The next 5 things to know about a Nile cruise

From our TOP TEN THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT A NILE CRUISE – here’s Part 2 to help you be totally prepared.

The banks of the Nile taken from the river

The banks of the Nile taken from the river on a Nile cruise.


6. How do I pay for any extras?

All extras such as consumed beverages, laundry, telephone bills etc. should be settled and paid on the last day of your cruise when you check out. Payment can be made with credit cards, cash or sometimes traveller’s cheques. Make sure you have enough cash, just in case your credit card transaction doesn’t go through. Most boats won’t accept personal cheques or money orders.

7. What about tipping?

In general tipping is not something that you should feel obliged to do; it should be a response to the service you receive. In saying that however, remember that wages are very low in Egypt and many workers rely on tips to survive. But this should never be an excuse for bad service. You should also not be constantly pressed for tips. If you do receive bad service somewhere along the way and decide not to tip or to reduce a tip it’s a good idea to explain.

Washing the big glass windows on the Farah while she is moored. The Farah is a luxury boat, one of the most elite cruising the Nile.

Washing the big glass windows on the Farah while she is moored. The Farah is a luxury boat, one of the most elite cruising the Nile.

Boats have what they call a tipping kitty – a receptacle is placed at Reception on the last day of the cruise and all money deposited in it is divided among all the crew on board (up to 70 of them). Or it may be you simply place your money in an envelope and hand it in to reception, sometimes two envelopes, one for crew and one for your guide. Some cruise companies or websites say a minimum of $3 – 5 per person per day. This means if there are 2 of you on a 4 night cruise then say $US5 x 4 nights x 2 people = $US40. However much you place in the envelope, you can feel free in addition to quietly tip any staff who have been of particular service to you. Best to tip in Egyptian pounds if you can.

Your tour guide is not included in this arrangement and you should tip them separately. A good guide is around US$5-7 per day. But, tipping is always a personal matter and it’s entirely up to you how much you tip.

This is a good system as it spreads the amount evenly throughout the crew, and you don’t have to keep putting your hand in your pocket to find change. Also the key to the whole visit is your Egyptologist who is your main point of contact, so this system gives him an extra incentive to ensuring you have a successful and enjoyable holiday. Tips may also need to be paid when you go on your organised trips, if so, these will be paid to your Egyptologist guide at the start of your cruise so again it is something you can forget about and just carry on enjoying your holiday. This covers things likes drivers, arranged carriages, boats etc.

But wait 🙂 Even if you have paid your Egyptologist guide money to cover tips, you will find that this does not cover everything. If you are on an excursion and you go to the toilet, almost certainly there will be someone there to give you toilet paper and expect a one pound tip in return. When you visit one of the temples, there will be a temple guard there dressed in a galabeya insisting that he shows you the best places to stand to take your photographs, again a tip will be expected. Don’t let this upset you, it’s just the way it is in Egypt, the secret is to have some low denomination Egyptian money on hand to cover these situations. Best are one pound coins or notes, or 5 pounds if you feel you got something a little extra.

Balloons over Luxor at dawn

Hot air balloons hover over the West Bank of Luxor and the Valley of the Kings at dawn


8. Can I change money on board?

Normally there would be no money changing facilities on board most boats and you would not get time to visit a bank along the way. Make sure you have changed your money before you get on board.

9. What if I get sick?

If you get sick some boats do have a doctor on board, or even a small clinic. If not, they may have a doctor assigned in each town that can be called on in case of emergency. Usually there would be a small shop that would have some basic medicines, including Egypt’s fabulous Antinal for an upset digestion, likely the most common complaint (but really it’s worth carrying some with you always in Egypt, works much better than anything you might bring from home). If you do get ill please tell someone to see what assistance you can get on board, the staff will do all they can to help you. I got really sick on my first ever cruise and the staff were incredible – the kitchen even specially made me vegetable soup when I started to recover and many of them insisted on sharing their own special cures.

Hawkers in row boats crowd the cruise boats at Esna Lock

Hawkers in row boats crowd the cruise boats at Esna Lock


10. Is there any entertainment on board?

Most cruises have a programme of entertainment, beginning the first night with a manager’s or captain’s party when the main crew are introduced to passengers. Sometimes there’re free drinks, it being the captain’s shout. This night is usually more formal and accordingly a more formal standard of dress expected. Other nights there might be a talent quest, the crew might perform, or there’s often a galabeya party, or a belly dance or folkloric show. There’s almost always dance music of some sort. The entertainment programme varies boat by boat and by cruise standard too. It’s not compulsory to attend of course and you may prefer to sit up on the sun deck and enjoy the evening air.

If you want to participate in the galabeya party keep your eye out on your excursions – there’s plenty of opportunity to buy one and it makes a souvenir of the trip. Or there’s likely to be some for sale on board the boat in one of the small shops. Depending on the quality and the decoration you could pay between 50 and 500 pounds for your galabeya, but expect something really special for 500 pounds with lots of embroidery, maybe even hand embroidered. For the men there’s usually either traditional plain galabeyas or the long shirt sometimes worn in Egypt.

Here’s hoping these tips will help you to prepare for, and enjoy even more, your Nile cruise.

Towel sculpture of a lady in a galabeya

Perhaps the best effort of the crew creating a lady complete with galabeya. A little fun for passengers when they return to their cabins each day.

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