Exploring Egypt Safely with Intrepid Travel

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As a really nerdy kid who loved history and books and things like mythology, I'm not sure there was ever a time when visiting Egypt wasn't on my travel bucket list. I wanted to see the tombs of the pharaohs and the ancient temples and the mighty Nile River. I wanted to visit the Pyramids and see all those exotic-sounding cities that I learned about in history class.

And I definitely am not alone. Prior to the Arab Spring and string of revolutions that rocked northern Africa beginning in 2011, Egypt was a hugely popular tourist destination. Everyone wanted that photo at the pyramids and to see King Tut's tomb and to sail on a felucca on the Nile.

Pre-2011, Egypt was seeing upwards of 12 million tourists per year. Post-revolution, however, tourist numbers in the country plummeted; at its lowest point, Egypt was getting less than 1 million visitors per year.

Boats in Aswan, Egypt
So many of these boats in Aswan now sit empty.

Thankfully, things have finally started to improve in Egypt. While there are still parts of the country that aren't safe for tourists, the vast majority of it (and definitely the major tourist sites) is safe and open for business.

So when I was debating over which destination in Africa to pair up with a trip to the Seychelles*, my attention immediately went to Egypt.

(*Note: I traveled to Egypt in late 2017, but this post has been updated with current info since then!)

Should you book a tour in Egypt?

Once I decided that I wanted to go to Egypt, I began shopping around for group tours in the country. This isn't necessarily because I was afraid to visit Egypt on my own, but more about the fact that I knew I would feel more comfortable in a small group and with a local guide.

This would be my first real trip to the Middle East, and I wanted to give myself the best chance of having a positive experience there. I've traveled with small groups all around the world and knew Egypt would be an ideal place to book a tour like this.

Hypostyle Hall at Karnak Temple
Hypostyle Hall at Karnak Temple

You don't *have* to book a tour in Egypt (plenty of people travel there independently), but after going, it IS a place that I'd recommend exploring with a guide in order to get the most out of your experience.

The Egypt tour I chose

I settled on the 12-day Egypt Experience tour with Intrepid Travel, a company that I'd traveled with 6 times previously. This is a “Comfort” trip with Intrepid, meaning it was going to be a little more comfortable and a little more expensive – but at $2200-$2500 per person, I still think it's pretty affordable for a 12-day trip.

Temple of Hatshepsut in Luxor, Egypt
Temple of Hatshepsut

(If you want a more budget-friendly trip in Egypt, Intrepid also offers an 8-day Egypt Adventure trip, which is about half the price of the trip I went on.)

Before you go to Egypt

You most likely will need a visa for Egypt, but if you're from the US, Europe/UK, Australia, or Canada (as well as several other nations), you can get your visa when you arrive in Egypt. A visa costs $25 USD and is valid for 30 days. When booking this tour with Intrepid Travel, a representative will meet you when you arrive in Egypt and help you obtain your visa, which is a nice bonus.

Intrepid Travel does require you to have travel insurance for the entirety of your trip in Egypt. You may be covered under your regular insurance plan, but if you're not, I recommend buying coverage through World Nomads. They offer the most affordable basic travel insurance out there.

And if you're wondering what to pack, you can check out my Egypt packing guide!

Middle Pyramid in Giza

What will you do on this tour?

This Egypt Experience tour is absolutely jam-packed with amazing ancient sites and experiences. It hits all the highlights of Egypt and then some.

Cities you'll visit on this tour include Cairo, Alexandria, Aswan, and Luxor, and the following sites/experiences are also included:

  • The Great Pyramids and Sphinx
  • Guided tour around the The Egyptian Museum in Cairo
  • Visiting the Catacombs of Kom Ash-Suqqafa and the new library in Alexandria
  • Philae Temple and a felucca ride in Aswan
  • Visit to a Nubian Village near Aswan and dinner with a local family
  • A visit to the Abu Simbel temples (this was a major highlight for me!)
  • A 3-night cruise on the Nile, including a stop at Kom Ombo Temple
  • Guided tour of Karnak Temple in Luxor
  • Valley of the Kings, including entry to King Tut's tomb
  • Colossi of Memnon and Hatshepsut Temple near Luxor
  • A visit to the Khan al-Khalili bazaar (Cairo) and a walking tour around Islamic Cairo
Sphinx in Egypt
Sphinx and Great Pyramid
Inside a tomb in the Valley of the Kings
Ramses II statues at Abu Simbel
Ramses II statues at Abu Simbel
Khan el-Khalili bazaar in Cairo
Khan el-Khalili bazaar in Cairo

Our guide, Ahmed, was also really intent on making sure that people saw as much as they wanted to. He was always happy to arrange extra outings for us, and usually came along to act as a guide.

Some of the optional extras that a few of us added included:

  • Going to a mosque and the Citadel of Qaitbay in Alexandria
  • Seeing the Unfinished Obelisk and Nubian Museum in Aswan
  • Visiting Deir el-Medina (the tombs of the workers) and Habu Temple in Luxor
Citadel of Qaitbay in Alexandria, Egypt
Citadel of Qaitbay in Alexandria
Original paint at Madinat Habu Temple
Original paint at Madinat Habu Temple

There is SO much to do and see in Egypt, and this Intrepid tour really ensures that you see a ton of it.

RELATED: 8 of the Best Ancient Sites to See in Egypt

Who will you travel with?

I've now traveled with Intrepid on more than half a dozen trips, and the group make-up is always pretty similar. Ages in my group on this trip ranged from mid-20s to mid-60s, with people hailing from Australia, the US, Canada, Scotland, and Switzerland.

Intrepid travelers tend to be fairly well-traveled and open-minded, which is one of the reasons I think I keep traveling with them again and again!

Intrepid group on Nile cruise
Part of our group dressed up on our Nile cruise

As always when traveling with Intrepid, our group was small – there were only 12 of us (the max on this tour when I took it was 16, but is now down to just 12!). And half of the people in my group were solo travelers like me!

Who is the guide?

Intrepid always hires local trip leaders who live in (and in most cases have grown up in) the country you're visiting. Our guide was Ahmed, an Alexandria native who has been guiding tours in Egypt for years.

Ahmed was funny and friendly, but also super knowledgable and super passionate about Egypt. He could read hieroglyphics, knew all the lineages of the pharaohs, and recommended the best places in each city to get falafel (and also, you know, made sure we all got where we needed to be safely).

Guide Ahmed in Egypt
Our awesome guide Ahmed at the Egyptian Museum

I think the biggest benefit of traveling in a small group is having a guide; you end up seeing and learning so much more than you would on your own. And Ahmed was one of the best guides I've ever had on a tour!

How will you travel?

As far as transport goes, this tour was quite varied!

We traveled in a private mini bus in every city, spent one night on the train between Cairo and Aswan, and flew between Aswan and Abu Simbel and also from Luxor back to Cairo (though that specific journey is now done by bus instead of plane). Our tour also included traveling on a cruise ship up the Nile for 3 nights.

Feluccas on the Nile River in Aswan, Egypt
We also took a felucca ride, but didn't sleep on one on this tour.

The thing you should know about traveling in Egypt is that the traffic is INSANE. In Cairo especially, it will take forever to drive most places and nobody uses the lanes on the road – it's just mass chaos!

Where will you stay?

This is a “comfort” trip, but be aware that “5-star” in Egypt doesn't really equate to 5-star in other parts of the world.

The hotels we stayed in often had opulent lobbies and amenities, but most rooms were fairly basic and usually a bit dated. The overnight train to Aswan is similarly not *that* fancy, but perfectly fine. And the cruise ship we sailed on was nice enough, but if you've been on “luxury” river cruise ships anywhere else in the world, this one really won't compare.

Nile cruise ship room
My cabin on the Nile cruise ship (I paid the single supplement to have my own room).

If you're traveling solo, you'll be paired up with another solo traveler (of the same gender) as a roommate, unless you pay the single supplement fee.

Alexandria, Egypt
The yellow building was our hotel in Alexandria, right on the Mediterranean.

At the end of the day, though, this trip is all about the sites and not really about where you sleep at night.

How is this tour different?

One of the reasons I keep traveling with Intrepid Travel is because I really like the company as a whole. They are dedicated to responsible and sustainable tourism (they were the first major tour operator to stop including elephant rides in their itineraries), which I am happy to support.

On this Egypt tour in particular, we skipped what used to be an included visit to Edfu Temple as we sailed down the Nile because the only way to reach the temple is by horse carriage – and in Egypt, most people don't treat their working animals very nicely. The fact that Intrepid cares enough about animal welfare to remove the temple visit from the itinerary says a lot.

Horse carriages in Luxor
Sad horses in Luxor – Intrepid does not encourage taking these carriages.

Instead of visiting Edfu Temple, you now get a ticket to go into King Tutankhamen's tomb instead (which is actually a way more valuable thing to have included!). And my group also visited Animal Care in Egypt, an Intrepid Foundation project that offers free animal care in Luxor as well as educational programs for local kids about animal welfare.

Is Egypt safe?

No country is completely safe, but Egypt is not as dangerous as the media might make you believe, either.

There are certain parts of Egypt that are no-gos right now (like most of the Sinai and the Western Desert), and yes there there have been terror attacks in recent years in Egypt that have claimed lives. But to put it in perspective, there have been terror attacks in places like London and Las Vegas in recent years that have been deadly, too.

The main touristy sites in Egypt are no more dangerous than popular places you might visit in the US or Europe. There's a strong military presence at most major sites in Egypt (armed guards, metal detectors, and bag checks become second nature as you visit temples and museums) but I didn't find myself feeling “in danger” at any point during my trip to Egypt.

The Great Temple of Abu Simbel
The Great Temple of Abu Simbel
Sunset in Alexandria, Egypt
Sunset in Alexandria

I actually think safety is another good argument for traveling to Egypt on a tour. Having a local guide to look out for us (as well as fellow travelers to hang out with) made me feel much more comfortable overall in Egypt.

RELATED: 7 Things That Surprised Me About Traveling in Egypt

Would you recommend it?

Absolutely, 100 times YES – both this Intrepid Travel tour specifically and Egypt in general. I loved geeking out over all the ancient sites, and really felt safe and comfortable during the entire tour.

I also think that right now is an excellent time to visit Egypt. Tourism is beginning to rebound in the country, but it's still nowhere near the overwhelming levels that it was back in 2010 and earlier.

Philae Temple in Aswan
Philae Temple in Aswan


The tour: Egypt Experience with Intrepid Travel

The price: The tour price averages around $2300 per person, depending on departure date.

The best time of year to go: Egypt gets ridiculously HOT during the summer months, so I highly recommend visiting as close to winter as you can. I went in late November/early December, and temperatures averaged around 60 F in Cairo, and close to 80 F further south in Aswan and Luxor.

What to pack: Read my Egypt packing guide here.

Would you travel to Egypt on a tour?

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"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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44 Comments on “Exploring Egypt Safely with Intrepid Travel

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  1. I’ve booked the same Intrepid trip that you took, but I’m concerned about the Nubian village visit. I’ve heard that the villagers keep crocodiles locked into small cages to show the tourists, poke at them with sticks to make them move when the tour groups come by, and illegally sell crocodile items. I’ve also heard that the place is a big tourist scam, with hard sell pressure from the villagers to buy things and demands for tips for all kinds of things, including just photographing the houses. I’m thinking of not going on this outing. What was your specific experience with the Nubian village visit? Thanks!

      My visit was nothing like that at all, and I highly doubt Intrepid would visit a family that poked crocodiles for tourists! The visit is to one specific family in their home for a dinner. I think the family we visited did have some handicrafts for sale, but there was no pressure at all to buy a thing (I bought a Coke to have with my dinner and that’s it). I found the village to be really quiet when we were there, possibly because we visited in the evening. I thought it was a really nice outing!

        Thank you! I’m so glad to hear that. Then I definitely won’t miss the dinner.

    What a lovely read, thank you for clearing up the truth vs media dilemma. I feel that that often happens. From your article, it sounds much like Bosnia ??. We were hesitant on visiting, but ended up being one of our favorite countries thus far. And thank you for adding little bits and tips for the traveling process, it’s helpful & now I want to look into this traveling company that you used. Lovely, well done.

      Intrepid Travel is excellent, and a small group tour like this is (in my opinion) the best way to visit destinations that you might be unsure about visiting independently.

        Does the Intrepid company stay on top of the Safety and Security that is presently occurring in the Middle East? Is the itinerary change that much or is it pretty stable?

          Yes of course! They take the safety of their guests very seriously. Currently this itinerary doesn’t visit anywhere dangerous, but yes, itineraries would change if necessary for safety reasons.

    After reading your blog, my husband and I have booked this Intrepid tour of Egypt to travel in January. We are really looking forward to it. My question is around the visa for Egypt. Did you arrange your visa before you travelled or is it better to go the visa on arrival option? Research seems to indicate there may be issues with e-visas and I would love some feedback.

      Hey Carol! That’s great to hear! I really enjoyed this tour, and think it’s a great way to see Egypt. As for the visa, if you are from the US, you can do the visa on arrival with no issues (and an Intrepid rep should actually meet you at the airport and help you with this!). If you’re not from the US, then I’m afraid I can’t give any advice since I don’t know what the process is for non-Americans!

        Hi Amanda

        We are from Australia, but the visa process appears to be the same. Good to hear that the Intrepid rep helped with the visa on arrival. We might go with this option.

        Thanks for your advice.

          Hi Amanda.
          very nice report. I’m planning to go to Egypt for few days with my girlfriend. I’m going to cairo for three days and I still have couple days to spend in other city of Egypt. which other city you recommend between Luxor & Alexandria

            If you’re looking for more of that ancient Egyptian history with temples and tombs, then definitely Luxor – Valley of the Kings is pretty incredible! But if you want more of a modern city feel, then I’d say Alexandria.

    My wife and I did a month long independent tour of Egypt, Jordan, Israel and Turkey this April and thoroughly enjoyed the history and the diverse experiences of the places we went to. We felt perfectly safe throughout, even in the Israeli towns of Jerusalem and Hebron. Egypt, though, was the highlight – the pyramids, the Valley of the Kings and the Temple at Luxor are just incredible.

      Glad to hear you enjoyed your trip, too! I still need to visit Jordan and Israel!

    Would this tour be suitable to take my dad who is a very slow walker and can’t really walk that far anyway? It’s his dream to go to Egypt.

      Is he just a slow walker, or does he also have trouble with uneven surfaces/steps? There’s not a *ton* of walking on this tour, but there are several instances where you have to go up/down steps and over uneven surfaces since most of the sites are ruins. The only place where you do a bit of walking is at Abu Simbel, since you have to walk downhill to see the temples, but all the other sites include at least a little walking and time on your feet.

    This was a fab review! I took Intrepid’s 8 day tour in November and was pleasantly surprised by everything: Egypt, Intrepid, the group, the weather, the food, etc. It was my first week long group tour experience and I enjoyed it for many of the reasons you mentioned. I couldn’t imagine going everywhere we went on my own (and I usually love exploring on my own). The entire trip was seamless. Having a great group and a great guide made all the difference for sure. Glad you had an amazing trip!

      Glad to hear that you had a great trip in Egypt with Intrepid, too!

    In the 1980s I lived in Israel and was able to visit Egypt 3 times. Each time I travelled independently. The first time I arrived in Cairo and was hit by the chaos, noise and craziness of everything it was pretty intimidating. I was ‘travelled’ at that time, but not ‘well-travelled’. After a few days I started to get used to it and my next two visits were fine as I knew what to expect. But for anyone who hasn’t travelled somewhere like this before or who is feeling a bit nervous about solo travel, then the Intrepid tour sounds like the perfect compromise. After all, you don’t want to miss out on any amazing sights and experiences of what for many people will be a once in a lifetime trip just because you don’t know how to cross the road (seriously, it did take me a while to figure this out in Cairo!)

      This is a great example! Egypt (and Cairo especially) can definitely be an assault on the senses, so having a guide to help navigate things was so helpful and reassuring!

    Truly wonderful trip! It’s nice to see people have started to go Egypt again. Such a wonderful country!

      I really enjoyed it and am also glad that the tourism industry there is getting back on its feet!

    Before I would have huffed and puffed when I read this post about group tours, but after my trip to Cuba I have become a fan. It’s nice to be with likeminded people, and to learn much more about a destination than a book could teach you.

    I would certainly visit these sights in Egypt with a group tour! I would love to learn more about the culture and the history!

      I find that you also usually meet some really cool people on group tours – both in the guide and your fellow travelers. I’ve met so many well-traveled people on tours!

    Thanks to your previous post about your Intrepid Egypt tour, my friend and I are now going to book our own trip for Egypt for this coming Oct/Nov. She was hesitant because of the way Egypt is being portrayed in the media but I pointed her to your posts and kept sending her instagram pictures! Finally wore her down! Can’t wait to see in person all of the sights pictured here.

      That is so awesome to hear, Ying! I hope you both enjoy it as much as I did!

    Looks amazing! I’ve also heard similar things about the safety in Egypt. But I’ve never been to see first hand 🙂

      Well now is a great time to go and see for yourself! 😉

    This looks awesome! I’ll have to check this out someday. I’ve always wanted to see the pyramids. I had a professor in college who traveled all over the world and lived in many places, but Cairo was his favorite. He ended up living there for 20 some years before coming back to the states and teaching.

      Very cool! Cairo is a fascinating city, though it’s definitely too big and chaotic for me to ever fall in love with it. 😉 But it and the pyramids definitely worth seeing one day!

    I’m not usually a group tour kind of person but this sounds really appealing when traveling to an unfamiliar country. I did one in Turkey years ago and was so happy I didn’t go it alone. I’d love to see these ancient sites one day!

      There’s something to be said for not having to stress out over things like transportation and finding accommodation on top of being in a totally unfamiliar place and culture. I was so glad to be with a guide as well as other tourists – I felt comfortable and pretty darn relaxed the whole trip!

    Amanda! you have shared a very nice post, I would also like to explore Egypt. But is it safe for a solo traveller?

      I did not travel there solo (and I’m not sure I would feel comfortable traveling there completely solo as a woman), but there are people that travel solo in Egypt without major issues.

    I’ve not spent much time in that area of the world at all—other than a short trip to Dubai and a week in Israel—but like you, Egypt has always appealed to me. Shortly before I started working for Semester at Sea, they took it out of their regular rotation, meaning we went to other parts of Africa instead, which was fun but I feel like not going there was a missed opportunity, particularly for students of that age. I’d still like to go, but I think I’d only do it with a tour group. Not sure if that makes me sound like a timid traveler or what, but there are some places, I’d rather my trip be dictated by the professionals who know the place best!

      Considering I felt the exact same way about Egypt, I definitely wouldn’t call you timid! I agree that there are some destinations where it’s just easier and less stressful to book a tour and let someone else worry about all the details. As someone who often travels alone, this just made the most sense to me!

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