Backpacking in Egypt
There is hardly a country with such a rich and fascinating history as Egypt. There is hardly any other country that has so much cultural treasure and fantastic and unique landscapes to offer as the country on the Nile. Egypt is located in the northeast of the African continent. It borders Israel and Gaza in the northeast, Libya in the west and Sudan in the south. In the north the natural border is the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea and in the southeast the extensive coastal strip of the Red Sea.
The Mediterranean Sea is connected to the Indian Ocean by the Suez Canal. It is one of the many sights you should definitely see as a backpacker in Egypt. But there is much more to discover. Sun worshippers, water sports enthusiasts and people interested in culture will also get their money’s worth because they can immerse themselves deep into the country’s past.
When backpacking in Egypt there are of course also certain imponderables that you will encounter. For example, the punctuality of buses and taxis is not at its best, so you will have to allow for longer waiting times so that you don’t experience any nasty surprises. If you travel relaxed, you will encounter fascinating landscapes and unique cultural sites from bygone times. Many of them are UNESCO Heritage Sites and Natural Heritage Sites, such as ancient Thebes and its necropolis.
Travelling in Egypt is very varied for backpackers. The easiest way to get from A to B is by train, which is a very cheap way to travel. If you are in possession of an ISIC card, you even get a 30% discount on the train ticket. In its 5000 years of eventful history, Egypt has had a total of 20 different capitals. The current capital is Cairo, where about 10 million people live without considering the peripheral regions. The metropolis is the political, economic and cultural centre of the country and the entire Arab world.
During your backpacking tour through Egypt, you will get money with your EC card if the ATMs are equipped with the corresponding Maestro or Cirrus logo. However, you can avoid the cost of this type of withdrawal by using a credit card that offers free worldwide withdrawals.
You can also change money in hotels and exchange offices. But beware! In many cases the exchange rate here is not as good as when you change your money at a bank. The official language in Egypt is Arabic, the majority is spoken Egyptian-Arabic. To speak with the Egyptians in their national language is almost impossible, because the language is very complicated and shows many different dialects. But with English and French you get along quite well with backpacking through Egypt.
The Orientals are very hospitable. This hospitality is part of her social life. An invitation to dinner is valid after two pronunciations. During Ramadan life in Egypt is different. As travellers you get your meals in the hotels and hostels. But in public places, out of respect for the Islamic faith, you should be careful not to eat until the evening.
Culture in Egypt
The roots of modern Egypt go back to one of the oldest advanced civilizations in human history. Flooding of the Nile River created arable land for cultivation. The farmers had to pay levies to the Pharaoh, which included part of the annual grain harvest. This levy made it possible to develop a high culture that was closely linked to the belief in the afterlife and a differentiated cult of the dead. At the same time a pronounced mathematical thinking developed, as can be seen in the step pyramid of Djoser. Because for such a building in the desert, which was built on desert sand and withstands the different weather conditions over thousands of years, precise calculations were necessary.
The culture in Egypt is strongly influenced by the worship of animal-headed gods. The close connection between faith and culture was strongly influenced in the late period by foreign conquerors such as Persians, Assyrians and Alexander the Great. Under Cleopatra, Egypt became a Roman province until the Arabs snatched the land from the Eastern Roman Byzantines in 640 AD and introduced the Islamic faith. This belief still prevails today. According to the Egyptian constitution the Sharia is the main source of legislation.
In the 20th century Egypt regained its independence. The Egyptians use their rich history to develop as the cultural centre of the Arab world. As women, you should not make your backpacker journey through Egypt alone. The men in Egypt are mostly very friendly and helpful. But especially with women travelling alone there are sexual assaults again and again.
In the land of the pharaohs you should always travel in a group, no matter if man or woman. Because attacks after dusk are always possible, especially in remote areas along the Nile route, as well as in Alexandria and Cairo. In the big cities nothing stands in the way of a good supply, if you stick to the opening hours. Especially big department stores are open for you from 9:00 to 22:00. On the many local markets, trading is a good thing.
More Backpacking Information about Egypt
Basically, Egypt is a cheap travel destination, apart from the tourist strongholds on the Red Sea. So you can make ends meet with a budget of 40 to 70 Euros per day.
Travelling in Egypt as a backpacker means experiencing the indescribable culture of the Pharaohs up close and personal and exploring a unique landscape. While exploring the country you will encounter large temperature fluctuations with little precipitation. However, in winter it can get very cold in the Sinai Mountains. Therefore you should definitely consider the right travel time for your backpacking trip.
There is a variety of overnight accommodations. So there are inexpensive bargains from 6 to 10 euros. The average price in the hostel and a hostel is around 14 euros. But you can’t expect luxury for it. If you want it a little more luxurious, you pay between 30 and 50 euros for a room in a hotel.
Ancient traditions, the Islamic way of life and the tendency to the western oriented modern times are also reflected in the cuisine of Egypt. A lot of bread and vegetables as well as braised onions and pulses are eaten. But also fish and meat are on the menu. You should try everything that the Egyptian cuisine has to offer.
You can simply visit the country on a backpacker tour through Egypt or get involved with the culture and experience fascinating things. You will be amazed how different this country is. Cairo, Alexandria and Luxor are popular places to go, where there are also interesting shopping opportunities and goods are offered at unbeatable prices.
As a German citizen you need a visa, which you can get before your trip at the Egyptian Embassy in Berlin and at the Consulate General in Frankfurt. It is also possible to purchase the visa for a fee when you enter the country. You can find out what else you need to know about Egypt under Visa & Vaccinations.
Travelling and living in Egypt is quite cheap by European standards. As a rule, you can expect to make ends meet as a backpacker with 40 to 70 Euros per day. The local currency is the Egyptian pound. In a simple restaurant you pay for a meal approximately 3 to 6 euros. In an upscale restaurant, however, it becomes much more expensive. But this is the case everywhere in the world. Those who like fast food can get a complete menu at Mc Donald for 2 Euro. The local beer is around 1.50 euros for a bottle of 0.5 liters. Imported beers are significantly more expensive. For a 1.5 litre bottle of Coke in the supermarket you pay around 0.30 euros and for a glass in the restaurant around 0.40 euros. You can get a 0.75 litre bottle of mineral water at the supermarket for around 0.10 euros.
At the supermarket chain Abu Ashera you often find the best prices. Smaller shops that are located away from the tourist strongholds are also always quite cheap, so that you can certainly buy there quite sparingly.
Taxi driving Bus driving in Egypt
When driving a taxi in Egypt, the rule is: First act, then drive! This protects you from nasty surprises. The economically strained situation leads to the fact that taxi drivers do not switch on the taximeter and demand clearly excessive prices for a journey. For taxis without taximeters, the same applies. A trip through Hurghada, for example, should not cost more than 0.50 to 0.70 euros. For a transfer to the airport, the prices are between 2.50 and 3 euros.
Bus travel in Egypt
The traffic in Egypt and especially in Cairo is very chaotic. But there are different means of transport like buses, which do not have a fixed timetable and therefore drive very irregularly. In addition, they are mostly completely overcrowded but very cheap. The most well-kept means of transport in Egypt is the subway in Cairo, which is even reasonably punctual.
If you want to use the bus as a means of transport on your backpacker trip, you should choose the Upper Egypt Transport Bus Company. They will take you to your desired destination in modern or less modern buses. However, you can be sure that the buses are air-conditioned. They will take you from Cairo to Kantara, Dachla, Kharga, El-Babuiti and the Red Sea in Upper Egypt. More information about bus connections and timetables can be found here.
Domestic fares in Egypt
Of course you can also use the plane. Very short flight times are waiting for you, for example when you fly from Hurghada to Cairo. The flight time is just 30 minutes. You can fly with Alexandria Airlines, Egyptair, Air Cairo and many other airlines. A flight between Cairo and Alexandria costs between 160 and 260 Euros. In any case, it is worth comparing prices with the offers of the Egyptian National Railways. And by train you can also take a look at the passing landscape.
Rail travel in Egypt
As Egypt has a very well developed railroad network, you should use the Egyptian railroad for your backpacker trip when planning your trip. The rail network extends via Cairo to Alexandria, the Delta and the Channel Zone, taking you along the coast to Mersa Matrouh and the Nile Valley up to Luxor and Aswan. On these routes you travel with modern air-conditioned trains and reach your destination relaxed. Egyptian National Railways is the national railway company in Egypt. Timetables can be found at all stations, but only in Arabic. On the website of the Egyptian Railways or here you can find timetables in English for you.
During your backpacker trip through Egypt you will enjoy a culturally diverse country, which at the same time offers fantastic beaches for different water sports. Throughout the country there are temples and pyramids for you to discover.
You will come across the now Greek Orthodox Catharine monastery in Sinai, which was founded between 548 and 565 and is one of the oldest still inhabited monasteries of Christianity. No less exciting are the ancient ruins of Abu Mena, where you’ll find a church, basilicas, public buildings, houses, workshops and monasteries built in this early Christian holy city over the tomb of the martyr Menas of Alexandria.
Likewise, when backpacking in Egypt, don’t miss Wadi al-Hitan. You’ll soon wonder what else you should have seen on your trip.
Route 1: The classic (15-20 days)
- 3 days to explore the multifaceted city of Cairo. Pure shopping is the order of the day!
- 2 days Alexandria. There is also a lot to discover here!
- 2 day Banu Suweif museum tour to the archaeological museum.
- 3 days Asyut on the Nile and visit the princely tombs.
- 3 days Luxor, Valley of the Kings and dive further into the history of Egypt.
- 2 days to visit Aswan, Temple and Aswan Dam.
- 3 days to enjoy Hurghada, beach, sun and sea.
- 2 days Sharm El-Sheikh relax on the beach and admire the sights.
Route 2: Backpacker Intensive Trip (up to 30 days and more)
- 3 days to explore the multifaceted city of Cairo. Pure shopping is the order of the day!
- 2 days Alexandria. There is also a lot to discover here!
- 3 days to explore the hustle and bustle and life of Marsa Matruh.
- 4 days in Siwa Oasis to discover the otherness of Egypt and go on excursions.
- 2 day Banu Suweif museum tour to the archaeological museum.
- 3 days Asyut at the Nile experience and visit the prince graves.
- 4 days Luxor, valley of the kings and further into the history of Egypt dive.
- 3 days to visit Aswan, Temple and Aswan Dam.
- 3 days Hurghada, beach, sun and sea.
- 3 days Sharm El-Sheikh relax on the beach and marvel at sights.
- 3 days Port Said museum tour and visit historical monuments.
Travel times in Egypt
Egypt is a dry country with very little rainfall. However, you can expect large temperature fluctuations. Rain is most common in the Nile delta and on the northern coast. The winters in Egypt are very pleasant and offer you temperatures around 24°C. Between March and June it gets really hot. There are already temperatures around 35°C and often even well over 40°C in it. Since there is little humidity, these temperatures are quite well to bear with the Backpacker Trip.
In Cairo, Aswan and the Nile delta the thermometer even rises to 48°C to 50°C in July and August. At the Red Sea it is very mild and pleasant in the winter months. In the Sinai mountains, however, it can get really cold in winter. The best time to visit the land of the Pharaohs is from mid-March to mid-May and from mid-September to mid-November, as temperatures are the most pleasant for Europeans.
In Egypt there are many accommodation options, which are very different. On the one hand there are more luxurious accommodations, where you can’t do much with a small budget. If you want it very cheap, you will find a place to sleep in simple hostels that is very similar in price to youth hostels. Hotels are another alternative. If they belong to the 5 star category, you will quickly pay 100 Euros and more.
But you will also be offered hostels where you can stay at a much lower price. For example you will find guesthouses and hostels with incredible prices. A look at the Hostelworld hostel page will give you a quick overview. Accordingly, a bed in a hostel costs as follows:
- Cairo 8 – 20 Euro
- Alexandria 10- 20 Euro
- Luxor 7 – 11 Euro
- Dahab 7 – 20 Euro
- Hurghada 8 – 24 Euro
The prices in the hostels partly vary considerably. This is due to the different standards that you get there. For a double room, you can easily triple the price. As a rule, multi-bed rooms are commonplace in the hostels. Motels and hotels are certainly a pleasant alternative.
Motels on exit roads and motorways
A room in a motel or hotel costs between 20 and 50 Euros. Here you will live much more comfortably and safely. Depending on the equipment you will get a double room with TV, your own bathroom and PC connection. Motels can usually be found at the entrance and exit roads of the cities. Cheap hotels can be found in the inner cities, on the outskirts of cities and outside. Don’t be surprised if you are approached at train stations and offered a hotel room. These offers may be untrustworthy, but they do not necessarily have to be.
Camping in the country
Generally, camping in Egypt is not recommended during your backpacker trip. However, there is one exciting and unique exception. This means the organized desert camps, where you stay well protected and safe. During an overnight stay in a desert camp you will experience the peculiarity of this landscape up close. You will spend the night in a Bedouin tent and can enjoy the starry sky over the desert.
Travelling to Egypt is one thing, getting to know the culture of the country and experiencing it up close is another. Due to the strong Islamic influence you have to adhere to certain rules of conduct. You should avoid too much freedom of movement in your clothing. This is especially true for the female sex. Basically, however, you will experience great hospitality in the country.
Without a visit to the Valley of the Kings, the Pharaohs in Giza and Luxor, you have left out important cultural monuments. Likewise the Cheops Pyramid and the still mysterious Sphinx, the graves in Memphis and Sakkrar should be on your program. Because the graves and pharaohs belong to Egypt just like the sand in the desert.
Backpacker Highlights in Egypt
A special highlight on your backpacker trip is the step pyramid of Sakkrar. It is the oldest stone pyramid in the world. Equally unique is the alabastaphinx in Memphis, which captivates you with its indescribable beauty. You will dive into ancient Egypt at the Pharaonic tombs in the Valley of the Kings and experience the splendour with which they are equipped. There are magnificent mosaics and unique murals to dust off in the graves.
Cairo, the metropolis of millions, will take your breath away. Because the city is loud, gigantic, historical, chaotic, modern and lovable at the same time. In the streets and on the bazaars there is a lively hustle and bustle that simply sweeps you along. To explore the city, you should take the subway. But beware! The trains are separated by sex. What you absolutely must have seen is the Egyptian Museum in the city center, where the gold mask of Tutanamun is exhibited.
Only four hours flight away from Germany are the most beautiful diving areas in the Red Sea. To explore the unique underwater world there are countless diving schools and guided dives. The most beautiful diving spots are in Sharm El-Sheikh and Makadi Bay, where also the tourist centers are. There are also unique kite spots with good wind conditions, if you choose the right season for your backpacking in Egypt.
Backpacker Insider Tips in Egypt
Looking at Cairo, you will experience a unique panorama that is very diverse. As you stroll through the city, you must visit the Old Town with its Citadel and Old Cairo, the Coptic Quarter with its beautiful churches and the former Babylon Fortress. A charming contrast is the modern centre, where you’ll find magnificent 19th century architecture. If you walk along the banks of the Nile, you will quickly understand why Cairo is called Paris on the Nile.
You will experience a unique natural spectacle during a hike on the mountains Gebel Yelleg, Gebel Halal and Gebel Maghara in the North Sinai, the Gebel Dokhkhan Lake, Gebel Shayeb El-Banat and Gebel Elba in the Arabian Desert. Another insider tip is Gebel Uwainat and the plateau Gli-el-Kebir in the Libyan Desert.
The ancient traditions of Egypt as well as the Islamic way of life and the influence of Western modern times are also reflected on the culinary level. Egyptian cuisine is influenced by the neighbouring states of Greece and Turkey, which mixes with the eating habits of the ancient Egyptians. Bread, vegetables, braised onions and pulses as well as fish and meat are therefore on the menu.
Cold and warm dishes are served with all meals. The typical breakfast consists of Ful (sow) beans in cooked, fried or mashed version with sauce and scrambled eggs, fried egg or omelette. In addition there is often Basterma (air-dried beef), Falafel from beans, salad and sheep cheese.
Food in Egypt
Traditional dishes include soups served before main courses. The main courses always include several side dishes, which are served with all kinds of meat and fish. You will search in vain for pork meat. A special delicacy are Hamam mahshi (pigeons and quails) and the national dish Kusheri/Kosheri, which consists of rice, lentils, noodles, roasted onions, and hot garlic tomato sauce. Local people drink milk with it. As dessert it becomes very sweet and tasty. A Turkish mocha and a shisha complete the meal.
On the markets and in the bazaars you will find between the stalls with the spice bags, local delicacies, which you get as fast food. So there are Kuschari, Falafel, Schawarma (Egyptian Döner), fried chicken, liver and fish that you get in flat bread or as a sandwich. Hamburger & Co. are now also very popular. You will also find steak houses and restaurants with international cuisine.
Drinking in Egypt
The Egyptians mainly drink water, fruit juices and shai (sweetened tea with mint, milk or black) as well as the red mallow tea “Karkade”. On your backpacker trip you should try the delicious wines and the local beer Stella Lager or Sakara. Alcoholic drinks are always accompanied by a small snack consisting of local fruit, seeds, roasted corn on the cob or nuts. Coffee is made exclusively in Turkish style.
For your backpacker trip through Egypt you need a visa, which you can get as a German citizen in Berlin at the Egyptian Embassy or at the Egyptian Consulate General in Frankfurt. In addition, you will also get a visa when you enter the country directly at the airport. Your passport must be valid for at least half a year after the trip. According to the Federal Foreign Office, the entry requirements are as follows:
- Passport: Yes
- Provisional passport: Yes
- Identity card: No
- Temporary identity card: No
- Passport for children: Yes, with photograph
Before starting your journey you should check the website of the German Foreign Office, as the entry regulations for Egypt can change at any time and at short notice.
Medical Information & Vaccinations for Egypt
You can enter the country without a vaccination, but it is advisable to have the standard vaccinations of the Robert Koch Institute up to date. However, before you start your journey, you should consult a tropical medicine clinic or a tropical medicine specialist.
In Cairo you will receive adequate medical care. Outside the city and in the tourist centres you will also receive good medical care. However, the care does not meet European standards. Therefore you should think about a travel health insurance with return option.