26 independent reviews for Egypt tailor made holidays

Reviews for Egypt tailor made holidays

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review 29 Dec 2010

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

The trip on a Dahabiya "Princess Donia". Floating so gracefully down the Nile in the sanctuary of such a small boat with only 10 passengers and being so graciously cared for by the 9 staff. Being on a small boat allowed spontaneous moorings at isolated villages and swimming on the banks of the Nile, and delighted my husband with numerous bird-spotting opportunities.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Be prepared for contrasts. The hustle and bustle of Cairo. The serenity of the Nile at dawn. The antiquity of the temples, the new buildings sites in the city. Take plenty of small change for baksheesh and a new attitude to tipping - it's just a way of life.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

It's clear that tourism is a major industry in Egypt that has both positive and negative effects on the country, but we felt that our holiday achieved the right level of integration while allowing us still to feel like we were enjoying a relaxing holiday.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

Excellent.

review 3 Jan 2010

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

Sightseeing in Egypt - guided tours in Cairo.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Budget permitting - only stay in 5* plus rated accommodation and avoid travelling in the summer.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

Yes to benefit local economy - can't say regarding impact on the environment - in Egypt, it seems the local population does as much as possible to impact the environment.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

8 out of 10.

review 5 Mar 2009

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

It was ALL amazing without exception. Sunrise at Abu Simbel, donkey ride overlooking Valley of the Kings, gliding along the Nile in a felucca, King Tut collection in Cairo, camel riding at the pyramids, etc. etc. Also the fact that we got to meet so many actual Egyptians who were all so kind and friendly and welcomed us into their world.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Book it as soon as possible! You're looked after really well but remember to take sunhat, high factor sunblock, good sunglasses and wrap/pashmina (very useful for putting round head in wind and sand and for cool evenings). Tour guides really know their stuff and their recommendations can be relied on.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

Absolutely - really enjoyed the fact that all our guides, drivers and contacts were local people.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

Fantastic!

review 22 Feb 2008

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

We would probably have to say the most memorable part was all the wonderful people we met. Our tour operator, the representatives, and the guides/Egyptologists were all very friendly and professional. We really enjoyed the extra time they took to show us some of the things off the beaten path and some real Egyptian food and sheesha. The Valley of the Kings was our most favourite site.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

You will constantly be tipping people for just about any service they give you so be prepared. Many of the locals really seemed to want U.S. dollars so we would recommend bringing lots of one dollar bills. We’re sure they would also be happy to accept Euros or GBP. It will be easier to bring your own than to get smaller bills in Egyptian Pounds. Practice your bargaining skills since almost all prices on items are to be agreed upon. Don’t hesitate to walk away if you don’t like the price. You’ll find what you are looking for down the street or at the next stop. The tour operator does take you to fixed price stores for hand woven rugs, essences/perfumes, jewellery, and papyrus paper with work by Egyptian artists. These shops give you a tour and explain how things are made. It is all very interesting. Prices in these stores are expensive but they are of the highest quality and true Egyptian products (many of them are handmade). Some may feel pressure to by things, but no one would have a problem if you went away without purchasing an item. Be prepared for domestic flights and most trains to be running late.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

Tourism is a huge part of Egypt’s economy so it provides many jobs for the locals. The tour operator uses local drivers, guides, and representatives. A portion of the cost of the tour is donated to benefit Egyptian social issues (e.g. children, disadvantaged women, cultural heritage, education, etc.). Impacts to the environment were probably not less than any other holidays because we travelled in such a small group and chose to see so much. The tour operator could probably accommodate any traveller’s request to be less impactive to the environment and there are probably a lot of things they do behind the scene that we did not know about.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

An amazing experience… it was absolutely wonderful. The tour operator provided an excellent service with professional guides and representatives. Someone was always there to greet us and assist us at each leg of the tour. We never had to worry about a thing. They were even flexible enough to adjust the tour to suit our needs, take advantage of the weather, and rearrange some site visits when our Nile cruise ship got behind schedule. The holiday exceeded our expectations in many ways. We highly recommend booking it through this operator if you are planning a holiday to Egypt.

review 28 Mar 2008

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

A holiday packed with highlights. Our favourite was probably the final day trip to Abu Simbel and the overnight stay in the Nubian home.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Recommend that you stay overnight in Abu Simbel otherwise you face a 3 hour drive there and back in convoy with too little time to absorb the atmosphere. We felt trapped on the Nile cruise which is subject to long delays as boats queue to get through the Esnan loch. We had to miss one temple as a result and only just managed the magnificent Temple of Horus at Edfu. Of course, it's fine if you like sitting on a cruise ship (we don't).

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

Unsure. Our tour operator Gateway to Egypt seemed committed to help local people and gave a percentage to local causes. However, we often felt that we were there as tourists to be mobbed in markets and streets to buy unwanted goods. We had little opportunity to visit areas away from tourist sites. It was upsetting to see the Nile cruise cleaners sweep our rubbish into the Nile. Traffic in Cairo is unbelievable - are the tourists adding to this?

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

Full marks to our tour operator. Excellent service. We were very relieved to be on a tailor-made tour but would have liked more opportunity to explore away from the tourist sites.

Read the operator's response here:

The route of the Nile cruise that these travellers have taken is exactly the same as our past travellers. The course of the Nile cruise is not controlled by us. The markets are located around the temples and mainly at the entrances and exits of the sites so travellers have to pass by it as they visit the sites. Even though we disagree with the way that some of the markets sell and advise the travellers about the bargaining ways there, still we can not stop passing by these markets as that means we will not go to the sites. Travellers react in a different way to the bargaining ways of shopping there in the local markets and some travellers can get intimidated. As for visiting off the tourist sites depends very much on the time allowed by the travellers versus the sites they want to visit. We always recommend off the main stream tours that travellers can take, but at the end we can not force them to go on it. Unfortunately one of the biggest problems we face is that travellers tend to choose doing the classical sites in Egypt rather than be more adventurous, for example even though we try to push for the small wooden boats that sail without engines and meet more locals and even shop in the local markets but for many reasons travellers tend to go for the regular Nile cruises. As for Cairo traffic, we can not say that tourists contribute to it. Cairo traffic is one of the main chronic problems that Egypt is facing and it is getting from bad to worse! Finally since 1994 Egypt had a ministry of Environment and one of its tasks to protect the Nile from the different types of pollution. Nile cruises have strict policies concerning throwing waste in the Nile. Waste would be collected in a special area of the boat and taken off the boat by garbage collectors at different cities, actually a common scene is waste being loaded off the boat while various supplies are loaded on the boat. Still there will be the odd staff member who will get rid of the waste the easy way. We would encourage travellers who would spot such an action to report immediately to the boat manager.

review 13 Mar 2008

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

Very difficult to say but perhaps a dawn visit to the Temple of Luxor comes out on tops. There were no other tourists to be seen or heard. It was quiet but for the swishing brushes of two Nubian cleaners. The eastern light, low in the sky, cast deep shadows behind the pillars of this spectacular monument. - An experience to remember and treasure.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Do not linger in Cairo after seeing the essential sights and having made the obligatory visit to the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities. It is a noisy, crowded, badly polluted city and not a pleasant place to be. Do not pass up the opportunity of a Nile cruise. It is not just a relaxing experience; it also gives one a real insight into the importance this great river has for the very survival of Egypt. Do not visit Upper Egypt between May and September. It is too hot and there is precious little shade in places such as Abu Simbel or the Valley of the Kings.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

I do feel that our holiday benefited local people to the extent that everywhere we stayed was Egyptian -owned and everyone we dealt with from porters to supervisory staff in international hotels were Egyptian. A cursory study also suggested that most of the foodstuffs we ate were produced in Egypt. It is more difficult to speak of the environmental impact of our holiday. However, I did note that In only one of our three hotels (The Pavilion Winter Palace in Luxor) was there a notice in the bathroom encouraging guests, in the interests of the environment, to forego their "right" to clean towels every day.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

It was a wonderful holiday from our first sight of the Pyramids of Giza, to our overnight train journey to Luxor, our visit to the Valley of the Kings, four lazy days cruising down the Nile and finally that visit to Abu Simbel, which a Yorkshire woman described to us as "Everything I had expected and more".

review 7 Mar 2008

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

Abu Simbel - amazing! And I had the whole site to myself because the morning convoy had been and gone. And the people are so nice - made me feel very welcome.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Try to avoid travelling in large groups. I was touring alone, had the benefit of my own guide and was able, much of the time, to visit sites at relatively quiet periods. The 7-night Nile cruise was a great way to cover ground and see the country without the tediousness of constantly packing and unpacking. When I do it again I'll aim for a smaller vessel. I travelled in mid February and found it somewhat colder during the day than expected. Just about the only souvenir I bought was a scarf !!!

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

Certainly my holiday benefited local people - not so sure that my impact on the environment was particularly reduced but having said that, I'm not sure I really could have achieved what I did in a significantly more environmentally friendly manner.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

Excellent - I shall be going back to cover more ground sometime soon.

review 8 Jan 2008

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

The Museum of Egypt in Cairo, which has much more to see than we expected; the Valley of the Kings with amazingly colourful tombs; the huge Karnak temple.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

There is a huge gap between local prices and "tourist" prices - if you are not comfortable trying the local lifestyle, be prepared to pay UK prices, especially in restaurants: £6-12 for mains, £2.50 for beer. The souks offer really cheap souvenirs for tourists though. We were surprised at the lack of supermarkets, even smaller ones (well, we couldn't find them, beside a Carrefour in the outskirts of Cairo), so making a sandwich and having a light snack is not an option. If you are offered to stay in JW Marriott in Cairo, you should know that it is pretty much in the middle of nowhere, a newly developing part of Cairo that will once be a very prestigious part, however, it is 45 minutes by car from the centre and from the Pyramids. It is a nice hotel though with good service (mostly). Our Nile cruise (Al Jamila) slightly resembled a summer camp with all its pros and cons - meal times are limited and some tours start as early as 7am. We had to adjust our agenda according to the one of a large Greek group. However, the cruise itself was nice, the ship is clean, the rooms have huge floor to ceiling windows, and the food was good (not counting the seated dinner that seemed to last forever and was quite forgettable). The aforementioned Greek group had a huge party one night which WAS fun to watch. You should bear in mind that on the cruise they will expect you to give a tip at the end of the trip for the whole crew (and then they'd divide it according to their own rules), in a specially provided envelope, so you don't need to tip beforehand. It was quite uncomfortable for us, as we did not know that and had tipped bar and restaurant staff before - however, when we were checking out, we were reminded (twice) about that envelope... You do need smaller banknotes for tipping, however, we did not find this a problem - hotel and cruise staff would be happy to change larger notes for you. (Well, not in our Luxor hotel, Winter Palace, where the cashier was clearly offended by our asking him to change some money). Buy plenty of water, especially for the cruise, as they do not serve any with the meals, not even with breakfast. The weather (December 28 - January 7) was absolutely fantastic, nice mid 20s, lot of sunshine, but not too hot; however, nights are chilly, so bring some pullovers/coats. If you are flying back from Luxor - they start the check-in 3 hours prior to departure, and when we got there we understood why. The check-in process is painfully slow, once we got to the desk (my husband and I) it took 12 minutes to get our boarding passes (I timed it). The airport, however, is nice and the facilities are good.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

We were surely giving out a lot of tips, so in this respect, yes, our holiday did benefit local people that we came to contact with. Obviously, tourism industry does play a major role in Egypt's economy, so our going there surely wasn't a bad thing. I can't say much about the impact on environment, maybe just the caleche ride (rather than car) to Edfu temple?

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

We had chosen the tailor-made trip as we like to travel on our own and don't like to adapt to a group. Our tour operator was most helpful in the preparation of this trip. The agenda was agreed beforehand, according to our requirements. They also monitored the trip and had representatives meeting us and helping us in every place. We had a private car with very professional drivers, and knowledgeable guides. We felt like spoilt brats, as the reps and guides would do everything for us - from buying entrance tickets through negotiating water prices in a shop to checking in and out of hotels. The attention was almost intimidating at times, as we are used to travelling independently. I would definitely recommend this tour operator for their attentive and professional service.

review 22 Feb 2007

Wow, our tailor made holiday to Egypt really was the best holiday we've ever been on. We were treated like royalty and nothing was too much trouble - it was even taken in good spirit by the operator's staff when we lost our train tickets, and sorted out the same day. Every day was memorable - we all feel so privileged to have seen such wonders of the world. Even our 14 yr old daughter was spellbound by Abu Simbel and the Pyramids and many other tombs and temples. However, I think it would have been too intense without some light relief in the form of hot air ballooning, camel and donkey rides, and free time in the hotel pools. One of the definite highlights was sailing down the Nile in the Royal Cleopatra - we have never been so spoilt and it was a magical couple of days - so much better than being herded onto and off the cruise ships. The overnight sleeper train was an experience ... once - unfortunately we did it twice!!! Staying in the Nubian Guest House was very special too and gave us a great insight into the Nubian lifestyle. Our wonderful guides Bassem and Emad were fun and very knowledgeable - it's the only way to take in so much history. Two downsides to the holiday were; The tipping and hygiene- everyone, everywhere expects to be tipped, even toilet attendants standing guard at the entrance with a tiny piece of loo paper - fine, if they had actually cleaned the loos but that obviously wasn't in their job description!!!!! I felt like giving them a tip all right - i.e. get some bleach, etc and make their toilets the cleanest in Egypt - they would then make a fortune in tips as every tourist would be SO appreciative!!!!! All of us got the dreaded tummy troubles even though we were very careful what we ate. So my advise would be to get as much small change as possible as soon as you arrive, otherwise you will get through a great deal of money through tipping with larger notes. (I tried to get very small change from the travel agent before going and the smallest notes I could get were £10). There seems to be a lack of very small notes available to tourists even in Egypt - I wonder why!!! We ended up borrowing small change from our guides! Also the dress code was quite difficult to adhere to with a 14yr old daughter, but you need to be respectful, especially in temples and mosques and on the streets. As far as our holiday benefiting the locals - yes, I think it did - we visited carpet factories, papyrus factories and Alabaster factories and local Nubian restaurants collecting several beautiful things in the process. We used every sort of transport available - some more environmentally friendly than others. The Egyptians we met were, without exception friendly and charming and seemed genuinely pleased that we were visiting their beautiful country. All in all, ***** I am reborn. Simply the best holiday I have been on. I will definitely be using responsible travel again - thank you so much for putting us in touch with this operator - they were exceptional.

Read the operator's response here:

Thank you for your feedback. Unfortunately the issue of tipping in Egypt is a very critical issue and we have tried different ways of handling it, but it ends up being a personal matter. We have tried before to include it in the price of the tour, but then travellers do not hand it out directly to the parties that delivered service for them. We do explain about it in the literature we send our guests. As for the toilets on the site it is an issue that is very upsetting for us to and we are occasionally complaining to the High Supreme council of antiquities which is in control of the archaeological sites and any involved services there, but the response has been very low. There are good intentions but not enough to solve this problem.

review 20 Feb 2007

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

First day at the pyramids & sphinx.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

I highly recommend the excellent, personal service provided by this operator. Initially I was wary when they asked me to wire them the money for the program. I would have preferred a credit card payment but they are not set up for it. In the end it was ok, the moment of truth was when the rep was there to meet us inside of customs. I wish we had spent overnight at Abusimbel. Originally, we weren't going to go there at all but everyone I talked to rated it very highly so we booked a last minute flight shuttle. I'm glad we didn't miss it, but it was very rush rush & we competed heavily with other visitors who came out in a convoy of coaches. We were very disappointed with the Nile cruise. The standard of the boat was not 5 star but was more like a 3 star to me. Forgetting about the standard, there is also the problem that we spent most of our time in dock. The whole first day & night was in the same mooring. Also when we had to go through locks, we were waiting in place for more than 6 hours. After rereading the agent's notes, I realize now I should have booked an international cruise line ( e.g. Movenpick, Oberoi , Sonesta and A&K Nile cruises) & paid the 30-40% premium. We stayed in two very fine hotels, The Mena house in Cairo with views of the pyramids and the Old Winter Palace in Luxor. The Old Winter Palace is the finest hotel I've ever stayed in and a top tip if you can get in there. We were somewhat put off by the traffic noise so you may want to specify away from road rather than Nile view or garden view. For a few $ you can upgrade to a room with a balcony & it makes all the difference. When you fly into Abusimbel, try to sit on the left hand side of the aircraft & you may be able to get a dramatic photo of the site. You only see it on the way in. Carry a lot of small Egyptian money with you. Even the guards in the small tombs will ask for a tip & you can either say get lost or make them very happy with just half a pound.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

Yes, tour guides & drivers were local & many many tips to staff at tourist attractions. Not sure about environmental impacts, everywhere we went was well worn by many before us.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

***** Organized as a special birthday present for my wife and was by far the best holiday she has ever had. We really loved it.

review 8 Jan 2007

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on our wonderful vacation in Egypt. It's hard to answer the following questions without sounding as if we work for, or have an interest in, the tour company. We really had a great time.

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

We thoroughly enjoyed every day - visiting the pyramids of Giza, walking through the Valley of the Kings, admiring the spectacular temples between Aswan and Luxor, watching the sunsets from our hotel balcony, and just cruising the Nile. Every day offered something new and interesting. But it is possible that the most memorable part of the trip will be the people who helped us enjoy everything we experienced, not just the representatives of the tour company, all of whom were very nice and professional, but also many of the people we met casually during the visit.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

We booked the "tailor-made tour," and then we were pleasantly surprised to find out that it actually was designed to accommodate some flexibility and personal scheduling preferences -- it was not just an advertising slogan. We've traveled quite a bit and rarely sign up for tour services, but we must admit that we really appreciated the personal assistance at the airports and at the various tourist sites. The weather in late December and early January was mild and ideal for touring the desert. Regarding the custom of tipping for almost any service received, we would suggest that travelers simply enjoy this cultural nicety, which really doesn't add much to the cost of the trip, and quickly find a money exchange to buy US$50 worth of 1, 5, 10, and 20 pound Egyptian notes (roughly equivalent to 20 cents, $1, $2, and $4, respectively). This will take care of all the light tipping for quite a few days, and it will make a lot of people smile. Larger tips for special services can be given in any currency. Yes, there will be certain things within the major cities that are unpleasant to see, but the people are friendly and helpful and the streets seem safe. For most of my American friends, don't even think about renting a car and trying to drive through Cairo.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

Our greatest contribution was probably to the local economy. In the evenings, we would shop and then find a restaurant, and everything we bought (food, jewellery, and gifts) seemed reasonably priced.

4. Any other comments?

***** This potentially challenging experience was almost effortless and completely enjoyable.

review 18 Dec 2007

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

In addition, of course, to seeing the totally awesome monuments of Egypt and Jordan, the most memorable part of our holiday was getting to know the warm and gracious guides who took us around the sights, as well as meeting so many friendly Egyptians and Jordanians. Ordinary people that we met were very hospitable and welcoming and eager to know that we were enjoying ourselves.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Spend time in Cairo - a very sophisticated city with lots to see. That includes going to tea shops and hanging out with local people - very fun. If you're taking the Aqaba ferry to Jordan, be prepared to spend all day. In hindsight, it would have made more sense to travel a different way, if possible. Again in hindsight, I would have like to have spent some time at the Red Sea resorts like Sharm el Sheik - supposed to be very beautiful and fun. Tipping tour guides and drivers: you're in an unusual situation of sometimes spending all day with a tour guide or driver, and it was difficult not really knowing what an appropriate tip would be for such service. More help with this would have been appreciated.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

Yes - we were taken to a bunch of local tourist shops and went on some local excursions, and that helped local people. I don't know about environmental impacts

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

Very enjoyable. Everybody that worked with us tried hard to please us.

review 26 Apr 2007

I am pleased to report that my ten days' holiday in Egypt ranks alongside the best I have experienced. From the first email exchange, this operator was efficient, responsive, flexible and always giving the highest priority to the travellers' wishes. The progress of the holiday was constantly monitored by senior company executives through regular contact with the area representatives. The guides were well informed and unreservedly helpful. The individually tailored itinerary delivered everything it promised, and more. I should perhaps add that I have been privileged to visit very many countries in the last 45 years at various cost levels and this operator is a model for other travel companies.

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

Difficult to select a single most memorable event because there were several: the 3,500 year old restored Pharaoh’s boat at Giza; the Tutankhamen room in Cairo museum, empty except for my grandson and myself; the temple at Karnak; sunsets over the Nile; felucca sailing at Aswan; dining in local restaurants in Cairo and Aswan.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

No original advice to offer: simply keep stocked up with bottled water from local stalls; don’t over pack because laundry facilities are cheap and quick; carry lots of small denomination Egyptian currency notes because the demands for tipping are incessant for the most trivial services but the "helpers" probably depend on the tips for a large part of their subsistence. Even with that awareness, the custom can be intrusive and irritating. Be prepared to bargain for all purchases in the souks and similar locations.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

Everything we did benefited the local people: from using an Egyptian company to the local guides, shop keepers, drivers etc. Apart from using a sail boat rather than a motor boat, I have to say that we probably did not contribute a great deal to the environment.


review 15 Apr 2007

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

The most memorable part of our trip was our dawn balloon ride across the Nile.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

It's important to get the correct balance between sightseeing (Visits to temples etc ) and relaxation so that the kids keep their interest.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

Certainly I think that it benefited local people as only local guides etc were used. In addition a contribution was made to a local charity. As far as the environment was concerned it was difficult to tell.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

Without doubt it was a **** holiday experience.

review 26 Feb 2007

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

The holiday was great. Everybody at this operator was very helpful and we particularly liked our Cairo guide. There were lots of very exciting things: the pyramids, the trip on the Nile, the paintings in the West bank of the Nile at Luxor (Valley of the Kings and Queens and tombs of the Nobles) and sunrise at Abu Simbel were the best.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Specify the type of room you want in the hotel, don't rely only on the stars. If you want a view say it (and probably pay for it). I strongly recommend a tailored made holidays with just the sites. We went for 8 days (not including travelling days) and I think we should have gone for 12. Luxor West bank deserves a whole day, an extra day in Aswan would have been nice, the Egyptian Museum needs also a whole day and an extra day in Cairo would have give us more time to explore the market (not the tourist area) and Islamic Cairo. The agency did exceptionally well for us with the time we told them we had

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

Hopefully. The operator gives money to education, children and women projects

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

I've visited lots of wonderful places and the best holiday of my life has many suitors but it was definitively **** and I have been recommending it to my friends

review 23 Feb 2007

We had an absolutely fantastic holiday.

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

The best part of the holiday was the dahabia. A fantastic boat - the Royal Cleopatra - and a real privilege to be able to moor at such unspoilt places. It meant we could go to unusual sites, such as the sandstone quarry and a camel market, as well as walk on some islands in the Nile. All fascinating. All the sites that we visited were brought to life by our excellent guide, too. The food was all delicious - Egyptian dishes using local ingredients.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Try and go on an individual boat like this. It is more expensive, but it is a truly remarkable experience. The cruise boats looked so big and brash in comparison. And, if given the option, definitely have a guide on the boat with you, as it was a real bonus being able to ask about all sorts of aspects of Egyptian life.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

It definitely seemed to benefit local people, and the boat especially seemed a locally-run concern, with Egyptian employees. Impact on the environment seemed minimal as the way of life on the boat was so simple, with very little water wastage and all local food.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

Between 4 and 5 star - one of the best holidays we've ever had, and will definitely be back, especially to the sites of upper Egypt. My children, aged 13 and 11, and 72 year-old mother all loved it too, so it is very well suited to a wide age range. This operator organised every aspect very well. The only glitch concerned an internal flight, which was no-one's fault. Can thoroughly recommend it to anyone.


review 19 Mar 2007

My wife Helga and I very much enjoyed our 2-week holiday in Egypt, and we were quite overwhelmed by the warm hospitality of our Egyptian hosts. We had not expected such a high level of service during our trip, and we were extremely well taken care of. Minor glitches in the planning of our journey were corrected in time and everything went smoothly. In short, we are extremely pleased and we feel that we definitely got our money’s worth. Obviously, modern Egypt is not heaven on Earth, and some things are a bit of a nuisance. Obviously, no travel agency can do much about the constant pressure exerted by salesmen outside the major tourist attractions and we soon learned that we would have been in considerable trouble during our journey, had we not been accompanied by our local guides. We think it would be advisable to instruct the guides to give newly arrived guests a "crash-course" in dealings with the salesmen and touts - right at the start, instead of saying "just ignore them" and nothing more. We would have benefited much from such a "course", because some experiences we had during our first days in Egypt left a negative impression. We would also have benefited from more careful advice on tipping and methods to obtain small change to keep readily available at all times. Also, when we had decided ourselves to do shopping, the methods used by salesmen often caused us to back away, something which always turned out to be a lengthy and troublesome process. We would probably have done more shopping had we not found ourselves in very difficult situations several times! The Egyptologists who accompanied us were knowledgeable, polite and helpful in every way. Their English was generally good, but we noticed that they had more training in describing the sites and the historic context, than in answering questions. This is not meant as criticism, just as a helpful note to keep in mind concerning their education and training. One additional thing we might mention was that our guides seemed to be operating in a bit different ways; the person who accompanied us on the Nile Cruiser and in Luxor and Aswan offered an almost steady stream of extra sightseeing tours that were not part of the original program and had to be paid for separately (good tours, by the way); the one who received us in Sharm-El-Sheikh and took us to Dahab was careful not to present any offers to us as like he felt he would then be infringing on somebody else’s domain, but then turned out to be a tour guide; the Cairo guide had no extra offerings (the schedule would hardly have allowed this). Moreover, we were a bit surprised when we were, several times during the scheduled tours, taken to factories, where mild pressure was exerted on us to buy some products! It would have been better to know in advance! Another thing we must mention are the scary traffic conditions, especially in Cairo! We would think twice before taking the risk of travelling so much by car again, were we to visit Egypt another time! Like the above mentioned harassment by salesmen and touts, the traffic situation is obviously beyond the control of the travel agencies, but we do feel that representatives of the Egyptian travel industry as a whole should sit down at a round table and discuss among themselves how they could exert proper pressure on their government, in order to bring forward improvements in the situation! That would benefit everybody; the nation as a whole and the tourist industry. Our guides and representatives kept telling us that traffic accidents are rare in Egypt, but a quick survey of reliable websites displaying information on traffic accident statistics worldwide shows this not to be true. We considered ourselves lucky that our drivers were experienced, but in at least two cases (not Cairo, though), seatbelts were not to be found in the passenger seats. Again, we want the above comments to serve as constructive criticism, but we are of course aware that things cannot be changed overnight (Agatha Christie writes about the salesmen and touts in a similar way almost a century ago!). The experience of seeing the great monuments and temples of Ancient Egypt was simply incredible; these were great moments that we enjoyed very much and we learned a lot about Egyptian history and achievements. Service level and friendliness of staff all over was exceptional. Hotel and travel comfort (train, planes, most minivans, Nile cruiser) was excellent. The representatives of Gateway to Egypt were constantly in touch with our Egyptologist guides, ascertaining that our journey went as planned. The weather during our stay was simply perfect, just like had it been planned by Ra himself! We hope these comments will be helpful to you and the GWE staff in Cairo. We do not feel like rating the trip using some number of stars, like you suggested; we rather choose to put our impressions into the words that you have just read!

Read the operator's response here:

In the literature that we give the travellers we explain about shopping, fixed prices shops all over Egypt and tipping. It is difficult for us to predict a certain traveller’s reaction to any of that. Some travellers are open to the markets and take it as a fun game and some are intimidated. In Egypt Licensed Tour guides go through a min of 4 years up to 6 years of university education to get a degree and then take their guidance license. The law that governs guidance business states clearly that the Tour guide should not force any personal beliefs of religion and politics on travellers; he /she can go through different points of view but always stays neutral. Tour guide should not get engaged in any political or religious discussions that can be of any offending nature for the hosting country or the guests. Tour guides have a different approach to above mentioned article of the guidance law and we encourage guides to be open about all modern and ancient subjects using their personal sense in these matters. Tour guides would operate in a different way from one city to another as each city has its identity and activities. So as the traveller mentioned there was no time for any extra activities while on the Nile cruise there would be more time .These trips are not usually added to the program because we try to a create a balance between free time and sightseeing and we leave it to the travellers choice to decide if they need more sightseeing and less free time. When it comes to Cairo traffic it is a very difficult subject as one study announced: |“Traffic in Cairo is sheer chaos and probably only understood by native Egyptians.

review 16 Mar 2007

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

Most memorable point - the visit to the Cairo museum, particularly the Tutankhamon items.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Expect to be shocked by the level of poverty to be seen. Also, try not to be too bothered by the number of people trying to sell you things, or trips on feluccas, trips on horse carriages, taxi rides, cigarettes, etc

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

I felt it did benefit locals to a small degree. However, this was very marginal, as the most expensive items, such as hotels and food were mainly to Nile Cruise ship owners.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

As regards rating the holiday, I was most annoyed with the Hotel Philippe for the way that they tried to cheat us twice as regards extra costs for the rooms. I found that unacceptable. I found the regular contact by Cairo to be most helpful, as it enabled us to raise issues promptly, without having to wait until we got back home to bring them up. The sooner an issue is raised, the sooner it can be sorted out. Overall the holiday had fantastic high points, but there were negatives, such as the poverty and also the mosquitoes, which we were told would not be there. It was a holiday to do once, in my opinion.

Read the operator's response here:

On his number two comment. The acceptance of the cultural & economic difference between Egypt and other parts of the world, is something that we can not control. Even though we advise our travellers to be open and not to compare styles of life. On number three comment. The hotels and Nile cruiser used by Mr. Michael Cotter will all locally managed hotels which only employ staff from the area they operate in. Around each one of these types of accommodation there are markets, cafeterias, shops and the interaction between the travellers and them depends on the wishes of the traveller. On number 4 comment. Philippe Hotel did have a communication problem which raised high dissatisfaction with the travellers. We have sorted it out immediately and are also investigating the problem with their management. Our quality control department emailed Mr. Cotter about the action we have taken concerning this problem.

review 22 Jun 2006

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

Everything was memorable. Every single minute was special and enjoyable. The friendliness and hospitality of the people, the fresh and flavorful taste of the food, the amazing places we visited, the way it was organized (impeccable); everything was just perfect. I can not think of one part of the trip that was better than another one!

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Bring plenty of small change since tipping is almost mandatory! It is difficult to get small change later on.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

Yes. Everything that I booked were owned by local people. Even in our free time we made sure we went to local owned restaurants.

4. Any other comments?

Definitely 5 stars!!! I trip that I would highly recommend.

review 26 Sep 2006

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

Seeing the Valley of the Kings and queens, the colours of 3+ millennia still bright and beautiful!

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Take a guide book such as the Lonely Planet so you know what a taxi ride or a trip etc should cost, read the information on scams they are real so it was good to be forewarned. Take a fold up umbrella, not for the rain but for the sun. Hoard small notes for backshee (tips) and smile and say no thank you to all the touts...............

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

Yes apart form the guide on the Nile cruise who took us on a private tour around Luxor (not booked through this operator) who convinced us that the cost of a carriage ride was 160 E pounds when we tried to pay the driver he took the money so we had no idea what he paid him, the Lonely Planet showed us we had been had as it should have cost 45 E pounds

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

Excellent 4 stars

review 3 Apr 2006

This company was fantastic. They negotiated by e-mail as to what my partner and I wanted to do. It was a very reasonably priced holiday for 10 days of tailor-made luxury of having everything organised for us, being transported in air-conditioned mini-buses, with informative guides and friendly drivers. We saw lots of sights and sites in and around Luxor and Aswan and travelled by camel, by felucca and overnight train to Cairo also as we requested - all great in different ways. Everything we paid for was to local people. We also had plenty of time to walk around Aswan and Luxor and banter with locals with a tiny amount of Arabic and their superior knowledge of English. We did find being constantly treated as cash cows quite trying, though understandable, and it makes it hard to spend time with local people that were not our guides. The history in the area is just mind-blowing, especially the state of preservation of the paintings in the tombs. The contrast between the blue of the Nile, the green of the irrigated areas and the bone dryness of the deserts certainly makes you understand the absolute essential nature of water. It was fantastic seeing this at the end of our holiday from a hot-air balloon at dawn and in the aeroplane on the way home. A wonderful holiday - 4 1/2 stars.

review 17 Mar 2006

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

4 night Nile cruise; Abu Simbel; climbing Mt. Sinai.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

None.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

Yes.

review 11 Mar 2006

I did a tailor made itinerary of Cairo and a supposedly four star Nile cruise inclusive of Luxor, Aswan, Abu Simbhel, then flew to Sharm- El- Sheikh, and did a midnight climb of Mt: Sinai.

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

The answers are two, One is abstract and the other real. Ancient Egypt and Egyptology has always fascinated me and did not disappoint me. Meeting the main Management of this tour company that you recommended was unique. Very charming, friendly, accommodating, efficient and effective. I was taken aback.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Pick the time of the year well. For sun lovers, it's different, but for others, having to walk in the blazing sun to see Abu Simbhel, Karnak and Luxor, which are must sees, detracts from their sheer magnificence. You are in an unhedonistic stupor induced by the heat. Don't expect, for Eg: four stars in Egypt to be so and get disgruntled, especially for retired travellers who are more into comfort.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

Certainly!! Being a single traveller, and being accompanied by three at every private tour,my tipping was the biggest cash expense of my trip. I am an eco friendly traveller anyway, and loved the way Ras- Mohammed has maintained its stark barren beauty and is still entertaing. Same for Sinai.

4. Any other comments?

Responsible travel, was also very quick, prompt and efficient. I sent out a mail, and from the following day I must have had five or so companies referred to me. Giving me what I wanted. Very good service. I did say so already. Thanks.

review 24 Feb 2006

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

Lots, really; going inside the pyramid, waking up on the train to Aswan and seeing the villages as we passed, all the sites in Luxor, but probably the best was the day we spent going on feluccas, exploring tombs and riding camels in the desert outside Aswan.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

It would have been significantly cheaper, if a bit more hassle, to pay by transferring the money before we went. We waited till we arrived and paid by credit card there because we didn't know much about the company and they'd only been on the Responsible travel website a few months. But they are entirely reputable, so it is OK to pay before you go. Going on the train to Aswan is a really cool way to travel and particularly fun for children. There are interconnecting cars on the sleeper train, so a family of 4 can all be together. If you are staying near the pyramids, the Mena House has a really nice garden and is nearer than the Meridian (where we stayed). Though the food was very good at the Meridian.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

It is a bit difficult in Egypt, because if you stay in posh hotels (and the alternative seemed to be rather grotty hotels) they are almost always owned by foreign companies, and big hotels are not very eco-friendly. On the other hand, by using a Cairo-based agent, all of the arrangement fees and the money for guides etc stays in the country. All of the people we met from the agency, guides, drivers and reps, were Egyptian, and of course the Hotels employ a lot of people, and these are good jobs. And the company donated money to an Egyptian development project on our behalf at the end of the trip.

4. Any other comments?

This is a great way to see a lovely country. For us, with children, it was much more flexible and more fun than going on an organised tour with other people, as we could mix site seeing with other things and mix organised, guided trips with visiting sites on our own.

review 6 Jan 2006

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

Finishing up in Hurghada for swimming and snorkelling in the red sea was a great idea because the sight-seeing was actually quite intense and hard work, although it was spectacular. I particularly enjoyed seeing the Luxor temple lit up at night time and the scenes viewable from the felucca were wonderful. But the most interesting thing for me was the couple of times we wandered through Nile villages on the west bank and just browsed the 'shops' seeing the way of life and also the times we were driving from one place to another along the Nile or the canals leading off it, seeing the people working in their fields - so many donkeys and carts!, so much hand tilling, so little machinery. I would definitely scale down on the sight seeing and do more of that sort of thing. In our own particular case, I am glad that we saw 'everything' but at times we were a bit overwhelmed by temples and facts and perhaps a longer holiday with one day 'on' one day 'off' would have allowed us to absorb more. The continual early starts [ e.g. 3 a.m. for the trip from Aswan to Abu Simbel] were almost gruelling and caused a bit of mutiny in our ranks. We also found that our guides were knowledgeable and proud of their wonderful heritage and were fairly determined to unburden all of this onto us -sometimes it was just too much! We had individual guides for our trips so it wasn't so easy to blank out or disappear.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

There is no Christmas here, something we found positively refreshing - but be aware of that it can be quite cold in winter in Egypt, especially when you get into the interior [the upper Nile] and nights are especially chilly so take at least one heavy sweater and one really wind proof warm jacket. This goes for a felucca trip, too. We were a bit underprepared and didn't have sleeping bags or really warm wind-proof clothing and it was VERY cold. We cut our 3 days on the felucca to 2 and actually at this time of year, one would have been plenty. There is a very heavy military presence, which has 2 effects; it does make you feel a bit safer [don't know if that is actually the case, though] but it also means you have to do this utterly tedious thing of travelling in convoy, which somewhat curtails spontaneity. It's a big country, distances between sights can be large

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

I felt that we did get a fair bit of contact with people on the ground. By not being in 5 star accommodation we actually went to places where Egyptian people went. We got fantastic advice about where to eat [try the stuffed pigeon -delicious - as was almost all the food we had] and how to haggle in the market etc, so although we were very obviously tourists, we did get a bit of a look at the real Egypt, which to me is more interesting than the usual sights, spectacular as they are.

4. Any other comments?

It was a very good holiday, and a great break from the usual grey grizzly days of a northern European winter. Read a bit before you go. Give yourself plenty of time to see what you want to see. Bring warm clothing in winter as well as the light gear. Expect everyone everywhere to want to be tipped [for handing out toilet roll in the loos, for posing for a photo etc] and arm yourself with a pile of Egyptian one pound notes [worth very little but it does the job]. We found the Egyptian people we met, especially the softly-spoken Nubians in the south, to have a friendliness and warmth and physical grace that was very attractive. It was difficult to come up with a holiday that would suit 2 50+year olds and 4 grown up children in their early-mid twenties but this holiday in Egypt did actually provide something for everyone. We travelled the [entire and surprisingly large] length of the country and saw all the major sights and would rate it at 4 stars. It was a success.

review 23 Dec 2005

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

We had an excellent time in Egypt with this responsible travel operator. We were looked after extremely well (organising a special dinner for us after we had mildly commented on the quality of the food at our hotel was not really necessary, but we had a great seafood meal at the restaurant overlooking the pyramids). The level of assistance from organisers, guides and drivers was very good. It was hard to pick an absolute highlight, but the trip on the Dahabia "Royal Cleopatra" went close.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

We would recommend your company to other travellers.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

We felt that as a small group, we didn't have too much of a detrimental effect on the environment. We learnt a lot from your guides and people who we met. Responsible tourism is presumably good for the local economy and we hope that local people benefited.

4. Any other comments?

We rate our holiday overall very highly (9/10 perhaps) and are glad we went to Egypt with your company.

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