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Review: 10 Day Egypt Explorer Tour with Expat Explore

A comprehensive review of Expat Explores 10 Day Explorer Tour through the stunning country of Egypt.

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Expat Explore Group in Egypt

We have wanted 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

Expat Explore Ten Day Egypt Explorer Tour Review

We chose Expat Explore because they were the cheapest 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, including budgeting appropriately. 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 center hotel. That drive was an eye-opener to Egypt with crazy lane changes, honking, swerving, and 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 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, 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 pretty 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, the mind-blowing Pyramids of Giza, and the smaller than expected Sphinx. This day was the highlight.

Pyramids of Giza

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 who caught the standard train froze their butts off while we had a toasty sleep with 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 in Egypt

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 on the Nile River

Your day begins by visiting the monstrous High Dam for 10 minutes (reasonably boring) and driving past the Unfinished Obelisk. At the same time, the highlight is the Philae Temple. It is pretty magical when the sunsets across the Nile reflect off the stonework.

Philae Temple Sunset

The evening ended with an optional dinner in a traditional Nubian family’s house. The food was delicious, and you better bring your singing and dancing shoes.

Day Four on the Felucca

The following day and night are spent relaxing aboard the Felucca for a sail up the Nile for several hours. Sleeping no more than eight people, you will be snug if you bring your sleeping bag like us. The rest of our crew was 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 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 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 three nights onboard in comfortable accommodation, a pool, and buffets morning, noon, and night.

Day Five Temple Exploring

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. The transportation was more than adequate, with toilets on the buses and room enough for everyone. It’s lucky because you spend most of the time being driven around.

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

Day Six at the tombs

One more day, one more busy schedule. Rushing to beat the crowds at the Valley of the Kings, it’s another 8 am start. You are only allowed to visit three tombs, and we recommend the guide picks: 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 go 6 hours to reach Hurghada that night.

Day Seven and Eight at the Red Sea

The following 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 snorkeling 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 challenging.

Travel Tip: If you plan to do the tour over New Year’s Eve, 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 letdown, but when hasn’t New Year’s Eve been!

Day Nine in Cairo

Your final day of sightseeing is spent around Cairo. Our favorite part of the day was the Cairo Museum with an excellent tour guide. It fits perfectly at the end by seeing all the history close-up after learning about it over the last eight 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 reasonable 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 is the end

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 of Egypt Travel

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

  • It felt like we were always hungry. Maybe it is just Kiwis and Aussies that eat all the time, but it seriously felt like we were constantly starving, with lunches being served usually after 4 pm and dinner at 9 pm 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 in Egyptian time, so be patient.
  • We were often delayed or behind schedule with little to no guidance on how long it would take to get from place to place. A little knowledge goes a long way as then we can plan.
  • More free time would be great to explore places independently rather than have our hands held everywhere.

The Positives of traveling in Egypt:

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

  • Pre-departure information and care were excellent.
  • 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 incredibly knowledgeable and never failed to answer any questions we had. The insight 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 were the accommodation and transport options.

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 ten-day tour of Egypt; however, our thoughts are always our own.

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.

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Adventure Travel

Medieval Towns with German Castles Near Munich & Frankfurt

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Heidelberg Castle

Our favorite castles in Germany near Frankfurt and Munich:

Neuschwanstein Castle is there somewhere amongst all the fog!

Neuschwanstein Castle is there somewhere amongst all the fog!

We were crazy enough to visit Neuschwanstein Castle on a public holiday. This meant that along with all the Asian tourists, there were an awful lot of Germans. Plus, even though we arrived by 11 am, the soonest tickets we could buy were for the German tour at 2.30 pm, as the terms in English were sold out until 4 pm. So, if you don’t have German friends at hand to translate the tour for you, we recommend booking in advance online. The castle was impressive, and the time was undoubtedly fascinating! Don’t worry, I won’t spill the beans, but the manmade Grotto room made my jaw drop!

Mespelbrunn Castle

Mespelbrunn Castle

Mespelbrunn Castle is located on a pond between Frankfurt and Wurzburg. Unfortunately, we arrived 30 minutes after its closing time of 5 pm, but it looked cool from behind the fence!

Lichtenstein Castle

Lichtenstein Castle

Lichtenstein Castle is located on a clifftop near Stuttgart and costs 6 euros per person for a tour in German; however, they did give us a very informative written guide in English. This castle is small compared to Hohenzollern castle, but its story is fascinating. Tanks shelled it in World War II, and today you can still see the cracked mirror from where a small fragment of a tank grenade ricocheted!

Hohenzollern Castle

Hohenzollern Castle

Hohenzollern Castle is not too far from Lichtenstein Castle. It is located on a hilltop near Hechingen, and we enjoyed the guided tour. Along with getting to wear GIANT slippers, make sure you explore the casemates and secret passages. One sign made me want to learn more. It read, “Exactly where these steps lead to is unknown. More casemates and secret passageways are likely waiting to be discovered in the heart of the mountain”!

Heidelberg Castle

Heidelberg Castle

Heidelberg Castle was a lot larger than we expected! Unfortunately, we had spent far too much time at the Auto & Technik Museum in Sinsheim, so we did not have time to explore this castle. But if we get the chance, we will explore the town and its castle next time in Germany.

On our drive from Munich to Frankfurt, we also loved:

Andechs Monastery

Andechs Monastery

The beer garden at Andechs Monastery was just like Oktoberfest but amongst trees and more family-friendly. The beer was cheaper, and the food was great, including the giant pork knuckle, which Moss could not finish. It was also fun walking up multiple flights of stairs to the tower’s very top.

River surfing in Munich

River surfing in Munich

Rothenburg

Rothenburg

Three hours in Rothenburg was not enough to explore this wonderful medieval town! We recommend getting your hands on a city map from the tourist information office. We enjoyed Roder Gate, walking along the wall and exploring the 17th-century spital bastion, plus Moss lost me in the Kathe Wohlfahrt Christmas shop for over half an hour, and I didn’t even buy anything!

Bamberg

Bamberg was a neat town with old buildings in the center of the river and had a famous smoked beer which Moss just had to try!

Auto Technik Museum in Sinsheim

I’m not the hugest car or plane fanatic, but even I enjoyed the Auto & Technik Museum in Sinsheim. A highlight for me was sliding out of an airplane (from the museum’s roof)!

The worlds narrowest street

Don’t go out of your way to see it, but the world’s narrowest street in Reutlingen is worth a photo if you are passing through.

Frau Rauscher spitting statue Frankfurt

In Frankfurt, go to the old part of town for an apfelwein and see the Frau Rauscher statue – watch out, she spits about every 12 seconds!

The average person would Google Munich to Frankfurt and see that it only takes about 3 ½ hours depending on how fast you wish to drive on the autobahn! However, we are NOT typical. We took one look at train prices and decided that hiring a car wouldn’t cost too much more.

Suppose you’re interested in traveling to Germany for a damn good deal. In that case, plenty of tour companies have some pretty unique and affordable vacation packages to Berlin, Munich, and Bavaria.

It may be small but this building on Trappensee Lake is classed as a castle!

It may be small, but this building on Trappensee Lake is classed as a water castle!

We aren’t going to tell you our exact route. Still, after surviving Oktoberfest in Munich, we did a giant zigzag to see as many castles and medieval towns as possible. So to save you doing so much driving, we have picked our favorite cities and castles. First of all, ‘Ausfahrt’ is not a destination accessible from every off-ramp! It means ‘Exit’! Another word of wisdom to keep in mind is that the autobahns with speed limits do have speed cameras… and the flash is blinding!

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Adventure Travel

Running with the Bulls Video

Our shaky Running with the Bulls Video footage from the Festival de San Fermin in 2012. Experience it first hand in Pamplona. Enjoy.

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San Fermin Running with the Bulls still

We recently wrote about our life or death experience of Running with the Bulls this year at the Festival of San Fermin in Pamplona. On that run, I carried along with our GoPro video camera and tried to shoot some footage for our running with the video of the bull.

Running with the Bulls Video, Pamplona

Running with the Bulls

All our travel video shooting techniques went out the window when the bulls’ hooves started to shake the ground beneath our feet.

Once we had lined up for the running with the bulls, there was no escape from it as we were walled in by apartment blocks, shopfront windows, and 3-meter high wooden barriers packed with photographers along the entire length. At one end lay the relative safety of the bull ring pulsating with the cheers of the crowd who were still partying from the night before. Behind me, a dozen wild bulls pawed the stony ground looking for freedom.

Unfortunately, I was standing in their path. 

What we ended up with is below. However, I think what we filmed for our running with the bull video captures the chaos, craziness, and complete madness a lot better than if I had stood my ground.

Enjoy it and watch for the guy that nearly gets trampled to death near the beginning!

Running with the Bulls Video

Would you ever consider running with the bulls?

While we are very aware that not all people agree that the San Fermin Festival should be allowed to go ahead mainly due to animal cruelty, we think there are two sides to every story. We wrote a post about the controversy surrounding Bullfighting in Spain and the Festival de San Fermin.

We would love to hear your thoughts on the Festival de San Fermin and whether you would ever consider running with the bulls.

If you want to join the next Festival of San Fermin or any other wild festivals in Europe, such as Sail Turkey, book with our partners Busabout.

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Adventure Travel

Outdoor Activities in Bangkok – Adventure City Guide

Find out how you can explore the streets, canals and local markets within minutes of Bangkok with our Outdoor Activities in Bangkok Adventure City Guide.

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Outdoor Activities in Bangkok - The Klongs

Are you looking for an insider’s adventure travel guide for the best outdoor activities in Bangkok?

As part of our Adventure City Guide series, Ian from Where Sidewalks End shares his expert insider tips on the top adventure and outdoor activities to do in Bangkok.

Outdoor Activities in Bangkok - Adventure City Guide

Outdoor Activities in Bangkok – Adventure City Guide – Photo by Evoflash

Why visit Bangkok for adventure?

Bangkok is one of the world’s largest metropolises and a gateway for most of the world to access the rest of South East Asia. With numbers surpassing 14 million people in the Greater Bangkok Region, this is no small player in the world’s super-cities. Of course, having such a long history with foreign visitors, the city has become incredibly established in the world’s tourist sector.

This has allowed it to grow many facets of adventurous activities – making access to something for everyone!

Outdoor Activities in Bangkok

Exploring the Klongs

Outdoor Activities in Bangkok - The Klongs

Outdoor Activities in Bangkok – The Klongs

Klongs are canals that used to feed the entire city with life-giving water, branched off from the city’s main artery – the Chao Phraya River. Today, the locals wouldn’t drink the water if you paid them, but there is still a fascinating life along the Klongs’ banks. There is so much to explore, from floating markets to old houses on stilts, and it gives insight into this ancient way of life!

What’s it cost, and how to get to the Klongs?

You can usually arrange the Klongs from the pier “Saphan Taksin” along the Chao Phraya River. This is conveniently a stop on the Skytrain, making it very easy to access. Usually, you will be renting the entire boat for the day (about 1000 THB, or USD 35) and not paying a per-person rate. So if you can find a few people to go with, the price will drop significantly per person.

Rickshaw City Tours

If you’ve never been to Asia before, Rickshaws are one of the most fun ways to get around. Although they can often be a little more expensive than metered taxis, you get an experience (and a view) that is unparalleled, especially in the busy streets of Bangkok.

What’s it cost?

Occasionally, you can even haggle a deal for a city tour for next to nothing (50-100 THB or $1.50-3 USD), as long as you visit a couple of affiliated ‘custom suit tailors’ throughout the day, as they’ll get a kickback from the shops just for bringing you there… No purchase is necessary.

You can often find Tuk Tuk drivers willing to do this standing along the perimeter of the Kings’ Palace. It may take a few attempts of asking for a ‘special city tour,’ but you will be bound to find someone ready for a cut of this business.

Outdoor Activities in Bangkok - Rickshaw Tours

Outdoor Activities in Bangkok – Rickshaw Tours

Local Secret Spot

Chatuchak Market

Though most people wouldn’t consider going to a market an adventure, they probably have never experienced the likes of Chatuchak (also known as JJs). This is one of SE Asia’s LARGEST outdoor markets. It’s so prominent that you can find maps of the market to help navigate. It’s roughly the size of 4 city blocks and is divided into various sections.

You’ll find everything under the sun here, from clothing to handicrafts, food, mobile phones, and even puppies and other cute critters for sale!! It’s bonkers. If it gets too much for you, you can take a break in one of Bangkok’s most famous parks (Chatuchak park), located next to the market.

How to get there?

You can get here via Skytrain (BTS), subway (MRT), taxi, bus, you name it – it’s very accessible! But it’s only open on weekends, from about dawn until 5 or 6 pm at its peak. Some shops stay open longer, but most will be closed by dusk. It’s free entry and a perfect place to buy ANY souvenirs at the end of your time in Thailand.

Suppose you can coordinate to be here on the weekend. I generally hate shopping for ‘stuff,’ but I love this market and its energy!

Outdoor Activities in Bangkok - Chatuchak Markets

Outdoor Activities in Bangkok – Chatuchak Markets

Best time of the year to visit Bangkok for adventure?

Bangkok is in the tropics and quite close to the Equator. Of course, this means it’s hot on a year-round basis.

It’s considered the rainy season from May to October, though showers can happen at any time of the year. This is generally a less busy time for tourists, though the rains are not quite as bad as expected and often only last 30 mins-1 hour, cooling the city’s heart. Peak season is in December-January when temperatures are at their most astounding ad driest… though it’s still pretty hot!

And if Bangkok isn’t to your taste, the luxury Koh Samui will be. Endless sandy beach, beautiful clear waters, and nightlife that could be lived in forever. The luxury rental properties are stunning, and we recommend Tempston Luxury villa rentals.

Finally, the reason I love Bangkok for adventure is that…

It’s never-ending. This city is SO BIG that you could get lost in a new neighborhood almost every day. Single. Day. And still find new, exciting things to explore. On my list for the upcoming weeks, I’ve got the Scala Cinema, the Thai Air Force Museum, Papaya Vintage Shop, and the Erawan Museum – to name a few. Every time I explore one place, I learn of 3 more!!

BIO:

From a young age, Ian was always a wanderer. He’s since travelled to all 7 continents, and has spent the majority of his life pursuing this passion. You can follow him in his off-the-beaten-path adventures and discoveries on TwitterFacebook, Google+ and his travel blog Where Sidewalks End.

Have you been to Bangkok? What were your favorite outdoor activities in Bangkok?

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Meet Cole and Adela

Cole and AdelaWe 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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