In Singapore, where I come from, “Annual Leave” (AL) is a precious “commodity”.
Some people “sell it” (better money than time off), others “burn it away” (too busy to take leave), but a good many of us use it for vacations. After all, Singaporeans are supposedly some of the most traveled people in this part of the world.
However, “Annual Leave” is rather limited. Some of us have just 7 days, others 14, 21, and I happen to be one of the fortunate few with close to 30 days of leave. So, each day of AL really counts, and we really wouldn’t waste it on just anywhere.
Yes, I get it, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, or Thailand, are all great places for a short get away.
But what about North East Africa? Specifically, Egypt; I’d say that makes an interesting vacation proposition with 5 working days of leave. Add in the weekends, and assuming you fly off on a Friday night, you should have at least a full 7 days (a week) of vacation time.
Egypt is not overly exotic, has enough “Instagram-able attractions” to excite the typical tourist, and on a whole, offers a very different cultural experience from the usual Japan, Thailand kind of vacations that many have been accustomed to.
With that, let’s take a look at how you can get started on your 7 day Egyptian Vacation....
1. Take Your 5 days leave from Monday to Friday.
2. Your Flight Should Depart On A Friday Night, Returning the following Saturday
3. Visit the Egyptian Embassy In Your Country (there is also Visa on Arrival) if you don’t mind the extra queue at the airport.
To get your Visa approved, you’ll need
- S$65 Visa Fee
- One Colored Passport Photo
- Photocopy & Original Passport/NRIC (for Singaporeans)
- Flight TicketsHotel Reservations
- Visa Application Form
It takes roughly 4-5 working days for the embassy to process your Visa. And that’s it, you’re good to go!
And if you're wondering, exactly where in Egypt Can You Visit In Just 7 days WITHOUT Rushing? Well, you can visit the "Tourist Route"
If you’ve more days, you can visit Alexandria (like a European Port City), Hughada and Sharm El Sheikh (Egypt’s Red Sea coast/beach town). For all of that, you’ll need 2 weeks. But if you're short of AL like most people are, here's a sample itinerary you can follow.
And there you go! An itinerary requiring 5 working days leave, totaling 8 days in Egypt, at a cost of S$2,335.
By local travel agency standards, they'd be marketing this as a 10 Day 7 Night Egyptian Experience!
- "Day 1, Assemble at Changi Airport and a begin your holiday with a pleasant flight to Egypt! "
- "Day 10, Arrival in Singapore. We hope you had an enjoyable vacation and look forward to bring you to your next destination!"
Me? I'll just keep it simple and call it a trip made possible with just 5 days of AL. So anyway, read on for a little more on how your trip will be like.
[Day 1, Cairo City & The Souks, & The Sleeper Train]
If you depart Singapore on a Friday night, you’ll reach Cairo early Saturday morning at around 8am. That leaves you with a full day for sightseeing the “non Pyramid” attractions before you catch the overnight sleeper train to Aswan at around 7:45pm in the evening.
For most of the day, you’ll want to check out “Downtown Cairo”, a district of run down French buildings which gave the Cairo the nickname of “Paris of the East”. But before that, there’s an interesting attraction to visit, the Cave Churches of “Garbage City”. Or, you could visit the Egyptian museum (near Downtown Cairo) to start building up the anticipation of what you'll be seeing over the next week.
Still, there’s no hurry to rush through everything today, after all, you’ll have a day and a half, almost 2 days back in Cairo again at the end of your trip before your flight back to Singapore leaves at around 8pm the following Saturday night.
But remember, before you head for the railway station in the evening, remember to check out Cairo’s famous night market, the Souk’s of Khan El Khalili, one of the worlds great shopping experiences, and just 10mins taxi ride away from the railway station.
Give yourself say 2-3 hours here so you leisurely explore the souks where you’ll be able to put your bargaining skills that you’ve acquired from countless trips to Bangkok to the test.
Besides shopping and sampling local Egyptian snacks, the souks are also a great place to unwind and “people watch” over a good tea and smoke. Yes, the shisha’s here are really cheap.
At around 7pm, you should start to make your way to the nearby Ramses Railway Station where your sleeper train awaits. You should get there early to check out Cairo’s main railway station and load up some snacks for your overnight train journey.
“Rail Travel” in Egypt is a fascinating experience. Stepping into an old Egyptian train is an experience in itself. The musty smell of cigarette smoke (yes, Egyptians are big on smoking) hits your nostrils the second you step onboard.
Fortunately, as a tourist, you’ll be sleeping in the “First Class” Sleeper. It’s a lot better there (for non smokers), and you’ll have a hot meal, a comfortable bed, and a washbasin all to yourself.
You can even pay for hot coffee and tea to wash your dinner down. And it’s here in this train, that it’ll finally hit you; that your not on vacation just anywhere, but you’re in Egypt, and THIS, is the start of the “Egyptian experience”.
Let just say that in my book, the overnight Egyptian Rail experience is a key attraction, and I wouldn’t replace it with any other form of transport to get to Aswan.
[Day 2, Aswan & The First Sightings of Archaeological Sites]
The sleeper train pulls into Aswan before 10am on Sunday.
Again, that gives you pretty much a full day in this part of Egypt. Depending on whether you like Aswan or Luxor, you’ll have minimally 2 nights in Aswan.
Aswan is a key part of the typical Egyptian tourist trail, and a large part is due to its proximity to the iconic Temples of Abu Simbel near the Sudanese Border. It takes slightly over 3 hours to get from Aswan to Abu Simbal, but more on that later, let’s take a look at what you can see & do in Aswan on your 2nd day in Egypt.
Philae Temple is undoubtedly Aswan’s key highlight aside from Abu Simbel. I won’t bore you with the history of the temple since you can get that off the internet or read about it when you’re there.
Of course, there are other smaller attractions like the “Unfinished Obelisk”, the Aswan High Dam and the Nubian Museum, but how much of an attraction those are, depends on how much you are into Egyptian history. If you’re just the typical tourist out for “instagram-able” backdrops, Philae Temple will interest you the most.
The attractions I’ve listed above will last you all the way till the evening where when it’s time for a nice dinner or if you’d like to be pulled around in a horse carriage to enjoy the lights of Aswan. You’ll need to have an early night though, because tomorrow, you’re going to be up early.
How early? 4.30am kind of early. Because you’re headed for a long drive to Sudanese border, on your way toward the Temples of Abu Simbel, the biggest attraction in all of Aswan.
[Day 3, Temple of Abu Simbel, Elephantine Island, The Nubian Village]
The time is 430am, and you’re catching up on sleep in what should be a 3 hour bus ride to the Sudanese border.
That’s how far the Temples of Abu Simbel are. Still, it’s all going to be worth it.
The Abu Simbel Temples are massive rock temples sitting in close proximity to Sudan, by the Western Bank of Lake Nasser.
The temples were carved out of the mountainside during the reign of Pharaoh Ramesses II and are today, the most iconic attraction in Egypt after the Giza Pyramids.
Because you start the day so early, the whole “day trip” is over by 1pm in the afternoon. 3 hours from Aswan to the temple, slightly over 2 hours to explore, and another 3 hours back.
You’ll have seen one of Egypt’s key attractions and guess what? You still have the whole day in front of you.
In case you’re wondering, I’m not suggesting cramming everything into one day to save time hence the 430 am start.
It’s because 430 am (or earlier) is the best slot of visiting the temples because of how long it takes to get to and fro. And also, arriving in the afternoon will see you melt from the heatwave.