World class wreck dives, healthy reefs, and varied and plentiful marine life, these are what attract so many scuba divers to the Red Sea year after year. And with competitive safari prices and so many dive destinations to choose from, who can blame them?
Egypt's splendour extends beyond the underwater marvels of the Red Sea. Egypt is an ideal destination for a vacation that combines liveaboard diving with tours of cultural interest. Its historical attractions are world famous and include the ancient pyramids of Giza and Sphinx in Cairo, as well as Nile cruises and the Valley of the Kings near Luxor.
The Red Sea is not limited to Egypt of course and for many, the Sudanese waters are a great way to sample Red Sea liveaboard diving without the crowds.
We recommend a range of liveaboards operating in the Red Sea including those with trips focusing on the northern regions where you can dive numerous fantastic wrecks and those visiting southern area including the marine parks and beyond. Check out your liveaboard options here:
Most charters in the Northern Red Sea are for a duration of 1 week, although shorter Sinai-only trips are also available.
Conditions are more variable in the south, with reefs being more exposed, rougher seas, and occasional strong currents. Therefore Southern Red Sea tours appeal to more experienced divers. Indeed divers must show proof of 50 logged dives before they can dive in the southern marine parks.
Safaris depart either from Egypt's Port Ghalib or Port Sudan, making it easier to get to than you might think. There are also occasional longer charters. Diving here includes deep dives and wrecks, so Sudan is not a liveaboard destination for recently qualified scuba divers.
Egypt has a desert climate where hot sunny days and cooler nights are the norm. Rain is an infrequent occurence. It is wise to bring both some lightweight and warm clothing. There are 2 seasons in Egypt - summertime (24-42°C) is from June to November, and wintertime (20-29°C) is from December to May. Sudan follows a similar pattern but tends to remain a degree or two warmer.
The Red Sea is an all year liveaboard dive safari destination, with warmest water temperatures between June and August. However, the region is known for occasional strong winds which can blow at any time of year, but especially from October to April, so there is always a possibility that a cruise may need to be re-routed if it is unsafe to travel. Some of the bigger marine species are most frequently seen on a seasonal basis so it's best to consult our Red Sea dive sites page for details on these.
Ports are detailed for every trip in the 'Departures & Prices' section in each of our liveaboard boat pages. They will also be sent to you during the enquiry and booking process. The departure and return ports can vary depending on the dates chosen. In some cases the boats are moored at port and depart the day after the trip begins, so you can arrive quite late on the first day of the tour and still board the boat before it departs the following morning.
We recommend you consider insurance to cover diving and travel activities, including trip cancellation. See our insurance programme for a competitive price:
Unless you come from Malta or an Arabic country, you must obtain a tourist visa to enter Egypt. You should have a passport that is valid for at least 6 months, sufficient funds for expenses during your stay, and an onward/return ticket.
You can get a 30-day single entry visa from your local Egyptian Consulate. Citizens of the UK, EU, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States can get airport visas on arrival although this process may delay you somewhat when you arrive. The cost will vary and must be paid in US dollars or British pounds sterling.
It is advisable whenever possible to obtain visas in advance. Your airline may prohibit you from boarding without a visa and visa requirements do change from time to time. It is your responsibility to check with your local Egyptian Consulate for current information on entry requirements.
If you are from one of the countries that Egypt requires tourists to apply for a visa beforehand, the visas can be difficult to obtain so you should allow plenty of time for the application.
For Sudan you will need to obtain a visa in advance of your travel. Normally the operator will include this service. You will not be issued a visa if you have an Israeli stamp in it.
If you plan on staying in Egypt before or after your diving safari, you can find a wide range of accommodation choices at hotelscombined.com, our affiliated hotel reservation specialists. Browse their website choices, use their on-line chat to ask your questions, or simply use your credit card to make your booking:
All bookings will be backed up by their 'Low Price Guarantee' to ensure you get the best value for money.
If you prefer, it's also possible to visit the dive sites in the North & Wrecks area on day trips from a hotel or resort based in Hurghada, rather than from a liveaboard.
There are potential health hazards when travelling in Egypt and Sudan but the vast majority of tourists will suffer nothing worse than a bad stomach, and even that is often brought on by overindulging in the rich local food or a little dehydration.
Vaccinations are no longer required to enter enter Egypt or Sudan. Upon entering either country, you are however, expected to show evidence of Yellow Fever and Cholera immunizations if you have been in a Yellow Fever endemic area within 6 days prior to arrival. It is still strongly recommended that you are vaccinated for Typhoid, Tetanus, Diphtheria and Hepatitis A. However, recommendations do change so we advise that you seek medical advice from a doctor about immunisations at least 6 weeks before you travel.
Drinking plenty of bottled water (at least 3 litres per day) will help you avoid most common health problems whilst you are on holiday. Bottled water is available everywhere but be sure that the seal on the bottle is unbroken. You should always avoid tap water and fountain drinks, as well as milk, fruit drinks and ice cubes outside of good hotels. Do not eat food from markets or street vendors. Make sure food that you eat has been thoroughly cooked food and only eat fruits that you have washed and peeled yourself.
Mosquitoes can be a nuisance but they are not usually malarial. You should use repellent creams as a precaution to keep them at bay. Mosquitoes are at their most active just after sunset.
There are hospitals available in the main tourist cities. Also most hotels have a doctor on call who can treat you on the spot or will know where to direct you in case you need hospital services. There are plenty of pharmacists in the major Red Sea towns and they are generally very knowledgeable and familiar with all the common local ailments. It is still worth carrying a travel first aid kit with you for standard problems such as sunburn, insect bites, seasickness and stomach disorders.
There has been a lot of bad travel publicity for Egypt recently but we still consider the Red Sea to be a safe place for tourists to take a diving holiday. There are risks at any destination but Egypt is no more dangerous than most destinations around the world.
There has been political disorder and a significant threat from terrorism in Egypt, but like similar places where tourism is a major money earner, armed security troops are highly visible at airports and major tourist locations. Counter-terrorism is a high priority in Sham El Sheikh and on the Sinai Peninsula to prevent fundamentalists from disrupting one of the country's key revenue sources.
You are unlikely to meet any anti-Western sentiments amongst locals, but of course it is sensible to stay vigilant, avoid political and public gatherings.
Sudan is not a politically stable country but you will not be visiting its mainland for tourism purposes, unless you choose to do so yourself. Visiting the Sudanese dive sites by liveaboard is very different to touring around the country on your own.
The Red Sea is a fabulous diving destination but combine it with the historical and cultural sights of Egypt, and you have a vacation of a lifetime. The great pyramids, the comfort of a Nile cruise through the Valley of the Kings, or the city of Cairo, are just too good to pass up on.
We have therefore teamed up with local experts the National Travel Service. They specialise in Egypt overland tours and activities. They offer a number of different packages and options to choose from. For more details on these historical tours in Egypt:
Egypt and Sudan are 2 hours ahead of GMT (Greenwich Mean Time). Egypt does have a daylight savings time adjustment from the last Friday in April to the last Thursday in September, during which it is GMT +3.
The urban and developed areas of Egypt use 220 volts AC, 50 Hz. However, much of the less developed rural areas of the country are still using 110 volts AC.
Wall sockets are the round 2-pin European type. Adapter plugs are easily found in city stores but if you need a transformer then bring one as these are difficult to find in Egypt.
Most Red Sea liveaboard boats use 220V and European 2-pin style wall sockets.
Egypt has tried to keep pace with international standards. The mailing services are comparable with those of leading world companies. This progress has extended to all domestic and international postal services including letter delivery, express mail service (EMS) and others.
Egypt has a modern telephone system and you can direct dial all cities. The international direct dialling code is 00 + country code + area code + phone number. International calls are expensive from hotels though. There are cheaper long-distance services at the 24-hour Post, Telephone and Telegraph (PTT) offices that are available in the major cities. Dial 120 for international directory phone enquiries.
The local mobile phone operators have roaming agreements with all major network operators and operate efficiently in most cities and beach resorts. They use GSM 900 networks. You can buy a prepaid SIM card in Egypt and this is a practical option while you're in the country. Local SIM cards however, will require a SIM-unlocked GSM cellphone that supports the 900 frequency. For calls within Egypt, use 02 + phone number.
It is easy to find internet cafes in the main tourist areas. The highest speed available is through 8 MB ADSL lines. Free wireless internet is now becoming more common at coffee shops, restaurants, hotel lobbies and other locations.
Many first time visitors to Egypt are concerned about impressions they have formed of the country from unkind and often untrue media stories. Holiday makers are often surprised by the friendly, hospitable reception they receive from local people and take home with them completely revised good feelings about the country and its population.
Egyptians are generally cheerful, friendly people who will welcome you to their country and go out of their way to help you and answer any questions you have.
Tipping and bargaining
Tipping (called baksheesh locally) is normal practice in Egypt and is expected by anyone who renders you a service. It is a good idea to carry plenty of small notes for baksheesh as hotel bellmen, doormen and tour guides all expect tips.
Baksheesh will be a percentage of the bill for other services. There is a 7% tax and 12% service charge on most restaurant and hotel bills, but you can still give a 5-10% tip directly to the waiter. It is normal to tip taxi drivers around 10% of the metered fare, but not if you have negotiated a fare in advance.
Haggling is standard practice and is something that you should embrace. Once you hone your haggling skills, you will soone be negotiating prices of half or 2 thirds the first asking price. Keep it friendly, don't look too too interested, and walk away if you don't like the price. You will often find you are called back to buy with a lower offer. Of course it is bad form to make an offer and then not purchase if the offer is accepted.