Should You Book A Tour Your First Trip to Egypt, or Navigate on Your Own?
Updated: Nov 15, 2021
The pros and cons of both
To book a tour or not to book a tour your first trip to Egypt. Perhaps you think I’ve been nomadic forever; there’s no way I’m about to show up looking like a tourist now.
And, you may be right, especially if you speak Arabic, are a man, and are familiar with the culture.
But if you don’t speak Arabic, not a man, and aren't familiar with the culture, you may want to reconsider.
But wait, There’s more!
There are pros & cons to both booking a tour and winging it on your own. As with everything, it depends on your travel style, comfort level, and skills.
Let’s have a look.
Pros of booking a tour or guide
Your trip is going to be primarily hassle-free. You won’t need to worry about transportation or language barriers for the most part, which can be hugely stressful in Egypt.
Also, you won’t have to be too worried about getting scammed, as your guide will look out for you. You can focus on taking in the scenery and your experiences without worrying about logistics or anything else.
Budgeting & planning
When you budget with the cost of your tour in mind, you have a relatively good estimate of what your trip will cost. This is a considerable advantage to planning as you go and hoping to find the best prices for what you want to do.
Also, tour guides can help make sure you are not charged inflated tourist prices that add to a small fortune.
You want to squeeze in as much as possible
Likely you have a limited amount of time to spend in Egypt and want to maximize your efforts. There’s no better way to cover a lot of ground than with a tour, personal guide, or a combination of both.
Egypt runs on “Egypt-time” and can be frustrating for the casual tourist. Sensory overload is very intense in Egypt.
Having a friendly face to manage transportation, ticket lines and answer your questions can be the difference between a stellar vacation and a stressful one.
You don’t know anyone
If you’re heading to Egypt without knowing anyone, a personal guide or tour ensures you have someone to rely on.
Having someone on your side is an invaluable resource in Egypt, where it’s all about who you know. Egypt is a place where it’s beneficial to know a few people because much of the up-to-date tourist information comes from people, not online.
Solo female travel
Egypt is a complex country to trek as a female solo traveler for several reasons. The bottom line is any female unaccompanied by a male faces verbal harassment.
A tour or a personal guide acts as a buffer so you can experience the magic of Egypt without being a target for harassment. Although the catcalls are mainly harmless, they can unravel your nerves after 8 hours of navigating an unknown city in the sweltering desert sun.
Traveling with children
If you are traveling with children, a tour can provide just the right structure and organization.
Children can be demanding in unfamiliar environments, and you can be more attentive to their needs if you have a guide to managing the schedule.
When you have a guide handling the details, you can make sure you and your family have the best experience possible.
Explanation of sites
One of the most significant benefits of having a guide or booking a tour is enjoying the bits of local and historical knowledge a guide provides.
Ancient Egypt is extraordinary, but the temples and sites become more alive when you know what you're looking at. In-depth knowledge enhances your appreciation for the mysterious history of the Egyptian civilization.
Cons of booking a tour or guide
Tours and personal guides can be on the expensive side of travel and may not be the best option for your budget. If you are a solo traveler, single supplements can be way too pricey and may outweigh the convenience of a tour.
You may feel that groups stand out and are a safety concern. In this case, you may be more comfortable going under the radar and trying to blend in rather than tour the sites with a big group.
Fewer opportunities to mingle with locals
Sometimes tours limit the feeling for an authentic, local experience. You may be a traveler that thrives on the excitement of mingling with locals without the buffer of a guide or group.
Less opportunity to be spontaneous
Tours can leave you feeling penned in or rushed at sites you wish you could spend more time exploring. You want to get your money’s worth, so it’s a good idea to stick with the tour even though you may see something along the way worth exploring.
Instagram shots & video
You may not have time to stage Instagram shots and or video if you book a tour. You need to adhere to the group schedule and respect the shared experience of the entire group.
Pros of exploring on your own
You can be spontaneous
Exploring Egypt on your solo means you can do what you want when, where, and who you want to do it with.
You can visit the Luxor temple two days in a row if you can’t get enough. You can sleep through breakfast and begin your day at noon if it suits you.
You can change your plans in the middle of the day. You can be spontaneous without worrying about anyone but yourself (and perhaps your travel mate).
Outside of group travel, you often make friends along the way, leading to meetups. You can plan to travel with people you meet during your travels. Egyptians are super hospitable & friendly, so don’t be surprised if you receive an invitation to dinner or even a wedding!
If you’re on a tight budget, exploring Egypt on your own may be a great option to save money.
When you travel outside of a tour, you can stay at cheaper hotels, dine on street food, and take local transport. If you meet up with fellow travelers, you can further save money by sharing the cost of accommodation, food, and transportation!
Instagram shots & video
A significant benefit to traveling without a tour in Egypt is setting up time-consuming Instagram shots & videos without worry.
Imagine touring the vast temple complex of Luxor when the perfect sunset is on the horizon, and your tour group has to leave. Ugh. The struggle is real.
When you tour Egypt on your own, you can spend as much time as you like setting up the perfect shot or just gazing at the majesty of the scenery.
Cons of exploring on your own
Time management snafu’s
You may be at a disadvantage regarding time management if you decide to explore on your own. Egypt has its own ecosystem, which I call “Egypt-time.”
Most everything runs on Egypt-time”, and when you're unfamiliar with the rhythm of Egypt, adapting can be frustrating.
You may not be able to manage your time well enough to see everything. Some examples include unanticipated closures, out-of-date websites or schedules, or misinformation from well-meaning locals.
Harassment and scams
If you're a woman, you will likely be verbally harassed quite a bit. Either way, you may be a target for scams or worse.
Again, it comes down to your situation. If you speak Arabic, you have a buffer; if not, you may grow increasingly frustrated or end up having a bad experience that sours your trip.
My experience has proved that while verbal harassment is common, it's rarely followed up by anything else. A few Arabic phrases like "imshee!" go away, or "eib," shame on you, or "inta kelb," which means you are a dog (I know it's harsh, lol) usually does the trick to shut them down.
You may not feel safe if you are a female solo traveler or even as a couple. Going places alone can feel risky, and sometimes it is. You stand out if you are traveling alone.
The Egyptian people are super friendly, hospitable, and genuine, but predators are waiting to take advantage of tourists like every country.
Arguments with your travel companion
If you've ever traveled with your mate or partner to a location that's 100 degrees plus, you don't know anyone, and you don't speak the local language - frustration happens, and often it leads to arguments.
Egypt travel is not for the faint-hearted. It's a glorious, complicated country to navigate even if you speak Arabic and are used to the heat. Everything runs on "Egypt time," and learning the rhythm of Egypt requires patience, humor, and understanding.
So, should you book a tour or explore on your own?
A combination of exploration on your own and a personal guide or tour for a few sites is the perfect compromise.
You can kick off your holiday with a short tour or personal guide to get familiar with Egypt, and then when your feeling more comfortable, venture beyond the safety of your guide!
I love doing an occasional tour, trekking around for a few days on my own, and then enlisting the services of a personal guide for an in-depth experience. This allows you to get an authentic feel for the magic of Egypt and gain memories you won't forget.
Are you ready to book your flight? Check out 15 tips on what to expect and how to prepare! Happy travels, my friend!
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