When it comes to a destination that oozes history, you cannot get much better than Egypt. As one of the oldest civilizations in the world, Egypt has heaps of amazing historical sights to see, wonderful bazaars to get lost in, and cities and towns steeped in culture. On top of this, it is possible to combine all of this with a beach break, owing to the fact that the country lies next to the Red Sea.
While independent travel is slowly becoming more popular in Egypt, the vast majority of travelers come to the country as part of pre-booked Egypt tours. These tours are big business in Egypt and it can get quite confusing as to which tours to pick. Should travelers go with the mass-produced tours or are local Egypt tours a much better option? Is there any significant difference between the two?
Egypt travel statistics
Tourism is crucial to the Egyptian economy. The industry hit a peak in 2010, with almost 15 million travelers making their way to the ancient state. However, political unrest and terrorism fears in the early 2010s meant that Egypt suffered huge blows in terms of tourist numbers, with figures dropping to just over five million in 2016. Since then, things seem to be on the up, with over eight million tourists recorded in 2017 and over 11 million in 2018, an increase of over 50% in just two years. As was mentioned previously, most travelers heading to Egypt do so as part of a tour, be that a two-week package holiday by the sea or an overland adventure taking in the best sights the country has to offer.
Countries that send the biggest number of visitors to Egypt are Germany and Ukraine, and the United Kingdom is in the 4th place.
Why book Egypt tours in the first place?
While the most adventurous of travelers may be keen to travel the country independently, it is fair to say that taking a trip to Egypt this way can be frustrating and difficult. Traveling between the major urban centers should pose no problem as the trains and long-distance buses are fairly efficient, but if travelers wish to see some of the most impressive sites, such as Abu Simbel, public transportation to these sites is limited.
That being said, there have been reports of foreign visitors not being able to book certain trains and having to visit travel agencies to help them book the correct one, so traveling as part of a tour can reduce this confusion. But the main reason travelers continue to book Egypt tours is that they are convenient: everything is arranged for you in advance, including your transportation, so visitors can get on with enjoying their vacation rather than worrying about arrangements and schedules.
What kind of Egypt tours are on offer?
Since Egypt is such a popular tourist destination, there are many kinds of Egypt tours on offer. For those who wish to spend their entire holiday via a tour, overland adventures remain one of the most popular options for Egypt tours. These include an itinerary which covers most of the important sites and cities. A typical multi-day Egypt tour sees visitors arrive in Cairo and visit the Pyramids, the Sphinx and the Egyptian Museum, then head down to Aswan to explore this wonderful city as well as visit nearby sites such as Abu Simbel and Philae Temple. The tour then takes travelers on a Nile cruise or felucca sailing trip up to Luxor and Karnak Temple, before heading to the Valley of the Kings. The tour will then finish back in Cairo.
As well as these overland tours, there are lots of add-ons which travelers take. Some of the most popular of these add-on Egypt tours include Mount Sinai, the Red Sea, and Alexandria. If an overland Egypt tour does not include a trip down the Nile, there are also a variety of options for Nile cruises. These range from basic felucca trips which have no onboard facilities to luxury cruise ships with fine dining and entertainment. These boat trips can last from a couple of days up to two weeks long, depending on the route taken.
However, Egypt is not only all about history. The country is extremely popular as a beach destination, with many resorts found in Dahab, Sharm El Sheikh and Hurghada. This area is particularly well-known for its excellent diving opportunities and many travelers who are keen on the sport spend their entire trip within the Red Sea area. There are lots of Egypt tours available for those interested in this kind of trip, which can see tourists visit a number of dive sites in one holiday.
However, there are now many travelers who want to have more freedom on their holiday, which has led to them opting for day trips or short-term trips, such as three or five days, instead of these longer Egypt tours. For example, on TripsPoint.com tourists can book day trips which make the perfect addition to an independent Egypt trip, such as the Egypt Pyramids Tour which take visitors to the Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx, the Egyptian Museum, and the Khan El Khalili Market, and the Cairo City tour, which allows visitors to explore both the old and new sides of Egypt’s capital. However, day tours are not just limited to the capital and the historical sights. If travelers have decided to visit the Red Sea as part of their Egypt trip, they can choose to take a day’s snorkeling and dolphin watching trip. For those seeking a few thrills, there are plenty of Sahara desert trips like White Desert Tour on offer too, including quad biking and camel riding.
What is the difference between local Egypt tours and mass operator tours?
The main difference between local Egypt tours and mass operator tours is that local Egypt tours use the services of local tour providers, guides and drivers. This obviously has massive advantages, as local guides and drivers will generally be more knowledgable. The guides used by mass operator tours are not guaranteed to be local; many of these companies hire guides from other countries as they feel that their customers will be able to connect more easily with them, which garners a higher level of trust. However, this can be a huge disadvantage, as no matter how knowledgeable and highly trained these foreign guides are, they will still not have the same level of insider knowledge that a local guide would have.
Why should I book local Egypt tours?
When booking local Egypt tours, travelers ensure that their money is going straight back into the economy of the local community and Egypt itself. When using mass operator tours, the money that visitors pay for their trip very rarely gets back to the local people or, in the cases that it does, it is a rather small percentage. Most of the money from these kinds of package tours go back into the companies themselves; after all, they are money-making businesses and are massively focused on profit and target-hitting.
Local Egypt tours are different. The money that travelers pay goes directly to the local tour provider, who in turn uses the money to pay their local staff, advertise their products and services, and any other administrative and daily costs their business accumulates. While Egypt is a developed country, especially in comparison with many of its African neighbors, the fact remains that approximately a third of its people live in poverty, so local Egypt tours are a good way of ensuring that the people who need the money the most are receiving it, rather than a fat cat corporate businessperson who already has lots of money in the bank.
Travelers can understand the culture better when booking local Egypt tours
A massive advantage of local Egypt tours is that as they use local guides and drivers, they have more of an understanding of the local culture. As we all know, nothing beats having a local introduce their country to visitors as they know it better than anyone. While it is possible to get information about the history of a country from a decent guidebook, it is much better to hear local stories and facts from someone who has lived in the country for the majority of their life.
As well as being able to enthrall visitors with fascinating stories and interesting facts about the sights visited, local tour guides are also a fountain of knowledge when it comes to local customs and traditions. Most travelers have been in a situation where they have committed some kind of social or cultural faux pas at some point in their escapades around the globe. However, when traveling with a local guide, they are able to give travelers key pointers and advice on how to behave, especially when they are out in public or if they are visiting indigenous people, and how much to tip local workers. This kind of advice is invaluable to tourists and can help travelers have a more satisfying and trouble-free vacation.
Guides conducting local Egypt tours know all the secret, hidden places
Aside from their insider knowledge on local culture and history, booking local Egypt tours has another advantage along these lines. As local guides usually are extremely familiar with the cities and other places they are taking tourists to, they will inevitably know the best places to go when their guests have free time. Which are the best restaurants to go to for traditional Egyptian food? Which markets should I visit in order not to get ripped off? Is there anywhere I can go for an alcoholic drink? Are there any places you can recommend visiting in Egypt which I could add onto the end of my trip? These are all questions that many travelers have when they are visiting Egypt, and who better to answer them than a person who was born and raised in the country?
Local Egypt tours can save you money
Many travelers think that traveling independently is the cheapest way to travel. While this may be the case in many situations, the same cannot be said regarding Egypt tours. As there were political unrest and a drop in tourist numbers at the beginning of the decade, lots of travel companies decided to give big discounts to try and entice travelers back there. If the rise in visitor numbers is anything to go by, this seems to have worked.
Of course, the vast majority of tour companies offering these kinds of discounts are the mass operator companies, but there are better savings to be made when using local operators. When local tour operators use travel booking platform TripsPoint.com to sell their products, they are effectively cutting out the middle man, meaning the cost of Egypt tours provided locally can net you even more savings, making your vacation much cheaper.
You do not need to book ahead with local Egypt tours
The mass operator tours which run in Egypt are usually booked up way in advance. There are several reasons for this; firstly, these companies often offer massive discounts for those who are booking several months ahead of their departure date. Secondly, getting all their customers accounted for in advance is of huge benefit to large travel companies; since they are dealing with lots of tourists on their trips, trying to arrange everything from flights and hotels to in-country transportation for tens and even hundreds of people can be a logistical nightmare at the best of times, never mind if it is last minute. So these companies prefer travelers to book as far in advance as possible just so everything can be arranged swiftly and efficiently.
However, local Egypt tours are different. Because local tour operators either cater for small groups or individual travelers, it is possible to be able to book them at very short notice, even the day before. This is because as these companies are much smaller than the mass tour operators, they are more adept at being flexible with their bookings and catering to their clients’ needs. This gives travelers a great deal of freedom with their trip, especially if they have initially traveled to Egypt independently and are looking to add on some Egypt tours while they are in-country. While travelers often have a good idea of what they want to see and do during their vacation, sometimes things change. Maybe they spoke to some other travelers once they arrived who had taken a fantastic trip somewhere which they had not initially considered. Maybe their hotel staff gave them some information on an activity which looked like it might be too expensive but once they arrived in the country now seemed perfectly reasonable. Being able to book Egypt tours while on location means that travelers do not have to worry about missing out on an opportunity just because they did not think to book it before they left home.
Of course, that is also the other major advantage; it takes the stress out of arranging the entire trip prior to their departure date, meaning travelers can go with the flow and see what happens, which as we all know, often makes for the best trips.
You get more of personal experience on local Egypt tours
Because Egypt is such a popular destination with mass operator tours, they run their trips using huge coaches and big Nile cruise ships. Travelers are often on tour with tens of other passengers at the same time. While this might seem to be an easy way to get to know other tourists, it does not have the same intimate feel as if one were traveling in a small group. Small group tours have actually boomed in popularity over the last few decades; travelers get to have closer contact with both their guide and each other. There is less time wasted waiting around for group members who have got lost or are simply not keeping to the schedule.
While joining a small group tour may come with a fixed schedule, because they are much smaller there is always the possibility of some slight flexibility when it comes to how long travelers can stay at sights, or different places and activities they would like to add on. This means that there can be a certain amount of personalization when it comes to local Egypt tours. If travelers decide to go for a private tour, this personalization increases tenfold, as travelers can completely choose where they go, what they do, and on what particular day. This is something which just does not exist with mass operator tours, making local Egypt tours a far more attractive option.
When traveling on local Egypt tours, you will have the trip of a lifetime
Travelling to Egypt is something that everyone should do at least once in their life. It is a country which will inspire awe and wonder into the most hard-hearted and skeptical person and is simply a magical place to visit. To experience this beautiful country at its finest, travelers should opt for local Egypt tours. This way, they can learn more about the country and its history, and get a real insight into the lives of Egypt’s people.