It's generally only necessary to book your accommodation in advance if you are planning to visit during the Christmas, Easter and half-term school holidays.
- Hotels Range from dusty fleapits to deluxe accommodation in the larger cities and resorts. In smaller towns accommodation is mostly limited to basic options.
- B&Bs Less common in Egypt, and places that call themselves that are often small family-run one- or two-star hotels.
- Camping Only recommended in Sinai, when the situation there calms down.
Rates & Rooms
Rates at all hotels are negotiable in off-peak seasons, generally March to September (November to January on the Mediterranean coast) and especially during the middle of the week. Some last-minute booking websites sometimes have lower rates for top-end hotels.
Many hotels will take US dollars or euros in payment, and some higher-end places even insist on it, though officially taking payment in currencies other than Egyptian pound is illegal. Lower-end hotels are usually cash only, though it’s not a given that all upmarket hotels accept credit cards.
Most top-end chains and a few midrange hotels in Egypt offer nonsmoking rooms, though you can’t always count on one being available.
Rates often go up by around 10% during the two big feasts (Eid Al Fitr and Eid Al Adha) and New Year (20 December to 5 January).
On the Mediterranean coast, prices may go up by 50% or more in the summer season (approximately 1 July to 15 September).
Types of Accommodation
Egypt offers visitors the full spectrum of accommodation: hotels, resorts, pensions, B&Bs, youth hostels, cruise boats and even a few camping grounds and ecolodges.
In Cairo, Alexandria, Luxor and Aswan, there are options for all budgets, from budget to super-luxury.
Elsewhere along the Nile options are more limited, with fairly bare-bones operations that mostly cater to Egyptian travellers.
In the oases budget options range from decent to very good and backpacker-friendly.
The Red Sea coast and Sharm El Sheikh are largely dedicated to package tourism. Resorts here typically offer all-inclusive rates that cover most drinks and some activities, though some also offer half- or full-board options (two or three meals). Booking well in advance can yield major discounts, as can booking at the last minute.
Officially, camping is allowed at only a few places around Egypt, at a couple of camping grounds and at a few hotels. These facilities are extremely basic.
With the current security situation, we advise against camping wild. If you really want to camp in national parks such as the White Desert, you must go with an approved operator who has permission from Egyptian security services.
Egypt has several hostels recognised by Hostelling International, where having a HI card will earn you a discount.
There are also a number of independent operations offering dorm beds and small private rooms.
Hostels tend to be noisy and often a bit grimy. In a few there are rooms for mixed couples or families but on the whole the sexes are segregated. Most of the time you’ll be better off staying at a budget hotel instead.
Brace yourself for heavy sales pressure for guided tours, especially in Cairo.
At the low end, there’s little consistency in standards. You can spend as little as LE50 a night for a clean single room with hot water, or LE150 or more for a dirty room without a shower. Generally, rates include a basic breakfast, usually a couple of pieces of bread, a wedge of processed cheese, a serving of jam, and tea or coffee.
Competition among budget hotels in cities such as Cairo and Luxor is fierce, which keeps standards reasonably high and developing all the time. At this point, most rooms have private bathrooms, but some older hotels still have shared bathrooms only. Air-con is also an option, sometimes for an extra LE20 to LE50. Places catering to backpackers often have welcoming lounges with satellite TV, internet access and backgammon boards.
Some hotels will tell you they have hot water when they don’t. Turn the tap on and check, or look for an electric water heater when checking the bathroom. If there’s no plug in your bathroom sink, try using the lid of a mineral-water bottle – it often fits well enough.
Some budget establishments economise on sheets and will change linens only on request. Toilet paper is usually supplied, but you’ll often need to bring your own soap and shampoo.
Midrange options are surprisingly limited, particularly in Cairo and Alexandria, where investment is channelled into top-end accommodation. Moreover, many hotels in this category coast on package-tour bookings. As a result, you could wind up paying more for TV and air-con, in grungy surrounds.
Even if you typically travel in this price bracket, consider budget operations as well – some will be dramatically nicer for half the price. Alternatively, look for online deals on top-end hotels.
Most international luxury and business chains are represented, and amenities are (for the most part) up to international standards.
Independent luxury hotels can be hit-and-miss, especially at the entry level of this price bracket, so you may want to inspect your room in person before committing any money. Most luxury lodging can be booked at a discount in advance, particularly in low season and these days while few tourists visit Egypt.
Beware taxes: quoted rates often don’t include them, and they can be as high as 24%.