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.
Is It Time to Find a New You at a Thailand Retreat?
If you feel like you a lacking a little direction, or that you have become lost in the hustle and bustle of your faced paced life, do not despair. There is hope. Spend too much time buried by work and inevitably the world will grind you down, but it needn’t. You can do something about it. The answer is a lot simpler than you may think (and more affordable, too).
You have to act though. Indifference or accepting that nothing will change will result in exactly that, nothing changing. What you need to do is interrupt your life and take a step back. Now this doesn’t mean falling off the radar, or a sudden change in your career. You just need to invest a little of your own time in yourself and book yourself into a personal development course at a Thailand retreat.
Isn’t That Strange?
No, it isn’t. Again, you are not changing the world in which you live, rather you are looking to change how you live in the world. A getaway at a retreat can help you do this. So, lose the negativity and cynicism and think about the possibilities for a moment. If you feel strange about going alone, why not round up your best buddies and go together? (Click here for more guy adventure tips)
A Little Self-Therapy
If you work hard, and feel constantly exhausted, at some point things are going to get even worse – be that your physical or mental health. By looking after both your body and mind and learning healthy practices at a retreat, you’ll fortify both your mind and body ready for the rigours of daily life once you return to it. The techniques, practices and understandings that you will gain by attending a Thailand retreat will help you to not only cope, but to thrive. It is like learning a shortcut to happiness that many simply do not know about. Brilliant right?!
Burnout is a real problem in society, and prevention is a much better solution than trying to find a cure. It is likely that you will have to keep working in your employment and that life will throw all manner of things at you as you battle onward, but learning to cope whilst smiling, with a stronger fortitude and greater will to succeed is a more certain way of becoming a success before you become a casualty.
Through mindfulness practice, physical activity such as yoga and stretching, and incorporating meditation, you are adapting a holistic approach to your own health, happiness and self-development. This can help you become mentally stronger, physical fitter, more at ease with yourself and life, and aware of the world in which you live. You can actually learn to live rather than exist. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?
Life begins at the very edge of your comfort zone, on the outskirts of familiarity and away from your normal habits and routine. Rather than shun it, or even fear it, you can learn to embrace, experience and even enjoy it too. This isn’t changing what you do, but how you do it. It isn’t changing who you are, it is letting you become the true you, unleashing your full potential.
A Thailand retreat based around health and self-development puts your wellbeing at the very heart of the programme. This isn’t self-indulgent but rather self-fulfilment; letting your life exist beyond the limits of your expectations. It is time for you to look after yourself that little bit better.
Preparing A Holiday With An Anxious Relative
As much as you love going on holiday and planning a trip to a region of the world that you don’t know, it can be a little frustrating to travel with relatives or friends who are naturally nervous about discovering new things. You know the kind: They won’t try exotic food in a restaurant, in case it wouldn’t agree with their stomach. They look at your travel pictures with envy but always find an excuse not to join you on your next adventure. And more importantly, they try to avoid travelling abroad if they can at all help it. Be kind before you launch into criticism. They can’t help feeling anxious about everything. And maybe, if you want to help them relax a little, it’s your responsibility to make travelling as easy and enjoyable as possible. However, you’re in luck, because we can help you with that. All it takes is a little bit of planning and thinking ahead to get them sorted.
Get informed at first
If your friend or relative doesn’t travel often, the best thing you want to do is to convince them to come on a trip with you that is poorly planned. First things first: It’s about defining when it the best time to visit your destination of choice. You wouldn’t want to accidentally pick the monsoon season when going to a tropical country, for instance. That’s exactly what this handy website is about : It helps you to find out when is the best time to visit where with monthly weather overview based on observations from the previous years. In short, if you’re travelling with someone who hates being cold, you can direct them towards countries that are warm in winter, for example. As silly as it might sound, knowing what kind of weather to expect can be a great help for a nervous adventurer: Knowing what to pack is already a step out of the unknown zone.
Get the health check
You can’t easily decide to travel to any country without planning. For health reasons, there is a number of regions in the world that require vaccinations to keep you safe. You’d better keep yourself informed of the health requirements in advance, as some vaccinations need to be started up to 2 months before your departure. The typical countries where you’d be expecting additional health vaccines tend to be around the south and south-east Asia. Hepatitis A and B is a common risk in Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, China, and even the Fiji. In India, you need to be aware of risks of rabies and Japanese encephalitis in addition to more common vaccinations. You also need to ensure that you and your relative are up to date with routine immunisations such as tetanus and diphtheria. The bottom line is that even though there are little risks for cautious travellers, you don’t want to take any chance.
Do you need authorisation?
If your friend or relative has only travelled to safe and known areas, such as Europe for instance, they may not be aware that certain countries require visitors from abroad to apply for a visa, aka an official authorization to entry the country. If you intend to visit Belarus, Moldova, Russia and Ukraine, you will need to apply for a visa, which can take several weeks and require an official letter of recommendation from your destination hotel. Visiting South Africa, North America also require a visa, as well as some areas of Asia. Additionally, you need to ensure that you have free pages for control stamps in your passport. It might sound stressful at first, but it’s something that you can easily clarify in advance so that you don’t need to worry about it during your trip.
Protect your holiday
The main reason a lot of people feel anxious about travelling abroad is that they worry that anything might happen to them while they’re outside of the country. The fear of not knowing how to sort out common health and finances issues forces a lot of people to stay at home while they should be thinking about travel insurance instead. If your friend or relative is worried about falling ill on holiday or about losing valuable items abroad, you should take a look at standard travel policies to ensure that you can find an appropriate answer to their worries. From overseas travel insurance to snow sports insurance, you can find a lot of options to cover for most accidental situations smoothly and easily. More often than not, you can get an expert insurer to define the best-suited policy for your holiday. This will save you a lot of time searching as an insurer will be able to rely on the data of previous travellers to advise you.
Know how to spend the time
But I can’t travel to India: It’s a long flight, and I’ll get bored!
If that’s the kind of comments you get, you can reassure your friend or relative immediately: There are plenty of solutions that stop you from getting bored during your long journeys. Reading always is a good idea, especially if you’ve got a Kindle so that you can fill it with several books to keep yourself occupied while travelling. Some people might prefer audiobooks, however, if you’ve got a long flight, you’re likely to want to use earplugs and rest your senses. There are also plenty of online games that you can play with a smartphone, so it’s impossible to get bored!
Not one for tech gadgets? A simple crossword or sudoku book can do the trick and keep you busy until you’ve reached your destination. If you’re sitting aside, nothing is stopping you from playing a card game or a small board game. In short, getting bored is not a fatality!
Get a guidebook
How do you know about the best places and monuments to see when you’re visiting a new place? It’s obvious: You get a guidebook like every other traveller. Guidebooks might sound old-fashioned, but they are filled with useful information about an area, from where to stay to what to see. More importantly, you get a detailed breakdown of prices, which makes it a lot easier to plan your trip. As a traveller puts it, in a guidebook you find information that you didn’t know you needed, which helps you to prepare the best you can for your holiday. Besides, you can be sure that gathering knowledge about your destination will be handy to reassure your nervous co-traveller. Knowledge remains, after all, the best weapon against the unknown.
Do you need to know the language?
Most travellers would tell you that speaking English is enough to get by in any destination of the world. However; you need to be aware of one important fact: Just because English is the proxy language by definition, it doesn’t mean that everyone will understand you. A lot of people don’t speak English at all, and therefore you’ll need to be able to ask for directions or a cup of coffee in the local lingo. Why does it matter? You don’t need to be fluent to ask for things you need abroad, but you can be sure that locals are more likely to help and understand if you say it in their language. More often than not, you can get by with a simple phrasebook, from ordering food in a restaurant to finding the way to the art museum.
Prepare a visit plan
What if your friend would agree to go on a holiday but doesn’t know where to? You could inspire them with a list of the most wonderful sites to visit in the world. Stonehenge in England is a great destination for history lovers to enjoy the mysteries of the past. You can even organise walking among the famous stones on specific days! If you want to take their breath away with a fascinating historical site, try to Pyramids of Giza in Egypt. If you want to seduce a nature-lover, take them to the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, which is the world’s largest mirror. Or you could visit the Great Blue Hole in Belize, which is 407 feet deep and can be easily seen from above – no need to dive, thankfully!
Decide on a budget in advance
Let’s be honest: Most people avoid travelling because they’re afraid of spending too much on the go. In reality, it all comes down to clever planning: If you know in advance where you’re going to stay and what’s around to see and visit, you can plan your budget accordingly. Of course, there will always be the unexpected expenses in the form of a cocktail night at the local bar, or a really cute jumper that you simply couldn’t live further without. But for all these, you can rely on a budget app such as Trail Wallet to keep track of your expenses throughout the day. In a few clicks, you can get an overview of how much you can afford and how much you’ve already paid.
In conclusion, the secret to turning a travel-anxious friend into a travel-happy holidaymaker is to share your planning secrets with them. Yes, travelling takes a lot of preps. But it means they can enjoy their trip with their mind at peace!
Top 5 Things to See in Dubai on Your Next Holiday
Dubai has quickly become a top destination for travelers from around the world. It offers an impressive mixture of the best of modern architecture, stunning scenery and is a shopper’s paradise. So, what are the top things to see during your holiday to Dubai?
You can’t miss the Burj Khalifa when you visit Dubai – at 828 meters high, it is the world’s tallest tower and dominates the city’s skyline. But the building is far more than admiring. There is an observation deck on level 124 that is a must-see part of visiting the city while At The Top Sky Lounge is on level 148. If you want a meal amid the clouds, At.mosphere on level 122 offers quality meals.
Another impressive man-made wonder of Dubai, Palm Jumeirah is a palm shaped man-made island and one of the largest artificial islands in the world. It is home to a host of high quality hotels including the Waldorf Astoria and the Atlantis, The Palm. It also has its own monorail that runs along the ‘trunk’ of the tree to connect it with the mainland.
The Dubai Mall
As well as enjoying the glamour of Dubai on your next holiday, you can also enjoy some of the highest quality shopping. The Dubai Mall is more than just a shopping mall – there are 1200 shops, 150 restaurants, an indoor theme park, a waterfall, ice rink and even an aquarium and underwater zoo. It takes shopping to a whole new level!
The Dubai Fountain
Standing outside the Burj Khalifa, the Dubai Fountain is equally impressive and stands at the entrance to the Dubai Mall. It is the world’s largest choregraphed fountain system reached 150 meters high with colorful, illuminated jet sprays that are timed to various musical pieces. There are two shows a day on afternoons and evenings so plenty of chances to watch it in action.
Dubai is the epitome of a modern city but that’s not to say there isn’t history amid the stunning skyscrapers. Dubai Creek is the heart of the old city, where the original Bani Yas tribe settled. Here they started the pearl diving and fishing trades and the area slowly built into a trade center. Now you can visit the gold, textile and spice souks as well as take a ride in a traditional abra boat. It is also great value at just AED1 for a ticket.
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...
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