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An Authentic Winter Sun Break
Egypt has long been a winter sun destination, with sizzling temperatures and package deals to budget beach resorts like Sharm el Sheikh and Hurgada. But for something a little less commercial, why not steer clear of the busy resorts and head to the capital Cairo?
Cairo has become popular with backpackers in recent years, and with good reason. A land of ancient wonders and close to dazzling desert scenery, you can haggle in the bazaars, visit the pyramids or take a diving trip to the Red Sea.
What to See
Modern Cairo has a reputation as a hectic city, with a hot and dusty downtown clogged with cars. But this manic atmosphere is only half the story.
Stray from the modern centre and you’ll discover quiet streets in the Old Quarter, and chilled out cafes made for lazy afternoons with a Shisha pipe. Ride on a Felucca boat down the Nile, and the noisy modern quarter will seem a million miles away.
Shopaholics should head to the Khan el-Khalili market, where bartering for trinkets and souvenirs becomes a fine art.
In winter the city cools down to comfortable temperatures, but the cultural scene heats up, with an Arab Music Festival and the Cairo International Film Festival in November. Aside from the Pyramids at Giza, other cultural attractions include the Musuem of Egyptian Antiquities, the Citadel, and Old Cairo, filled with Coptic Churches.
Nightlife in Cairo is also legendary, with bars and Shisha cafes buzzing until the early hours. Head to affluent neighbourhood Zamalek, for a blend of cool restaurants and hipper-than-thou watering holes.
Where to Stay
Staying in a Cairo hostel here will cut your budget, but it also guarantees a more authentic travel experience – rather than simply vegging by the pool with other tourists, you’ll get to meet the locals and really see the ‘real’ Cairo.
Many travellers may be put off exploring Egypt alone, but most of Cairo’s hostels have travel desks and attentive staff, making it easy to explore the city independently. Some will even help guests plan tours and book excursions to popular attractions like Giza, so you won’t get ripped off.
Despite what you might have heard about accommodation in Egypt – dirty rooms, hassling staff, noise at night - the hostels in Cairo get great ratings from customers for service, safe locations, and clean and comfortable rooms.
For the best Cairo Winter Sun Holidays, here are some of our favourites places to stay:
Wake Up! Hostel Cairo
A brand new hostel, Wake Up is popular for its friendly and attentive staff, and plum location smack in the heart of downtown. Rooms have views of the Nile and Old Cairo, and there’s a kitchen and common room with internet access. Great extras include a free map of Cairo on arrival, and travel deals – book three nights in a double room, and you'll get a free guided tour of the Pyramids!
A guest writes:
“This is a fabulous hostel, and the best I've stayed in Egypt. Staff are super friendly and ready to help with any question you may have. The hostel is a pleasant 3 minute walk from the city centre and museum. You'll find always hot water working in the shower which was a problem for other friends in Cairo, and a clean and homely environment”
Recommended by guides such as Lonely Planet, the Meramees has a laid-back atmosphere and homely touches like fresh flowers, comfy sofas and art on the walls.
The rooms are cool and spacious, with air-conditioning and French doors leading on to a balconies. In a safe and central location, it’s easy to explore the city on foot. There’s even free airport pickup, and a travel desk offering cheap tours.
A guest writes:
“The staff were absolutely wonderful! Rooms are large and clean. Great location for wandering through downtown and very helpful staff for arranging tours and drivers. I recommend to anyone travelling on a budget!”
Luna Hotel and Hostel
Another downtown favourite, the Luna’s rooms are clean and secure, with comfortable beds and air-conditioning. The facilities and hospitality are second to none - there’s a professional tour advisor on site, authentic Egyptian breakfasts, 24-hour room service, and a ‘Bedouin Corner’ for chilling after a day of sightseeing. You’re a only a short walk from the Egyptian Museum, shops and a supermarket.
A guest writes:
“Very friendly and helpful staff with a lot of knowledge of the tourist attractions. One of the staff sat with me for about an hour teaching me some Arabic!”