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10-Day Solo Indian Woman Egypt Trip: Budget, Itinerary And Lessons

Updated: Apr 5

Being a huge history nerd, Egypt was always on my travel bucketlist. So finally, on a nippy December evening out of general sense of ennui in life, I decided I'd go on a solo trip to Egypt. (Because as usual, noone else could join me during that time. JK, I have no friends.)

Now since Egypt is a tropical country, it can be unbearably hot with temperatures touching 50 degrees C in the summers so, time, money and good weather waited for no man or woman and I booked my tickets.

So here's the tricky part. I decided on an Egypt trip almost at the very last minute. After booking some cheap tickets on "Saudi" airlines or "Saudia", I only had a total of 7 days between booking and flying to secure my VISA.

Tourist VISA for Egypt for Indians

Unfortunately Indians do need to arrange a tourist visa in advance for Egypt and go through the whole rigmarole of preparing documents, photos, and sending all these through an agent to the Egyptian consulate in Delhi or Mumbai. So within hours of my booking flight tickets, I got scrambling to send in my visa application through an overnight express courier which is the only way I could get the visa in time.

So after about 5 working days, and literally on the eve of my flight, I did receive my passport with the Egyptian visa!

Mummy, here I come! (IYKYK)

A messy beginning in Cairo

See the thing with cheap flights is, they're fun and satisfying and all, but they are cheap for a reason. After a long layover in Jeddah spending hours just dawdling about, looking at the streams of semi-naked "Hajj" bound passengers all around, I reached Cairo at around 10 pm and lo and behold, Saudia didn't bring my luggage on this flight! After running high and dry trying to get an answer from someone about the whereabouts of my absent bag (and kids, this is why you don't travel with checked-in luggage!) and getting none, I just decided to give it a shot and wait for the next Saudia flight which arrived two hours later. So my entry to Egypt was quite dramatic and not exactly in a fun way.

So around 1 am, in comes my blue bag on the conveyor belt, like no big deal, like it didn't make me spend 3 anxious hours in an airport, while a Wonder Of The World on a full moon night was just 5 miles away from me.

Spending a night and day at Giza, in the shadow of the pyramids

But it is what it is. I reached my guesthouse in Giza at around 2 am, the caretaker Mohammed nowhere to be seen, but finally I get hold of someone (Also a Mohammed) to open the door for me and obviously he groggily gets up and escorts me to a room in a building where I seem to be the only one. It was around 5 degree c that night and suffice to say, I had a roaring headache, i was hungry and angry, and sleep wouldn't come. And obviously I had to wake up early the next day to, well check out the Pyramids, for which I only had a few hours. So sleep-deprived, I hauled myself out of the bed and got myself to do a bath after waiting an hour for 2 buckets to fill with hot water. Pyramids will wait. First breakfast. The silver lining on these dreadful last 24 hours was that my guesthouse overlooked the Pyramids (as most of them in Giza do) and even before I officially went to the pyramids, I spent a good 2 hours looking at them over my breakfast of black tea, a leftover muffin from my flight and a sandwich from India.

Pyramids of Giza with many Mohammeds

To be honest, I could've just spent longer at the hotel terrace and enjoyed my private session with the pyramids just as well. But of course you can't fly for 20 hours, spending half your salary on a trip to see the pyramids from 1 km away. You have to be at least 100 meters away. So off I went to the official entry gates, the queues weren't long and obediently paid a $10 entry fees to see what I could for free.

But inside the compound, I got to whisper in Sphinx's ear (asking it how does it manage to multitask as a lion and human when even both of them can't do ONE of it well enough).

I also got close to the Pyramids enough to touch their blocks, but without the sense of their shape and scale, it doesn't really hit you how grand and perfect they are.

I walked around in the sand, evading the 100 hawkers selling me everything from a camel ride to a private tour inside of the tombs (no thanks, I'm claustrophobic) to well things I can't mention, but I was steadfast in my decision to go it alone and do it my way. My way turned out to be going around Giza on a camel back with a guide called Mohammed. Before I was into the whole camel rides are evil thing.) I don't know what the camel was called but pretty sure it was Mohammed too.

Once the bumpy ride was done, I just trudged through the sand some more and sat myself at a vantage point to get a good view of all the 4 pyramids in a line. The main "Khufu", the smaller one, and even smaller and one that forgot to pyramid.

I don't know but this moment, all the happenings of the past 24 hours didn't seem to matter.

Here I was, a 30yr old single woman from India having flown all the way from another continent and spending a noon looking at the Great Pyramids of Giza with noone but me. Well, until a local gentleman decided to join me anyway.

We didn't really chat nineteen to the dozen as he didn't speak much English and I wasn't known for my stellar Arabic. But he did take a few pictures of me failing massively at trying to do cool yoga asanas in front of the pyramids. (mind you, this trip was a whole 5 years before I actually a yoga course and became good enough to be a teacher. laughs in TTC)

So Mohammed and I chilled some more, I introduced him to Haldiram's gujiya, changed his life and then off we went (yes, from now on, it was gonna be all "we"), to get out of the pyramids and explore what else is there. (there isn't.)

But hunger was rising higher than the Greatest Pyramid so I went looking for my vegetarian fix in a meat country and found just the thing.

Surviving as a vegetarian in Egypt on 'Koshari'

So the Koshari is like the national vegetarian dish of Egypt. If you're a vegetarian, just ask for the Koshari and you're sorted. It's like a fried rice + pasta + masoor dal + farsaan all rolled into one. It really is a mix of rice, pasta, cooked lentils in a spicy salsa-like sauce and topped with fried onions and sometimes nuts. It's delicious, it's filling and well it's pretty much the only thing (and hummus) you'll eat in Egypt as a vegan.

Soon Mohammed and I were three and the three of us hung out at a cafe with a stunning view of the pyramids. Then later, I excused myself and landed on the terrace of a neighbouring guest house to enjoy the sound and light show but for free. Also for free was a local, folksy performance by the family of the guest house who also offered tons of free tea.

Man I loved the Egyptian hospitality and their generous offers of endless cups of tea. TEA is a love change, you can't change my opinion.

At around 11pm, it was time for me to leave Giza and make my way to my next destination:

Overnight train from Cairo to Aswan

I called an Uber bike taxi in Giza to get to Cairo terminal (a 30 min ride) and got on an overnight train to Aswan. (Some would say brave moves for a solo girl in Egypt)

Now again, I missed the sleeper trains of India as I plonked myself grudgingly on a seater and remained there for the next 10 hours. But at least there was a constant source of tea!

Somehow sleep did catch up with me after all, I and I woke up in Aswan. Outside the railway station, I got into a shared van - the cheapest way to travel locally in Egypt and got to my hostel.

Aswan is a sleepy, non-descript town not really famous for anything except being the starting point for the trip to Abu Simbel temple and many Nile Cruises.

I pretty much spent the day in the hostel chilling with out lovely host and calling in an early night because I had to start for Abu Simbel at 4:30 am. (Ah the curse of early morning departures for sightseeing when abroad!)

So at 5 am, all of us gathered up and got into a mini-bus to go to Aswan. It was a 5-hour bus ride through the Sahara Desert which was so stunning that all sleep deficit was forgiven.

At around 10 am, we were at the temple and spent a good few hours exploring.

Abu Simbel - One man's vanity project, another million's bucketlist

I'd seen photos of the temple but what I saw in person blew me away. The largest structure of not one, not two but four identical statues outside on the facade of temple, a beige rock-cut structure which was the temple of the alpha Pharaoh "King Ramesses II" and all four statues being himself.

Inside there were even more statues, carvings depicting old Egyptian tales, hieroglyphics and other fascinating pieces of art.

Right next to is the temple of "Nefertari", king Ramesses II's wives which was seemed like an imitation piece next to the Ramesses one, but well even going back 5000 years, women seem to have always got the shorter end of the stick.

The interesting thing about this temple that it wasn't originally built here. It was originally found at Lake Nasser and due to the risk of floods, was moved, stone by stone, to its current location in 1968. For architecture nerds, it's worthwhile diving into the details of this massive and stunning operation.

Nubian Village - A burst of Sudanese culture

Post this, we had a chance to check out the very colourful Nubian village, a touristic village set up by Sudanese immigrants. (Sudan borders Egypt on the north.) by the Nile riverbanks.

The village is painted in all sorts of colours, reminiscent of the "rainbow village" in Malang on my Indonesia trip, but with a little more heritage and history than just being a tourist attraction. It's also a bazaar and one can buy handicrafts, spices and of course lounge around with a tea and sheeshah.

Felucca ride on the Nile

If you're in Egypt, you have to do the "Felucca" or a ride on the local boat. Nile is the longest river in the world, running from the North of Africa down to the middle with Egypt and Sudan being its biggest beneficiaries. Obviously most of Egypt lies along the fertile plains of the Nile and hence has always been a prosperous civilisation. Anyway, so this Felucca ride during the sunset was quite soothing after a whirlwind last 2 days and the best part the freshly made tea and sandwiches on the boat! (Tea and coffee would be like water in any trip to the middle east!)

I got back to the hostel at around 8pm after a leisurely stroll in the local Aswan market, getting invites for tea by many charming (and sometimes creepy) locals most of them called Mohammed, getting a bit lost and then chilling with the other hostel mates in the common area. The next morning, I left the hostel for my next stop - Luxor!

Aswan to Luxor by train

Most travelers to Egypt would probably cover Egypt north to south, but I was on a weird trajectory which meant landing in the North (Cairo) and then traveling to the extreme south (Aswan) and then retracing my way back to the north. I took another train from Aswan to Luxor - just 4 hours - and reached at around 12 noon. My hostel turned out to be rather shady and depressing so I left immediately to explore the historical place.

This blogpost will become longer than an Egyptian king's papyrus scroll so check out part 2 covering the Luxor, Alexandria and Cairo leg of my 10-day Egypt Trip.


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 I (Monica) am a lifelong traveler, (40 countries), sustainability and veganism advocate, and a marketer by profession. I'm old school in that I still like to blog and document rather than shoot and post.

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