Just a couple of hours away from the bustling city of Tel Aviv, over the boarder to Egypt you land in Sinai. This place is balsam for your soul, where everything is in the pace of yourself. Sinai's people rely heavily on tourists from Israel. Many people in Israel want to visit Sinai but are somehow hesitant about the process and what to expect here. I want to encourage you to visit this enchantingly beautiful paradise and give you practical information about the arrival and the accommodation.
In Sinai the time has a different pace. Slowly the days are passing by in the southern part of the Egyptian peninsula at the shore of the Red Sea. The sea has a constant temperature of 23 degrees Celsius all year round and is considered one of the most unique and beautiful water sites for diving and snorkeling. You can also engage in kite or wind surfing.
"Everything is easy in Sinai" our relocated Camp master Moustafa tells us every day. Moustafa got stuck here a year ago when he came down to build ecological huts in one of camps nearby. He decided to leave his life in Cairo behind and started managing the camp he built the huts at. "You can work here the whole day in Pyjamas" he tells us with a happy face. On especially easy days he matches his comic socks with his hoodies.
The life here is simple. Here you drink tea with your drug dealer who is also your taxi driver and tour guide. Nobody seems to understand the purpose of apps delivering the ha-shishhhh straight to your house. The hospitality is limitless and smiling people try to fulfil your every wish as best as they can. The people I met here seem to be still connected to themselves.
Even during the winter months it's beach weather in Sinai during the day; although cold at night. During the day the temperatures peaked at around 28 degrees celsius and at night went down to around 10 degrees. The average is around 22 degrees during the day and you can totally hang at the beach of there are no clouds and the wind is not too strong. We also swam and snorkeled on the warm days in February. I would say it's perfect during early spring and late autumn because the rest of the year the days might be a bit hot.
The mix of the tourists is diversified; many Israeli guests, Egyptian guests and sometimes also international guests such as a group of Germans suddenly unexpectedly arrived. All of them have one common dominator: silence seekers. People are very easy going and friendly. We spend some very nice evenings at dinner tables, at the beach and around camp fires together talking and laughing. The vibe is very warm and helpful. One day we were the only guests in the camp but most of the time there were some other guests enjoying the lazy days. During the holidays the camps are completely filling up with either mainly Israeli guests or Egyptian depending on the holiday.
In the media we hear a lot of bad things about Sinai. It's a safe haven for terrorists and tourists get abducted constantly by terrorist groups. However, Sinai is divided into two governorates: South-Sinai and North-Sinai. Most of the chaotic activity happens in the North which is closed for tourism and not recommended to be traveled for Egyptians neither. The international travel advisories recommend travelling along the coast of the southern part. I've been in Sinai once before around 10 years ago. Then and now as well as talking to regular Sinai enthusiasts; everyone felt safe.
Practical Tips About Visiting Sinai:
The Arrival in Sinai
A bus ride or a flight will get you to Eilat from where you can easily catch a cab to the border for around 50 NIS (for the 15 bus from the bus station). The border is a bit messy; however you pull through it without a problem. At first you pay an Israel exit fee of 102 NIS to pretty confusing loud ladies. Afterwards you pass through Israeli passport control, through the duty free shop out of the Israeli side to the Egyptian security control.
After they didn't find any drugs on you and let you through, you pass on to the next building. Here you should change your money to Egyptian Pound because you will need to pay a 400 EP (80 NIS) entrance fee to Egypt once leaving 1 km past the border - in local money! The most helpful here appeared to be the cleaning man who helped us out with a pen for the immigration card and told us what to do. The rest of the people at the border seemed to be rather useless.
After this step you are out and either pick a cab driver or you've agreed with someone at your camp that someone will be waiting for you. The ride in a mini bus taxi costs generally 30 NIS to the camps around Nuweiba (70 km from the border). Since we've been only two guests we paid for the whole taxi bus 100 NIS. Don't drink alcohol in the cab since we've heard stories how the military personell reacts unpleasantly on drinking people at the check points.
You can also consider stopping at a supermarket on your way and stock up with beer, snacks and water to have in your room. Everyone seems to be accepting Shekel, at the supermarkets, the taxi drivers and also the camps. If you prefer owning local money than you can either change at the border, or take out in an ATM in Taba or Nuweiba (not in between!).
Camps and Bungalows
There are different levels of accommodation in Sinai. Starting on the modest side for around 20 NIS per night (6,50 USD) you can get a "chusha", basically a hut built out of hay on the beach. The camp staff typically takes care of all of your meals. When we walked around on the beach we've seen very simple camps as well as very invested hippi-chique places which wants to make you wanna move in straight away. The hut option usually provides shared toilets and showers. There are hundreds of these camps and you just need to pick; here are a couple of options for you I would go next time when it's a bit warmer at night: 1) Mishu's Camp, (I visited Mishu 8 years ago and it was great. Mishu and his family welcomed us with warm hearts and we stayed in huts on the beach for around 5 days) 2) Darya Camp, 3) Kum Kum 3
When the temperatures are very cold during the winter months (around ~10 C) or very hot summer months (~50 C) you might want to consider a different option though. Of course also if sleeping on a mattress right on the beach is not quite your thing. The next level are bungalows with private toilets, hot water and AC: 1) Safari Beach Camp, 2) Crazy Horse
We stayed at the Safari Beach and were super happy about it. The staff is amazingly friendly, the bungalows are big and comfy with AC and fridge. Chef Ali Wawa also made sure that we were royally fed during our stay. We heard that many people who have visited Sinai mention food as a difficult point. However, we were very happy. We paid 15 USD including breakfast per night per person.
The camps in Sinai do not sell alcohol, only the hotels. Therefore, you either need to bring your own alcohol from Israel or from the duty free or the staff in the camp is kind enough in order to arrange an alcohol delivery for you (I would not count on that though). If you are into wine then bring your own wine from Israel because here you won't find any and the duty free in Taba is way too expensive for wine. You can buy there fairly prices hard liquor or beer (which we carried over the border). The local super markets sometimes have beer and you can take a taxi and simply buy it. In Nuweiba you should also be able to get more choice for cheaper prices.
Diving and Snorkeling
If you look for serious diving then you should go to Dahab. There you'll find a number of professional clubs, however in Nuweiba is only one club and open irregularly.
The Red Sea is very rewarding for snorkelers. The reefs you can spot on your own beach without much effort are already spectacular. Here you can read my post about Dahab and the amazing activities you can do there.
Sinai is a gem of rare tranquility and beauty. It's hard to put in words what the stay here is doing to me but I know that it will be very hard to leave. This place is a vacation for your soul. You'll be greeted with so much positivity and smiling faces. You'll be able to slow down and listen to every wave touching your feet. You'll be able to free yourself from your judgements and live for a couple of days (or weeks) without the information overflow facing us every day in normal life. Just do yourself a favour and go to Sinai.