Africa,  Egypt,  Luxor,  TDM,  Travel Journal

Day 1 in Egypt: Arrival in Luxor & Overnight at Winter Palace

After a month and a half in Turkey, we fly to Egypt where we spend 12 days of vacations. Pure vacations, no work, no call, no checking our emails. Nada! To have our complete itinerary day by day, I invite you to consult our itinerary here.

Part 1: Travel Diary
Part 2: Practical Tips

Part 1: Travel Diary

How to get there

If the organization of Istanbul International Airport is a disaster (they have difficulties to manage the large number of tourists), everything went well afterwards. We have to do Istanbul – Cairo then Cairo – Luxor by plane. The arrival in Cairo was very smooth.

For info, we go through two agencies: an Egyptian agency and a French company for our stay (see our itinerary here).

These first 2 days are taken care of by our Egyptian agency which has collaborators all over Egypt.

A man in a suit is already waiting for us at the exit of our plane. He immediately offers us a SIM card with 4GB of data (with which I am mailing this article, thanks to him, finally to our Egyptian agency), and specifies that we can call with (400 minutes). We entrust him 50$ and he goes to buy two tax stamps for the visason arrival ( in one of the banking machines within the airport) to be stuck on our passport. He helps us to inform our airline company of our presence (for the transit), then a lady of immigration stamps the date on our visa. We had nothing to do. Everything was served on a tray.

For a first contact, we’re in “wow” mode. If it’s professional like that during the whole stay, it’s promising!

Arrival in Luxor

It is when arriving at the airport of Luxor that we are a little disheartened. All the arrivals are received by their guide as of the exit of the plane whereas our guide and/or driver isn’t there. All the luggage is already delivered, but ours aren’t there. A gentleman passes by to see the tourists who have not yet had their luggage. He invites us to follow him.

In fact, since we come from abroad (and the others from Cairo), they wanted to put our luggage aside for an X-ray check and go through customs, that’s all. Phew!

Fortunately, the man in Cairo gave us a SIM card because those sold at the airport are very expensive. 17€ for 1GB + 5 euros to buy the SIM card, it’s a total mess!

Luxor airport is very small. There is a tiny ATM without logo (VISA, MASTERCARD on it).

We look left to right. No one comes to pick us up.

A couple traveling by backpack discovers that there is no cab at the airport (maybe it’s late?) and has to get out of the airport and go to je-ne-sais-oùù. So I think that if you come in backpack mode, it is better to arrange a shuttle with your hotel. A sign indicates 60 pounds to go downtown by cab from the airport.

At the same time, someone arrives and shyly shows a sign with our names on it. Our driver was simply late.

A few minutes later, he gives us the phone and another person speaks to us in English, apologizing for not being there for a reason xyz. He is our guide, he was supposed to come and pick us up. So only the driver comes to pick us up. He drops us, at our request, in front of an ATM where we withdraw 2000 Egyptian pounds (we should have withdrawn more). And then, he quickly drops us in front of the door on the side of our hotel Winter Palace.

And there is the confusion. Why didn’t he drop us off in front of the huge entrance with the Palais Royal-style staircase? The guard of the hotel beckons us to go straight ahead and we get lost in the black garden of the hotel.

A baggage handler comes to our rescue and asks us which building we are in.

– I don’t know, I didn’t check in –
Yes, but what hotel did you book in?
– Winter Palace-
But in which building
There is the Pavilion and the Old Building

There, I remember that my agency asked me the question and I answered “Old Building”, knowing that it costs 100$/night MORE EXPENSES than the modern building (the pavilion). OK, it brings us to the old building.

The reception informs us that our agency has reserved a room for us in the modern building.

WTF? I call the agency right away and the boss promises to fix the ASAP problem. 20 minutes later, the boss calls the hotel and finds us a room in the old building and our guide comes running to help us check in. All ends well.

It is already late (7:30 pm) and we are starving.

As our hotel is just 6 minutes walk from Luxor Temple, we just put down our stuff and go out to visit Luxor Temple, without a guide, just the two of us.

I will tell you the rest in another article. In the meantime, let me introduce you to our Winter Palace Hotel.

Winter Palace

This hotel was seen in the famous movie “Murder on the Nile” and was frequented by personalities such as Agatha Christie, Howard Carter, Diana… This hotel has a history, has cachet. It is the ideal place to go back in time, to the time of the English lords coming to Egypt, staying in Luxor before taking one of those steamboats.

Built in 1886 by British explorers, this palace was the winter residence of the Egyptian royal family.

Famous people have stayed in this sumptuous Luxor hotel: celebrities, politicians, artists… Agatha Christie wrote there the novel “Death on the Nile” in 1937.

The archaeologist Howard Carter, who discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun, was walking in the gardens of this charming hotel in Luxor a century ago.

The historic wing, which now belongs to Sofitel, is steeped in history. But it is now too small to accommodate many groups (especially Chinese) and the modern wing (Pavilion, another hotel) was created in the same complex, sharing the famous hotel garden.

The price difference isn’table: between 100$ and 150$/night more than the modern wing. But the time machine is priceless.

Here, you can take the elevator like in 1900, the corridor is huge, the bar is… OMG the bar is full of old books, with armchairs a little bit old school, but which go so much with the place. There is a lounge area to chill (where you can smoke). Should I mention the chandeliers? Huge flowers, a flute player who comes for entertainment in the afternoon? And the staff with the little red hat on their head? All public spaces require “proper dress” and the 1886 restaurant, which is super classy, lends the gentleman a jacket and tie if necessary.

The garden is like an oasis in the middle of this chaotic city (surely less than Cairo, but already more than Istanbul, in addition to being polluted). It is in this garden with swimming pool that one can really enjoy the absolute calm. What happiness! (in addition to a hundred species of plants).

I show you here the pictures taken in the evening and also in the afternoon. All the pictures were taken by myself except those of the outdoor pool and the bar where I didn’t dare to take my camera out. I hope you understand why I absolutely want to stay in the historical part.

Note: who thought of Shining and Hotel Budapest when looking at these pictures? I don’t blame you.

The continuation of our trip here

Part 2: Practical Tips

About Winter Palace

  • Well, how much did all this cost us? We paid an all-inclusive package at the agency but if you book online, it will cost you 120€ to 200€/night, double room. Breakfast included.
  • Specify if you want a smoking room or not. Half of the rooms are smoking.
  • Speaking of breakfast at the Winter Palace, it is served between 5:30 and 10:30, allowing guests to leave early for excursions if needed. It is an Egyptian/French buffet, with homemade jam, silver cutlery, a gentleman who makes omelettes to order and hot drinks at the table. I highly recommend it! Don’t miss breakfast!
  • There are two hotels on the same place
  • If you go through an agency like us, specify that you want ABSOLUTELY the historical wing. And make sure it is written correctly on the contract. We didn’t pay attention. Our agency wrongly wrote Winter Palace Pavilion Luxor on the contract. Luckily the boss was very responsive and remembers my request and my written confirmation that I wanted to be in the historic wing. Now that you know the difference between the two, be very careful. The difference in price is too important to ignore such a detail
  • We saw a couple traveling by backpack discovering that there was no cab at the airport (maybe it was late?). They had to get out of the airport and go to je-ne-sais-quoi. So I think that if you come in backpack mode, it is better to arrange a shuttle with your hotel. I’ll give you the cab fares below


Flight Istanbul => Luxor : 290€/person All
other expenses are included in the package of our etyptian agency ( more details here

Cab fares Airport Luxor =>City Center

Here are the cab fares posted at Luxor Airport in 2018. You will surely be asked for more (count 40 pounds more than what is displayed) since the Egyptian pound has lost a lot of value (20 pounds = 1€).

So the trip Airport => Winter Palace could cost in the 100 pounds . Negotiate before getting in the cab, because they will not put a meter for tourists.

Also consider adding 20 pounds of tip (tips are required everywhere in Egypt).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *