For those on a quick trip to Egypt, here is my 7 day itinerary for Egypt:
Day 1 – Arrive in Cairo and get settled
Day 2 – Giza Pyramids
Day 3 – Day trip to Saqqara and Night trip to the bazaar
Day 4 – Travel Day to Luxor or Abu Simbel
Day 5 – Luxor
Day 6 – Luxor/Travel Day
Day 7 – On to the next destination!
Arrive in Cairo and get your bearings. Remember you’ll need to get a Visa which you can get online or get on arrival. You can read how to do it HERE.
You’ll be bombarded by taxi drivers as soon as you exit the arrivals hall (and sometimes inside). Have your wits about you because these drivers will tell you anything to get you into their cab. Some of the excuses I heard were:
Uber? The pick up point is 5km away!
Uber doesn’t work at this terminal
A taxi is cheaper! Don’t be stupid!
Yeah, I heard it all. And to be honest, I wouldn’t know if a taxi is cheaper because I always took an Uber. Uber works all over Cairo so don’t be swayed by what these drivers are saying. It may take some time to find the pick up point because it isn’t always obvious. But just look at your phone and try to figure out where to go.
TIP – If you’re taking an Uber, you’ll have to make your way to the GROUND level to find the Uber pick up point. It isn’t immediately clear so just keep that in mind.
From terminal 2, walk to your RIGHT as you exit the hall, there’ll be a slight bend in the road (and basically the sidewalk will end). Just walk along the road and you’ll see an elevator and a set of stairs. Go DOWN and toward the busy street. That will be your pick up point.
From terminal 3, walk across the street (through the taxi drivers) and make your way down the ramp. As soon as you get to the bottom, that will be your pick up point.
Well we might as well get the elephant in the room out of the way and go visit the Giza Pyramids. That is the main purpose isn’t it? Hopefully by the time you read this, the new Egyptian Museum will be open on the Giza plateau and you’ll have an easy time navigating your way around.
Please read my separate post on the Giza Pyramids for warnings and tips HERE.
You can easily spend the full day here but in reality, depending on the time of year, you’ll be ready to leave after 4+ hours. It’s in the desert so it’s going to be hot, shade is scarce, and the constant pestering is probably going to make it enough for you. It’s also a lot of walking so your feet are probably going to be ready for a break. Go back to the hotel and regroup. If you want, check out the (original) Egyptian Museum. The architecture alone is worth the visit.
Take a day trip to Saqqara and the surrounding areas. You will need to take a tour vs. doing this on your own because the sites are so spread out. But it’ll be worth it. It’ll also get you out of the city and into an area where there are far fewer tourists because most people stop at the Giza Pyramids. Take a half day tour and enjoy some different pyramids that most tourists don’t visit.
Please read my post on Saqqara HERE.
At night, go to Khan el-Khalili, the bazaar. Keep your wallet close, your backpacks locked, and your purse secure (this was advice given to me by a local who lived there). There is no point going to the bazaar during the day because the stores won’t be buzzing until evening (when it cools off). You’ll be harassed and approached by shopkeepers left and right. It’s all harmless and they’re only trying to get you into their store. If you like something, go ahead and buy it but make sure you bargain! My starting point was always about 25% of their initial offer. They’re expecting you to start at 50% so they already mark it up. Starting at 25% gives you a better chance with the hope of ending at 50%.
Shopkeeper starts at $400
You start at $100
You can negotiate up to $200
Shopkeeper starts at $400
You start at $200
You probably end up negotiating to $300
TIP – If you get stuck by the numbers, just take your time. The silence, in my experience (while you think), will make the shopkeeper a little nervous and they’ll start to lower their price. That’ll at least give you some leverage on the deal.
Also, don’t be pressured into giving extra money when you’re about to pay. The shop charges an extra 10% for the credit card fee? No thanks. They want extra for “giving” such a great deal? Nope. How about an extra 100LEs since we’re friends now? No…we’re not friends. I’m a customer and you’re trying to get more money.
Remember, that until you pay, you hold the cards and you can always walk away. After you pay, the transaction is over and YOU OWE NOTHING MORE to the shop owner. Sure, a little tip/baksheesh might be asked (and sure, for 10 or 20LEs, why not?) but anything more and just snap that wallet closed.
Here you have 2 options:
Travel day to Luxor. Depending on when your departure is, you’ll want to make sure you give yourself plenty of time to the airport. If you’re leaving in the morning, sure, you might get there fairly quickly (about 30 mins from a hotel near the Nile). Leaving in the afternoon? Give yourself at least an hour and closer to 90 mins. The traffic in Cairo is brutal so you don’t want to risk missing your flight because you didn’t give yourself enough time. It’s always better to be early and wait for a flight than late and miss it.
If you’re taking the train, buy your ticket online vs. in person. There is an outdated law that says tourists have to purchase the overnight train (the expensive one). That is no longer the case (as far as I know…to be honest I didn’t have time to take the train). However, I WAS able to go through the process of purchasing a train ticket online so I’d recommend avoiding the hassle of the ticket window and buying it online. If you need help, I’m sure the hotel staff or AirBNB host can assist.
Once in Luxor, get a ride to your accommodation. Uber doesn’t work here so you’ll have to either take a taxi or have a ride set up prior to arrival. Rides from the airport to the center of town seemed to be in the $10-$15 USD range but in any respect, you’ll probably feel like you’re being ripped off since the distance is so short. There may be some sort of government mandated maximum price that I’m not aware of. I usually arrange a ride where Uber or a prepaid taxi isn’t available. Sure, it costs more but you can’t put a price on peace of mind. You’d never know if you got in a taxi and they decided to drive around aimlessly for 30 mins just to charge you double.
Get settled and take it easy. You’ll quickly realize that Luxor is MUCH hotter than Cairo. Really. Much, much hotter. Just bank your energy for the next couple of days since you’re going to need it
Fly to Abu Simbel. Here, you can fly from Cairo to Abu Simbel with a stop in Aswan. After checking out of Cairo, you can get off at Aswan (after visiting Abu Simbel) and either spend the night in Aswan or take the train or car to Luxor.
Remember that the flight goes Cairo – Aswan – Abu Simbel – Aswan – Cairo. So regardless of the flight, if you want to fly to Abu Simbel, you’ll be forced to stop in Aswan. If you’re short on time, this could be the perfect way to go. Also, having been stuck in traffic from Aswan to Luxor in a car, I can honestly say that the train would be FAR faster than a car.
You can read my post on Abu Simbel HERE.
I would recommend making the trip to Luxor vs. staying in Aswan but that’ll depend on your energy level. The train from Aswan to Luxor should take about 3 hours so you should have plenty of time to get to Luxor to grab dinner
Explore Luxor’s East or West Bank. It won’t matter the order but I’d recommend starting on the West Bank since there are a lot more sites on that side vs. the East Bank. Take some water, sun lotion, and a big hat since it’s much hotter in Luxor than in Cairo.
I would strongly recommend a tour here vs. trying to do it yourself because the sites are so spread out and walking is impossible. I don’t care what people say, it isn’t possible to walk, bike, or take a bus to each of the sites.
Explore the opposite bank from the day before. You could even do an early West Bank tour in the morning to the more remote places if you prefer. I would say for time and money, you’ll probably want to do an East Bank tour and then have the tour company drop you off at the airport for travel back to Cairo. This will all depend on your flight though since there are some international flights to Luxor.
You’ll either be back in Cairo from the night before or transiting through Cairo depending on the timing of your flight. Then, it’s on to the next adventure!