My Week In Points Loves Egypt, You Should, Too

Category 1 hotels abound!

“I thought you only use the hotel points for us,” my wife reminded.

That was true until I came to Egypt. There are numerous low category hotels for Hilton, Marriott and Starwood. Club Carlson and IHG in comparison are more pricey. The is similar to many Middle East countries were there are low-priced points hotels to be had.

Starwood Category 1 nights go for 2,000-3,000 points/night and I have had excellent stays this week at Cairo’s Le Méridien Heliopolis and Le Méridien Pyramids Hotel & Spa, and the Sheraton Luxor Resort. That Sheraton Luxor had a prepaid rate available same-day for total $63 but I still went with a 2,000 point weekend rate. I still have a month left of SPG Platinum status and have gotten upgrades and all the benefits without a fight.

The Hilton Pyramids Golf Resort is Category 1 for 5,000 points/night.

The JW Marriott Cairo is Category 2 for 10,000 points/night.

Any accommodation choice in Cairo must take into account nightmare traffic across the vast city, so don’t just go for the cheapest points without calculating the logistical aggravation you may bring upon yourself.

Around the country there are chain hotels in Alexandria and a few other places. The Red Sea resort towns, which you can share with half the population of Russia, are well represented. The resorts in particular have been crushed by the disappearance of tourists since 2011 and you can find places like the Hilton Nuweiba Coral Resort for $40. Have the family reunion on the Red Sea this year!

Flights are a different story. EgyptAir runs domestic flights and cash prices are cheap. I don’t know if there is a Star Alliance award chart that would make sense for an award. Using United MileagePlus a one-way is 20,000 miles. My Cairo-Luxor flight was $86.

Booking EgyptAir requires a little attention. ITA Matrix displays some fares that I could not find any site to replicate, in my case it consistently showed Cairo-Luxor at $40. Major websites like Expedia, Kayak, etc all priced it at $119. EgyptAir’s US site also was $119. Switching to EgyptAir’s Egypt site, which is in English and has no requirements for residency or local payment, the $86 fare appeared. Same thing across many flights tested. With that much spread, using cash value points like Barclaycard Arrival or Citi ThankYou Points may be a waste unless you have an unlimited supply. As noted in the comments by FrequentMiler I got mixed up on Arrival, those points would be good to use since they are statement credit.

There is a heavy security presence throughout the country so you see lots of guys with AK-47s at road checkpoints and tourist sites, though I always felt safe and welcome. I have no qualms in recommending people to put Egypt back on the travel map while prices are low and the magnificent attractions are deserted.

Well, I have been all Egypt this week, so next week will return to the US and catch up on all the “Hurry,” “Act Now,” and “Amazing Deal Alert,” that I may have missed. I do get a few tweets by text message and it seemed the biggest news involved American Airlines’ cookie, so I will take it that it was a slow week.

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  • Small world – I just got back from Egypt on Weds. We stayed at the Cairo Marriott (was ok, a bit pricier at 15k points). I would certainly echo your point about lots of well armed security folks, but more emphatically – always feeling safe.

  • Nice post. Just fyi, No reason not to pay with the arrival card then use points to cover statement charge

  • john

    how deserted are the sights? Doesnt that just make the touts that much more tenacious? (I am afraid of Egypt because everyone says the touts are the worst in the world)

  • P T

    Ha Ha about the cookie. We were there in 2006 and there was no shortage of armed personnel everywhere we stayed, ate, and traveled.

  • @FrequentMiler – Correct me if I’m wrong, but for a $69 room night, wouldn’t that be 6.9k, vs. 2-3k SPG pts? Seems like it tilts in favor of SPG pts.

    @John – For me (and I was there last wknd), Sights were deserted, but we had a tour guide who clearly layed out what you do and don’t do. The “touts” gave us zero trouble. Really, even without a tour guide, just don’t accept anything from anyone, and don’t take photos of the pyramids with camels, horses, donkeys or anything else in them. Both will result in the “touts” asking for copious amounts of money.

  • @Trevor: My comment was in response to the paragraph about Egypt Air being cheaper when booked on the Egypt website. I agree with RTC that you can’t use ThankYou points to book at the cheaper rate but no reason you can’t use Arrival points

  • @FrequentMiler – Ok, yeah, makes sense. I was thinking you were referring to hotel nights.

  • Pablo

    Steve, do you need a visa to go there?

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @FrequentMiler – yep, in my confused, tired state I was thinking Arrival is like ThankYou. Your are right that in these situations Arrival would be good. I hope some day to be approved for it.

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @Pablo – many nationalities are visa on arrival. There are no signs, you are supposed to magically know that the row of bank exchange offices before immigration can sell the visa, which for US citizens is $25. There is no form, they just give you the sticker, then you head to immigration. The immigration officers are lightning fast.

  • Dan

    What tour company did you use?

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @Dan – none. Only thing did not book myself was car out of Cairo which a local friend booked a car from a driver he knows. I am not a fan of going with tour companies.

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  • I’m looking forward to heading to Egypt at the beginning of March! Glad I read through the comments to know where to get my visa from now.

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @Point Princess – I had a fabulous time, and I need to get the posts up.