We’ve said it so much that it’s become a cliche, but Egypt is a vast and beautiful country full of stunning landscapes and unequivocal experiences. And as someone who has been travelling solo for over a decade now, I can honestly say this is a perfect country to navigate alone. Now that you’ve read my tips on how to travel safely alone, here are five holiday destinations that are perfect for you if you’re on your own and in need of some me-time.
How? By bus: East Delta or Superjet; or fly into Sharm El Sheikh for under 700LE and Superjet it up to Nuweiba
Best time: All year round except for August, when it turns into a hellhole of heat
What to do: Swim/snorkel/sunbathe, run/meditate, eat, mountain-climb, eat at Castle Zaman
Tip: when you’re stopped at the Taba checkpoint, always say you’re going to Basata- because that camp has a strict anti-drug policy, the checkpoint police are less likely to search your belongings; especially if you’re a woman and travelling alone.
By far the best destination for some solitary peace and relaxation (hello Red Sea on one side, the Mountains on the other!), Nuweiba is quite far from Cairo – over eight hours by car and a troublesome route full of security checkpoints – but is well worth the trip. And judging from how many friends of mine who have travelled there in recent months, it’s still safe to visit.
If you’re new to Nuweiba or feel like you may want some company, I recommend Basata – it’s by far the most comfortable and sociable of all camps and a great place to start if you’re new to the area. They’ve got a library and some games lying around if you get bored, and you could always befriend the staff and offer a hand in the communal kitchen. I also really like Ananda, which felt like a home with its welcoming staff and friendly manager Ezz. Their front-row beach huts don’t hurt either. Everyone has their favourite Nuweiba camp, but a good tip is to head to Bawaki if you need a cold beer or hot shower – they’re the only camp with air-conditioned chalets within miles, and they have the most incredible swimming spot in the area.
How? Flights to Aswan can fall under 800LE if you book in advance; or take the sleeper train for 600LE per cabin, one-way.
What to do: Swim in the Nile, take a boat ride around Aswan, drink Gabana and eat home-cooked food, visit Philae Island
Best time: Autumn to Spring, avoid after May when it becomes unbearably hot
Tip: Bring cash; the closest ATM machines are in the city of Aswan or Aswan university. Aswan airport doesn’t have one at its arrivals hall.
Having been twice in less than two months, I can honestly say that Gharb Soheil is my favourite new destination. Blessed with stunning Nile banks and quaintly coloured houses, Gharb Soheil’s best asset is its people, who made me feel safe and comfortable, and they spoilt me with their hospitality, food and conversation. This is a great getaway from Cairo if you need some downtime doing nothing: I spent three days lounging around Nubian Dream, napping and reading while stuffing my face. Solo trips around Aswan and to any of the Pharaonic sites nearby can easily be arranged with the hotel’s manager, Shazly, including a boat trip down the Nile with a stop for gabana (Sudanese slow roasted coffee blended with ginger and spices). Trust me on this; if they offer you gabana, you take the gabana.
How? GoBus trips cost 120LE for a premium trip (which is frankly no different than the average bus trip) and reaches Hurghada within 6 hours. Flights to Hurghada cost under 1000LE if you book in low season. A taxi to Soma Bay from the airport could set you back 100LE.
What to do: learn to kitesurf or dive, take a boat trip out, play golf or workout at the gym
Best time: all year round, although it gets uncomfortably windy between November and February.
Tip: Soma Bay hotels like the Moevenpick offer cheaper rates than their counterparts in Gouna, and you’re better off calling for a booking than using booking.com
While Gouna is a great choice for some relaxed and indulgent downtime, Soma Bay offers a more active alternative. I spent a weekend at the Breakers, a diving and surfing lounge that surprised me with its healthy and fresh buffet food, decent gym and swimming pool. It’s a short distance from Ducks Diving Center and 7BFT Kite House, and a nearby marina has daily boat rides for diving or snorkelling, so your days will be packed if you fancy taking a diving or surfing course. After a long, active day, going back to my comfortable, quiet hotel room was the perfect ending. But if you feel adventurous, hop in a cab and head to Gouna for a drink at Bartender, where you’re bound to run into familiar faces or strike up a conversation with strangers.
How? Fayoum is easily an hours’ drive from 6 October City.
What to do: Stay in Tunis, visit the pottery school, Caricature Museum, go for a safari trip, take a boat ride in Qarun Lake, steal a bike.
Best time: Year-round.
Tip: If you’re not up for driving, call Omar on 01026929698. He’s a Fayoum-based driver, a one-way trip with him costs 300LE.
While this list is unfairly biased in that sea destinations dominate it (sue me, I love the beach), Fayoum is a perfect destination if you want a short break and a close destination to Cairo without the hassle of flying or busing for hours. I loved Tunis, a quaint little village in Fayoum, and I stayed at Kom El Dikka Lodge, where their suites are the size of a flat: four people could have easily fit into my space. If their breakfast of freshly baked flat bread and thick organic honey doesn’t send you into a coma, the lodge offers bikes and a boat trip around the lake, and they can organize a safari trip to Wadi al Rayan or Al Hitan, though it is very expensive for a solitary traveller (they asked for 700LE for one person in a car). A good solution is to ask if anyone else will be going on a safari and offering to tag along to lower the cost. You won’t want to miss the Climate Change and Fossil Museum or Magic Lake and its stunning views. If, like me, you’re prone to intense laziness, a walk around the village may be enough.
How? Flights to Marsa Alam fall under 1000LE, a taxi to the town will cost another 70LE. Buses from Cairo take an average of 13 hours, but you could take a 7-seater Peugeot from Hurghada (I paid around 450LE for a private taxi) – the trip will take another 4 hours. Call Emad on 01226731088 for cars based in Marsa Alam.
What to do: kitesurfing, diving, snorkelling with dolphins, meditating, eating and off-roading
Best time: year-round except for August; avoid like the plague
Tip: You really need a car to navigate Marsa Alam’s vast landscapes and destinations; but always ask your camp manager if he can arrange transport around Marsa Alam for you.
So this destination may be the most difficult to access – no one wants to suffer 13 hours on a bus from Cairo, and it’s too far to drive out alone – but if you can fly or cab it, do so; you won’t want to miss this. Marsa Alam remains one of the most pristine and beautiful sea towns in Egypt, boasting several amazing dive sites and gorgeous sandy beaches like Golaan, as well as Wadi Gemal Park, which is perfect for camping, off-roading and ambling. One of the great things about Marsa Alam is that it’s rarely crowded, so you can guarantee having a lot of space and time to yourself.
I usually stay at Deep South in Tondoba Bay, but if you need something more high-maintenance and less hippy, Marsa Shagara comes highly recommended. You’ll definitely need a car to visit Golaan, Hanqorab, the Naizak, Marsa Abu Dabab and Wadi Gemal Park; but even if you’re without wheels or company, you’ll still have a wonderful time relaxing and swimming, or heading into Marsa Alam town for grilled meats at Mashrabeya or some surprisingly good Italian food at Dolce & Salate, run by the wonderful Mara. I spent my time in Marsa Alam making friends and tagging along on road trips; but when I needed my space, I had a vast beach and ample sandy hills to hide away on.
All photos courtesy of @suzeeoutofthecity.com