I sat on my bunk bed in the small, cramped and fairly dirty dorm room. I entered the WiFi code and checked my Facebook messages. One was from my Mum, ‘Having a great time in Egypt, you’ll have to come with us next year when you’re back, our treat!’. At the time that sounded absolutely great. I was backpacking in Malaysia at the time and was having a hard time falling in love with Kuala Lumpur. An all-inclusive holiday in Egypt sounded like luxury compared to this dank hostel in China town.

All inclusive holidays have never really appealed to me. Even before my sabbatical I’ve always loved being free when I travel. Freedom to go where I want, see what I want and do what I want. I likened all-inclusive holidays to a kind of holding pen for people scared of the real world. I was excited to find out for myself what this new travel experience had to offer.

Accommodation

As soon as we arrived at the large hotel we had to pass through a metal detector, albeit a metal detector that wasn’t working but nonetheless a metal detector. The air was thick with the sound of Russian voices talking passionately and I could smell rum even though it was before 11am.

We were whisked to our accommodation on a gold buggy, passing through landscaped gardens and beautiful flowers. Outside each block of accommodation was a small ‘private’ pool. At first glances it looked like paradise. I had my own bedroom and the luxury of two beds to choose from each night. The room was spotlessly clean and the beds were the comfiest I’ve slept in in my life. Every evening when I arrived back to my room there would be towels arranged on my bed. The first night was swans and the designs got more and more complicated cumulating in a grand elephant on my last night! It was a harsh reminder of my single status each night!

Probably the best room I've ever stayed in.
Probably the best room I’ve ever stayed in.
First a swan...
First a swan…

 

Then a flower...
Then a flower…
Lastly an Elephant! The cleaner must have been feeling creative!
Lastly an Elephant! The cleaner must have been feeling creative!

Resort

From the first night it was clear that we weren’t the target demographic of the resort. The announcements were in Russian, the music was in Russian, even the food menu at night was geared towards a Russian palate! I came to Egypt expecting to be enveloped in Egyptian culture but surprisingly encountered more Russian culture during my stay.

The resort was beautiful. As well as the pools there were nice gardened areas and quirky statues scattered around the place. Β The pavements were lined with palm trees and at night fairy lights lit up the resort. It was lovely to see children delighted with the big stick of cotton candy made at a stall on the way to the restaurant. There were a few shops selling souvenirs too and I had fun haggling and talking to the owners who seemed delighted to have the opportunity to speak English!

One of the private pools
One of the private pools
The resort in the day
The resort in the day
Quirky creatures in the resort's gardens
Quirky creatures in the resort’s gardens
Palm tree lined walkways
Palm tree lined walkways

snow white and tweety

Food and alcohol

Let’s not kid ourselves, unlimited food and alcohol are a big reason why people choose all inclusive holidays. This particular resort had Mexican, Lebanese, Indian and Italian restaurants that you could book in to a certain number of times each week. Other times you could eat from multiple buffet areas.

The food wasn’t bad but it wasn’t amazing. On holiday I usually love to treat myself with delicious food but at this particular resort the food was passible. The Lebanese restaurant was the best, the food was served on a mini BBQ to keep it warm and I enjoyed eating Arabic food. The worst restaurant was the Mexican restaurant where I found pieces of metal in my fajita, God knows how it ended up there! In typical English fashion I complained to my family but did nothing about it.

Now, alcohol. If warm beer floats your boat you should book a holiday here pronto! I happen to like my beer ice-cold so I had to ask for ice cubes when I ordered my beer which was met with puzzled looks. At first I was amazed at the large list of cocktails but was disappointed to see that they were mostly made with the same few ingredients and cheap alcohol. Despite drinking all day I don’t think I got tipsy once which makes me think the alcohol was watered down.

I spent a few nights counting the stars on the rooftop bar and enjoying flavoured shisha. Sometimes I could hear the atmospheric call to prayer and was reminded that I was in Egypt.

Enjoying shisha on the rooftop bar
Enjoying shisha on the rooftop bar

Entertainment

For me, the best thing was watching people getting involved in the entertainment! All of the entertainment was in Russian so it was hard to get involved. Watching the enthusiastic Russians get involved with comedy shows and dance to loud techno music was entertainment in itself!

I did get involved in the aqua aerobics in the pool daily though, which was in Russian. It was fun to just splash around and share a smile with a Russian lady or two.

Most days were spent by the pool, reading and topping up my tan. After four months in cold England it was just what I needed. After a few days I did get quite bored so decided to try something new.

Many Russians booked ‘sexy photo shoots’ and it was fascinating seeing people in bikinis perch precariously on a rock and pouting seductively. No place was out of bounds in the search for the perfect photo-op. I saw people swishing their hair under the waterfall in the pool and clambering over the fountain in the main lobby!

Having a drink outside the resort, cold beer at last!
Having a drink outside the resort, cold beer at last!
Me and my Mum in our matching Egyptian print dresses bought from the gift shop.
Me and my Mum in our matching Egyptian print dresses bought from the gift shop.

Snorkelling and Scuba diving

For some reason I didn’t quite belive people when they said that the Red Sea was the best place to scuba dive. I went on a days snorkelling trip with my family and had an absolutely great time. I loved being on a boat and actually seeing Egypt rather than an artificial oasis. While snorkelling I faced my biggest fear: Conger eels! I actually managed to stay still in the water and watch as they cavorted amongst the coral.

Snorkelling fueled my passion for the sea and I was soon booking Scuba diving trips daily. For most trips I was with the same group of people, advanced scuba divers from England. I learnt an awful lot about the Red Sea and diving from them. One day I was paired with an Egyptian guy from Cairo and it was great to hear his opinion of Egypt.

The actual scuba diving in the red sea was world-class. I had hoped to see a shark but unfortunately it was the wrong time of year. I did see Napoleon fish as big as a ford fiesta, shoals of brightly coloured fish and more sea turtles that I could count.

Sunbathing on the back of the scuba boat
Sunbathing on the back of the scuba boat

The Beach

To get to the beach you didn’t even have to leave the resort. You just walked through a passageway under the road to reach the resorts private beach. I found this quite weird and wondered why they did this. The beach itself was ok. There were too many rocks to actually swim in the sea so I just enjoyed a paddle. because the beach was also part of the resort I found it quite boring. There was no unusual people to watch, no one trying to sell us trinkets. Just my family and scores of Russians!

selfie

Can you spot the Russian doing a manly pose?
Can you spot the Russian doing a manly pose?

Area/Neighbourhood

If you head outside of the resort there are shops, bars and restaurants. The area the resort was situated was quite quiet but it was easy to take a taxi to a local shopping centre. It was nice to have a look around the shops and enjoy a decent meal and cold beer, but to me it just didn’t feel genuine. The majority of people at the centre were tourists. When I travel I want to see how local people live but there was no opportunity on this type of holiday.

Staff

The staff at the resort were charming. They were witty and so friendly and were so curious about England and English culture. They did seem quite overworked though which was quite upsetting. Many work long hours each season to provide for their families. One bar staff was quite creepy with me each time I interacted with him, so much that I would ask my Dad to get a drink for me whenever he was around.

What did surprise me was the lack of women, both inside and outside the resort. During my time in Sharm El Sheikh I saw just one Egyptian woman. Where are all the women?

Would I recommend an all-inclusive holiday?

Personally all-inclusive holidays are just not for me. I prefer to interact more with the local people and during my tie there I felt like I was in a protective bubble. Saying that they are good value for money and a great for a relaxing beach and pool holiday. I would recommend them to families or couples who want to just get away for a week and have no worries whilst they’re there.

Would I recommend Egypt?

I wouldn’t say that I saw the real Egypt during my time in Sharm El Sheikh. It’s a resort town and much of it is built just for tourists. When you stay in an all-inclusive you are removed from the country you are staying in, in a way it’s like a separate world.

I would visit Egypt again for the scuba diving. Next time I visit I would book a full 5 days of scuba diving, with a day at each side reserved for unwinding by the pool. The diving in Egypt is amongst the best in the world, I was reminded of this when I scuba dived near Koh Phi Phi last summer. It just doesn’t compare to the variety and sheer number of fish in the Red Sea.

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Have you ever been on an all-inclusive holiday? If so what did you think? Would you go on one again?

 

 

 

16 thoughts on “All inclusive in Egypt- My experience

  1. Coolest. Towels. Ever! OMG the elephant! You’ve convinced me to do an all-inclusive deal for that reason alone… In all honesty I’ve never been into the idea of them, but I can definitely see the appeal for those who just want to relax and not have to worry about organising things. I can’t say I’m not curious to try one out (for research purposes of course). 😝

  2. I used to like all inclusive holidays, however now having travelled and backpacked, I totally agree that they feel like you don’t even get to see the country, or get a feel for it. I definitely wouldn’t turn it down if mum asked me to go πŸ˜‰ but like you I like to talk to locals, and explore!

  3. Awesome post, I have to agree with you on all inclusives, they’ve never really appealed to me. Sometimes I get the desire to just go and lie on the beach somewhere with cocktails all day, but the reality is they’ll probably end up being waaaay below my expectations as they one I’m imagining would cost an absolute bomb! Great to hear about the diving, I didn’t realise that the Red Sea was so good! I did my open water in Tobago, but haven’t scuba dived in ages, I got into free diving more recently, but haven’t seen the ocean in 9 months! I’m heading down to Krabi next week so hoping to get some free/scuba diving in then, this post has made me very exciting to see Mama Ocean again!

    1. At first I absolutely loved just lying by the pool or beach all day with a drink. Heaven! After a while I got itchy feet and wanted to explore but there wasn`t really any opportunities nearby (and my Dad wouldn`t let me go out of the resort and explore but that`s a whole different story`.
      Diving in Tobago sounds amazing! What was it like? The Red Sea is one of the best places in the world to go diving. At some points there was just too many fish! The visability was affected by the sheer amount of fish in the water.
      Enjoy diving in Krabi! There really Is nothing better than diving, It`s access to a whole different world!

  4. The elephant towel! Mega like! Found it hilarious that, surrounded by Russian signs, it slowly dawned on you that you weren’t the target demographic. Definitely agree about all-inclusive deals (which I used to like); they cater to a certain type of tourist holiday rather than travel adventure. Currently studying for my PADI Open Water diving course, so 100% heading to the Red Sea after that πŸ™‚

  5. Yep, all inclusive resorts definitely aren’t for me. They sound luxurious and fun but I would only want to do them for a short time, just to relax. The rest of the time I like to be out there immersed in the place I’m visiting.

    Also, it’s awesome to hear the Red Sea is in such a healthy condition right now! I had heard that a lot of the coral in the Red Sea and Mediterranean Sea was destroyed by blast fishing. I had heard people say the diving was great, but I guess I got the impression it wasn’t as good as it once was. But sounds like it’s doing well! That’s awesome.

    1. The Red Sea is the best. Go! You won`t be disappointed. All of the coral I saw was intact and beautiful, unlike Sri Lanka where the tsunami and lazy fishing has wrecked the coral.

  6. Egypt is number one on my bucket list. This resort looks great!, but I would love to have a real experience with locals and wander around town. I am not so much the all inclusive type. But sounds like it is a great place to relax. Btw, This is a great article, very detailed!

  7. I really wonder how travelers like you managed your travel blogs as beautiful as you are. How I wish I could be a traveler too and do stuff like scuba in red sea as you did. Have you been in the part in Egypt where salt water and tap water meet together but they both stayed in their own territories? I mean it didn’t mix. I just heard that story by the way since I have not been in Egypt..

    1. Hi Gretta! On this blog I hope to show people that they can travel! Travel does take many sacrifices but it’s so worthwhile. If you need any specific tips or advice please feel free to email me.
      I’ve not been to that part of Egypt but I bet it would be a beautiful place, with some very confused fish!

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