Taking Advantage of Layovers: Cairo, Egypt

On the way to a two-week jaunt in Tanzania with friends, our flight on EgyptAir had 34 hours of layover time - 11 hours on our way to Tanzania and 23 hours on our way back to the USA - in Cairo, Egypt.

On the first leg of the layover, we had a chance to view the Great Pyramids as we rode ATVs through the Libyan Desert. While on a rest break, we met this magnificent and charming camel named Moses.

After a day of desert fun and eating delicious falafels and schwarma from Felfela, we took our exhausted bodies back to the airport to catch our overnight flight to Dar es Salaam.

On our way back, we had another opportunity to spend time in Cairo and this time the trip was jam packed with adventure. We saw the Sphinx and got to go inside the Pyramid of Menkaure, the smallest of the three main Pyramids of Giza. Fun fact, since the pyramids have been cleared out for museums and other conservation efforts, the pyramids are empty inside. It's cute to be able to say I visited though.... I guess. We visited the 3 Pyramids Papyrus Institute and learned how to make papyrus, learned about oils and perfume making at the Al Amir Perfume Palace, visited a local jeweler to purchase name plates made with hieroglyphic text, ate more falafels, delighted in kushari (an an Egyptian dish made of rice, macaroni and lentils mixed together, topped with a spiced tomato sauce, onions, and garlic vinegar), took a late night boat ride on the Nile River, and danced my fireside with new friends.

The second leg was so fulfilling and fascinating. It definitely made me consider doing a trip especially to Egypt so I can learn and experience more there. We spent the night at an AirBnB near the hotel and was well-rested for our 12 hour flight back to New York.

I picked up and learned a lot of lessons during this mini adventure that will definitely impact how I take advantage extended layovers on future trips. Check out the quick tips below!

Tips for Layover Adventures:

  • Extended layovers are a great way to achieve a 2-for-1 experience! Try to make sure you land at the layover country in the morning so you can take advantage of sightseeing during the day. Certain airlines, like Air Canada and IcelandAir, allow you to stay up to 7 days on a layover. Check out your options and schedule your flight (and layover fun) appropriately.
  • Get your visa in advance. After booking the trip to Tanzania, I excitedly got my Tanzanian visa but completely forgot the need to get an Egyptian visa for my layovers. While the US Dept of State says you can get a multiple entry visa for $35 USD at the airport, when we arrived at the airport, there were none available so we could only purchase the single-entry tourist visa, which was $25. We had to purchase it for each of our layovers so we ended up spending $50 total. If I went to the Egyptian Embassy or Consulate in the US to purchase my visa before leaving, it would have cost me $15 and the visa would last a year. Learn from me and plan appropriately.
  • Book activities in advance. We wanted to maximize our time so we opted for a tour instead of simply walking around the city ourselves. WiFi isn't always guaranteed and it can be hard to contact organizations on the fly. We booked our activities and paid in advance so we didn't have to worry about exchanging money and budgeting once we landed. The tour companies picked us up from the airport and, lowkey, acted as our driving service around town - even being willing to to do ad hoc stops during our time there. It made our experience so much smoother.
  • Check the weather and dress for the climate. I assumed Africa = year-round warmth but, on our first layover in Egypt, the weather felt like Spring or early Fall. Even while ATV-ing in the desert, I had a few goosebumps and could have at least benefitted from a long sleeve shirt instead of a tank top. On our way back, I brought my sweater with me, but the weather was even colder (and extremely windy) then my sundress prepared me for. Luckily, I packed my coat in my carryon but I ended up having to buy a scarf to keep my head warm. Being mindful of temperature is a must.
  • Book a hotel room/AirBnB, even if you're not spending the night. On our first layover leg, we took this idea for granted and were exhausted by the time we got back to the airport for our flight. The airport didn't have lockers to hold our things but, luckily, our tour guide allowed us to keep our belongings in his car. Even though we didn't need to spend the night on the first leg, being able to charge our devices and showering before heading on the next leg of our flight would have definitely been refreshing. We got an AirBnB for our second layover and it made the world of a difference.

Hope this helps! If you found this useful or if you've picked up any tricks from your travels, let me know below!


No comments:

Post a Comment