Egypt Tours & Vacations
Awesome ancient wonders, endless golden sands and atmospheric local souqs make Egypt the ultimate travel destination.
You’ve got to see it to believe it in Egypt – the chaos of Cairo (seriously, this city never stops); the bustling bazaars; the imposing glory of the Pyramids of Giza and the world’s most famous lion with a human head (the iconic Sphinx). Only in Egypt can you sail into the sunset on a felucca cruise along the Nile, jump on the back of a camel and ride into Luxor’s Valley of the Kings, then float facing towards the sky in the glittering expanse of the Red Sea. Take a moment as time stands still in Egypt.
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Egypt at a glance
Cairo (population 9.4 million)
Egyptian pound (EGP)
Type C (European 2-pin)
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Best time to visit Egypt
Egypt is blessed with lots of sunshine and very little rain. Generally, the hottest months are June to August, and the coolest month is January. Rainfall is negligible, except on the coast, with rain usually occurring during the winter months (December to March).
During the summer months (from June to August), daily temperatures can reach 40 degrees Celsius - perfect for snorkelling and soaking up the sun on the beaches of Sinai, but can prove challenging for some in the crowded streets and souqs of Cairo.
Choose to escape the crowds by travelling from March to May or September to November when the weather is milder, and there's the opportunity to experience Egypt during Ramadan and the celebrations of Eid (which marks the breaking of the fast). If you are planning to travel during Ramadan, it's important to consider that many restaurants and shops will either be closed or operating on reduced hours.
Culture and customs
Life in Egypt has been in a state of flux since the 2011 revolution. Many of the issues that motivated so many to take to the streets in protest continue to be points of contention, but Egyptians remain hopeful, relying on religion, family and humour to get them through, like they have for thousands of years. A strong sense of community binds people across the country. Families and communities support each other and there is a prevailing sense that everyone is in it together. For all these reasons, most express great pride in being Egyptian, despite their nation’s recent turmoil.
As a largely Muslim country (about 90% of the population is Muslim while most of the remaining 10% identify as Coptic Christian), Islam permeates daily activities. Life revolves around the five daily prayers and everything is closed on Friday, the Muslim holy day. A wide array of cultural norms, including how people dress and interact with the opposite sex, are influenced by religion. Women are largely defined by their role as a mother and matron of the house, whereas men are expected to be the provider.
Many Egyptians consider their country the gateway between the West and the rest of the Arab world, and take pride in their ability to mix tradition with modern influences. This mixing is most apparent in major cities, such as Cairo and Alexandria, where American fast-food chains can be found next to traditional cafes, secular attitudes are more common, and pop music rings through city streets.
Food and drink
With fragrant spices, fresh fruit and vegetables, and delicious sweets on offer, culinary adventures in Egypt are guaranteed. On many Intrepid trips you'll be given the opportunity to dine with a local family – this offers a great chance to see how meals are prepared and learn more about the ingredients.
Things to try in Egypt
1. Hamam mahshi
A north African delicacy, hamam – roasted pigeon stuffed with cracked wheat and rice – can be found on the menu of most traditional Egyptian restaurants. You may need a few to fill up though, as they don’t contain a lot of meat. And be careful of all the tiny bones.
2. Ta'ameya (falafel)
Crunchy on the outside, moist on the inside, these deep-fried balls of spiced fava beans are a Middle Eastern vegetarian staple. Usually served in a pita with salad, pickles and sesame-based tahina - buy it at a street stall for a quick, cheap meal.
Shops specializing in this popular ‘poor man’s dish’ can be found throughout Cairo. A hearty mix of rice, macaroni and lentils, chickpeas and fried onions, koshary is topped with a tomato-vinegar sauce.
4. Ful medames
Don't leave Egypt without trying the classic dish of ful medames, which can be traced back to pharaonic times. Consisting of slow-cooked fava beans, served with olive oil, parsley, garlic and lemon juice - add some spice by seasoning with chilli paste and eat with bread.
Delicious, sweet pastries are found in restaurants, markets and cafes in Egypt. Never was there a better time to live by the adage ‘Life is short, eat dessert first’.
Egypt is a mostly Muslim country, and any consumption of alcohol here is relatively low-key. There are many fantastic alternatives. Juice stands are common on main streets offering freshly squeezed banana, guava, or mango juice. Karkadai is a chilled, crimson drink brewed from hibiscus leaves (served hot in the winter). And tea (or shai) is the beverage of choice for most Egyptians, which is sipped throughout the day and with meals.
Read more about what to eat in Egypt
Geography and environment
Located in the northeast corner of Africa, Egypt shares its borders with Israel and the Palestinian Territories, Libya and Sudan, as well as the Mediterranean Sea to the north and the Red Sea to the east. The two seas are connected by the man-made Suez Canal.
The remote triangle-shaped peninsula is largely characterized by limestone and desert, but also has a vibrant coral reef along the Red Sea coastline. Hot, dry desert covers most of the country’s terrain, with the Western Desert occupying much of the west, and the Arabian (or Eastern) Desert stretching the length of the eastern coast. These two regions are dissected by the Nile River, which runs the length of the country, emptying into the Mediterranean Sea. The Nile Valley, a narrow fertile band extending from the river, is the country’s only fertile land and where 98% of the population lives.
History and government
Napoleon Bonaparte, the infamous pint-sized French leader, invaded Egypt in 1798, seeking to set up a French colony. However, not long after, the French were repelled, and Egypt became a part of the Ottoman Empire once again.
From 1882, the British Army occupied Egypt to protect the Suez Canal. Muhammad Ali officially ruled from the early 1800s, and his family and successors continued to rule for decades (alongside and during British occupation) until overthrown by a military coup in 1952.
During World War II, Egypt became a crucial element in Britain's defence. The Italian Army tried to advance into Egypt in 1940 but was stopped by the British Army at Mersa Matruh. Egypt continued to serve as a vital base for British troops during World War II and despite the disruption, Egypt's shopkeepers and retail trade benefitted from the thousands of Allied troops staying in Egypt.
In 1953, Egypt was officially declared a republic and a year later, Colonel Nasser was declared Prime Minister, then President. In 1979, after decades of confrontation with neighbouring Israel, the historic Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty was signed. This agreement made Egypt the first Arab country to officially recognize Israel as a country - a significant step in the peace process. More recently, in February 2011, large scale protests and mass demonstrations resulted in the removal of President Mubarak after decades of autocratic rule.
Ancient Egypt has been the focus of much fascination, investigation, speculation and intrigue. It's hard to escape the education system without having studied Ancient Egypt in some way. Drawn in by the mighty pyramids, mysterious hieroglyphics, distinct burial rituals and animal-headed gods - scholars, students, historians and travellers are all amazed by this civilization which has endured cycles of dynastic rule, invasion and natural disasters.
Through key archaeological finds, historians have been able to unravel some of the mysteries of this great land. What is known is that the daily life of the average Egyptian usually involved working in agriculture with the waters of the Nile providing fertile ground for planting of crops. Egyptians usually lived in modest homes with children and domestic pets. Professions were usually inherited - so if your father was a farmer, then so were you.
While most Egyptians led simple lives, dynasties of Pharaohs led lavish lifestyles, with the most well-known being Ramses II, Hatshepsut, Akhenaten, Tutankhamun and Cleopatra. Huge monuments, imposing pyramids, golden artifacts and detailed paintings all hold details about pharaonic rule and succession, as well as commonly held beliefs about religion and the afterlife.
Spanning centuries and full of drama worthy of a soap opera, the epic history of Ancient Egypt is complex and we suggest you read about it before visiting.
Top places to visit in Egypt
1. Nile River
Sail down the mighty Nile River on a traditional Egyptian felucca.
Trip: Egypt Experience
Trip: Explore Egypt & Jordan
2. Red Sea
Dive into the warm, glittering waters of the Red Sea on a snorkelling adventure in Hurghada.
Trip: Jordan & Egypt Express
Trip: Explore Egypt
Trip: Egypt Family Holiday
Discover the historic wonders of Alexandria, an ancient port city that locals call the Bride of the Mediterranean Sea.
Trip: Jordan & Egypt Uncovered
Trip: Explore Egypt & Jordan
Trip: Explore Egypt
Experience the bustling energy of Cairo and shop for souvenirs at Cairo's Khan al-Khalili bazaar.
Trip: Egypt Experience
Trip: Explore Egypt
Trip: Egypt Adventure
5. Mt Sinai
Hike to the summit of Mt Sinai, which many believe is where Moses received the ten commandments.
Trip: Jordan & Egypt Uncovered
Trip: Discover Egypt & Jordan
Explore the impressive chapels, pylons and obelisks of Karnak Temple.
Trip: Egypt Experience
Trip: Egypt, Jordan, Isreal & the Palestinian Territories
7. Abu Simbel
These massive monuments dedicated to Ramses II and Queen Nefertari are seriously impressive.
Trip: Egypt Experience
Trip: Explore Egypt
8. Valley of the Kings
King Tut’s treasures may be long gone, but his hieroglyphic-covered tomb remains an incredible sight to see.
Trip: Essential Egypt
Trip: Epic Egypt, Jordan & Isreal & the Palestinian Territories
Trip: Real Egypt & Jordan
Top 10 ancient wonders of Egypt
1. Grand designs
The original grand design - monumental and magnificent - the Pyramids of Giza are an impressive achievement in ancient engineering. Towering above the desert sands and standing proudly for centuries, the first glimpse of these stunning structures will render visitors breathless.
2. Stony enigma
Be captivated by the mysterious aura of the Great Sphinx of Giza. This monolithic mythical beast possesses a lion’s body and a human head - and has sat quietly in the desert sands for eons. Gaze at the Sphinx and try to work out the riddle of its existence.
3. Mighty Nile River
No trip to Egypt is complete without visiting the Nile River - the life force of Egypt that has flowed for centuries. A provider of irrigation, an essential travel route, home to hippos and crocodiles, and now a source of leisure for locals and travellers alike, the Nile is an aquatic link to Egypt’s ancient heritage.
4. Terrific temples
Discover an enormous open-air museum like no other. The awe-inspiring Temples of Karnak are filled with stately statues, immense columns and gigantic gateways. Explore this intriguing site and be left in no doubt about the brilliance of the ancient Egyptian civilization.
5. Holy mountain
Embark on a trek to the top of Mt Sinai and witness an incredible golden sunrise to remember. A place of worship for many faiths, a pilgrimage to Mt Sinai reveals stunning scenery, an ancient monastery and historic chapels. An iconic highlight of Egypt for believers and non-believers alike, Mt Sinai is not to be missed.
6. Double happiness
Located in the Nile Valley, the unique Temple of Kom Ombo is a ‘double temple’ and a rare archaeological find. Dedicated to two gods, a visit here is a true highlight of an Egyptian escapade. Marvel at the well-preserved wall reliefs, try to decipher the hieroglyphics and honour the craftsmen who created this wonder.
7. Museum magic
Step into a dazzling world of antiquity at the Egyptian Museum. Be amazed by the glittering treasures recovered from King Tutankhamun’s tomb – with jewellery, furniture, chariots and that famous gold funerary mask, this pharaoh was certainly prepared for the afterlife.
8. Roman ruins
The Roman ruins of Kom el-Dikka in Alexandria may not be the biggest, but they are certainly among the best-preserved in Egypt, if not the world. Soak up the atmosphere of the Roman amphitheatre and imagine it in all its glory - packed with 800 spectators ready for action.
9. Colossal characters
Near the modern city of Luxor stand the imposing Colossi of Memnon. These massive stone statues of Amenhotep III, while badly damaged, still maintain an unmistakable air of authority. Stand below them and be dwarfed by the scale of these tremendous figures.
10. The ancient heart of Cairo
Wander the cobbled streets of Islamic Cairo and uncover the ancient heart of this chaotic city. Admire mosques, palaces and houses, and peruse the goods on offer at one of the world’s oldest bazaars. Dating back to medieval times, the Khan al-Khalili bazaar is where people have traded goods for centuries.
Souqs – or open-air bazaars – are both the best place to shop in Egypt and attractions in their own right. The biggest and most famous souq is the 500-year-old Khan El Khalili Bazaar in Cairo. Within the maze of narrow streets and laneways lie stalls selling jewellery, glass, copper, spices and artisan goods, along with more standard tourist fare. Quality can vary greatly so spend some time shopping around.
Like many markets around the world, bargaining is the norm, but Egyptians take it to another level. Expect to be offered tea (it can take that long) and for elaborate theatrics from the seller. While bazaars in Cairo tend to sell everything, visit Aswan’s bazaar for spices, incense and basketwork, and Luxor for cheaply priced alabaster figurines and vases. It's also a good idea to check with your local customs officials to ensure that you are able to bring certain items back into your home country.
Things to buy in Egypt
You’ll often see spices piled high in bazaars. In addition to making a great photo for Instagram, they’re often a good buy as long as you keep a couple of things in mind. Always buy whole spices rather than ground to ensure freshness and skip the ‘saffron’ – it’s actually safflower and tastes like dust.
Hand-blown Muski glass, recognizable by its air bubbles, comes in brilliant shades of blue and green and purple, and has been made in Egypt since medieval times. Be careful with this purchase though as it’s extremely fragile.
A kind of nameplate written in hieroglyphics. Most gold or silver shops sell these and many can customise them by engraving your name.
Festivals and events
After fasting for an entire month, Muslims celebrate the end of Ramadan with Eid al-Fitr, or ‘Feast of Breaking the Fast’. For three days, starting on the first day of the tenth month of the lunar calendar, people celebrate with feasts, family and festivals. Look for vendors selling kahk cookies (nut-filled cookies covered in powdered sugar) while taking in the festivities, a tasty treat synonymous with Eid for many locals.
Arguably the most important holiday in Egypt, the ‘Feast of Sacrifice’ is not one for vegetarians and vegans. About 70 days after Eid al-Fitr, sheep and goats are slaughtered (often in the middle of the street) for a mighty feast.
Each year on March 21st, Egyptians celebrate the coming of spring by spending the day outdoors. Join the locals for this ancient holiday by packing a picnic and heading to a park or public garden.
Abu Simbel Sun Festival
As if the two temples dedicated to Ramses II and Queen Nefertari weren’t impressive enough, they were constructed in such a way that twice a year, the sun’s rays reach its innermost chambers and illuminate three stone gods that reside within, while leaving Ptah (god of the underworld) in the dark. And those days just happen to be Ramses’s birthday (October 21) and coronation (February 21). Coincidence? We think not.
We have a variety of similar destinations, trips and routes that you could consider! Tie another trip into your holiday, or, see how we can help you get from A to B. We have tours departing from a number of locations across Africa. The options below may be of interest:
|The Cairo Trilogy||Naguib Mahfouz|
|A Thousand Miles Up the Nile||Amelia Edwards|
|In an Antique Land||Amitav Ghosh|
|The Pharaoh's Shadow: Travels in Ancient and Modern Egypt||Anthony Sattin|
|Daughters of Isis: Women of Ancient Egypt||Joyce Tyldesley|
Egypt travel FAQs
Trips from 1 January 2023 onwards
From 1 January 2023, Intrepid will no longer require travellers to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19 (excluding all Polar trips and select adventure cruises).
However, we continue to strongly recommend that all Intrepid travellers and leaders get vaccinated to protect themselves and others.
Specific proof of testing or vaccination may still be required by your destination or airline. Please ensure you check travel and entry requirements carefully.
Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. Entry requirements can change at any time, so it's important that you check for the latest information. Please visit the relevant consular website of the country or countries you’re visiting for detailed and up-to-date visa information specific to your nationality. Check the Essential Trip Information section of the itinerary for more information.
Tipping is customary for pretty much all services in Egypt. A tip of 10–15% is customary at cafes and restaurants and loose change is acceptable for food purchases from street vendors and markets. It’s also a good idea to tip local guides and drivers USD 2–4 per day.
Internet access is growing in Egypt, with internet cafes and Wi-Fi hotspots becoming increasingly common in large cities, especially Cairo, though access may be limited in smaller towns and remote areas.
Mobile phone coverage is generally good in Egypt’s urban areas, but may not be available in remote and desert areas. Ensure global roaming is activated with your service provider before leaving home.
Squat toilets are most common in Egypt, although Western-style flushable toilets can be found in larger hotels and some tourist areas.
A couple of pastries = 49 EGP
Cup of tea = 30 EGP
Falafel sandwich from a street stall = 92 EGP
Sit-down dinner at a local restaurant = 123-276 EGP
Drinking tap water isn’t recommended in Egypt. Remember to avoid drinks with ice and to peel fruit before eating it. Help the environment and try to avoid buying bottled water. Instead, fill a reusable water bottle with filtered water. Ask your leader or hotel where to find filtered water.
Credit cards are usually accepted by modern hotels, large retailers and tourist sites but are less commonly accepted by smaller vendors in remote areas. Always carry enough cash for smaller purchases in case credit cards are not an option.
ATMs are commonly found in larger cities, like Cairo and Alexandria, near shopping centres, tourist areas and 5-star hotels, but are far less common in small towns and rural areas. Make sure you have enough cash before leaving urban areas.
- 7 Jan: Coptic Christmas
- 28 Apr: Coptic Easter*
- 25 Apr: Sinai Liberation Day
- 28 Apr: Sham el-Nessim*
- 1 May: Labour Day
- 5 Jun: Eid al-Fitr*
- 23 Jul: National Day
- 12 Aug: Eid al-Adha
- 11 Sep: Coptic New Year
- 1 Sep: Islamic New Year*
- 6 Oct: Armed Forces Day
- 10 Nov: Birth of Prophet Mohammed*
Please note many of these public holidays are religious holidays and change each year as they are celebrated according to the Islamic lunar cycle. For a current list of public holidays in Egypt go to World Travel Guide's website.
Discretion is advised for LGBTQI travellers in Egypt. Though homosexuality is not officially outlawed, gay men have been prosecuted using debauchery and public morals laws and given long prison sentences. Be aware that signals are ambiguous in Egypt as men commonly hold hands, link arms and greet each other with a kiss on the cheek. As long as you use common sense, travel in Egypt should not be a problem.
For more detailed and up-to-date advice, we recommend visiting Equaldex or ILGA before you travel.
If you are travelling solo on an Intrepid group tour, you will share accommodation with a passenger of the same gender as per your passport information. If you don’t identify with the gender assigned on your passport, please let us know at the time of booking and we’ll arrange the rooming configuration accordingly. A single supplement is available on some tours for travellers who do not wish to share a room.
Summer temperatures can get very high, so light fabrics like linen, cotton and athletic gear made to take the heat are best. If you’re travelling outside of winter, don’t underestimate the cool change that can come in the evenings, especially if you’re spending the night in the desert or on a Nile cruise. Avoid packing anything in white – desert dust will quickly turn those light-coloured clothes a not-so-delightful shade of brown.
Intrepid believes half the fun of experiencing a new country is getting there, and getting around once there! Where possible, Intrepid uses local transport options and traditional modes of transport - which usually carry less of an environmental impact, support small local operators and are heaps more fun.
Depending on which trip you're on while in Egypt, you may find yourself travelling by:
A mode of transport that's been used for centuries, riding a camel is a definite must when visiting Egypt. Swaying through the desert sands on a 'ship of the desert' is an unforgettable Egyptian vacation experience.
Travelling with Intrepid is a little bit different. We endeavour to provide travellers with an authentic experience to remember, so we try to keep accommodation as unique and traditional as possible.
When travelling with us in [peak-destination:peak-destination-country] you may find yourself staying in a:
Glide down the Nile on a traditional Egyptian felucca; sleep on deck under the stars as the sun slides away for the day - a must-do experience while in Egypt.
Be welcomed into the home of a local family and experience the cuisine, culture and customs of Egypt firsthand during your stay. A truly authentic travel experience like no other.
Travel deep into the White Desert to camp under the stars amid surreal scenery. This is a rare chance to experience the remote wonder and isolation of the Egyptian desert.
With calming Red Sea views and fresh sea breezes, this rustic breach abode is all about life’s simple pleasures.
Intrepid takes the health and safety of its travellers seriously, and takes every measure to ensure that trips are safe, fun and enjoyable for everyone. We recommend that all travellers check with their government or national travel advisory organization for the latest information before departure:
Go to: http://www.smartraveller.gov.au/
Go to: https://travel.gc.ca/
From the UK?
Go to: http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/
From New Zealand?
Go to: http://www.safetravel.govt.nz/
From the US?
Go to: http://travel.state.gov/
The World Health Organization
also provides useful health information. Go to: http://www.who.int/en/
Absolutely. All passengers travelling with Intrepid are required to purchase travel insurance before the start of their trip. Your travel insurance details will be recorded by your leader on the first day of the trip. Due to the varying nature, availability and cost of health care around the world, travel insurance is very much an essential and necessary part of every journey.
For more information on insurance, please go to: Travel Insurance
Whether you’re a seasoned traveller or you’re about to embark on your first trip, travelling can be as intimidating as it is exciting. That's the beauty of a small group tour. From handling the logistics and organizing amazing cultural activities to local leaders who know each destination like the back of their hand (like which street has the best markets and where to get the most authentic food), travelling on a small group tour with Intrepid will give you unforgettable travel experiences without the hassle that comes with exploring a new place. Plus, you'll have ready-made friends to share the journey with. All you have to do is turn up with a healthy sense of adventure and we’ll take care of the rest.