Tips from the leisure desk: 5 top budget trips
Trips to shake up a stagnant mind and routine that won’t interfere with paying rent

At the risk of sounding cheesy, traveling is good for the soul. But the truth of the matter is that between bills, responsibilities, a wobbly economy and ever-weakening Egyptian pound, splurging on a spirit-awakening trip of self discovery across the world isn’t carefree at all. The good news is that travel doesn’t need to entail a journey thousands of kilometers away or be a few weeks long to work its remedy. The better news is that it doesn’t even need to be that big of a splurge.

So here’s a humble list of places to visit in Egypt that will shake up a stagnant mind and routine, without interfering with your ability to pay the rent at the end of the month.

1. Aswan

A juxtaposition of deep blue water, sloped hills and patches of greenery, Aswan is invariably one of the most sought after travel destinations in Egypt. Though it is tempting to stay at the lavish Old Cataract Hotel, adorned as it is in historic grandeur, Aswan is equally dazzling approached from a local perspective, and Nubian houses and no-fuss lodges are easy to come by. They provide a more rustic endeavor and enable you to get more immersed in the rich and vibrant culture of the land.

Recommendation: Kenzi’s Nubian Lodge

With a lovely clear view of the Nile, Kenzi’s may be humble in size — with only three rooms — yet its charm is endless. Curiously resembling a Greek landscape, it has the added bonus of traditional-cum-gourmet cuisine courtesy of chef Mahmoud Antaki. If you’re a dog lover, look forward to meeting all of the resident dogs, which, of course, are balady and proud (#adoptdontshop).

The food is a big part of the experience at Kenzi’s Nubian Lodge - Courtesy: Tanya El Kashef

How to get there

Trains from Cairo to Aswan are abundant, and, though the trip takes approximately 15 hours — if not more — it is easy on the wallet. Plus, long train rides can be their own kind of fun, and you get to see more of Egypt’s changing scenery. Tickets and information are available online.

When to go: Ideally between the months of October and April.

CostThree nights accommodation, meals, transportation from Cairo, and feluccas: Less than LE2,000 per person.

2. Siwa

By far one of the least frequented destinations in Egypt, Siwa has something quite demure about it, despite the area being a desert wonder. Staying at an ecolodge complements the inherently simple allure of the Western Desert. And aside from lounging around in the picturesque and aesthetically luxurious lodges, there is much to see and do in Siwa. Recommended activities include taking a dip in Bir Wahid or visiting the Fortress of Shali, where you can marvel at the panoramic view of the city.

Courtesy: Talist Siwa

Recommendation: Talist Siwa

Overlooking the Siwa oasis and located near the town of Siwa, Talist — which means “lake” in Amazigh — is a family-run ecolodge and farm that thrives on warm and welcoming hospitality, courtesy of the owner Nabila. Quality accommodation (all made from local natural material), deliciously prepared organic food and magnificent views day and night are just some of the elements to look forward to.  

How to get there

Buses run daily to Siwa, via Marsa Matrouh, at a notably low cost. However, be warned that the trip is considerably long and may last up to 12 hours. You can check the schedule here.

When to go: Ideally between the months of October and April.

CostThree nights accommodation, meals, transportation  from Cairo: Less than LE2,000 per person.

3. Marsa Allam

Another example of Egypt’s diversity, Marsa Allam offers a different sort of flavor. Vast and largely undeveloped, this is one of the most pristine areas near the Red Sea, and, apart from the well-known reefs in its vicinity, it is just as beautiful above land. Head deeper south and explore virgin coastlines, where a herd of camels may languidly pass you by. There you will also find mangroves and an impressive collection of birds to watch — yes, pink flamingo sightings are a possibility.

Marsa Allam mangroves - Courtesy: Nermeen Hammad

Recommendation: Wadi Lahami

Located just south of the mangrove area, Wadi Lahami is technically a dive center, but is equally suitable for kitesurfers, snorkelers and those simply looking to explore. As an ecolodge, the place is designed in harmony with its settings and kept simple — the white canvas tents located directly by the water are most recommended for accommodation.

How to get there

The most dependable thing to do is to take a bus from Cairo to Hurghada, then organize a car to complete the three-and-a-half-hour journey. Wadi Lahami can handle this leg of the trip for you, or, if you want to cut on costs, you could do it independently — either way, the more people, the lower the price!

When to go: Suitable all year round.  

CostThree nights accommodation, meals, transportation from Cairo: Less than LE1,500 per person.

4. Dahab

For a more bustling vacation on a budget, Dahab is a pretty solid choice with a quaint downtown and area easily accessible activities. Mornings could be spent snorkeling, diving or just relaxing in the sun, or head to nearby Wadi Gnai to spend some of your energy rock climbing. With a strip of bars and restaurants set up at the waterfront, it can be nice to take a walk on the promenade as the sun goes down, before settling down somewhere for a meal.

Courtesy: Dahab Paradise

Recommendation: Dahab Paradise

An effortlessly cozy hotel, Dahab Paradise offers a little bit of everything — it’s unpretentious and clean, with friendly service and a lovely unobstructed sea view from every room. Designed in a U-shape, with a pool at its center and only a few steps above the seashore, the hotel has an overall setup that is neat and inviting, making it a tempting spot to spend the whole day. Here you will also find resident dogs roaming around, giving the place an even homier feel.

How to get there

Reaching Dahab is relatively straightforward, with buses heading out from several locations in Cairo to Dahab on a daily basis. Tickets are also available at a very economical price. Check here for more information.

When to go: Suitable all year round.  

CostThree nights accommodation, breakfast, transportation from Cairo: Less than LE1,000 per person.

5. Nuweiba

When it comes to traveling on a budget, no list would be complete without mentioning Nuweiba. Along the strip between Taba and Nuweiba — a portion of South Sinai that possesses an enchanted, almost indescribable energy — modest beach camps are found one after the other. The camps are more or less the same in price and facilities, with more nuanced differences that simply come down to taste and personal preference.    

Courtesy: Maagana Camp

Recommendation: Maagana Beach

One of the first camps to set up in Ras Shaitan and located a few kilometers from the city of Nuweiba, Maagana is unique in that it surrounds a bay and has striking views of the mountains behind it. Vast and spread out, the camp is clean and efficient. Beach huts are most recommended for accommodation because of their proximity to the water. With a dive center on site, activities at Maagana include diving and snorkeling. Though, lazing and taking in the peaceful surroundings should also be high on your list.

How to get there

Whether or not you have an Egyptian passport affects how long it will take you to get to Nuweiba. As an Egyptian it is easy to take a bus from Cairo straight to your destination via the Taba road, while foreign nationals are required to drive to Sharm el-Sheikh first, and then head to Nuweiba. This comes at a minor extra cost and adds a couple of hours to the trip. Bus timetables can be found here.

When to go: Suitable all year round.  

CostThree nights accommodation, breakfast, transportation from Cairo: Less than LE1,000 per person.

Tanya El Kashef 

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