Sheraton Luxor 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 Sheraton Luxor Resort: Unfortunately there’s not much in the way of restaurants near the Sheraton itself unless you want to subject yourself to KFC. If you want to stay on property, most restaurants at the Sheraton are on the pricey side. But there is an Italian restaurant with very reasonably decently 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, there are some very reasonably priced breakfast items on the room service menu. Skip the 110 LE ($14) breakfast buffet and instead enjoy a 45 LE ($5.75) omelet with potatoes and breakfast rolls delivered right to your room. Well worth it!
Luxor to Hurghada Bus
At our time of visit, there was only one Luxor to Hurghada bus running each day. The Luxor to Hurghada bus currently departs at 4:00 pm daily and is operated by Go Bus. You can check the English version of the Go Bus website online for up-to-date Luxor to Hurghada bus timetable. The Luxor “bus station” is next to the train station. Its 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.
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 its 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. During the summer months, there are some incredible rates to take advantage of.
All inclusive resorts are typically shunned by anyone backpacking Egypt. We’ve actually never stayed at an all inclusive resort during our entire two-year trip around the world. 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