Q – We have some wonderful friends who have indicated they will join us on something like a ten-day Nile cruise/tour in Egypt. We are well-traveled, as our friends, but they like to travel independently and a group tour may be a tough sell. I have heard from returning friends that Cairo and the Pyramids, along with Luxor were packed with tourist buses. We will want to avoid some of that by going in the off-season. Is there a time when tourism in Egypt really slows down? Do you recommend we try to convince our friends not to do Egypt on our own? 

A – The “off-season” in Egypt is May-September, their summer. Summer in Egypt is no picnic and we do not suggest you visit during days of physically challenging  heat. Prime Season is November through March. A good compromise might be shoulder months of April, September, or October. 

Since there will be four of you, we would normally urge you to consider a private journey. The price when you are joined by one or two additional couples makes private travel somewhat more affordable. But in this case, you will want to be on a Nile River Cruise with other people and you will want to go to the most popular tourist sites. So “getting away from the crowds” is far more challenging. 

It seems to us that your best option is going to be a small group journey with fewer than 20 fellow guests. We think that Abercrombie & Kent, a company with a strong presence in Egypt, is the first company to consider. But there are several other good Egypt operators including Tauck and National Geographic. 

Egypt is one of the “UIP” countries (Upgrade If Possible). You really want to avoid three and four-star hotels. Egypt is also known for having a surplus of non-certified guides. 

Finally, we would suggest that your friends try to understand that independent touring is not what it once was – independent travelers often believe what they are being told on internet travel sites and apps. The fact is that the independent traveler receives few of the price breaks enjoyed by upscale travelers on group programs. “Independent Travel” now carries a real additional cost on virtually every component of a trip. Given security issues, we think that you need to travel with a company that has on-the-ground staff in-country when traveling to Egypt.