A Backpacker’s Guide to Egypt

Traveling to Egypt may not top every backpacker’s to-do list, but this fascinating country is a gateway to the ancient world. Starting your journey in a Cairo hostel, the land of the Pharaohs is your oyster, with the pyramids at Giza and living museum Luxor are within easy reach.

Aside from the ancient monuments and dusty tombs, the Red Sea is home to some of the best diving spots in the world, and modern day Cairo’s lively clubs and bars would make the fun-loving Pharaohs proud. And of course you can indulge your inner Indiana Jones wandering around the Pyramids, trekking across the dunes of the Sahara, or riding in a boat along the Nile…

Egypt Pyramids. Photo credit - Aesum.

Egypt Pyramids. Photo credit - Aesum.

Getting Around
Buses are the easiest and cheapest way to get around the country from Cairo, as the service is reliable and relatively safe. The buses vary in quality depending on how touristy the destination – Dahab, Sharm el Sheikh and Luxor are served by slightly more expensive buses with air conditioning and toilets.

The Blue Mosque. Photo credit - Javier D.

The Blue Mosque. Photo credit - Javier D.


Modern day Cairo is certainly hectic, but the capital is an essential first stop on any Egyptian tour. The Egyptian Museum is a vast cave of ancient treasures, and home of the golden face of Tutankhamen. It’s a great way to cool off from the heated streets, and the crowds aren’t too hectic in the afternoon.

The city is also home to scores of Arab architecture and medieval sites from the days of Saladin. The ‘Blue’ Mosque, made of ink and turquoise mosaic tiles, was built in 1347 and is Cairo’s prettiest, and the minaret of the Ahmad Ibn Tulun Mosque boasts the best view over the city.

Cairo’s bustling bazaars and souks are a sensual feast of fragrant spices and sheesha pipes, brightly coloured fabrics and stalls crammed into the marketplace. Perfect for sourcing an exotic souvenir, you’ll need razor-sharp haggling skills.

Cruising the River Nile in a felucca. Photo credit - khowaga.

Cruising the River Nile in a felucca. Photo credit - khowaga.

After sundown, the souks are packed with snake-charmers and belly-dancers. For more modern entertainment, head to Zamelek for bustling outdoor bars and hipper-than-thou clubs. For a more relaxing classical attraction, the River Nile has been the lifeblood of Egypt since ancient times, and the ultimate way to see the city is to glide through the heart of Cairo on a felucca, a traditional Egyptian wooden boat.

Giza Pyramids. Photo credit - Khalid Almasoud.

Giza Pyramids. Photo credit - Khalid Almasoud.


One of the seven wonders of the ancient world, Giza may be touristy, but the three famous pyramids and the grand Sphinx are simply unmissable. If you must take a horse or camel ride around the pyramids, agree to the price first, or you’ll end up ripped off, or stranded on a camel!

Luxor. Photo credit - Mossaiq.

Luxor. Photo credit - Mossaiq.


Luxor feels like an outdoor museum, its nineteenth-century boulevards lined with ancient temples and monuments. The Karnak Complex is home to the biggest temple in Egypt, as well as obelisks, sphinxes and all manner of ancient paraphernalia. Take a tour to the Valley of the Kings in Thebes for the cursed tomb of Tutankhamen and Ramses VI.

One of Egypt's oldest Coptic monasteries – St Anthony. Photo credit - gotplaid?

One of Egypt's oldest Coptic monasteries – St Anthony. Photo credit - gotplaid?

Other Top Sites

The list of must-see ancient sites is overwhelming in a country so rich with history, but there are a couple worth making the extra trek for. For a change of scene away from the rampant tourism of the major sites, check out Egypt’s oldest Coptic monasteries St Anthony and St Paul, hidden amidst the arid mountains and barren cliffs of the Red Sea. The surrounding desert is breathtaking, and the monasteries themselves have a fascinating past.

The catacombs of Kom es-Shoqafa in Alexandria are a more ghoulish sight – these subterranean tombs tunnel underneath solid rock, and are filled with the burial chambers of a wealthy family from 2AD. A mix of Egyptian relics and Greco-Roman architecture, these tombs document the dying days of the ancient Egyptian faith.

A small coastal town by the Sinai Peninsula. Photo credit - FrankDaSilva.

A small coastal town by the Sinai Peninsula. Photo credit - FrankDaSilva.

Diving in the Red Sea

If you’re feeling all Pharaoh-ed out, try diving the Sinai Peninsula at the resort of Sharm El Sheikh. Experienced divers can take a boat trip from one of the diving shops to Ras Mohammed National Park, and first timers can learn the ropes by snorkeling in the shallow reefs of Middle Garden.

Whatever your level of diving expertise, the exotic marine life, unbelievably clear waters and rainbow coral reef make this one of the best diving spots in the world. If you don’t fancy diving into the deep blue, the postcard perfect beaches are the perfect place to recover from hours of trekking through ancient sites.

Enjoyed this article? Check out our other travel inspirations to Central Asia – Dubai’s Coastal ParadiseBeach Fun in IsraelMiddle Eastern Cuisine

About the Author. Lauren Smith. Lauren writes for HostelBloggers, the Insider’s Guide to Budget Travel. She wants to travel the world on a shoestring, and tries to cram in as much backpacking as possible when she’s not at work!


18 Comments on "A Backpacker’s Guide to Egypt"

  1. Sanjeevan Jeevaratnam on Sat, 13th Jun 2009 5:16 am 

    Hi making a comment to test facebook connect… Thanks for your understanding.

  2. Central Asia | Kazakhstan, The Stans Part I | Unearthing Asia on Mon, 29th Mar 2010 6:31 pm 

    […] this article? Check out our other travel inspirations to Central Asia – Backpacking in Egypt – Beach Fun in Israel – Middle Eastern […]

  3. oh jia jun on Wed, 30th Jun 2010 2:24 pm 

    nice view n good expriend hear from you . thank you.

  4. Nien on Wed, 13th Oct 2010 2:40 am 

    Hi Lauren,
    Glad that you posted this interesting & informative article.
    Look forward to your coming post.


  5. prizka on Sat, 23rd Oct 2010 3:15 am 

    its great..

  6. handayani on Tue, 28th Dec 2010 6:14 am 

    egypt is very beautiful

  7. santi ong on Tue, 4th Jan 2011 11:55 am 

    hmmmm…. sounds good to try…

  8. yuni on Fri, 14th Jan 2011 12:58 pm 

    i want to feel become a backpacker i think is very nice,cool and that’s my dream.i want to feel a backpacker in egypt,perancis and all country in the world

  9. irtie on Sun, 16th Jan 2011 5:53 am 

    Interesting experience, wanna try to be a traveler too.. keep posting..

  10. Isna on Tue, 18th Jan 2011 7:02 am 

    What a beautiful place ! feel like be there

  11. dian on Sat, 22nd Jan 2011 5:35 am 

    So many beautyfull place in the world 2 keep it. Do it n…take me there

  12. shahbaz on Wed, 2nd Feb 2011 1:51 pm 

    its good skatch of Egypt.

  13. Rawidya on Sat, 19th Mar 2011 9:42 am 

    I’ve been there a couple years ago, yes Egypt is really interesting. Cruising the Nile & seeing the sun goes down. Seeing the gigantic pyramids, sphinx, visiting Karnak temple, etc. etc. it’s really an unforgettable experience.

  14. johannes rollie on Wed, 20th Apr 2011 6:50 am 

    i will be there…….i love piramide n spink…

  15. hikma on Fri, 23rd Sep 2011 3:18 am 

    apa gau”

  16. unas on Fri, 23rd Sep 2011 3:22 am 

    paka sirina bela

  17. Nick Smith on Thu, 26th Apr 2012 3:25 pm 

    Always wanted to go to Egypt. This page has given me a good starting point of what to do.

  18. Baron's on Thu, 24th May 2012 6:28 am 

    Good stuff…sure seems like a lot of things to do in and around Cairo…I am interested in old architecture so it will be interesting to see what Cairo has to offer

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