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                                   Official Flag of Egypt bearing the national emblem of the shield of Saladin

          Best Places to Visit in Egypt


River Cruising and the Nile


A river cruise can be a delightful way to see the ancient Egyptian temples along the Nile, as well as to take in the Egyptian countryside.   In addition, cruising Lake Nasser is the best way to see  the numerous monuments that required relocation to escape the rising water of the lake after construction started on the High Dam at Aswan.

If adverse to a river cruise, you could arrange a land tour and  travel directly to Cairo, Luxor and Aswan, perhaps with a side trip to Abu Simbel,  but doing so would be a poor substitute for cruises of the Nile or Lake Nasser, at least in our opinion.


The view of the Nile Valley from its river helps inform you both of the history and the modern challenges facing Egypt. Moreover, sitting on the sun deck of one of the river cruisers and observing, reading, or sun bathing while you are traveling between attractions is a relaxing treat. At night, most boats offer some modest entertainment in the form of a DJ, a modest musical show highlighting the Nubian culture, or a night for travelers to party in their newly purchased galabias, a traditional Egyptian outfit.

Besides the enjoyment of river cruising other advantages of this mode of travel are that you do not need to change hotels, unpack and pack luggage frequently, or make arrangements at each location to see the attractions of interest.

                      The Nile is a scenic river and a delight to cruise

River Cruises

There are many choices to make when considering a Nile cruise and among them are these:

Quality levels – how important is the boat and its service levels to you? Service level and the quality of accommodations vary and you need to research which company provides the quality that you are willing to accept at a price with which you are comfortable.

Duration – how long do you want to be on the water and what pace do you want to take visiting the attractions? Most Nile River cruises start in Luxor or Aswan and take in the attractions at one location and then head for the other with a few stops in between. More leisurely cruises start in Luxor, cruise to Aswan and then make more stops on a return to Luxor. The choice is really dependent on how much time you have, what you want to see, and the pace at which you are willing to travel. Many tours have aggressive itineraries that can be quite a active and require early rising, so be sure your choice reflects your ideal vacation.

In the summer of 2012 Egyptian authorities announced that cruises would once again be allowed to navigate from Cairo to Luxor and beyond.  Previous to this announcement, cruises along this stretch of the Nile were not allowed due to political sensitivities in the areas between Cairo and Luxor related to local opposition by Islamic fundamentalist to non-Muslims visiting this area.  Whether major river cruise lines will add the option to tour between Cairo and Luxor/Aswan is not yet clear.


Except for time on the river and the pace of touring, there is little differentiation between the itineraries of cruises on the Nile.  River journeys start in Luxor and end in Aswan, or the reverse There are a number of temples, monuments and attractions at each location that you will be able to tour at the start or end of your tour.  In between you will be offered the opportunity to tour Edfu Temple and Kom Obo, as well as a few other sites on longer cruises.

 Pricing – varies widely based on amenities desired, the level/deck of the ship on which the stateroom is located (higher decks generally cost more) and the types of tours you desire.  Although the major attractions are part of all tour packages, extras such a hot air balloon flights and light shows at the temples are additions to the normal fare.

                                     A typical Nile river cruiser, this one from Movenpick

Tipping – it is customary to leave a tip for the crew when departing the boat. This can be settled at the ship’s desk and is usually in the range of 5-7 (USD) per night, per person.   Consider compensating bus drivers $3 (USD) per day, per person, carriage drivers $3,  guides/Egyptologists $7 - $9 (USD) per day, per person. On other issue you need to know is the concept of Baksheesh, which we cover here. It’s somewhat like tipping, but the level of service may be more difficult to appreciate.

Daily Details

Many boats carry multiple groups touring under the guidance of different tour companies. You will be expected to join with your touring comrades for meals at tables that will be set aside for your tour group, although mixing between the groups is allowed.

                                  A river-side restaurant in Kom Ombo north of Aswan

Your meals will usually be buffet style and the lines for food can be long during high season. An occasional lunch or dinner will be from a menu, but these are the exceptions rather than the rule.

Meal service usually includes wine, or soft drink, although bottled water and fruit juices are usually available at one of the buffet tables.


Sightseeing is, of course, the main reason to take one of these cruises and you will usually see several attractions each day.  Be prepared to rise early If you opt for additional tours, as these usually take place before the set daily schedule.

Most boats have a lounge where beverages including alcohol are available. Most Egyptians are Islamic and do not drink, so do not expect your mixed drink to be one of the best that you have ever had, as the bartender likely has never tasted a properly made mixed-drink, such as a martini.

                                 Several historic ruins can be seen  while cruising the Nile

Entertainment is usually limited to music provided by a DJ. On some lines there will be a night featuring live Nubian music. A common theme is a Galabia Party, in which visitors to Egypt dress up in an authentic Egyptian outfit. Most participants buy these at one of the stops and they can be expensive if you want quality merchandise. For most, you can find a suitable outfit for under $10 (USD), if you are willing to bargain.

                                A Nubian dance  and music from a show on one of the river cruisers

When you are not touring, the upper deck usually has a small pool, a bar and deck furniture to spend some time in the sun, or in the shade playing cards, reading or just watching the lovely scenery as your ship navigates the Nile.


You will spend the majority of your onboard time catching up on your sleep and preparing for the next day’s adventure, so it is often useful to think of and evaluate your  river cruise boats as a floating hotel.

                                 The cabin crew surprised us each day with a new towel sculpture

Boats do much of their cruising at night , so you will not see large swaths of the countryside, which is predominately agricultural between Luxor and Aswan. 

When you dock, the traffic on the river may be quite heavy and the cruise boats often dock next to each other. It is not uncommon to depart your boat and cross through two or three others on your way to the landing.

Things to know

Boarding – Most lines will issue you an identity ticket when you leave the boat for the day’s touring and require it back when you board. This is a simple measure to ensure that those re-boarding the boat are actually paying customers and on the right boat.

Laundry - We found laundry prices to be quite reasonable and service prompt. This is a great way to refresh your wardrobe at the midway point of the tour.

Electricity - Egypt uses the round plug-style (European) 220V power system, so you may need a travel power converter if you are from a non-220 volt country (the US is 110v) and a plug adapter to use with it. Many bathrooms have shaver plugs that accommodate U.S. style plugs, although they do not always work.  Note some of your electronic equipment may be dual voltage.  If this is the case, the device can run on the more than one power level, but you may need an adaptor plug to mate you plug with the sockets used in Egypt.  If  your device is dual voltage it should not be used with a voltage converter, which may damage the device.

Weather - Although we often think of Egypt as a warm, arid country, it can be quite cool  in winter and you can expect rain in Cairo during the winter and early spring. Be sure to take a light jacket just in case. Also, note, that the temperature in the desert drops quickly at night and it can feel quite cool. after sunset

Toilets while touring.  You will find many of the toilets, especially the facilities for women, not up to your standards. Attendants will expect a tip (baksheesh) when you enter the facility and for this they  will dispense two sheets of tissue that  will feel as if it was petrified wood only a few days ago. The toilet stall will often be filthy, so take a package of toilet seat covers and a packet of tissue, because the two sheets dispensed might not be adequate for your needs. Public toilets seem to be cleaner in Nubia, but in Lower Egypt, even Cairo, they leave a lot to be desired.

In many of the more popular tourist locations you may see portable trucks trailers that contain a number of toilet stalls. Usually these portable toilets are cleaner than the alternatives. Of course, you will still have to pay the attendant so have some Egyptian coins at the ready.


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Best Places To Visit in Egypt

Nile - Luxor to Aswan
Aswan Area
Abu Simbel
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