Transportation - Get In
Luxor International Airport is a destination for flights on several European and Middle Eastern routes, as well as the main southern hub for domestic flights within Egypt. Direct charters from Europe (London Gatwick, for example) are common in the winter high season.
Flights from Cairo (duration approx. 1 hr) are maintained by EgyptAir and cost about $120 for a return trip. EgyptAir arranges day trips from Cairo which is an easy way for those who can stand long days to cover the main attractions of Luxor.
Visitor visas are available on arrival to many foreign nationals, just after you enter the terminal building. ($15 or equivalent, approximately LE 86, most major foreign currencies accepted.)
Luxor Airport is very small, and getting luggage off the belt is a challenge.
From the airport, you will probably take a shuttle provided by your hotel.
Taxis are in abundance. A taxi into town should cost no more than 50EGP. Do not be fooled by the cartel of taxi drivers outside the airport doors. Keep walking until you find a taxi driver in his car and then negotiate. Half the people you think are taxi drivers are just touts, so don't waste your time negotiating. Be careful with your luggage as many will offer help by carrying it forcefully to your shuttle bus or taxi which is just 10–15 feet outside the airport exit and demand a fee. Reject politely by saying "laa, shukran" and hold your luggage tight.
For those unwilling to purchase an expensive plane ticket, who have more time in which to travel and / or who wish to see more of the country, train travel to Luxor is a great and amazingly inexpensive option.
Four different modes of train travel exist between Ramesses Station Cairo, Luxor and on to Aswan (some trains even start in Alexandria):
- Daytime air-conditioned express train - travelers to Luxor can choose from 1st and 2nd class carriages, both with comfortable aircraft-style seats. The journey down the Nile Valley takes 9 - 10 hrs, but is a relaxing way to sit back and view the lush rural landscape of Egypt, its many towns, people and animals. Tickets from Cairo - Luxor cost LE 90/45 (Dec 2011) for 1st/2nd class, although tourist may be charged LE 165/90 (Dec 2011). Some drinks and snacks are served. The dining car may be cheaper, if available. Buy food and drinks beforehand. Don't be discouraged by people saying that tourists can only travel by the overnight train.
- Overnight air-conditioned express train - the night service, meaning 10PM or later, is identical to the daytime train. It saves sightseeing time compared with traveling by day and does cost less than the deluxe sleeper. For tourists, Cairo - Aswan costs LE 165 (Dec 2011) 1st class. Luxor is the same price despite lower distance.
- Overnight deluxe sleeper - saving time and discomfort, modern air-conditioned sleeping-cars are run between Cairo and Luxor by a company called Abela Egypt. Each train has a selection of 1- and 2-berth rooms and a club / lounge car. An evening meal and breakfast are included in the fare. Note that passengers travelling alone who don't opt for a single-berth compartment will be booked into a 2-berth compartment with another, random traveller of the same sex. Prices currently 60USD each one way from Cairo to Aswan.
- Slow trains - 2nd & 3rd class slow trains also run between Cairo and Luxor, stopping at most stations - these are incredibly basic and are not recommended for tourists, and actively discouraged by the Egyptian government. You may be denied a ticket, especially if travelling alone or late at night.
Tickets can be arranged through most travel agents in your city of departure for minimal commission. Otherwise, tickets can be purchased directly at Ramesses Station by proceeding through the chaos to Platform 11, where signs will point out the ticket booth. Tickets are best bought a couple of days in advance of travel, although the same day is often enough. The big exception to this rule is Egyptian holidays, when it is best to reserve a ticket at least a week in advance. Weekend travel (Thursday and Friday in Egypt) is the busiest time.
Train tickets have assigned seating to a particular carriage and seat, written in both English and Arabic. Train travel is possible without a prior reservation, but it will add LE 3 to the price of your eventual ticket, and you will not be guaranteed a seat for the long journey.
Buses leave regularly from behind the Luxor Temple, to most major cities. For connections to Aswan and Cairo, the train is recommended, but it is a good alternative to get to Sinai (via Hurghada—Sharm el Sheik, or over the Suez canal).
There are boat trips from Luxor to Aswan and also on Lake Nasser to Abu Simbel. These are reportedly the most pleasant and interesting way to get there if you have the time and money. A felucca cruise on the Nile is a great option for those with more time and less money. The train is a close second and much faster.
Note (2011) according to river boat captains, it is impossible to journey from Luxor to Aswan. Due to the river lock, the felucca must leave from the town of Edfu and continue to Aswan. The prices are wildly negotiable but you will be bargaining down from 700 EGP so it could be a couple hundred or more for a two day cruise to get there. The train is reputed to take four hours.
Transportation - Get Around
Luxor is brimming with rental shops for bikes and a great many hotels also hire out bicycles. Rental rates vary from roughly 5LE - 20LE, 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 quite normal for people to be asked to leave behind their passport, drivers license 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 Sheratonstreet (Eastbank)and in the Souk just when you leave the ferryboat(Westbank). Note that bikes can be taken on board the local ferry (be considerate though!), so feel free to hire on the East, then transport your bike over yourself. Do watch Egyptian traffic before deciding if you want to ride a bike through it.
Remember - 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.
Warning though: 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.
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 LE 50 , and short trips within Luxor are between LE 10 and LE 20. A round trip to the West Bank is about LE 100.
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.
For the even more brave, Luxor is brimming with Chinese motorcycles around 150cc. With the right bargaining skills you can net one for 50LE+ 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. Remember to demand a helmet - since nobody uses them.
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 busroutes 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 0.50LE per person 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 1LE when you get off. Getting off is possible anytime, and is done by simply asking the driver to stop when you are near your destination.
An essential way of getting between the East and West banks of Luxor is to use a boat. As you walk by the river, dozens of felucca owners will offer you their services to haul you over the river, and normally a taxi driver will be on standby on the other side. This of course is all at a very inflated price, 20-30LE minimum and that is if they don't give you an extra excursion (not necessarily what you asked for). It is much easier to take the blue local ferry, a very basic boat that you can use for around 1LE, sometimes 0.50LE. 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 - though you avoid the haggling. Taxis are available at the ferry terminal on both sides, and the trip takes just a few minutes.
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 20LE 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 with.
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 1LE.