I have to say at first I was reluctant to book with a company I'd never heard of rather than one of the more established ones, especially with all the troubles occurring in Egypt. My mind was eased with all my e-mails and questions being answered swiftly and honestly by Amir who I got to meet later on the tour.
As soon as I arrived at Cairo airport very early in the morning, both a driver and a representative who could speak perfect English were waiting for me as soon as I stepped into the arrivals area. She explained the whole tour and itinarary. In fact whenever I travelled to a different location, a representative was always there waiting. This was a particular relief, as there was no need to fend off the mass of people offering me tours, taxis etc.
The hotel they took me to was not 5 star, but it did have all that is needed for a comfortable short stay. Free wi-fi, a bar and restaurant and in a quiet street.
The next day my driver and tour guide again arrived dead on time and took me to the pyramids sphinx etc. The guide was friendly and knew the main facts and stories behind them. Her accent was a little bit hard to follow at times, but she was happy to explain further and clarify. At first all the history was difficult to understand, but further on in the tour it becomes clearer.
The tour does not include any of the entrance fees or tips which can add up. Habibitours does make this perfectly clear, so please don't be surprised when you need to pay out at all of the sites. Most of the sites had increased their entrance fees recently too, and there are always unofficial 'guides' that wish to be tipped for unsolicited information or photographs.
At the pyramids the tour guide stopped at stables for me to hire a horse or camel. This is needed, but don't be afraid to haggle. They asked for E£250 at first, I managed E£180. It's better to tip your guide at the end, than listen to the sob stories and protestations of the owners.
The day was shorter than expected, but this was a relief as the first day had a lot to take in.
The second day was similar with a guide and driver taking me to Egyptian museum and citadel. This was a longer day and a guide that was better than the first day and I gained a lot of knowledge from her. They did add what seems to be an obligatory stop at a perfume shop for 'refreshment'. I made it clear I wasn't going to buy and they didn't try as much as I had expected. If you are going to buy anything in Egypt, at the very least get it less than half the starting price, and it is very usual that they start at 4 times what they would accept.
The next day the trip into the desert was my highlight. It was a long bus journey, and then another long journey in a jeep, but if they buddy you up with a great fellow traveller as they did me, the time passes away quickly. Being in the desert wilderness was an amazing experience and thoroughly recommended.
When I returned, this is when the trouble in Cairo had started. Amir the manager I mentioned earlier came to meet us at the bus station personally and ensured we got to safety. Despite being slightly uneasy, they really did make us feel safe. We watched from a hostel balcony the tanks come out on to the street and enforce the curfew. At no point did we feel unsafe. Amir went out personally to buy us food. Although our train was cancelled, we paid the difference to fly to Aswan and again a guide was waiting to show us the sights.
I then paid the extra to go on the Nile cruise. Although it isn't Westerners standard of 5* it was worth the extra. There were very few people travelling due to the troubles, the ship must have been only a quarter capacity, but those people on there were friendly and it made a nice atmosphere. Our guide here was a little more annoying and at times slightly sleazy, but if you took him with a pinch of salt he was bearable.
Luxor and the valley of the Kings and Queens finally put all the information and facts that had been given into perspective and made all the history more understandable. The tombs were really well preserved inside and another highlight. I then flew back to Cairo were Amir and Emily (the rep) looked after us again before my flight back to London.
So to sum up:
Very friendly drivers and guide who will answer all your questions including the political state.
Never felt unsafe despite the problems
Booking a tour saves you from the scams and hassle of organising yourself
Entrance fees - not included. It is made perfectly clear, but they do add up and have increased
Tipping - very annoying, especially if you don't have change and you have no idea what to tip. It is a poor country and they do need them, but don't pay too much out they do add up by the end..especially the unsolicited ones.
Scams - I got scammed once with a horse and carriage ride. (Not with habibitours). Be firm, double check everything to do with the price, including the currency they tried to scam me with 'Nubian pounds' which don't exist.
Hassle: not as much as expected, but still annoying. Remember at least to get less than half the starting price and you can get a quarter if your good at bargaining. They will never sell at less than cost price despite all their tactics.
All in all though a very good bargain tour. Don't expect luxury, but do expect a well organised and safe adventure.
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