Travel Experiences With SOS Global Indians™: India to The USA via Egypt

I recently used this route to bring my parents to Seattle with 14 days in Egypt. I thought this was a great option for various reasons. A friend suggested I write a post on here so it might help anyone considering alternatives to the regular routes through Mexico/Maldives.

The rationale for choosing Egypt:

  1. Compared to Mexico or Maldives, Egypt has very low number of Covid cases being reported. Based on CDC website:
    1. Level 4 Very High Risk – Maldives, UAE (Dubai)
    2. Level 3 High Risk – Mexico, Qatar,
    3. Level 2 Moderate Risk – Egypt
  2. Cheaper compared to other options: When I was researching options, a package in Maldives costed $4300 for a couple for 14 days + flight tickets (About $2000+). Mexico was something similar. For Egypt, the entire trip might cost around the same or less depending on how you plan it. You can make it as cheap as you want. Also if you are comparing, you should consider that the cost for Egypt includes sightseeing, travel, entry tickets, food etc. and not just staying in a resort for 14 days unless you choose that option in Egypt.
  3. Egypt is a country which depends on Tourism as major source of income and is setup to handle tourists. So, if my parents had to travel just by themselves, the tour agencies will take care of everything.
  4. My second biggest reason for choosing Egypt after low Covid cases: Why would I spend 14 days stuck in a resort if I can explore the ancient world. See one of the wonders of the world – Pyramids and explore the ancient Egyptian temples.
  5. Egypt does not have any restrictions on tourists if you test negative for Covid. We are free to do anything we want.

My experience in Egypt:

  • Pyramids are just awe inspiring.
  • Egyptian temples must see for anyone interested in history.
  • So may activities to keep you occupied for 14 days.
  • I think it was due to summer, almost every place we visited, it was not crowded. There were very few tourists. So, we were relaxed.
  • People are very very very friendly and helpful. They love Indians and consider us as their cousins.
  • Cairo is very much like a big city in India.
  • Crime is not a big deal. Online websites talk about pickpockets at the max, but you are mostly going to be with your tour guide/company and there are hardly any chances for any crime to happen. Also, Egyptians are very friendly and know that their economy depends on tourism. So, they try to protect the tourists.
  • Food is mostly grilled meat with rice and a vegetable curry may be. There are vegetarian options. Usually, Falafel or grilled vegetables with rice.
  • The cities feel just like India. There are grocery shops/tea shops at every street corner.
  • The weather is hot. The temperature is between 36 and 41 degrees Celsius. We were ok with it as it is like Chennai in Summer.
  • You can find cheap hotel from $20 a night to 5-star hotels at $80 -100 a night.
  • Online sites warn about hawkers thronging you at various tourist locations. We did not have this experience. May be at one location, there were a couple of hawkers trying to sell stuff, but most others sit at their shop and talk to you. You can just ignore them and keep walking. We were not bothered too much about it.

Checklist:

  • Valid PCR test taken within 72 hrs before departure from India.
  • Passport valid for 6 months.
  • Print out of eVisa.
  • Egypt will perform a ID Now test as soon as you land. Only if you test negative, you will be allowed to enter the country. I did not pay for it, but looks like they are starting to charge for it. It might cost around 1000 EGP.
  • To leave Egypt and go to USA, PCR test taken within 3 days of departure. (USA does not specify 72hrs. It says 3 days because they will accept a test performed any time within 3 days. A test taken at 1am on 22nd will be valid to board a flight to USA anytime on 22nd, 23rd, 24th and 25th till 11pm).
  • Valid visa to enter USA.
  • A return ticket from USA to India.

Logistics:

  • I travelled to Cairo from Seattle to be with my parents. My parents travelled from Chennai to Cairo.
  • Qatar Airways – Chennai – Doha – Cairo. The tickets were around Rs.43000 per ticket.
  • In Egypt, we used a tour agency. I paid them $550 per person for seeing Cairo and dropping us off at Hurghada (Beach town), pick us back up and take us to Cairo and drop us off at the Cairo airport.
  • Qatar Airways – Cairo – Doha – Seattle – about $1170 per person.
  • As an Indian, you need to have a tour agent come to the airport and meet you before the immigration to take you through immigration and drop you off at the airport. Tour companies will do only this for $50 for the group.
  • For the rest of the trip, you can explore on your own, have a completely planned tour using a company or just go to Hurghada and stay in a beach resort.
  • Tour companies are very flexible and anything you want, they will make it happen. I had requested my tour company that I want a vaccinated driver, guide. The same driver/guide/vehicle should stay with us for the entire trip. They happily made it happen. They also planned my trip, so we saw only outdoor sights. We avoided any indoor activity to be safe.
  • There is an app called talabat. You can use that get groceries/food from restaurants delivered to your address
  • Our Airbnb host in Cairo was such a sweetheart. She was always ready to help, spoke excellent English and made us Egyptian sweets multiple times. In general, I saw that Airbnb hosts are very responsive and helpful. I was always looking for Super hosts with ratings more than 4 star.

Visa:

Egypt is issuing eVisa for Indian passport holders. You can apply online at https://www.visa2egypt.gov.eg/

 . The process is simple and easy. Once you apply online, it usually takes 2 days for them to send you the visa through email. It costs $25 per person.

Tour Companies:

  • Memphis tours: We used them. They are amazing and I would highly recommend them. Very very helpful. Contact: Mai – mai@memphistours.com
  • Djed Egypt Tours: This is another company I explored. They are awesome as well. I did not use them, but I would recommend them.
  • High end Journeys: This is another company which was recommended by my friend who lives in Cairo. They were great as well. I did not choose them as they were a little expensive.

Mobile Sim/Data:

It is useful to have a local sim. When you leave the baggage claim area and walk outside, you will see mobile provider stalls for Vodafone, Etisalat, and We. They all have similar packages for travellers. I got Vodafone cause I read it had the best coverage. However, I found that Etisalat had better coverage. (My parent’s phone was on International roaming and always had coverage through Etisalat even when Vodofone had no coverage). Usually, you have two options – 8 GB for around 200 EGP and 30 GB for around 500 EGP. I got the 30GB as I had to work from home. It was very useful as the wifi in the hotels was not consistent and usually was very slow.

Our Trip:

Aug 10th – Landed in Cairo. Memphis tours guy picked us up at the airport, took us through immigration, Covid ID Now testing. Once the testing came negative, we were allowed to leave the airport. We went straight to the Airbnb I had booked in downtown Cairo.

Aug 11 – 14: Sightseeing in Cairo with Memphis tours. We had an awesome guide. We saw the pyramids, Sphinx, Mosques in Cairo, New Museum, etc. Memphis tours had arranged for some of the lunches. We got the rest of the meals from local restaurants. We also got groceries and made some meals.

Aug 15: Memphis tours took us from Cairo to Hurghada

Aug 16 – 17: Relaxed on a beach in Hurghada.

Aug 18 – 20: I rented a car in Hurghada and drove myself to Luxor with my parents. My Airbnb host from Cairo had helped arrange a guide for me in Luxor (He was vaccinated, and he had Covid testing done). We picked up the guide and we saw temples and tombs in Luxor. On the 20th, we just relaxed in our hotel.

Aug 21: Drove back to Hurghada, returned the rental car, and had Memphis tours pick us up and drive us back to Cairo.

Aug 22: Got PCR testing completed at Children’s Cancer Hospital for $60 each. You can have the tour company send someone to your hotel/Airbnb and get the test samples and have the results delivered for a slightly higher price. We had nothing else on the plan, so we decided to go to the hospital and get the testing done ourselves.

Aug 23: Got the test results

Aug 24: Relaxed

Aug 25: Took Qatar airways from Cairo to Seattle.

Cairo:

Cairo is a very old town. Depending on where you stay in the city, it might seem like a dirty old dead city or a modern city. It has a lot of history. The iconic Giza pyramids are just outside the city. You can even stay in an Airbnb or hotel with a view of the Pyramids for $20 or $30 a night. Ubers are easily available. They are very very cheap, and the drivers are nice and friendly.

Hurghada:

This is a beach town. There are a lot of resorts and beaches. This is one of the best places to go snorkeling or diving. A lot of western European tourists come here. This town is very touristy because of the large amounts of European tourists visiting here.

Luxor:

This is another old capital of Egypt. There are a lot of temples and tombs here. You can see most of it in two days. Luxor is a very agricultural town. It is a very beautiful town.

Aswan:

This is another city you can visit and there are a lot of ancient sites here. We did not go there, however. You can also take a boat ride on the Nile to go to Aswan. It takes 4 days to go on the Nile to Aswan.

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