Luxor Halal Travel
Covid-19 Situation in Egypt
The dynastic and religious capital of Middle Kingdom (circa 2050-1710 BCE) and New Kingdom (circa 1550-1080 BCE) Egypt, Luxor has much to offer the visitor, from vast temples, to ancient royal tombs, via spectacular desert and river scenery and a bustling modern life.
Thebes, the world heritage listed old capital of Egypt, was on the west bank of the Nile at Luxor. Most of Luxor’s ruins and tombs are there.
The modern city of Luxor is on the east bank. This area has the train and bus stations, most of the hotels and restaurants, some museums, tourist shops and so on. Most visitors (and almost all tour groups) stay on the east bank and travel across for the tourist sites but, in recent years, there has been an increase in hotels on the west bank and many independent travellers stay there.
However, Luxor is also known as the hassle capital of Egypt (and therefore a good candidate for the world). Instead, Aswan further south is quite the opposite and much more relaxed. It is a good alternative in case you want to skip the Luxor experience altogether but not miss the beauty of the Nile and the nearby attractive sights.
The weather is generally extremely hot in summer, while in winter it is generally warm, but may get cool at night. The climate is very dry with almost no rain at all and the sun shines all the year. The best time to visit is in winter, from November to the beginning of March.
Visas on arrival are available to many foreign nationals, just after you enter the terminal building leaving the plane. It is US$25 or equivalent, with most major foreign currencies accepted.
Luxor airport receives direct flights from several European cities, with most being inclusive package holidays, but they are often available to book flight only. There are also direct flights from the Gulf states. Egyptair and competitors fly frequently and direct from Cairo (1 hour), with day-trips feasible both ways, and good connections to Europe. Reaching Luxor from Alex or Sharm el-Sheik usually involves changing in Cairo, sometimes with lengthy stopovers.
Luxor International Airport (6 km east of the city). Facilities for passengers include a post office, a bank, ATM, a Bureau de change, restaurants, cafeterias, a VIP Lounge, a duty-free shop, a newsagent/tobacconist, a chemist shop, a gift shop, a travel agency, a tourist help desk, car rental.
Getting there: there are no public buses between the airport and the city Centre. If you do not have a shuttle provided by your hotel, take a taxi, which should cost no more than LE60-80. Ignore the picket of taxi drivers and touts just outside the airport doors. Keep walking until you find a taxi driver in his car and then negotiate. Keep a firm grip on your luggage as people will helpfully wrench it from you, carry it most of 5 m to the taxi & bus stand, then demand a fee. “Lah shukran, lah shukran . . . “: you will be saying that a lot in Luxor.
Luxor is on the railway mainline that follows the Nile north to Cairo (10 hr) and south to Aswan (3-4 hr). Train is an excellent way to travel between Aswan and Luxor as it is too short to fly, and buses are bumpy and not altogether safe. The train ride to and from Cairo is obviously slower than a flight, but comfortable and safe, and amazingly inexpensive.
From Cairo there are four types of train:
- Daytime expresses have 1st and 2nd class air-conditioned coaches called AC1 and AC2 with comfortable aircraft-style seats. They are a relaxing way to sit back and view the lush landscape of the Nile valley. Fares (as of Feb 2018) vary with the train, with a single ticket Cairo-Luxor costing LE115 to LE200 in AC1, and about 30-40% less in AC2. Soft drinks and snacks are served, and there may be a dining car, but best buy food and drinks beforehand.
- Overnight expresses, departing 9PM to 11PM, are identical to the daytime trains and have the same fares; they are not sleepers.
- Deluxe sleepers are run by a private company, Watania. These have modern air-conditioned sleeping-cars, with a choice of 1- and 2-berth cabins and a club/lounge car. An evening meal and breakfast are included in the fare. As of Feb 2018, prices one way between Cairo and Luxor or Aswan are US$110 for a single berth, or US$80 sharing a 2-berth cabin. One sleeper runs nightly year-round, southbound from Cairo Ramses around 8PM, and northbound from Luxor around 11PM. Extra sleepers run at busy times but note that these train may commence from Giza rather than from Cairo Ramses station.
- Local trains – Non a/c trains lumber between Cairo and Luxor, daytime and overnight, stopping at most stations – some commence in Alexandria. These are not much slower, but they are incredibly cheap.
Most of these trains continue to Aswan (and since they have started from Cairo, are often late leaving Luxor). The expresses are run by Egyptian National Railways (ENR) – check timetables and prices, and make bookings, with them direct. ENR also runs the ordinary trains but these are not bookable and not shown on timetables, buy your ticket at the station. The de luxe sleepers should be booked online with Watania.
Express tickets can also be bought at the station but in 2017/18, Cairo Ramses and Giza stations has often refused to sell daytime tickets to tourists, claiming they are only allowed on the overnight train. This is bunkum and there are no similar problems buying such tickets at other stations, northbound Aswan/Luxor to Cairo, online or even in simply boarding the daytime train without a ticket (then just pay to the train conductor, however this way you won’t get a designated seat number and risk standing at least some part of a trip).
Luxor train station.
Buses leave regularly from behind Luxor Temple, to most major cities. Bus is a good way from/to Hurghada, e.g.:
- Go Bus (the Station is just north from the railway station main entrance in Luxor). To Hurghada at 8:00AM and 3:30PM, LE110 (Jan 2019).
- Upper Egypt Bus Co. Departs from Hurghada (beside El-Fardous Hotel, El-Maer St.) at 10:00AM, 1:00PM, 7:30PM, 10:30PM, 1:00AM, 3:00AM. 2½ hr. From LE40 one way.
For Aswan train is better. For Cairo or Alexandria likewise take the train or fly.
Nile boat cruises regularly call at Luxor, but these are package itineraries and not available to book as point to point ferries.
It may be possible to reach Aswan by a felucca cruise on the Nile. First you will have to travel south by train or microbus to join the felucca at Edfu, as they will not venture north of the Nile river locks there. The river journey takes two days. The prices are wildly negotiable, expect a starting price of LE700 and aim to settle for LE300.
Luxor is brimming with rental shops for bikes and a great many hotels also hire out bicycles. Rental rates vary from roughly LE5-20, depending on your bargaining skills, the relative demand on bikes that day and the quality of the bike in question. Check the tires and be wary of last minute inflating as they may deflate just as fast. It is normal to be asked to leave behind your passport, drivers licence or student ID card as a deposit. Bikes can be rented on both the East and West Banks of Luxor (the latter near the local ferry landing), though the choice and quality of bikes is usually better in the East, and prices can be a little over-inflated on the more isolated West. If you look for high quality bicycles, you can find Dutch bikes (gazelle/batavus) at the Dutch Rental Agency in Sheraton Street (East Bank)and in the Souk just when you leave the ferry (West Bank). Bikes can be taken on board the local ferry (be considerate though), so perhaps hire on the East, then transport your bike over yourself. Watch Egyptian traffic before deciding if you want to ride a bike through it.
The East Bank is the metropolitan side, so consider the traffic and crowds while deciding whether to bike on that side. The West bank in contrast is much more rural, and many visitors opt to bicycle among the fields here while getting themselves between the tourist sites.
At the sites, guards will try to convince you to avoid locking your bicycle as they will watch it. Which they will do very well, and then demand a tip for having done so. Lock your bike yourself to avoid this unnecessary expense.
For the even more brave, Luxor is brimming with Chinese motorcycles around 150cc. With the right bargaining skills you can net one for LE50 per hour, or less for the day or evening. In the summer, the roads around the West Bank are relatively empty, and motorcycling around the ruins and mountains is easy and efficient. In a slow season, many are willing to rent you their own motorcycle for the right price. Ask for a helmet — you won’t get one otherwise .
Taxis are plentiful in Luxor. They have no meters, but there are current rates that are accepted if you stay firm. Short trips within Luxor are between LE15 and LE25 (first offer from taxi driver will inevitably be LE50+). A round trip to the West Bank is about LE100.
The Sheraton Luxor Resort has a list of current (overpriced) taxi rates from their hotel to a number of destinations that can be used as a handy reference.
Travel by minivan in Luxor
Minibuses are the transportation of the locals in Luxor, and the cheapest way to get around for the adventurous tourist. They all have the same shape so are easily recognized. They have fixed routes, with different routes marked by a different colour on the side of the minibus. However there are no maps of the routes, the locals just seem to know them by heart. All bus routes seem to converge at the railway station. Hail a bus by looking at it while it is approaching, and raise your arm. When the bus is full it will not stop (there are about 14 seats in a bus). Otherwise you can jump in, take an empty seat, and pass money to the driver, a flat LE1.50 per person (as of Jan 2019) for a ride (no haggling required). When you do not pay while you sit down, they will assume you do not know the price and the driver will charge you LE2 when you get off. Getting off is possible anytime, and is done by simply asking the driver to stop.
An essential way of getting between the East and West banks of Luxor is to use a boat. The blue local ferry is a very basic boat between East and West that costs LE2 for foreigners (as of Oct 2018). The downside is that the ferry only leaves when it is full, or when another ferry arrives, so taking the ferry is in general slower although you avoid the haggling. Nevertheless, during the day ferries departs often enough not to waste your time. Taxis are available at the ferry terminal on both sides, and the trip takes just a few minutes.
Otherwise, motorboat launches (often called “lunches”) will take you around, e.g. from the Winter Palace Hotel to the East Bank ferry dock—as of Oct 2018, LE20 for one or two people during the day, or LE25 at night (You will likely be asked for more, so haggling is appropriate). If you are going up or down river, e.g. to Karnak Temple or Luxor Museum, you will likely end up paying LE30 or more.
As you walk by the river, dozens of felucca owners will also offer you their services to haul you over the river, and normally a taxi driver will be on standby on the other side.
Calèches, or horse-drawn carriages, are common on the east bank and are a delightful way to see the city, especially at night-time. Prices vary according to bargaining skill, but LE20 per hour seems common.
However, a number of animal rights groups have advised against calèches due to the poor treatment of the horses. It is not uncommon for drivers to beat their horses, and most Western tourists will notice many skinny and scarred animals. This does not mean that all drivers are to be avoided, some are reputable. Use common sense when choosing.
Beware of using the same driver for several days in a row. At the end he may decide he has undercharged you in some way for previous trips and may ask for a lot more, for things which “wasn’t” included, such as waiting around while you visited a temple, all the money paid before went to the boss and none to your driver, a tip for the horse, in the original price. It might be best to use a different driver each trip and not book a previously used driver to avoid this possible scenario from happening even if he does seem more pleasant than most to start.
It is also possible to travel around the tourist district on foot during the cooler parts of the day, provided you have a good sense of direction. To avoid unwanted attention you will need to constantly repeat the words “no hassle”, or “laa, shukran”, which means “no, thank you” in Arabic. Also, be prepared to yell out for the Tourist Police if you have any concerns for your safety. There are usually always some policemen nearby since they may be also wearing civilian clothes.
A good tactic for avoiding hassle is to buy an Egyptian paper each day (in Arabic) and carry this with you. Locals will assume that you know Arabic (and therefore their tricks) and leave you alone. Egyptian papers cost around LE1.