Travelling across Egypt with a toddler
Resort holidays can be really handy with a family; all-inclusive food options, beaches, pools, and kids’ entertainment ready to keep the little ones occupied. Egypt is a great option if you want to get out of Europe in winter because it has the African heat keeping temperatures in the early 20’s (Celsius) and Sharm El Sheikh has an amazing selection of resorts and water parks to choose from. The only issue; it’s at least a 5-hour drive from Cairo, making trips to Giza a little trickier (and let’s be honest, you can’t travel to Egypt without seeing the Pyramids!). We decided to book an excursion through our travel provider TUI – it was a LOOONG day, but very worth it and we wanted to give other people reassurance that it’s totally possible to do with a baby/toddler!
One thing that’s worth noting is you don’t need a visa if you’re entering Sharm El Sheik from the UK, but if you go to Cairo, even for the day, you do need to make sure you have the correct Visa. We’d arranged ours in advance with our travel rep who took our passports to the airport a few days before and got the right stamps and paperwork, but make sure you factor this in if you plan to visit the capital!
We got picked up from our hotel at 4:30am by coach and taken to Sharm El Sheikh airport. Our flight was at 6:30 and took around an hour to get there, which was good as our daughter was full of life so early in the morning and just wanted to walk around. We were able to bring a small bit of hand luggage on each, as well as the pushchair (which evidently, we never ended up using because our daughter is such an independent explorer!). The airports in Egypt are awful – you get patted down and checked at least twice before getting on any plane, and the queues often go on for ages. The lack of organisation and communication is horrendous, and you really do need to go in as relaxed as possible with little to no expectations. Make sure you pack PLENTY of snacks for the little ones (and yourself) as you don’t know how long you’ll end up waiting for security or even the plane itself.
Once we were through, we were split into language groups and put onto coaches, each with a driver, tour guide, and a security guard. Although we felt safe in Cairo, it’s still somewhere you need to be careful and it’s common for guided tours and groups to have organised security with you.
The first place we went to visit was The Egyptian Museum, which was home to Tutankhamun. We stupidly forgot Adelaide’s shoes here, so she did get pretty grumpy being carried for the whole 2-hour tour, but she loved seeing all of the artefacts and mummies. There’s a lot to see but it’s pretty busy and quite packed in areas of the museum so make sure you supervise properly and maybe bring an activity whilst the tour-guide is telling you facts about it all. We had the option to bring a pushchair in here and we saw plenty of other people walking around with prams and babies, but I personally would’ve worn her in a carrier if she was younger, as it’s easier to keep out of people’s way and not worry about trying to squeeze through groups of people.
Before stopping for lunch on a large, docked boat that had been converted to a restaurant, we went out on to a boat ride along the river Nile. This was such a great experience as we got to see a different side of Cairo – away from the hustle and bustle of busy, traffic-lined streets and out into the open water. There’s heavy pollution in the city, and you can see the smog sitting heavy in the air over the water, but there were also some beautiful views!
After the boat-ride, we stopped off at a papyrus paper shop and got shown how the paper was made, and had the chance to buy a papyrus wall-hanging, but by this point we were all getting pretty tired (our daughter was on her second nap of the day) and were really only looking forward to one thing – the long-awaited Great Pyramids of Giza! It really surprised me how close they are to the city; I would’ve expected them to be in the middle of the desert, away from any town or cities, but it was just a 5/10-minute drive out of Cairo and into Giza and you’re there.
Whether it was the time of year or the time of day, the pyramids weren’t quite as busy as I’d have expected, but there were still hundreds of tourists gathered around the base of the pyramids, and camels and horses EVERYWHERE! You got the chance to look inside some of the pyramids for an extra cost, and to have a camel ride or horse and cart ride out to the perfect ‘picture’ spot as well. Scott wanted to tick something else off his bucket list and ride a camel, I opted for what I thought was the safer option of a horse and cart for me and my daughter. One thing I will say is neither of the options are safe for little ones, and you can actually walk the route if you wanted instead. I really wish I’d chosen that option in hindsight as the horse and cart was really rickety and felt like it was going to topple over with every bump.
We were warned before-hand that the ‘camel men’ will come up and try and charge you for everything. If they offer to pose for any pictures, say no. If they catch you trying to photograph their camels, they will immediately hound you for money and can be quite intimidating at times. The best thing to do is to keep your head down and don’t engage in any conversations and you’ll be absolutely fine. Our daughter loved seeing the animals, and the wild ‘doggies’ running around as well. It was a pretty grubby area and really heavily polluted, but it was definitely an experience we’re glad we did.
On the way out of Giza, the coach pulled over and we had a few minutes to take a look at the Sphynx and take some images of the sun setting around it, before heading back to the dreaded airport.
Getting back ‘home’
Our flight was meant to be at 7pm but as we got there, queued for ages to get through security and rushed through the gate, we were told there was a 2-hour delay. There was nobody around to ask for information from, and there was no shops, food, drinks or toilet at the gate. Eventually after a lot of people kicked up a fuss, they let us all back out into the larger waiting area with a café and toilet. Our daughter had done so well all day but we could tell she was getting tired and hungry so we tried our best to entertain her and let her run-around in the free time that we had. Luckily the airport was pretty empty other than our flight, so there was plenty of room for her to stretch her legs from all of the travelling she’d done.
Without any warning at all, the airport announced that our flight had arrived an hour earlier than planned and we were ferried into the departure gate again. We got back onto the plane and arrived into Sharm El Sheikh at around 10pm, thankfully greeted by the coach to take us all back to bed!
There were some other children on our tour with us, but Adelaide was the youngest by about 10 years, and we were constantly praised for how well she was doing and how we’d brought her up exploring the world with us, which made us feel amazing. Of course, she had a few grumpy toddler moments, but the people around us were always so understanding and we found that it’s never as bad as we think it’s going to be. That day, we left the hotel at 4:30am and didn’t get back until 11pm, but it was definitely a trip we’re glad we did.
Our take-away; make sure you pack plenty of snacks, lots of activities, PJ’s for a late finish and go into the day with an open mind. It’s completely possible to travel from Sharm El Sheikh to Cairo in one day and see everything you need to, even with a little one!