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Where to stay in Egypt
Egypt boasts some beautiful luxury hotels, resorts set in landscaped gardens, characterful guesthouses, historic hotels, eco-lodges and desert camps that offer great value for money. It has seen a massive investment in its accommodation sector in recent years with the introduction of a system that monitors and categorises each establishment.
Hotels are graded 1-5 stars, although standards in each category can differ to those expected in similarly starred hotels in Europe and the USA. Standards are improving significantly with more emphasis being placed on service and providing enhanced facilities. All hotel categories must now have wheelchair access, for example, along with the availability of medical services.
All the top resorts, at Sharm el-Sheik, Hurghada and Luxor for example, offer lavish accommodation for less than top-dollar prices. Many include international restaurants, spas and infinity pools, and golf courses, and they are a good place to watch belly dancing or other cultural entertainment which cater especially for tourists. Most of the resorts on the Red Sea coast specialise in arranging diving and snorkelling excursions, while all offer horse- and camel-riding trips, and tours of the desert or to archaeological sites.
Top-end hotel accommodation in Egypt surprisingly represents the best value for money. In Cairo, there are some spectacular five-star hotels run by international chains, many of them on the banks of the Nile. In Alexandria and Luxor, old colonial hotels located right on the Corniche overlooking the waters of the Mediterranean or Nile respectively are convenient and charming.
A choice of mid-range hotels that offer comfortable accommodation, business facilities and help with onward connections can be found in all towns and cities. Most require reservations several months in advance, particularly in the winter months and during major Islamic holidays.
Bed and breakfast
All the main towns have smaller, cheaper guesthouses that are often full of character and run by a family. They offer the chance to integrate more readily with Egyptian people. Standards vary considerably from simple but clean to the very basic where bringing your own linen is advisable. Most guesthouses offer tours and help with transport arrangements although it's still best to shop around to compare prices and services. In Cairo, inexpensive accommodation is concentrated downtown, above office buildings on and around Sharia Talaat Harb and some cheaper, although rustic, options in Islamic Cairo. All tend to be hot in summer as they rarely have air conditioning.
Desert camps are popular and there are several places in the country to enjoy a night under canvas, particularly at budget-style resorts along the Sinai coast and during organised trips to the Western Desert. Egypt is not such a good place, however, for ad hoc camping and caravanning as there are many security restrictions in place to protect the country's tourist industry. Tourist offices can advise on the location of local official campsites.
Egypt has a growing number of youth hostels affiliated to the Egyptian Youth Hostels Association, which are located mainly in large towns, on the coast and in popular tourist regions. Eco-lodges, although few in number, are becoming increasingly popular, and cruise companies offer the chance to sleep on board a boat travelling along the Nile.