Africa,  Before the World Tour,  Egypt,  Preparations,  TDM,  Tips

How to Plan and Budget a Trip? Case Study: Egypt

If you are curious to see how we plan and budget our LARGE trips, here is a very concrete case: Egypt. I am in the process of organizing our trip for November 2018

It is a country that I have wanted to visit for a very long time but for which there is very little recent feedback on blogs and forums (the number of tourists has considerably decreased since the Arab Spring). It is therefore the perfect example to show you the tricks to get around this lack of information

Basic Info

Which month to go?
What are the must-see sites?
What are the recommended itineraries?

This information is widely and freely available on the sites of classic travel guides such as Le Routard, Lonely Planet, Petit Futé
For those of you who like to have everything in one place, you can download, like me, excerpts from these travel guides for free via Amazon Kindle

My tip: Basic information about a country or city can be obtained by visiting travel guide sites – or by downloading excerpts from these guides on Amazon Kindle. All for free

Establish a route planner

After reading these guides and the proposed itineraries, I quickly select the cities and top attractions that interest me the most. Then I mark them on Google Maps to get a clearer idea of the distance between these sites. This will also make it easier for me to choose accommodations later.

Make itinerary simulations

To finalize my itinerary, I must first choose the city of arrival. It’s very simple. It’s just a matter of cost. The price of the plane ticket (and the travel time) will, in general, decide very quickly where to land. I already told you about the Ita software tool that allows you to enter several destination airports to find the cheapest option

Then, I look for information on how to get from point A to point B. It’s easier to find this kind of information by typing for example “bus assouan – abou simbel” rather than searching globally for “getting around in Egypt”

The answers to these very specific questions can be found either on the travel blogs of individuals/backpackers or on the forum of sites such as Lonely Planet or Tripadvisor. I found there some very good plans, such as the local bus trip between Atacama and Uyuni. I didn’t have much success asking questions on Facebook groups, they tend to give a very vague answer like “ohhh you’ll see on the spot”

For Egypt, it was very difficult for me to find recent information in French, so I did some research in English and the sources are a little more provided and recent for this country. I read very few travel diaries in fact, as I prefer to discover the place myself. What interests me is the opinion of the person (liked, disliked, why…), so I rather read articles like Bilan du voyage or Guide de tel ou tel pays. Because this information is biased in traditional travel guides

I then establish options 1, 2, 3… and by trying out different routes and transportation options, I will come up with a logical, not too long and inexpensive route. This step is more or less long depending on the destination. Basically, the more expensive it is (Australia, Japan, Cuba, …), the more time I spend there

In the case of visits to attractions located in the same city, I Google the hours of attendance to choose the time of the visit when there will be the least number of people. Google Maps also gives a fairly clear indication of the average time spent on the site, which makes it easier to organize the trip

I also check by reading the comments on Google Maps & on the forums whether the site is better visited in the afternoon or in the morning. This is all the more important for religious sites in Egypt, whose reliefs are visible only at a certain time of the day

Entrance tickets & Cost of visits

For countries where life isn’t very expensive, I just check that you don’t need to book them in advance

For countries where there are a multitude of choices like Egypt, with options to be taken in addition (mummy hall, tomb of Tutankhamun) … it is important for me to look in detail at the cost of the entrance tickets. And especially compare it with the available passes (allowing to visit several sites)

For Luxor, by calculating the total cost of all the sites I want to visit and comparing it to the price of the 5-day pass, I realize that it is better to buy the tickets one by one. The calculations in local currency also allow me to know how much I need to withdraw from the ATM

My tip: Find out about combined tickets, especially if you are staying in the same city for several days

Choice of hotels

I sort the hotels by price on Booking or Agoda, but I also pay a lot of attention to the reviews (on the booking sites but also the reviews of Google Maps and tripadvisor). It is better to read reviews with bad marks (1*, 2*) to see if the reason for dissatisfaction is prohibitive for you or not

Then, I check again the distance between the hotel and the attractions (on foot or by public transport…) as well as the number of restaurants around the hotel (not too much like to eat at the hotel’s restaurant every day)

I book the hotel immediately if it can be cancelled free of charge up to the day before
Otherwise, I’m waiting to get plane tickets first

Closing the budgets

Once everything is clear in my head, I take into account the expenses you never think of (tips, visas, vaccines…) and I have a pretty accurate idea of what I’m really going to spend from the moment I leave my apartment until I get home

For Egypt, this is a rather exceptional case because it isn’t enough to just calculate the overall budget but also to make sure that we have the best rate. Because there are a lot of tour operators and most tourists opt for this kind of tours. So I took my courage in both hands to read the general conditions of each one (and thus integrate the hidden fees), compare them with my backpacker plan. Basically, it looks something like this

There are clearly marked mini-details on the site but if one isn’t careful, one would think for example that the visit to Abu Simbel temple is included when it is offered as an option. It is therefore up to me to decide whether or not a visit to this temple is essential for me

At the same time, I contact the local agencies through which my friends have traveled, because agencies often have better prices than individuals
And it’s always better to give our money to the local agencies, it allows us to contribute to the country’s economy. I am currently waiting for their quotes

Make reservations

Once the itinerary and budget are finalized, it’s JB’s turn to make the reservations

Only reservations are essential, because if the price doesn’t vary too much (buses for example all have fixed prices and last-minute hotels can be 50% cheaper), we let ourselves be carried by our mood and the weather… to change program at the last minute if necessary.

I send him the names of the hotels, dates, flights… and he goes around the sites of plane ticket sales + hotel reservation sites to find us the best plans. Moreover you can consult his tips to find expensive plane tickets here

Before departure

I am very sensitive to the respect of local traditions and culture. I try as much as possible to integrate the codes and resemble the locals
So whenever possible, at least a week in advance I try to learn a few basic phrases to say hello, thank you, goodbye, sorry
And I also try to dress in the local fashion. Either I already have adapted clothes, or I spot the looks on the Internet and go to the local market from day one (like in India)

I then contact my banker to give her the dates of my trip so that my bank card isn’t blocked for “suspicious movement”
I prepare Euros or Dollars in cash if needed (As Egyptians do not have a lot of confidence in their local currency, rates can be more interesting when paying in foreign currency)
I calculate the amount to be withdrawn from the dispenser once I get there
I check if my phone subscription offers free roaming. If so, I buy a local SIM card at the airport

There you go!


Preparing the trip to Egypt takes me a lot of time, and it’s exceptional that I go through all these steps for a trip, making such heavy Excel spreadsheets, but it has the merit to show you all the tools and the way I plan my BIG trips

If you like to plan your trips well, I find that it’s a method that allows you to be serene and organized, without having the impression of having visited the country virtually and knowing everything about the place

As for the world tour, here are a few tips to start your planning with confidence

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