Holidays to Hurghada are slowly becoming more popular, after the reintroduction of direct flights from the UK early this year, after a four year hiatus following a number of terrorist incidents. First and foremost, this is one of the safest places that I have been to with my young family, so I would not hesitate to recommend this destination.
We arrived at the Sindbad Hotel (see my full hotel review here) late on Friday 14th February 2020, after flying via Dusseldorf from London Gatwick (which incidentally worked out £400 cheaper than the Easyjet direct flight out for the four of us when we booked four months ago).
I had heard some negative reviews about arriving at the airport at the start of their holiday to Hurghada (being hounded by people, fake taxi drivers with your name on a card from the passenger list), however, these were all completely unfounded.
Tip: Get your visa in advance of your holiday to Hurghada. Most nationalities are able to get their visa online (be careful that you fill out the form correctly as a small mistake can cause it to be rejected, and you won’t get a refund if this is the case). You are able to buy them easily at the airport, however, advance purchase cuts out potentially lengthy queues. Walk straight through the line of reps to get to the front of the passport control lines. You then give in the completed immigration cards that you should have received on the plane (take a pen) and they will stamp the visa into your passport. As you exit immigration, there is somebody who checks for the visa stamps in your passport.
As per usual, we travelled with hand luggage only, but the airport was so quiet that I doubt that luggage collection would have been too time-consuming.
We used Acorn transfers for our airport pickup, and thoroughly recommend them. Our driver was waiting for us with a named sign on arrival, and at £10 each way for the transfer, they were very competitively priced. If you do opt to use a taxi service, ensure that you agree a total price before you get into the taxi.
Tipping in Egypt
Tip: Save those English coins for tips for your holidays to Hurghada. Surprisingly, excursions and transfers are often priced and paid for in pounds or euros. This is done for two reasons: to make it easier for tourists to understand and because of the instability of the Egyptian pound. Therefore, pounds and euros are readily accepted, particularly for tipping (bearing in mind that the average Egyptian wage is £350 per month, a 50p or £1 coin is very gratefully accepted). It is also not unusual to be approached by the locals asking to change up their pound coins for a £5 note. This is not a scam, it merely allows them to be able to change it to their currency at the bureau on a favourable currency exchange day.
Hurghada Weather in February
I have seen lots of posts asking about February weather in Hurghada, and I wrote this sat here on a sun lounger in February in Hurghada. The weather for the past five days had been fantastic: wall to wall sunshine and an average of 24 degrees. When the sun started to get lower in the mid afternoon (3:30 onwards dependent whereabouts you are) it got a bit chilly in the shade. But hey, let’s put this in perspective: this is February, and the UK has been ravaged by Storm Denis this week so I really couldn’t complain about a few late afternoon goosebumps whilst sunbathing.
One of the days however, was overcast and without that direct sun, it was cold (cardigan on, towel over legs). Whilst unusual, I hav seen some January and earlier February reviews that indicate that some people may have been unlucky enough to have had a full week of overcast weather. Saying that however, our kids were super happy under the clouds for the last couple of hours, playing in the park and fully submerging themselves in the kids’ splash pool. February is winter in Egypt, and as we walked around in our swimwear, the locals were wearing scarves and coats!
Excursions during holidays to Hurghada
We booked an excursion for a snorkelling boat trip to Giftun Island through getyourguide.co.uk. The reps around the resort were quoting around the £100 mark for the same tour (two adults and two children), but essentially cutting out the middle man enabled us to purchase this trip for a far more respectable £58. The pickup was timely, although it is important to clarify what hotel entrance you are getting picked up from if you are in a large resort. We spent 10 minutes waiting at the main entrance, watching everybody else get picked up but us. It then transpired that our bus was waiting outside the resort for us: it appears that only the package holiday excursion buses picked up from the inner entrance, and we were expected to walk out to the road. The company were in constant contact however, so this did get rectified promptly.
The trip itself, run by White Shark Egypt was very good. It was well organised and the safety briefing was far more in depth than many other similar boat trips that I have been on in Europe and beyond. The crew were all super friendly, great with the kids and spoke fantastic English. I think that it is important to get outside your your hotel resort for at least one to two days during your holiday in Hurghada.
Paradise Island Hurghada
Whilst great for those Instagram shots, there was little else on the ‘Paradise islands.’ They were not isolated islands around which you could roam freely, pretending that you were Robinson Crusoe. They were essentially man made bits of an island, with views not dissimilar to the ones from our hotel beach. We had to stay as a group (and not wonder off far as the army owned the land 20 metres behind us) and sat on our towels, did a bit of paddling, observed lots of pouting selfies and then after 40 minutes got back on the boat. We dropped off half of our group to Orange Bay island on the way, and this looked fairly similar, albeit with a few more facilities.
Snorkelling in Hurghada
I must admit; I got on the boat knowing full well that I would not be getting in that water (Tip: take sweatshirts, long trousers etc, the boat trips are very breezy). My husband and seven year old son went in, but my son was back out again within ten minutes with blue lips. It would have been ok with a full length wetsuit, but cold without, and quite a strong tide to contend with. The company did hire out shortie wetsuits at €5 each, but I feel that long ones should be included as part of the package during the winter months. About fifteen people got in for the first snorkel stop and only two for the second. My husband said that the snorkelling was very good with a good variety of fish at the reef, but the sea was quite choppy, which affected his mask and visibility. We would definitely go back snorkelling again in the Red Sea, but in the warmer months.
We were very lucky to spot a pod of dolphins, which was fairly unusual for February.
Lunch on the boat exceeded my expectations. I was expecting something along the lines of a cheese sandwich based on other boat trips that I had been on. I was wrong: we had a choice of about four excellent chopped salads (of a similar standard to our hotel), then a selection of rice, pasta, meat and fish. One of the crew also came around with a tray of fruit afterwards. It was tasty and plentiful.
Is Hurghada Safe?
Based on our experience: absolutely. When walking around outside the resort, we felt completely safe. Yes, you do get business owners touting for business, however, they are not pushy. Most of them are happy with a bit of polite banter and a definitive “no thank you (unlike several other countries that we have travelled to previously, wherein sellers could actually be verbally aggressive when dismissed).” There are security guards visibly present (but not in a gun yielding, aggressive way) and we did see two sets of police stationed at parts of the town during our time there. At all of the entrances to the hotels there were security guards and metal detectors. These were not strictly enforced, and it appeared that they were only used when there was a level of suspicion.
This was all completely cautionary I hasten to add, and at no point did I come across anything that I would have deemed as unsafe.
Drinking tap water in Egypt
As an aside, I have read some advice online about completely avoiding the tap water in Egypt. This included avoiding ice in drinks (which I did see some guests do), not eating salads that may have been washed in tap water, and using bottled water for cleaning teeth. Whilst we drank only bottled water, my family and I had lots of ice, ate loads of washed salad and used tap water to brush our teeth, and there was not a hint of an upset stomach between us.
Negotiating Hurghada Airport on your return journey
Understandably, Hurghada Airport security is now extremely tight, so give yourself 2.5-3 hours to comfortably catch your flight at the end of your holidays to Hurghada.
The steps that you need to take:
- Before you enter the terminal building, you have to show your passports and boarding pass to the official on the door. You then have to put all luggage through the scanner as you enter the terminal. The queues at both sets of security are split into male and female. At this security, there is no need to remove liquids, however, you do still need to remove belts, jackets, shoes. etc. You will then enter the terminal.
- We flew with Easyjet, which stated that you need to go to the bag drop prior to security, even if you are travelling with just hand luggage. The reason for this is that you are given an exit card stamped with your flight number. You need to fill out one card per passenger before going to passport control.
- Passport control is straightforward, and they collect in your exit cards at the same time.
- You then approach security again, split into male and female queues. For this one, you do need to separate liquids, laptops etc.
- After going through, we had to show our boarding passes again. There also appeared to be spot checks on the way out of security (which is an enclosed area with one exit), wherein the official looked in our bags and then asked us to write down all names, date of births and passport numbers. We then proceeded into the gates. In total, this took us about 40 minutes, however, this was low season and could easily double or treble in the peak travelling months.
- There is a separate area for UK flights, for which you have to show the official your boarding passes once again. They would not let us enter until approximately one hour before our flight.
Food and drink in Hurghada Airport
If you wish to buy food and drink, it is essential that you do so before entering the UK flights terminal, as once you go in, you cannot go back out, and there are just a few extremely overpriced small shops selling food and snacks (when I say overpriced, it cost me £10 for 1 bottle of water and two cokes, all 500ml). Burger King is probably your best bet if you need to eat something relatively substantial, but I would strongly suggest that you bring your own snacks if required.
There were many grumbles from passengers about all of the security measures. One that we spoke to did not even know about the October 2015 terrorist attack on the Russian plane which killed 224. The Hurghada tourist industry is just starting to piece itself back together after its terrorist threats, and I really don’t blame them for being cautious. As tourists, we need to respect this, and be thankful that officials are being over cautious in a preventative capacity.
We loved our trip to Hurghada, and would definitely return (fingers crossed we are hoping for December 2020!). This was a cheap, relatively last minute holiday, and at best, I was hoping for warm sun and a satisfactory overall experience. My expectations were exceeded: the weather was beautiful, the area clean and safe, and the hotel’s food and facilities were excellent. Hurghada’s biggest asset however, is its hospitality, and I applaud them for it. All of the local staff and people that we met were genuinely friendly and courteous.
I really do hope that Egypt’s tourism industry picks up more rapidly after a difficult few years for the country. They are trying exceptionally hard to encourage more holidays to Hurghada, and it is highly evident. It is now up to potential holidaymakers to give Egyptian holiday resorts a chance to prove themselves.
Thank you for reading my article, please feel free to post your comments and questions about holidays to Hurghada. Follow me on my social media channels for regular family travel tips and trip reports 🙂 Kathryn @tripinnuggets