In this latest series, I will be going through all the countries I’ve travelled to on my mission to visit every single country in the world. In this article, we will be covering country #9: Egypt. If you haven’t gotten a chance already, read this story first to find out why I’m trying to visit all 193 UN-recognized countries.
VIDEO – Country #9: Cairo Egypt
Luxor Egypt Video
Aswan Egypt Video
- How I Would Travel in Cairo Egypt if I Can Do It Again
- My Top 5 Favourite Egypt Tourist Destinations
- How to Save Money on Egyptian Transportation
- Travelling to Egypt From An Asian Canadian Perspective
- The Cost Breakdown Of My 8 Days Travelling in Egypt
Cairo airport to our hotel
Scam is the magic word that we became too familiar with when travelling in Egypt. As soon as we cleared immigration in Cairo, a man who was selling us a taxi service tried overcharging us for a taxi ride. He showed us the price list for taking a taxi to our hotel and pointed at the wrong price on purpose to scam us.
Luckily, we didn’t fall for his tricks and pointed the scam out to him. He did have one more trick up his sleeve when he charged us an airport exit gate fee. We didn’t know better so we paid him. Turns out this was a scam also.
The drive from the airport to our hotel was interesting as we saw the chaos in the streets of Cairo. By the time we arrived in our hotel, we were dead tired dealing with scams all day and quickly passed out.
Pyramids of Giza
After breakfast the next morning, we wanted to see the Pyramids of Giza right away. Despite being only a 5-minute drive from our hotel, the front desk staff tried scamming us offering to charge 10 times the current market price for a taxi ride.
Luckily, my sister found out that Cairo has Uber and we used the app to get us around the city. This turned out to be a great idea as the guy that drove us was super friendly and not scammy. We were joking that he was the only honest person in Cairo.
The walk towards the Pyramids was full of excitement. The Pyramids of Giza are hands down one of the best things I have ever seen in my life. The moment my eyes laid on the Pyramids I had goosebumps. I felt small like I was in the presence of something great. This is the rare feeling I look for when I travel.
It was really funny too because while checking out the Pyramids, some Egyptian students came up to us and started pointing at their camera. We thought they wanted us to take their picture. Turns out they wanted to take a picture with us because to them, the Chinese tourist is the tourist attraction.
After checking out the Pyramids, our Uber driver drove us to where the camels were located. There’s one rule in bargaining and that’s who cares more will lose. The person offering us a camel ride was trying to charge us 200 Egyptian pounds per person to ride the camels. Because we didn’t care about the camels so much, we bargained it down to 50 Egyptian pounds per person and he was visibly pissed off but accepted our offer.
The camel ride was fun and got some good pictures out of it. The funny thing was that the guy that offered us the ride was a scammer too and was trying to scam his boss from getting the tip money.
Scam at the Sphinx
After the Pyramids, the last section we checked out was the Sphinx. A random Egyptian man started offering to take our pictures “for free”. I smelled a scam right away but my sister decided to have him take our pictures.
And that was such a stupid move because this guy tried charging $1 USD per picture that he took. My sister decided to haggle and pay him money. She knew we got scammed but decided to pay anyways. I was not happy with this decision but it’s my sister’s money so she can decide if she wants to pay the scammer or not.
Getting into the Egyptian Museum wasn’t too bad. The only part I didn’t like was the expensive extra charge to bring a camera to the museum. Egypt is such a money grab, it makes me sick to my stomach.
The museum itself was pretty good. It’s super hot and stuffy but I wonder if that’s necessary to preserve all these artifacts.
I still wonder if it’s ethical that the British Museum took half the artifacts here. The Egyptians are not happy about it.
The train ride to Luxor
The next day, we headed for the train station in Cairo to go to Aswan. The train station is super confusing and you have no idea which platform you need to board. We tried asking some locals for help and luckily, some of them pointed out to us which platform to go to.
Karen was definitely not happy dealing the chaos in the train station.
We decided to board the train without buying a ticket because if you are a tourist and want to take the local train, you’re not allowed to. You have to pay for the $100 USD tourist train instead and we didn’t want to do that.
However, they had a loophole in the system and that is you can pay once you are already in the train itself. The only downside is you don’t get to choose your seat so we ended up sharing a two-seater among the three of us when the train departed.
They also served food on the train which was alright. It’s nothing to rave about but at least you won’t starve.
Horrific train ride
The train ride was horrific for many reasons. First, the train is supposed to be non-smoking but people are smoking inside the train.
Second, the train’s washroom was disgusting as hell. On second thought, the entire train is just plain dirty.
Third, my sister was being sexually harassed by this creepy Egyptian man that kept trying to make my sister follow him to this dark corridor to take a “selfie”. When my sister said no, he proceeded to take pictures of her anyways. What a disgusting piece of shit.
We decided not to get off at Aswan and instead go to Luxor first which would shorten this horrible train ride. My sister luckily used her mobile phone data and booked us a hostel in Luxor before arriving there.
Upon arriving in Luxor, the cousin of the hostel owner picked us up from the train station. This was a really nice gesture and we were thankful for it.
The hostel we stayed at had (New Everest Hostel) a really friendly owner who made us feel welcome and helped us book an affordable tour of Luxor’s famous sites. They even served breakfast that my group enjoyed eating.
Luxor was a lot better compared to Cairo. There were fewer scams and people were generally friendlier. Our tour group was quite fun and we met some friends that I’m still in contact with to this day.
We visited the Valley of the Kings, Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut, Colossi of Memnon, Medinet Habu, and Karnak.
Medinet Habu was my favourite of the bunch because we had the whole place to ourselves. Karnak was surprisingly full of tourists even though Egypt’s tourism industry has had a massive decline.
Train to Aswan
Our train ride to Aswan was nowhere near as bad as our ride from Cairo to Luxor. We managed to buy our train ticket from the booth and was seated properly this time. We also teamed up with these two guys we met during the tour of Luxor and had a good time chatting with them.
One guy is from London (Darren) and the other is from Morocco (Toufique). Toufique was quite an interesting fellow as he told us stories of him travelling to Somaliland and Sierra Leone.
Upon arriving in Aswan, we went to the hotel that we had booked through the cousin of Luxor’s hostel. This turned out to be a bad idea. While the New Everest Hostel owner in Luxor was friendly and easy to deal with, his cousin appears to be more sketchy.
Our first part of the trip was to see Philae temple and we had a great time there. Especially since the hotel told us how to get around the scams once we get to the temple. And we also got extremely lucky and had Philae temple all to ourselves.
We also learned that Philae temple is greek which surprised me. It made me wonder why there’s a random Greek temple in the middle of Egypt.
The next day, we woke up at 3 am to join a convoy going to Abi Simbel. It was going to be a 3-hour drive per way so we would be stuck on the road for over 6 hours.
Abu Simbel did not disappoint. It’s easily my second favourite site in Egypt after the Pyramids of Giza. We learned that Abu Simbel was actually on another site but because of the dam, the area was going to flood these ruins. They somehow managed to cut up the ruins and relocate it.
Abu Simbel is yet another place full of scams but we were hardened at this point. We managed to deflect all the scams here. Karen already had a mental breakdown the day before from dealing with all the scams. Travelling in Egypt is not for the faint of heart.
Flying back to Cairo
Our original plan was to take the train back to Cairo from Luxor. But, after the horrendous experience a few days before, we wanted to avoid taking the train again.
We were shocked to see how affordable taking a flight from Aswan to Luxor was and booked it immediately. Turns out last minute flights within Egypt are quite affordable. I think we paid $80 CAD for our flight. We could have even paid less had we waited to book the day of the flight because I saw them drop the price down to $60 CAD.
We didn’t want to take any risk so we were okay paying the $80 CAD.
When we arrived in Cairo, my sister Eunice used her Starwood points (Marriott Bonvoy nowadays) to book an airport hotel to hang out in before her flight out of Egypt. We decided to hang out with her there and get some rest until Karen and myself would fly to Johannesburg, South Africa.
Egypt is a rough place to travel if you decide to travel like a backpacker. My recommendation is to travel to Cairo only on a Friday and Saturday during their religious day off to reduce the scams. This will give you enough time to see the Pyramids of Giza and the Egyptian Museum.
I would also avoid taking the train and fly to Aswan instead. From Aswan, take the train to Luxor then fly back to Cairo once you’ve seen everything you want to see. It’s definitely worth visiting Egypt but I don’t see myself coming back as a tourist ever again.