Sharm El Sheikh holidays

Experience Sharm El Sheikh

Experience [destination]

Best Places to Visit

Na'ama Bay is the place to be in the evening, although usually it doesn't get going until around midnight. There're plenty of restaurants, so be prepared to be accosted by restaurateurs on the street. It's a lively place packed with 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 anyone wanting to hit the shops, SOHO Square is the answer. This is a complete dining, retail and all round entertainment centre, with shops along with various ice cream parlours and nightclubs. You'll also find 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 everyone 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 many 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.

A visit to Sharm El Sheikh isn't complete without a trip into the desert. There's the fabulous 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 many miracles, so is a very spiritual place.

Top Landmarks

Ras Muhammed National Park was declared a national park in 1989. The park runs across the Gulf of Suez and is where Tiran Island can be found. The coral reefs located 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, including Egyptian folklore, belly dancing and whirling dervishes held here throughout the week. The architecture is stunning and there are tours available.

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 exceptionally clear views of the stars and planets.

Entertainment

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 many 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.

Dining Out

Dining out in Sharm El Sheikh can be extremely varied, both in style and cuisine. 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 want to try something different, many restaurants serve pigeon cooked in a variety of ways. At every traditional restaurant, you'll also find 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 to be available in all restaurants, and 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.

Other cuisines such as British, 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 also a Planet Hollywood and a Hard Rock Cafe here for American dining in a movie star setting.

Beach

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.

Romance

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.

Family

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.

Adventure

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.

Need to know

Need to know [destination]

Language

The official language of Sharm El Sheikh is Arabic and English is widely spoken, especially in the tourist industry. French, German, Spanish and Dutch are also commonly spoken among local tour operators.

Currency

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 is a number around the resort. All major credit cards are accepted in the big tourist shops and hotels.

Visas

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 15EGP. 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.

Climate

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, which lasts from November to March and enjoys an average temperature of 20°C, dropping to around 12°C in the evening. There are around nine hours of sun a day in winter; it rarely rains and there's less chance of sandstorms than in summer.

Main Airports

The main airport in Sharm El Sheikh is Sharm El Sheikh Airport, the largest airport in the Sinai Peninsula. It receives a lot of charter flights every day, 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.

Flight Options

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 and 30 minutes.

Travel Advice

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 before arrival.

Other Transport Options

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. You can also get to Sharm El Sheikh by boat, and International Fast Ferries runs services from Hurghada around four times a week or more in peak season. The journey takes 1 hour, 30 minutes.

Getting Around

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 metres (believe it or not, the sand usually causes metres to break) so a fixed price should be agreed on with the driver before hopping in.

Bus

The abundant local buses in the resort are what most of the locals use to get around. They are easy to spot as they are striped white and blue, and hailing one on the street is simple. On board, 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.

Car

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.

Taxi

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.

MAP

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FACTS

  1. Some of the Red Sea's best dive sites are located off Sharm El Sheikh. The reefs of the Straits of Tiran are home to barracuda and sharks as well as a huge range of smaller species. There's lots of sea life to be spotted in shallower waters too, making snorkelling a favourite sport.
  2. A quiet fishing community up until the late 1960s, Sharm El Sheikh is now a vibrant, popular year-round beach destination. In June the sun shines for an average of 13 hours a day: that's 390 hours during the month!
  3. From late-May to early-June you can see Hawksbill Turtles nesting on beaches in Sharm El Sheikh while late-June to early July is the nesting season for Green Turtles.

FACTS

  1. Some of the Red Sea's best dive sites are located off Sharm El Sheikh. The reefs of the Straits of Tiran are home to barracuda and sharks as well as a huge range of smaller species. There's lots of sea life to be spotted in shallower waters too, making snorkelling a favourite sport.
  2. A quiet fishing community up until the late 1960s, Sharm El Sheikh is now a vibrant, popular year-round beach destination. In June the sun shines for an average of 13 hours a day: that's 390 hours during the month!
  3. From late-May to early-June you can see Hawksbill Turtles nesting on beaches in Sharm El Sheikh while late-June to early July is the nesting season for Green Turtles.

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