The Red Sea Coast is a region of eastern Egypt, along the 800 km western shore of that sea, from Port Suez in the north to the Sudanese border in the south. Egypt's Sinai peninsula also borders the Red Sea and has a resort strip, but is governed as a separate region and is not described here.
From north to south along the coast:
- 1 Port Suez is a major sea port, both for freight in and out of Egypt, and as a staging post for shipping through the Suez Canal. It is industrial with little to interest or accommodate the visitor. It has buses and trains from Cairo, and is on the edge of Sinai but onward transport there passes through the road tunnel and do not come into town.
- 2 El Gouna 20 km north of Hurghada is effectively a satellite resort.
- 3 Hurghada is the largest and best-developed of the string of coastal tourist resorts. It has many direct flights from Europe and is a base for scuba-diving in the area and for liveaboard boats exploring the reefs and wrecks further out.
- 4 Sahl Hasheesh is a new resort midway between Hurghada and Safaga.
- 5 Soma Bay is a straggling beach resort north of the industrial port Safaga.
- 6 El Quseir, with more alternate spellings than you would think possible, is a large port. It has stood for 5,000 years, because it is on the closest stretch of coast to the Nile, which bends east near Qena. It has an old fortress, and there are many miles of coral reef, with the standout being Elphinstone, and liveaboard boats go out to The Brothers.
- 7 Port Ghalib is a new resort next to Marsa Alam airport, 60 km north of that town, with Coraya Bay an outlying strip.
- 8 Marsa Alam is a large resort with many direct flights from Europe. The main group of reefs are the Fury Shoals, and liveaboards go out to Daedalus.
- 9 Berenice is the most southerly resort, little developed.
- 1 Hala'ib Triangle – A region disputed between Sudan and Egypt. As most of it is de facto controlled by Egypt it is described here; this is simply to assist travelers and does not imply endorsement or refutation of either country's claims.
- Entry to this area is sometimes possible by permission from the Egyptian military, and you need a separate permit for every army sub-area that you pass through. Whether permission will be granted depends on the political temperature, and the latest reliable traveler account relates to 2016. Crossing into this area does not terminate a single-entry Egyptian visa, but check that it has enough validity if you plan an extended trip.
- The Triangle starts 100 km south of Berenice at the village of Shalateen. The highway follows the coast southeast for another 80 km to the main town of Abu Ramad—buses from Cairo run this far, taking 15 hr. The highway continues for 30 km to the village of Halayib. Then after a further 20 km it dead-ends at Ras Hadarba, the de facto border with Sudan, but there is no border crossing. The area is arid, with scrubby vegetation supporting grazing goats and camels, and stark barren hills. The settlements have basic accommodation and supplies but nothing in the way of "tourist facilities" so coming here involves a self-sufficient expedition, especially to reach the main attraction Mount Elba 250 km inland. Traders and businesses here would welcome more tourism, as they are well aware of the money it has brought to the northern resorts.
The Red Sea Cost is a string of beach resorts line the coast, and offshore is a long chain of coral reefs. It is a popular region for western visitors because of its warm dry climate year-round, its clear waters with excellent diving and other activities, its well-developed amenities and many direct flights from Europe.
There have long been hopes of a highway between Egypt and Sudan—it is absurd that in the 21st century the only surface link is by the dilapidated ferry between Aswan and Wadi Halfa. Hopes have at last translated into construction, and a highway has been built from Ras Hadarba on the border all the way to Port Sudan, where it connects with the rest of Sudan's road network. The quality of that highway, what use is permitted, and plans to open the border crossing, all remain unknown as of April 2020.
There are airports at Hurghada (HRG IATA) and Marsa Alam (RMF IATA, 60 km north of that city). Both have frequent direct flights from Europe: most visitors are on package holidays, but the carriers offer flight-only deals. There are also flights by Egyptair and others daily from Cairo, and less often from other Egyptian cities and Saudi Arabia.
Buses, long-distance taxis and private cars ply the long desert roads from Cairo and Luxor.
Ferries sail between Hurghada and Sharm el-Sheikh in Sinai. During the pilgrimage season they also cross to Saudi Arabia but are not sailing in 2020. There are no ferries through the Suez Canal. See also Ferries in the Red Sea.
6 trains per a day run from Cairo to Port Suez, taking a little over two hours. But there is little onward transport along the coast, you might have to backtrack to Cairo to reach the beach resorts.
All the resorts lie along Highway 65, the route from Cairo down to the Sudan border, so there is at least a daily bus between these towns (though it may run full, and fly past intermediate points). The towns themselves straggle for miles along the highway or have outlying "resort villages"; local buses serve some routes but you will probably need a taxi.
Dive boats sail out to the Red Sea reefs and wrecks, which are too far out for a swim from shore. Liveaboards reach the sites beyond the range of day-boats.
- Diving is what this area is all about, along the extensive coral reefs. These have caused several shipwrecks, with other wartime casualties. Hurghada has the best facilities but can feel touristy and busy, the further south or out to sea you go, the less spoiled. See Diving in Egypt for an overview, and the individual resort pages.
- Spa "treatments" resort hotels charge fancy prices to slather you with green gunk, which will leave you as fresh and good-looking as the average lizard.
- All the resorts have other beach activities including snorkeling, family bathing, kite- and wind-surfing, and jet-skiing.
- Onshore activities include golf, and quad-bike trips inland.
Hurghada is the best-developed, with accommodation in all price bands. South of Marsa Alam is less developed.
- The antiquities of the Nile Valley are a few hours away by road. Do not overlook Dendera Temple near Qena on the way to Luxor and Aswan.
- To go further up the Nile into Sudan, you will have to take the Aswan-Wadi Halfa ferry until the highway south of Halayib opens.
- All routes radiate from Cairo. Resorts offer day trips, but it is a long exhausting day (rest hours for the bus driver are a concern) and Cairo and Giza deserve a longer stay.