I came back from Egypt one week ago and I realized it’s been my 7th time in 7 years. This must definitely mean something (time to move there?) but this is another story!
That said, now I definitely know how to move around Egypt on the cheap and find good deals very easily, at least much more than the first times I went there. I am appalled every time I think I spent €1500 for my first trip to the White Desert (!!!), just because I booked through an Italian travel agency and I had no idea how to do it otherwise.
I realized that for my last trip to Egypt I spent as little as €500 for 3 weeks, including flight, and I was amazed! So here I am sharing my *little secrets* with you!
Okay, you can’t really decide much about this. Obviously there’s no low cost company between Europe and Egypt so I had to choose among Alitalia and Egyptair as usual, and I found a decent rate with Alitalia: €295 return, with stopover in Rome. I saw slightly better prices in the past, but it can’t get much better than this anyway.
I booked with Czech Airlines once for €190 return (!!!) but unfortunately they canceled Egypt from their destinations right after the Revolution. Come on Czech Airlines, why?
Okay so I spent almost €300 for the flight only. And YES, I lived on €200 for 3 weeks in Egypt. Here’s how, divided by weeks:
I stayed at a very cheap hostel in Downtown Cairo, called Dahab Hostel. Not the cleanest place I’ve ever seen, but in a great location and relatively quiet if you consider that it’s Downtown Cairo! Plus I had my sleeping bag so if I can sleep on sand and rocks I can also sleep on old stained sheets, right? For my first week I paid just about €35 in total.
Moving around Cairo was easy and cheap thanks to the metro (regardless the destination, one ticket is about €0,12) and I also have friends in Cairo with cars… you know.:)
It’s true that I didn’t visit touristic areas such as the Pyramids and the Citadel so I avoided such costs but I also treated myself spending one day in a beauty center… so I didn’t cut short on ‘entertainment’!
For the second time, I joined the volunteers team for the Characters of Egypt Festival – basically all the tribes from different deserts and areas of Egypt gather and camp together for 3 nights every year, sharing their culture, habits, knowledge (how cool is that?).
Volunteers are required to arrive a couple of days earlier and leave at least one day after the end of the event, to help set up and dismantle everything.
Being a volunteer allowed me to:
- Get free transportation to/from Aswan (16 hours by bus each way!)
- Get free food at the camp (and free accommodation, but well I slept under the stars!)
- See a place I didn’t see before: the location for this year’s festival was Heisa Island, a beautiful island on the Nile, just between Aswan’s new and old dames.
- Get sunburnt. I have no idea how hot it was but I believe we were in the range of 35 to 40°C. It was hot even at night. I don’t want to know how it feels like to be there on, say, july but it was amazing to enjoy the winter heat.
- Meet new amazing people and attend a unique event!
- Have a new experience that I can put on my resume: I was volunteering as a receptionist, taking care of registration, payment etc, which occurs to be the job I always did in Italy. Being assigned to this committee was a coincidence but in the end it makes sense!
Since I didn’t really enjoy the first week’s hostel, before I went to Aswan I decided to stay somewhere else once returned to Cairo. I knew that in the area where I used to live there is an old lady that rents out rooms for as cheap as about €30/week but she didn’t have any room available for the week I wanted. So she told me about a friend of hers, and I ended up spending a bit more than planned (about €50/week) but for an apartment that was absolutely worth it: freshly renovated, quiet, with a comfy bed (!!!).
I usually ate (cheap) street food but having a kitchen all for myself I also had the chance of cooking an Italian dinner for my friends!
Things I did for free:
I attended a music concert at the Sawy Cultural Center, where I signed up for a membership last year.
I witnessed the Eid el Adha, the feast where people slaughter animals on the streets. Not pleasant, but definitely an experience!
I visited the 57357 Children Cancer Hospital in Cairo.
I was invited to a wedding, and as usual for Egyptian weddings it was epic.
I went out with friends and rode a felouca (traditional Egyptian boat) on the Nile for as little as €7/hour divided by the 15 of us…
I went out every day and sat in cafes with friends, spending not more than €1/night for a drink. I don’t drink alcohol and anyway they don’t serve it everywhere in Cairo, especially in cheap places (with a few exceptions) and on the streets. I usually get a delicious and fresh fruit juice or a soda, and I never spend more than €1.
Food, transportation, fun, souvenirs, everything else: €120
Not bad huh? :) I will be more than happy to help you finding the cheapest accommodation and move around Cairo and Egypt on the cheap. Just ask me for information!
Please feel free to share your thoughts and suggestions as well.
- My tip #1 is not to buy a package from your own country (unless we’re talking about the Red Sea resorts: in this case packages are reasonably cheap even when booked from abroad!) but book a flight and then if you want to buy tours etc, just do it on site. You can always haggle and there are so many travel agencies in Downtown Cairo that you can always find the right deal for you, which will always be cheaper than booking directly from abroad.
- If you’ve never been to Cairo before you might want to be escorted by someone, in order not to get lost and/or ripped off.
- Cairo has a very active Couchsurfing community, you might want to check it out! I heard about weird stories but I can definitely recommend you some trustworthy people.
- Try to join some volunteering project, there are so many in Egypt!
- If you have more questions, just ask.