A Guide to Backpacking in Egypt
From Cairo’s medieval center to the undersea beauty of the Red Sea, many visitors are surprised to discover the depth Egypt’s natural and historical wealth.
Of course, everyone knows about the pyramids at Giza and they are worth the effort it takes to see them, but Egypt has much more to offer. The many sights range from vast dunes in the desert to the architecture left over from Roman, Greek and Arab civilizations.
Getting into Egypt
Compared to many other travel destinations, Egypt is relatively easy to enter; this is largely due to the fact that tourism is one of its main sources of revenue. Travelers will need to get one of the three types of visa:
• Tourist visas
• Entry visas
• Transit visas
A tourist visa allows the visitor to spend up to three months in the country. They may opt for a single entry type or one that allows them multiple entries. The entry visa is for travelers visiting for reasons other than tourism, such as to study or work. The transit visa is needed only for certain nationalities and is not usually required. Anyone wishing to travel to Egypt must obtain these travel documents from an Egyptian consulate or embassy.
Flying there directly is the easiest way to get to Egypt from Europe but it is possible to get there via sea from Cyprus or over land from Europe or other African countries. Egypt’s national airline is EgyptAir and there are multiple airports, but most international visitors will enter the country via Cairo.
Best Times to Visit Egypt
The best time to visit Egypt is in the winter, meaning the months of November through to March. This ensures moderate temperatures as the rest of the year is very hot and dry. It should be noted that there are a few small areas that receive regular showers in the winter, these areas include Alexandria and other areas on the coast. Travelers to those parts of Egypt may want to pack wet-weather gear.
Why Backpackers Should Visit Egypt
Contrary to what many travelers may believe, backpacking in Egypt is relatively safe as there is very little violent crime. Of course, it is important to respect the local customs just as with any travel destination. Backpackers have a selection of Egyptian hotels and hostels from which to choose and may get around via the extensive road system and the affordable public transportation. Food and alcohol are also relatively affordable and of decent quality.
Places to go and Things to do
Backpackers have the option of exploring Cairo and its architecture on foot or venturing out into the desert and trekking across the immense, visually stunning sand dunes for which Egypt is famous. Luxor’s museum along with Giza’s pyramids are both backpacker-friendly destinations. While Giza is usually filled with tourists, it is one of those iconic sights that everyone should visit at least once; at $10, the cost of entry is affordable too.
The striking pyramids and the Sphinx are worth putting up with the hordes of other visitors and the countless vendors there. For those who want to get a few souvenirs, there is the Khan al-Khalili Bazaar with its many vendors who will be all too happy to show off their wares. The goods there are fairly cheap, but can be made cheaper if a shopper is willing to haggle.
On the low end there are hostels, many of which provide amenities like pools and air conditioning and which run under US$10 per night per guest. There are hostels in Cairo, Luxor and Dahab and many of them offer online booking. There are also more expensive luxury hotels for travelers with deeper pockets.
Terrorism is a valid concern as the country does have a history of attacks targeting westerners, but these incidents have been relatively rare in recent years and most visitors will be safe. For the most part, Egyptians are hospitable towards their guests but Cairo and other major cities do have many pickpockets and visitors would be wise to not even bother carrying a wallet.
Women traveling alone should wear attire that fully covers their arms and legs; harassment is common and being fully covered can greatly reduce the likelihood of it occurring.