Egypt Travel Complete Guide

Egypt Travel Complete Guide

Egypt Travel Complete Guide Country information Train operator in Egypt:  Egyptian National Railways, www.egyptrail.gov.eg. Sleeper trains Cairo-Luxor-Aswan: www.wataniasleepingtrains.com. [http://www.seat61.com/GoogleAdsense-Egypt-ATF250.htm] Time zone & dialling code:

GMT+2 (Daylight saving time cancelled for 2011 & 2012). Dial code +20.

Currency:

Egyptian pounds: £1 = LE 8.1, $1 = LE 5.6 Currency converter

Visas:

UK citizens need a visa to visit Egypt. You can buy this in £ or $ on arrival for stays of up to 1 month. For information, see www.egyptianconsulate.co.uk or contact the Egyptian Consulate at 2 Lowndes Street, London, SW1X 9ET (call 020 7235 9719).

Hotels in Egypt:

Book hotels in Egypt Tripadvisor hotel reviews

Tourist information:

www.touregypt.net

Recommended guidebooks Health & vaccinations

Page last updated:

22 May 2012

See Egypt by train…
Egypt is fabulous, and Cairo one of the most fascinating cities in the world.

There’s no need to book a tour, it’s easy to travel round Egypt independently. Egyptian Railways are easily the most comfortable way to travel between Cairo, Luxor, Aswan, Alexandria, Port Said & Suez.

The views from the train can be wonderful, especially on the Cairo-Luxor-Aswan and Cairo-Alexandria routes.
Train times & fares for Egypt…

Cairo – Alexandria

Cairo – Luxor – Isna – Edfu – Kom Ombo – Aswan

Cairo – Suez

Cairo – Port Said

Cairo – El Alamein – Mersa Matruh

Alexandria – El Alamein – Mersa Matruh

Alexandria – Port Said

Abu Simbel (bus/ferry service)

Sharm el Sheikh, Hurghada, Siwa Oasis (by bus)

Other Egyptian travel information…

How to buy tickets

Train travel restrictions for tourists

Hotels & accommodation in Egypt

International travel to/from Egypt:

UK to Egypt without flying New ferry Venice to Egypt!

Cairo-Amman-Damascus-Istanbul by bus, train & ferry

Cairo-Khartoum (Sudan) by train & ferry

Cairo-Libya-Tunisia-Morocco

A street scene in old Islamic Cairo…
Right: A street scene in old Cairo. Visit the street called ‘El Muiz el din Allah’, where tour groups never go, yet where 10th century mosques are two a penny. Climb the crumbling minarets for a view over the roofs of old Cairo.
How to check Egyptian train times…

Train times for key routes are shown below. Egyptian National Railways now have a website, www.egyptrail.gov.eg, and you can use this to check timetables. There is limited train information on the Egyptian national tourist office website www.touregypt.net. It you’re travelling between Cairo, Luxor & Aswan, remember the read the section about tourist train travel restrictions.

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How to buy tickets
How to buy tickets: Online at https://enr.gov.eg…

You can now book some Egyptian train tickets online, including air-con express tickets for journeys between Cairo and Alexandria, Luxor and Aswan:

What tickets can it book? The system will book 1st & 2nd class tickets on the main air-conditioned express trains between Cairo, Alexandria, Luxor & Aswan, up to 2 weeks ahead.

What won’t it book? It will not book the deluxe sleeper trains between Cairo and Luxor or Aswan, for these use a travel agency or call direct, as shown below. It will not book 3rd class tickets, or tickets for slow trains, or tickets to other destinations such as Mersa Matruh or Port Said or smaller stations such as Edfu or Kom Ombo. Or book tickets further ahead than about 2 weeks. It also seems to book trains from Aswan to Luxor, but not from Luxor to Aswan.

Can foreign tourists use this system? Yes. It allows you to select ‘United Kingdom’ and other overseas countries from a drop-down list when registering and when booking a ticket. After selecting ‘United Kingdom’ it will happily book a daytime seats train from Cairo to Luxor, with no sign of any problem with the tourist restrictions. Result! The small print says it only accepts Egyptian credit cards, but I can confirm it accepts my own UK Visa credit card, and it uses the ‘verified by Visa’ additional security system. So give it a go.

Limitations: You can only book a maximum of 2 seats on Cairo-Luxor-Aswan trains and 5 seats on Cairo-Alexandria trains. If you want to buy more tickets than this, you’ll have to book via a travel agency or at the station as below (or perhaps create two separate accounts using a different name and credit card). There are a few other limitations, see their terms and conditions.

How to buy tickets online: Go to https://enr.gov.eg and sign up, a simple process. Enter your passport number in the ‘National ID’ box. You are emailed an activation code to start your account.

When activated, log in again and click on ‘Make reservation’. Select stations, class, and a date within the next 2 weeks. It will not book further ahead than this. You can leave ‘offset’ and time blank.

You print out your own reservation details with date, time, train number, car & seat number.

You can board the train with just this printout and the credit card used to make the booking, as long as the main named traveller is the owner of the credit card. If you’ve used someone else’s card, then you’ll need a photocopy of the front of the credit card, passport, and reservation details.

Feedback would be very welcome if you use this system, successfully or unsuccessfully.

Traveller Ian Green booked tickets from Cairo to Luxor in 2011: “We bought our train tickets online at the Egyptian National Railways website https://enr.gov.eg having followed your link and signed up. It took 2 or 3 days until I could log in successfully, but I managed to book tickets online from Cairo to Luxor and from Aswan back to Cairo. We caught train 980 from Cairo to Luxor in first class leaving at 8am (platform 8) with self-print online tickets costing 187.20 Egyptian pounds between us [about £24, just £12 per ticket] and later took train 983 from Aswan to Cairo again in first class, leaving at 7am, costing 226.72 Egyptian pounds between us [about £29 or £14.50 each]. We had no troubles with our print-at-home tickets, as soon as the conductors saw them they spoke in English. Quite simple really. We saw a few other non-Egyptians on the trains, all of whom had had to get around the system by getting people to buy tickets for them, or getting split journey tickets, costing around an extra 100 Egyptian Pounds.”

How to buy tickets: At the station…

It’s easy to buy tickets at the station ticket office when you get to Egypt, although a degree of patience is called for. Cairo main station has several booking windows, one for each class and group of destinations, so check that you are joining the right queue. You can pay for train tickets in Egyptian pounds, except for the Cairo-Luxor-Aswan deluxe sleeper which must be paid in foreign currency (dollars, euros or pounds sterling) at the El Watania sleeper office. Except during busy periods, it’s normally easy to get 1st class tickets on the day of travel or the day before. The deluxe overnight sleeper train from Cairo to Luxor and Aswan often has places available if you book a day or two in advance, but at peak tourist times such as Easter it can get fully-booked by tour groups, so pre-booking from outside Egypt is recommended if you cannot afford to take a chance. On the Cairo-Luxor-Aswan route, you won’t be sold tickets for the ‘restricted’ daytime trains, so either buy a ticket online as shown above, or just get on the train without a ticket and pay on board, see the section on tourist train travel restrictions for a full explanation!

How to buy tickets: Through agencies like www.osoris.com, www.safariegypt.com, www.paradisetravelegypt.com…

If you want to book Egyptian train tickets in advance before you leave home and the Egyptian Railways online system doesn’t work for you, or you want to book the deluxe sleeper from Cairo to Upper Egypt, you can easily arrange tickets by e-mail through an Egyptian travel agency. Reputable agencies include www.osoris.com, www.egyptiants.net, www.safariegypt.com, www.paradisetravelegypt.com and (in Luxor) www.sunrisetours-eg.com. Osoris has been highly recommended by quite a few seat61 correspondents. They charge about $10 higher than the normal ticket price, plus a $5 booking fee if you collect the tickets from their office in Cairo, a $25 booking fee if you want them delivered to your hotel, $25 for delivery to the airport to meet your flight, or $20 to meet you with the tickets at Cairo railway station. They also make a 6% credit card charge, at least on days when they feel like accepting credit cards rather than Western Union transfers! To buy tickets through them, e-mail them at egypt@osoris.com, call + 20 2 302 8561 or fax + 20 2 3464146. Feedback on agencies, good or bad, is always welcome. Although Osoris has been recommended by several travellers, one traveller has reported poor service. Paradise Travel & SafariEgypt have had no reports as yet. I have removed Egyptlegend (www.egyptlegend.com/trainreservation.htm) after two bad reports. Bear in mind that credit cards are not always accepted by small Egyptian travel agencies, a Western Union transfer is often necessary. On the Cairo-Luxor-Aswan route, these agencies may or may not be prepared to sell you a ticket for the ‘restricted’ daytime trains, so if they won’t, simply forget trying to book, just get on the train without a ticket and pay on board, see the section on tourist train travel restrictions for details. One report says that www.osoris.com will book seats on the ‘restricted’ daytime trains from Cairo to Luxor & Aswan.

How to buy tickets for the Cairo-Luxor-Aswan sleeper trains: Use an agency or phone El Watania on + 202 37 489 488

There are two ways to pre-book the deluxe sleeper train between Cairo, Luxor & Aswan. You can contact a travel agency such as www.osoris.com, www.egyptiants.net, www.safariegypt.com, www.paradisetravelegypt.com and (in Luxor) www.sunrisetours-eg.com, see the section above. You’ll pay a fee for their services, of course! The other way, which avoids a fee but sometimes takes more persistence, is to book direct with the operator El Watania by phone, fax or email. Times & fares are shown below or (if it’s working!) shown on the Watania sleeper train website, www.wataniasleepingtrains.com. To book direct with Watania, e-mail your booking request to info@egwst.com or fax it to + 202 37 489 680 quoting your email address or simply phone their reservation office on + 202 37 489 488 (lines open 09:00 to 15:00 Egyptian time, daily except Fridays, English spoken, feedback always appreciated!). They will email you a booking reference and you can pick up the tickets and pay for them in Egyptian pounds, US Dollars or euros at the Watania reservation office, 48 Giza Street, Orman Building, first floor apartment No.14, at least 24 hours before departure between 09:00 & 15:00 any day except Fridays. It’s in the same block as the Cairo Sheraton Hotel, next to the HSBC Bank. If you cannot pick up tickets at least 24 hours in advance at these times, then book through a travel agency as recommended above, paying a booking fee. One traveller has reported that it’s easier to pick up the tickets directly from the Watania sleeper office at Giza Station which is very easy to reach on the efficient Cairo Metro (www.cairometro.gov.eg). The ‘Sleeping Car Office’ is located in an old portacabin about 20m to the right of the main ticket windows on the external entrance to Giza’s mainline station.

Learn Arabic numbers…

A top tip for train travel in Egypt is to learn Arabic numbers. The indicator boards at main stations often use Arabic numerals to show train numbers, departure times and platform numbers, only main ones show western numbers. If you know Arabic numbers, you can read these, making it easy to find your train from the departure time, even if you can’t read the destination. Arabic numbers are written left-to-right, exactly like western numbers, even though Arabic words are written right-to-left. To print these Arabic numbers, right-click the image and click ‘print picture’.

Taxis in Cairo & Alexandria…

Always use a white taxi as these are metered, and are a fairly cheap way to get from anywhere in central Cairo to the station, typically LE10-LE15 (£1-£2 or $2-$3)a trip. Make sure the meter is switched on. Black & white taxis do not have meters and you will need to agree a price before you get in, so they usually work out much more expensive. Alexandria’s yellow & black taxis do not have meters, so agree a price before getting in.

Tourist train travel restrictions
Cairo-Luxor-Aswan train restrictions for tourists…

Since the terrorist attacks in Egypt some years ago, the Egyptian government has put restrictions on which trains foreigners may take between Cairo and Luxor/Aswan, allegedly so that the government can assure tourists’ safety. There are no restrictions on other routes such as Cairo to Alexandria or Suez or Port Said, where you can take any train you like, it’s just the Cairo-Luxor-Aswan route. Details are almost impossible to confirm, and it doesn’t help that the UK Egyptian Tourist Office denies any knowledge of these restrictions. However, it’s reported that since 1 March 2009, the ONLY trains between Cairo and Luxor or Aswan for which tourists will be sold tickets are the overnight deluxe sleeper trains, either in the sleeping-cars or the seats cars, and possibly also the 22:00 ordinary seats express from Cairo (train number 2000). The daytime trains are officially ‘for Egyptians only’. You can take a wider selection of trains if you’re only travelling between Aswan & Luxor. If you have more information please email me, as there is little or no concrete information on the net about these restrictions.

…and here’s how to get around these silly restrictions:

Naturally, you may want to get around these unfair restrictions, and travel on a daytime air-conditioned express along the scenic Nile Valley just for the experience, or use an ordinary train if the deluxe sleepers are fully-booked (as they often are at Easter, for example), or simply to save a few pounds if you’re on a very tight budget. Or just to strike a blow for freedom! In practice, all these restrictions really mean is that the ticket offices at Cairo, Luxor & Aswan will refuse to sell you a ticket for any train except those trains which tourists are officially allowed to take, so here are the options.

Option 1, book online! The Egyptian Railways online booking system will now book daytime express trains and overnight seats trains between Cairo-Luxor and Aswan up to 2 weeks ahead, and will allow overseas users to buy tickets without any apparent problem with the travel restrictions. See the online booking section above. If it works, let me know. If it doesn’t, try options 2 or 3…

Option 2, ask an Egyptian travel agency or your hotel to buy your ticket: One traveller suggests asking your hotel to send someone to buy a ticket for your chosen (restricted) train for a small fee, then you can board the train. This may or may not work, some reports suggest it will, some that it won’t. Two reports have said that travel agency www.osoris.com is prepared to book seats for westerners on the ‘restricted’ daytime trains from Cairo to Luxor & Aswan, if you politely decline the tourist sleeper train and politely insist that you’re only interested in the day train, not the sleeper, even if they at first tell you that it’s for ‘Egyptians only’.

Option 3, board without a ticket & buy on the train: The simplest option is just to board whatever train you like and buy tickets on board, which you can do on payment of a small surcharge (a mere pound or two!). There are no barriers to stop you, and it saves you the hassle of trying to buy a ticket beforehand!

Update for 2012: Have the tourist restrictions been lifted?

One report suggests these tourist restrictions have now been lifted, but no firm reports have yet been received of anyone actually going to the ticket office and being sold a ticket for the Cairo-Luxor daytime trains. If you try this, please email me!

Travellers’ reports…

Here’s a report from someone who successfully booked their Cairo to Luxor daytime tickets online (Sept 2011): “We bought our train tickets online at the Egyptian National Railways website having followed your instructions and signed up. It took 2 or 3 days until I could log in successfully, but I managed to book tickets online from Cairo to Luxor and from Aswan back to Cairo. We caught train 980 from Cairo to Luxor in first class leaving at 8am (platform 8) with self-print online tickets costing 187.20 Egyptian pounds between us [about £24, just £12 per ticket] and later took train 983 from Aswan to Cairo again in first class, leaving at 7am, costing 226.72 Egyptian pounds between us [about £29 or £14.50 each]. We had no trouble with our print-at-home tickets on the train, as soon as the conductors saw them they spoke in English. Quite simple really. We saw a few other non-Egyptians on the trains, all of whom had had to get around the system by getting people to buy tickets for them, or getting split journey tickets, costing around an extra 100 Egyptian Pounds.”

And here’s a report from someone who simply got on the train and paid on board (Feb 2010): “I wanted to use daytime train number 980 leaving Cairo at 08:00 for Luxor [and why not, that’s precisely the train I’d want to use!]. I arrived in Cairo on the Sunday and went to the station in the evening to try book my ticket to Luxor for the next day. I was told that this train was ‘for Egyptians only’ but was advised to return early on the Monday morning. I did this, only to be given the same story. Someone then suggested I board the train and pay on board. I did this and plonked myself in a first class seat and hoped it was not reserved. I paid 97 Egyptian pounds (£9 or $16) when asked by the conductor on board and held the seat all the way to Luxor. When I wanted to return from Luxor back to Cairo I was told the same story, that train number 981 leaving Luxor at 08:30 was not for tourists. So once again I simply boarded the train and paid on board. I did get moved from seat to seat this time, but ended up meeting several interesting people.

More feedback (Jan 2011): “My wife and I were keen to travel from Cairo to Aswan on daytime express train number 980 and attempted to buy tickets at the ticket office. We were, of course, refused, and pointed towards the overnight train ticket window. We’d previously used your website when travelling by train through India and, after reading the Egypt section, thought we’d give train 980 a go anyway. We arrived at Cairo train station at around 7:00am on the 9th of January, 2011 and headed straight for platform 8 (another traveller on your site mentioned this platform for the 980 service); we also confirmed with a few snack-shop owners that this platform was correct. The train pulled up at 7:30am, departed on time at 8:00am, and we bought tickets from a ticket inspector about 30 minutes into our journey with no questions asked. The rest of the trip went smoothly and we arrived at Aswan on time, at around 9:00pm.”

More feedback (Oct 2010): “You can indeed still buy tickets on board the daytime train from Cairo to Luxor. The ticket inspector was knowing and affable and had no qualms with selling it to me. He even confirmed that I was indeed in first class and charged me just 96LE to Luxor. I’d like to voice my gratitude to others who have left feedback here because I met not one person in Cairo who could confirm the situation, and every Egyptian (including the folks in the hostel) advised me strongly against it, some for their own gains (selling tours etc). However some just didn’t know for sure and strangely took the rigid approach. Have confidence! The trip is scenic and worth it. A day of the interesting countryside of Egypt without the hassle. A winner!

…and some more feedback: “On Friday 28/05/2010 we travelled on the 7am train from Aswan to Luxor 1st class air con. My girlfriend had tried to get tickets the night before in the somewhat shorter female-only queue, but was told they couldn’t sell tickets to tourists and to buy them on the train. The next day we did as told, waltzed through the security barrier, asked a policeman and he showed us where to get the 1st class train. There were only about 10 passengers in total in the three 1st class carriages, so no problems at all. The cost was 47 LE each, and arrived on time. A good experience, just shame we wasted 20 minutes trying and failing to buy a ticket at the ticket office the previous day!”

…and yet more feedback: One correspondent reports (January 2010) “At both Aswan and Luxor, but not the smaller stations, there was an airport-style security barrier, where they X-ray selected passengers’ baggage. However, there was no ticket check at the barrier. Everyone including the tourist office, police, and railway staff said we could go on the ordinary [restricted] trains if we paid the small surcharge for buying a ticket on board, the restriction was only on buying the tickets in advance.” Another report (February 2010) confirms that there are no checks or barriers in Cairo main station preventing you accessing the platforms and boarding any train you like and paying on board.

and a bit more… I travelled in June 2010, and nothing has changed, there are no barriers, you can just board the train. I boarded the 08:00 air-con express train from Cairo to Luxor & Aswan (always go for first class!) and simply paid on board. The same worked on the return journey. However, as you haven’t got a booked seat you may find yourself moved about. I had no problem keeping my seat down to Aswan on the outward trip. But the train was very crowded on the return and as we got nearer to Cairo many people were standing including me. But no one got angry or stressed. A kind Egyptian bloke then let me perch on his arm rest and shared his sandwich with me. Great journey -13 hours ! Great country. Great people.”

and here’s some more… “In August 2010 my wife and I took the day train leaving from Cairo and it worked out just as it was detailed on this website and reported by others. If you find it useful, here’s another case study for your site. We arrived at the train station at 07:15. We heard the train pull into platform 8 around 07:30 and proceeded straight through the security checkpoint. I was a little nervous with the large, blue signs saying “please present your ticket”, but no one was checking tickets and we were soon standing on platform 8. The 1st class cars were closer to us with the 2nd class cars further down the platform. An attendant was standing in the doorway and we enlisted the help of another Egyptian to get us seated on the train and gave him a bit of baksheesh for his efforts. The train departed right on time and around Giza the conductor came through. We paid him 192 EP for the two of us. We kept our seats the whole way and the train pulled into Luxor at 18:00.”

If you have any more feedback on the ‘restrictions’ issue, please email me.

Cairo to Alexandria

The train service between Alexandria and Cairo is excellent. There are broadly two sorts of train: Modern air-conditioned express trains with comfortable 1st & 2nd class seats, not dissimilar to European trains, using either ‘Spanish’ or ‘French’ carriages, and ordinary trains with very basic non-air-con 2nd & 3rd class (plus air-con 2nd class on some trains). A 1st class one-way ticket for an air-conditioned express from Cairo to Alexandria costs about LE 50, less than £6 or $9!

Cairo ► Alexandria
Train type: Ord Exp Ord Special Exp Ord Special Exp Ord Special Ord Exp Ord Special Exp Ord
Train number: 119 903 7 905 901 197 909 911 11 89 13 913 15 917 919 21
Cairo depart depart 0500 0600 0625 0800 0815 0825 0900 1000 1010 1100 1115 1200 1245 1400 1415 1430
Alexandria arrive arrive 0940 0915 1005 1030 1100 1115 1130 1250 1410 1340 1420 1440 1610 1630 1730 1830
Cairo ► Alexandria (continued)
Train type: Special Exp Ord Exp Ord Exp Ord Special Ord Ord Special Ord Exp Ord Special Special
Train number: 2001 915 27 923 199 925 33 921 25 31 927 157 931 29 1919 935
Cairo depart 1500 1510 1525 1600 1615 1715 1725 1800 1810 1840 1900 1920 2015
2030

2100 2230
Alexandria arrive 1740 1800 1845 1915 1940 2015 2110
2030

2120 2215 2130 2210 2315 0030
2330

0100
Special = Extra-fast air-conditioned express train using Spanish carriages, 1st & 2nd class with refreshments, either non-stop or only stopping at Tanta. These are the best trains. Originally operated by a French gas-turbine ‘turbotrain’, but since December 2007 by regular air-conditioned carriages as the fuel-thirsty turbotrains were too expensive to maintain.

Exp = Fast air-conditioned express train using French-built carriages with 1st & 2nd class and refreshments, usually making several intermediate stops. Also recommended.

Ord = Ordinary train, not normally used by tourists. Basic 2nd & 3rd class, not air-conditioned.

How to buy tickets. Fares are shown below. You can check these times & fares at www.egyptrail.gov.eg (if it’s working) or at https://enr.gov.eg.

Cairo-Alexandria is 208 km (129 miles).

Alexandria ► Cairo
Train type: Ord Ord Exp Special Ord Ord Special Exp Ord Exp Ord Special Ord Ord Exp Ord
Train number: 198 8 902 906 158 10 904 900 12 910 14 912 164 18 914 20
Alexandria depart 0330 0520 0600 0700 0715 0725 0800 0815 0915 1000 1045 1200 1215 1230 1300 1330
Cairo arrive 0700 0900 0915 0930 1015 1150 1030 1115 1330 1255 1355 1430 1515 1600 1615 1745
Alexandria ► Cairo (continued)
Train type: Special Ord Special Exp Ord Special Special Ord Special Special Exp Exp Ord Special
Train number: 916 24 918 922 196 88 928 32 926 2000 1912 930 30 934
Alexandria depart 1400 1430 1500 1530 1545 1645 1800 1820 1900 1930 2000 2000 2125 2200
Cairo arrive 1630 1840 1730 1830 1855 1925 2030 2150 2130 2210 2225 2300 0020 0030
How much does it cost?
1st class

air-con express

2nd class

air-con express

2nd class

ordinary train *

Cairo – Alexandria (Special express train) LE 52 (£6 or $9) LE 36 (£4 or $6) –
Cairo – Alexandria (Express train) LE 36 (£5 or $7) LE 26 (£3 or $5) –
Cairo – Alexandria (Ordinary train)

LE 7 (£1 or $2)
* not usually offered to foreigners. LE = Egyptian pounds. If you have an ISIC student card, this gives you a 33% reduction.

Children aged 0 to 3 travel free, children 4 to 9 travel at half fare, children 10 and over pay full fare.

On board an air-conditioned express from Cairo to Alexandria…

An air-conditioned express train from Cairo, arrived at Alexandria station. First class seats on a Cairo to Alexandria express train.
Spanish trains: At Alexandria’s main Misr station, an air-conditioned ‘Spanish’ express train has just arrived from Cairo. Photo courtesy of Adrian Smith.

Air-conditioned 1st class on a Cairo-Alexandria ‘Spanish’ train. Photo courtesy of Adrian Smith.

Egyptian Railways – air-conditioned express train as used Cairo-Alexandria Air-conditioned 1st class Air-conditioned 2nd class
French trains: An air-conditioned express.

Air-con 1st class on a ‘French’ train.

Air-con 2nd class on a ‘French’ train.

Cairo to Luxor & Aswan
You can travel between Cairo, Luxor and Aswan on 4 different types of train:

▶ Overnight deluxe sleeper train (1 & 2-bed sleepers & lounge car, shown as sleeper below, see photos below, recommended)

▶ Daytime air-conditioned express trains (shown as Exp in the timetable below, recommended)

▶ Overnight air-conditioned express trains (with seats, also shown as Exp in the timetable below, but at night a sleeper is recommended)

▶ Daytime ordinary slow trains, not air-conditioned, very basic, and not usually taken by tourists (shown as Ord below).

Each of these trains is described below. In this timetable, recommended trains are in bold (but see the advice on tourist train restrictions).

Cairo ► Luxor ► Aswan
Train type: Exp** Exp Exp Ord+ Ord+ Exp Ord+ Ord+ Ord+ Exp sleeper Exp sleeper sleeper Exp Exp** Exp
Train number: 1902 934 980 80 158 982 160 164 1434 988 84 88 86 82*** 976 996 886
Alexandria depart – 2200 – – 0715 – – 1140 – – – 1645 – – – – –
Cairo depart 0005 0100 08:00 0730 1030 12:00 1230 1530 1820 1900 – 2000 – – 2100 2200 2315
Giza depart 0035 0120 08:20 0750 1050 12:20 1250 1550 1840 1925 20:00 2025 20:40 21:35 2125 2225 2340
Luxor arr/dep 0945 1030 18:15 1920 2105 22:20 2325 0150 0350 0425 05:10 0620 06:35 07:10 0700 0735 0900
Isna * arrive 1040 – 19:00 2010 – 23:30 – 0240 | 0515 | 0717 07:25 08:00 – 0820 0950
Edfu * arrive 1120 – 19:45 2105 – 00:05 – 0330 0520 0600 07:00 0755 08:10 08:45 – 0900 1035
Kom Ombo * arrive 1230 – 20:45 2210 – 00:55 – 0425 0610 0655 | 0850 09:10 09:45 – 1000 1130
Aswan arrive 1315 – 22:00 2305 – 01:55 – 0525 0655 0755 08:35 1005 10:20 10:30 – 1110 1220
* = Guesstimated time, please check exact time locally.

** = also has Nefertiti class with 6-seat compartments.

*** = sleeper train 82/83 only runs when required. Currently stopped until further notice.

Exp = Express train with air-con 1st & 2nd class seats & refreshments.

Ord = Ordinary train, not normally used by tourists, basic 2nd & 3rd class seats.

Ord+ = also has air-con 2nd class.

Sleeper = Deluxe sleeper train run by Watania (previously Abela Egypt), sleeping-cars & lounge car. Trains 84, 85, 86, 87 run daily & also have 1st class seats. Trains 82 & 83 only run at peak times.

Cairo to Luxor is 671km (419 miles). Cairo to Aswan is 879 km (549 miles). Fares shown below. How to buy tickets.

Giza station is a fair way from the Pyramids, but if you’re staying out that way it can be better than going into Cairo city centre. You can travel between Cairo & Giza on the Cairo Metro, www.cairometro.gov.eg.

You can check these times & fares at www.egyptrail.gov.eg (if it’s working) or at https://enr.gov.eg.

See the section about government tourist restrictions: Tourists will only be sold tickets for certain trains, for other trains you must get on & pay on board.

Aswan ► Luxor ► Cairo
Train type: Exp Ord+ Exp Exp Exp Ord+ Ord+ Ord+ Exp Exp Exp sleeper sleeper sleeper Exp Exp** Exp
Train number: 2003 157 981 983 935 81 993 163 887 977 1903 83 *** 87 85 997 89 989
Aswan depart 01:00 – 05:00 07:00 – 0930 – 1300 1500 – 1615 16:00 15:45 19:15 1945 2000 2130
Kom Ombo* depart 01:43 – 05:48 07:48 – 1025 – 1355 1542 – 1648 16:45 17:30 | 2043 2101 2220
Edfu* depart 02:35 – 06:45 08:40 – 1123 – 1450 1630 – 1740 17:40 18:30 20:45 2137 2158 2315
Isna* depart | – 07:35 09:25 – 1210 – 1540 1715 – 1825 18:30 19:00 | 2222 2246 0002
Luxor arr/dep 04:15 0730 08:45 10:35 12:00 1315 1430 1645 1820 1900 1945 19:35 19:15 22:30 2315 2345 0100
Giza arrive 13:20 1755 18:45 21:05 21:40 0045 0155 0245 0345 0425 0510 05:00 04:55 08:15 0845 1005 1020
Cairo arrive 13:35 1810 19:10 21:20 22:05 0100 0210 0300 0415 0455 0540 05:15 – 08:35 0915 1025 1045
Alexandria arrive – 2230 – – 01:00 – – 0645 – – – – – – – 1340 –
Fares
Deluxe sleeper

(sharing 2-berth)

Deluxe sleeper

(sole occupancy)

Seat on overnight

sleeper train

1st class

air-con express

2nd class

air-con express

2nd class non-AC

ordinary train

Cairo to Luxor $ 60 (£36) ** $ 80 (£48) ** LE171 (£21 / $31) LE 94 (£11 / $17) * LE 48 (£6 / $9) * LE 42 (£5 / $8) *
Cairo to Aswan $ 60 (£36) ** $ 80 (£48) ** LE171 (£21 / $30) LE 113 (£13 / $21) * LE 57 (£7 / $11) * LE 50 (£6 / $10) *
Luxor to Aswan – – $13 (£8) LE 43 (£6 / $8) LE 26 (£3 / $5) * LE 10 (£1 / $2) *
Fares are one-way fares, the price is the same in either direction.

* not sold to tourists at the ticket office, but see the section about tourist travel restrictions and how to get around them.

** fare may be paid in US$, euros, sterling or Egyptian pounds, includes evening meal & breakfast.

LE = Egyptian pounds. If you have an ISIC student card, this gives you a 33% reduction. How to buy tickets

Children aged 0 to 3 travel free, children 4 to 9 travel at two-thirds fare, children 10 and over pay full fare.

On the deluxe sleeper train, children aged 4 to 9 pay $45 one-way, children under 3 go free (but without own berth, child rate applies if you want them to have a bed).

Introducing the deluxe overnight sleepers between Cairo, Luxor & Aswan: www.wataniasleepingtrains.com.

Due to engineering work at Cairo’s main Ramses station, sleeper trains 84, 85, 86 & 87 are leaving from Giza station, not Cairo. You can travel between Cairo & Giza by taxi or on the Cairo Metro, www.cairometro.gov.eg.

To save time and travel in comfort, take the deluxe overnight sleeper train, now run by a private company called ‘El Watania’, who took over from previous operator Abela Egypt in January 2010. This train has modern air-conditioned sleeping-cars with secure & lockable 1 & 2-berth rooms, and a bar-lounge car, see the photos below. The fare includes a very basic airline-style tray-meal in the evening and simple breakfast. Room service can serve drinks in your compartment at extra cost. The fare is US$ 60 per person one-way sharing a 2-berth compartment or US$ 80 in a single-berth compartment from Cairo to either Luxor or Aswan, payable in Egyptian pounds, US dollars, euros or pounds sterling (dollars or euros preferred, credit cards not accepted). Children aged 0-3 travel free, children 4-9 $45. Passengers travelling alone who don’t want to pay the single-berth fare can book a berth in a 2-berth compartment and share with another passenger of the same sex. For more information, see www.wataniasleepingtrains.com.

To book the deluxe sleeper, either go in person to the sleeper reservation ticket windows at Cairo, Luxor & Aswan stations, e-mail El Watania at info@egwst.com or phone them on +202 37 489 488, lines open 09:00-15:00 Egyptian time daily except Fridays. They will email you a confirmation (take note of any mis-spellings of your name in their email, as that is how the reservation will be filed) and you can pick up the tickets and pay for them in US Dollars, Euros or Egyptian Pounds (no credit cards accepted) at the Watania reservation office, 48 Giza Street, Orman Building, first floor apartment No.14, at least 24 hours before departure between 09:00 & 15:00 any day except Fridays. It’s in the same block as the Cairo Sheraton Hotel, next to the HSBC Bank. One traveller has reported that it’s easier to pick up the tickets directly from the Watania sleeper office at Giza Station which is very easy to reach on the efficient Cairo Metro (www.cairometro.gov.eg). The ‘Sleeping Car Office’ is located in an old portacabin about 20m to the right of the main ticket windows on the external entrance to Giza’s mainline station. Alternatively, if you don’t mind paying a small booking fee, you can book from overseas via one of the agencies recommended above. If you book in person at the station a day or two before departure, you may find places available, but at peak tourist times it can get fully-booked by tour groups, so if a specific departure date is important to you, you may want to pre-book from outside Egypt.
Cairo-Luxor-Aswan deluxe sleeper train – daytime mode Cairo-Luxor-Aswan deluxe sleeper train – night time mode
2-berth sleeper, beds folded away.

2-berth sleeper, beds made up.

The sleeper corridor…
The Cairo-Luxor-Aswan sleeper train waits departure… Cairo-Luxor-Aswan deluxe sleeper train
Watch the video

Short account of an Aswan to Cairo deluxe sleeper train journey.

The compartments are shown in evening mode with the beds still folded away…

Bar car video

The Cairo-Luxor-Aswan deluxe sleeper train…
Compartment photos courtesy of Abela Egypt. Corridor and train exterior photos courtesy of Steve Hounslow.

Daytime air-conditioned express trains…

These have comfortable 1st & 2nd class seats, see the photos below. The journey takes most of the day, but it’s a very pleasant ride all along the Nile Valley, so just relax and enjoy the scenery. The trains run along the Nile for much of the journey, past palm trees, feluccas, camels, and fellahin working in the fields. You will see how the Nile makes a small strip of land green either side of the river before the desert resumes. Cairo to Luxor costs about LE 90 (£11 or $17) 1st class one-way. Cairo to Aswan costs about LE 109 (£13 or $21) 1st class one-way. See the section about government tourist restrictions, also see a traveller’s report about these trains.
Egyptian Railways – air-conditioned express train as used Cairo-Alexandria Air-conditioned 1st class Air-conditioned 2nd class
An air-conditioned express…

Air-conditioned 1st class

Air-conditioned 2nd class

Travelling overnight in air-conditioned seats…

The night trains also have 1st & 2nd class seats (see the photos above) and one coach with Nefertiti class seats. If you don’t mind sleeping in a seat, which not a very nice or comfortable experience, these overnight trains save time compared with daytime trains but cost much less than the deluxe sleeper. Cairo to Aswan costs LE 170 (£21 or $30) 1st class one-way. Take a fleece or jumper as the air-con can be quite powerful. The photos below show a Nefertiti class air-con 6-seat compartment on the overnight Cairo-Luxor-Aswan train. They are converted from a sleeping-car with the berths removed and two compartments knocked into one. See the section about government tourist restrictions.
Nefertiti class on Cairo – Luxor – Aswan overnight seats train Nefertiti class on Cairo – Luxor – Aswan overnight seats train
Above: Nefertiti class compartment, Cairo-Luxor-Aswan overnight seats train.
Photos courtesy of Gabriel Openshaw

Ordinary slow trains…

The 2nd & 3rd class non-air-con slow trains are fairly basic and only recommended for the more adventurous visitors, see the ‘ordinary trains’ pictures further up this page. Government restrictions prevent tourists from being sold a ticket for these trains, although you could get on without a ticket and pay the conductor on board.
Trains in Egypt – 2nd & 3rd class ordinary train Trains in Egypt: Ordinary 2nd class…
Above: A 2nd & 3rd class ordinary train. Photo courtesy of Edwin van den Bergh

Above: Ordinary 2nd class (non-AC). 3rd class can be left to the imagination…

Traveller’s reports…
Traveller Jerome Wise reports: “We took the daytime air-conditioned express train from Cairo to Luxor, which took 10 hours or so. It was great fun, a bit of an adventure and a great way to see the real Egypt. The children (8 and 6) even enjoyed it. The great thing about the first class seats is that, whilst they are in an airline configuration, you can swivel them so you have facing and back – great for four people travelling together.”

Traveller Ian Green took a Cairo to Luxor then Aswan to Cairo daytime trains in 2011: “We bought our train tickets online at the Egyptian National Railways website having followed your instructions and signed up. We caught train 980 from Cairo to Luxor in first class leaving at 8am (platform 8) on 30.09.11 costing 187.20 Egyptian pounds between us and the 983 train from Aswan to Cairo on the 07.10.11 first class, leaving at 7am, costing 226.72 Egyptian pounds between us. The tea was lovely, service pretty good, seats comfy. Toilets passable. Both trains left on time, both were in the station half hour early, but both were about 3 hours delayed getting to the final stop. Take supplies!”

Visiting the temples at Abydos & Dendera…

Traveller Krys Garnett reports: “Visiting the temples of Abydos and Dendera from Luxor is easy by train, and much more convenient than the convoy or bus. For Abydos take any train headed to Cairo and get off at Qena, where the station master will arrange a taxi and inform the tourist police. A policeman will accompany you in the taxi, but you won’t get a convoy. All trains except the Abela sleepers stop at Qena. Visiting Abydos, take the train to El Balyana. Again, all trains except sleepers stop here, but it’s a smaller, older station. El Balyana is around 3 hours from Luxor, Qena between 1½ & 2 hours.”

[http://www.seat61.com/GPN-728×90.htm]
Cairo to Port Said
Ord+ = Ordinary train, with 2nd class air-conditioned and 3rd class non-A/C.

Exp = Express train with air-conditioned 1st & 2nd class.

Fare: LE 20 one-way 2nd class (£2 or $4).

Cairo ► Port Said
Ord+ Exp Exp Ord+ Ord+ Ord+
Cairo depart 06:15 – 13:45 14:40 – 19:45
Alexandria depart
|

04:30
|

|

15:30
|

Port Said arrive 10:15 11:10 18:00 19:05 22:10 23:50

Port Said ► Cairo
Ord+ Ord+ Exp Ord+ Ord+ Exp Ord+
Port Said depart 05:30 07:25 09:30 13:00 17:30 18:25 18:15
Alexandria arrive | 13:30 | | | 00:35 |
Cairo arrive 09:45 – 13:35 17:10 21:35 – 00:50
Cairo to Suez
Fare: One-way 2nd class: about LE 7, or less than UK £1.

Ord = Ordinary train, with non-air-con 2nd & 3rd class.

Ord+ = Ordinary train, with air-con 2nd class & non-air-con 3rd class.

Cairo ► Suez
Ord Ord+ Ord Ord Ord Ord Ord
Cairo (main station) depart – 05:10 – – – – –
Cairo (Ain Shams station) depart 06:30 | 09:20 13:10 16:15 18:45 21:45
Suez arrive 08:40 09:50 11:35 15:20 18:30 21:00 00:00

Suez ► Cairo
Ord Ord Ord Ord+ Ord Ord Ord
Suez depart 06:00 10:10 13:10 15:25 15:50 19:00 21:25
Cairo (Ain Shams station) arrive 08:15 12:15 15:25 | 18:05 21:10 23:35
Cairo (main station) arrive – – – 20:05 – – –
Cairo / Alex to El Alamein & Mersa Matruh
Ord = Ordinary train, with 2nd & 3rd class seats, basic seating, not air-conditioned.

Note A = Express train with air-conditioned 1st & 2nd class seats, runs June-September only. At other periods, travel via Alexandria.

Note B = Sleeper, www.sleepingtrains.com. Runs 15 June-15 Sept on Monday, Wednesday, Saturday.

Note C = Sleeper, www.sleepingtrains.com. Runs 15 June-15 Sept on Tuesday, Thursday, Sunday.

Cairo / Alex ► Mersa Matruh

Mersa Matruh ► Alex / Cairo
Ord Note A Ord Note B Ord Note A Ord Note C
Cairo depart – 06:40 – 23:00 Mersa Matruh depart 07:05 13:35 15:45 23:00
Alexandria depart 06:40 | 13:30 | El Alamein depart 10:24 16:20 18:30 |
El Alamein arrive 09:24 11:45 17:17 | Alexandria arrive 13:30 | 21:15 |
Mersa Matruh arrive 12:05 14:15 20:20 06:00 Cairo arrive – 21:35 – 06:00
Fares: In the sleeper, Cairo to Mersa Matruh costs $43 per person sharing a 2-berth sleeper, $60 in a single-berth sleeper. Day train fares not known.

Abu Simbel
There are no trains to Abu Simbel, but a bus service operates from Aswan (275 km). It departs Aswan at 07:00, arriving Abu Simbel at 10:00. It leaves Abu Simbel at 13:00 arriving back in Aswan at 16:00. There are also many tourist day tours, most leaving Aswan very early – for example, 04:00 – for about LE55 (£5 or $9).

Sharm el Sheik, Hurghada, Siwa Oasis
Buses to Sharm el Sheik (Sinai)

There are no trains to Sharm el Sheik, but there are buses to and from Cairo, most run by the East Delta Bus Co, some by the Super Jet Bus Co. (neither company has a website, but try www.ask-aladdin.com for bus times). Sharm el Sheik to Cairo (485 km) takes about 7 hours by bus, and there are about 6 or 7 buses daily including an overnight bus. The fare is around LE68 (£8 or $12). Sharm El Sheik is the far side of the Gulf of Suez from the Nile Valley, so for Luxor you either need to return to Cairo by bus, then travel by train from Cairo to Luxor, or you can cross by ferry (3 weekly) from Sharm el Sheik to Hurghada, spend the night there then continue to Luxor by bus. There is a three-times-weekly fast ferry from Sharm el Sheik to Hurghada, plus a three-times-weekly slow ferry, although as at June 2011 these ferries have not been running for the past few months.

Buses to Hurghada
There are no trains to Hurghada but there are buses from both Cairo and Luxor, run by Super Jet or El Gouna bus companies (no website, but try www.ask-aladdin.com for bus times). Hurghada to Cairo (500 km) takes about 7 hours by bus with 3-4 departures daily, fare around LE55 (£5/$10). Hurghada to Luxor (255 km) takes 4 hours by bus, with 2 departures daily (around 06:00 and 12:00 from Luxor, 05:00 and 17:00 from Hurghada. There is a three-times-weekly fast ferry from Hurghada to Sharm el Sheik, plus a three-times-weekly slow ferry.

Siwa Oasis
There are no trains to Siwa. A daily bus links Siwa with Alexandria (590 km), departing Alex at 08:30, returning from Siwa at 08:00. It’s reported that there’s now a daily overnight bus from the Turgoman garage in Cairo at 18:45 to Siwa, arriving around 05:45 next morning. The fare is around LE 60. It’s run by the West Delta Bus co.

International buses & ferries from Egypt
There are no international trains from Egypt, but buses will get you to Libya, there’s a ferry to Jordan and a Nile steamer from Aswan to Sudan. There’s now a weekly ferry from Egypt to Venice in Italy, see the UK to Egypt section below, this is the ONLY passenger-carrying ferry between Egypt and anywhere in Europe & the Mediterranean.

Cairo – Amman (Jordan) – Damascus (Syria) – Istanbul (Turkey)…
There is a direct bus from Cairo to Amman four times a week, fare around £70 or $100, run by JETT of Jordan (www.jett.com.jo) and taking 20 hours, exact times & days of running northbound not known – note that this crosses Israel, and you may be refused entry to Syria later on if you have any sign of a visit to Israel in your passport. To buy northbound tickets or ask about the schedule northbound, email their Egyptian agents, superjet@post.com tel. 00 202 2290 9013.

Alternatively, if you want to avoid Israel, use a bus & ferry route:

Take a bus from Cairo to Nuweiba on the Red Sea. A bus leaves Cairo main bus station at around 08:00, taking about 6 hours to reach Nuweiba. It’s run by the Shark el Delta Bus Co.

Take the daily fast catamaran (departing 15:30, crossing 1 hour) or the daily conventional ferry (departing 14:00, crossing 3-4 hours) from Nuweiba to Aqaba in southern Jordan. The fare is about $60 for the ferry or $90 for the fast catamaran. You must check in at least 2 hours before departure, and pay your fare in US$ cash. There may also be an Egyptian exit tax to pay, about $10.

You will probably need to spend the night in Aqaba. There are regular buses and service taxis from Aqaba to Petra and Amman, costing around 3 or 4 JD, see the Jordan page.

For buses from Amman to Damascus in Syria, see the Jordan page.

For trains from Damascus to Aleppo & from Aleppo to Istanbul, see the Syria page.

Details of the southbound journey from Amman to Cairo are shown on the Jordan page.

Cairo – Tripoli (Libya) – Tunis (Tunisia) – Morocco…

IF you have a Libyan visa, there are buses from Egypt into Libya. However, at present the Libyan government will not grant visas for independent travel to Libya, only for people on tours organised by a recognised Libyan travel agency. There are buses from Libya into Tunisia, but it’s not possible to travel on to Morocco overland, as the Algerian/Moroccan border is closed and Algeria has security problems which make it a no-go zone for westerners.

Cairo – Aswan – Wadi Halfa – Khartoum (Sudan): See the Sudan page…
A weekly Nile steamer links Aswan with Wadi Halfa in the Sudan, with a twice-monthly train connection for Khartoum, see the Sudan page for details.

UK to Egypt without flying…
Valley of the Kings, Luxor: Entrance to the tomb of Tutankhamun.
Above: The entrance to Tutankhamun’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings at Luxor.

Option 1: London to Egypt by train & ferry. Not currently possible!

Adriatica Line’s ‘Espresso Egitto’ used to sail weekly from Venice and Piraeus to Alexandria. Michael Palin used it in 1989 and I used it in 1990 – Michael gets everywhere a year or two before I do, and he doesn’t have to pay for his own ticket. Sadly, the terrorist problems in Egypt ended this service. Until 2001, Salamis Lines sailed weekly from Greece to Egypt via Cyprus, but their services are now suspended because of the problems in Israel, the ship’s ultimate destination. Then a new weekly ferry service started on 20 May 2010 linking Venice in Italy with Alexandria in Egypt, see www.visemarline.com. However, sorry as I am to be proved right, this service didn’t last more than a year – it ran in a circle via Syria, and has fallen victim both to the problems in Egypt reducing tourist numbers and the current problems in Syria. The Visemar service was cancelled from May 2011, and although it may be reinstated from October, this will be a s a freight-only operation. So although the Mediterranean is full of useless cruise ships going round in circles, there are now sadly no proper scheduled shipping services at all linking Europe with Egypt.

Option 2: London to Egypt overland via Paris, Vienna, Istanbul, Syria & Jordan…

The alternative is to travel overland from the UK to Egypt via Istanbul, Syria and Jordan. This can be done mostly by train, with the odd bus and short ferry ride, in about 9 nights in total, including hotel nights in Istanbul, Adana, Aleppo, Damascus & Amman. However, this option is more of an adventure with many separate stages, rather than as a simple A to B means of transport. You may be inspired by a blog written about travel from the UK to Egypt this way, www.unplaned.com. Here are the stages, with links to the relevant seat61 page where each stage is explained:

See the London to Turkey page for details of train travel London-Istanbul. The journey takes 3 nights, and departures are daily.

Then see the Syria & Jordan pages for info on the train journey from Istanbul to Damascus and on to Amman. Expect this stage to take around 3 nights, depending on where and for how long you want to stop off.

From Amman, a long-distance bus leaves every Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday & Thursday at 14:00 from the Abdali bus station, taking some 20 hours to reach Cairo. It is run by Jordan Express Tourist Transportation (JETT), see www.jett.com.jo, telephone +962 6 5664146. The fare is 75.5 JD, about £69 or $102. For northbound buses from Cairo back to Amman, contact superjet@post.com, timetable not known. Note that this bus passes through Israel, so when travelling back north there will be problems re-entering Syria with evidence of a visit to Israel in your passport.

A better option, avoiding Israel is to take a bus or taxi from Amman or Petra to Aqaba for the ferry to Nuweiba in Egypt, for buses to Cairo. See the section above for more information on how to do this part of the journey.

To make a journey like this, you’ll probably want to book the London-Istanbul part in advance (see the Turkey page), and arrange visas for Syria, Jordan & Egypt before you leave, but buy tickets for the parts of the journey beyond Istanbul as you go along, with no pre-booking necessary (or in some cases, possible). In planning a trip like this, you may find this technique helpful.

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