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Current situation for St. Catherine's Tour & Driving advice

Tokyo
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Current situation for St. Catherine's Tour & Driving advice

I'll be going to Sharm for my second time in September. I didn't do the St. Catherine's Monastery tour last time because of the bombing early this year but I'd really love to go. I know that travel warnings have been relaxed for Egypt but I can't find recent reports of St. Catherine's. Has anyone done one recently and any difficulties encountered?

Ideally I'd really like to rent a car and go ourselves giving us time to stop in Dahab on the way back and do a Blue Hole dive at our own pace rather than deal with a bus group. Driving in Egypt doesn't phase me, I've driven in far worse places but wondering how smooth the checkpoints are for independent drivers?

In Motion
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1. Re: Current situation for St. Catherine's Tour & Driving advice

I don't know much about renting a car, but if you can do so, driving around the Sinai is OK, it's nothing like Cairo, the roads are empty. I don't drive myself in the Sinai, but have friends in Nuweiba, Dahab and Sharm who do, and they always come (and come quite often) with their own cars to St Catherine. Between the Dahab-Nuweiba checkpoint and St Catherine you have to travel in a convoy, although it is not always enforced. Otherwise there are no problems at the checkpoints as long as everything is OK with your papers. The road to St Catherine via El Tor and Wadi Feiran is off limits for foreigners, so you can only go via Dahab.

I don't know how much renting a car is, but I don't think renting a 4x4 with a driver is so much more expensive (about 800LE per day). If I were you, that's what I would do, get a Landcruiser with a Bedouin driver for two-three days, visit St Catherine and a few places little off the main road (for example Nawamis or Ein Hudra) then finish at the Blue Hole.

You should be aware that St Catherine is in the amber zone for UK visitors, which means their insurance might not be valid. Check your own insurance policy if you are covered.

Tokyo
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2. Re: Current situation for St. Catherine's Tour & Driving advice

Thanks for the reply. That's very useful information.

I've found contract rates through Sixt for $110 for 2 days including CDW so that's about half the price of a 4x4 with driver at L.E.800/day (actually they're cheaper if I didn't mind driving a smaller car but wanted a properly sized sedan).

I'm curious as you mention that we must travel in a convoy after the Dahab-Nuweiba checkpoint to St. Catherine, I assume there are a reasonable number of tour groups going to St. Catherine early in the morning and coming back after noon, but outside of the "rush hour" is there enough traffic to make a convoy in a reasonable amount of time or is it possible that you could be waiting at the checkpoint for an hour or more for other traffic to come along?

I am aware of the insurance issues for UK citizens due to the FO warnings, actually I'm just posting via the UK TripAdvisor because it's what always comes up on Google and the forum seems quite active. I'm US citizen but the insurance I use is Japanese. The only country restrictions I've seen on Japanese policies are Syria and Iran, but the policy that I typically rely on doesn't have any restriction at all if I recall. I'll have my partner give it a glance over before we go just to be sure since she's native Japanese she reads much more clearly than I do.

In Motion
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3. Re: Current situation for St. Catherine's Tour & Driving advice

Yes, unfortunately it means if you get to the checkpoint at the wrong time, you might have to wait quite a lot.

If you want to do the trip by taxi, that's only a little more than $110 for renting a car. Sharm to St Catherine 400-450LE, then St Catherine to Blue Hole 250-300LE, then Blue Hole to Sharm 200-250LE are the realistic rates, which is all up 850-1000LE.

If you plan to spend a night in St Catherine, any of the accommodation providers can organize the taxi at this rate. In St Catherine I would recommend the Sheikh Mousa camp, but there are other options - here is a list:

http://discoversinai.net/english/category/st-catherine+accommodation/?r_sortby=highest_rated&r_orderby=desc

If you want to spend a night in Dahab, there are many more choices, the best way to find them is here on TA. Hotels in Dahab would also organize the taxi, as it would assure they get a guest.

Hope it helps.

Edited: 25 June 2014, 11:05
Cairo, Egypt
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4. Re: Current situation for St. Catherine's Tour & Driving advice

I would recommend staying at the St Catherine Monastery Guest House as it is located just outside the monastery itself. St Catherine is superb at night when there are no tourists about - best time would be to go just before or at full moon.

Up to a month ago the convoy left the St Catherine check point at 10.30 a.m., 1 p.m. and 8 p.m. - but the times do get changed around a bit so you have to check when you go there.

I do nt think there are specific times going to St Catherine but I do sometimes see tour buses waiting for the convoy at the check-point that Semperi mentioned. It is located 40 km north of Dahab and 30 km south of Nuweiba Port.

You are supposed to have an international driving license and must have a paper authorising you to drive the car - that is not a problem for an established rental company but make sure you have it if you rent from some one privately.

If you have the time and are comfortable driving ( just beware of the potholes and the camels ), then definitely drive to Dahab and spend a couple of days there, then spend a day and night in St Catherine and then head up past Nuweiba to Taba for Pharoahs Island... beautiful scenery all the way.

In Motion
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5. Re: Current situation for St. Catherine's Tour & Driving advice

I agree with the Monastery Guest House, indeed a wonderful place in the evening, and nice food. It is just difficult to book things with them in advance, they're not very responsive. I was told fax works best, but I assume if you just turn up without reservation they would have a room (unless it's some feast).

Tokyo
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6. Re: Current situation for St. Catherine's Tour & Driving advice

Thanks a lot both SemperLiber and Sally G. Your replies are very helpful in planning this.

I've already booked our resort in Sharm which is non-changeable so will definitely just be doing this as a day trip. I think if I can find out the convoy times in both directions then I'll just drive myself, the car would be convenient in Sharm as well so we can go to one of the large supermarkets and stock up on beverages and snacks for the week (I frankly don't care to haggle with the taxi drivers if I can avoid it). I'll see if the concierge at my hotel can inquire on the times for me because I certainly don't want to get stuck at the checkpoint for hours on end. I've seen that same 10:30am & 1:00pm from St. Catherine, so mostly need the morning times going the other direction.

As for the car tips Sally mentioned, yes I get an International Permit every year as I typically drive in several countries throughout the year and very few people outside of Japan, Hawaii, and Guam can read my actual license card. Even need in my home country when I visit since I haven't had a stateside drivers license for some time now. The car will be from Sixt so I trust papers will be in order from them.

Edited: 26 June 2014, 02:41
In Motion
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7. Re: Current situation for St. Catherine's Tour & Driving advice

I think doing it all as a day trip is too much, unless you leave Mt Sinai out and visit only the Monastery. I think it is really worth to climb the mountain, I personally prefer the sunset. Either case, keep in mind the Monastery is open from 9 AM to 11:30 AM, Friday and Sunday closed.

Regarding the convoy times to St Catherine, try to find out on your arrival, and anyway, sometimes the policemen are quite flexible and let drivers go - they know just as locals do that all this convoy thing in this area is absolutely unnecessary.

Have a nice trip!

8. Re: Current situation for St. Catherine's Tour & Driving advice

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