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Truthfully, Egypt had never been a country particularly high on my bucket list. I’d been interested in the history of Egypt ever since a year-six project where I made a pretty impressive papier-mâche sarcophagus, but when it came to visiting I had always been nervous after reading about the safety risks of tourist attractions and how a few people close to me hadn’t enjoyed their holiday for whatever reason.
Long story short, I was desperately craving a slice of winter sun and Egypt ticked the box for a week away in late December. The problem is that’s a notoriously expensive time of year to travel, but somehow I managed to hack my way to a saving of £1000 (more on that later), so I impulse booked flights and a hotel, and we jetted out of London Luton Airport two days after Christmas.
When picking where to stay we settled on Hurghada. It’s a newer tourist destination in Egypt, but at the time of booking it was the best option in terms of flight availability and distance from the airport.
We didn’t visit any of the attractions or shopping outlets there as they were only accessible via taxi, so purely saw the side of Hurghada where the hotels are located. Depending on which one you book, just keep in mind that there may be construction happening around you as the destination is still very much up and coming (as of our visit in 2022).
I sifted through numerous hotels and ended up settling on the Steigenberger Ras Soma resort, which is an all-inclusive and beach-side complex in a fairly remote area south of Hurghada called Soma Bay, Safaga. As it stands they’re building a hotel next door and I imagine there will be others that follow, but this didn’t in any way disrupt the tranquility of our stay.
The resort felt gigantic, especially when you’re typically used to small and friendly boutique hotels like me. The main body of the resort featured two enormous adult-only pools plus a kids’ pool, a spa, seven themed restaurants and bars, private beach access, various sports activities, a row of shops at the entrance, and a kids’ club. Personally I found that the pool closest to the beach was quieter out of them all.
One thing to note on the restaurants is that the booking system supposedly opens at midnight, so we often missed out on tables. This might have changed now, but definitely check with reception to make sure that you get booked into any restaurants you want to visit ASAP. Our favourites were the Lebanese and Asian. Sadly we didn’t rate the Italian for dinner, even though it was nice for lunch by the pool.
And if you happen to be there over New Year like us, the hotel goes all out on celebrations including themed dinners, cocktail receptions, live music and belly dancing performances. It’s chaos, but the fun kind.
Find out more: Steigenberger Ras Soma Resort
Onto the rooms, of which there are many of all shapes and sizes. I booked the Superior Twin Room with a pool view and got lucky with its location. Being on the inner-left side of the resort if you’re looking at the ocean meant our balcony was in the ideal position for afternoon sun, golden hour and peachy sunsets that eclipsed behind the desert mountains.
The room was spacious, with its own walk-in wardrobe and outdoor space, and the hotel went above and beyond on my birthday leaving hilarious towel displays and a cake in the room. I later ended up wearing the top layer of the cake when it slid off the plate and into my white dress during a Instagram moment, but that’s what happens after a few too many swims across to the all-inclusive pool bar.
Book now: Steigenberger Ras Soma Resort
As we wanted to spend most of our holiday relaxing and over-indulging, we carefully weighed up how we were going to incorporate an element of adventure into our trip.
For anyone that hasn’t visited, Egypt is massive, so you can’t just pop down the road to see the pyramids from any part of the country. If we were to visit Cairo from Hurghada, we were looking at a 10-hour round trip without leaving the car.
A marginally closer alternative was Luxor, which fortunately was a place my husband was really hoping to visit. We organised a private driver and tour guide through the hotel which cost around £300, and we set off at 5am on the morning after New Year’s Day.
The journey took around three hours each way, but we still had plenty of time to soak up the sights of the ancient city. Our private tour first took us to the Karnak Temple, and then onto a lunch spot beside the Nile. Afterwards we took a short boat ride across to the other side to visit the Valley of the Kings and Hatshepsut Temple, before heading back to Hurghada early evening.
In terms of safety, we definitely felt safer knowing we’d booked via the hotel manager as opposed to a random online tour. There were also tons of security checkpoints throughout the day, and generally we only visited tourist attractions that had standard security in place. The only thing to mention is that the driving was a little terrifying at times!
Overall it was a long slog but an absolutely incredible day. It’s pretty special to see hieroglyphics, tombs, and even the mummy of Tutankhamun with your own eyes. I’ve come a long way since that papier-mâche sarcophagus…
So how did I save £1000 on this trip? I used to live for my all-in-one package holidays, but when I realised how much you can often save by booking elements of your holiday individually, I now swear by this for most trips.
For our holiday to Egypt I booked our flights with Wizz Air through Skyscanner, playing with the flight times to get the price down further, and I booked our hotel through Expedia.
I usually stick with Booking.com to keep racking up the points and my member status, but there was a cheaper room available with Expedia on this occasion. It’s worth taking the time to do some quick research.
Then all that was left to book was the airport transfers, which I organised directly with the hotel.
It wasn’t a budget trip by any means simply because of the time of year, but saving a good chunk of cash by being booking savvy made the trip happen.
I really enjoyed my time in Egypt and would love to go back one day to explore more of its history and renowned snorkeling spots. Let me know if you have any recommendations!