Imagine yourself cruising down the Nile River. You’re sitting on the upper deck of your ship watching the sky turn a vibrant orange as the sun creeps toward the horizon, where palm trees are scattered along the West Bank of the Nile. There’s a warm breeze in the air that makes this scenic cocktail hour even more sensational. You’re surrounded by conversation, laughter, and the company of great friends who you only met a week ago.
If you have nobody to travel with, that may sound like an experience that’s out of your reach—but a Solo Tour with Go Ahead makes it possible. I took the leap and went on our Egypt & Nile River Cruise for Solo Travelers at the beginning of 2023. Now that I’ve returned, I’m sharing what it was like traveling to Egypt alone on this unforgettable Solo Tour—and why you should follow your wanderlust to the Land of the Pharaohs, too.
Staffer (and solo traveler!) Steph at Abu Simbel
Why I chose solo travel in Egypt
If you’re like me and always have your eyes glued to Ancient Egypt documentaries on the History Channel, you understand that there’s something undeniably alluring about Egypt. I spent years dreaming of seeing the pyramids and the Valley of the Kings, but traveling to Egypt felt like an unattainable dream because I didn’t have anyone to go with. Not to mention, I didn’t have the slightest idea how to get there, where to go once I arrived, or how to navigate a completely foreign environment while traveling to Egypt as a woman.
The anxiety of these unknowns was incredibly daunting, so that’s why this Solo Tour of Egypt was a huge blessing. The itinerary was planned for me, my flights were booked for me, and the hotels were chosen for me. I also had the confidence boost of knowing that I wouldn’t be alone when I arrived. All I had to worry about was packing a bag and getting myself on the plane.
Traveling solo can sound a bit strange to some people. When friends and family hear that you’re planning on taking a trip of a lifetime, the first question is usually, “Who are you going with?” Responding to this is difficult when you’re heading out on a Solo Tour. In a way, you’re going by yourself, but not really—the truth is that you’re going with friends that you haven’t met yet. Plus, when you join a Solo Tour with Go Ahead, you’re traveling with global experts who know the ins and outs of the destination you’re visiting.
Steph’s fellow solo travelers by the Nile
What my group of solo travelers was like
There are so many reasons why all solo travelers should take a guided trip to Egypt, and getting the chance to meet new people is one of them. Our group of 18 travelers connected in Cairo from all over the U.S. and Canada. We all had different life experiences and backgrounds, but we found commonalities in our shared enthusiasm for travel and our readiness to make the most of this incredible experience on tour in Egypt. No one knew each other prior to the tour, but months later we’re all still in touch and are planning more adventures together.
Everyone had their own reasons for traveling to Egypt alone, but the majority of travelers just found it easiest to see the world this way. You’d be surprised how much simpler planning travel becomes when you eliminate the need to coordinate schedules with friends or spouses. Plus, getting to unwind in included private rooms at every hotel was a huge benefit of joining this Solo Tour.
We were a group of mostly women with just two men. The average age in our group was around 64, but age didn’t slow us down or keep anyone off the dance floor on the cruise ship. If I had to describe the energy of our group in one word, it would be joyous. There was rarely a moment we were all together when you didn’t hear plenty of chatter, laughter, and even singing.
Steph’s group of solo adventurers visiting the pyramids
Here are some of my favorite memories of traveling to Egypt alone
Waking up on our first day to explore the Pyramids of Giza
This was a fabulous way to kick off our time in Egypt. I hadn’t even been in the country for 24 hours, and I was already taking in views of one of the most famous wonders of the world. It was a true “how is this real life?” moment. I’ll never forget driving up to the pyramids and catching my first glimpse of them outside the tour bus window. The sight practically had my jaw on the floor. Photos just can’t capture the magnitude of these structures.
Connecting with my fellow solo travelers
We had a truly incredible group on this tour, and it was so special sitting next to someone new every day on the bus, at meals, or in the lounge on the cruise. To me, this is one of the most beautiful aspects of solo travel. When you’re not accompanied by your own friends or family, you get to make connections with people you might have never met otherwise. I even found that I learned a lot about myself by being so far removed from my comfort zone.
It’s rare as an adult to be presented with opportunities to make new friends, like I did on this tour. It felt like going to summer camp as a kid—only we stayed in beautiful hotels instead of old, wooden cabins. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing why each of my fellow group members chose to travel solo to Egypt. Everyone had such a unique story or perspective, and it was a pleasure getting to make so many wonderful new friends throughout our adventures.
Taking the journey to see Abu Simbel
In all of my travels, I can say without a doubt that the temples at Abu Simbel are the most incredible sites I’ve ever seen. Carved into the cliffs on the West Bank of the Nile, these structures are beyond impressive.
Our Tour Director arranged for our group to have an Egyptian falafel lunch outside the temples, and this moment was just the icing on the cake. Getting to enjoy an incredible meal while taking in spectacular views is something I’ll never forget. I could’ve sat there for hours just marveling at the colossal statues of Ramses II. This is 100% something that everyone should add to their list of places to visit in Egypt.
Relaxing on our cruise ship and taking in views of the Nile
I knew this element of the tour would be gorgeous, but the scenery still took my breath away every day. It was also beyond blissful to soak up the Egyptian sun from a lounge chair on the deck before returning home to a Massachusetts winter.
Steph loved this traditional Egyptian flatbread called Aish Baladi
Starting off each meal with Aish Baladi
The thought of this traditional Egyptian flatbread still makes my mouth water. We were brought warm baskets of this bread before every meal along with hummus, baba ganoush, and other dips. Getting to indulge in this was one of my favorite moments each day in Egypt.
Shopping for Egyptian cotton
I’ll confess that I’m a bit of a shopaholic, but our whole group was having trouble reining it in when our Tour Director took us to a cotton store. Even though I overdid it a bit, the several cotton shirts I ended up purchasing were far better quality and far less expensive than anything I could have found back home. Some travelers even purchased Egyptian cotton sheets and got them shipped back home for crazy good prices. One of my biggest Egypt travel tips is to allow yourself to indulge a little.
Seeing three-thousand-year-old mummified crocodiles
When we visited the temple of Kom Ombo (the temple dedicated to the ancient crocodile god, Sobek), we learned about the ways in which ancient Egyptians interacted with crocodiles. While visitors won’t see any live crocodiles cruising along the Nile today, you will see their nearly perfectly preserved ancestors in a museum right next to the temple. This was one of the most unique things I’ve ever seen in my life.
Experiencing the country with our Tour Director
Our Tour Director went above and beyond to give us all the most memorable experiences in Egypt. I can’t imagine doing this trip without him. He made us all feel safe and supported while sharing his wealth of knowledge.
Our Tour Director was an archeologist and an Egyptologist, and he never failed to amaze us with the amount of information he had to impart! He taught us about the ancient gods and the ancient Egyptians’ way of life, how to decipher simple hieroglyphics, and so much more. There was never a question that he didn’t have the answer to, and we were all hanging onto his every word throughout the entire trip. He was even nice enough to offer our group an optional lecture on the history of the pyramids one afternoon on the cruise ship, which was truly mind boggling for all of us.
Check out this tour
One of the many unforgettable scenes on this Solo Tour
My top 10 Egypt travel tips for solo travelers
1. Go with an open mind and stay flexible
Being flexible is always key when traveling, and it’s definitely one of the most important Egypt travel tips. There were a few instances on the tour when closures affected our itinerary. But, the beautiful thing about traveling with Go Ahead is that you have an expert Egyptologist who knows how to pivot your schedule and make sure that you still see all of the top places to visit in Egypt. Going with a flexible attitude and an open mind will ensure that you’re able to sit back and soak in the experience.
2. Be prepared to tip
Tipping culture in Egypt is vastly different from that in the U.S. Be prepared to tip about 50 cents to a dollar to every bathroom attendant, every local who takes a picture of you, every staff member at an attraction who shows you something special, etc.
Our Tour Director assured us that while Egypt is incredibly safe and you don’t need to worry about pickpockets the way you might in big European cities, Egyptian locals often urge travelers to tip more than is customary, and won’t correct travelers who accidentally tip way more than is needed. Tour Directors with Go Ahead will always help you determine the appropriate amount to tip in any situation, so that’s one of the major benefits of solo travel in Egypt with Go Ahead.
3. Have U.S. dollars on hand
U.S. dollars are widely accepted everywhere in Egypt, so I absolutely recommend bringing $30 to $50 in new, crisp, $1 bills. This will ensure that you’re prepared to tip and aren’t caught in a situation where you need to use the bathroom and don’t have any small bills.
Steph and her fellow travelers were wowed by the authentic Egyptian food
4. Feel free to leave food on your plate
If you’re like me and your eyes are often bigger than your stomach, Egypt is the place to be. Egyptian food is truly incredible, but you will be given more of it than you could ever possibly consume in one sitting. In Egyptian culture, overfeeding guests is considered the polite and appropriate thing to do, so learning to be okay leaving food on your plate is key.
5. Practice avoiding eye contact with street vendors if you don’t want to buy anything
Learning to avoid street vendors is an art form. There is no getting around this in Egypt. Street vendors tend to cluster around the most popular places to visit in Egypt, and they are pushy as they try to sell their goods. Our Tour Director always asked them to leave our group alone, but we all inevitably ran into several instances of being approached and flagged down. If you’re not interested in purchasing anything, my best tip for navigating these situations is to just look ahead and completely ignore them. Think of yourself as an A-List celebrity with paparazzi tailing you. If you pay them no attention and avoid eye contact, vendors will quickly get the message that you will not be buying anything and move on to another potential customer.
6. Double-check your Egypt packing list
I was careful to pack modest clothing for this trip, and while I do recommend this, it’s surprisingly not as essential as I initially thought. There is a lot of tourism in Egypt, so you inevitably see people wearing all kinds of outfits—especially at the bustling, iconic sites that bring visitors from all over the world.
Our Tour Director assured us that we would not need to worry about covering our shoulders, knees, or hair unless we were visiting a religious site (and the temples from ancient Egypt don’t count in this category). Being a group of mostly women traveling to Egypt, we all had a lot of questions about this going into the experience, but I believe we were all pleasantly surprised with how relaxed the atmosphere was. That being said, if you’re looking to avoid stares from locals and to be as respectful as possible while traveling to Egypt as a woman, I would still recommend avoiding any outfits that show too much skin.
Items to add to your Egypt packing list:
- Both closed-toe shoes and sandals. Slip-on shoes are wonderful for the cruise ship, but sneakers are probably your best bet for exploring the pyramids or the Valley of the Kings, where you’ll be journeying over sandy terrain.
- A portable charger so you can continue taking pictures all day without worrying about my battery life.
- A small, foldable duffle bag to fill up with souvenirs in case you run out of room in your suitcase.
- Allergy medication—I found that the sand in Egypt really caused my allergies to flare up some days.
- Light-colored clothing to stay cool in the sun (and a Tide pen for the inevitable coffee spill on said light clothing).
- Something warm for chilly evenings. If you’re heading to Egypt in the winter like I did, a warm jacket is a must. Even if you’re heading there in the warmer months, you’ll be thankful to have something to throw on when the sun goes down or to use on bus rides when the AC is blasting.
7. Don’t be surprised if locals ask to take a picture with you
While locals stopping me to pose for pictures didn’t happen everywhere, I did experience it during my travels in Egypt. After I’d posed for a couple of selfies, I asked our Tour Director about it, perplexed—I saw so many Westerners around the iconic sights where this was happening and didn’t feel like I stood out at all. He explained that the people asking for pictures were most likely visiting from more remote parts of Egypt, so my blue eyes and pale skin looked a lot more foreign to them.
8. Get comfortable going through metal detectors
If you’re planning a trip to Egypt, be prepared to go through a lot of security checkpoints. They are everywhere. You’ll find metal detectors at the entrance to every attraction, temple, and hotel. In Egypt, you can also expect to go through several security checkpoints before being able to board a plane. My group remained endlessly amused watching me get pulled aside at each airport checkpoint where officers insisted on searching my makeup bag, suspicious of the way my facial de-puffing roller showed up on scans. If you’re currently packing for a trip to Egypt, it’s worth being smarter than I was and thinking twice about throwing oddly shaped metal objects like this in your bag.
9. Always opt for bottled water
When in Egypt, you’ll want to be careful with drinking water. While locals don’t have an issue consuming the tap water, most travelers have a difficult time ingesting it. Our Tour Director advised us to brush our teeth with bottled water and avoid raw vegetables at buffets, which are likely washed in unfiltered water. It’s a good call to ensure an upset stomach doesn’t keep you from an afternoon of exploration.
Steph’s fellow solo travelers cruising down the Nile
10. Make the most of every second
This goes for anywhere you’re thinking of traveling, but especially for Egypt. Live in the moment and allow yourself to fully embrace every experience while you’re there. These are memories you’ll have forever, so let go of any anxieties, worries, and reservations, and just enjoy it. Months later, I’m still lost in daydreams of the adventures my group had in Egypt. Do your future self a favor and make every moment count while you’re on tour. You won’t regret it.
Ready to take a solo trip to Egypt? Explore our Egypt & Nile River Cruise for Solo Travelers itinerary today!