I typically don’t book tours because I’m a pretty good planner and it’s usually much cheaper to do everything yourself. However, after I made up my mind that I wanted to see Alexandria, Luxor, and Cairo all in one trip, it became much more convenient to just go through a tour company. I also tried looking up flights and trains to the cities outside of Cairo and compared them to the tour price, and I found that I actually saved money. It was also nice not planning for hours on end for a change.
We booked the 5 day/4 night Cairo, Luxor, and Alexandria tour on TourRadar.com. The tour operator was Go Discovery Travel. The tour code is #110679. This tour is perfect if you have limited time and are interested in seeing as much as possible. That’s how I like to travel! We had private tour guides and drivers the entire tour, this was so nice so that we could take as much or as little time as we needed and alter the itinerary when we wanted to. We explored churches, mosques, museums and old markets in Cairo. We of course saw the incredible Giza pyramids. Additionally, we went to Alexandria to get a glimpse of the Greek and Roman era in Egypt. We also flew to Luxor and visited the biggest open air museum in the world.
On arrival, a representative from Go Discovery Travel was waiting for us at the Cairo airport. He helped us with visa procedures, customs, and luggage claim. The visa costs $25 and is purchased before border control and baggage claim. Bring USD. It is a very easy process and nothing needs to be done beforehand.
The representative then had his colleague, Medo, transfer us to our hotel for check in. We stayed at Le Meridien Pyramids Hotel in Giza. It had an awesome view of the pyramids! Because we arrived in Cairo a day before our tour started, we booked an extra night. This gave us the opportunity to see Giza the first day of our trip on our own. The options they suggested for the day included a sound and light show, a dinner cruise, a camel ride during sunset/sunrise, or a quad bike for one hour around the pyramids. We decided to do a quad bike around the pyramids. The tour company quoted us $50 for it but I told them I saw it on Viator for $15 so they gave us that price instead. Medo picked us up and took us to lunch at Abou Shakra right outside of the pyramids. The restaurant provided an excellent view.
After the tour, we went back to the hotel to relax and have a drink by the pool while gazing at the pyramids for a couple hours. Then, we were picked up for our pre-booked Sound and Light Show. I didn’t read about what this show would be like but to be honest, I expected a bunch of people to be standing around looking at a strobe light show that lit up the pyramids. I was not expecting a 50-minute long Egyptian story and background about the pyramids. It was very informational and a good introduction to our day in Giza, although a little boring. After the show, we went back to the hotel and ate dinner at the hotel restaurant. They had excellent food! This concluded our first day.
Day 2: Luxor
After going to bed around 10PM, we got a call 30 minutes later saying that our itinerary had changed an that we would be heading to Cairo airport at 2AM to do our day tour in Luxor. This was supposed to be the following day but they said they had problems with plane tickets. This was very frustrating to hear that we would only have a couple hours of sleep. Because we were leaving so early, the hotel provided us with a breakfast box to go. When we arrived in Luxor, a private tour guide was waiting for us. First, we crossed the Nile River to the West Bank. We were mezmerized by the Valley of the Kings that had more than 60 royal rock cut tombs dating back to 1450-900 B.C. We were allowed to explore 3 tombs of our choice. Note that you must purchase an extra photo ticket if you wish to take pictures. We decided not too, but regretted our decision. We were able to sneak a couple pictures but people were getting thrown out and forced to delete all their pictures.
After the Valley of the Kings, we were taken to a local shop where a guide showed us how carvings made out of different materials are done. After some demonstrations, we were given free time to explore the family shop. We ended up purchasing a very cool Egyptian carving.
Next, we headed to the beautiful, unique terrraced Al-Deir Al-Bahari Temple.
We were also amazed by the colossi of Memnon.
We then took a lunch break at a restaurant before continuing our tour on the East Bank. We had time to explore the Karnak temple, which is the biggest temple on earth.
After, we were taken to a Papyras museum where a local guide showed us how papyaras paper is made. We had the option of purchasing paintings on papyras paper.
We also saw the Luxor Temple at sunset. At the end of the tour, we hung out at a café across from Luxor Temple to kill time before we were transferred back to Luxor airport to catch our flight to Cairo airport where our representative took us back to our hotel.
Day 3: Cairo and Giza
This day was dedicated to the highlights of Giza and Cairo. We started our morning with a free buffet breakfast in the hotel. Shaimma, our egyptologist tour guide, picked us up in the hotel lobby. She was an excellent tour guide! We began our tour by heading to the Giza plateau. There we explored several monuments including the Great Pyramid of Cheops (the only remaining wonder of the seven wonders of the ancient world dating back to about 2500 B.C, Pyramid of Chephren (son of Cheops), and Pyramid of Mycerinus (grandson of Cheops).
If you want to go in the pyramids, it will cost an extra 360 Egyptian pounds. We paid and it was well worth it! I was not expecting such a steep and narrow climb that we had to duck for most of the way up to the chamber. If you are able to leave your backpack, I suggest doing so.
We also went to a panorama area where we got great pictures of the whole pyramids. Next we had a 15-minute camel adventure in the Sahara desert (extra fee if you would like to do the 30-minute ride)around the pyramids before going to the Valley Temple/Mummification Temple of King Chephren where mummification of the dead king took place. This is where you can get pictures of the Sphinx.
We had time to kill before having lunch so we were given options of what we would like to do. We decided to go to a perfume shop where a guide talked to us about how his family makes perfumes and oils for the body. We also went to a shop where they make chains with your name in hyroglyphics on it. Unfortunately, I thought the price was too much so we did not buy anything at these shops.
Next, we had lunch at a restaurant before proceeding to the Egyptian museum which has the biggest collection of ancient Egyptian artifacts in the world (120,000 items). At the museum, we had the opportunity to wonder at the treasures of the golden Pharaoh Tutankhamen, the Heretic King Akhenaten collection, colossal statues, coffins, animal mummy room, royal mummy rooms (extra fee of 180 Egyptian pounds), and much more. I do recommend paying the extra price to see the mummy room. Although it is bizarre to look at dead bodies, it is something like no other. Also note that you cannot take photos in the mummy room and golden mask room.
After the museum tour, we took a traditional felucca sailboat on the Nile for some relaxation. This lasted about 30 minutes. To be honest, it was quite boring but still a nice thing to do.
Later in the night we visited the Khan el Khalili bazaar where we enjoyed the oriental atmosphere of the old markets and mosques. This is where you will find all the souvenirs you are searching for.
At the end of the night, we were taken to the pier where we had our pre-booked dinner cruise on the Nile River. The boat had several shows as you ate: including a belly dancer and musicians. Unfortunately, the belly dancer was not very traditional as we had hoped and the music was very loud making it very difficult to have a conversation while we ate. It actually gave me a headache so I had to take a break and go to the top deck for some fresh air. However, the food was good and it was still a good experience. After the dinner cruise, we were transferred back to our hotel to end the night.
Day 4: Alexandria
Again, we had the breakfast buffet in the hotel before starting our full day private tour in Alexandria. We had Shaimma as our tour guide again. After a 3 hour drive, we arrived in Alexandria. We visited the Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa, which is one of the seven wonders of the Middle Ages dating back to the 1st century. It was complex with many underground rock cut tombs in 3 levels. It combined the features of three different art styles, ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman. Pictures were not allowed in the catacombs.
Next, we had time to explore the Pompey pillar, which stands 28m high. It was erected as a symbol of gratitude towards the Roman emperor that saved Alexandria from a famine in the 4th century. At the same site, there was remains of the Temple of Serapis.
We then proceeded to the Fort of Qaitbay from the 15th century, which was build to protect Egypt against potential Ottoman invasion. It was built at the same site of the ancient lighthouse of Alexandria. From this fortress, you will get great views of the Mediterranean Sea.
After that, we had lunch at a seafood restaurant overlooking the Mediterranean. Following lunch, we were supposed to visit the Montazah gardens and view the Royal Family palaces but we decided to make our day shorter instead. We visited the New Library of Alexandria that is considered one of the biggest in the world with 70,000 square meters of reading space arranged in 11 cascading levels. At the end of the tour, we were transferred back to our hotel.
Because our flight time was 4:30 the following day, we paid for an extra night at the hotel. The tour does not include any activities on the fifth day so we took a day to relax at the hotel. We were going to go to the restaurant at the Cairo Tower but we decided to get a deep tissue massage at the hotel spa instead.
This was the day we departed. We were woken up by several messages from concerned friends and family who had read on the news that there had been a bomb that killed and injured tourists. I thought I should mention the overall safety in Egypt since many people consider the country to be unsafe. Overall throughout the trip, I felt very safe. The airports, hotel, and all of the tourist attractions had several security checks. Since the events that occurred in 2011 and 2015, Egypt has increased their security to try and get their tourism numbers back up. Unfortunately, tourist attacks can and do happen all over the world and I believe that it should not hold you back from travelling to a specific location. As with any major city, stay vigilant and make smart decisions. Part of the reason I went with a tour, is because we were with a trusted company the entire time. They are registered with the government and every time they picked us up from the hotel or took us on a specific tour, the tourism police checked their details. We were never on our own. This helped not only with our safety, but also the language barrier.
- Take toilet paper with you everywhere you go! A lot of the restrooms do not have any.
- Always carry small bank notes. You will need to tip a lot (drivers, guides, restaurants, etc.) You will also have to pay to use the bathroom in some places.
- If you have extra time in Egypt, I recommend visiting Aswan (I wish we did this instead of Alexandria). Other places I would like to visit are the Read Sea and Mt. Sinai.
- Always bargain when shopping! You can typically get them down about 70% from their original asking price. However, some vendors will not bargain because they will already tell you a cheap and fair price. It doesn’t hurt to ask though!
- 1 U.S. Dollar = 17.38 Egyptian Pounds
- Go with a patient mind! Vendors are everywhere and will be trying to get you to buy souvenirs or services from you all the time. Just keep saying “No Thank You” and they will eventually go away. If you aren’t expecting this, it will annoy you very easily.
- Dress conservatively. Your shoulders and knees should be covered out of respect for their culture.