Sharm El Sheikh holidaysThe sample prices are per person based on two people travelling!
SHARM EL SHEIKH HOLIDAYSEgypt
The official language of Sharm el-Sheikh is Arabic. English is widely spoken, especially in the tourist industry. Most staff in hotels speak English, so it’s easy for tourists to get along here. French, German, Spanish and Dutch are also commonly spoken among local tour operators.
The local currency is the Egyptian pound, or livre Egyptienne, which is abbreviated to EGP. There are 100 piastres to EGP 1, with both piastres and pounds available in coin and banknote form. Visitors should be aware that only around EGP 5,000 can be taken in and out of Egypt. Exchange facilities at the airport can convert all major currencies. All the major tourist hotels have ATMs, and there are a number around the resort. All major credit cards are accepted in the big tourist shops and hotels.
UK citizens, as well as nationals of many other countries including the US, Ireland and Australia, can obtain a tourist visa on arrival at a major Egyptian port of entry for £15. Tourist visas are valid for a stay of up to three months. UK visitors landing at Sharm el-Sheikh Airport are entitled to a 14-day visa-free stay for travel within the Aqaba coast area only. Travel outside the Sinai Peninsula requires a tourist visa.
Summer lasts from April to October, with temperatures at this time commonly around 30°C. During this time, there is no rainfall or clouds. The only change in the weather is the occasional sand storm when temperatures soar. A far more comfortable time to visit is winter, from November to March, with an average temperature of 20ºC, dropping to around 12ºC in the evening. There’re around nine hours of sun a day in winter, it rarely rains and there’s less chance of sandstorms than in summer.
The main airport in Sharm el-Sheikh is Sharm el-Sheikh Airport, the largest airport in the Sinai Peninsula. It receives a large amount of charter flights everyday, particularly between November and March, the peak season. The only local airline chartered here is Egyptair, but many major European airlines fly directly to the airport.
Thomson Airways is the main international carrier serving the airport, flying from most major cities in the UK including London, Glasgow and Newcastle. EasyJet flies from Manchester and London’s Luton and Gatwick. Additionally, there are plenty of flights from major cities in Europe, especially during peak season when many seasonal flights come into operation. The average direct flight time from London to Sharm el-Sheikh is around 4 hours, 30 minutes.
Flying outside of peak season isn’t advisable, as the summer months in Sharm-el Sheikh can be unpleasantly hot. However, flying with a budget airline can be cheaper than flying with a full-service carrier, as can flying from London rather than elsewhere in the UK. Flying in the shoulder seasons of early November and late March can help reduce costs. Airport taxi drivers are notorious hagglers, so tourists should be prepared to bargain or arrange transport prior to arrival.
Driving from Israel or via the western coast from Cairo are options. There are daily buses on both routes, with the ride from Cairo taking around 8 hours. Also from within Egypt, it is possible to get to Sharm el-Sheikh by boat, as International Fast Ferries runs services from Hurghada around four times a week or more in peak season. The journey takes 1 hour, 30 minutes.
Sharm el-Sheikh is easy to get around, although there’s no train service, there are plenty of taxis and the roads are well maintained. Taxis and local buses are the primary means or getting around the resort. Taxis tend not to run on meters (believe it or not, the sand usually causes meters to break) so a fixed price should be agreed on with the driver before hopping in.
The abundant local buses in the resort are what most of the locals use to get around. There are easy to spot as they are striped white and blue, and hailing one on the street is simple. Onboard, tourists should find a seat, pass their money to the driver at the front and state their destination. Tourists should be warned that this isn’t the most luxurious way to travel. There are no seat belts and no air conditioning, but bus travel is extremely cheap.
Taxis in the town tend to be modern, with air conditioning as standard. It’s advisable to agree a price before getting in as haggling is an accepted practice here. Tourists should carry enough change to cover the fare as drivers don’t often carry much change. Taxis can also be hired by the day, and as there is fierce competition, it’s easy to get a good price.
It is possible to hire a car in Sharm el-Sheikh; however, local drivers can be erratic and although the road network is extensive, it’s poorly signposted. It is much easier to hire a taxi for the day. For tourists intent on getting their own transport, there are rental companies at the airport. Rentals are reasonably priced, with discounts often available when renting for longer than a day.
Na’ama Bay is the place to be on an evening, although usually it doesn’t get going until around midnight. There’re plenty of restaurants, so tourists should be prepared to be accosted by restaurateurs on the street. It’s a lively, busting place, with many shops, and it’s standard to haggle for free drinks with a meal. Taxis are cheap and the fresh seafood alone is a good enough reason to visit the bay.
For those tourists wanting to hit the shops, SOHO Square is the answer. This is a complete dining, retail and all round entertainment centre. There’re shops along with various ice cream parlours and nightclubs.
Alongside these establishments is pretty much every kind of entertainment imaginable, from an ice rink and bowling alley, to a video arcade and a children’s soft play area. This entertainment is all set among marble water gardens where there are nightly open-air shows on the stage along with an impressive dancing fountain show.
For a more traditional shopping experience, tourists should head to the Old Market in the heart of Sharm Old Town. It’s not for the faint hearted, as it can get very crowded and street vendors tout their wares to every one passing. Visitors should have their haggling skills at the ready, as everything can, and should be, bartered over. The market is a real Egyptian experience and a great place to pick up some authentic souvenirs.
Tiran Island, just off the coast, is a great place to visit for scuba diving. There are a number of trips available from Sharm el-Sheikh, and all feature scuba diving as part of the experience. The island is truly beautiful and visiting can be a nice way to see a different side to the area.
Ras Muhammed National Park was declared a national park in 1989 and is an essential feature with regards to economical development in the area. The park runs across the Gulf of Suez and is where Tiran Island can be found. The coral reefs found in the area are internationally recognised as some of the best in the world, the warm water is clear and the colours of the coral need to be seen to be believed. It is possible to dive here, but only a limited number of trips are organised to help protect the site.
In the town there is Alf Leila Wa Leila Palace, a stunning palace that offers both the chance to see the palace and take in one of the many cultural shows held here throughout the week. The architecture is stunning and there are tours available.
A visit to Sharm el-Sheikh isn’t complete without a visit to the desert. There’s the amazing Mount Sinai, where Moses is said to have received the Ten Commandments (hence the Arabic name, Gebel Musa, meaning ’Mount of Moses’). As a result, the mount has become a pilgrimage site, and here tourists will find the Greek Orthodox Monastery of St Catherine, founded in the 6th century. The monastery is said to be the location of a number of miracles, so is a very spiritual place.
Space Vision Sharm takes advantage of the clear skies, offering visitors the chance to appreciate the stunning views of the heavens. Here, visitors can spend the night camping in the desert with a guide, who will help stargazers to navigate the night skies through telescopes. The lack of light pollution in this area means there are stunningly clear views of the stars and planets.
Nightlife across Egypt has started to pick up in the last few years, but Sharm el-Sheikh easily provides the most variety. The legal age to drink in Sharm el-Sheikh is 21, and any evening event where alcohol is served will require customers to be 21 and over.
SOHO Square has a number of bars and nightclubs, but there’re also many clubs in the town centre. One such club is the Bus Stop; it’s hard to miss as the building is in the shape of a red bus. Disco music is extremely popular here. Next-door is the Sanafir Hotel, which is famous for its courtyard techno parties. Fashion shows are common here along with guest DJs.
Partying isn’t just confined to the nightclubs though; the beach parties in Sharm el-Sheikh are held nightly in high season. One of the best is on Terrazinna Beach. Starting at sunset, this beach party features fire shows and DJs every Tuesday and Friday.
Sharm el-Sheikh is also home to the Sinai Grand Casino, one of the biggest casinos in the Middle East. Open until 06:00, it’s renowned for its food and belly dancing show. However, there are also many casino games and a whopping 200 slot machines.
Dinner and dancing is a common form of entertainment in Sharm el-Sheikh. The famous Little Buddha offers a fusion menu of Japanese and French cuisine. After dinner, the upper level of the restaurant is transformed into a dance floor where martini is served until the early hours of the morning.
Alf Leila Wa Leila Palace also hosts dinner and dance nights, along with fantastic shows about ancient Egypt and the pharoses, with folk and belly dancing.
Dining out in Sharm el-Sheikh can be extremely varied, both in style and cuisine. There’s no end of small romantic bistros alongside luxurious restaurants serving three-course meals.
Traditional dishes that must be tried are: falafel, deep-fried chickpea patties; kushary, a pasta style dish in a spicy sauce with onion and lentils; and the mouth-watering kofta, sausage-shaped spicy meat. Shish kabab (grilled skewered meat) is also delicious, and for those who really want to try something new, many restaurants serve pigeon, cooked in a variety of ways. Every traditional restaurant serves a selection of flatbreads with dips such as hummus.
Most main meals, particularly meat dishes, are served with rice and potatoes, so diners should be prepared for the large size of portions when dining. Tourists should not expect alcohol in all restaurants, as many have a ’bring your own bottle’ policy.
A famous Egyptian dessert to sample is om ali, a bread pudding soaked in milk or cream (sometimes both) and vanilla, with nuts and raisins. It’s heavy, but delicious, and a great way to finish off a meal. It is served either cold and on its own or hot with ice cream.
For those wanting a taste of home, there are British restaurants and bars in the town, and the usual fast food outlets are represented, too. Other cuisines such as German, French and Italian are also on offer. In recent years, Sharm el-Sheikh has seen a rise in fusion restaurants, so modern Japanese style restaurants are plentiful. There’s a Planet Hollywood and a Hard Rock café here, too, for American dining in a movie star setting.
Luxury resorts have claimed many of the beaches in Sharm el-Sheikh; however, Ras Muhammed is stunning, with a lovely view of Tiran Island. Na’ama Bay is the most developed beach in the area; however, it’s still a lovely place to relax and has the added bonus of plenty of beachside restaurants and bars.
There are several spas in the centre of the town, but for a truly romantic evening, it has to be spending the night in the desert under the stars. Booking a trip out to the desert means sleeping in an extremely comfortable Bedouin tent, and visiting couples can lie back and admire the heavens before enjoying a romantic meal for two in the middle of nowhere.
A great way to deal with the heat is to head to Aqua Blue Water Park. Although it’s part of a hotel, visitors are also welcome. There’s a huge selection of rides and slides for all ages, with small cafés and snack bars on site. There are also sun beds and kids’ activities available throughout the day.
It’s all about diving in Sharm el-Sheikh, and the riot of colours in the Red Sea is in stark contrast to the endless desert. The reefs in Ras Muhammed and around Tiran Island are among the best dive site in the world, and the amount of fish at the reefs is amazing. Nurse sharks and barracudas are common. There is also the wreck of the SS Thistlegorm to explore, and although it can get crowded, it is a great place to dive.