Felucca vs. riverboat: How will you discover the Nile?

written by Liv Bohn November 15, 2018
Egyptian felucca ride on the Nile

Travelling Egypt without spending time on the Nile, would be like going to Italy and not seeing the Colosseum or visiting Peru and not stopping by Machu Picchu.

Having said that deciding how to tackle this mighty beast can throw up all manner of questions. For instance, when’s the best time to go? How long should I spend onboard? And, most frequently, do I choose a felucca or riverboat?

To quickly address a couple of those queries, October to April is the best time to travel because it’s not too hot (between 25-30°C), making temple pitstops much more pleasant. Also, on an Intrepid trip you can expect to spend a maximum of one night sleeping on a felucca, but three nights if choosing a cruise.

That detail alone should give you some indication of what you’d prefer. But, if you’re still befuddled, don’t worry, all will soon become clear as we help you to decipher the differences between these two river roving options.


Option 1: Felucca

A felucca, a traditional Egyptian sailing boat

Photo captured by Ryan Bolton

Simply speaking, a felucca is a traditional Egyptian wooden boat with a canvas sail, but they do come in lots of different shapes and sizes. Aswan is the usual boarding point for felucca rides, although you can also hop on at Luxor. Once aboard you’ll journey along the river between these two spots, but how far you travel is heavily dependent on the wind and water current.

The felucca offers some welcome shade and protection from the sun (and other elements), but there are no cabins or enclosed areas. Passengers will sleep in the open air on a communal mattress for the night. You’ll be provided with a blanket, but you may wish to bring a sleeping bag during the cooler months. It’s worth mentioning that these can be rented locally, so you don’t need to worry about lugging one all the way from home!


Your Nubian sailing crew, which tends to be made up of two sailors and a chef, will cook all the deliciously hearty meals you’ll tuck into on your trip. Get ready to gorge yourself on local delicacies like foul (an Egyptian fava bean stew), falafel, hummus, pitta bread and more.

Group lunch on the felucca

Photo captured by Ryan Bolton

As well as sharing a sleeping space, which also triples up as your dining and relaxing space, you’ll share a bathroom with your fellow passengers. On an Intrepid trip you’ll have access to a proper Western-style toilet and a shower, the only felucca on the Nile to have one! Who says travelling this way has to be basic?

Hints and tips

1. No shoes are allowed on deck to avoid contact with your sleeping mattress, so they’re left in a basket at the front of the boat when boarding.

2. Swimming is safe (and encouraged). The section of water between Aswan and Luxor is clean and taking a dip is a real highlight.

3. You can enjoy a drink onboard, although these need to be ordered in advance. Please mention this to your guide and crew ahead of departure.

4. We’ve been working with the same felucca provider for 15 years and Captain Jamaica (or JJ to his friends) is a core part of the Intrepid family.

Trips travelling by felucca


Option 2: Riverboat

A riverboat on the Nile


If you’d rather not compromise on creature comforts, then a Nile cruise is absolutely the right route for you. These riverboats could easily be compared to boutique four or five-star floating hotels, housing 50-70 private cabins. Just like the feluccas, these vessels operate between Aswan and Luxor. However, they run on a schedule meaning you’ll always spend three nights onboard.

Typically on these trips you’ll get up early to explore before the heat of the day and then have the afternoon to spend at your leisure. You’ll disembark the boat daily, which will give you plenty of opportunities to check out the abundant ancient sights peppering the shore. From Abu Simbel to Kom Ombo temple, you can look forward to seeing it all!


An Intrepid group at Abu Simbel

Photo captured by Ryan Bolton

Given the capacity of these riverboats, you’ll be sharing facilities with travellers who are not a part of your Intrepid tour. What a great way to meet even more like-minded people though, right? Facilities include a luxury lounge, sundeck, restaurant, rooftop pool and bar. You’ll also enjoy all your meals onboard, the menus for which will feature a wide selection of mouth-watering local dishes. With some boats even able to cater for gluten and lactose-free diets.

We couldn’t tie off this section without mentioning the cabins, which come fully airconditioned, beautifully decorated, with a private bathroom, colour TV, minibar and more.

Hints and tips

1. The boat will be anchored at port each evening and only on the odd occasion would you be sailing through the night. So, you don’t have to worry about missing out on the views.

2. Be sure to bring your bargaining skills, as plenty of small boats will approach trying to sell souvenirs and onshore excursions will have their fair share of local merchants too.

Trips travelling by riverboat


No matter which option you choose, you’ll need to bring the following along: swimmers and a towel, sunscreen and insect repellent, a good sense of humour and excellent conversation skills.

Want to experience the best that Egypt has to offer? Check out Intrepid’s diverse range of tours today!

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