We managed to grab those cheap Ryan Air tickets in the last moment. Long weekend in Berlin seemed like a great idea. This time, however, it was a different trip because we had a nine year old, who came along for her first long distance travel. Berlin is great at this time of the year – already pleasantly warm, green and blooming. Every time I come here, it looks very different. This time, the gap has been almost 10 years and the city surely changed a lot. Here is our guide – how to spend 72 hours in Berlin with a kid.
72 hours in Berlin with a kid – where to stay?
For our short stay we booked one of the cheapest places I could find on Booking – Ibis Budget Ost. Not necessarily the fanciest hotel I have ever stayed in. The room would benefit from a proper cleaning. However, it did the job just fine for the 50€ per night you can’t expect anything better, really.
What I love about Berlin (and Germany in general) is the efficient transportation system. Although our hotel was miles from city center, the tram stop was right outside the door and the S-Bahn (local metro) just a few hundred meters away. Traveling to and from the center hardly took us longer than 20-30 minutes.
3 Days in Berlin – Getting around
Before going on this trip I made an extensive research on the subject of best and cheapest public transport tickets. The options are almost endless. So here’s the deal – if you are arriving (like we did) in Schönefeld airport, grab the Berlin welcome card right away. Especially if you are traveling with children, as they get to travel for free.
This card gives you discount in 200+ museums and attractions, tours, shops, restaurants etc. If your plan is to visit any of them, the card will probably pay off. You can read about the benefits and prices here. For us, this card made sense, as we were planning on visiting some museums, the zoo and generally travel a lot by train.
On the other hand, you might be better off with renting a bike, as Berlin is very bike friendly city. Walking may be an option, too, if your hotel is centrally located and you don’t mind long walks. The city center is pretty compact with most attractions being in the 5-10 km radius.
Alexanderplatz and shopping
Our first stop after the airport was Alexanderplatz. I used to love spending time here, back in the days when I was doing internship in this great city. The place has certainly changed a lot since then and doesn’t even look like a major square anymore. To me, it has become way too commercialized with international shop chains everywhere.
We spent couple of hours exploring the shops and the huge Alexa shopping mall, which has a nice food court on the 3rd floor. I really missed German food, especially (not so German) Döner kebab! Alexanderplatz is a good point for all kinds of shopping – from expensive boutiques to quite affordable brands and even dollar stores.
As I mentioned, we had a nine year old with us this time. Of course, that means we had to organize something special and kid-friendly. Tropical Islands is a former airship hangar transformed into a huge indoor water theme park with real sand beach, water slides, palms, overnight villas and fantastic atmosphere. It seemed like a great idea and a perfect place, because it is weather independent (indoor) attraction. We booked our tickets online in advance for 36€/adult.
One thing to keep in mind, though. You can not travel to Tropical Islands with your Welcome card, as it is located outside the city (ca 60km). In order to get there, a Berlin-Brandenburg day card needs to be purchased (29€ for a group of 5 persons). You can read about our visit in one of my next posts, where I will describe everything in full detail.
Although, personally, I’m not a big fan of Zoos, we still went there because of the little one. Zoologischer Garten is a small Zoo in Western Berlin, you can see the animals in half a day and optionally go to small aquarium (nothing special compared to Sealife). What I liked about the Zoo was the fact that there were almost no fences. Animals had relatively large areas and you could see them quite close.
We all loved the petting section, where everybody could feed the animals (donkeys, sheep and goats). I was also very surprised to see pandas. Last time I had a chance to see them was in San Diego Zoo and we had to queue in line and only little time to observe these gorgeous creatures. Here, in Berlin, we could observe them without any time limit and almost no crowds.
Walking itinerary and landmarks
After visiting the Zoo and quick lunch, we took the metro to Hauptbahnhof (main train station) and walked to Reichstag (German Parliament) for quick photos. Then we visited the memorial for Soviet soldiers who died in battles for Berlin in April-May 1945. Next stop was at the holocaust memorial. After that we went through the Brandenburg Gates and walked down the Unter den Linden street all the way to Museum island.
It was important for me to pass all these historical places and landmarks and explain the little one the importance and the history behind all of this. I truly believe the young generation needs to know what happened, so it will never happen again. Although she probably forgot most of what I said, the images will hopefully stay in the memory. For the exact same reason we took her to Berlin Story bunker the next day.
Berlin Story bunker
On the last morning, before our flight, we decided to visit Berlin Story bunker – a real bunker that served as a hiding place during bombings and is now turned into museum. The exhibition was dedicated to the rise and fall of National Socialist party and it’s leaders. The museum is a collection of photos and research on the subject, rather than artifacts. The audio guide was very helpful.
We spent two hours, but if you are interested in exploring everything, you might need at least three hours. Personally, I very much enjoyed it and would love to come again, without a kid. For a little one it may have been a little disturbing. Nevertheless, I feel that she is just old enough to start learning about this part of the history.
Is 72 hours in Berlin enough?
The obvious answer is NO! Berlin is such a fascinating city, I would rather stay there every other weekend. There is always something going on, things to see and do. Sadly, it is not cheap, especially if you are traveling by public transport. I’m very happy that I had a chance to live here for 3 months, ride a bike everywhere and see the city from the inside. These were easily some of the best years of my life. Today, it is no more the same city it once was, but still worth the visit every once in a while.
Egypt is a snorkeling paradise. Almost anywhere you dip into the water, you will find at least some wildlife. The climate makes it an ideal destination for European off-season period (October-April). Moreover, it is also quite cheap destination with many affordable all-inclusive hotels along the coast. Hurgada is one of the oldest resorts with a large amount of local population, historical center and well developed tourist infrastructure. Compared to Sharm el Sheikh, the prices are slightly cheaper, making it very attractive to all diving and snorkeling fans. This is our guide for Best hotels for snorkeling in Hurghada.
Coral reefs in Egypt
Coral reefs of the Red Sea are over 5000 years old, with the coastal reef complex extending along some 2,000 km of shoreline (This includes Egypt, Sudan and Saudi Arabia). Usually, these reefs grow directly from the shoreline. However, especially near Hurghada, numerous offshore reefs can be found. Generally, the reefs are healthy and living, provided that measures are taken to protect them. The most popular dive sites are in Eilat (Israel), Aqaba (Jordan), Taba and Dahab (Egypt).
Hurghada is also known for great diving and snorkeling sites. However, the most beautiful reefs are usually located off shore and can be visited on a day boat tour. You will hardly find a hotel in the center of Hurghada with it’s own healthy reef. Even the ones that claim to have one, usually use it as marketing to attract customers. Hotels with good reefs can be found in Marsa Alam, El Gouna and in Sharm el Sheikh.
Best hotels for snorkeling in Hurghada
Let’s look at some hotel options with decent (although rather small) reefs right off the beach. As I mentioned already, you won’t find such hotels in Hurghada city center. Your best bet is to look at Sahl Hasheesh or even further – Makadi bay. These resorts are located a little far from the center and hotels are mostly 4* and 5* with huge territories.
Fort Arabesque is one of the most popular hotels for snorkeling in Makadi bay as snorkeling can be done straight from the beach. This can be particularly good for people with mobility problem’s who find it difficult to climb the pier. The reef in front of Fort Arabesque is one of the best near Hurghada. What makes it special is that it’s not just a single fringing reef, but has many coral outcrops in shallower water. Among others, following species can be found here: local octopus, crocodile fish and hawksbill sea turtle. However, some reviews suggest the hotel itself is unremarkable.
Good sides: tasty food with large variety, friendly staff, excellent beach with coral reef (bring coral shoes!)
Bad sides: dirty and cold pool, lack of sunbeds near pool, beach needs more cleaning, overall the hotel needs renovation.
The next reef location is shared by Grand Makadi, Makadi Spa and adjoining hotels and is also considered very good. The water is deeper here and it’s best accessed from the long pier at the north end of the bay, next to the Grand Makadi. The rocks are quite sharp, so coral shoes are a must! Travelers have pointed out seeing starfish and jellyfish (no worries, they don’t sting). The hotel receives a lot of good reviews and can be recommended for easy going, relaxed holiday with occasional day trips.
Good sides: exceptional staff and service, adults only, various cuisines at the restaurants
Bad sides: pools not heated during winter, limited all-inclusive menu
Coral Beach, as the name suggest, has it’s own reef and is located in Sahl Hasheesh, around 10 minutes drive from Hurghada. This might be a good choice for people interested in visiting Hurghada city center for shopping. Some species seen on the reef include octopus, giant turtles, stingrays, moray eel and others. The reef is very beautiful, too.
Goods: fresh juice cocktails at the beach, good animation
Bads: compex too spread out, limited menu and untasty food
Serenity beach, located next to Grand Makadi, has been recommended by snorkeling lovers as a good place to look for colorful corals and fish. The hotel has a pier to reach the reef, although it is very old and not so comfortable, as the ladders are narrow. Serenity Beach Hotel has a fringing reef along the coast, most of the corals are alive and with great bio diversity. Species, like moray eel and sea turtle can be spotted there, if you are lucky.
Goods: good choice of food, attentive staff
Bads: limited internet, hotel is isolated from Hurghada city center, hotel is run down and old
Weather in Hurghada year round
Egypt offers almost perfect weather conditions for snorkeling year round. The best time to visit is October and November. Summer heat is gone by then, but the water temperature is still very pleasant and you can easily snorkel without a wet suit. Winter months are the coldest, water temperature can drop as low as 20C and you would probably need a 3mm wet suit in order to stay long enough under water. Also, particularly in Hurghada, the winds are quite strong during winter months, making entering the water a challenge!
Spring is another great time to visit – March through May the temperatures start to climb back up and winds are warmer. We visited during last week of March 2019 and stayed in the water easily without the wet suit for 30-45min in a row. Of course, there will be colder days, but generally it is doable. Summer months should be generally avoided, as there may be better options for where to go (Southern Europe for example).
Unlike common myths suggest, Hurghada doesn’t have a huge shark problem (compared to Sharm el Sheikh). This is mainly due to the reefs located off shore, protecting Hurghada’s coast and preventing the sharks from approaching the shores. Also, there is more tidal conditions and this tends to deter sharks from coming close. It is highly recommended to wear reef shoes or fins. Lion Fish and Scorpion fish will never approach you on their own, but you may step on one by accident and end up in a hospital. Same goes for sea urchins – there are lots of them on the reefs.
Stone fish tend to be found close to the shore and can kill you if you step on them. No need to worry though – they usually sit on the sand and will not bother you unless you bother them.
Best equipment for snorkeling in Hurghada
Nowadays you can find many types of various equipment for snorkeling – full face masks, classic snorkels, simple swimming glasses etc. I recommend investing in good pair of snorkels (mask and tube), as the one offered on the boat tours or at hotels are mostly old and torn. I had multiple problems with leaking mask during the last time and it ruined the experience. Next time I will definitely bring my own – also for hygienic reasons.
Personally, I haven’t tried the full face mask, and heard mixed feedback about it. Some people say it is the best thing ever. For me, the tube seems to be somehow short and I’m really used to classic option. Anyway, you can easily purchase any of the two in Hurghada, this years prices are (Cleopatra Bazar, fixed price shop): Full face mask – 30$, classic snorkel set – 25$. If you still have time before you go, I’d suggest ordering directly from China, you will get them for half price!
Snorkeling boat trips
If snorkeling off the shore of your hotel is not an option, daily boat tours to the reefs may be a good way to do that. The hotel we stayed in during last visit (Regina Inn Suites) was one of those with poor coral life (very polluted). During the one week we stayed there, I went on two snorkeling boat trips and enjoyed them very much. The cost of such trip is typically around 15$ and the price includes transfer from and to your hotel, lunch onboard and snorkeling equipment (if you need it).
Big advantage of such tours – you get a full day of adventure for a really cheap price. Usually the boat will stop at Giftun island with very nice beach. Boat tours are also very fun and you can meet interesting people onboard. Local guys know their way around those waters and take you to the best coral reefs out there. If you don’t own a waterproof camera, there is always somebody from the crew taking pictures both above and under water. Just make sure to agree on the price and check the pictures before you buy!
In your opinion, what are the best hotels for snorkeling in Hurghada?
One of the most common question I hear about Egypt is – Is it safe to travel to Egypt after everything that has been going on in the country in recent years. The short answer is yes – it is fairly safe for a tourist to travel there, as long as you use your common sense and stay away from trouble. The resort, like Hurghada and Sharm el Sheikh are quite packed with tourist police and great measures have been taken to keep the airport safe. In fact, I haven’t experienced such strict control like in Hurghada airport – we were checked at least 5 times!
Is it safe to travel to Egypt? Safety in Hurghada
During my latest visit I had no problem going outside my hotel (located in Hurghada city center), even during night time. The streets are lively and we met many other tourist wandering the streets, looking for cheap souvenirs and exploring local life. Hurghada, unlike Sharm, is a real city with almost 100.000 residents – also expats. Locals are friendly and eager to strike a conversation. In fact, you can even make friends if you can stand to their constant attempts to sell you something.
The city is hard to get into, as there are numerous police checkpoints along the main roads. Tour buses usually travel in groups accompanied by police escort.
During our latest stay we ate at three local cafes with no problem in terms of food poisoning. The food prices are actually quite high and comparable to East European. For example, grilled chicken plate with fries or pasta costs around 4-5$, fresh mango juice 1,5$. The food was okay, but nothing special. In fact, we didn’t have a single meal in Egypt that we could say was exceptional. Although the variety seems quite high, with different world cuisines (Italian, Greek, Chinese), in the end they all seem to taste the same and lack in spices.
Excursions and tours
Excursions and tours can be purchased from both tour guides at the hotels and from street agencies. You should not worry about buying tours outside the hotel – usually these are the same agencies. In fact, when buying from local shops you can negotiate the price and get a better deal (especially when buying more than one tour). Another option is book online through local agencies. You can contact them via Whatsapp or Viber messaging app. That’s how we booked Luxor, snorkeling tour and desert safari.
Tour guides in the hotels will try to scare you off from buying from local agencies because this is their bread. They will force you to meet them the same day you arrive in order to activate your return ticket (what?). Some lies they will tell you, if you book from street agencies, include:
-Your insurance will stop working.
-You will be robbed and killed.
-You won’t be allowed on the flight.
-You are not allowed to tell anyone your room number.
They will usually sell for at least 30% more, which they take home as commission. In return, you will get a sense of “security”. The truth is, once you get in the bus, you will meet people who paid much less than you.
Souvenirs and shops
Haggle, always haggle! You might be tempted to go on a free city tour. These tours take place daily and may or may not be a good idea. Personally, I think they are waste of your precious holiday time. We went on such tour and enjoyed the first part – Hurghada Marina area and the grand Mosque with brief tour. After that we were taken to two souvenir stores (Nefertiti and Memphis) – one with oils and the other one with souvenirs. These big stores are usually located outside the tourist zones and serve just one purpose – to rip off naive tourists. For example – famous black seed oil cost 45$ in Nefertiti and only 10$ at a small shop next to our hotel.
If you really don’t enjoy haggling, consider visiting a store called Cleopatra Bazar – this is fixed prices store. You can buy all kinds of souvenirs there as well as gold/silver jewelry. Ground floor is usually occupied by groceries store with quite cheap lukum (local sweets), honey etc.
Most of the tours that you will go on (boat tours, safaris) will be offering photos/videos of your adventures. I never agreed to buying those as I have my own equipment. However, if you don’t own an action camera or waterproof case and would like to have some underwater snaps, agree on the price and always check the files before buying. Never leave deposit until you see the actual footage. I have heard of many disappointed customers who received broken CD-s. Ask them to bring the picture on memory stick and check in your laptop. The prices for underwater videos and photos are really high (usually 25$), you will be much better off buying a waterproof case for your phone.
Many photo scammers can be found near famous tourist attractions, such as Pyramids in Giza, Luxor temples etc. Be very careful taking pictures of camels, as their owners will surely demand payment afterwards. You will hear “It’s for free”, but in fact it never is. Even if someone recommends you a good photo spot, they will usually ask money for it. All of these tiny details may seem like a lot of stress, but you will get used to this after a few days and just ignore all the “helpers”.
Taxis and Uber
Hurghada’s traffic is 70% taxis. These blue and orange cars can be found everywhere and are very good at spotting your interest in them. We have never used any of them, as everything was in walking distance from our hotel. However, if you are staying in bigger hotels south of the city, you will probably need to use one sooner or later. Here is a tip – always agree on price before you begin your journey. Simply jumping in will cost you a lot more. Good news – you can use Uber in Hurghada. If you buy a local sim card, you can have the freedom of ordering a ride anywhere. Another big (and cheap) taxi app is called Careem.
Have you ever been to Egyptian resort towns? What are your best tips?
Luxor day trip from Hurghada has been number one on my list long before our trip. Just the idea of seeing famous Karnak Temple, Valley of Queens and other historical sights made me so excited, I could hardly wait to go and left all other tours, such as snorkeling tour and desert safari, for later. Upon the arrival we immediately booked the tour with a local agency and were all set to go on this amazing adventure.
Having zero previous knowledge about the history of ancient Egypt, I must admit our guides did a fantastic job explaining everything we saw along the way in very clear language. We were never bored, so special thanks to them for that!
Where to buy Hurghada to Luxor day trip
Hurghada has tons of agencies selling pretty much the same trips. It all comes down to your ability to haggle the price down. We went on this trip for 40$ per person, but on the same bus we had people who paid 30$. I would recommend booking with local agencies (there may be one near your hotel or down the street). Don’t book from strangers approaching you on the beach though, be careful not to get scammed.
Things to bring to the trip: Breakfast box from the hotel (ask at the reception the night before), plenty of water, sunscreen, hat, photo camera, good shoes, sun glasses.
Hurghada to Luxor day trip schedule
The trip starts very early in the morning. Our pick up time was at 04:25 and we were the first ones in the bus. The reason for that was our hotel location in the center of Hurghada. All other hotels were located to the south, direction Makadi Bay. Makadi hotel guests were the last ones to be picked up.
We spent the next hour and half collecting other tourists from their hotels and around 6 AM finally started in the direction of Luxor. Trip time from the last hotel to Karnak temple was around 3,5 hours. We made a coffee/toilet break half way through.
Return journey was in the opposite direction, so essentially we were the last ones to get off and arrived at our hotel (as claimed) around 22:30. Thank God for MacDonalds accross the street, as the dinner time was over by then.
Visiting the temples
The first temple we were lucky to visit was Karnak Temple complex. In Luxor, another (local) guide joined our bus and continued enlighting us about the history of ancient world. The entrance tickets were included in the tour price and we quickly passed security gates and entered the complex.
To be honest, following the guide and taking photos/observing the beauty at the same time was an impossible task. Finally I opted for good pictures, as I can always read the story of the temple later at home. The most impressive part was, of course, the Colonnade hall as well as Avenue of Sphinxes, Great temple of Amun and others. Here is a great guide for Karnak temple if you need more details.
Temple of Hatshepsut
Next, we boarded a small boat and transferred to the other side of Nile for a nice buffet style lunch. Our bus picked us up and drove to the next sight – Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut. The temple is impressive and well worth a visit. You get to ride a small train all the way to the foot of the temple, then take the steps up. Even though there is not much to see inside, the view from the top is amazing.
Valley of Queens
Our last stop for the day was valley of queens, where wives of Pharaohs were buried in ancient times. With the admission tickets we got to visit 3 tombs with very well preserved wall painings describing the afterlife scenes. On the way back to Hurghada we made a 5 minute photo stop next to Memnon Colossi – two huge and very impressive columns.
Banana island – optional fun
As an optional tour, you will be offered a boat trip to Banana Island, which is no more than a nice refreshment trip, rather than an actual attraction. It’s not mandatory, but I highly recommend it as a refreshment before long ride back to Hurghada. The island itself has almost nothing to offer – few banana palms, some poor animals in small cages and fresh fruit table.
As I mentioned, this is not mandatory, but the guide will do his best to sell it to you, explaining that you will be sorry to spend this time in a hot bus, crossing the Nile over the bridge and sitting in traffic jam. From what we have seen, he may be right, it’s better to sail the Nile and observe the banks, local life and other boats.
Compulsory shops on the way
As with any other tour in Egypt, Hurghada to Luxor day trip includes at least one factory shop stop. Our tour stopped at stone/marble factory store with quite nice souvenirs made of real stone (have to take their word for it). If you are not into buying anything, it’s fine too. You can visit the store just to strech your legs, cool down from the heat and drink some free tea.
One thing to bring back from Luxor is Egyptian Hibiscus (Karkade) and Helba (yellow) tea. The guide will explain in detail all the benefits of those teas. As they are grown near Luxor, it’s best to buy them here as well, rather than in Hurhada or other resorts. Our guide offered to order those teas from local village men and brought the orders right to the bus – very convenient. The price for 0,5 kg Karkade and 1 kg of Helba + a can of black honey was 10$.
About the bus ride
For a person who gets easily sea sick in buses I recommend taking the sea sickness pills before going on this tour. The road between Luxor and Hughada is rather smooth, but in the cities it’s very bumpy due to high and wide road bumps every few meters. For me it was a real pain getting over those 5 hours on the road.
Other than that the trip is quite amazing and definitely worth it, if you are into Egyptian history and simply would like to see some of the local life. Unlike Cairo trip, which is much worse in terms of comfort (also it takes much longer to get there), Luxor is totally doable and offers a nice break from the beach holiday.
One of the main attractions in Egypt, apart from the Red Sea and pyramids, is the desert. Hurghada is located next to the Arabian Desert. On the last day of our holiday we booked a 3-hour ATV safari in the desert. In the end of March the weather is pleasant for this kind of activity. The only thing to watch out for is the wind, which can be strong in the desert.
Where to book Hurghada quad safari?
We booked our Hurghada quad safari with a local travel agency (just like we did with snorkeling boat ride) over their website, by contacting the manager over Viber messaging app. He was quick to respond and immediately confirmed our trip. The next day, we were picked by transfer bus and brought to the quad base. Our tour price was 25$ for the two of us – both on the same ATV.
The best thing about booking over this agency was the fact that we were the only ones on that safari and therefore had a private tour – only us and the guide. Also, we didn’t regret staying on the same quad, as we could talk to each other the whole way.
Types of Hurghada quad safaris
When it comes to quad safaris in Hurghada, there are usually two options. The short one, 3 hour quad ride to the Bedouin village, tea/shisha, and then ride back. It can be morning or sunset ride. The long one is around 5 hours and includes quad ride, buggy car ride, Bedouin village, tea/shisha, dinner with folk dance and ride back. The price for this kind of tour starts from 20$.
If all you really want is to try riding a quad in the desert, short option is more than enough. In fact, we were pretty exhausted from the short ride already – riding a quad is not so easy. Not trying to scare you off, though – it’s also a lot of fun, too!
How does a typical safari look like
After the transfer picks you up, you will be driven to the quad base, where you will meet your guide, get instructions on how to ride an ATV. You should definitely bring a scarf and goggles/sunglasses, the crew will help you fix them tight so they will protect you from the dust and sand.
The ride to the Bedouin village takes approx. 40 minutes. Once you arrive, you have a chance to ride a camel or horse (included in the safari price, tips are optional). You will be offered hot tea and shisha if you like. Also, there is a possibility to climb the mountain for great views and good photos. After a short stop, you will head back to the quad base.
Things to keep in mind
Desert can be unpredictable, so don’t go on a safari in your best clothes. On the way back, we faced a small sand storm and it was both painful and scary. Also, it can be colder in the desert compared to the beach, so dress appropriately. Quad bikes are usually very safe, but only if you drive them reasonably. Speeding too fast and making sudden turns can easily cause your bike to overturn. Also, it is much safer to drive alone, rather than with a passenger.
Last but not least, be extra careful when choosing which company to go with, as they might not be responsible if something happens to you. Better pay more and be on a safe side. Luckily for us, nothing bad happened, but I wouldn’t book with them again – seemed like garage dudes making some extra money.
Is it worth going?
If you are in Hurghada, done with all the sightseeing and sick of (is it even possible?) the underwater life, desert safari is a great way to spend a few hours. I would leave it for the last day, as your clothes will be impossible to wear after that. Also, it’s a must for adrenaline junkies.
On the other hand, it’s not a typical UAE style safari on huge dunes. All you will see is endless desert, bunch of stones and very little life. Driving a quad for 25km is no joke either – you will get sore, the road is bumpy and a quad is hard to ride, even if you are fit. I wouldn’t say this safari is a must, but it’s nice for a change.
Have you ever tried it? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Hurghada in Egypt is a small town on the Red sea with many hotels and great tourism infrastructure. While approaching the airport, you can’t miss the beautiful turquoise water color and coral reefs scattered along the coast. No wonder so many people are coming back – it’s hard to find a better place for diving and snorkeling.
Many local companies and boat owner organize daily boat tours to the coral reef gardens. Unlike Sharm el Sheikh, where you can enjoy the reef right outside your hotel doors, in Hurhada you need to sail a bit from the shore for the best spots. Hurghada snorkeling tour is both inexpensive and fun way to explore the ocean.
How to book Hurghada snorkeling tour
As soon as you arrive at your hotel, you will be strongly advised to meet your local tour guide before booking any tours. The guide will try to sell you different tours for the double price. If you need this kind of service in order to feel safe – you may just as well book from him. Before you book, check this helpful guide with prices.
During our last trip we booked online via local travel agent and paid only 17$ per person for the Paradise Island tour – the most popular boat tour in Hurghada. The advantage of booking a tour like that – you don’t need to pay upfront. If you decide to cancel, all you have to do is let them know the evening before the tour starts.
Concerning quality – our boat tour was truly great, with nice and friendly crew, good snorkeling equipment and decent food on board.
How does a typical tour look like?
A typical boat tour starts with a transfer from your hotel to the pier. Normally you would wait outside your hotel and when the bus arrives, wait for them to tell you your room number. That way you will be sure to board the correct bus, as multiple companies offer this kind of service.
During the tour, the boat will usually make 2 stops next to coral reef gardens and you will have a chance to snorkel with a mask. Group leader will give you group name, so you won’t get lost. I recommend sticking to the group, as multiple boats may be anchored right next to each other and it may be difficult to find the right one.
Last stop next to Paradise beach/island. Small local boat will transport you to the beach. You will have one hour to relax or make photos. The water is unreal, but sadly the beach is heavily crowded. My advice – walk away from the crowds and find a nice place to relax and chill. Also, you can take a mask with you. No corals, but still nice to swim there.
All that swimming will leave you very hungry, so a meal on board will be served. The choice is rather small: rice, noodles, fish, meat and salad. Soft drinks are for free as well.
Banana boat ride
The last attraction of the day is banana boat ride. This is also included in your tour ticket. The ride is very short, but full of adrenaline. Instead of going through the bumps, I stayed on the upper deck and enjoyed the sunshine.
Dolphin house trip
After having a blast on the Paradise Island boat trip I decided to go on another one the next day – the Dolphin house trip. I really love these animals, so the trip was an ideal choice. The day plan was very similar to the previous trip. However, instead of sunbathing at the white sandy beach, we spent time chasing the dolphins and trying to spot them underwater.
In order to get close to the dolphins, our boat had a small zodiac towed behind it. Once we arrived to the area where the dolphins live, we boarded the zodiac with all our equipment, ready to jump on first command. Dolphins move very fast, so you need to be ready any second. From the three jumps we did, I managed to see them only once. Still, it was unbelievable and amazing experience.
Good swimmer or not?
If you are not a very good swimmer, there is absolutely no reason to skip this tour. The water in the Red Sea is extremely salty and pushes you to the surface all the time. In fact, I found it extremely difficult to (free) dive. Life jackets are also available, as well as safety rings. Last but not least, boat instructors were swimming along the ones who couldn’t swim, watching over them at all times.
Of course, it is your own responsibility to decide whether you want to jump into the water or not. The beauty that you will see under the surface is 100% worth it!
Small piece of advice regarding filming underwater. As soon as you arrive at the boat, you will be offered to be filmed. The price needs to be negotiated beforehand. Also, don’t leave a deposit until you see the actual footage. You may ask for the film to be delivered to your hotel reception and check it there if you have your laptop. The prices for underwater films are around 25$.
Instead of trusting someone else with filming, I brought my own GoPro and filmed everything myself, using wrist mount.
From all the tours we did in Hurghada, boat trips were my favorite. One thing to watch for is the weather. If the wind is strong (and it usually is windy most of the time), an enjoyable trip may become much less enjoyable or even dangerous. We visited in the last week of March, and it was perfect – almost no wind, warm temperatures, and pleasant water temp. Once you are close to the reef, it is very warm and the abundance of marine life makes you want to stay there much longer.
Sunny Egypt is a perfect getaway spot during long, dark winter months in Northern Europe. It should come as no surprise that tightly packed charter flights touch down multiple times per day on both Sharm el Sheikh and Hurghada runways. The latter is a bit windier and colder, but still a popular choice among history lovers due to its proximity to famous Luxor temples.
Spending the whole week in all-inclusive mode is an option for some holiday makers, but does get boring at some point. That’s when people start looking around for an alternative thing to do. Luckily, the list of cool day trips from Hurghada is long and exciting, almost anyone can find something they will enjoy. Good news is, you don’t need to pay the cosmic price that your tour operator is trying to force on you! Many local companies offer pretty much the same thing for much less buck. Here is your ultimate list of Hurghada excursion prices for 2019!
Hands down, the most popular excursion from Hurghada due to it’s uniqueness and good location of the resort town. Total trip time is approx. 4,5 hours, depending on the location of your hotel. Usually the pick up is around 4 AM and you can expect to be back around 10.30 PM. This is a long day in the bus and not an easy trip, especially with children. However, this excursion is a highlight for many visitors as there is no other way to see such ancient temples and tombs like in Luxor. This is a must-do trip!
What is included in the price? Karnak Temple Complex, Sphinx alley, boat trip to the other side of the Nile, Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut, Colossi of Memnon. Lunch is also included int he price. Tour price: 40$
Cairo and pyramids
Second most popular day trip from Hurghada is the excursion to famous Cairo and the Pyramids of Giza (read about my visit back in 2008). The trip is not an easy one! You will begin your journey as early as 2 AM and spend around 7 hours in the bus before you reach your first destination for the day – famous Egyptian Museum. If you are interested in history and eager to see one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World still in existence – this is a trip for you! Although there are faster ways to reach Cairo from Hurghada, tourist bus is definitely the cheapest. During this trip you will have a guided tour in Egyptian museum, go for a boat ride on the NIle (optional), have lunch and finally visit the Pyramids and the Sphinx. Expect to be back in your hotel around 10.30PM. Tour price: 40$
Nothing beats a good desert safari and Egypt is a good destination to try one on a budget. You can choose between a short 3 hour quad bike safari and a full day jeep safari including dinner, belly dance and shisha. These safaris are a good way to visit the desert and see how Bedouins have lived for thousands years. In both options you will get to ride a quad, make some great photos and even pose on a camel or horse for free! As usual, the transfer will pick you up from the hotel and the best rates start from as low as 17$ for 3-hour safari and 23$ for full day trip.
Boat trips with snorkeling
The Red Sea is the reason why many people choose to visit Egypt. If diving or snorkeling is your thing, a proper boat trip to the reef is a must. Unlike Sharm el Sheikh, Hurghada doesn’t have much to offer when it comes to hotel beach reef. You would actually need to sail a bit away from the shore to see the colorful fish, sting rays and sharks. Luckily, boat trips are ridiculously cheap around here – the simplest ones start from as low as 17$ (Paradise Island) and include the transfer and lunch on board, snorkeling equipment rent and banana ride.
If you’d like diving, you will have to pay a little extra. The day tours including two dives start from 25$. You don’t require PADI certificate, as an instructor will be diving with you. Last but not least – if you love dolphins, you can take a dolphin reef trip (from 24$) to see these amazing animals in their wild habitat.
Other fun trips
Hurghada has lot’s of entertainment options. After enjoying the mentioned above “must do’s”, you may consider few more, less popular choices. One of them is El Gouna cruise (from 26$) – a scenic cruise to the famous Egyptian Venice – town built on water. This is a full day trip and includes snorkeling stops along the way and tasty lunch. Kids will love Jungle Aquapark (from 35$) – huge water park with 35 slides (21 of them are for adults). This is a great way to spend a day for families who would like to take a break from the beach.
For marine life lovers Hurghada has a huge Aquarium (from 30$). You can easily spend the day at this amazing place, enjoy the marine animals without getting under water, visit the zoo and education center. Last but not least, a visit to Dolphinarium (from 25$) may be a good way to spend the day if you don’t enjoy long boat rides but love these animals. The trip starts in the afternoon, you will enjoy a 1,5 hour dolphin and seal show. For additional fee you may also swim with the dolphins.
How to choose the best tour
Choosing the right tour for you may not be easy, considering the variety of options. If this is your first time in Hurghada or Egypt, I would recommend taking it easy and picking 2-3 trips. You should enjoy your holiday instead of rushing through all the attractions. Remember that the Red Sea is an attraction of its own. You may get lucky and spot colorful fish right outside your hotel, so pick a snorkel and enjoy a lazy day at the beach. Prices in Egypt are very affordable and I would rather come back next time to see more from the list.
Have you been to Hurghada or Sharm el Sheikh? Which tours did you go on?
Spring is in full bloom right now, and it’s not even mid May! I honestly can’t think of a better way to spend sunny Sunday morning than driving out of town. Stepping my foot on a canoe has been a lifelong dream of mine. So, when I was going through the list of awesome activities Kõrvemaa Hiking Resort has to offer, that particular trip was an immediate decision! Here is my review of Canoe Tour in Kõrvemaa National Park.
How to get to Kõrvemaa National Park
The Hiking and Ski resort in Kõrvemaa is located in Oja Farm, on the border of North-Kõrvemaa nature reserve with total area of 12,691 hectares. It is a short driving distance from Tallinn – around 56km (1 hour by car). It’s one of the pretties National parks in Estonia!
There is an option to get there by public transport, although it’s not ideal. Take a train from Tallinn to Aegviidu and then walk around 5 km to the Hiking center.
Driving to the starting point of Canoe Tour in Kõrvemaa National Park
Once we arrived at the hiking center, paid for the tour (possible by debit/credit card), got ourselves some coffee and got to know our guide, it was time to get back in the cars and drive to the starting point.
The road is very bumpy and dusty. We had to drive around 7km through the woods to the starting point, where the guide was waiting for us with canoes ready to go on water.
Safety on water
Thorough instructions followed and then we were given life jackets. Our guide was very knowledgeable and explained in detail how to handle a canoe, what are the roles of people sitting in front and in the back, how to pass logs and trees and what to do when we are stuck.
Luckily the river was rather shallow so we got to enjoy the ride rather than stress out about dangers and obstacles.
To make things more secure, our guide attached a tracking device to our boats. You don’t need to wear anything special, although I’m happy I wore hiking boots (ended up getting my feet wet). At some point, fallen trees completely blocked the way, so we had to get out of the boat and drag it overland. Luckily, it wasn’t too heavy!
We were among the last ones going on water, so when everyone else disappeared from sight, it was just us and the nature. The river is stunningly beautiful, with lots of bends and turns. The weather was sunny and warm, I even got my first sunburn.
The current was slow so it was easy to maneuver and navigate. At times we just simply stopped paddling and enjoyed the silence and birds singing around. I saw lots of water lilies as well as results of beaver activity – fallen trees and dams.
Once we arrived in final destination, our guide helped us drag the canoe to the shore and drove us back to our cars. We ended our stay at this amazing place with a tasty lunch in the Hiking center.
It was my first ever time in a canoe and I’m happy to say I loved it and highly recommend to anyone, even families with children. Soodla river is very quiet and easy to navigate. Although we went in spring, flowers were already starting to bloom. You can easily forget time because it’s so peaceful and quiet. Observing forest from water is very different than from a hiking trail!
Kõrvemaa Hiking Resort is great for lots of outdoor activities, such as disc golf, hiking and mountain bike trails, adventure games and much more. It’s possible to stay overnight and go to sauna, organize events or just come for the day. We will be coming back soon for hikes and biking tours.
Have you ever tried canoeing? How did you like it?
Our latest hiking adventure took us to Southern Estonia.This time it was beautiful Taevaskoja, located in Põlva County, also known as a film set of perhaps the most famous Estonian movie of all times – „The Last Relic“.
Right in the middle of this amazing place flows Ahja River, known for it’s outcrops of Devonian sandstone. This whole area is an ideal place for summer fun activities, such as hiking, canoeing and camping.
How to get there
Getting to Taevaskoja is easy by both car and public transport. You can expect to find large parking lot right at the beginning of the hiking trails. Local train stop is 2,5km away from trails, which is roughly 30 min walk. Regular trains from Tartu arrive and depart multiple times per day.
Once you arrive at the parking lot, you can choose between longer and shorter routes. Most of famous film locations are on the shorter trek, which is around 3 km long. The trail is well marked and maintained. It’s a pleasant walk, rather than a real hike.
The longer route goes all the way to Kiidjärve Visitor center. Total length of this route is around 11km. You have a possibility to walk on one side of the river on your way up and on the other side on your way down. Once again, the trail is well marked and easy to follow.
Kiidjärve Visitor center
We were surprised to find the Kiidjärve visitor Center being open on Saturday. It’s well worth having a look inside. Friendly personnel can tell you a lot about local wildlife, you can see stuffed animals and birds that live in this area, learn about local life and buy souvenirs.
What to pack
Pack light, even for the longer route. You should bring enough water, good hiking boots or sneakers, mosquito repellent is also a good idea. I would also suggest bringing a light snack, as there will be many good spots for rest.
Difficulty of the trail
The trail is by no means difficult. However, be prepared for a lot of ups and downs. The longer option may seem endless, but it’s well worth it. By the end of the trail my feet were sore, but it’s probably due to inadequate shoes. All in all, I suggest planning enough time for this trek – at least 4-5 hours.
The views on the way are amazing – you will be walking by the water line of Ahja river and then go up around 30m and see the same thing from above. It’s incredible and very picturesque. The trek reminded me of Lake Pühajärv hike.
Other things to do in Taevaskoja
If you have a little time and looking to do something different than just walking, consider booking a canoe safari. From my own experience I can tell you it’s amazing way to explore any area! There are plenty of companies offering them, you can even join scheduled trips. Other popular activities include scooter hikes, fatbike hikes, sauna and grilling events etc.
Where to stay
Taevaskoja Holiday Center is one of the best options to stay overnight in the area, offering accommodation for families, couples and groups. If you are traveling by car, you may find good SPA hotels in Võru, Pühajärve and around Tartu. For budget option, consider staying in home accommodation of AirBnB in Tartu and come to Taevaskoja by train.
Have you been to Taevaskoja and/or Southern Estonia? What is your favorite hiking trail there?
Starting your Eastern Europe Itinerary 2 weeks by car adventure in Prague has many advantages. Prague is one of my personal favorite cities in Eastern Europe because it has just so much to offer – medieval old town, countless breweries, scenic riverside, interesting museums and delicious, inexpensive cuisine. Moreover, Prague has a huge international airport and is therefore easily reachable from anywhere in the world. Renting a car is not a problem, as all major international car rental companies have offices in Prague. Bear in mind that returning car in a different country may be quite costly – around 400 EUR surcharge. This itinerary is designed to start and end in Prague.
Where to stay? You will find lots of various accommodation options for any budget. When we visited Prague, we stayed at a nice family home type of hotel called Dana Residence. The host was very welcoming and friendly, they also serve delicious breakfast according to your preference and at the suitable time. This guest house has free street parking and is close to metro, which makes it an ideal base for exploring Prague without having to worry about transport.
Day 2. Karlovy Vary – Cesky Krumlov
Karlovy Vary (or Carlsbad) is a small resort town located right next to the German border. Although visiting this town means taking a much longer way, it’s still worth a visit on a Eastern Europe Itinerary 2 weeks trip. First of all, there is a very famous brewery right along the way – Krusovice. This is one of the most famous Czech beers as well as one of the oldest. The brewery was established in 1581 and currently is owned by Heineken. You can simply stop by and try some of their beers or keep going without stopping.
The road to Karlovy Vary is quite scenic with occasional hills on the way. Once you arrive and park your car, take a lazy walk along the river promenade and make sure to taste the drinking thermal water from one of the numerous springs. The water is hot and healing. Karlovy Vary is a small town with very beautiful architecture, especially colonnades with columned walkways. Have lunch here before you head out to your final destination for today – Cesky Krumlov.
The fairy tale town of Cesky Krumlov is truly my most favorite place in all Czech Republic! The place is magical and its hard to describe it with words. We arrived there quite late and it was dark when we headed out to explore the old town. Many people say it’s a smaller version of Prague, with less crowds and better prices. I’d say Prague doesn’t come even close to beating it. You travel back in time when you walk the cobblestone streets. It’s breathtakingly beautiful and very compact. One evening is enough to see it, but you will definitely have difficulties with forgetting it!
Where to stay? We stayed at a family owned house and enjoyed it very much. It was called Villa Garibaldi. The house has free parking and is around 10 minutes walk from the old town.
Day 3. Austria – Eisriesenwelt
Wake up early and after a refreshing cup of coffee, start the journey towards the Austrian border. Once you arrive, the first thing to do is to buy vignette, or windshield sticker, for 10 days (price 9.20€). We highly recommend to stock on various snacks for the road trip as well as fuel at the border shop/gas station in the Czech Republic. Austria is quite expensive! Once you are all set, just simply keep on driving. Now you are in Austria!
To reach Eisriesenwelt ice cave by car takes around 3 hours. You will be passing by Salzburg and weather permitting, see the city panorama from the highway. If you have a little more time, consider stopping by. Ideally, you would need at least a day to enjoy this amazing city. Just before you arrive at the cave, be prepared for a very steep climb up. That was the time when I realized automatic cars have L (lower) gears! Be sure to learn how to use that beforehand. Otherwise you are risking being stuck in the middle of the road.
The cave is a huge attraction, requiring a cable car ride and a decent hike up to the mountain. You are only allowed to enter the cave as part of a guided group. That means you might have to wait at the entrance for the group tour to start. The tour is very informative, guides share lots of interesting facts about the cave and ice formations. You can read about our visit here. Visiting the cave will take a better part of your day, so after the visit you will have just enough time to grab a quick lunch and head to your hotel in Zell am See or Fusch.
Day 4. Grossglockner – Ljubljana
Today you are going to experience one the most scenic drives of this whole trip – the Grossglockner High Alpine road. As usual, prepare yourself for an early start, as we have lots of kilometers to cover. Our first stop is at the gates, to buy the pass. The ticket price is 37 EUR per car. Please note, the road is closed for winter, until early May. Total length is 48km of twists and turns and is the most famous alpine road in the Eastern Alps. The highest point is Hochtor Pass at 2,504 m.
To cover the distance, you would require around one hour of non-stop driving, but what’s the fun in that? At the gates, you will be given a map with all attractions along the way. We highly recommend taking a short hike to see Pasterze Glacier from up close. It can be a short one hour hike or a longer descend to the actual glacier. If you can, bring some picnic snacks, as cafeteria prices are rather high. If you are lucky, you may spot marmots (we did!).
After finishing the bends and turns, it’s time to head to Ljubljana for the night. The trip will take approx. 3 hours with amazing lake Bled along the way. If you feel like checking it out and it’s not too dark, consider stopping by. Otherwise, head straight to your hotel for the night, as this day has been exhausting enough already.
Day 5. Ljubljana
It’s time to park your car for a few days and enjoy walking. It’s difficult to find a better place Europe, than it is Slovenian vibrant capital. Ljubljana is a nice blend of German, Mediterranean, and Slovenian culture. One of the best ways to explore its magic old town is by taking a free walking tour. If you don’t feel like walking, consider renting a bike and exploring the city on two wheels. Ljubljana castle is obviously a major attraction and well worth a visit (7,50€ ticket). Visiting the museum may take a better part of your day!
Once you are ready, make sure to check out the Triple bridge, Preseren Square, Tivoli park. When you get hungry, have a look at Odprto Kuhna (open kitchen) or any other cosy restaurant that you find attractive. Finish your day at one of the numerous bars, you should try the local wine (experts say it is outstanding).
Day 6. Predjama castle – Postojna cave – Riejka
This morning we head south, to Croatia. Before we cross the border, there are two interesting sights along the way that we should take time and visit. The first stop is at Predjama Castle – a Renaissance castle built within a cave mouth. The castle is a great example how nature and man-made wonders can coexist within one masterpiece. It is the largest cave castles in the world. While the castle itself is open year round, the cave is open only from June to August due to the bats’ hibernation period.
If you enjoyed the caves in the castle, you will definitely love our next point – Postojna Cave. Hop on the underground train for a joy ride inside the cave! Underground formations are both surreal and breathtaking. After you have explored the cave, it’s time for a quick lunch and then we continue our journey to Croatian Pearl – seaside resort Rijeka. As an alternative, you might enjoy spending the night on Krk island. Weather permitting, head to the beach or enjoy a dinner at one of the seaside restaurants. I heard, the seafood there is amazing!
Day 7. Riejka-Plitvice-Zagreb
Next day starts with a ride to the world famous Plitvice lakes (2,5 hours drive) – a true natural wonder! Sadly, the place is overcrowded during high season, which makes it difficult to enjoy the lakes. Nevertheless, you can feel how beautiful it is and snap some cool photos, while walking along the paths and bridges. If you can, try to arrive there as early as possible.
The night we will spend in Zagreb – capital of Croatia. From Plitvice lakes it is another 2 hour drive. Enjoy the evening strolling through the streets of old town, Tkalciceva or Bogoviceva Street. Have dinner at one of the cozy restaurants serving fresh food based on seasonal ingredients. Try to relax this evening, as you won’t possibly be able to see very much. Zagreb would require another visit, if you really like it.
Day 8. Zagreb-Budapest
It’s time to head North again, this time to amazing and unforgettable city of Budapest. Although you can easily cover the distance in a matter of a few hours, we highly recommend you taking the long way. Let’s start out early and make our first stop at Varazdin – small town in northern Croatia on the Drava River. One of the main attraction is its baroque and rococo architecture, including the 17th-century Sermage Palace. Take a walk and enjoy the beauty of the old town.
For the lakeside views, visit Keszthely – small town located on the western shore of Lake Balaton. You can have a good lunch at the lakeside cafe and take a relaxing walk. After a couple of hours you will (finally) arrive in Budapest and check in at your hotel. It’s up to you now – whether you’d like to dive into exploring this vibrant city right away or stay in for the..