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Everyone told us that we had to go…but really just to see the pyramids.
We were warned we would be hassled and harassed and bombarded with people vying for our attention and money.
We were cautioned that getting sick was almost unavoidable.
However, regardless of the price, the real question that everyone wants to know is
IS IT SAFE TO VISIT EGYPT?
You see, Egypt has been on our list of must visit places since we moved to the Middle East, and with pretty cheap tickets and an hour and a half plane ride, we knew the time to go was now. (Well, that and the fact that our baby was turning two-years-old soon so we’d have to start paying for him, and couldn’t resist sneaking in one more trip with a cheap “lap-child”.)
I mean, let’s face it – Egypt is a place that almost everyone has dreamed of visiting since elementary school. Traveling to Egypt was a dream for our family.
Well as it turns out, Egypt is really kid friendly.
Our family was welcomed, the weather was fantastic, and the sites simply blew our mind. We saw pyramids (and even climbed inside of one), explored temples, visited ruins, crawled into tombs, sailed on the Nile River, took a hot air balloon ride, ate lots of yummy local food, examined ancient artifacts, and so much more.
The thing that you need to know, before planning a family trip to Egypt is that Egyptians LOVE KIDS! Our kids were treated so incredibly well during the entire trip and I actually believe that Egyptians were more friendly to us because we had our kids with us than if we were there without them.
Prepare your kids for a trip to Egypt
If you’re taking your kids to Egypt, make sure that they do their homework before you go. Luckily, Egyptian history has no shortage of books and movies that your family can use to learn all about Egyptian culture and Egyptian history. We homeschool our kids, so we took advantage and did a whole unit study about Egypt before taking a family trip to Egypt. This National Geographic book was great for teaching our kids lots of details about Egypt and this wall poster looks like a great way to teach kids about the geography of Egypt combined with history. My older kids also really enjoyed this book and all the details it provided about Egyptian life.
However, the thing that got our kids the most excited about visiting Egypt was reading The Kane Chronicals by Rick Riordan. It’s a historical fiction series based in ancient Egypt and it made everything about Egyptian history for kids come alive. If you don’t have time to read them, get the audio version and listen to them on the airplane to Egypt.
Also, make sure that your kids are prepared to handle the long flight. We’ve shared all our tips on how to handle jet lag and if you’re traveling with young kids an inflatable footrest for the airplane can really make them a lot more comfortable.
How cheap is it to travel in Egypt?
Right now is an amazing time to visit Egypt since tourism is SO LOW. What that means is that visitors can get rock-bottom prices and avoid many of the crowds that Egyptian sites are known for. We got a 5 star hotel in Luxor for $55 a night for two rooms (TOTAL, though really it was more like a nice three star hotel in the US, but still clean, nice and an awesome deal), got guided tours of temples for only $6 for a 90 minute tour, scored some lunches for $3 for all six of us, got flights from Luxor to Cairo for only $43, and took a hot air balloon ride for less than $25/person. Of course there are a lot of tourist traps and people trying to overcharge you, but in general if you look around and are persistent, there are plenty of deals to be had.
Trust me, I get it. Since the Arab Spring in 2011 and all of the protests and unrest that went along with it, Egypt quickly received a reputation for being dangerous and unstable. Throw in the recent plane bombing and then hijacking and Egypt will quickly be high on your list of DO NOT VISIT destinations.
Honestly, if all I heard was those reports, I’d be jumping on that bandwagon too. Quite frankly, if all I did was listen to and believe the media, I’d probably never venture much past the grocery store EVER. Remember that the media’s job is to sensationalize and often exaggerate every situation, which almost never gives you an accurate picture of what things are REALLY LIKE.
I’ll admit I was a little hesitant about our trip too. I had my guard up high. However, even before we landed, our fears were calmed as other passengers and flight attendants started giving us tips and suggestions for things to see and do (as well as the “local” cost for doing them that we should aim for).
Longs story short – WE LOVED EGYPT! So so much. In fact, I really want to go back and stay longer next time so we can enjoy more of the friendly people and fascinating culture.
Things you need to know before you go before you go to Egypt:
- Everyone will love your children in Egypt – though sometimes too much. Make sure to keep your kids nearby at all times and if someone is touching them too much or making them uncomfortable, just ask them to stop. They are probably not trying to bother you or your child, it’s just a difference in cultures.
- You need US dollars in Egypt to buy your visa (or another foreign equivalent). When we went they wouldn’t accept the local currency from the ATM and their credit card machines were broken so we had to scramble to get enough for the 6 of us ($25 US per person). The ATM’s at the airport do not dispense USD so be prepared.
- Everyone in Egypt will expect a tip (even for really small things) so just be prepared. Most bathrooms have someone standing there asking for a tip (baksheesh) and pretty much anyone who helps with anything will ask for a tip. Pay them if you want to (though just remember that mostly they’re just asking for about 10 cents so decide before hand if it’s really a big deal to you or not).
- The water in Egypt is not safe to drink for foreign visitors. Plan on only eating hot meals, don’t take your drink with ice, and avoid salads or unpeeled fruits as they likely have been contaminated with tap water. We still ate mostly at local places (which tasted great and were super cheap) so don’t feel like you have to be limited to the expensive tourist restaurants. We took the advice of a friend and shortly after arrival stopped by a pharmacy and picked up a local anti-diarrhea medicine that friends of ours claimed would be more effective than our Immodium. We carried it in our pack the whole time and even though we didn’t need it, it gave us peace of mind knowing we had it on hand, since we know that diarrhea is a common problem for Egyptian tourists.
- Make sure that you always carry toilet paper with you, since most restrooms won’t have any (unless it’s someone handing it out asking for a tip). Before you leave your hotel for the day, grab a bunch and have it on hand…also, make sure to pack your hand sanitizer.
What tours to book in Egypt
Having a guide with you can be very valuable and help you get the most out of your time while learning a lot. When we were in Luxor, our taxi driver arranged tour guides for us (most people know someone who does this) which can be a great option if you’re okay with winging it. If you want to plan ahead, here’s a great tour of Luxor on both the east and west banks. It’s been 3 years and our kids still talk about our amazing hot air balloon ride in Luxor. In Cairo we arranged a driver and guide ahead of time and were amazed at how cheap we could find these services for. If you’re looking for options, here’s a Cairo tour you can take with a photographer included (I wish I had one of those following us on EVERY TRIP), or another one that hits all the highlights of Cairo in one day. You will find that you will get all sorts of prices for things, but can often get a great deal if you look around. In the end, it’s worth looking around for the best tour for you, and keep in mind that there are always deals to be had when traveling to Egypt.
If you’re wanting to DIY your time in Egypt, check out this 7 day Egypt itinerary that’s great for families.
Where to stay in Egypt
Like I mentioned earlier, there are some amazing deals to be found when you’re traveling to Egypt. The start ratings for hotels are a bit loser in Egypt than in other parts of the world and the 5-star hotel we stayed in felt more like a typical 3-star hotel. Keep that in mind, and here, we always recommend booking a hotel that claims to be 4 or 5 stars. Here are some of the best accomodations available in both Luxor and Cairo:
Best places to stay in Luxor
Check out this resort on it’s own private island in Luxor.
This hotel has amazing views of the Nile River, especially at sunset.
Where to Stay in Cairo
This beautiful hotel overlooks the pyramids of Giza!
This hotel looks amazing with it’s deck and pool overlooking the Nile River in Cairo.
However, taking a trip to Egypt isn’t like taking a trip to London. There are a lot of things that will feel REALLY FOREIGN, so before you get too far in your planning, make sure to buy a good travel guide (or two) and dive into it.
Best Books About Egypt Travel
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Would you consider going to Egypt with kids?
This post was first published on April 23, 2016
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