Our stories have brought us to the magical place on the Red Sea. A place where the world of Nemo comes alive before your very eyes.
This resort placed on the tip of the Sinai Peninsula overseeing the Red Sea has much to offer to tourists whishing to discover this magical place and Oriental hospitality.
Read below our impression of this resort-city and why your next holiday should be here.
Sharm El Sheikh or in English The Bay of the Sultan is a city based at the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula overlooking the Tiran Straights.
Its important placement meant it was to become an important trading and military base for Egypt. The city itself has a population of around 74 000 people.
I still remember when I asked the local tour guide when we got picked up at the airport – if he was from the area to which he replied “No one’s from here.”. And that seems to be fairly true.
Most people migrate from Egypt proper into South Sinai looking to work with tourists as salaries tend to triple compared to the rest of the country.
The area also has received a lot of investment and is very popular with tourists due to its amazing hotels, wide beaches and spectacular coral reefs.
Egypt uses the Egyptian Pound (EGP). Although, a common misconception is that you need foreign currency such as USD, we believe you should exchange your currency in EGP. We explain more on why in the “Old Market” section.
Temperatures reach a whopping 45 degrees C in the summer months. So it’s important to be aware of this if heat isn’t something you agree with. Being mostly at the seaside we didn’t find the temperature unbearable.
Typically, Egyptians consider Summer as a low season as temperatures are too high for most tourists. Most Europeans tend to go to Egypt during spring or autumn and some during winter as temperatures are more bearable.
During summer, in the mornings and evenings you don’t get that cooling breeze but as long as you wear adequate sunscreen lotion, stay hydrated and don’t stay too long in the sun (especially at midday) you won’t feel that much different than in Cyprus or Mexico.
The time zone in Egypt is EET (UTC+2).
When entering Egypt you don’t need a visa if you will stay in Sharm for up to 2 weeks. However, if considering doing trips outside the Sharm area then you will need to buy a visa.
We went on a trip to Cairo & the Pyramids of Giza and had to get a visa for this trip.
Travel and Accommodation
In terms of arriving to Sharm, it’s accessible by all means of transport although you will most likely be looking to fly in. The airport in Sharm is “Sharm El Sheikh International Airport” which is the 3rd largest airport in Egypt.
Also, a word of advice, when you land it’s best you get your duty-free cigarettes after passport control in Sharm Arrivals Terminal as you can find some amazing deals. There are also similar prices in the departures terminal on your way out.
Another handy tip is roaming. We found it very expensive to get boosters from our UK operator so we bought at the arrivals terminal a local SIM card. Prices may change but we paid for 20 GB, 9 euros in 2022. Gotta’ check those Facebook posts. 😉
Most flights are seasonal and depend on the high and low seasons passenger influx. Most airlines are charter airlines working for travel agencies.
Security ever since the 2015 terrorist attack has quadrupled. On the return flight, we went in the airport through 5 security checks. They did feel overwhelming hence make sure you allow enough time as 2 hours through those check went very fast.
Similarly to Turkey, we recommend getting yourselves a packaged holiday as tourism in Egypt is an industry that is well oiled. We believe the do it yourself model might not be very meaningful here and could lead to higher costs.
Read more about advantages and disadvantages of package holidays vs. independent travel here.
We booked a package holiday with TUI, but if you prefer to organise your own trip, check our tips on how to plan a holiday.
Assuming you booked a package holiday, once arrived at the airport be sure to check in with your tour operator so they can guide you to your transfer shuttle/coach.
On this occasion, we chose to stay at the Magic World Sharm by Jaz. A hotel owned by the Jaz Hotel Group.
The hotel had it’s own coral reef and amazing sandy beach. Read more about the hotel and our experience here.
To get around Sharm, you can use the local mini-bus company known as “Serviz” or service in English. The mini-busses pick-up people from the street with very good value rates. As an idea the hotel taxi wanted to charge 15$ for a one way trip to the old Market (30 km).
The service bus charged 5.75 EGP. We gave him 10 EGP each. The driver didn’t give us change but we didn’t mind it either. However, do be warned that the experience may be a bit on the down side with all sort of people boarding but hey, you’re travelling for less than 50¢.
Things to do in Sharm El-Sheikh
Well, to start off, wake up, have breakfast and then head off to the beach. – Relax – . The sound of the waves, the breeze playing with your hair and the sun touching your skin means the process of “holiday-fication” has started. Totally a real word :).
Sharm is a very modern and touristy city. Similar to Alanya you will see plenty of hotels across the coast line with plenty of choices. Everything from family hotels to couples’ and high class ones, this area has them all.
Hotels here know what to do and how to spoil you as a tourist. Everyone from the room maid making towel swans to chefs coming to greet hungry holidaymakers, all want to make you feel comfortable and forget about your earthly worries.
After you’ve made yourself comfortable in your hotel you might be left wondering – fine but where do I go and what else do I do?
First of all, we always recommend to start off with your hotel’s activity board. Try and see what things are included. Ping-pong? Tennis? Water sports? how about volley-ball?
Below we have outlined a few additional suggestions for you to consider, based on our experience:
Al Sahaba Mosque
Al Sahaba Mosque of Sharm el Sheikh is made using Ottoman architecture and it is considered the most important mosque built in the last years.
It was built by the Egyptian Army and you can visit it whether you are a Muslim or not. You should be aware that women should have a head covering.
As Hristina didn’t have one, they provided one for her or better said a whole chador.
The look on her face should tell you the sauna she was experiencing as we were going up and down the stairs inside the mosque.
The architecture on the outside is picture worthy to say the least and really stands out in the old city centre area.
Inside the mosque the décor is also nice but more modest and conservative. Similar to our visit in the Banya Bashi Mosque in Sofia there are many architectural elements which are shared.
We were pleasantly impressed to see the Islamic religious writing on the ceiling and walls with golden letters. Carpets also had a floral motif and added a bit of contrasting colour to the hall.
On our visit we had the chance to explore both floors of the mosque. We were guided by the muezzin. This is also how we learned that the role of the muezzin, a non clerical member of the mosque whose role is to call people to prayer.
You might’ve heard the “Allahu Akbar” calls when it’s time to pray – he is the one “singing”. He isn’t to be confused with the priest – which is the Imam.
At the end, the muezzin, took some photos of us and politely asked us to donate some money. $1 was sufficient. We did have someone in the group who refused to pay and the muezzin did try to force their hand but gave up in the end.
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The Old Market
This brings us to the next point which is shopping in the Old Market. Everyone when referring to the Old Market seems to giggle as they’re gonna explain to you that actually it’s not that “old”, it’s just named like that for better appeal.
As well as souvenirs and Bedouin crafts, the market sells a great selection of leather goods. As you well know, with every Oriental/Egyptian market comes haggling.
Haggling and bartering are great ways to get the best bargain that you can, so embrace the opportunity and have fun whilst you do it.
Unlike Turkey, in Egypt people tend to be more direct and do expect you to give them more money simply because you are a foreigner.
We also recommend buying in EGP as the currency is weaker compared to foreign ones and allows for a more granular price negotiation.
We enjoyed walking through the different stores and seeing their merchandise. Even if you’re not on the market for something you’ll surely be inspired to buy something.
Like in Punta Cana there are plenty of day trips to be done. You can always contact your official tour operator if you just want to book it with the travel agency that you came with.
Otherwise, if you feel a bit up for an adventure and potentially for some better value then head over to the markets. There you will see independent travel agents who can help you get booked on excursions and experiences.
As always, haggling is permitted and the more you buy the more discount you could get.
This is also what we did and we bought a boat trip to the Ras Muhammad National Park and a trip to see the Pyramids of Giza.
These were the 2 trips we got however, there were plenty to choose from, anything from quad bikes to an authentic Bedouin experience.
Most itineraries are similar what could be different is the quality of your guide on the day. We were fortunate to have good experiences.
The travel agent may ask you to provide him with a photo of your passport and your visa for his records however, don’t offer them as he shouldn’t be holding that information.
Our travel agent showed us for some reason 2 other tourists’ passports just to showcase that they also bought from him. With that in mind I can imagine a few privacy concerns ahem!
A verbal confirmation is enough for them to know that you have a visa should you go outside Sharm.
Cairo & the Pyramids of Giza
As this was our first time in Egypt we decided to book this trip as it did feel a once in a lifetime opportunity. The trip comes in 2 flavours:
Both options entail pros and cons. The itinerary is the same once arrived in Cairo so it’s really down to you to weigh the benefits.
You might want to go by plane if you want to reach Cairo from Sharm in 1 hour vs coach which is 8 hours. However, this comes at a cost, cheapest plane trip was £170pp vs £55pp by coach. So the savings are considerable even more so when looking at a group/family.
EgyptAir recently announced the creation of a new low-cost airline to service Sharm-Cairo for this purpose primarily. So we should see plane ticket prices go down and hence making this trip more cost effective.
We chose the coach option as we didn’t mind the extra travel time. The distance from Sharm to Cairo is of about 500 km.
An interesting thing about this trip is that as you cross under the Suez Canal you are crossing from Asia into Africa. There you go, 2 continents for the price of one trip.
The trip also has some addon expenses so expect to add an extra £10-20pp payable on the spot to the guide.
Read more about our trip and experience and how we rode camels at the Giza Pyramids here.
Boat trip to Ras Muhammad National Park
As it’s already tradition with us we chose a boat trip also. We always enjoy getting boat trips as they tend to explore local islands and allow for a bit of at-sea diving/snorkelling.
This particular trip cost us £32.50 inclusive of transfer, snorkelling equipment (however, we had our own), 3 swimming stops, lunch and soft drinks and one 10 min dive.
On the boat they made us aware that we can upgrade our diving experience for a little more extra (£15 pp) should we want 25 min of diving.
Of course, we haggled for both of us and managed to agree on £25. Unfortunately, Hristina didn’t enjoy diving so it was just me that went for the full 25 min.
For an additional fee they can also take photos of you whilst on the boat or diving. Our advice is to wait till the last minute to make sure you get the best discounts before buying them.
We also had an action camera that we used for underwater photography but we still went for the pro photos from the photographer on the boat.
We managed to get them for £10 from £35 and got them in the parking lot doing a “quick share” whilst waiting for our bus to come. Like I said – patience.
Overall, we thought the trip was very nice and the crew were just as nice.
Other Trip Suggestions
Food and Drinks Highlights
In terms of local cuisine you should imagine Oriental cuisine. Safran, turmeric, parsley etc. are all players on your plate and make the food get its vibrant look and amazing flavours.
We noticed many Turkish influences anything from Pide to Adana Kebabs, which make sense as Egypt used to be ruled in one way or another by Turkey since the 16th century till the 20th century.
In terms of food, flat breads are very popular and tend to be accompanied by various dips to be sampled before the mains arrive. These can range from spicy beans or chickpeas to a very tahini heavy hummus.
We also sampled a selection of oriental desserts including baklava, kunafa and basbusa. They were good also and left us with a sweet taste at the end.
Egyptians also like to drink hibiscus teas which can be very refreshing and can be served cold (ice tea) or warm. They call it Karkade and it’s a staple on any menu.
In terms of venues we went to we would suggest you look into Old Egypt Cafe. We can’t say we recommend it but credit where credit is due it has a spectacular view of the Old Market and the Mosque.
Service wasn’t great but they do offer some typical (non-alcoholic) drinks and shishas. What better place to enjoy a Bedouin tea and a double apple flavoured shisha whilst watching the moonlight shine over the minaret of the Mosque?
Overall, Sharm El Sheikh is a great all year round destination. It feels safe with plenty of police and security measures.
We believe this resort is great for families and couples. We did notice a few things that perhaps made us raise an eyebrow.
You do feel a little bit like a walking wallet with people asking you for more money simply because they think you have it as an European. On top you can be asked upfront for tips which can be a bit direct and annoying at times.
With that said, we think that the beauties of the area and overall experience in Sharm outweighs any negatives. From diving in your hotel and exploring the natural coral reef to enjoying the lush, golden beaches, Sharm El Sheikh is truly a resort fit for a sultan.
Ready to book? Below are some recommendations to get your trip started:
- Flights – we use flight aggregators such as Skyscanner and Google flights to find the best options. You can find more information about finding cheap flights here.
- Flight compensation – Compensair or AirHelp for flight delays and cancellations.
- Accommodation – would recommend booking your accommodation through an aggregator such as Booking.com or Agoda to get the best rates. We also use TripAdvisor to read reviews.
- Transport – consider Rentalcars.com for car renting or if you rely on public transport, you can use Omio for trains, coaches, ferries, airport transfers and even flights.
- Activities – a great option is GetYourGuide or Viator for tours, excursions, experiences and tickets to many tourist attractions.
- Travel money – we have Starling Bank accounts (UK residents only) with 0% fees on FX and a good Mastercard exchange rate. Revolut is another good option.
- Internet abroad – with Airalo you can access a wide range of eSIMs (digital SIM cards) available for different countries and regions.
- Luggage storage – if you need to store your bags whilst exploring the destination, you can use Radical Storage to find your closest luggage storage and enjoy your journey until the very end.
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