How was travelling to & through Egypt in 2020? | Project Egypt

 At the beginning of October 2020, Marcel and I decided to risk it and buy 2 plane tickets from Bucharest to Sharm el-Sheikh via Istanbul [we were used to flying Pegasus Airlines and the deal was a very good one—around 896 RON (EUR 183)/pp.]. We would have elections at the beginning of December, so another lockdown was out of the question in Romania [this is how we thought things out], my birthday was in that period and I wasn’t in the mood to celebrate it, my dear friends born close to me weren’t celebrating it either, so I was free to go! J And I wanted so much to see and understand how things were elsewhere, too. It was as if starting to travel all over again. [Until we got to Egypt and realised how wrong we were and got a taste of the old ways – which I loved.]   

Red Sea snorkelling, Dahab, Egypt

 

Extra preparations at home

These were necessary:

Visas: we enquired and found out that we didn’t need any for South Sinai until April 2021;

Coronavirus insurance: Egyptian authorities were requiring it and the only company that I found in November 2020 to provide it was Groupama; we paid 98 RON (EUR 20) together for 2 weeks;

PCR tests: they were not needed in Turkey at the end of November 2020, but we did need them for Egypt; even if we don’t agree with this practice, the desire to get away was greater; the only facility that guaranteed the processing of the tests over the weekend was Hiperdia; to see how complicated things can become (I made a lot of calls), the tests needed to be made 72 hours before entering Egypt (which was happening a little after midnight, on Monday morning, so the only option, considering the processing time of at least 1 day, was taking the tests on Friday morning); we scheduled ahead, it cost us 390 RON (EUR 80) each, we got the results late that Friday evening [ask for an English version, too!] and the funny thing is that the Egyptian authorities only checked them superficially. [You can also take a test upon arrival for USD 30 but I wouldn’t have traded 2 days of travel – staying in the hotel room, waiting for the result – for that.]    

 

By plane via Istanbul

What changed?

Masks worn everywhere, empty (and eerie) airports, closed stores. Other than that, it was the same; the planes were packed [only the last flight, Istanbul to Bucharest, was emptier i.e. there was nobody seated next to us]. A good thing was that the cabin bag was also checked-in [and we got to carry sun lotions > 100ml, lucky us!].

Still, we didn’t get sick. My opinion is that a strong immune system and hand/surface disinfection are important and work. Aaaah, and happiness. Stay truly happy and you’ll stay alive (and vice versa).

What did we do differently?

We took time to rest, as we had a long layover in Istanbul on our way to Sharm, so we booked a room at the very clean and friendly ISG Airport Hotel [a 2-minute free shuttle ride away; EUR 51.77, en-suite double room]; we were able to enjoy a good sleep, time without the masks on, and a warm meal].

When we got back, we headed straight to Kepler and booked a kep for 1 hour each (EUR 7). Again, we were able to relax and rest (without our masks on) in a friendly and modern environment. Can’t wait to be back! J          

 

Where did we stay?

We tried several types of accommodation: 5* resorts (it was our first time and it was a below-average experience), small hotels, boutique hotels, bungalows, and apartments.

5* resort in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt

I’d recommend only two because our expectations didn’t match reality. [I should add here that the rates were down even 80-90%, given that tourism arrivals had dropped by 70-80%; still, we ended up paying a lot because we wanted to feel spoiled after a tough year. Sadly, many camps along the Nuweiba-Taba road were left in ruins and we found that many restaurants had closed, too.]

Dahab accommodation view, Egypt
 
Dahab accommodation, Egypt

Dahab friend, Egypt

in Sharm:

Oonas Dive Club (USD 22/night, en-suite double room, breakfast included) – we loved it here because it was close to the beach, clean, friendly, full of light… and aaah, the view ♥

Oonas Dive Club view, Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt

in Nuweiba:

Nuweiba Lodge (EGP 1000/2 nights, breakfast included) – comfy bungalows on the beach and it's where I met CND

CND [Catelul Nostru Drag] at Nuweiba Lodge, Nuweiba, Egypt

We rented a car in Sharm from AVIS (USD 140, 9 days; deposit USD 300). However, that car was hit in the parking lot of Moona Resort, listed as an Airbnb property. Long story short, Airbnb didn’t help us or reimburse us, our host lied about our stay in a public review and didn’t even pick up our calls and when he did, he pretended not to speak English. We ended up paying USD 120 to AVIS to repair the car [overpriced, I know, Marcel checked it with his Egyptian friend]… so be careful what car rental company you’re using and where you’re parking your car. You should also bear in mind that AIRBNB sucks – I’ve already deleted my account.           

 

Were the restaurants open?

Yes… but to tell you the truth, we didn’t enjoy the food in Egypt. We found it less than mediocre; it didn’t seem to have enough salt and desserts [I’m a baking blogger] didn’t seem to have enough sugar or a balanced taste.

I have, however, some places to recommend:

in Sharm:

Oonas Restaurant – the place where we had most of our breakfasts at a wonderful table outdoors, in a very friendly atmosphere [the two men managing the restaurant are wonderful!] P.S. The artichokes au gratin are delicious!!

the desserts at Coral Restaurant – the pastry chefs there are very talented

The German Bakery – this is where I celebrated my birthday (the café in Nabq is nicer than the one in the Old Market area) and this is where I had the best desserts in Sinai; there are also many vegetarian savoury dishes to choose from

in Dahab:

Dai Pescatori – this was the place that saved me in Dahab; the pizza tasted like real Italian pizza and the ambience is lovely

Don’t go anywhere near Blue House Restaurant!! One of the worst places I’ve dined in – it’s filthy and the food is really bad.   

Don’t leave Sinai without

eating mangoes, kumquats, and guavas

drinking guava juice

[they are all extraordinary – guavas are my soft spot!]

 

Were we able to travel around and do things?

We returned to normal in Egypt, something we missed with all our heart! I saw around 20 people wearing masks in 2 weeks and we only wore them once, when visiting a hypermarket.

Our time was spent mainly outdoors and in water, so… there was no need for them anyway. I do remember a police officer stopping our car in Dahab at one point and asking about the masks. ‘We’re in the car [d’oh!]’ was my reply. In Romanian, we call that exces de zel.

We had most of the places all to ourselves – which was a plus visiting now.

We snorkelled – my favourite places are here and I’ll also mention that the access to the Blue Hole costs EGP 280 (2 people, 1 car). 

Blue Hole, Dahab, Egypt

And El Fanar is not all it’s cracked up to be [EGP 100/pp.] – although I did see a shark there.

El Fanar, Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt
 
El Fanar, Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt

We kayaked in Nuweiba; our kayaks were included in our accommodation price at Nuweiba Lodge.

Sea kayaking in Nuweiba, Egypt

We sandboarded in the Sinai Desert – the rental of the boards ended up costing us EGP 200 for 1 day [it is usually EGP 300].

We learned how to kitesurf in Dahab Lagoon – USD 60/hour/pp. and it was splendid.

Kitesurfing in Dahab Lagoon, Dahab, Egypt
 
Kitesurfing in Dahab Lagoon, Dahab, Egypt

We drove to St. Catherine – which is a magical place – and to Fjord Bay Taba – which is pretty at sunset –.

St. Catherine Monastery, Egypt

           

Extra tips

Short skirts/dresses/trousers and sleeveless tops are tolerated in the resort towns of Sharm el-Sheikh, Dahab, and Nuweiba.

If you don’t wish to withdraw money from your card, bring USD not EUR.

Be careful not to be caught in a scam – here’s a list.

 

To conclude, I’m glad that I went to Egypt, I’m glad that I got to compare things, I’m glad that I snorkelled there.

Many bad things happened during our trip but I choose to keep the good ones in my ♥

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