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Traveling to Egypt from Ukraine.
I recently took a trip with my wife and Friend to Egypt and wanted to post what you should expect and what you should avoid.
We used the travel company Turtess http://turtess-travel.com.ua though a local travel agent. The hotel we stayed at was Sunrise Island View Suites (ex Maxim Plaza) (Egypt-Sharm El Sheikh) This hotel rates itself as a 5 star. I would give it 3+ stars. Definitely not a 5 star in by western standards
We booked a flight from Zaporozhe Ukraine for a 7 day trip. Our cost was $620 per person with a standard room, All foods and drinks included. (all exclusive option).
What we were expecting was a very nice hotel, great food and drinks plus a few trips to the local sites.
Here is what we got.
Our departure was at 4pm from a rarely used airport. I had to laugh at the security as you could either go though the building and passport control or just walking around the building to the plane. I'm sure they would had stopped me. But it kind of reminded me of our own homeland security.
Because of the late departure we didn't arrive until around 11pm at the hotel. The Turtess staff took care of us at the airport and was well organize getting us into our buses. At the airport you can buy a $15.00 visa to travel though Egypt. (note: Nobody every ask to see the visa once we got them including at the security check points). 1 day of our vacation gone just in the traveling.
The hotel is very nice and modern, nice pools and is located on the water edge. The basic rooms are nice but small. I would recommend upgrading to a junior suite. There is 4 pools so plenty of room to swim. Some of the negative aspects of the hotel.
1. No internet in the rooms except dial up.
******* Sightseeing ***** **** Tourist traps ******
The locals are very nice and seem to be honorable expect for those who are involved in the tourist industry. I was surprise how openly they would scam the tourist. The good news is after reading this you will know how to avoid the scams.
A couple of notes:
1. The tourist stores set prices based on how much they can get from you. A
saw a cup of tea go from $1 to $8. Avoid the stores that don't have locals using
them or prices on items.
We chose to trips on our vacation. The Super Motto trip to the desert and the Bus trip to Cairo to see the pyramids. I will go over in detail what happen.
Our first trip was the Super Motto. This is advertise as a 3pm to 8pm trip that includes ATV though the desert to the mountains. A camel ride in the mountain to end up at a local village for a sunset dinner with live entertainment and dinner ending with a night ride back on ATV's. Cost $45 per person.
Ok, that is what we bought here is what we got.
1. Arrive at hotel pickup point at 3pm. Driver arrive at 4:15 and we left at 4:30 in a old mini-van with broken AC. At 4:45 traveling 90mph we blow a back tire on the way to the ATV starting point. Walked a little and was pickup by a second Van. Arrive around 5:20 at the launching point for the trip. (sunset is at 5:30). Waiting for about 40 minutes until our group of about 30 was ready to go. Force to buy a $5.00 piece of cloth to cover our faces that isn't included in the price but require. We leave in a single slow moving line. Most of the ATV have broken head lights and Lana develops a flat. Max speed 5-10mpg and you must not leave the line. We travel about 1mile on a highway though what looks like a large parking lot full of trash. 30 minutes later we arrive at the frontier after fighting our way though traffic. So much for the desert ride. Another 15 minute trip to the village to pick up our camels. Plenty of trash and dead animals to see though the dust on the way.
Arrive at base camp. Not enough camels for everyone and it is now dark. My wife and friend go in group one a 15 minute night ride though the cliffs. I wait 10 minutes for my camel and they give me a 10 minute walk because it is now too dark to see anything. The group return and the local try to get everyone to buy $5 braces. We are now in the center of a area for eating. (no village and no lights). After walking though the dark we are seated in a nice area and told we can now get our food from a corner table. (looks like leftovers from the hotel). We sit down with our food and one cup of coke or tea each and the entertainment starts. For the next 30 minutes I get to watch a single men belly dance. (yea). Afterwards we load back up on our ATV and head back to thought the desert parking lot back to the starting point and offer to buy DVD for $35 or photo's for $8 each. I got mine for $2..
Advice. Just take a taxi and go to the village yourself and rent a camel during the daylight. You will see a lot more without the pollution and dust.
2. Our main trip was planed for Cairo to see the great pyramids. We paid $70 for a night bus trip to Cairo that including breakfast, lunch, 3 pyramids, sphinx, and visit to see how the natural perfumes and scrip's paper was made. Here is what we really got.
1. We departed at 1am on a nice modern bus for Cairo. Off to a good start.
4. Our next stop was the backside of the pyramids where the locals had setup tourist gifts to be sold. Our tour group seem to know everyone and recommend prices to pay. (a pattern was starting to show itself). Another 40 minutes stop.
5. We are off to see the sphinx next. So I though. The tour director now takes us into a perfume shop that is set like a dream from a sale person. Each group was given a 40 minute lector on perfumes followed by a sale pitch to buy them at 3-4 times the scam price outside of the shop. After everyone buys their hand made oils we finally head for the sphinx for a 30 minute stop.
6. Next stop is too see hand made jewelry and Script paper (pyrus) made. We enter one of the many pyrus stores in Egypt for a 10 minute demonstration on how it was made following by another 30 minute of sale pitches and shopping. 45 minutes
7. Next stop is too see Egyptian jewelry around the corning. Same jewelry and tourist items that you find anywhere else in Egypt but at 3-4 times the price. Another 30 minutes.
8. We finally get to the national museum for a 1.3hr stop. A great place to visit.
9. Dinner time so we head to a dinner boat that is docked on the river side. The food is better then the hotel. Cafeteria style. Note: Drinks are not included in the meal. Cook is $2.00 a can. I refused to pay for mine and got it free.
10. Time to start are way back. The bus provides us with 2 DVD movies to watch.
11 Two stops were made on the return both at special tourist locations and both for 45 minutes. Prices, Ice cream bar $6.00, chips $8.00, Hamburger $16.00. No prices on any items, a men next to the register will look at you and write down a figure for the cashier.
Conclusion: You must see the pyramids. I would request to be drop off at the pyramid and pick up after once the group is leaving the sphinx. Bring your own snacks and drinks. Don't buy anything on the road as you can buy it cheaper at the markets around the hotels. Total time spent sightseeing 3-4hrs. Shopping and tourist traps 5-6hrs
Here are some of the photos from our trip.