Highlights of Egypt: A 7 Day Egypt Itinerary for First Time Visitors
Only have 1 week in Egypt? Read this travel guide for what to see in Egypt and things you absolutely need to know ahead of your trip!
Egypt is one of those bucket list, iconic travel destinations that most people dream of visiting once in their lifetime. Not only is it home to the last survivor of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the country prides itself on its array of archaeological wonders dating back more than 3,000 years to the time of the pharaohs. But the country can be complex and chaotic, and is not exactly a beginner-friendly tourist destination.
A quick preface for what to expect from this guide to Egypt: on Yoga, Wine & Travel, I focus on promoting the best of a destination and providing practical, must-know travel advice so that readers can plan their trips with ease. With the exception of a small handful of places, I’ve been fortunate that the vast majority of my travel experiences have been overwhelmingly positive. So, it’s no surprise that I do tend to talk about how wonderful a place is and how you should hop on a plane ASAP.
However, in this article, I’m not going to gloss over and ignore the fact that there has been a string of high-profile and devastating attacks across Egypt, some as recent as in these past few months. Instead, my goal is to present you with my personal unabridged experience in Egypt, and ask that you do your own due diligence on traveling to Cairo or beyond. If you are planning a trip to Egypt, read on for some essential Egypt travel tips to make your trip as smooth and enjoyable as possible, as well as an easy 1 week Egypt itinerary.
Looking for even more Egypt destination guides and travel tips? Head on over here!
So, is it safe to travel to Egypt right now?
There are so many incredible places to see in Egypt – that is undeniable; however, while it’s true that no country is completely impervious to bad actors and extremists or “100% safe”, I personally believe that safety and security is an issue that has to be considered seriously before traveling to Egypt. Multiple governments have travel advisories telling its citizens that “terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Egypt” – so should you cancel your travel plans? It depends. Like I said before, I’m not here to tell you that it’s all butterflies and rainbows.
The fact is, the vast majority of visits to Egypt are trouble-free. But, you should also know that there has been a number of terrorist attacks by extremists across Egypt over the past three decades. Egyptian security forces as well as tourists have been targeted by terrorists, and attacks have taken place at tourist landmarks, religious sites, large public gatherings and hotels. In the past year alone there has been two roadside bombs and a deadly car bomb attack in Cairo.
We made the decision to travel to Egypt despite the concerns, but it doesn’t mean that it is my place to tell anyone that it is “perfectly safe” to visit Egypt. If you’ve read some of my other Egypt destination guides, you’ll know that a terrorist attack was carried out on our second day in Cairo nearby our hotel. Thankfully, there were no casualties and we were out of harm’s way.
Though there are security checks and road barricades at most major tourist sites and the Nile dam, as well as security forces around the cities, I encourage you to stay abreast of news concerning Egypt ahead of your trip, and check Egypt travel advisories for the latest updates and developments.
So, should you still visit Egypt? Only if you understand the complexities of traveling to Egypt and are sufficiently prepared. For several reasons, I also recommend that you make things infinitely easier for yourself by enlisting an experienced company to help you plan and organize your Egypt tour itinerary.
Quick tips for your first trip to Egypt
- Best time to visit Egypt: Egypt’s peak tourism season runs from around September to April when the weather is milder (i.e. 25 degrees Celsius instead of 40, or 77 instead of 105 Fahrenheit). During this season, you can expect large crowds at all of the major sightseeing landmarks. If you visit during the other months, the temperature can be fairly unbearable, and you’ll need to get an early start if you want to beat the heat. However, the crowds thin out significantly!
- Visiting Egypt during Ramadan: During Ramadan, an Islamic holy month, Muslims fast from dawn to sunset and alcohol is not sold (except in some larger hotels and restaurants). As a sign of respect, you should try to avoid eating and drinking (even water) in public. For the tourism industry in Egypt, business is as usual during Ramadan. In 2020 Ramadan begins in late April to late May.
- Currency in Egypt: The local currency is the Egyptian Pound or LE. The exchange rate is ~17 LE to US$1 or 18.5 LE to 1 Euro. Cash is king in Egypt, and you should get your hands on as many small-denomination bills as possible.
- Tipping in Egypt: You’ll need to tip pretty much everyone. 5-10 LE to toilet attendants, 10-20 LE to baggage handlers and other hotel staff, 80-150 LE per day to your tour driver, US$15-20 per day per person to your tour guide. These are just ballpark figures and you can tip as you like, but know that tipping is very much expected in Egypt as the base salaries are extremely low. There’s one exception to the tipping rule, in my opinion: don’t tip the guards and police at sightseeing spots so that you can break the rules and take photos or go where you’re not supposed to.
- Dress code in Egypt: Egypt is a majority Muslim country and you should plan to dress modestly: both men and women should cover their shoulders and legs, but there aren’t specific dress codes at major tourist landmarks (although it is best to dress on the conservative side to be respectful).
- Water in Egypt: It is not safe to drink tap water in Egypt. You should boil water before drinking or use a water purifier bottle.
- Staying connected in Egypt: You can purchase a local SIM card at the airport upon arrival, and most hotels offer free wi-fi.
- Visa requirements for Egypt: Nationals from certain countries are eligible for an e-visa. However, you can very easily purchase a visa-on-arrival for US$25 from the National Bank of Egypt counters located before immigration. The visa is valid for 30 days and you must have a passport with at least 6 months’ validity beyond your scheduled return date.
- How to get to Egypt: Egypt is well-connected by international airlines with major airports in Cairo, Luxor, Sharm El Sheikh and Hurghada. We spent 1 week in Jordan before flying direct from Amman to Cairo on Royal Jordanian Airlines.
- What to bring to Egypt: Plenty of sunscreen, a hat, refillable water bottle, wet wipes and/or hand sanitizer, a few packets of pocket tissue (for the public toilets), comfortable walking shoes or sandals. I used my Canon 6D for most photos, though these days many smartphones can take incredible travel photos as well. Don’t bother packing a drone as Egypt has strict drone laws and many people end up having their UAVs confiscated at the airport.
- Common scams in Egypt: Here is a good rule to follow – assume that nothing is free. Don’t take photos of the camels or go on a “free” camel ride, don’t take photos of the guards and don’t accept any “free” souvenirs. Keep a close eye on your belongings and don’t hand your camera over to anyone but your guide. Don’t follow the guards at tourist sites to “secret” areas or pay them for tours. Horse carriage drivers occasionally tell you that a ride will cost 10 Egyptian pounds, only to ask for 10 British pounds at the end. Get the gist? There’s a lot of ways to be scammed in Egypt – your best bet is to say no firmly (or ignore if the hassling doesn’t stop), and always ask your tour guide if you are unsure.
- Language in Egypt: Arabic is the most spoken language in Egypt, and most people (especially those in hospitality or food & beverage) speak English well. You shouldn’t run into any major problems with communication.
You might also like: 16 Essential Things to Know Before You Travel to Egypt
How to plan a trip to Egypt
Booking a private tour in Egypt was by far one of the best travel decisions we could have made, because Egypt is not an “easy” destination to visit by any means. While the archaeological treasures and rich history were mind-blowing and beyond what I could have ever hoped for, there were elements about traveling to Egypt that the boatloads of research simply didn’t (and couldn’t) prepare me for. Throw in a raging (and misdiagnosed) E. Coli infection and 2 jabs in my backside and you’ve got yourself a recipe for disaster!
Our 1 week in Egypt would not have gone as smoothly as it did without the experience and professionalism of the Your Egypt Tours team who designed our Egypt travel itinerary and took care of us every single step of the way – from the moment we landed in Egypt to the minute we said goodbye to them at the airport in Cairo.
We typically prefer to travel on our own instead of through tour companies/agencies (and sure, you could try to plan a Egypt trip on your own), but our private tour in Egypt was made complete by the knowledge of the Your Egypt Tours’ Egyptologists and experienced drivers. A private Egypt tour may be right for you if:
- You’re short on time and don’t want to faff around
- You do not enjoy group travel with strangers
- It’s your first time to Egypt
- You don’t want to have to work out the logistics between cities
- You want a guide to explain the history and cultural significance of the monuments, but don’t necessarily want to be babysat (the guides tend to do the detailed briefings upon arrival at a landmark and then allow you to wander around and take photos on your own)
- You don’t mind spending more to make sure the trip goes off without a hitch
However, it’s definitely not for you if you prefer slow travel, as you are driven from tourist landmark to tourist landmark. In that sense, you might feel that you are being “herded” around Egypt – but considering that security, safety and scams are very real issues in Egypt, you’ll be thankful for a tour company’s organization and expertise.
There are tons of options when it comes to private Egypt tours and reputable tour companies – I understand that it can be overwhelming. I highly recommend getting in touch with Your Egypt Tours for their incredible Egyptologists, helpful customer service representatives and experienced drivers. You can read more reviews from other travelers here or e-mail them at [email protected]
* If you’re a longtime reader then you’ll know that I only recommend services, hotels and experiences that I have had positive personal experiences with. Just so you know, we were paying customers with Your Egypt Tours and I was not compensated for this article.
1 week Egypt itinerary
Egypt tour itinerary: We visited Cairo, Aswan and Luxor in that order, and once we arrived in Egypt we pretty much took a completely hands-off approach and left everything up to Your Egypt Tours – we didn’t have to worry about any logistics, tickets or transportation. If it’s your first time to Egypt, here is an easy itinerary to help you explore Egypt in a week.
Note: We travelled from Cairo to Aswan to Luxor – this itinerary is also do-able from Cairo to Luxor to Aswan and is a rough guide to help you decide how many days to spend in each city. We did it this way as our Nile cruise set sail on Monday from Aswan, and we wanted to cover as much ground as possible in just 1 week in Egypt. Wondering what to see in Egypt in 7 days? Keep reading!
Days 1 and 2: Cairo
Cairo is the chaotic, crazy and feverish capital city of Egypt and where we embarked on our epic Egyptian adventure. One of the largest cities in Africa, Cairo is home to dozens of archaeological treasures including the pyramids and Great Sphinx of Giza, Memphis (the ancient capital of Egypt), Sakkara, the Citadel of Saladin and the Egyptian Museum. Click here for the 10 best things to do in Cairo in 2 days!
We toured the landmarks with Mamdouh, our Cairo guide, from about 8 AM to 1 to 2 PM each day. If you are visiting Egypt during the summer months you’ll want to get an early start, otherwise the heat becomes unbearable by about 11 AM!
Hotel recommendation for Cairo: Stay at the Marriott Mena House, one of the absolute best hotels in Cairo with a location (and view) that can’t be beat. The hotel used to be the site of the old palace and is located right next to the entrance to the great pyramids of Giza. We stayed for 3 nights and paid a small fee to upgrade our room to a “Pyramid View” room – worth every penny! Check out current rates and availability at Marriott Mena House; alternatively, click here to check out other highly-rated accommodation in Cairo!
Day 3: Aswan
If you’re only spending a week in Egypt, then embarking on a luxury Nile cruise is an incredible way to traverse the country. On day 3 of our 7 day Egypt itinerary, we hopped on a quick domestic flight from Cairo to Aswan and were picked up by Ash, our local Egyptologist guide for Aswan and Luxor.
Before beginning our cruise down the Nile river, we visited the High Dam, an engineering miracle built in the 60’s to prevent the annual floods. The massive dam is 3600 metres long, 980 metres thick at its base and 111 metres tall at its highest point. Lake Nasser, the world’s largest man-made lake, has amassed behind the dam and it is said that the lake is riddled with crocodiles! The dam provides irrigation water and electricity for the whole of Egypt and is one of the most important engineering landmarks in the country, which also means that it is heavily guarded by Egyptian military. Plan on spending no longer than 10-15 minutes here.
Next, we hopped on a traditional motorboat operated by a Nubian villager to visit the Philae Temple. The Sanctuary of Isis at Philae was saved from the rising waters of the Nile by UNESCO and was dismantled piece by piece and later reassembled into what you see today – you can even see the water stains from when the temple was submerged.
The majestic temple is dedicated to the Goddess Isis and her family, though the golden statues that rested in the sanctuary have since been plundered and melted down.
After a busy morning of travel and sightseeing, we headed to board our 3-night Nile cruise operated by Amwaj Hotels. Our room on the upper deck was spacious and clean, and the ship also had a pool and bar on the rooftop deck. Our tour package included breakfast, lunch and dinner on-board the cruise, and the food was actually surprisingly fresh and delicious, and any additional beverages were reasonably priced. You should know that the prices for on-board wi-fi are absolutely extortionate and in my experience, the usage tracker is highly unreliable and inaccurate. You’re better off waiting or purchasing a SIM card before you board. 2 GB should last you a week in Egypt.
Day 4: Kom Ombo and Edfu
Somehow, we were already more than half way through our 1 week in Egypt. After our first night aboard the Nile cruise, we sailed nearly 50 kilometres and docked in Kom Ombo in the early morning to visit Kom Ombo Temple. The temple was dedicated to the crocodile-headed Egyptian god, Sobek, who was associated with fertility as well as protection from the dangers of the Nile floods.
Crocodiles were considered living incarnations of Sobek, and mummified in honour of their patron god. There is a small crocodile mummy museum to the left of Kom Ombo temple – I highly recommend checking it out for an extra fee.
After the excursion, we hopped back on board and sailed another 60 kilometres towards Edfu to explore Edfu’s Temple of Horus. This was probably one of the top highlights for me in our 7 days in Egypt – the temple features striking columns, intricately decorated outer walls, a stunning black granite statue of a falcon and inner hypostyle hall.
On the west side of the temple, there is a staircase leading to the roof – notice how the staircase going up is in a spiral formation, but the staircase on the opposing end of the temple goes down in a straight line (mimicking how falcons fly).
You should know that you have to take a 15-minute horse carriage ride from the dock to Edfu Temple. My preference would have been not to, but it doesn’t appear that there are many other ways to get there from the port, unless you are traveling by car to Edfu.
Once we boarded the Nile cruise, we set sail towards Luxor – the next 3-4 hours were spent leisurely cruising and feeling the cool breeze. I recommend heading to the top deck to watch the small boats collecting papyrus reed. Also make sure you find out what time the ship will approach the Esna Lock, a lock that allows ships to pass from the higher level of water to a lower one.
We arrived in Luxor in the late afternoon and docked there for the next 2 evenings. Though the Nile cruise was a highlight of our time in Egypt, it’s important to know that not much cruising is actually involved. We spent 3 nights aboard the cruise ship, and spent most of it docked. Day 2 on-board is where the majority of sailing happens (between Aswan and Luxor) and even that only takes just a handful of hours.
Days 5 and 6: Luxor
Dating back to 3200 B.C., the city of Luxor is a must-visit destination in Egypt for history and archaeology lovers. Once known as the city of Thebes, Luxor served as an important religious and political epicenter in ancient Egypt. Today, the city is widely considered to be an “open-air museum” featuring important historic attractions that spans the east and west banks of the Nile.
Spend day 1 in Luxor exploring the West Bank, where you’ll find most of the monuments and tombs for the dead. This is because for the ancient Egyptians, the sun “died” every day in the west, and was reborn in the east. Don’t miss the Colossi of Memnon, the outrageously magnificent Valley of the Kings and tombs of Egypt’s pharaohs, and Hatshepsut Temple.
On day 2 in Luxor, we checked out of the Nile cruise and headed over east to see the 2000-year-old Karnak Temple complex, Luxor Temple dedicated to the god Amun-ra, and the Avenue of Sphinxes. Read more about how to spend 2 days in Luxor by clicking here.
In the afternoon, get on a plane and head back towards Cairo. Alternatively, you might be able to fly back home from Luxor depending on flight availability; for us, we needed to head back to Cairo in order to board a flight to Jordan.
Hotel recommendation for a layover in Cairo: If you need a place to stay for the night before your flight out of Egypt, I highly recommend booking yourself into the Le Meridien at Cairo Airport so you don’t have to brave the traffic and drive into the city. The hotel is located within the airport as it is connected to terminal 3 via an overpass. The rooms are spacious and brand new – we booked last minute and the value for money was incredible. Click here for current rates and availability at Le Meridien Cairo Airport!
Day 7: Cairo
On your final day in Egypt, fly out of Cairo or hit up some additional landmarks that you might have missed the first time around.
Other suggestions for your Egypt itinerary
7 days in Egypt will give you a pretty good taste of what the country has to offer, and you will be able to cover plenty of ground. Most sightseeing days will be intense but short (we generally started at 7 or 8 AM and finished by 1 or 2 PM), and you can spend the rest of your day hiding from the midday sun and lounging by the pool.
If you have 10 days in Egypt, you might also want to add on Abu Simbel and Alexandria to your Egypt itinerary. Abu Simbel is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to 2 rock-cut temples carved out of the mountainside during the reign of Ramses II. Alexandria was founded by Alexander the Great and was the site of the Pharo of Alexandria, a lighthouse that was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It was also once home to the Great Library of Alexandria, one of the largest libraries of the ancient world.
Alternatively, if you need to get your fix of the ocean then head to Hurghada or Sharm el Sheikh to round out a 10 day Egypt itinerary. Both are located along the Red Sea and renowned for its world-class diving and marine life.
Interested in visiting Jordan and Egypt in the same trip? Click here for my 2 week Egypt and Jordan itinerary!
How much does it cost to travel to Egypt?
Egypt was by far one of our most expensive holidays – this is partially because we opted to go on a private tour and stay at luxury hotels, but also because there are so many additional fees that we hadn’t envisioned spending. Our 1 week luxury Egypt itinerary ended up costing approximately US$2000 per person including the private tour cost (US$1200 covering basic entry fees, guides, drivers and the Nile cruise), tips, 4 nights’ accommodation in Cairo, entry visa, extra exhibits/tombs/camera fees, meals, drinks and SIM cards. You can spend less if you don’t need a night’s accommodation before and after the tour (like we did), choose mid-range hotels, tip less and don’t visit the optional exhibits.
To budget for your Egypt travel itinerary, I recommend tacking on an additional 30-40% or so to cover meals in Cairo, drinks, gratuities and tipping, your Egypt entry visa, photography tickets and optional entry into the burial chambers of the pyramids/the “Royal Mummies Room” at the Egyptian Museum/extra tomb visits at the Valley of the Kings. It all adds up!
I hope this Egypt 1 week itinerary helps you to better plan your dream trip, and gives you an idea of how long to stay in each place, what to do, how to get around and where to stay.
Read more about visiting Egypt here:
- 16 Essential Things to Know Before Traveling to Egypt
- Experience Egypt: How to Spend 2 Days in Cairo (And What to See Besides the Pyramids)
- Discover the City of Palaces in Egypt: 6 Incredible Things to Do in Luxor
- Also heading to Jordan? You might find this combined 2 week Jordan and Egypt itinerary helpful
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Just so you know, this is not a sponsored post. We were paying customers on the tour with Your Egypt Tours, I am not an affiliate and don’t receive any commission from any tours booked. As per usual, all opinions are my own, and you can always expect candid and honest feedback from me (regardless of whether a trip was sponsored or not). This post may, however, contain other affiliate links. If you choose to use these links, I will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting my website by using these links, I only recommend products or services that I have had positive personal experiences with and think you would love too.
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How did hotels work with Your Egypt Tours? Did you have to find your own place to stay and then meet them in the mornings?
You can either ask Your Egypt Tours to book hotels for you, or book on your own. If you book on your own, just let them know where you are staying and their driver and guide will pick you up each morning and drop you off at your hotel at the end of the day.