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.
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.
It’s quite hard to break down a whole trip into one post but here goes:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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 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.
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.
Popular vs. Underrated Destinations:How To Avoid The Crowd?
The biggest dilemma you have to face as an enthusiastic holidaymaker is whether to embrace popular destinations or to find lesser known regions for your vacations. Popular destinations have the advantage that they are experienced with tourists. You can be sure that you will find someone speaking your language and that hotel receptions will be open 24/7. But they are likely to be crowded to the point where it can be impossible to find a free spot on the beach or to walk down that famous avenue you’ve read about in your guidebook. Underrated destinations, in comparison, offer freedom of movement and peacefulness that you associate with a quiet pace of life. But they may not have all the necessary facilities to welcome tourists. You may struggle to find someone who speaks your language or even to get a decent hotel room, let alone direct flights to get there. In short, what’s the best answer to this dilemma?
Popular destinations with a twist
When you pick a destination that is familiar to the tourist industry, it’s both a blessing and a curse, as the available facilities and attractions are likely to attract hundreds if not thousands of same-minded tourists. However, these destinations are popular for a reason, so it would be a pity to avoid visiting marvels of the world just because you want to stay away from the crowd. Dubai, for example, receives every year a growing number of tourists, with estimations for 2020 to top 20 million. Needless to say, you’ll need to find things to do in Dubai that avoid the main entrance to their attraction area. But, looking for concierge services in famous cities like Dubai, Paris or Hong Kong can get you access to a privileged network to avoid tourists.
The perfect mix: Destinations that are about to get trendy
There are some destinations that are getting the necessary infrastructure to welcome tourists without having yet become popular. They are destinations in the making, areas that are about to go big and that you can visit while they’re not yet famous. The rising stars of the holiday industry are places such as José Ignacio in Uruguay – where you can meet the likes of Shakira among other celebrities – and Sofia in Bulgaria, which is Europe’s cheapest city destination. In those places, you can enjoy quality visits, beautiful landscapes, and architectures, without forgetting the exquisite hotel services too.
Beautiful and underrated destinations offer peace
Finally, there are places that simply don’t attract tourists for a reason or another. They are not specifically growing in popularity, but they remain hidden gems across the world. You will need to plan your holiday in advance, as some of these areas provide minimal comfort, such as the Basque Country which is a humble and quirky location. The Canary Islands, while being a highly popular spot in summer, is almost deserted in spring. There, you don’t need to worry about holiday attractions.
In short, picking the best destinations for you demands a little bit of logistics juggle at first. Nobody likes a crowded place, so you can avoid other tourists either by choosing a different tile in a popular area or by working directly with a privileged service. If you are not keen on a famous destination, visit rising holiday stars or forgotten jewels. You’ll have fewer tourists but still a lot of fun!
Five Of The Best Ways To Soak Up Scotland
Rugged scenery, historic landmarks and a rich heritage – Scotland is a fantastic place to explore. With walking routes dotted between quaint cosy pubs, cities full with culture, and miles of beaches and scenic drives, there’s really no excuse not to embrace the tartan. Here are some of the best ways you can explore and soak up Scotland’s rich heritage.
Tour famous film locations
Scotland’s landscape is stunning, so no wonder its dramatic scenery has been captured on the big screen. Explore the picturesque film locations, such as Glen Coe for James Bond’s Skyfall moments. Visit Gairloch for the Billy Connolly classic, What We Did On Our Holiday where you can see views of the Isle of Skye from the expansive Red Point beach. Explore the Glenfinnan Viaduct in Lochaber for the iconic arched bridge that the Hogwarts Express chugs down in Harry potter.
Take the leisurely route around Scotland and travel by train. It’s a much needed break from walking routes, with stunning views from the window that look out across the ever-changing landscape. Scotland’s rail routes connect its seven cities with stops in many towns and villages across country, so you’ll find it easy to delve into the West Highlands from Glasgow, traveling through the scenic Fort William, or roll past the battlefields of Robert the Bruce through Dumfries.
Walk, trek, stroll
Discover all the wonderful wildlife and nature on foot. Trek through the rugged countryside for unbelievable sights of the towering mountains, shimmering lochs, golden beaches and lush farmland. Find Lochan Urr in Glen Etive for a spot of paradise, stroll along Applecross Bay, or scale new heights for stunning views of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park. For longer routes head to Fort William and Glen Coe for miles of green countryside.
Castle to castle
You’ll find castles on top of, near enough, every rolling hill in Scotland. From pretty fairy tale castles to robust medieval fortresses, you can visit the most spectacular buildings all around Scotland. Enjoy strolling around the floral gardens looking up at the enchanting French design of Dunrobin Castle, on the northern coast near Dornoch. Explore Culzean Castle for dramatic scenes, or, Kilchurn near Dalmally in Argyll to gaze over the Loch Awe. Visit the royal stronghold, Fyvie Castle near Turriff for rich decor and 13th century furnishings. For something completely different, head to Kelburn Castle in Ayrshire for a colourful mural of unusual cartoons.
Cruise the Scottish waters
Take a look at Scotland from a different point of view by travelling Scotland’s shores on a boat cruise around the islands. Visit the Isle of Skye, Stornoway, Port Ellen, Montrose and the picturesque Holy Loch Port. For something even more adventurous, canoe in the lochs and rivers around Fort William.
Sound good? There’s so much to see in Scotland that you’re bound to be mesmerised!
Top things to do in Cleveland
Cleveland, Ohio may not be a well-known city like the Big Apple or the sunny beach cities of California, yet there is still much to do in this small but very vibrant city. If you have been planning on heading out to this wonderful city, then you’re in luck as there are numerous activities, attraction, and reservations that will be sure to educate as well as entertain the family.
Here is a small list of places and activities for the family and visitors to enjoy.
# 1 Hard Rock Rocksino
The Hard Rock Rocksino offers people a Las Vegas-esque kind of vibe and feel for the citizens and tourist of Ohio. If you love games, racing, elegant cuisine and just an overall fantastic night out on the town, the Hard Rock Rocksino is the place for you.
# 2 Outdoor Activities
If you are someone who isn’t too much into the nightlife and the whole city feel then Ohio still has you covered. Ohio indeed is one of the most aesthetically pleasing states to see and visit. Boasting and offering its residents and visitors sights and environments such as the Cuyahoga River in Lake Erie where people can go kayaking to The Townpath Trail where people can go jogging, hiking or horseback riding.
If you are an outdoor’ kind of person than this is the place for you. Beautiful atmosphere, surrounded by nature and overall a sight that is awe-inspiring to look at – what more could an outdoors person as for?
# 3 Education – Family friendly Orientated Places
Now, ask yourself what type of family trip it would be if you just visit and didn’t walk away learning something new and different? Well, in Ohio there are a plethora of places where you can take the family for an educational trip for the day.
There is the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo which boasts a wide array of animals from all around the world. There really is nothing more splendid for kids to see the animals that they love to imitate in person.
If the Zoo were fascinating and intriguing then the next destination, Greater Cleveland Aquarium would be sure to be as equally entertaining as the Zoo. When Visiting the Greater Cleveland Aquarium enter into an under that is akin to the Atlantis. Experience the aquatic lifeforms in such proximity.
Lastly, Ohio offers its residents and visitors many museums. There is the International Women’s Air and Space Museum which educates the populace about the story of aviation and how much women had their part in history. And let’s not forget the famous Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
If you are deciding to visit this fantastic state, then be prepared for a wonderful visit and many cultural aspects that will be learned and offered. Make this trip a trip to remember with these places in mind.
Meet Cole and Adela
We have been wearing out our jandals (Kiwi for flip-flops) on our travel adventures around the world since 2009. We think our blog is thought provoking and a little witty. But we have been proven wrong before. Find out more about us here...
- Travel Tips7 months ago
Couples Travel – Why every couple should travel before marriage
- Adventure Travel11 months ago
Walking the Camino de Santiago Photos
- Europe1 year ago
Travel Tip: Train to Pisa from Florence
- Travel Blogging Tips9 months ago
Our Experience of Starting a Travel Blog
- Personal Musings10 months ago
From Four Jandals to Two Jandals
- Adventure Travel5 years ago
2012 Travel Adventures in Photos
- Europe5 years ago
Photo Essay from around Costa Brava
- Asia5 years ago
The Best of Istanbul – Photo Essay