When my friends and family heard I’m planning to travel to Egypt, solo and independently, they most likely thought I’m insane (well, some of them even said that out loud).
But I didn’t listen to them, I bought tickets to Cairo, crafted a perfect 10 days in Egypt itinerary and was ready to go.
That’s true, Egypt is not the most popular destination for independent travels (not to mention solo female travel in Egypt). But I wasn’t the only one traveling in Egypt on my own.
I met a few travelers who didn’t visit Egypt as part of holiday packages or organized tours. And that just proves that traveling independently in Egypt is possible, although it requires a bit of planning and preparations (especially mental ones).
Below you can find my Egypt itinerary. You can use it when planning your own trip: follow exactly my steps (although I would do a few changes that I’m mentioning too) or modify it to your needs.
But it is definitely a good draft that covers all the best places to visit in Egypt in 10 days! I feel that I’ve seen a lot, more than just the main Egypt attractions.
That’s actually the advantage of independent Egypt travel – you can see more than on the tour, you can venture to some great but not so well known corners, you can meet friendly locals and experience their hospitality. That’s what happened to me, even if my main plan for Egypt was to see the highlights.
Before I continue to details of my 10 days in Egypt itinerary one last word of warning. Independent Egypt trip is not for everyone. If you are not an experienced traveler, if this is your first visit to the Middle East, if you are inpatient and easily annoyed I would reconsider your decision of visiting Egypt without a tour. ‘
Egypt will challenge you on so many levels. It’s demanding, exhausting, annoying but at the same time so worth all the hassle!
Also, you might want to read my other post, with all the Egypt travel tips. It’s a long read but covers all the details, including how to get around, how to get a local SIM card, language, money, tipping and more!
Table of contents
- 1 Egypt itinerary: Day 1 – Arriving in Cairo
- 2 Day 2 – Cairo: Egyptian Museum, Gezira Island, Coptic Cairo
- 3 Day 3 – Islamic Cairo, Downtown
- 4 Day 4 – Giza Pyramids, Cairo Citadel
- 5 Day 5 – Train to Luxor
- 6 Day 6 – Luxor
- 7 Day 7 – train Luxor – Aswan, Aswan, Elephantine Island
- 8 Day 8 – Aswan and surroundings
- 9 Day 9 – train Aswan – Cairo
- 10 Day 10 – departure
- 11 How to improve your Egypt itinerary
- 12 Is it safe to travel to Egypt independently?
- 13 Solo female travel in Egypt
- 14 Travel resources
Egypt itinerary: Day 1 – Arriving in Cairo
My flight from Kyiv, Ukraine arrived to Cairo around 2 pm but obtaining a visa on arrival, getting through the passport control, getting a local SIM card and finding the UBER took me a while and I arrived at my hotel in downtown Cairo only some 2 hours later.
It was the end of December so at that time it was slowly getting dark and I’ve decided to call it a day. Normally I would be out exploring the place but I’m always a bit reluctant to have the first encounter with the new place in the dark.
Especially when this place is Cairo, a grand metropolis with not the best reputation. So on my first day in Egypt, I just took it easy and stayed inside, relaxing after the trip and planning the rest of my Egypt trip.
Where I stayed: Azar Hotel. First of all, I can recommend staying in downtown Cairo if you would like to see more than just the Pyramids in Giza, the suburb of Cairo. It’s a busy and bustling area but you will be close to numerous Cairo attractions, with good metro connections to more distant places.
As for the hotel, I can also recommend it: the staff was super friendly and helpful, the rooms were fine, and the view from the rooftop (where the breakfast is served) is really good. I found it to be a really good value for money. Click here to check current availability and book the place.
Other accommodation options in downtown Cairo worth considering:
- Tahrir Plaza Suites (8,5/10 on Booking)
- Steigenberger Hotel El Tahrir Cairo (8,7/10 on Booking)
- Crown Hotel (9.5/10 on Booking)
Day 2 – Cairo: Egyptian Museum, Gezira Island, Coptic Cairo
I started my day with the visit to one of the biggest Cairo attractions – the Egyptian Museum. Located conveniently in the very center of the city, at at-Tahrir square, it’s safe to say this is one of the best museums in the world.
In the two-storey neoclassical building, you can find over a hundred thousand items and artifacts of huge importance. The most spectacular thing you can find here is the Gold Mask of Tutankhamun made of 11 kg of gold – it is a truly remarkable and will impress you for sure, just keep in mind it is forbidden to take pictures in the room where it is kept.
Other than that you can freely take pictures all over the museum – and you surely take a lot of them as all you can find here is so interesting! Currently, some of the items are moved to the new museum in Giza so the place is a bit of a mess but still you can’t miss it.
Save at least two hours for the visit to the Museum, there is really a lot to see inside. Prepare yourself for some crowds too, it’s a very popular attraction and you might wait a bit in the line to even get inside (it took me around 30 minutes).
From the Egyptian Museum, I walked across Qasr al-Nil Bridge to Gezira Island to visit Cairo Tower. From there you can admire a spectacular view of the city in all the directions. If you are lucky you can even see Pyramids in Giza – they are some 15 kms away but Cairo is often very hazy.
The last place on my agenda for the day was Coptic Cairo – part of the city associated with Christian tradition. Before Islam came to Egypt, Christianity was the main religion. It is believed that the Holy Family stayed in one of the churches here – Saints Sergius and Bacchus Church.
But there are many more places to see here – the area is rather small but packed with attractions: Babylon Fortress, Church of St. George, The Hanging Church a few more churches and a synagogue and Coptic Museum (don’t miss it, I found it super interesting!). You will spend a solid part of the afternoon here for sure.
Transportation: I used the metro to get around. Egyptian Museum is located close to Sadat metro station, where red line 1 and orange line 2 cross. Coptic Cairo is located directly in front of the Mar Girgis station on the red line 1.
Entrance fees (December 2018):
- Egyptian Museum – 350 EGP for everything (general entrance fee, Royal Mummies Hall, the photography permit)
- Cairo Tower – 200 EGP
- Coptic Museum – 100 EGP for the entrance and 50 EGP for the photography permit
Day 3 – Islamic Cairo, Downtown
I started the day with the trip to Islamic Cairo – part of the city that is on UNESCO World Heritage List. The area dates back to the 10th century but the peak of the prosperity came in the 14th century, known also as the golden age of Islamic Cairo.
The place is full of old monuments, you can find here hundreds of mosques, tombs, madrasas, hammams and more. I thought I will spend here and hour or two, wander around a bit to see the highlights and that’s it.
But very quickly Islamic Cairo sucked me in and when I was leaving after 5 hours in the area it was still with the heavy heart.
When I arrived, around 9 in the morning, the place was still partly deserted, local businesses were slowly opening up and there were hardly any people around. Being here so early was a perfect idea as I could admire all the details on the random buildings and houses that most likely I wouldn’t have paid attention to if the place had been busy.
Slowly the area turned into a huge bazaar but only one or two streets were for tourists, the rest was where the local life was buzzing. I ventured all over the place, lost myself and found a way so many times – this aimless wandering gave me so much joy.
That’s also where I experienced the incredible hospitality of local people – I had countless invitations for tea, got some small souvenirs like a bookmark, fruits or bread, and exchanged countless smiles.
From Islamic Cairo I went back to Downtown. Many tourists overlook this part of the city but it is so beautiful too, once you manage to look beyond the thick layers of dust.
Many of the buildings date back to the second half of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century and are the masterpiece of the architecture from that time. You can find here many houses built in art deco or art nouveau styles that definitely enrich the place.
Downtown Cairo is also where you can see the multicultural past of the city – next to each other, you will find the Mosque and the Armenian church, with a synagogue only a short walk away. Many of the religious buildings are heavily guarded and it is forbidden to take pictures of them (I had to delete some of the synagogue but managed to keep those of the Armenian church).
In Downtown Cairo, I stopped for lunch at the iconic Cafe Riche. With over a hundred years of history it might have been a cultural and intellectual hotspot but these days it is sadly just yet another tourist attraction, and not a very good one. Still, it was interesting to visit it.
Transportation: I took the metro (green line 3) to Islamic Cairo – station Bab El Shaariya and then back to Sadat (red line 1) for Downtown.
Entrance fees (December 2018):
- Random mosque in the Islamic Cairo – 5 EGP
- Tickets for 6 monuments in the Islamic Cairo – 100 EGP
Day 4 – Giza Pyramids, Cairo Citadel
I started the day with visiting Pyramids in Giza – probably the biggest attraction of Egypt.
To be honest, I’ve never been crazy about them, it was not my dream to see Pyramids. But of course I couldn’t miss them and on my 3rd day in Cairo, I went to Giza.
I didn’t expect to enjoy the Pyramids that much, but I did! It is a spectacular site, worth all the hype it gets. Even if it’s crowded and annoying with all the touts bothering you constantly, it is also one of a kind and no picture can do justice to the place. You might know what to expect from visiting Pyramids but once you get there it’s a whole different experience.
You can read more about my visit to the Pyramids in Giza here (with all the practical information included).
After spending some 2 hours at the Pyramids I took Uber back to the center of Cairo to visit the Citadel. The medieval fortification dates back to the 12th century (with a few renovations later on) and is home to numerous attractions, mainly beautiful mosques and museums.
But there is one more reason why you should visit the Cairo Citadel – it is a wonderful viewpoint over the central part of the city. That’s where you will realize how big Cairo is and how much it looks like a typical city from the Middle East, despite being located in Africa. This view actually reminded me a bit of Amman, Jordan.
Once I was done with some sightseeing at the Citadel and having lunch there I wanted to take Uber to Bab Zuwayla gate.
While Uber worked perfectly fine on longer distances such as the airport or Pyramids in Giza, it failed me in the center of Cairo. A few times I’ve waited for a long time (like 15-20 minutes) only for the drivers canceling on me in the last time.
It was getting late, I’ve wasted the time waiting for the Uber and there was no point in going all the way to Bab Zuwayla so instead, I visited the splendid Mosque-Madrassa of Sultan Hassan complex, located just below the Citadel. It was built in the 14th century and is a beautiful example of the Islamic architecture Cairo is so full of.
That was the last thing I’ve seen in Cairo. The capital of Egypt is full of spectacular monuments and attractions and I feel like the city doesn’t get all the hype it deserves. I could have easily spent my 10 days in Egypt in Cairo only but there were some other amazing places to see in the country. And so it was time for me to move on.
Transportation: UBER to and from Pyramids and walking
Entrance fees (December 2018):
Day 5 – Train to Luxor
I could have spent this day better, I could have flown from Cairo to Luxor. But by the time I started planning my Egypt itinerary the flights were a bit too expensive for me.
Besides, I thought it might be interesting to see more than just the main Egypt attractions so 10 hours on the train, admiring the countryside, sounded like a good option.
Eventually, my train journey from Cairo to Luxor took closer to 11 hours, from 8 in the morning till 7 in the evening. But the train was comfortable and I didn’t really mind the long hours (after all I adore trains and that’s what I do for a living).
The countryside views from the train were really interesting and beautiful, especially in the Nile Valley. That’s not Egypt you normally know from the tourist brochures!
Once in Luxor I walked from the train station to my hotel – Aracan Eatabe Luxor Hotel and called it a day. It was a bit exhausting day after all and it was already dark outside anyway. Besides, the next day was really packed with attractions and I needed to get ready for it!
Where I stayed: Aracan Eatabe Luxor Hotel (8.1/10 on Booking). It is a big hotel, mostly for tour groups but has a very good location, right on the Nile shore and within a walking distance to the center of the city and the ferry to the West Bank. I chose the room with the Nile river and could admire a lovely view of the area. The room itself was comfortable, although it could use a bit of renovation. The breakfast was excellent, there was also a restaurant in the hotel so I didn’t need to worry about the dinner. Click here to check the availability and book the place.
Other accommodation options in Luxor worth considering:
- Pavillon Winter Luxor (9.1/10 on Booking)
- Sofitel Winter Palace Luxor (9.2/10 on Booking)
- El Mesala Hotel (8.8/10 on Booking)
- El Gezira Garden Hotel Luxor (9.2/10 on Booking)
- Nile Valley Hotel (8.7/10 on Booking)
Day 6 – Luxor
I woke up to the beautiful view of the hot air balloons flying over the Nile and the Valley of the Kings. At that time I regretted a bit that I didn’t decide to go for this activity too, it must have been beautiful to see everything from above.
I still started the day fairly early as my agenda was rather packed. I took the regular ferry across the Nile to the West Bank, where most of Luxor attractions are located. I had nothing arranged but very quickly a local driver found me, offered a good price for a few hours’ drives around all the highlights and off we went, with the first stop in the Valley of the Kings.
The Valley of the Kings is a large complex of royal tombs from between 16th and 11th century BC. The most famous one, of Pharaoh Tutankhamun, was discovered in 1922 but even recently new tombs were found.
There are over 60 tombs in the Valley of the Kings, 18 of which are open to the public. With your ticket you get the entry to three of your choice (and you can pay extra for more), so you need to choose carefully which one to visit. The most beautiful ones are Ramses IV, Merenptah, Ramses IX and Ramses III, although the tombs that are open to the public constantly change so you might not be able to see some of them.
There are also three tombs that you need to pay extra for anyway (and sometimes it is a lot of money): Tutankhamun, Seti I and Ramses V and Ramses VI.
All of the tombs I visited were amazing, carefully planned and so rich in decorations. They were also a bit crowded but well, such a spectacular site deserves all the attention. It’s really difficult to describe how beautiful the interiors were, you need to see it yourself. Valley of the Kings really is famous for a reason!
From there it’s a short drive to another beautiful attraction – Hatshepsut Temple, built in the 15th century BC. This is a mortuary temple, built for Amun and Hatshepsut and it consists of three levels.
It’s one of the most unique monuments in Egypt and it surely is amazing but to be honest, while I enjoyed it, I wasn’t blown away all that much. But it’s surely a place not to be missed in Luxor!
Another temple, a bit further, that I visited on the West Bank in Luxor, was Medinet Habu, dedicated to Ramesses III. This one was a big surprise to me and probably my favorite temple in Egypt, also because it was fairly empty when I visited and I could focus on all the details – and there were many of them!
The last place in the West Bank I stopped at were Colossi of Memnon – two massive statues from the year 1350 BC, showing Pharaoh Amenhotep III. They surely are impressive, especially when you think how old they are!
The whole tour of the West Bank attractions took me around four hours but I could as well have spent the whole day there as there was more to see in the area: Valley of the Queens, Ramesseu, ruins of the Merneptah Temple or Deir el-Medina ancient village.
In the second part of my day in Luxor I walked from my hotel to Karnak Temple – it was some 2 km walking but I definitely didn’t want to deal with all the touts (and they still kept bothering me if I want a carriage ride). The temple is massive and so beautiful. There is plenty to see, lots of hidden passages and ruins, everything with beautiful details. I spent some 3 hours there but you could definitely use more time here!
Karnak Temple was the last place I managed to see during my one day in Luxor. I was hoping to still make it to Luxor Temple, in the center of the city, but sadly didn’t have time – the downside of a short day in the winter. But what I’ve seen from behind the fence was really good so if you have time you should include it in your Egypt itinerary too!
Entrance fees (January 2019):
Day 7 – train Luxor – Aswan, Aswan, Elephantine Island
I took the early morning train from Luxor to Aswan – it was supposed to leave around 7 in the morning and take some 4 hours but there were big delays and a huge mess and eventually, I arrived in Aswan shortly after noon.
I didn’t have all that much time to see the city so I just walked around, through the souq area and took a local ferry to Elephantine Island to see Nubian village and beautiful views of the Nile River. It was such a perfect relaxing getaway from the busy Aswan, only a few minutes boat ride and you are transformed into another world. That’s also where I had my lunch, with a view over the Nile and the city on the other side of the river.
There are more things to see in Aswan: Monastery of St. Simeon, Tombs of the Nobles, Aga Khan Mausoleum, the Botanical Garden or Felucca boat ride. But again the time and early evening were not on my side. At this time of my trip, I was also already a bit tired and just wanted to take things easy.
Where I stayed: Marhaba Palace Hotel (6.6/10 on Booking) – the only reason why I booked this place was a very short distance from the train station (it makes a huge difference at 5 in the morning). The hotel is old, the staff was not too friendly and helpful but the view from the rooftop was good and the breakfast was fine.
Recommended accommodation in Aswan:
- Nuba Dool Guest House (9.5/10 on Booking)
- Baba Dool (8.5/10 on Booking)
- Mövenpick Resort Aswan (8.4/10 on Booking)
- Nubian Lotus (9.5/10 on Booking)
Day 8 – Aswan and surroundings
On my second day in Aswan, I took a trip around the city to see its attractions. I organized everything through my hotel – maybe it was a bit more expensive but I just wanted an easy and straightforward trip. Sadly, that’s not what happened.
The first stop was the Philae Temple – a stunning temple located on the island where it was moved to from another location due to the rising waters of Lake Nasser. Besides the Philae Temple, you will find on the island also other attractions, such as Temple of Hathor, the Kiosk of Trajan and other buildings from the Roman and Byzantine times.
Getting to the temple is quite the experience itself as you need to take the boat and you can admire some beautiful views along the way.
I was supposed to meet my driver at a certain time after my sightseeing in the Temple but he was nowhere to be seen. After a long wait, I’ve decided to call the hotel to tell them about the issue and they sent another driver who took me to two other places: the Aswan Dam and the Unfinished Obelisk.
And they were both really interesting but I was already a bit annoyed at this whole situation so I couldn’t fully enjoy them.
Once I was back in the center of Aswan I wanted to wander around the souq a bit and maybe take the Felucca boat ride but since it was Friday afternoon the city was deserted so I called it a day too. I can’t say this was my finest day during my trip to Egypt.
Entrance fees (January 2019):
- Philae Temple in Aswan – 140 EGP + 150 EGP for the boat
- High Dam in Aswan – 75 EGP
- The Obelisk in Aswan – 80 EGP
Day 9 – train Aswan – Cairo
I spent the whole day on the train. I left Aswan at 5 in the morning and was back in Cairo at 7 in the evening. It was a long journey, and it was supposed to be even longer but I figured I can save the time by leaving the train at Giza station and then catching the metro to downtown Cairo where I was staying. Turned out it was a really good decision!
Where I stayed: I was supposed to stay at Valencia Hotel but when I arrived they told me they already sold my room to someone who just came from the street and they didn’t care I had a reservation from Booking. It was one of the strangest accommodation situations I’ve ever encountered!
Fortunately, the Azar Hotel where I stayed at the beginning of my trip to Egypt, still had some rooms available and was just 10 minutes walking away so I quickly booked the place there. As soon as I entered the hotel I was welcomed like an old friend which helped me a bit to deal with the sorrow of the previous accommodation failure.
Day 10 – departure
My plane back to Kyiv was scheduled for 3 p.m. (and was delayed, so I missed my connection to Warsaw but that’s another story) so I was hoping to see a bit of Cairo before heading to the airport.
I really wanted to see Bab Zuwayla gate that I missed at the beginning of my trip, I was also hoping to climb one or two minarets. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t want to collaborate with me.
There was a sand storm and being outside wasn’t the most pleasant experience so I just took it easy in the morning and before noon I took Uber to the airport. And that was the end of my 10 days in Egypt.
How to improve your Egypt itinerary
While I really enjoyed my 10 days in Egypt (even with some mishaps) I would suggest you do some things a bit differently.
First of all, don’t take the train from Cairo to Luxor or Aswan and then back. You waste two precious days that way. Take the train in one direction (it’s really interesting to see the Egyptian countryside along the way and peek into the life outside of the touristic places), and fly in the other. I didn’t do it because when I started planning my Egypt itinerary the prices were already horrendous.
Choose the time to travel to Egypt when days are longer. I really enjoyed traveling at the end of December / beginning of January, especially weather-wise since it wasn’t too hot (expect of Aswan) but I really wished I had 1-2 extra hours each day to see more places. At the time of my trip to Egypt, it was getting dark around 5 p.m.
I would consider going for organized tours or hiring a guide in more popular places. Not only you’d learn more about the attraction you are visiting, but you also wouldn’t need to deal with all the annoying touts that popular attractions are packed with. I always use Get Your Guide when booking tours – click here to find the best tours in Egypt.
That said, most of the people in Egypt, especially outside of popular places were amazing: friendly, hospitable, curious. Don’t be afraid of them!
I would give myself two days for Luxor – there is really a lot to see in and around the city. You can see the most important places in one day as I did, but at some point, you might have to choose what to visit and what to skip.
Also, I would definitely consider going for the hot air balloon, it must be beautiful! I didn’t go because it just didn’t cross my mind to do it, and I regretted afterward. You can book the hot air balloon flight here.
In Aswan, I would try to see the city, Elephantine Island and attractions near the city (Philae Temple, Aswan Dam) in one day and use another day for the trip to Abu Simbel. It’s a long trip but very much doable.
I’ve decided not to go because at that point I was already tired and I’ve thought I’ve seen enough of ancient monuments. Now, of course, I wish I did go.
Is it safe to travel to Egypt independently?
I’ve heard different things about safety in Egypt so I was prepared for the worst but it wasn’t any different than visiting any other country in the Middle East. Yes, it was demanding and exhausting but still safe, as long as you use your common sense and stay away from dangerous places and situations. You know, just don’t do things you wouldn’t normally do in your hometown.
Visiting at the New Year’s period can be slightly more dangerous, especially in Cairo. There are still some tensions between religions and there might be some incidents because of that. This is also why you will see many religious buildings (especially synagogues and churches) heavily guarded. Be more cautious if you visit Egypt at that time of the year, but no need to be paranoid about your safety.
Solo female travel in Egypt
I traveled to Egypt solo and while it was annoying at times (especially in touristy places where I heard way too much of catcalling) altogether I found it really fine. Again, don’t do stupid things, use your common sense and you should be fine. Egypt might put you out of your comfort zone but it’s worth it.
Have a wonderful trip to Egypt!
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