My friend and I (2 girls in our 20s) just got back from my 3-month trip from Cape Town to Cairo from December to February and wanted to provide some tips for those of you considering this type of trip in the near future. Feel free to ask questions. I'll try to answer to my best ability.
Weather-wise, Dec-Feb was a good time to travel south to north. We used public transportation for all of the trip except we flew over Sudan to save on time and visa costs ($330 with Yemenia Airways purchased at bravofly.co.uk from Addis Ababa to Cairo via Sana'a. Good flight with good food, but make sure to reconfirm 3 days ahead or they will cancel your ticket). Btw, stories on this forum regarding obtaining a visa for Sudan are exaggerated. We met at least half a dozen people who had no problems and got their visa within 24-48 hours. They were European or American. There is a possibility of getting a trasit visa which is a bit cheaper, $100 instead of $150 I believe, but it only gives you 2 weeks to cross the country.
We felt public transportation was a good way to get around. We didn't experience any major issues. The hardest parts are the route from Nairobi to the Ethiopia border (36 hours of driving on horrible roads usually on a truck) and in most parts of Ethiopia (very bad roads right now; they're getting them built which will take another 2 years or so). We met many people who bought a car and then hoped to resell it at the end of their trip. This really only makes sense for a group of at least 2 people and it you're traveling for more than 3 months. Be prepared to get a lot less for your car than what you started with too. Also, some countries like Egypt and Sudan have many registration and re-registration requirements for vehicles. Make sure you're aware of them in advance and be prepared to deal with the bureaucracy.
We found that having a tent for camping is helpful in Mozambique, Zambia, and Malawi. Many hostels have camping grounds and it's usually a lot cheaper than a dorm bed. If you're purchasing a tent in Africa, South Africa is the best place to do it (probably a store called Game) - most other countries only have simple tents and sleeping bags, no other accessories, mats, etc. I would strongly recommend buying self-inflating mats too (these are ONLY available in South African Game stores, not Mozambique for example). We ended up purchasing a tent off another traveler when we got to Mozambique and left it on our last stop in Malawi (don't count on selling it unless you have weeks to waste waiting around for someone who may be interested. there just aren't that many travelers in Africa yet to match your selling needs exactly, though there are plenty to be comfortable and meet people).
We used just the big Africa book from Lonely Planet. It's not very detailed and some info is outdated, but it worked just fine for figuring out itineraries and bus schedules. You can easily find out the rest from other travelers you meet. It's better to get a real person's perspective anyway when you're traveling. Don't rely on the book too much. One place I would get separate info on is the Omo Valley in Ethiopia. It's helpful to have info on the tribes so you can decide which parts to visit.
One of the best things you can bring with you on the trip is earplugs. The other absolutely necessary thing is bug spray. We found 2 bottles were necessary. Bring it with you as it's not that easy to buy it in many places. Even in big cities in more developed countries, it was often sold out. In other countries, it's simply not available most of the time. However, we found that mosquito nets are not really necessary to bring with you. We didn't use ours at all. The thing is that most hostels and cheap hotels where it is needed already have one.
If you're American, you'll get asked about Obama pretty much every time you mention it. And about 90% of the time you'll get asked if you work for the Peace Corps. Apparently, there are barely any Americans traveling alone (this doesn't really apply to South Africa or Egypt).
If you're white, you'll get followed around and everyone will want to talk to you (same questions of where you're from, what you do, what you're doing there, etc). Be prepared to have this conversation multiple times per day, every day. If you're a female, you'll get followed even more. If you're a very nice female, you probably won't have any time to yourself at all - everyone is very persistent about having a conversation with you :).
Be prepared to be stern when you don't need help and "help" is being pushed on you. In countries like Ethiopia in particular, everyone will attach themselves to you "helping you" hitch rides that you would have gotten yourself without their help etc and they will want a cut from the driver for "helping you" (i.e. you'll likely end up paying more than without this "help"). Also, be prepared to constantly bargain to get local prices or even something relatively close to it. This is worse in some countries like Ethiopia where "faranji prices" are a pretty standard discriminatory practice now. Most of the time, you can find nice people who are not trying to get as much out of you as humanely possible. So look around. I say choose to support establishments who are decent and at least reasonable in their price hikes (i.e. not 3-4 times the local cost).
Fast Internet is available in South Africa, in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and in Egypt. Everywhere else we visited, it was non-existent or very very slow.
Important: Change all local money before you leave each country if possible. It's very hard to change unpopular currency like Malawi Kwacha or Tanzania Shillings once you leave those countries. Most places won't take anything but US dollars, UK pounds, etc. Also, bring as many US dollars as possible with you in cash. That's the main currency everyone will want.
TIPS BY COUNTRY
We started in Cape Town and went along the coast to Durban before heading to Mozambique. Some assume South Africa is more expensive than other countries in Africa because it's more modern, but it's actually one of the cheaper one, especially when it comes to food. Cheapest way to eat is at the deli/prepared food section at the supermarkets. Very very cheap! Hostel dorm beds run around 100 rand right now, so about $10US per night.
Cape Town is fun and lively, but I think a bit overrated, at least if your expectations are very high as some guidebooks will lead you to have. Long Street is the main party street. It's sort of like a mini Burbon St in New Orleans. Long Street Backpackers Hostel has a great location right on it if you want to party non-stop and meet lots of travelers and the rooms and bathrooms are clean. However, it's not quiet. Earplugs are needed if you want to sleep as the noise will go until morning, i.e. 5-6am easily. Also, the management drinks from morning until evening, non-stop. They're helpful, but they're not always in the best state of mind to help and not the friendliest. Others like Ashanti down the street, which is quiet since it's a walk from Long Street.
I recommend getting a group together and renting a car for the coastal trip from Cape Town to Durban. Car rentals in South Africa are extremely cheap, at about $20 per day all insurance and fees included. Your other option is to use the Baz Bus, which is not as convenient as it sounds. We haven't met anybody who loved it. It takes a lot longer to get from town to town via this bus and it's very expensive. If 3 people rent a car like we did, the total cost of car rental and gas was cheaper than the $120 per person or so cost to do the same thing by Baz Bus and took much less time and was a lot more convenient. The Baz Bus makes stops to drop others off at various places along the way and many of these places are very out of the way compared to taking a direct route by car. Plus, you have so much more flexibility to make whatever stops you want when you want with a car, it's not even comparable for the same price.
Pick up a free copy of Coast to Coast booklet - it's everywhere - before you head out. It has descriptions of places to stay everywhere along the coast. The stops I would highly recommend along the way are the penguin island, visit to an ostrich farm to ride one, Wilderness (stay at Wild Farm), Bulungula (middle of nowhere village where you'll actually see how villagers live - keep in mind that people who run the place are kind of unfriendly; check out their website. it's kind of hard to get to, but worth it for the experience. you need at least 2 nights there), Port St John's (stay at somewhat hippie but fun Amopondo hostel. The owner is amazing and will show you the best places around for free). If you need to make other stops in between to rest for a night, Blue Whale in Mossel Bay is very friendly, Tsatsikama Backpackers in Stormsriver is one of the nicest looking hostels I've ever stayed at. Jeffrey's Bay is overrated in my opinion, but supposedly it's good for surfing (when there IS surfing..there were no waves when we were there). If you do go there, stay at Ubuntu Hostel - great common areas and great caring owners (surfers themselves).
If you're going from Durban to Maputo, Mozambique, buy your tickets several days in advance. The bus goes 3-4 times a week at around 6am, but tickets are often sold out days in advance. We ended up going for the bus, but getting a ride with some locals who also couldn't get tickets and decided to drive instead.
VISA - at the border with Swaziland it's about $17 if paid in rand, $25 if paid in US dollars. So save some rand. We heard it's about 80 rand or $8 in Swaziland if you get it in advance.
One of the more expensive countries we've encountered. We only went to Maputo, Tofo beach, and Chimoie on the way to Zimbabwe. Supermarkets are pretty expensive. Hostels are relatively expensive - same price as South Africa or even more expensive in some touristy places. Maputo is a fun and interesting, though relatively dirty city. There are pretty much two hostels, Base Backpackers and Fatima's which also has a location in Tofo (due to their popularity, they charge about 1/3 more than Base; they also organize very expensive shuttes to their Tofo location - take a bus for a third of the price or negotiate). Tofo is small, but fun. Don't do ocean safaris without talking to others who have done it recently there to check on visibility at the time. They'll sell you on it even if you won't see anything. Fatima's Nest hostel has a great location on the beach, but dorms are expensive (more than $10 per night). Camping is available though. However, you still pay $5 per person to put up your own tent. They do have hot showers. Food is expensive. There is one relatively cheap place to eat in the center - look for a white trailer where the owner plays music, right next to the beach. Lots of people stay at Fatima's, so it's easy to meet people. There is no supermarket in town, so if you want to stay in Tofo cheaply, definitely purchase your food in Maputo before you arrive. The closest town is Inhabane abotu 45 mins away, but it doesn't have as much of a selection as Maputo and is not as cheap. There are banks there though, which don't exist in Tofo.
To get to Zimbabwe, we took a minibus to Inhabane, then ferry to Maxixe, and then a bus to Chimoie on the border (this was actually a van as we got lucky. all buses were overfilled).
VISA - $30US for Americans. There are long lines at some borders. Pay a legitimate local to get you to the front of the line. Should be around $5 tip. Make sure they're not drunk (seriously). You don't have to look for them. They'll come to you.
Everyone will tell you not to go to Zimbabwe right now, that the hostels are closed, buses aren't running etc. We did anyway because we wanted to see it and go to Vic Falls. Hostels are open and they need business now more than ever. Buses were running fine. Even the train was running which we took from Bulawayo to Vic Falls for $10. In Mutare, stay at Anne's. In Bulawayo, stay at a hostel right outside of the city line, considered the suburbs. Don't remember the exact name - Traveler's something. You can negotiate the price right now. Vic Falls are $20 to get in. I think they're not as impressive as Iguazu Falls, but they're worth seeing.
Keep in mind that food is scarce. You can find inexpensive local restaurants, but it takes some serious searching. It's best to bring food with you. Supermarkets are empty. Wimpy's, the chain chicken place and one of the few places with food still open has crazy prices, i.e. $18 for a chicken. Pizza is not as unreasonable, but expect Western prices.
DO NOT change money. The rate changes every day and you're very likely to get screwed on the street anyway. Plus, it's completely unnecessary. Most locals use US dollars and South African Rand as currency. Just have one of those.
VISA- They dropped down the visa cost for Americans from the crazy $135 to $50 a few weeks before we crossed the border, which was in December. It costs $20 I believe for a day pass to see the falls from the Zambia side.
We didn't stay in Zambia. We just took 2 buses to get to Lilongwe, Malawi. These are nice big buses, a nice change from the minibuses you'll be taking in most other places (btw, NEGOTIATE all prices before getting in. Try to find out how much locals are paying first).
VISA- None needed for Americans
We stayed in Malawi for 2 weeks. It's one of the cheaper countries. Most things revolve around spending time at various parts of Lake Malawi. Lilongwe is a fun town to spend a day or two. We heard Blantyre is an even better city, but we didn't have time to check it out. It's recommended by most we met.
We spent New Year's at Cape Maclear near Monkey Bay. I would highly recommend staying there for at least 2-3 nights. It's a small place with no ATMs, but beautiful with good swimming and good relaxing spots. The best place for camping is Gaia House. You're right by the water. The showers are hot and good. Dorms are ok with nets, but kind of hot and not cheap at more than $10 per night. Gecko is a more upscale place is you want a room. It also has a happening bar and a New Year's party which is very busy (but they charge $10 or $15 per person and drinks are not cheap). Food is not cheap since there are no supermarkets. There are only a few places to stay and none have a place to cook really. Try eating at Thomas's - a local joint at the end of the strip.
Senga Bay is an ok spot. We only stayed one night and didn't need more. Camping is available here as well.
Nkhata Bay gets good reviews. We thought it was just ok. Camping or dorms are available. Neither is cheap. The town has a supermarket, though not with too many options. Mayoka Village is the nicer place to stay with an atmosphere and a good bar. Butterfly is next door and more broken down. Both have hot showers.
We got stuck on the way from Senga Bay to Nkhata Bay as all minibuses ran out of gas - there was a shortage that day everywhere along Lake Malawi. This is another good reason to have a tent. We were able to just camp in the village next to the road and catch a ride the next morning.
VISA-$100 for Americans at the border, $50 for other Westerners. Americans get 1 year unlimited entry. You can get a cheaper one for $50 that's a transit visa, but it doesn't include Zanzibar.
Money: Even though the rate was around 1400 shillings to $1US when we were there, stores and shop owners are always under this weird impression that the rate is always 1000 to $1, and they always like to quote Westerners prices in US dollars. Always ask the price in shillings as it's usually going to be much cheaper upon conversion.
We took a minibus from Nkhata Bay to Msusu in Malawi, then another to Mbeya in Tanzania near the border. Have to do overnight there. Then there is a big bus to Dar es Salaam from there that goes through national park where you see zebras, giraffes, etc driving through. The ride is long though - 12 hours or so. Negotiate the price, as usual.
Dar es Salaam is a very cool city if you like markets and hustle and bustle. Most backpackers stay at YWCA in Downtown by the main post office. It's run down and crappy. However, it's convenient and it's a 7 min walk from the ferry to Zanzibar (only buy ferry tickets from booths with actual ferry names, not any of the other ones. Don't listen to anyone telling you things are sold out). They try to give you the more expensive rooms, but ask for a "family room" which is basically the same as the more expensive room, but for almost a third of the cost, at around $6 with two beds! There is cheap fast Internet at buildings nearby for around $1 per hour. Some of the fastest Internet in Africa!
Zanzibar is amazing and gorgeous. Not to be missed. Stay in Stonetown for at least 1-2 days. Explore the streets and the market. Try the sugar cane juice made on the streets and various fruit. Do the Spice Tour - it's worth it for around $10 including lunch for half day trip. Book through the hotel or reputable agency. Flamingo is one of the cheapest and cleanest places to stay. It's small, so if you want a particular room type, book a few days ahead. Malindi Lodge is another cheap option. Prices are negotiable there as they are almost everywhere. Always bargain. Flamingo doesn't negotiate much because they're often full and they're in the LP guide. But they're cheapest regardless. I went to Nungwi Beach in the north which was great. It's right next to a big village, so you're close to some civilization. There is even reasonably priced Internet, though it's not the fastest. I stayed at one of the cheapest places, Nungwi Guesthouse for about $12 per night for my own room with net and with bathroom. It's sort of run down, but does include a good breakfast - the owner is very nice. Negotiate the price once again! There was an older Brit who paid $20 for the same room next to me because he didn't bargain and you can get a much nicer room at one of the places next door for that much if you bargain. There are other beaches nearby that are more secluded if that's what you want. You can get to the beaches via tourist shuttles for around $7 per person each way. However, you can also take the local transport for around $1.50. There is a short 10 min walk from the stop to the beach. You can try to negotiate a price to get back to Stonetown. I got a private ride back for $5 at the time that I wanted to go because I found a car going back to Stonetown anyway. Btw, Zanzibar Airport has a $30 departure tax not included in tickets for international flights and about $3 for local flights.
Stay in Arusha to book a safari to Serengeti or the crater. My friend went to the crater and loved it. She negotiated a price of about $270 for a 3-day trip. Others she met there paid more. BARGAIN. No price you are ever quoted at first is the last price in Tanzania. If you don't want to spend this much, there are cheaper ways to do safaris in other countries like Zambia where you can go camping on your own (we were there during rainy season in Zambia unfortunately). The Masai Mara in Kenya is basically the same park as Serengeti across the border, but much cheaper. If you go during a good time of the year, it's as good and a LOT cheaper. Tanzania is known for high prices for anything tourist-related.
Nairobi is very modern. I had to skip it to fly to Johannesburg for medical treatment, so I don't have much information on it (advice: buy travel insurance! you'll be happy you did). My travel partner was there without me.
VISA- $20 at the airport; $70 at the Nairobi embassy and you need to get it in advance if you're crossing the border by land.
MONEY- LP guide is outdated. The biggest bank, Dashen, now has ATMs that accept foreign cards. Most accept VISA only, but some now accept Mastercards as well. Be aware that their system sometimes breaks down, so you can't completely rely on them. It's ALWAYS necessary to have US dollars on you. You also get a much better rate on the black market. Right now, the official rate is $1 to 11birr. That's what all the banks will give you as the gov't sets the rate. However, if you go to the souvenir shops in Addis Ababa at Churchill and Zambia Rd across from the main post office, you can negotiate a rate of 12.5 or even 13 birr to $1 depending on the day. Most hotels will also change you at the 11 to $1 rate. Changing back is easiest at the bank or via another traveler at your hotel, usually at 11 to $1. Banks will only change back if you provide a receipt of the original exchange, which you can't get from an ATM, only from an in-person bank transaction. Some places, even the cheaper hotels in Addis, will take VISA (Taitu and Baro Hotels in Addis both accept VISA when their machine works).
Ethiopia is probably the most unique country of all discussed so far. It has very different calendar (it's 2001 there right now), time (6am is their 12am), and food (injera is basically the staple and the only thing available in some places). It is also one of the hardest to travel by land, at least right now. The roads in Omo Valley and anywhere north of Gonder are horrendous. It takes 2 full days by crappy bus to go 600 km. They're finally fixing the roads and putting asphalt right now, but I was told it is going to take another 2 years or so to be done. If you're doing it by land and want to see the most notable spots, you need a month at minimum given these travel distances/times. Ethiopian Airlines does fly to most of the destinations, but they have a descriminatory set of prices in place which make it very expensive. The only way to get regular "local" prices is to use Ethiopian Airlines to fly internationally into AND out of Africa on a roundtrip flight. Basically, an hour long flight usually costs around $35 for a resident, but the "foreigner price" is around $150. This is something that translates into pretty much every other aspect of Ethiopia. You will encounter these "faranji prices" when doing absolutely everything from buying a coffee to getting a hotel room. Unlike in other countries where shopowners give you a high price and lower it when you bargain, many Ethiopian shop and hotel owners will blantantly charge you a much higher price without any remorse or willingness to bargain. Be aware that this may put a damper on your trip especially if you're a backpacker on a serious budget. It did for us. Even though the country has a ton of amazing culture and history to offer a traveler, you do start to feel exhausted from being constantly taken advantage of. There are some establishments that won't do this or are willing to bargain because they actually want your business, so I would recommend seeking out those whenever you can. When you're at restaurants and cafes, the trick is to see how much others are paying and trying to insist that you're going to pay the same. It always helps to know how much popular things like tea, coffee, chicken meal, cheap hotel, etc are on average when you get to a new country anyway. Or get a local to buy you that fruit you want off the street. Beware that some touristy places in Ethiopia will have menus in English though with higher prices.
In general, if you're a bargain backpacker, be prepared for cold showers and bucket showers at cheap hotels (testing beforehand can help avoid them), toilets that don't flush, very bumpy uncomfortable bus rides, and lots of "helpful" people who try to make a buck of whoever they get to "help you" (even when you didn't need any help to begin with). However, also be prepared for 10 cent macchiatos and teas and 15 cent fresh juices when you get local prices at nicer establishments!
Addis Ababa is an interesting city to spend a few days. If you like spas, this is one of the few places where you can get cheap treatments at a luxury spa, relative to Western prices. Check out Boston Spa at Bole in the same building as Lime Tree Cafe (great place for great Western food if you're craving some, though at Western prices). 1-hour massage of luxury including a free drink is around $18. European Facil is $38 or so. Eyebrow tint around $4. There is also a movie theater in Addis that's somewhat Western with at least one English-language movie playing, if you're missing this luxury by the time you're in Addis. Do try coffee at Tomoca. Habasha Restaurant is not cheap, but has traditional dancers every night.
In Addis, stay at Baro Hotel or Taitu Hotel in Piazza area. Both take VISA now and both have set cheap rates where bargaining is not necessary. They're not perfect, but they're completely suitable for budget travelers with hot showers most of the time. Taxi to/from airport should be 40-50birr from Piazza area. Don't believe the 90birr bs. Taxi to the bus station is 20birr from there.
Omo Valley is worth a visit. If you're doing it via public transport, you can get to Konso, but from there you need to hitch on back of trucks. You'll often be charged 2-5 times more than the locals and you won't be able to do much about it because you won't have many other options. Be prepared. You can get a local guide to come with you. This is only helpful for visiting and actually spending a good amount of time with the tribal villages, which I highly recommend. My friends and I liked Damaka tribe the best. My friends spent 2 nights there, which was probably a bit much. 1 full day and 1 night is enough. This tribe is interesting because they're not used to tourists at all yet so they don't constantly ask for money and other material things. We thought the market was overrated. If you get a local guide, just get them for the village visit/overnight. Do the rest on your own. Getting a car to explore the area is expensive. You can't drive it yourself and you're required to hire a guide. This costs about $90-150 per day for the car and driver/guide combined. This can make sense for a group of 5 people if you split the cost, though it's not budget traveling. It would be cheaper to hitch if you have the energy and time. Plus, it's adventurous :) Once again, negotiate all hotel and food prices everywhere you go. Remember that farengi=walking ATM, especially in this area. You need at least 5-6 days to explore this area.
Lalibela is worth visiting for the amazing stone churches. About 2 full days there is enough. The roads to get there are horrible right now. 2 full days from Addis on the bus.
Gonder is worth visiting for the castles. 1-2 full days is enough for the city. Stay at Belegez Pension. It's by far the nicest places for the relatively cheap price. We were glad we found it on the second night after the first disastrous stay. For transportation to other cities, including Bahir Dar, don't go through hotels. Negotiate directly at the bus station with the driver. Better yet, as for everything else, find out local prices in advance so you know what you should be paying. In February, Gonder to Bahir Dar by minibus cost 35birr.
Bahir Dar is also worth visiting. It's a nice relatively big city on the lake. Rent a bike to explore it a bit. Make sure the bike has good brakes and worth in general before you drive off. Also, get a lock. And bargain hard after finding out the real price. In February 2009, we paid around 4birr per hour. They will most definitely quote you some insane price about 10 times that much at first. Once again, this is the norm. Get used to bargaining.
VISA- $15 at the airport
Important for students (and not): Having an International Student Card is VERY useful in Egypt. Entrance fees to every site are expensive. Students gets half price to pretty much everything. However, most ticket offices at the sites will only accept official ISIC cards. If you're a girl, have a regular college ID and are very convincing, you may be able to get away with a regular card at most places, but not all, like we did. ISIC cards also get you around 30% off trains (not sleepers). I'm sure you're aware that there are many places that issue fake ISIC cards as well...
Cairo is an awesome city. Lots going on, pretty modern, lots of hustle and bustle, cheap if you find out local prices and don't overpay, great food and drinks. Hookah and tea places are everywhere. Each costs around 1 egyptian pound for locals (Feb 09). Make sure you're not getting ripped off. See what others are paying. Bargain hard at the tourist market. Scarves may seem cheap at $10-12, but they actually cost around $1.50-2. Try all the different deserts at bakeries. Roasted chicken is great at those places with skewers. Fresh juice places are a steal too.
When going to the Pyramids, don't get scammed via various schemes thrown at you along the way. Nothing is closed. Prices are always cheaper than they claim. Don't let the taxi driver take you to any "cheap student gate" which doesn't look like a real entrance gate. Don't agree to any camel ride into the Pyramids - it's NOT the only way to get in unlike touts claim. You can walk around by foot just fine and you can ride plenty of camels for 1/10 of the cost once inside if you want to do that. Make sure the taxi takes you directly to the main gate - it may take some arguing. To get to the Pyramids from Cairo, you can take the metro to Giza station and take a taxi for 3-4 pounds to the Pyramids from there. Or you can take a bus from the metro station, though you need to ask where to get off and which way to go towards the Pyramids once you do.
Egypt shop and hotel owners will also try to give you high prices, but they're very willing to bargain. So bargain away. It's basically expected to bargain for almost everything in Egypt. Set prices are rare. We even bargained for water and ice cream at a museum cafe in Valley of the Kings.
There is a train to Luxor. You have the option of a tourist sleeper train for $60 per person including (disgusting) dinner and breakfast. The regular train has 1st and 2nd class for about a third of the price or cheaper. The sleeper beds are very comfortable and we thought were worth it if you can't get much sleep in a reclining seat. However, if you can, the seats in both 1st and 2nd class are very comfortable and recline quite a bit. Keep in mind that most Egyptians have no consideration for others when it comes to cigarette smoke. Many will smoke on buses and trains (including bus drivers) with all windows closed. Keep that in mind if you're sensitive and taking night buses, which are otherwise nice and comfortable in Egypt. Also, bring ear plugs and warm clothing/many layers or blankets on buses. Some bus drivers will play movies loudly all night long (in Arabic of course) and will turn up the air-conditioner (I think it makes them feel like it reduces the smoke...it doesn't).
The night bus from Luxor to Dahab is 15-18 hours. Dahab is worth visiting. There is some good diving and snorkling, and some of the scenery near the Blue Hole snorkling spot makes for excellent photos (think crystal blue water with a backdrop of desert, mountains and bedouins ridings their camels). However, the highlight for us was a little spot called Ras al Satan about 100 km north that used to be popular with Israelis. Unlike the more developed Dahab, it has no ATMs or shops. Just beautiful scenery and only a couple of places with simple huts to stay at along the beach. Great secluded, relaxing spot. The only downside for backpackers on a budget is that you are pretty much forced to eat at one of the hotel restaurants for every meal and they know it. So they charge about 2-3 times what it normally costs. Sometimes you can bargain; other times they're not as willing. Dinners are typically about $10 per head compared to about $4 you can find at cheaper places in Dahab. Talk to the hotels to arrange transport to Ras al Satan in a minibus (and you can potentially arrange a ride back with the driver yourself on your own as we did which works out cheaper than doing it later when you don't have many options). Once again, bargain. We ended up paying only 15 pounds each for snorkling trip to Blue Hole for 3 of us instead of original negotiated rate of 35 pounds. And we only paid 20 each for 4 of us to get to Ras al Satan for a total of 80 pounds instead of the normal 200. It's not that hard, I promise :)
In Dahab, I recommend Bedouin Lodge as an inexpensive place to stay. Check out all available types of rooms and bargain :) There are lots of places with fast inexpensive internet available too. Oh, and bargain for alcohol at liquor stores and ice cream at supermarkets etc.
Ok, that's all I can think off right now. Don't hesitate to ask for clarification on anything that I wrote or for information I forgot to include!