Sharm el-Sheikh is an Egyptian resort town on the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula. It’s very modern and has tons of restaurants and entertainment, several possibilities for tours and adventures, decent beaches, and all-inclusive resorts on the crystal clear Red Sea if you just want to relax.
I spent a week in Sharm with a few friends, Martin, Gönül, and Tyra. I had originally planned to go alone after finding an incredible deal late one night on Turkish Airlines – a direct flight from Istanbul for just US$200! The next morning I shared the deal with my friends and they agreed to come along.
We left Istanbul on a 2am flight and arrived at the airport in Sharm at 4am. When we got off the plane, we all bought visas. For stays up to 14 days in the tourist zone along the Red Sea, it isn’t necessary for US, UK, or EU citizens to buy a visa. However, if you plan on visiting other parts of Egypt or St. Catherine’s Monastery and Mount Sinai, you will need to buy a visa.
After hearing horror stories about tourists being ripped off by taxi drivers, we arranged a pre-paid shared transfer to take us to our hotel. It was a great decision that saved us a lot of time and hassle. It cost only £4 per person for a return transfer with airporttransfers.co.uk. Getting to the hotel from the airport took about 40 minutes once all of the other passengers were dropped off.
Sharm is spread out over a very large area. One of the main sections to stay in is Na’ama Bay. If you want to stay near the action, Na’ama Bay is the place to be. There you will find the majority of hotels, restaurants, and bars all within a compact area. Everything is within walking distance so transportation should rarely be necessary. The hotels range from budget hotels to six star resorts with private beaches.
We stayed at the Aida 2 Hotel in Na’ama Bay. It’s got a fantastic location and a wonderful staff. It was clean and comfortable and there’s a restaurant on site with a decent breakfast included in the rate. We stayed in a room for four and it cost a total of US$680 for seven nights. There’s free access to a beach just five minutes from the hotel. At the beach, there’s a bar and it’s possible to order food off a limited menu. Overall, we were very happy and thought it was a great deal.
Shopping is literally everywhere in Sharm el-Sheikh. They’ll sell from a nice shopping mall, a small booth, or right on the street. You can’t walk two feet without someone asking you to “just have a look”. Don’t worry about being rude – if you don’t want to shop, keep walking or they will keep you in their grasp for an hour. If you do want to shop, you can find any type of Egyptian souvenir under the sun. There are some very nice papyrus paintings, figurines, clothes, spices, fragrances, carpets, instruments – you name it.
Honestly, other than shopping, laying on the beach, and eating, there’s not much to do in Sharm el-Sheikh itself other than relax and enjoy yourself. If you’re looking for loads of culture, sightseeing, or adventure, you’ll have to book a tour and leave Sharm proper. This is a resort town and nothing more.
Luckily, there are several tour companies located in Sharm el-Sheikh that can plan excursions, snorkeling, desert safaris, and much more. It’s best to wait until you get into Sharm before booking any tours. Shop around and ask at the front desk of your hotel. Our hotel staff was able to use their personal connections to get us several excursions for much lower prices than advertised on the street. They hooked us up with excursions to Ras Mohammad and the Blue Hole.
My decision to visit Sharm was met with a lot of concern by some friends and relatives. They were worried over reports of violence in the Sinai and the instability of Egypt. All I have to say about that is that not once did we feel threatened or unsafe. Security was top notch the entire trip and all service personnel did their best to ensure our safety. The locals take the safety and security of their guests very seriously. There’s absolutely no reason to fear visiting Sharm el-Sheikh. Go and enjoy.