Egypt //

Getting there

It is possible to get to Egypt by land, but most visitors fly in. Cairo has direct scheduled flights from London and New York, with indirect routes from pretty much everywhere, and there are low-cost flights from Britain to Luxor and the beach resorts.

The best airfares are available in low season, November through March, excluding Christmas and New Year, which counts as high season along with June, July and August. Flights on weekends can cost more than on weekdays; prices quoted below are for the cheapest round trip midweek including tax. Many have restrictions such as fixed dates, and may require advance booking.

Flights from the UK and Ireland

EgyptAir (w egyptair.com.eg), British Airways, (w ba.com) have scheduled flights to Cairo from London Heathrow (5hr). EgyptAir also has weekly direct flights to Luxor and twice weekly to Sharm el-Sheikh. EasyJet (w easyjet.com) flies from Manchester, Luton and Gatwick to Sharm el-Sheikh, and from Gatwick to Hurghada and Luxor. Flying indirectly, most airlines serve Cairo only, but Royal Jordanian (w rj.com) and Saudi Arabian Airlines (w saudiairlines.com) also fly from Heathrow to Alexandria and Sharm el-Sheikh, and Austrian Airlines (w austrian.com) fly from Heathrow via Vienna to Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada, while BA, KLM (w klm.com), Air France (w airfrance.com) and Lufthansa (w lufthansa.com) all offer indirect flights to Cairo from a number of British and Irish airports. Flights can cost as little as £275 return in low season, depending on the airline.

From the UK, there are also flights with low-cost charter airlines such as Thomsonfly (w flights.thomson.co.uk), First Choice Airways (w flights.firstchoice.co.uk) and Thomas Cook (w book.flythomascook.com), who fly from the UK to Luxor and the main resorts – Sharm el-Sheikh, Hurghada and sometimes Marsa Alam and Taba. These may operate only once or twice a week, and prices are generally similar to those on scheduled services, though you may occasionally turn up a bargain out of season. Most flights depart from London Gatwick or Manchester, but a few – particularly to Sharm el-Sheikh – use other UK airports too. Dive companies such as Planet (w planetdiveholidays.com), Regal (w regal-diving.co.uk) and Crusader (w crusadertravel.com) occasionally have cheap flight-only deals to the Red Sea resorts, but these are not usually advertised, so you’d need to approach the company direct. You may even find it cheaper to take a package tour than just a flight; there are some amazing bargains to be had among the basic Luxor-plus-Cairo or Luxor-only packages, and many smaller independent operators feature felucca trips on the Nile, diving holidays on the Red Sea or camel trekking in Sinai.

From Ireland, you can either make your own way to London and fly from there, or take an indirect flight, changing planes in Britain or Europe. Fares to Cairo start at around €300, with many (but not all) airlines hiking their prices by around €100 in high season.

Flights from the US and Canada

From the US, EgyptAir (w egyptair.com.eg) fly direct to Cairo from New York (10hr), and several European and Middle Eastern airlines offer indirect flights from a range of departure points, though New York still offers the biggest choice. West Coast flights are routed via the airlines’ hub cities, so check that you won’t have to wait overnight for your onward connection. You should be able to pick up a round-trip ticket for as little as $805 out of New York in low season, $1000 in high season. Flying from the West Coast, expect to pay $975 in low season, $1330 in high.

From Canada, Air Canada (w aircanada.com) offer through tickets from most Canadian airports in combination with Lufthansa (w lufthansa.com) or EgyptAir. Otherwise BA (w ba.com) and Air France (w airfrance.com) fly via London or Paris from Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver, or you could fly to New York to pick up EgyptAir’s daily flight from there. Low/high-season fares start at around Can$1300/1800 from Montreal or Toronto, Can$1450/1950 from Vancouver.

Flights from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa

A number of European, Middle Eastern and Asian carriers offer indirect flights to Egypt from Australia and New Zealand, changing planes at their hub airports. Cairo fares start at around Aus$2050 in low season, or Aus$2180 in high season from Australia, around NZ$3100 year-round from New Zealand. Emirates (w emirates.com) and Etihad (w etihadairways.com) are usually the cheapest and most convenient airlines; if flying into Dubai with Emirates, you might want to investigate low-cost flights on Air Arabia (w airarabia.com) from nearby Sharjah to Alexandria, Assyut or Luxor.

From South Africa, there are direct Cairo flights from Johannesburg (8hr) with EgyptAir (w egyptair.com.eg); SAA (w flysaa.com) codeshare this flight, offering through tickets from most South African airports. Otherwise, you can take an indirect flight with an East African airline such as Kenya Airways (w kenya-airways.com) or Ethiopian Airlines (w ethiopianairlines.com), or a Middle Eastern Airline such as Emirates (w emirates.com) or Etihad (w etihadairways.com). Most serve only Johannesburg, but Emirates flies from Cape Town as well. Fares start at around R5,800 in low season (winter), R6,900 in high season (summer).

From Israel and Cyprus by land and sea

At the time of writing, the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt was closed, and all traffic between Israel and Egypt was using the crossing at Taba near Eilat (open 24/7 except Eid al-Adha and Yom Kippur). Entering Egypt via Taba, you’re subject to an Israeli departure tax of NIS96 ($25.50), plus a NIS5 handling fee ($1.30) and an Egyptian entry tax of £E75 ($12.50).

Mazada Tours (141 Rehov Ibn Gvirol, Tel Aviv t 03 544 4454; 6 Yanai St, West Jerusalem t 02 623 5777; w mazada.co.il) used to run buses from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to Cairo, but this service has been suspended since the revolution, though it may be reinstated in the future. Their office in Tel Aviv is just around the corner from the Egyptian embassy.

Taba makes a fine jumping-off point for the Sinai coast resorts, St Catherine’s Monastery or Cairo. From Eilat, a taxi or a #15 bus (which doesn’t run on Shabbat) will get you to the Israeli checkpoint at Taba for an exit stamp; you then walk over to the Egyptian side, where Sinai-only visas can be obtained on the spot. It usually takes a good hour to cross the border, longer at holiday times. A few banks in Sharm el-Sheikh and one or two banks and foreign exchange bureaux in Cairo are the only places in Egypt where you can legally exchange Israeli shekels. You are not allowed to drive rented cars across the Israeli–Egyptian border. The Israel Airports Authority keep some current information about the Taba border crossing on their website at w iaa.gov.il/Rashat/en-US/Borders/Taba.

The passenger ferry service from Limassol (Cyprus) to Port Said, with some services calling at Haifa (Israel), is often suspended, but usually runs approximately weekly from May to October. For current information contact Varianos Travel, 8C Pantelides Ave, PO Box 22107, 1517 Nicosia, Cyprus t 357 22 680500, w varianostravel.com/Cruises/ferry_service.htm. The ferry does not carry vehicles.

From Jordan by land and sea

Direct buses do the 23-hour journey from Amman to Cairo, but they are neither pleasant nor economical. Unless time is of the essence, it’s better to do the journey in stages taking a ferry from Aqaba to Sinai.

JETT, on King Hussein Street in Amman (t 06 566 4146, w jett.com.jo), 900m north of Abdali station, has two weekly departures (Tues & Sat) direct to Cairo for JD28 (approximately $40) one-way, plus $75 for the ferry and JD8 ($11.50) exit tax. Afana, next door to JETT and at Abdali station (t 06 568 1560), run buses (currently daily at 2pm) for JD75 (approximately $106) including the boat. Most of these services will drop you in Cairo at Almaza terminal, but some arrive at the more convenient Sinai bus terminal. These direct buses usually take the Aqaba–Nuweiba ferry, but some may travel overland through Eilat (Israel), a route whose drawbacks are discussed below, so you may want to check which route the bus will take before buying your ticket.

From Aqaba, the quickest route to Egypt is by land via Eilat in Israel, using local transport. Disincentives are the telltale Arava and Taba border stamps, and the hefty exit and entry taxes (totalling around $46.50) payable at Eilat and Taba.

Alternatively, there are ferries from Aqaba to Sinai. Arab Bridge Maritime Co. (w abmaritime.com.jo) run a fast ferry (daily; 1hr; $75) and a slow ferry (daily; 3hr 30min; $65); both take vehicles but are subject to unpredictable delays, and the slow ferry is notoriously unpunctual. You can buy tickets from the company’s offices in Amman (beside the Royal Jordanian building just off 7th Circle; t 06 585 9554) or Aqaba (Sharia al-Batra, by Humam Supermarket; t 03 209 2000), from agents in Aqaba, or up to an hour before departure at the passenger terminal itself, 6km south of Aqaba (t 03 201 3236). The terminal is served by local buses from Aqaba’s fort (heading towards the Saudi border at Durra), or costs around JD5 by taxi.

An alternative is provided by Meenagate (next to the JETT bus park opposite the Kempinski hotel; t 03 201 3100, w meenagate.com), who run a catamaran service from the Royal Yacht Club, next to McDonald’s in central Aqaba (daily 7.30pm, arrive an hour before departure; $85), sometimes supplemented by a ferry service from the main terminal. This service does not take vehicles, but bicycles are carried free so long as you arrange this when booking. You need to book by email, 24 hours ahead, attaching a scan of your passport (or alternatively fax it on f 03 201 9461).

You pay a JD8 exit tax when boarding the ferry (and don’t expect any change back if you don’t have the exact money). Egyptian visas are available on arrival in Nuweiba (one-month full visa $15, two-week Sinai-only visa free).

Agents and operators

Ancient World Tours UK t 020 7917 9494, w ancient.co.uk. In-depth archeological and historical tours led by experts to over 120 sites in Egypt, including special access to many sites otherwise off-limits to tourists.
Discover Egypt UK t 0844 880 0462, w discoveregypt.co.uk. Packages and tailor-made itineraries including Nile cruises and multi-centre holidays.
Egypt Tours US t 1 800 TO EGYPT, w egyptours.com. Packages ranging from a six-night highlights tour to a nineteen-night “In Depth” trip, as well as combined tours with Jordan and Israel.
North South Travel UK t 01245 608 291, w northsouthtravel.co.uk. Friendly, competitive travel agency, offering discounted fares worldwide. Profits are used to support projects in the developing world, especially the promotion of sustainable tourism.
Soliman Travel UK t 020 7244 6855, w solimantravel.com/eg. One of the longest-established UK-based Egypt tour operators, with charter flights and a large range of packages and tailor-made holidays, mainly in five-star accommodation.
STA Travel UK t 0871 230 0040, w statravel.co.uk; US t 1 800 781 4040, w statravel.com; Australia t 134 782, w statravel.com.au; New Zealand t 0800 474400, w statravel.co.nz; South Africa t 0861 781 781, w statravel.co.za. Independent travel specialists, offering good discounts for students and under-26s.
Trailfinders UK t 020 7408 9000, Ireland t 01 677 7888; w trailfinders.com. One of the best-informed and most efficient agents for independent travellers.
Travel Cuts Canada t 1 800 667 2887, US t 1 800 592 2887, w travelcuts.com. Canadian youth and student travel firm.
USIT Republic of Ireland t 01 602 1906, Northern Ireland t 028 9032 7111; w usit.ie. Ireland’s main youth and student travel specialists.
Ya’lla Tours US t 800 644 1595, w yallatours.com. Middle East specialists offering a variety of Egypt tours and packages.

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