Review: 10 Day Egypt Explorer Tour with Expat Explore

| January 9, 2012 | 50 Comments

We have been wanting to visit Egypt for a while now so when the opportunity to get away over the Christmas and New Year period arose we knew we needed to head there for a break. We joined Expat Explore on their 10 Day Explorer Tour through Egypt taking in the sights of Cairo, Aswan, Luxor and Hurghada.

Expat Explore Group Photo

The reason we chose Expat Explore was that they were the cheapest in price with all the same sights and in the end we were happy with our choice.

Pre-departure they emailed us our itinerary with the optional excursions and additional costs for entry fees included so that we could budget properly. As well as following up with our pre-trip questions regarding flights, insurance and health and safety advice.

From the start they were very professional. Landing in Cairo we were personally greeted the day before our tour and transported to our City centre hotel. That drive was an eye-opener to Egypt with crazy lane changes, honking, swerving, flashing lights with animals, people and vehicles everywhere.

El Tonsy Hotel is your base for your arrival and last night. Luckily we didn’t expect much as our door didn’t lock which was a bit dodgy and the rooms were freezing cold with a broken heater and only one blanket. You wouldn’t think you would need heat in Egypt but it was the middle of winter and it was chilly at night. No complaints with the location though as we could see the Pyramids in the distance and were only 5 minutes walk from the Nile and 15 minutes to Tahir Square (perfectly safe by the way). Plus they have a little bar/restaurant with cheap food and free Wi-Fi. Just buy your snacks and water from the supermarket across the road and you will get on fine.

El Tonsy Hotel View of Pyramids

It’s quite hard to break down a whole trip into one post but here goes:

Day One

Your tour starts with the best in my opinion by touring some sights of Cairo. The steeply angled Step Pyramid, mind-blowing Pyramids of Giza and the smaller than expected Sphinx. This day was definitely the highlight.

That night is spent aboard the train for 10-12 hours to Aswan. I highly recommend the Sleeper train for an extra £50 per person. Others that caught the standard train froze their butts off while we had a toasty sleep with a served dinner and breakfast. Unfortunately Expat Explore never told us about the provided food so we ate before we got on-board but what we could fit in was delicious.

Day Two

The tour splits in Aswan as one group embarks on a River Cruise aboard a 5 star ship while the others spend time in hotels and on a Felucca. No surprise that we went with the cheaper option aboard the Felucca so the next few days are from that point of view.

The afternoon is yours at Sara Hotel on the banks above the Nile. We lapped up the beautiful rays of the sun and managed to turn our pasty white bodies a more fitting slightly white shade. The Hotel was great until the toilet next-door erupted sending a river of smelly waste across our bedroom floor (throw your toilet paper in the bin not the loo)! Luckily we woke in time to rescue our bags from the watery mess! Not the fault of Expat Explore and we didn’t blame the Hotel either as shit happens.

Day Three

Your day begins by visiting the monstrous High Dam for 10 minutes (fairly boring) and a drive past the Unfinished Obelisk. While the highlight is definitely the Philae Temple. When the sunsets across the Nile reflecting off the stonework it really is quite magical.

Philae Temple Sunset

The evening ended with an optional dinner in a traditional Nubian families house. The food was scrumptious and you better bring your singing and dancing shoes.

Day Four

The following day and night is spent relaxing aboard the Felucca for a sail up the Nile for several hours. Sleeping no more than 8 people you will be snug if you bring your own sleeping bag like us. The rest of our crew were jealous as it did get quite chilly in the evening however blankets were provided.

With delicious pita bread and falafel cooked on the boat you will not be disappointed with the food either.

The day ends with a bonfire on the Nile shoreline as you sing and dance with the crazy fun Nubian crews. This was definitely one of the highlights of the entire trip for us.

Travel Tip: Don’t be put off by doing your “business” amongst the reeds of the Nile. Just enjoy the view and remember to bring your own toilet paper (which you need everywhere in Egypt anyway).

Felucca on the Nile

By all accounts, from the other tour members, the River Cruise is just as great with 3 nights on-board in comfortable accommodation, a pool and  buffets morning, noon and night.

Day Five

Waking to a sunrise breaking the morning chill is a glorious way to start a new day. Unfortunately there is little time for relaxation before you are off the Felucca and on a bus to Kom Ombu and Edfu Temples. I must say, all of the transportation was more than adequate with toilets on the buses and room enough for everyone. It’s lucky because you do spend the majority of the time being driven around.

The Lotus Hotel in Luxor was probably the pick of them all. Situated on the Nile bank with a swimming pool and tasty buffet breakfast.

Day Six

One more day, one more busy schedule. Rushing to beat the crowds at the Valley of the Kings it’s another 8am start. You are only allowed to visit three tombs and we recommend the guides picks which were Ramses II, IV and IX.

Travel Tip: You are NOT allowed to take your camera with you off the bus. Please don’t ruin it for everyone by taking photos as you will be charged by security when caught.

We also squeezed in the crowded rock carved Hatshepsut Temple but only drove past Luxor Temple as we ran out of time as you need to drive 6 hours to reach Hurghada that night.

Day Seven and Eight

The next two days at the Red Sea are yours to do whatever you like so use them wisely. We joined most of our group for a spot of snorkelling and diving. The dive and the staff were great but the whole day seemed a little rushed which was a shame. Keep an eye out for our post on our diving experience in Hurghada.

Diving in Hurghada on the Red Sea

So nice being able to relax on a beach and read a book after such a hectic schedule. It’s hard to leave and the 6 – 8 hour bus ride back to Cairo is tough.

Travel Tip: If you plan to do the tour over New Years Eve then you will have to depart Hurghada half a day early which sucked as it meant celebrating the New Year at the Hotel in Cairo. Bit of a let down but when hasn’t New Years Eve been!

Day Nine

Your final day of sightseeing is spent around Cairo. Our favourite part of the day was definitely the Cairo Museum with an excellent tour guide. It fits perfectly at the end by seeing all the history close-up after having learned about it over the last 8 days.

By the time we hit the old area of Cairo and the Coptic Hanging Church we were spent on history but our guide made a good effort at keeping us entertained.

The last group activity is free time for an hour or so at the Khan El Khalili souk markets where the touts try to prise your cash from you for the last time from every nook and cranny.

Day Ten

With the tour over it’s time to head home. Our flight was late the following night so we walked around the city and Souks on our own for the day. Expat Explore provides transport back to the airport which was great.

The Negatives

The trip was awesome but we think it’s important to note the little things that could make a huge difference to the overall experience:

  • It felt like we were always hungry. Maybe it is just Kiwi’s and Aussies that eat all the time but it seriously felt like we were constantly starving with lunches being served usually after 4pm and dinner at 9pm onwards. It might be the Egyptian way to eat at those times but not for us. Travel Tip: Buy lots of snacks for the road which are very cheap at supermarkets.
  • There was sometimes a lack of direction in what seemed to be happening. Everything is done on Egyptian time so be patient.
  • We were often delayed or behind schedule with little to no guidance as to how long it would take to get from place to place. A little knowledge goes a long was as then we can plan ahead.
  • More free time would be great to explore places on your own rather than have our hands held everywhere.

The Positives:

As we said above, the trip was amazing and the little positive things far outweighed the negatives which helped make it a memorable trip.

  • Pre-departure information and care was extremely good.
  • The tour was exceptional value for money and it was the cheapest tour we could find even though we still saw all the same sights the other groups did.
  • The guides were extremely knowledgeable and never failed to answer any questions we had. The insights into the daily lives of the people around us was a nice break from all the history. They also ensured you never felt unsafe or uncomfortable.
  • The Felucca trip was better than expected and overall so was the accommodation and transport options.

All in all we highly recommend you book with Expat Explore if you are considering a trip through Egypt.

Make sure you subscribe now and come back soon so you can enjoy reading our new posts which will cover everything else in more detail.

Disclaimer: Expat Explore provided us with a discount for our 10 day tour of Egypt however as always our thoughts are always our own.

About the Author ()

Cole is one half of New Zealand's leading adventure travel blogging couple who have been wearing out their jandals around the world since 2009. He loves any adventure activities and anything to do with the water whether it is Surfing, Diving, Swimming, Snorkeling or just lounging nearby on the beach. You can follow Cole on Google+. Or consider following us via RSS Feed, Twitter, Facebook and subscribe to our Newsletter.

Comments (50)

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  1. tunimaal says:

    You seems to have had a lot of fun in Egypt. I always wanted to go there and I will definitly to do some scuba diving as the place is one of the best spot in the world

  2. Ed Rex says:

    Nice pun there with the ‘shit happens’

  3. Paul says:

    That was really informative and interesting guys, cheers!

  4. I would LOVE to boat on the Nile. How cool!!

  5. Laura says:

    This sounds like a really great way to cover a lot of ground in Egypt. I don’t usually like group tours like this but Eqypt is definitely a place where it’s much smoother to travel with a guide and a group. I’m dying to snorkel in the Red Sea!

    • Cole says:

      We never do group tours (although in saying that we are booked on another one haha) but they definitely have there plus sides like covering a LOT of ground. The Red Sea was amazing. Going back diving in a few months. Will get my video up soon of my dive in Hurghada too.

  6. Laurence says:

    I not usually a fan of guided group tours, but there is clearly a benefit to taking them in some cases. I do prefer to travel to my own pace though, and dislike the feeling of being herded. Looks like you had a great time though :)

  7. Konseng Raj says:

    Ur review was truly a good 1..Cant believe u have been on road for such a long time..
    I hope u have many more to go..
    I am planning of doing my First ever international trip to Egypt with a side trip to Jordan via Isreal(if time permits) this year..
    But i am going solo..Do you think its possible..cos i am still a few months away from being 20..and have no experience travelling abroad.Though,i did quite a large number of Solo trips in my Nation-India..But still i want to try this out..
    Right from the passport and visa thing and all those immigration procedures in the airport gets me confused..
    Dont wana fall in the hands of tour operators also..did a lot of research on these nations,but my Pre departure checklist is still half full..
    Help.. ;p ;p

    • Cole says:

      Thanks for the comment :) It is definitely possible to do it solo. We just organised it with the group because it does make it a LOT easier in places like Egypt. So much to see and do so having a bit of a schedule is okay. If I was travelling anywhere else then we always do solo trips. Feel free to email us if you want any tips or have specific questions! Cheers

  8. cheryl says:

    What a really lovely trip you two had! Really have enjoyed all your posts on Egypt.

  9. This tour sounds like great value! I spent 6 weeks in Egypt, so I know all about “Egyptian time”… :)

  10. I think when I do Egypt, I will prefer to do it with a big tour like this.

  11. AlexBerger says:

    Food while on the go is always an interesting element of an arranged tour. Especially if it’s active, you’re hiking a bunch, and on the go. In my experience it also tends to be one of the most commonly overlooked aspects of a tour. Good food for thought!

  12. Wow, it seems like a a world wind tour of Egypt. Thanks for including the positives and negatives at the end. We’ve learned the hard way to always travel with snacks and powdered drink mix. It’s the little things that can make all the difference. If we’re hungry then we’re cranky and like it or not it affects our experience.

    • Cole says:

      We quickly learned to have food with us but those first few times without were a struggle. Nothing like being grumpy because you are hungry which can quickly ruin a great day!

  13. Emelie says:

    great stuff! I am booked on the tour leaving 2nd June but haven’t received any pre tour info so budgeting is a bit hard now with only two weeks to go. I have emailed Expat but no response. Anything you would recommend doing as an extra?

    thanks for sharing your experiences!

  14. We have been considering taking a tour with them. Do you remember how much you spent on “extras”? Their price seems very good, but I was concerned with how much we would be spending out of pocket once we got there?

    • No sorry Shanna. I think most of the extras such as entry fees and things like that were about $10 – $20 though. Not really breaking the back but they do add up quickly. Most tour operators work the same way so these guys are very good value. Some of the accommodation is on the cheap side so you get what you pay for really :)

  15. Rodney says:

    Hey Cole,

    Your review is excellent and very helpful since my son and I have been looking at the Expat Explore 15 day tour for the same time period at the end of this year. His past tour experiences have been Contiki and mine have been Cosmos to this will be something very different for me!

    • Thanks for dropping by Rodney. If you have any other questions feel free to ask. We have had a couple of friends go since we recommended them, and they all enjoyed it as well. Hope you have a good time if you book :)

  16. Sid says:

    Hi,

    I want to go on Expat Explore’s Ultimate Europe Tour. But am a bit concerned as I have never heard of this Tour Company before. Have you gone on any European tours with them? Please let me know.

    Thanks!

    • Hi Sid,

      Unfortunately we have only done the Egypt tour with them but do recommend them on that trip! They were organised, cheaper than most tours, and we felt incredibly safe the entire time.

      We have travelled a lot with Busabout though who you might want to check out here. They are an awesome company and we highly recommend them around Europe. We have had lots of great trips and also solo female travellers go on their tours! Let us know if you want any more information about them :)

      Cheers
      Cole

  17. Sid says:

    Also,I am a female who will be travelling alone. So I’m doubly concerned :)

  18. Claire says:

    Hey I’m doing this tour in a couple of weeks – any packing tips? Also wondering if jandals are going to be okay or whether I really need some more sturdy footwear!

    • Hey Claire,
      We took our jandals and they were perfect for most things. However, you will need covered shoes at some stages so take a comfortable pair for wandering around ruins etc. It can be quite chilly at night too so take a nice warm jersey that you can wear in the evenings.
      Hope you enjoy it!

  19. Shade says:

    Great story, Cole! I had decided with Expat awhile ago and am now confirmed.

    Questions:
    1. You have some photos at the pyramids and such. How many places are they not allowed?
    2. Did you ever hear of any theft among your co-tourists with broken locks and leaving cameras on buses?
    3. Any recommended foods to bring for stomach-filling?
    4. I tend to eat a banana, oatmeal, whole graint toast, and an apple for breakfast and a snack. Are those readily available? And places to boil water?
    5. And is bottled water available as you travel? If you’re on a bus for six hours are there opportunities to stop and get some bottled water?

    Thanks again for braving Expat and posting your adventure!

    • Hey Shade,

      Thanks for your extra questions! Always happy to help.

      1) The only places we couldn’t take photos were inside the tombs in the Valley of the Kings. The flash destroys the beautiful paintings. So also make sure you tell other tourists off if you see them in there taking photos!
      2) Our co-tourists were all awesome and had no problems at all. The bus is locked and secured every time you hop off. We still always just carried the minimal things anyway and took them with us.
      3) The local food is brilliant so you will be fine. However, I do recommend buying some fruit from the local markets so you can snack on the bus.
      4) All the hotels we stayed in provided a “European breakfast” so tourists are well catered for. Don’t be afraid to try the local foods though as they are the best :)
      5) Lots of bottled water available and they had a fridge on the bus for us to buy during the day. More expensive than buying it in a local shop though, which there are plenty of.

      Enjoy your travel adventures in Egypt!

      • Shade says:

        Wow, that’s all super to know. So pyramids and other tombs and locations are cool, just not Valley of the Kings, fine.

        Are there any sites you wish you had time to see but felt a little constrained by the tour? I think for the first time the Expat tour you took will be just fine though. I’m planning on getting into Cairo two days before their tour starts and staying three days after, just to really get a good feel for Cairo. I’m sure to learn a lot about coming back again another day. I was thinking of doing their longer tour though I’m not a ‘hang out’ guy so much and five days on a beach in Dahab just to check out Jordan seems excessive. Have you guys ever taken a side trip to Jordan? I’ve heard it’s also possible to visit Israel and go down from there. So happy you’re out there! You settled some important points with your post and answers. Cheers!
        Shade recently posted..FILM THREAT on PLAY DEAD!My Profile

        • Your guide will let you know where and when you cannot take photos anyway. They were awesome at providing all that extra information and will definitely help you out.
          To be honest, we are not huge fans of tours as we like to be independent, but this one was great. We never felt too rushed or felt that we stayed too long at any place either. Very relaxed trip and you just have to go with the flow. Egypt is one of those countries that you really need a tour group to be able to do it well in my opinion.
          We were meant to go to Jordan on a side tip but unfortunately it fell through. We still plan to visit one day! And not sure about Israel sorry.
          Hope you enjoy it :D And please come back and tell us how it all went.

      • Shade says:

        Super! Thanks! As far as Expat I’m sure your readers would like to know how to arrange some of the ‘extras’ you mention like hot air balloon ventures and such. Did you participate on any other of their extras? I’m also a little confused as it seems visits to the pyramids are included, though it also seems like there are additional charges. Can you go over these ‘extras’ on Expat’s list and explain how many of them should be factored in to visit some of these monuments and attractions?

        I also read this line and am unsure what ‘local payments’ may refer to. Thanks!
        Shade recently posted..FILM THREAT on PLAY DEAD!My Profile

        • All your entrance fees will be paid each day in cash. The guides will tell you how much is needed and things like that. It does add up but still not as expensive as most countries.
          For hot air ballooning etc, they will again explain or that once you arrive :)
          I can’t remember the prices off the top of my head sorry!

          • Shade says:

            I’m sorry, Cole, it wouldn’t allow the URL to be put in there. I will budget for all the extras I see at Expat’s link. I have my plane ticket and am about to purchase my tour. Before I do I see that they offer additional nights before or after the tour. I am arriving two days before the tour and staying four nights after. I have read a couple reviews on Expat’s site saying they felt both Cairo and Aswan hotels were further from the downtown areas than they expected. Would you suggest if a traveler would like to be in the ‘thick of it’ that they choose a separate hotel for staying in Cairo to be closer to it all? A couple reviews also mention that some of the restaurants on the tour are more expensive than local restaurants though I think that’s out of a traveler’s control. Once again, twice again, thrice again, thank you kindly for sharing all of your information!

          • We stayed at the hotel that they recommend and honestly it wasn’t that nice. But still was good enough. Was also cheap to catch taxis around town which we did very easily. Felt very safe too when we wandered the streets.
            Enjoy your time there! :D So jealous we want to go back.

  20. Shade says:

    Hey Cole, for your readers I added up all the entrance fees and it’s just over $100 so people should just budget an extra Franklin for all the cool temples and the museum. The hot air balloon will set folks back $130 each but I bet it’s an amazing journey! I found a wonderful hotel with great reviews that is right there in front of the Sphinx so I’m arriving two days before the tour begins to catch up on jetlag and see a little of the city. I can’t tell you how thankful I am for all of your work here as it’s helped make my final decisions much easier. I’m doing the same tour you did, and will come back another time for Jordan. The extra five days I have in Cairo will be spent visiting Alexandria and just relaxing and investigating Cairo. All best, my virtual tour guide and internet pal. Cheers!
    Shade recently posted..FILM THREAT on PLAY DEAD!My Profile

    • Sounds like you found a fantastic hotel Shade! I am sure it will be perfect. Just remember that on your first day you will be visiting the Sphinx so no need to go there beforehand :)
      I am sure Alexandria will be amazing too and make sure you stop back here to tell us how it all goes for you :D Enjoy and relax!
      Safe travels,
      Cole and Adela

  21. Shade says:

    Okay, one more question: I don’t see Abu Simbel mentioned as part of any Expat Tours, yet there is a photo of Abu Simbel at the top of the 15-day tour, and they offer a half-day excursion there for $90. I do not see Abu Simbel mentioned at all during your journey. Was this offered to you? It seems odd that something so massive would not be a part of an itinerary. Cheers!
    Shade recently posted..FILM THREAT on PLAY DEAD!My Profile

    • I think the Abu Simbel day trip happens during one of the days in Aswan as an additional extra like the hot air ballooning. It isn’t included in the itinerary because it is basically a full day trip leaving before sunrise so it does mean you might miss out on other activities. Again your guide should explain all that once you arrive and they are really helpful with organising it all! :D

  22. Cherrylene says:

    Wonderful pictures you got there. Egypt is one of the best places to explore! :)

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