5 Modes of Transportation to Experience the Real Egypt

This guest post is from Megan Eileen McDonough Bohemian Trails.

Whenever people ask me where I’ve traveled to this year, I begin by mentioning Egypt, as it was the first chronologically. Instead of seeing excited faces staring back at me, I am often greeted with shocked and confused expressions.

Perhaps this is because of the violent protests that took place earlier this year throughout Cairo and other major Egyptian cities. As it turns out, I had returned to the United States mere days before the riots began. However, when I explain to people that I traveled through Egypt in early January 2011, they tend to assume that I was caught in the middle of the fights and immediately ask me if I feared for my life.

While I could definitely sense some misdirected tension in the days leading up to the riots, I left Egypt with a new outlook on the world. By learning about the Muslim faith and seeing so many ancient ruins, I somehow developed a firmer understanding of my own faith, culture and moral code. I believe a main reason for this was due to the many modes of transportation I took during my trip. While many vacationers travel through Egypt the luxurious way, I chose the broke traveler method, which ultimately made all the difference.

Here are Five Modes of Transportation to Experience the Real Egypt:

Sleeper Trains: Just as their name suggests, sleeper trains are intended for the budget traveler who wants to save both time and money. Although this way sounds luxurious to some, it is pretty bare bones when it comes to comfort. Yet, I managed to make the most of the experience and I would recommend it to other travelers as well. For one thing, don’t expect to actually see much of Egypt during your train ride. Since you are traveling at night, there is little to see along the train tracks. You also won’t get a wink of sleep but how can anyone when they have the excitement of reaching Valley of the Kings in the morning?

Bus: If you are a budget traveler trying to see as much as you can within your travel dates, it’s almost a given that you will take a bus throughout your journey. I had some of my most reflective moments during our bus rides in Egypt. As we headed from Aswan to historic temples at Abu Simbel, I witnessed the most beautiful sunrise I have even seen. As I looked at my fellow travelers and realized they were all asleep, I couldn’t help but feel like this was a special moment I was sharing with the nation. Bus rides are also the perfect situation to learn more from other travelers and your tour guide. On our ride back to Aswan from Abu Simbel, I spent nearly three hours speaking about politics, religion and racism with my tour guide.

Felucca Boat: Forget the touristy and over-priced Nile cruises. They real way to experience Egypt is by sailing along The Nile River on a local Felucca boat. Our group got up close and personal with nature as we roughed the hot Aswan air and set out on a twenty-four hour felucca ride. We sailed all day, talking and eating with our crew as they told us stories about their lives. At night, we built a campfire, stargazed and even had a run-in with a very intimidating camel. The highlight of our Felucca ride was having the chance to eat with a local Nubian family just before we set sail. Although the villagers could not communicate with us, their genuine hospitality spoke volumes.

 

Hot Air Balloon: It’s not every day that one has the opportunity to take a hot air balloon ride over Valley of the Kings but in Luxor, this is completely normal and highly recommended. As a traveler on a budget I was surprised how affordable this ride was and looking back on the experience now, the view is completely priceless. Making our ride even more entertaining was our unplanned landing in a local field where small children, animals and the not-so-enthused looking village leader greeted us. In many ways, this crash landing was the best part of the entire morning simply because we were able to see a local community living their daily lives.

 

Camel, Donkey and the like: A visit to Egypt is not complete for any traveler without a stop at the Great Pyramids of Giza, located just outside Egypt’s capital city, Cairo. Also slightly touristy, taking a ride on a camel is an ideal way to really take in your surroundings while providing you with many photo opts and a great view of the Pyramids themselves. As a local guide led my camel, I was somehow able to forget I was on an organized tour and actually pretend I was living in Cairo thousands of years ago. Similarly, when you reach Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens in Luxor, a donkey ride is one mode of transportation that gives you an equally worthwhile experience.

 

Bio: Megan Eileen McDonough is the Founder and Editor of Bohemian Trails, an online travel magazine covering global art and culture for the avant-garde traveler.

{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

Andrea January 16, 2012 at 2:51 pm

Great to know about these! I love camels; had so much fun riding one in Jordan.

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Bohemian Trails January 16, 2012 at 4:14 pm

Hey Andrea! Glad you liked the article :) Jordan sounds like a beautiful country. Would love to go there one day.

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Nomadic Samuel January 17, 2012 at 12:20 pm

I’d love to go to both Jordan & Egypt. Extensive travel in the Middle East is ‘definitely’ my highest backpacking priority :)

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John January 16, 2012 at 4:10 pm

I’ve never even heard of a Felucca boat before – I love learning about new modes of transportation. The hot air balloon ride sounds incredible…how do prices compare to other countries in the region (such as say Jordan, another popular place for hot air balloon rides)?

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Bohemian Trails January 16, 2012 at 4:16 pm

Hey John! Felucca boats are amazing – they are traditional boats of the Nubian region but you can find them anywhere along the Nile, including Cairo. They are low to the water so you feel more connected with nature (or at least I did). Not sure how the balloon rides compare to other countries but I think mine was around 90US which I didn’t think was bad at all – especially once I saw the view

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Scott - Quirky Travel Guy January 16, 2012 at 4:40 pm

I would not have thought about taking a boat down the Nile, but that sounds really cool.

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Bohemian Trails January 16, 2012 at 11:56 pm

It was so much fun! Definitely my favorite part of my trip

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DTravelsRound January 16, 2012 at 11:44 pm

I want to do the boat ride! How cool!

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Bohemian Trails January 16, 2012 at 11:56 pm

It was so much fun!

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Michael Figueiredo January 17, 2012 at 12:29 am

I never thought about hot air ballooning in Egypt before. That sounds like an amazing idea!

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Nomadic Samuel January 17, 2012 at 12:20 pm

Hot air ballooning is definitely on my bucket list. Doing it in Egypt sounds ideal!

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Bohemian Trails January 24, 2012 at 1:06 am

It is an amazing view! You must go :)

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Christy @ Technosyncratic January 17, 2012 at 4:11 am

Great tip about taking a Felucca boat ride instead of a Nile river cruise. I’ve always wanted to cruise down the Nile, but it would be great to do so in a unique way. :)

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Nomadic Samuel January 23, 2012 at 5:21 pm

I’d love to try doing it on the Felucca boat as well!

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Bohemian Trails January 24, 2012 at 1:07 am

Glad you liked the article! I definitely recommend the local felucca boat – you can do a cruise anywhere but feluccas are only in Egypt!

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Laurence January 17, 2012 at 9:03 am

I love sleeper trains for getting places. Although camels also look like a fun option :)

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Nomadic Samuel January 23, 2012 at 5:34 pm

I’m a huge sucker for both as well! I’d take the train over a bus any day.

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Sophie January 17, 2012 at 11:59 am

Horses, donkeys, camels, feluccas, trains – all such interesting expeiences in Egypt. Even the busses, driving in convoys, and without lights on during the night) are interesting, if slightly scary. Bikes are great for getting around locally as well, e.g. in Luxor.

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Nomadic Samuel January 23, 2012 at 5:35 pm

Sophie, certainly an abundance of options! I can’t wait to experience Egypt myself :)

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Shanna Schultz January 18, 2012 at 3:05 am

Thanks for the tip about the hot air balloon ride…when we get to Egypt someday I will keep that in mind!

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Nomadic Samuel January 23, 2012 at 5:36 pm

That would be a ‘very’ unique way of experiencing Egypt!

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Ryan January 21, 2012 at 9:39 pm

I don’t know if I would do a Hot Air Ballon ride, but I would definitely travel by camel! Funny thing is, a camel is what got me my first sponsored trip, but I don’t know if it counts as riding one =P

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Nomadic Samuel January 23, 2012 at 5:51 pm

Congrats on scoring your sponsored trip! When I was in India my camel gave me sore legs for several days :P

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Bohemian Trails January 24, 2012 at 1:08 am

Ryan you must do the hot air balloon ride – not sure if you are great with heights but I’m definitely not and I really enjoyed it!

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cheryl January 22, 2012 at 12:30 am

I’d love to do a cruise down the Nile in a Felucca … and a camel ride would certainly be fun as well! :)

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Nomadic Samuel January 23, 2012 at 5:51 pm

I’d love to try all 5! I’d love to go to Egypt soon :)

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Jeff Dobbbins February 1, 2012 at 2:53 am

I found my 3-hour camel ride in the Moroccan Sahara last year a truly painful experience. But this post actually makes me want to brave the hump again. And definitely the Felucca. Can’t wait to experience Egypt.

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Nomadic Samuel February 6, 2012 at 7:16 pm

LOL, I hear you Jeff! I felt the same way after doing a 5 day safari in northern India.

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The Orange Backpack February 1, 2012 at 3:44 am

The Felucca boat sounds awesome but I’d skip the camel. I’ve played that game before and once is all I need. LOL

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Nomadic Samuel February 6, 2012 at 7:16 pm

LOL, they aren’t the most comfortable creatures to ride, are they? I’ve never been around animals that fart so much!

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The Orange Backpack February 6, 2012 at 10:11 pm

Haha I don’ t think I remember any farting but I do remember a certain nonchalance about defecation and me feeling like I was sliding to the left the entire time. Falling off of one of those has got to suck. I mean just the part where they stand up is enough to make a less brave person pee a little.

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Alexa Meisler February 28, 2012 at 7:01 pm

The camel and donkey rides are definitely the ones I am most looking forward to if I ever get to see the amazing Egypt. However a view from the air wouldn’t be so bad as well. Thanks for giving me the heads up! Beautiful post.

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