Egypt has always been a place I have been interested in since school lessons which spoke about mummies, hieroglyphics and pyramids but until recently we had never had a plan to actually get there. There had been some reasons we hadn’t visited before, some political unrest at times and finances as it appeared expensive and unaffordable. On this occasion we found a really good deal for 2 weeks, 1 week in Hurghada at a 5 star hotel and a week on a Nile Cruise. With both being all inclusive and approximately £499 each for 2 weeks including flights, transfers, accommodation etc we decided it would be a perfect anniversary trip. In addition end of March/beginning of April would hopefully not be insufferably hot. We decided why not lets do it!
Visas and Currency
We discovered if you are travelling to Egypt from the UK, (and many other countries) you will need a visa. This can be arranged either from this website https://www.visa2egypt.gov.eg/eVisa/Home or on arrival at the airport. DO NOT USE THE WEBSITE. It’s as glitchy as hell, and you sign a disclaimer to agree that if your visa request is declined, for whatever reason, your US$25 per person fee is non-refundable. Your application needs to be supported by a photo of your passport, but there is a 500Kb attached file size limit, meaning you can only upload a very low resolution photo. Our application was rejected due to submitting a low quality photo with no chance of resubmitting or a refund and on our travels many other people suffered the same fate with their online applications.
What we discovered was that we were allowed in with a lot less hassle than the online website. The visa is simply a purchase, no semblance of a security check. Give them £25, or $25, or 1350 Egyptian Pounds, in cash, and you are in! I wonder what happens to that money…but anyway it was very simple!
Before travelling we bought some local currency. The maximum you can bring into the country is 5,000 Egyptian Pounds, which in our case cost £268.05. Not a great exchange rate but it got us started. We did manage to use our card to pay for most things and used what we brought for other incidentals.
Sea Star Beau Rivage – Our hotel in Hurghada
We arrived late in the evening, after a very early start and many hours of travelling; however our first impressions were good! We hardly saw any people at all in the hotel and got a lovely room. The dinner was great with an amazing bread bar and we made the most of a few all inclusive drinks before heading to our bed to rest our weary heads.
The next day it was blowing a hooley! Who would have thought Egypt would be cold but it was on our balcony – armed with hoodies we headed out for breakfast before deciding what to do for the day.
On our way back from breakfast we were accosted by a man from the spa who invited us in and managed to talk us into a great deal with a hammam and massage package. The hammam was actually really lovely, a sauna followed by a trip to the steam room then an all over body scrub, bit more spa and a 50 minute massage – we learnt despite appearances the Egyptian woman are very strong and ordering a medium- hard massage was a bit of a tortuous experience. Scrubbed to within an inch of our life and lovely soft skin and we were suitably relaxed to enjoy the rest of our day…
The rest of the resort was equally as impressive. The resort is built on a beach and there was a pool bar and private sunbathing pods – just a shame it was a bit too chilly to swim there and then. There was also an entertainment crew who were organising activities around the resort such as boules, aqua fit and table tennis.
How our trip worked was that we had 2 days at the resort, we then transferred to the Nile Cruise starting in Luxor and then we returned back to the resort for the final 5 days of our two weeks. You can read about our Nile cruise here. Upon our return we were fortunate to get an even nicer room on the ground floor in the same area of the hotel. We decided to book a couple of trips and we still had some pre booked massages to use up in the hotel spa.
Snorkelling Boat Trip to Paradise Island
This was one of the recommended trips and we were able to book it directly at the scuba centre at the hotel. The trip consisted of a coach to the main marina in Hurghada, a boat trip with lunch, a snorkelling stop and then some time on Paradise Island itself. A bad case of seasickness did not help at the beginning but recovery was soon underway.
The snorkelling was pretty good, lots of pretty fishies as you would expect in the Red Sea; we climbed aboard again and made our way to dock at Paradise Island. The dock was a tricky process; we had to get out on big inflatable blocks which fit together and move with the waves; however we did it with no disasters.
The island itself was spectacular although as you can see was quite busy. There are several places made for selfie taking and instagramming and some great sun umbrellas made of leaves which actually offered the best sun protection.
It was an enjoyable trip and there was no doubt it was picture perfect; however it was very busy and overcrowded, the beers were expensive and also if you looked just to the far right of the beach at the boundary then there were loads of bin bags all lined up. Maybe not such paradise after all but still a nice day.
Scuba Diving and Snorkelling Tour
We went on a boat trip, to snorkel and scuba booked directly through the resort. The tour was not at all full and whilst Nigel wanted to Scuba I unfortunately couldn’t because of an ear problem. Despite this they accommodated us both and off we went on the boat. What wasn’t clear as we booked quite last minute was how long the trip was. A man and his daughter were on the trip and thought it was morning only so weren’t at all prepared. It was a great trip though; there were two different dive/snorkel spots we stopped at.
These type of trips are always a great experience for us. Nigel had previously dived in Fiji, the instructor there said we were at one of the best dive sites in the world. In his opinion, Fiji was better than the Great Barrier Reef, and probably 2nd in the world only to the Red Sea. That wasn’t our experience though, there was disappointment in not seeing any sharks or sea snakes, both of which are known to inhabit the area. Perhaps we shouldn’t have been too disappointed though, as a month or so after we left, two tourists were killed by sharks in the area.
Whilst this is entitled Hurghada we didn’t actually get to see too much of it outside of the resort apart from on a coach and the marina to go on a boat trip; however, this seems to be how Hurghada was; it’s all big resorts and day trips. Despite this however we did have a really nice stay at Sea Star Beau Rivage, the food was nice, the drinks were acceptable and it was a friendly resort. The only downsides were people trying to sell tours; however, a quick smile and no thank you usually sufficed. We would recommend this hotel, it was clean and there were always staff around if you had a query if you do stay here definitely try the spa. The evening entertainment is a bit hit and miss; one night it just didn’t happen as promised but that may have been because we were slightly off-season and right at the end of the pandemic closures.
Please read our next blogs about our Nile Cruise and our day trip to Cairo!
Carol & Nigel xx