My wife and I just got back from our unbelievable trip to Egypt.
We couldn't have pulled it off without the help of the wonderful people in Egypt and especially the people in travel company we used www.egyptlastminute.com We have wanted to go to Egypt for years, but the timing just wasn't working out, so when last month my wife and I were both able to get time off with only two weeks notice we decided to make our dream come true and travel to Egypt to see all of it's wonders.
Some friends of ours had traveled with egypt last minute on a shore excursion from the port of Alexandria and told us what a wonderful time they had and how everything exceeded their expectations, so we decided to see what kind of package tours they had to offer. The packages they offered were great, but not exactly what we wanted, so we contacted them by email and they helped us to set up our itinerary exactly the way we wanted.
Before I get into the actual trip, let me start by saying that our family had some "reservations" about us going to Egypt. I had done plenty of research about the security situation and saw that there have been no problems for tourists. Still my family would say "It's not safe" and "they don't like Americans over there". These two statements couldn't be further from the truth!
My wife and I have traveled extensively and in many countries the locals are friendly, especially to tourists, nowhere and I mean nowhere compares to the welcoming hospitality of the Egyptian people. Everyone we came into contact with was kind, polite, and genuinely happy to meet and learn about us. Everywhere we went there were people more than willing to help you out if you were in a jam or needed a question answered. They weren't out to try and make a buck, they were representing their people and country. It inspired us to try to be ambassadors for America. There are many people who will harass you to buy things at the different sites, this is where having a private guide really came in handy.
He taught us to keep our sunglasses on, try not to look their way and to act as if we didn't speak the language. This took a couple of days to get used to, but soon we weren't even bothered with at all, and it pays to remember that they are just trying to provide for their family in a down economy. As for safety, there are at least three layers of security, the army, local police, and specialized Tourist police looking out for you. At no point did we feel unsafe in anyway. As a matter of fact we walked about a mile and a half at night from our hotel to watch the sound and light show at the pyramids and felt perfectly safe the entire time.
Now on to our trip. Let me start by saying that traveling with your own private guide is the only way to go, Egypt last minute arranged our pickup at Cairo airport and our transfer to our hotel the Mena House Oberoi, which was absolutely wonderful! Make sure to spend the few extra bucks and upgrade to the Mena House. For our few days in Cairo we had our favorite guide Mimmo.
He was so welcoming that after just an hour or so we felt like we had been friends for years. Not only did he show us all of the sites, but he also introduced us to many different tasty Egyptian dishes, that we never would have been able to experience on our own. He also arranged for me to get an Egyptian SIM card for my cellphone so I was able to make calls home and contact our guides in Egypt.
It was nice knowing if I needed it the phone was there. Here are just a couple more reasons to go with a private guide instead of a large group tour. Every time we had a question about something it was answered immediately, we didn't have to wait for 10 other people to ask the same simple question over and over before we got to ask ours. We were able to see the sights at our own pace.
We got to stay longer in some places and had somebody there to take photos for the two of us. I can only speak for me and my wife, but going with a large group would have been a major disappointment for us! Not only did our agent arrange our accommodations, guides, and transfers, they also booked our internal flights from Cairo to Luxor and Aswan back to Cairo. After a couple of unbelievable days in Cairo we caught a flight down to Luxor where we started our Nile cruise. At the airport in Luxor we were picked up by the tour manager in that area, Mr. Ehab. What a character!
He was so much fun, we were joking with each other like old friends after 15 minutes in the car together. He also helped us by telling us what was a good price on different items from souvenirs to bottled water and soda pop. He saved us a ton of money! There were times he would even go in stores and buy things for us so we got the "Egyptian discount". We then met our guide for the Nile cruise portion of the tour, George.
George was so knowledgeable, he was able to find a specific set of hieroglyphics in Luxor Temple that my wife and I really wanted to see, but wouldn't have been able to find on our own if we had a month! George made sure everything was running smooth with the cruise and also got us front row seats on the tour bus to Abu Simbel. Which brings me to my final point. You're probably only going to Egypt once, so you better have the best time possible. Make sure you take in all the extras. The camel ride at the pyramids was a riot! The sound and light show at the pyramids is a little old and cheesy, but still worthwhile. Just make sure to bundle up at night it can get really cold. The sound and light shows at Karnak Temple and Philae Temple are not to be missed! I'm deathly afraid of heights so I didn't go, but my wife loved the hot air balloon ride over the Temples in Luxor and the Valley of the Kings.
I would highly recommend Egypt Last Minute to anyone visiting Egypt.