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COMPLETE GUIDE TO SAVING MONEY BY DRIVING TO LUXOR FROM HURGHADA!
Whilst in Hurghada there are two options to see Luxor. You can either book an excursion at 100 Euros plus per person, or you can drive yourself at a fraction of the cost and have an exciting time doing so. This guide will cover a detailed explanation on the processes involved on driving in Hurghada and what to do to get to Luxor in a safe manner.
WARNING: This method of driving to Luxor is not for all travellers. You should only attempt this trip in this manner if you feel confident to drive in a country with little to no rules on the road, with a lack of highway code, and if you feel confident in dealing with Egyptian police/Army checkpoints in answering where you are from and why you are there and are prepared to wake up very early to drive 3 hours across the desert with no shops on the way of a Western standard.
CAR RENTAL IN HURGHADA - A vehicle is needed first of all. You will need an International Driving Licence to do so or the police can charge you 500 EGP or whatever they like as they are not the most legit that you will come across. One can expect to rent a sedan from 250 EGP to 300 EGP per day unlimited mileage. There is the option of Europ Car or Sixt in Hurghada airport way and town centre or from Amon Car Group will do 280 per day if you tell them that Carlos Yabrudy recommended you. They also have Kia Cerato's from this year which make for good long distance auto petrols that can make the trip in less than half a tank. Ensure you examine all of the damage on the vehicle prior to signing the agreement and take photos on your phone which Samsung or iphone mobiles will time stamp it for proof. Check the fuel policy of course. If there is an insurance excess waiver available, take it as all but the most confident and alert drivers will possibly get into an altercation with another driver. When in Egypt, the car has it's own card like a UK V5 or USA Permit for the vehicle. Keep this in the car with your licence.
DRIVING IN EGYPT - Here is what the conduct of Egyptians is like. Egyptians will:
- Drive at night with no headlights on - Flash their lights at you for no reason other than to say hello even on motorways - there is no lane discipline or necessity - Beeping is for get out of the way and AM PASSING SO DONT GET IN THE WAY - Pedestrians will cross anywhere and even get in front of your car as there is no such thing as right of way, or if anything, cars have right of way because they are tougher - You do not have to stop at roundabouts, you can just go and work it through and tough it out or they will beep at you - Egyptians will stop in the middle of the road or block a lane and people will beep, live and let live, overtake and carry on. If someone is speeding behind you they will flash you so that you know they are coming - Egyptians however will slow down greatly for speed bumps which can be unpredictable - You may be held up by donkeys - some roads will be multiple lanes with no lane markings. Some westerners will revel in this type of environment but there is no practise opportunity here. Once you get into the car and drive it is show time for you and you will need to use your mirrors heavily and concentrate more than you did on your own driving test!
LUXOR TRIP - You do not need Sat Nav or GPS surprisingly - You can use your iphone location service as it may work at times but in general it is an easy drive. From Hurghada Safaga is sign posted in English and there are limited roads in Egypt. Take about 10 bottles of water with you in the car just in case the worst comes to the worst. Unlikely but one should be prepared for all eventualities. Some food on the way helps a little too.
SAFAGA CHECKPOINT - To drive the desert road from Safaga to Qena, you have to be at the checkpoint for 5.30am which means leaving Hurghada at 4.30am or from Makadi Bay at 5am. You will see al ot of buses driving this way like Tez Tours yellow coaches or the white tour buses all driving in this direction. At 6am, all depart together after being checked by police. they will want to see your passports and documents. There is only one way out of Safaga and this is it. At 6am all the buses will head off. The speed limit in Egypt is 90km but it is not uncommon for a coach to overtake you at 120km per hour or sometimes more. there are no speed cameras in Egypt mounted but sometimes, police will use a handheld so it is not worth taking the risk so stick below 100km per hour. At times in barren desert there will be nobody so best advice at times is WHEN IN ROME.... One has to use their own judgement. You have a petrol station behind the checkpoint that you cant miss whilst driving up this way. In Egypt roads are mainly straight to where you want to go with no obvious changes in direction unless states. Pay attention to road signs,.
DESERT ROAD - On this road from Safaga to Qena you will see for the first 45 mins mainly mountains (Red Sea), and twisty and turny roads. When you come to checkpoints, they may interview you again even if there has been absolutely nothing between the last checkpoint. At times when you tell them you are going to Luxor, the police may instruct you to drive behind another car who is going the same way. NEVER EVER argue with the police at a checkpoint. Be POLITE and learn basic Arabic including greetings, how are you, thank you and goodbye and the phrase DO YOU SPEAK ENGLISH... they will 1. appreciate this 2. be disarmed at the fact that you have made the effort as a foreigner to learn their language. the moment you are hostile, or impatient, it simply opens the door for them to be unfavourable with you and possibly try to charge you money. they should not be charging anyone and I have never been charged but each policeman out here is their own policeman. There are no petrol stations until you reach Qena so make sure you fill up in Safaga.
QENA - Qena is as most locals will tell you, a mess. If in doubt here, follow buses that went with you on the desert road but you will be driving in a southern direction. If the car you rent has direction compass or your phone has one, you can use this if in any doubt at all, or ask people LUXOR? just one word to a local of Luxor and pointing with your hand and they will show you. It is signposted thankfully still but some can be distracted on this drive as you will now be in town and wanting to avoid donkeys, horses, taxis, buses and people and come across numerous small checkpoints on the way to Luxor.
LUXOR - After driving either down the desert road, or via the canal side road which is a little more local as described above, you will come to Luxor after an hour or so. In total it is 3 hours or so excluding checkpoint delay. When in Luxor there are apps that have offline maps or you can hire a guide for the day should you wish to have that option for between 100 EGP to 200 EGP. Some guides have cards that let them go into temples. You are now in Luxor and can now take your time to view things or stay overnight even is the more favourable option as there is a lot to see here.
DRIVING BACK TO SAFAGA AT NIGHT - At night, the roads will look different as you now have no prominent landmarks to see and cannot see the red sea mountains as it is pitch black. Again, once you take the desert road out of Luxor, you will see a sign that says Safaga. You can also ask Police at checkpoints if there is any doubt at all regards direction or any locals that are stopped. Kidnapping in Egypt is almost nil unless crime/gang related so expect locals to be friendly and help.
The desert road will be the same one you came on and feel longer than the way there because you cannot see anything. You may even see a sign on the way that is in Arabic with 500 on it. Do not panic. This is not suggesting you are on the way to Cairo. There is only one road back to Safaga from south in Luxor where you came from. You can also pay a taxi although a lot of times they will say to you, "don't worry about the money.... follow to the desert road to Safaga". Aim to start driving back to Safaga at around 4pm as this way, you will be less in the dark about everything literally. There is one stop on the way back that will serve tea, bedhouin shisha (tobacco flavour only with no filter), and this is 90km or so from Safaga towards the start of the mountains back from Qena towards Safaga. Consult a map app or physical map to know your route prior. After the first time this trip will be ingrained in your head as it is done on a daily basis.
Hopefully this has helped everyone who wishes to spend £80 for a car for 4 days, and pay for temple entries instead of paying £100 per person where if a family of 4 will be paying £400 instead of £130 or so. Plus its exciting driving yourself and seeing everything for yourself. But the following must be stressed. Do not detract from this:
1. Learn some Arabic. Don't leave without learning Salam Walekum (greeting. Most are muslim). Shukran (for thank you), Shwai Shwai (so so for when saying little bit when asked if you know Arabic) Ai-Wa (yes) Ai-La(No) Salam (goodbye), Arabiya (car) Inglizia (English) and also how are you (Kayfa Hallak) whih the answer will be either tamam (ok) or Hamdooleelah (for thank god I am ok) which is a little more upbeat.
2. Be a confident driver with minimum experience of 5 years driving
3. Egypt is the most uncoordinated country for driving so a freedom to drive without rules acceptance
4. Smile at checkpoints and be polite to officials
5. If in doubt, ask locals
6. Do NOT take photos of checkpoints or police. They may think you are spying and arrest you or worse
7. Take a local or guide along if in doubt of anything here and hire the car yourself.
8. Tell someone where you are going and the route you are driving just in case. Tell your family also and agree a communication window as you should do with all locations and not just Egypt for your own safety/reporting.