November 2012: Aswan, Egypt
The mighty Nile is so synonymous with Egypt that to visit the country and not travel atop it in some way, shape or form is to not visit Egypt.
A lot of people choose to take one of the many 3, 4 or 5 star cruises that travel between Luxor and Aswan. These can be booked in advance, but many travelers just show up in Aswan or Luxor, walk around the dock and negotiate a price. We met a couple of German guys who’d done just that, and they’d gotten an all-inclusive rate of 80 euro per person on a 5 star luxury cruise. (and this was back in 2012, so prices may have gone down even more in light of current political events).
Not too shabby, but when your budget is $100/day for both of you, it’s simply out of the question.
Others choose to make the trip down the Nile in a more traditional way, via felucca. A wooden boat with 1 or 2 sails, it’s used mostly in the protected waters of the Red Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean, in countries like Malta, Egypt, Sudan, and Iraq.
Traveling by felucca entails sleeping on the hard dock of the boat for 3 nights with 5 or 6 other people, eating all your meals on the boat, and showering…well, I’m not sure where. Going this way can be extremely budget friendly. As little as 400LE for the entire 3 night trip. And while this did fit handily into our budget, we couldn’t afford the time.
Instead, we settled for the next best thing – a 2 hour sunset cruise atop the Nile. With a gentle breeze cooling us down, the incredible rays of the sun lighting the horizon in one of the most exquisite sunsets I’ve ever seen, and the lapping of the water lulling us into a tranquil state, it was one of the best things we did in Egypt.
Besides which, it may very well be the only way to escape the incessant honking of horns…
TO ORGANIZE A FELUCCA CRUISE
Invariably as you walk around the city, someone will approach you to take a felucca cruise. I don’t know if this is typical, or a result of the current lack of tourists in Egypt, but we were hassled about every 20 steps we took.
They are VERY persistent, and you will either have to keep telling them no (Agri’s strategy) or just walk away (my strategy). Speaking in Albanian (a language almost nobody speaks) or saying La Shukran (no thanks in Arabic) seemed to work pretty well also.
We took a walk by the shore to see if we could negotiate a better deal than what the hotel offered, and were quoted some pretty crazy prices. One man asked for 240LE for a 2 hour cruise (keep in mind that your average Egyptian earns 1000LE per month). I’m not sure if it’s because uninformed tourists actually pay these prices, or if they’re starting high to negotiate to somewhere in the middle.
In any case, nobody was able to beat our hotel’s rate of 75LE for a 2 hour private cruise, so that’s who we went with.
As a general rule of thumb when traveling, I think it’s better to book things independently, but I think in Egypt, the opposite is true. If you’re staying at a reputable hotel, by booking through them, you’ll save a huge amount of hassle and stress, and at a price that is usually more reasonable than what you will get on the street. Plus you’ll be guaranteed a certain level of quality that isn’t a given when you book something yourself.
Back in 2012, Egypt was one of the most challenging countries we traveled to. Have you traveled there recently? We’re curious. Has the situation changed for better or worse?