If you plan to visit Egypt and travel around a bit, then you will at some point consider using the local railway system.
For long distances, most people will recommend taking a flight because it’s quicker and sometimes costs less than the (touristic) train. The touristic train (sleeper option) is indeed way too expensive, and for a country like Egypt the given price literally sounds like a joke!
More specifically, a ticket on the route from Cairo to Luxor/Aswan (or vice versa) costs 80 USD in a Double Cabin, and 110 USD in a Single Cabin.
But, locals don’t travel on sleeper trains! They use normal trains and pay less than 1/10 of the touristic price for the same route! Best way is the local way, so let’s go along with them!
Good to Know, before you Go:
- On normal express trains you will be offered with two different seating options; First Class and Second Class. A ticket on First Class for the abovementioned route will cost you 7-10€. Second Class is of course cheaper, at about 5€!
I have used both seating options, and found them equally comfortable and great value for money. The seat on First Class is of course much wider, while the respective wagon is less congested compared to the Second Class one.
Express train will take nearly the same time as the Sleeper train to get to your destination, however you will be using a reclining seat instead of a bedding.
- By all means, avoid the slow trains. They are run down, dirty and super packed.
- Book your ticket in advance through the online platform of the Egyptian National Railways to secure your seat! You just need to create a quick profile, providing your Nationality and Passport details. Other than this, the process is straightforward and easy to follow. The payment is done via credit card, and you receive a booking confirmation through email. You just need to show the booking confirmation on your mobile phone at any inspection check and you are good to go!
- Beware that if you decide to just show up at the railway station of Cairo or Giza and get your ticket towards Luxor/Aswan (even ahead of time), you will be denied the purchase. Don’t get frustrated. The railway officers are simply following governmental orders and are not allowed to sell tickets to tourists on long-distance trains, other than the Sleeper ones. The funny thing is that buying a ticket from the railway station of Luxor/Aswan towards Cairo is possible! Don’t ask why, it is what it is!
- If, however, you desperately need to get on a train leaving from Cairo/Giza and the online system shows zero availability on the day/time of your preference, don’t panic! You are in Egypt, and therefore everything is possible! Head to the railway station, jump on the train, and once onboard ask for a ticket from the ticket inspector! You will be paying a small fine on top of the initial price (it’s really not more than a few cents!), but you will still be allowed to travel! Don’t think of this as a big risk, I did exactly the same and it worked perfectly! The only downside I can see when deciding to get a last-minute ticket onboard is that you will not be assigned to a specific seat for the entire duration of your journey. You will most likely have to move around on different seats as passengers with pre-booked tickets get up and down the train. But again this is really not a big issue!
- Apparently, there are police officers on all trains, and they are taking very good care of tourists. Personally, I was treated with great attention when I jumped on the train and had no assigned seat. Both the inspector and the police officer politely asked Egyptian men to stand or move to another wagon so that I am offered their seat! Speechless!
- If your train is delayed and you are stuck at the railway station for long, try using the VIP lounge room. It comes at a very cheap price (something like 50 cents) and even if it’s very basic, at least you will get a decent seat and a plug to charge your mobile!
- In the case that you still wanna go for the Sleeper train, you can get more info about timings, as well as the online booking process on: wataniasleepingtrains.com
All Given Prices as of March 2019