Written on 2010.08
- Location: Cairo, Egypt -> Luxor and Aswan
- Transportation: Train
- Point: When you go by train from Cairo to Aswan, the only tickets sold at the ticket window are expensive, overnight train tickets. This page explains how to take the cheaper day train instead. (Warning, there is still a risk of being refused / kicked off the train. Advice only for those who have time and guts.)
Taking the train from Cairo up the river to Aswan or Luxor is the most common way for people to get to Upper Egypt.
But there’s a catch.
If you go to the train station in Cairo and attempt to buy a ticket for the day train, you will be told that only night train tickets are sold. Looking at the railway’s web site, you’ll see contradictory information in that there appear to be many, many day trains heading to Aswan and Luxor.
However, if you’ve got the money and don’t want to spend an entire day on the train (it takes about 10 hours) then the overnight train is a good option for you. Just head to the train station in Cairo and buy your tickets. No need to read any further!
If you are like us, though, and you want to save a few pennies, like to look at the scenery, and are looking for a unique experience, then head for the “Egyptian Only” train.
With nothing to lose, we went to the ticket window the previous day. At that time we saw an American girl who was told she couldn’t get the ticket for the day train and went ahead an bought a night train ticket for 167EGP ($30). We found it cheaper to take the train down during the day and stay one night in Luxor than take the night train.
So know you’re wondering why you can’t get the day train tickets. From what we heard, it primarily concerns the safety of foreign passengers.
Several years ago there was a terrorist attack and the government changed its policies towards the official means of transportation for tourists. So the only ticket you’ll find at the ticket office is one for the night train.
We looked around for an official statement saying that tourists could ONLY take the night train, but found nothing. Just like you, we saw the advice of other travelers who had taken the route without any problems so we decided to give it a go.
Tourist offices and hotels will support the claim that there are no day tickets as well and if you go ask the tourist information office, they’ll probably just tell you, “I don’t know.”
So what should you do?
Since you won’t find an official office to buy your ticket, try one of the following:
① Have an Egyptian buy the ticket for you
② Just get on the train and buy your ticket on the train
We gave ① a go, but couldn’t find anyone that would buy the tickets for us. So ② it is!
- Price: Cairo -> Luxor First Class Seat 90 EGP ＋ Some bakshish (tip) 2～5 EGP （Night train 167 EGP)
- Time: About 10 hours
- Departure Times: Check the railway’s web site or at the ticket counter
Leap of Faith
The following worked as of August 2010.
The reference below doesn’t always work for everyone and we don’t take responsibility for any failures, but we have seen a number of people who have written online that they made the trip just fine. If you have too, please be sure to leave us a comment!
- Get to the train station about 30 minutes before departure
- Looking relaxed, head for the platform. You should pass through a security check, but all we did was walk through a metal detector. No one asked us for a ticket, etc. The guards seemed pretty indifferent to the whole situation. (Given the unrest in 2011 this might be different.)
- At the platform be sure to ask someone where the 1st and 2nd class seats are. We recommend going for the 1st class seats.
- Board the train. If someone offers to seat you on the train make sure to give them a small tip.
- The train will depart (you haven’t bought any ticket yet)
- A train conductor should come by about the time you’ve left greater Cairo. Pay the fee and you’re home free.
- Enjoy your journey!
When debating whether or not to take this train we found The Man in Seat 61 website to be extremely helpful. Look there for even more information and testimonials to people who have made the trip.
If you are traveling to destinations that aren’t n the Cairo to Luxor / Aswan route then you should be able to buy the tickets and any office or ticket window.