Although a relatively small town by Egyptian population standards, Luxor is quite extensive. It divides naturally into the areas on each side of the river Nile.
|East Bank |
The town, the Luxor Temple, the Temple of Karnak, museums, trains, hotels, restaurants.
|West Bank |
The major ruins including Valley of the Kings, the Valley of the Queens and other important sites; the Western Valley ruins, and a few hotels.
The dynastic and religious capital of Middle Kingdom (circa 2050-1710 BCE) and New Kingdom (circa 1550-1080 BCE) Egypt, Luxor has much to offer the visitor, from vast temples, to ancient royal tombs, via spectacular desert and river scenery and a bustling modern life.
Thebes, the world heritage listed old capital of Egypt, was on the west bank of the Nile at Luxor. Most of Luxor's ruins and tombs are there.
The modern city of Luxor is on the east bank. This area has the train and bus stations, most of the hotels and restaurants, some museums, tourist shops and so on. Most visitors (and almost all tour groups) stay on the east bank and travel across for the tourist sites but, in recent years, there has been an increase in hotels on the west bank and many independent travellers stay there.
However, Luxor is also known as the hassle capital of Egypt (and therefore a good candidate for the world). Instead, Aswan further south is quite the opposite and much more relaxed. It is a good alternative in case you want to skip the Luxor experience altogether but not miss the beauty of the Nile and the nearby attractive sights.
|Climate chart (explanation)|
- See also: Egypt#Climate
The weather is generally extremely hot in summer, while in winter it is generally warm, but may get cool at night. The climate is very dry with almost no rain at all and the sun shines all the year. The best time to visit is in winter, from November to the beginning of March.
- 1 Luxor International Airport (LXR IATA). receives direct flights from several European cities, with most being inclusive package holidays, but they are often available to book flight only. There are also direct flights from the Gulf states. Egyptair and competitors fly frequently and direct from Cairo (1 hr), with day-trips feasible both ways, and good connections to Europe. Reaching Luxor from Alex or Sharm el-Sheik usually involves changing in Cairo, sometimes with lengthy stopovers.
Visas on arrival are available to many foreign nationals, just after you enter the terminal building leaving the plane. It is US$25 or equivalent, with most major foreign currencies accepted. Also, see Egypt#Get in.
There are no public buses between the airport and the city centre. If you do not have a shuttle provided by your hotel, take a taxi, which should cost no more than LE50. Ignore the picket of taxi drivers and touts just outside the airport doors. Keep walking until you find a taxi driver in his car and then negotiate. Keep a firm grip on your luggage as people will helpfully wrench it from you, carry it most of 5 m to the taxi & bus stand, then demand a fee. "Lah shukran, lah shukran . . . ": you will be saying that a lot in Luxor.
Luxor is on the railway mainline that follows the Nile north to Cairo (10 hr) and south to Aswan (3-4 hr). Train is an excellent way to travel between Aswan and Luxor as it is too short to fly, and buses are bumpy and not altogether safe. The train ride to and from Cairo is obviously slower than a flight, but comfortable and safe, and amazingly inexpensive.
For practical details see "Egypt#Get around by train". From Cairo there are four types of train:
- Daytime expresses have 1st and 2nd class air-conditioned coaches called AC1 and AC2 with comfortable aircraft-style seats. They are a relaxing way to sit back and view the lush landscape of the Nile valley. Fares (as of Feb 2018) vary with the train, with a single ticket Cairo-Luxor costing LE115 to LE200 in AC1, and about 30-40% less in AC2. Soft drinks and snacks are served, and there may be a dining car, but best buy food and drinks beforehand.
- Overnight expresses, departing 9PM to 11PM, are identical to the daytime trains and have the same fares; they are not sleepers.
- Deluxe sleepers are run by a private company, Watania. These have modern air-conditioned sleeping-cars, with a choice of 1- and 2-berth cabins and a club/lounge car. An evening meal and breakfast are included in the fare. As of Feb 2018, prices one way between Cairo and Luxor or Aswan are US$110 for a single berth, or US$80 sharing a 2-berth cabin. One sleeper runs nightly year-round, southbound from Cairo Ramses around 8PM, and northbound from Luxor around 11PM. Extra sleepers run at busy times but note that these train may commence from Giza rather than from Cairo Ramses station.
- Local trains - Non a/c trains lumber between Cairo and Luxor, daytime and overnight, stopping at most stations - some commence in Alexandria. These are not much slower, but they are incredibly cheap.
Most of these trains continue to Aswan (and since they have started from Cairo, are often late leaving Luxor). The expresses are run by Egyptian National Railways (ENR) - check timetables and prices, and make bookings, with them direct. ENR also runs the ordinary trains but these are not bookable and not shown on timetables, buy your ticket at the station. The de luxe sleepers should be booked online with Watania.
Express tickets can also be bought at the station but in 2017/18, Cairo Ramses station has often refused to sell daytime tickets to tourists, claiming they are only allowed on the overnight train. This is bunkum and there are no similar problems buying such tickets at Giza, northbound Aswan / Luxor to Cairo or even in simply boarding the daytime train without a ticket.
Buses leave regularly from behind Luxor Temple, to most major cities. Bus is a good way from/to Hurghada, e.g.:
- Go Bus (the Station is just north from the railway station main entrance in Luxor). To Hurghada at 8:15AM and 3:30PM. LE90.
- Upper Egypt Bus Co. Departs from Hurghada (beside El-Fardous Hotel, El-Maer St.) at 10:00AM, 1:00PM, 7:30PM, 10:30PM, 1:00AM, 3:00AM. 2½ hr. From LE40 one way.
For Aswan train is better. For Cairo or Alexandria likewise take the train or fly.
Nile boat cruises regularly call at Luxor, but these are package itineraries and not available to book as point to point ferries.
It may be possible to reach Aswan by a felucca cruise on the Nile. First you will have to travel south by train or microbus to join the felucca at Edfu, as they will not venture north of the Nile river locks there. The river journey takes two days. The prices are wildly negotiable, expect a starting price of LE700 and aim to settle for LE300.
Luxor is brimming with rental shops for bikes and a great many hotels also hire out bicycles. Rental rates vary from roughly LE5-20, depending on your bargaining skills, the relative demand on bikes that day and the quality of the bike in question. Check the tires and be wary of last minute inflating as they may deflate just as fast. It is normal to be asked to leave behind your passport, drivers licence or student ID card as a deposit. Bikes can be rented on both the East and West Banks of Luxor (the latter near the local ferry landing), though the choice and quality of bikes is usually better in the East, and prices can be a little over-inflated on the more isolated West. If you look for high quality bicycles, you can find Dutch bikes (gazelle/batavus) at the Dutch Rental Agency in Sheraton Street (East Bank)and in the Souk just when you leave the ferry (West Bank). Bikes can be taken on board the local ferry (be considerate though), so perhaps hire on the East, then transport your bike over yourself. Watch Egyptian traffic before deciding if you want to ride a bike through it.
The East Bank is the metropolitan side, so consider the traffic and crowds while deciding whether to bike on that side. The West bank in contrast is much more rural, and many tourists opt to bicycle among the fields here while getting themselves between the tourist sites.
At the sites, guards will try to convince you to avoid locking your bicycle as they will watch it. Which they will do very well, and then demand a tip for having done so. Lock your bike yourself to avoid this unnecessary expense.
For the even more brave, Luxor is brimming with Chinese motorcycles around 150cc. With the right bargaining skills you can net one for LE50 per hour, or less for the day or evening. In the summer, the roads around the West Bank are relatively empty, and motorcycling around the ruins and mountains is easy and efficient. In a slow season, many are willing to rent you their own motorcycle for the right price. Ask for a helmet -- you won't get one otherwise .
Taxis are plentiful in Luxor. They have no meters, but there are current rates that are accepted if you stay firm. From the airport to downtown is about LE50 (LE45 in December 2011 when there were few tourists), and short trips within Luxor are between LE10 and LE20. A round trip to the West Bank is about LE100.
The Sheraton Luxor Resort has a list of current (overpriced) taxi rates from their hotel to a number of destinations that can be used as a handy reference.
Minibuses are the transportation of the locals in Luxor, and the cheapest way to get around for the adventurous tourist. They all have the same shape so are easily recognized. They have fixed routes, with different routes marked by a different colour on the side of the minibus. However there are no maps of the routes, the locals just seem to know them by heart. All bus routes seem to converge at the railway station. Hail a bus by looking at it while it is approaching, and raise your arm. When the bus is full it will not stop (there are about 14 seats in a bus). Otherwise you can jump in, take an empty seat, and pass money to the driver, a flat LE1.50 per person (as of Dec 2017) for a ride (no haggling required). When you do not pay while you sit down, they will assume you do not know the price and the driver will charge you LE2 when you get off. Getting off is possible anytime, and is done by simply asking the driver to stop.
An essential way of getting between the East and West banks of Luxor is to use a boat. The blue local ferry is a very basic boat between East and West that costs LE2 for foreigners (as of Oct 2018). The downside is that the ferry only leaves when it is full, or when another ferry arrives, so taking the ferry is in general slower although you avoid the haggling. Nevertheless, during the day ferries departs often enough not to waste your time. Taxis are available at the ferry terminal on both sides, and the trip takes just a few minutes.
Otherwise, motorboat launches (often called "lunches") will take you around, e.g. from the Winter Palace Hotel to the East Bank ferry dock—as of Oct 2018, LE20 for one or two people during the day, or LE25 at night (You will likely be asked for more, so haggling is appropriate). If you are going up or down river, e.g. to Karnak Temple or Luxor Museum, you will likely end up paying LE30 or more.
As you walk by the river, dozens of felucca owners will also offer you their services to haul you over the river, and normally a taxi driver will be on standby on the other side.
Calèches, or horse-drawn carriages, are common on the east bank and are a delightful way to see the city, especially at night-time. Prices vary according to bargaining skill, but LE20 per hour seems common.
However, a number of animal rights groups have advised against calèches due to the poor treatment of the horses. It is not uncommon for drivers to beat their horses, and most Western tourists will notice many skinny and scarred animals. This does not mean that all drivers are to be avoided, some are reputable. Use common sense when choosing.
Beware of using the same driver for several days in a row. At the end he may decide he has undercharged you in some way for previous trips and may ask for a lot more, for things which "wasn't" included, such as waiting around while you visited a temple, all the money paid before went to the boss and none to your driver, a tip for the horse, in the original price. It might be best to use a different driver each trip and not book a previously used driver to avoid this possible scenario from happening even if he does seem more pleasant than most to start.
It is also possible to travel around the tourist district on foot during the cooler parts of the day, provided you have a good sense of direction. To avoid unwanted attention you will need to constantly repeat the words "no hassle", or "laa, shukran", which means "no, thank you" in Arabic. Also, be prepared to yell out for the Tourist Police if you have any concerns for your safety. There are usually always some policemen nearby since they may be also wearing civilian clothes.
A good tactic for avoiding hassle is to buy an Egyptian paper each day (in Arabic) and carry this with you. Locals will assume that you know Arabic (and therefore their tricks) and leave you alone. Egyptian papers cost around LE1.
The Luxor district article pages contain detailed information and suggestions for things to see. Highlights include:
- The Valley of the Kings
- The temple complex of Luxor
- The temple complex of Karnak
- Medinet Habu
- The Tombs of the Nobles
- The Ramesseum Temple
- Deir el-Bahari of Queen Hatshepsut
- Colossi of Memnon
- Mummification Museum
- Hire a bicycle and ride around Ancient Thebes, which takes less than 15 minutes.
- A local felucca ride just before sunset; shouldn't cost you more than about LE30 (for one person) per hour.
- Take a felucca cruise on the Nile for a 2-day trip to Aswan (the reverse trip is recommended, however, due to river currents).
- Book a cruise ship for 2-3 nights between Luxor and Aswan by tracking down one or several of them along the pier before noon. Most cruise ships have a reception at their entrance and you can just walk in. Do not mind the guards or barriers, they are just there for protection. According to some, prices can start at US$40 per night, and this will be cheaper than when going through an agent or booking online.
- Hire a donkey, horse or camel to ride around Luxor's West Bank.
- [dead link] Pharaoh's Stables (just a short walk from the ferry terminal). +20 10 6324961. They will take you to places where the big coaches can't go. They have horses for beginners to experienced riders. The sunset ride and nile ride seems like a must do.
- Swim in a hotel’s pool after a dusty day of tombs and temples:
- Iberotel: LE75
- Sonesta: LE50
- One next to St Joseph: LE25
- A hot air balloon tour in the morning for sunrise. LE950-1100, when booked with your accommodation. This does generally not include sunset, supposedly depending on the wind, which is what they are used to say every day. It is still an impressive and inexpensive ride, even without sunrise.
- Magic Horizon Balloons, Badr Street, off TV St, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Flight starts before dawn: MH staff picks passengers up at their hotel or cruise boat, ferry them across the Nile by Felucca boat (tea, coffee & cakes provided on the boat) and drive them to the take-off point. Guests glide up from the West Bank in an balloon and float over Luxor enjoying a view of all the important landmarks of the West Bank. A unique way to visit the ancient land of the Pharaohs. Each flight lasts at least 40 minutes, weather permitting. LE1,900 according to their website.
There are at least two different markets in Luxor. One is located in an air-conditioned hall, with shops located on either side of the hall. This market hall connects two major streets.
The older market takes up several streets near the Luxor temple. It is a joy to walk through, as it is mostly pedestrian and is a welcome respite from the horse and carriages on the main streets. This market really feels like an old souk and the visitor is taken back in time. It is covered with a wooden trellis, shading people from the sun. Many of the shops offer the same items, so the wise buyer shops around and looks for the best price. One can often bargain better after going to several stores.
Once you find a merchant you like, sit down, have some tea and begin the game of bargaining. It can feel like you are becoming a part of the family. Buying something as simple as a cotton galabeya can take hours, as you try on almost every single galabeya in the store, and then move on to items that they think you may want for the rest of your family.
Buying anything may be very frustrating due to constant bargaining if you are not used to it. This trick has proven to work well: usually their first offer for the price can be ten or even a hundred times bigger than a reasonable price. First decide what you are actually willing to pay. Let us say that in this example it is LE20. If you ask for the price, you may get a reply "LE120". Now you offer LE22. You may then be offered something like LE110. Then instead of going up, you start going down with the price, your new offer will be only LE20 (your predefined price limit). If the bargaining continues you continue dropping your offer. Pretty soon he will understand where the bargaining is going and you get a comfortable price, or you get rid of the vendor.
The touting in the main Souq in Luxor is so bad that it is an absolute nightmare walking through it. Any desire you had to buy anything will quickly disappear as dozens of men try every possible catch they have on you. These include: "You look lucky", "you look Egyptian", "come see my shop, no hassle," and guessing your nationality. But if you continue straight forward, you will come to the real Souq, where the locals go shopping, and the atmosphere changes completely.
Luxor is a vegetarian's paradise with lots of fresh seasonal vegetables such as tomato and cucumber.
A meal often begins with pita-bread and mezze such as baba ganoush or taboulé.
Your main course may include meat or poultry, or regional dishes such as pigeon or rabbit. (To avoid an upset stomach, you may prefer to stick with the beef.) As with any heavily touristed area in Egypt, it is never hard to find reasonably well-executed Western food.
Dairy products, such as yoghurt or gibna bayda cheese (like feta but creamier), might accompany your main meal.
Finally, many good vegetarian desserts are available, though some might seem overly sweet to western tastes. (If you can, specify low or medium sweetness.)
While the evening meal is often filling, you may find this does not meet the energy requirements of a busy tourist. It is advisable to eat a hearty breakfast, drink lots of water and snack frequently during the day.
For restaurants by district, see:
There is something of a social stigma attached to public drunkenness. Although Egyptians themselves sometimes choose to ignore this, for a foreigner to be drunk in public can give a bad impression. Most local pubs tend to be testosterone-filled hard-drinking dens where lone foreigners and especially lone women may feel uncomfortable.
However, there are numerous places in Luxor to buy alcohol. Many restaurants, above the basic on the street places, sell lager and wine. They are generally made obvious by Stella signs outside or by having people drinking inside them.
There are two open-air restaurants opposite the temple about 200 m south of the main entrance which serve Stella lager for LE14 including tax (as of September 2011) and other local beer and wine for fairly reasonable prices. The huge Stella signs outside give them away. If you can not find somewhere convenient serving alcohol, it may be an idea to ask the staff in your hotel for directions. 'Cafeteria' can be the euphemistic name for a pub in Egypt, and pubs can be quite hard to find if you do not know exactly where to go.
There is a duty-free shop close to the north end of the Luxor Temple, slightly to the right across the busy junction. It has plastic see-through shutters at its windows and a guard outside. If you take your passport and go within two days of arriving in Egypt, up to three bottles of main-name spirits and beer, etc. at reduced prices, per person, can be bought. After the two days you can only buy the Egyptian equivalent. They also sell electrical products, and close at 10PM.
Drinking in the street or in parks, although fairly widely done by locals, is not recommended for foreigners as it is illegal and alcohol is generally cheap enough in restaurants anyway.
Luxor has an extremely wide variety of accommodation options, from camping and hostels, right up to 5-star luxury hotels like the Old Winter Palace Hotel which is of extreme opulence and has played host to both movie stars and heads of state. Luxor probably has the greatest seasonal variation in hotel rates in Egypt, wih some hotels can be up to 50% cheaper (or more) in the low season (summer), others have no change.
Whilst the vast majority of accommodation options are to be found on the East Bank, an increasing number are to be found (and are being developed), however, on the more laid-back and isolated West Bank, close to the tombs and the Valley of the Kings. A lengthy stay in the area might benefit from staying on both sides of the river for some time.
If you are arriving in Luxor by train or bus, beware the over-friendly and sometimes pushy hotel touts, especially at the station (these guys are a symptom of the sometimes fierce competition between rival hotels, especially at quiet times). Remember you do not owe them anything, but that they get 25-40% commission for convincing you to stay at their "cousin's" or "brother's" hotel, which is then added to your final bill. It is usually best to pre-book accommodation. Also, use a map or a taxi to find your hotel and discourage attempts to guide you to your hotel, as you may end up somewhere else altogether, in the expectation that you will give in and stay where your "guide" has led you after all.
Women travelling without company should exercise extreme caution whilst seeking budget accommodation in Luxor. Several reports have been made of sexual assault after women were given spiked drinks by hotel touts and staff.
On your first morning in Luxor, you may be woken at dawn by the adhan, or Muslim call to prayer. This normally lasts 5–10 minutes, and after a few days you will find yourself sleeping through it.
See the various Luxor district pages for details of telephone, internet and postal services - being a major tourist town, Luxor is extremely well-served with communication facilities.
Most of the best outlets are to be found where the bulk of the local population lives, in the East Bank of Luxor.
In August 2004, an additional "2" was added to old 6-digit telephone numbers. The format for overseas callers, for example, should now be +20 95 2xxx xxx. Mobile phone numbers are unaffected by this change. Since June 2005, numbers on the west bank that began with 2426 now begin with 2060. So the format for these numbers is now +20 95 2060xxx rather than +20 95 2426xxx.
Luxor Passport Office is located south of Luxor town centre, virtually opposite the Isis Hotel, open Saturday - Thursday, 08AM-8PM. Rumour has it that visa extensions are far easier to acquire at this office than its equivalent in Cairo.
- Stay Alert – For those not on fully organised tours, please be aware that touts can make sight seeing very frustrating. (Although they tend not to stray into the actual temples.) However within temples, one must contend with the government tour guides. The guides are legitimate government workers, but also extremely aggressive about "guiding you" and then demanding a tip. Rule of thumb: If anyone shows you anything, for any amount of time, they will want a tip. It may be worthwhile to give a small tip upfront while asking to "self tour".
- It is wise to know which accommodation you are heading to and where, or just pre-book accommodation. Otherwise, you will have to deal with the touts at the station.
- As tourism is the main source of income in Luxor, and has been for centuries, many people have made scamming into an art form. Some of the older tricks in the book:
- The "I need a letter translated" opener, used to draw you into a shop
- The "I need a letter writing to my friend in your country" opener (they show you an address that is in your country), again used to draw you into a shop
- The alabaster factory. A large percentage of alabaster is imported, and is hardly made on site. The vast majority of other stones such as jade are imported from China and India.
- "The temple is closed"- Check opening times before you arrive. Find out on your own whether something is open or closed, whether you are walking the right way or not. Ask a local, not taxi or caleche driver.
- Papyrus Museum - it is just a papyrus shop, some are good but some are cheap imitations.
- Scarf seller - person selling usually just one scarf will attempt to use it to hide their hand movements while they pick pocket you.
- The "I know you from the cruise ship." opener.
- The "Excuse me, where are you from?" opener.
- Women travelling without company should exercise extreme caution whilst seeking budget accommodation. There have been several reports of sexual assault after women were given spiked drinks by hotel touts and staff.
- Merchants in Luxor are notoriously aggressive and manipulative. If you do not want to be talked into buying anything, it is wise to completely ignore any attempt by a local to strike up conversation, no matter how benign it may seem. In shops and the market, the phrase "No Hassle" can often be used to avoid unwanted attention. If you would like to be polite, it is also appropriate to say "Laa shukran", meaning ‘no thanks’ in Arabic. Being polite will make your life easier, as people will remember you if you were rude and may hassle more later. If problems persist, threaten to call the tourist police with the phrase "You're a hustler!"
- On the streets, you may find it easier to feign ignorance of English: "Non Speakee Engleezee" and/or "Non Parlee Arabee" seems to be the most reliable way to show you are not interested in their offers. This technique can however backfire quite spectacularly as most Egyptians speak several languages, so if pressed claim to speak something obscure like Azerbaijani or Ossetic. If you do speak an uncommon language such as Persian or Albanian or an Eastern European language, make sure you start talking to them in that language. If you do not, practice faking it and do so in their presence. This is the fastest and easiest way to get rid of the touts.
- Depending upon the perception your profile creates, you may be asked, sometimes within minutes of exiting your hotel, if you would like to purchase drugs or sex. Remember, prostitution and drug use are not taken lightly by government authorities. For gay visitors, extreme care should be taken when propositioned by a sex worker. Egypt has a well documented record of gay men being caught in entrapment schemes.
- Dendera — Luxor is a good base to visit this site of a fantastically well-preserved Ptolemaic temple of Hathor. A number of hotels organise day-trips, and you don't need to be staying with them to use these services. However, it can also easily be reached by taxi or, even cheaper, by (local) train to Qena and local taxi from there.
- For those with more time on their hands you can add a visit to the Temple of Seti I at Abydos, featuring some of the best relief work in Egypt. This is a lengthy road trip from Luxor, but can be combined with a day trip to Dendera.
- The city is also a good staging post for onward travel through Upper Egypt and on to Aswan and Abu Simbel.