When planning a trip to Egypt the first think I would personally recommend is to look at tour options. Egypt is by far one of the most complicated countries I’ve visited and it’s also one of the most rich in history. Why not make the trip planning easier on yourself AND make sure you get the most out of visiting such a richly historic place by booking a tour?
*I get 0 benefits or discounts for writing this review. This is just based on my own choices and experience.
Pros to booking a tour:
- Logistics are all handled. Trust me the logistics of how to get from point A to point B are some of the most challenging.
- Ensure you don’t miss any of the highlights
- You will get way more interesting history and cultural facts than if you were doing things on your own
- Much safer – on our tour we had a few moments of frustration with sellers but never felt even a bit unsafe
Cons for booking a tour:
- The biggest thing is the PRICE
- Less flexibility of visiting the monuments at specific times. (Although on a private tour, this isn’t much of an issue)
Why we chose Memphis Tours:
I compared Memphis Tours to several other major tour operators in Egypt including “On the Go Tours”. In the end I chose Memphis Tours because it was the cheapest PRIVATE tour option available that included a Nile River cruise and options to include Jordan. In fact the Jordan/ Egypt combo PRIVATE tour with Memphis Tours was CHEAPER than the group On the Go Tours equivalent and required 4 less days to see all the same sites. Going private also allowed us to completely customize our itinerary- we removed stops that were less important to us and added stops that we had to see. The private tour option also completely saved our Cairo site seeing ability – read more on that later.
Link to the tour we booked. (As we booked private we modified this itinerary to see more in Jordan and less in Egypt)
The good with Memphis Tours:
- Wonderful PEOPLE. We absolutely loved everyone we worked with during our trip. From the guys that picked us up from the airport- helping us get through immigration quickly, the tour guides, the drivers – the hospitality and overall helpfulness of everyone we met on the ground during our trip was amazing. This is the #1 reason I would absolutely not hesitate to book with Memphis Tours again. Their people are. The best.
- Flexibility- We did have a private tour which helps A LOT, but they were very willing to work with our itinerary. We saw A LOT in 13 days and still had plenty of time to relax. This flexibility turned out to be crucial with our Egypt entry issues due to Covid requirements. Our tour manager in Cairo reworked our 2 days of site seeing into 1! Read more about that here.
- All flights were included in our price including our international flight from Cairo to Amman. The domestic flights were faster and easier than taking a train like other tour companies offered.
- We NEVER felt unsafe and we were continually looked after when we needed it. We always had a guide with us, even in addition to a driver. Drivers could drive, and guides could guide. The dual system was very nice. The guides were also helpful in getting us to an ATM if we needed more cash after a tour (going out of their way to walk around Aswan to help us find a working one) and other small things beyond the story telling and leading us around monuments.
- Lastly, the price while still being expensive was MUCH cheaper and PRIVATE compared to other tours.
- Communication pre trip: This may just come down to the trip planner we worked with but I have 3 complaints:
- Not enough knowledge or warning about Covid entry requirements for Egypt. We NEEDED PCR tests even though we were vaccinated from the US. There was a lot of misinformation online (trust me I did my own research) so it would’ve been great for the tour company we were paying to know the requirements and communicate this with us. This is a big one- this cost us THOUSANDS.
- They never sent us our flight vouchers for the flights they booked and our itinerary even had wrong flight times on it. This caused us to wake up and be at the airport for our Jordan flight 2 hours earlier than the 3 hours early they already make you get to the airport. (This was a 3:30AM wake up call… those 2 hours really mattered) We also know of this happening to one of our friends on the Nile cruise – they changed his domestic flight to be later in the day and he had no idea. Luckily in his case- our tour guide knew what was up… but we were not so lucky)
- Misinformation about Jordan itinerary – Our planner told us we could schedule Petra at night and had it on our itinerary for a day it isn’t even offered. I noticed this discrepancy when I was reading about the experience a few weeks before our trip and when I brought it up, they told me that Petra at night wasn’t even operating at all! Luckily I brought it up so we could remove the cost of this activity from our total tour cost.
- Sales People – While we LOVED the two tour guides we worked with, our main guide from Luxor to Aswan could have helped us out a little bit more in the beginning when it came to the sales people. (We were harassed A LOT by merchants selling cheap stuff the first 2 days and he “tried” to tell them to go away but compared to our 2nd guide in Cairo… he could’ve been more stern or helped give us more tips from the beginning)
- Not the greatest Nile Cruise experience in terms of food and staff but we did book the cheaper cruise option so it being average was probably right for the price point. Read my review specifically of the MS Salacia cruising experience here.
Summary of our experience
Overall I didn’t have that many complaints- in fact all of them besides the COVID entry issue were pretty minor. (And whose to say whether other tour companies would have communicated that issue correctly either- at least Memphis Tours on the ground in Egypt were ready and willing to help us fix the issue. Our tour manager in Cairo was AMAZING.)
Our Itinerary for reference:
- Day 1: Welcome to Cairo – Literally just a pick up from the hotel. Especially when that time is past 10:00 at night lol
- Day 2: Pyramids Tour : Private tour of the Giza Plateau and Sakkara Complex – Meals: Breakfast, Lunch (This day was cancelled on us when Egypt kicked us out due to not having a negative test)
- Day 3: Morning flight from Cairo to Aswan. Afternoon tour of the High Dam, the largest known Obelisk and stone quarry, and Philae Temple. – Meals: Breakfast
- Day 5: Optional Nubian village tour or easy morning on the boat. Set sail from Aswan and then a sunset tour of Kom Omobo Temple. – Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.
- Day 6: Edfu Temple tour in the morning. Sail to Luxor. Tour of the Luxor East Bank temples (Luxor and Karnak) in the afternoon. – Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
- Day 7: Optional early morning Hot Air Balloon flight followed by a tour of Luxor’s West Bank sites (Valley of the kings, Queen Hatshepsut’s temple, and others) Afternoon or evening flight back to Cairo. Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
- Day 8: Cairo city tour (the Egyptian Museum, Saladin Citadel and Mosque, Coptic Cairo’s churches/ Synagogues and old Bazaar. Note: since this was our only day in Cairo we ended up just touring the Giza plateau, Citadel/ Mosque, and Egyptian Museum. – Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
- Day 9: Fly Cairo to Amman. – Meals: Breakfast
*Read my Jordan posts for more information on our Jordan itinerary which continued another 4 days.
Things I would do differently or recommend for someone’s first trip to Egypt and Jordan.
- Tour Jordan FIRST if you’re visiting both. You will enjoy it more as it is easier on your stomach (and mentally less taxing). After a week in Egypt we were so sick we could barely eat a lot of the food we had in Jordan. Jordan has better culinary practices. and in general… better tasting food. If you want to enjoy eating, I’d highly recommend going to Jordan FIRST.
- Book your Jordan tour separately with Dakkak tours. Memphis Tours just outsources to this company for your entire Jordan trip. Dakkak was amazing and I would definitely recommend them, not just based on price but overall experience. (I’ll write a separate post for them later.) While having the two countries combined was convenient (and included our international flights) I can tell we may have gotten a lot better of information about Jordan, the best places to visit, and the best itinerary from Dakkak directly.
Last thing to consider before booking with Memphis Tours (or any other complete package tour for that matter)
If you are on a budget and you wanted to do just do day tours of the monuments, you could feasibly do this cheaper without a package tour. This is how I would do it:
- Book your hotels and make sure the hotels offer transport to/from the airport. You won’t get the same level of service in regards to having a driver AND guide to help check you in everywhere (which let me tell you was nice). We did book a hotel ourselves for after our Jordan trip when we connected back in Cairo and had a 12 hour over night layover. It wasn’t THAT bad. Again, just make sure your hotel will pick you up and drop you off at the airport. Your day tour operators will handle the rest.
- Book a Nile cruise. The cruise ship likely offers day tours to all the spots it will stop at and will pick you up from your hotel in Aswan or Luxor.
- Book flights from Cairo to/from Luxor and Aswan for the Nile cruise.
- Book smaller day tours for anything else that isn’t included in the Nile cruise that you’d want to see. For example, there are many companies that offer day tours to the pyramids, or combo tours to the museum and other sites. They will pick you up from your hotel for the tour.
I’m not entirely sure how much this would save you as I haven’t priced out what individual tours might cost…. But this would give you greater range of choosing your hotels and more Nile cruise options. (Although Memphis will actually discount your package tour and let you book the hotels if you want)
The things you might miss are the complete costumer service of a tour manager. They help speed you through immigration at the Cairo airport (which is awful) and help your with ticketing counters, checking bags, checking into hotels, everything. I’d say the people from Memphis Tours took such complete care of us we hardly lifted a finger for anything. For that reason and many of the other “good” list above, I’d still choose to go with Memphis Tours. The people on the ground helping you with everything is a luxury and in a challenging place like Egypt, that little bit of luxury can make a big difference to your overall trip.