Disclaimer. These post does not refer to tours everywhere. It is merely a review of my experiences in Egypt and how I think you will find the best tour when you visit.
Tours are everywhere in Egypt. Almost every single hostel, hotel, or resort is trying to sell you some sort of tour which can last from a day to a month. This has become worse since the 2011 revolution which caused an unstable political situation, and an overnight drop in tourism. Sadly, this has resulted in hard times for a lot of Egyptians who made their living off of tourism. Unfortunately, because of this, a lot of the tours have become scammy.
By scammy I mean that the guides will take you on side paths or to expensive restaurants where they get a commission for bringing you. Some will go on step further and prompt you to buy something at one of their friends’ shops because they get paid just for bringing you. You need to know how to guard the money you’ve worked so hard to save for travel.
Egypt is hurting! You can’t really blame the people who are just trying to get by, but it is incredible frustrating when you’ve waited years to see the pyramids only to be dragged into several stores selling everything from perfume to camel rides before they take you to them. Yes, your camels look fabulous, but take me to the Pyramids dammit!
“Just take the kind people to the Pyramids!”
Just trying to find the right tour can be frustrating and have you slamming your head butting the Sphinx in frustration and take the art out of travel.
Tours guides are extremely skilled at dressing up their tours, and it’s easy to fall for a bad one. I’ve done this two times since I’ve been here.
However, not every tour guide and company out there is disreputable.
There are a few common signs that let you know if you are buying a good or bad tour.
Here are some things to look for when choosing a reliable tour.
Places to avoid booking tours
Don’t purchase a tour from your hostel.
If you can help it, do not buy directly from a hostel or hotel. I’ve done 4 day tours since coming to Egypt, and the two horrible ones were bought through two different hostels. These tours are deceiving. They appear cheap but result in hidden fees because of all the side trips, expensive dinners, and other unexpected costs that rack the price up. I even asked my guide to take me to a cheaper place to eat only to be promptly ignored. Since most guides in Egypt work independently, this applies to the guides themselves not the companies.
Now if the hostel has hired someone to hang out at the hostel and help people book tours you have a better chance of getting a good one.
Avoid tours not run by a company
When you guide isn’t working for a repituable company it company means you are putting yourself in the hands of an individual. Remember, this can be risky on so many levels but even if they are on the up and up, they don’t have as many rules to follow.
The Tours I liked in Egypt
As I mentioned earlier, two of my tours were awful, yet the other two were incredible. The two tours I actually enjoyed were done through a company. When you book through a company, the guide is getting paid by that company, and they are less likely to take you on side paths.
They also have to follow the rules of the company. The best company I’ve found in Egypt is “Always Egypt”
After the two scammy tours, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Always Egypt. Honestly, I was nervous and almost cancelled the tours, but when they emailed me a picture of my guide and his name, I thought I would stick the tours out and see if this company was different.
Luckily I did. Always Egypt was impressive! I did the Old Cairo and the Giza Sound and Light show, which is a little corny, but that’s not their fault. The guide picked me up at my hostel. He was well prepared and gave me tips on how to avoid scams as we drove to Old Cairo.
One of the highlights of the tour was the tablet he brought. He was enthusiastic as he used it to show me maps of the area and pictures of how old Cairo looked throughout different centuries. It put everything in perspective. He showed me the Cairo I came to see and took me to local hot spots. He made me feel welcome as he introduced me to some of his friends throughout Old Town.
The main reason I loved Always Egypt was that there was no pressure. My guide didn’t drag me to his friends’ shops. In fact, when we were going through the markets he walked behind me for that reason. He also showed me where to get cheap but good local food.
I loved my tours with Always Egypt and recommend them to anyone wanting an authentic experience. The big difference between my scammy tours and my good tours is that the scammy tours are trying to make money off you while the good tours are trying to give you your money’s worth.
How to Spot a Good Tour
Look Up Reviews
If you followed step one and booked through a company, then chances are you will be able to find some reviews of your tours online. This will give you any idea of what to expect.
Look at Their Website
If the company has a legit looking website, chances are that they are going to be professional on the tour. However, I trust personal reviews more than a website.
Email them and ask.
If a company can’t even respond and respond quickly to a simple email, I would consider that a red light.
Booking the right tour is difficult and can seem overwhelming and even confusing for some people but if you do a little homework and book with great companies like Always Egypt, you will save a lot if headaches and money in the end.
Egypt is so rich in history and culture that it is a country that you must go to. I want you to get the most out of your time and money. If you have any questions about booking tours in Egypt feel free to contact me, and I will respond quickly.