Why Egypt Elite is the Best Tour Company in Egypt

Is there an ethical tourism company in Egypt? Yes. This one.

Why would you even need to ask that question anyway? Because what Americans think of as ethical business practices are not the usual business practices in Egypt. No judgement here. The way tour companies in Egypt operate has worked for them for years. The guides, drivers, and other tourism professionals don’t demand anything different, so there’s no reason for the companies they work with to change their policies.

No judgement, but knowing what I learned in my research of (so. many.) tour companies in Egypt, I can say I was thankful to find one that operates differently. I’m about to tell you things you think can’t possibly be true, but if you’ve been following the blog around the world for a while, you know I always tell you straight.

Why We Chose to Work with a Tour Company

Why would two experienced, professional travelers need to work with a tour company? I mean, didn’t we already know how to plan a trip? Sure, but Egypt is a whole different beast in the travel sphere.


Logistics are next-level. Nile cruises only leave certain places certain days of the week, so if you miss it, you have to wait till the next week. And distances are far. I know it looks close on the map, but you can’t just stay in Cairo and do everything you want to do. You have to figure out flights, driving, boats, etc. Egypt is the kind of trip you want to do right the first time, because you will probably only do it once.

So glad Egypt Elite took care of logistics so we could just sit back and enjoy our Nile cruise!
Keep reading: The Ultimate List of Books to Read Before Your Trip to Egypt


Then there’s the safety factor. People (who have never been to Egypt and never plan to go) warn of how dangerous it is there. Even the State Department’s website warns travelers to reconsider their plans due to terrorism. That’s scary, right? What the State Department doesn’t come out and tell you is that Cairo, the Nile, the Red Sea resorts, Alexandria, etc., are all perfectly safe for tourists.

It’s the places tourists aren’t even allowed to go that are less safe, like the Sinai, the Western Desert, and Middle Egypt. It actually very easy to avoid all those very specific places where a tourists might be in actual danger. Honestly, I felt safer in Egypt than I do in my own neighborhood sometimes.

The most unsafe part of Egyptian travel is the fact that there are no seatbelts on the camels.
Keep reading: Why Egypt is Safe for Travelers (even as a woman!)

Conflicting Information

There’s also a lot of conflicting information out there about Egypt, both from people who tried to do it on their own and didn’t know what they were doing, and from tour companies themselves. It was overwhelming to try to figure out what sounded good, what was actually true, and what someone was saying because they did it wrong and had a terrible trip through their own fault.

It’s hard to know who to believe when everyone is saying so many different things!
More here: Top 9 Habits of Successful Travelers

Learning from Past Mistakes

We also definitely didn’t want a repeat of our trip to Morocco a few years ago, where we tried to DIY the trip and failed miserably. It’s a little embarrassing to admit, but that was a botched trip that we should have done differently. The catch? There was no way for us to know that before we went and experienced it ourselves. So we didn’t want a repeat of that. We wanted to go with a company, but we also wanted that company to be absolutely specialized in Egypt.

Learn from the past. There’s plenty of it in Egypt!
Getting personal: Confessions of a Solo Female Traveler

How We Chose Egypt Elite

There are tons of tour companies out there with tours through Egypt. Prices I saw ranged from $1,400-$25,000, or even more if you wanted to add anything else on. So, how did we choose?!

I Researched. A Lot.

I researched an all-female tour. I researched well-known tour companies. I researched itineraries. I researched history. I researched boats. I researched hotels. I researched flights. I researched other people’s experiences. There was something shady, or unappealing, or just too good to be true about every option. I really wanted to make Egypt happen, and had been trying for years, but there just seemed to be no good options.

We may not take the best selfies, but we do know how to research. And yet, we were still not finding the best option!
A fun read: The Top Things You Cannot Do in Egypt

I Tried Going Through a Travel Agent

So, I turned to a fellow professional. She gave me some options I hadn’t looked into before, but none of the pre-planned itineraries included everything we wanted to do, and some of the things that were included were not thing we wanted to spend our time or money on. By the time we added on just a couple of experiences like a day trip to Abu Simbel or a stop at Hatshepsut’s Temple, the price had already escalated disproportionately.

When I asked a question (and I had a lot of questions), my travel agent had to ask her boss, who had to ask their contact with the tour company, who had to ask their contact in Egypt. By the time I would get a reply days or over a week later, the responses didn’t really answer my questions. When I asked about doing a few important things on our own, the tour company came back and said we could, but they wouldn’t be responsible for us while we were away from the group.

Let’s be clear, we don’t need anyone to be responsible “for us.” But if I’m paying someone to take care of planning a trip for me, they better be responsible enough to do so. Those answers just didn’t sit well with me. None of that was my travel agent’s fault, but it became very clear to me that we definitely needed to make a plan with someone who knew Egypt well.

If we had gone through a traditional tour company we definitely wouldn’t have had the Red Pyramid at Dashur all to ourselves!
Read on: The 7 Travel Rules You Don’t Know Until Someone Tells You

I Found this Amazing Podcast

Just when I was about to pull the trigger and book a “less of all evils” tour with a big-name company, I decided to look for a podcast about Egypt so I could at least learn as much as possible before we went and hopefully get the most out of what would surely be a sub-par trip. I needed something to keep me company while I folded laundry, and a podcast usually fits the bill.

The Egypt Travel Podcast and I found each other just in the nick of time! Every episode was full of useful and accurate information. Even better, it was hosted by someone who had not only lived in Egypt and studied Arabic there, but who had started his own Egypt Elite travel company a decade before. He didn’t mess around with shady information–he called it out. He was just authentic and honest, and he didn’t even advertise his own tour company in every episode like one might expect.

Travelers, we had a winner.

You’ll want to listen to this podcast!
Inspired by the Egypt Travel Podcast: How to Right-size Your Expectations of Travel in Egypt

Why Egypt Elite is Best for Travelers

After some e-mail exchanges with John, the podcast host and founder of Egypt Elite, Steve and I decided that this was the company to go with. And after spending two weeks traveling Egypt with the Egypt Elite team, I can absolutely tell you we made the right choice. Throughout our trip, I kept looking at Steve and telling him how glad I was that we didn’t go with anyone else, or try to make do ourselves. Here are some of the most important reasons why.

Fast Response Times

John and his team always made time for us. We got fast replies back on every e-mail, with thorough, customized answers, not just FAQs that had been copy-and-pasted. And, again, I asked a lot of questions. John never seemed annoyed, and in fact, he even made time to have Zoom calls with me to answer questions too involved for an easy e-mail response.

Maha told me this is how you walk like an Egyptian!
More here: How to Travel Egypt Like a Pro

You’re Making Arrangements with a Native English Speaker

I love listening to accents (everyone has one, even you!), and I have incredible respect for anyone who speaks more than one language. However, when planning a trip like this, I was so grateful not to have to work with a language barrier. Because the people you’re making plans with are native English speakers, you don’t have to worry about something being lost in translation, or getting frustrated when you’re not sure your point is getting across.

You won’t get lost in Egypt or in translation!
Do your part when you get there, too: Words to Learn in the Local Language Wherever You Travel

Your Tour Will Be with Locals

That said, I love that we had a local tour guide in each place that we visited. Language barriers are easier to work with in person (as opposed to in e-mails or on Zoom calls). I love to travel like a local would, and that’s exactly what we got to do with Maha in Cairo, Aida in Aswan, and Dina in Luxor!

More importantly, a local is going to have a deeper understanding and knowledge of all the things you’re seeing and all the things you’re doing. They also know the security guards, know how to get a good boat captain on Lake Nasser, and know how much to tip for goodness’ sake! They know all the secrets to having the best possible time.

Aida from Aswan was a top-notch tour guide, but also a great first-mate on our felucca ride!
Let the locals help you out: How to Shop Local When You Travel

You Can Choose the Things You Want to Do

This is such a big one. Those pre-set itineraries you get with a tour company are so jam-packed. You never get to spend as much time as you want at the sites you visit. You never get to do or see everything on your personal “must do” list. And you often get toted to sites or restaurants or other activities that you never really wanted to do in the first place.

With Egypt Elite, not only did Steve and I get our own private trip, just the two of us, we got to do the things we wanted to do. We got to see the things we wanted to see. We got to spend as much time as we wanted at each site. We weren’t rushed, our schedule was flexible, and we were never holding up an entire group–or worse, being held up by an entire group!

Your tour, your choices. Egypt Elite made sure our itinerary worked, and they were honest with us about what was possible in our timeframe, and what would be too much or not enough. They made the whole process so easy for us, while at the same time letting us choose what we actually wanted to do.

We got to choose whether we wanted to fly or be driven to Abu Simbel!
Read next: Everything You Need to Know Before You Visit Egypt

It’s the Best Value

Our tour, which included 12 days on the ground in Egypt, all activities, all transportation, and all tips, was $5865 per person. You’re not going to believe me, but this was a better value than the “cheap” version of a similar tour with a group of 20 people or more.

I stepped out of my shell and did the math. After adding in two excursions, staying at the hotel where we wanted to stay in Aswan, tickets to all attractions (which, I found out later, were not in fact included in the “cheap” package), and tips for guides, drivers, etc., our tour with Egypt Elite was hundreds of dollars less than the cheaper group tour.

We got a much better value than we would have otherwise, and it was all less stressful for us because we didn’t have to worry about tipping or deciding whether or not we “should” pay to go into the pyramids, visit Hatshepsut’s Temple, or take that half-day trip to Abu Simbel. It was all included in the price up-front. No surprises. Worth every penny.

Definitely go inside, definitely ride the camel, and definitely get reservations at 9 Pyramids Lounge for this view!
Definitely go inside the Pyramids: Your Ultimate Guide to the Pyramids in Egypt

They Were More Prepared than We Were

So, if you’ve been reading the blog long, you already know that Steve and I are prepared people in our travels, and in real life. We print hard copies of itineraries, just in case. We do our research. We know how to look out for and avoid potential problems.

Egypt Elite went above and beyond just being prepared. They were always accessible by e-mail if we had a question or needed something before our trip. But about 10 days before the trip began, we started getting e-mails about what to expect at the airport, who to look for, what to do when we arrived. What to do if we couldn’t find the person who would be picking us up. They were just prepared. It shocked us in a really good way!

And that continued throughout our trip as well. John and Turisi, Egypt Elite’s logistics coordinator, were always available via e-mail or WhatsApp. Someone checked in with us every day. There were nutritious snacks and beverages available whenever we needed them. All we had to do what show up each day, and everything else was just… Taken care of. It was awesome.

Snacks with actual nutrition. No Special K bars or bag of potato chips that would leave us hungry!
Sparking and still water, fruit juices, Red Bull, and coffee for the jet lagged travelers.
Keep reading: The Top 7 Reasons Every Traveler Needs to Visit Egypt

Why Egypt Elite is Best for Egyptians in Tourism

Yes, it’s important for travelers to have the best possible trip for the money we spend on it. However, what most travelers from America and other developed countries don’t always consider is ethical practices in the tourism industry in a place like Egypt. I mean, there are labor laws, right? People are going be treated with respect, right? It’s all organized and fair like it is where you’re from, right? No.

Egypt Elite operates completely differently than any other tour company. Here are the most important differences, according to the Egyptians we met and toured with.

Egypt Elite Pays Their Employees Fairly

This should be common sense, right? Wrong. Egypt Elite pays their people well, and that means everyone. Tour guides, employees, drivers, assistants, everyone gets paid for the work they do. Why do I have to point this out? Because it’s not just unusual in Egypt, it’s completely the opposite of the way the tourism industry in Egypt normally operates. More on that below in “Things You Won’t Believe Other Companies Do.”

Dina is definitely an “elite” tour guide in Luxor!
Read and listen: The Business of Traveling for Good on the Marie Mae Company Good Office Podcast

Egypt Elite Books Guides and Drivers In Advance

John only hires the best of the best. In order to be hired as a tour guide or driver for Egypt Elite, he conducts multiple interviews with each person, then he only hires the top 10% of people. And then he locks them in early, to make sure that you have the best possible people so that you have the best possible trip.

According to one of our guides, while most tour companies wait until the last minute, or maybe start looking for guides a few weeks out, John gives his guides six months’ notice. And the guides appreciate it, especially those with families.

We never felt like anything we did was an afterthought or done on the fly.
Take it from a tour guide: The Top 7 Things Your Tour Guide Wants You to Know

The Tip is Always Included

Not only does John make sure his people are paid well, he also makes sure their tip is already included in their payment. This saves a lot of awkwardness and stress for the guests, but it also alleviates stress for the guides. They don’t have to worry about how much they’ll be paid, if it will be enough to feed their families, or whether or not they’ll get a tip at all in an economy and industry that relies so heavily on tips. This makes the sticker price higher, but it’s the same (or maybe less than you think) in the long run.

We never had to wonder if we were over-tipping, under-tipping, or needed to tip at all!
Why is this so important? The Complete and Concise Guide to Tipping in Egypt

The Things You Won’t Believe Other Tour Companies Do

Egypt Elite is the only tour company that I found that operates in a way that Americans and the rest of the Western World generally believe to be ethical, or in a way they tend to expect everyone to operate. I’ve got news for you: The world does not operate with American laws and standards of ethics. I’m not placing judgement on anyone or any other culture; I just know that Americans need to be reminded that the world is not America.

Other Companies Don’t Pay a Wage

I don’t just mean a fair wage. I mean any wage. If the Egyptian tour guides or drivers get paid, it’s very, very little. When you see a 10-day or two-week group tour being offered in the $1,000 or $2,000 range, that’s because they are not including a wage for the guides or drivers. That’s how they keep the price so low. The reason they take jobs like this is because they are promised the “opportunity” to work for tips. They are promised tips instead of a wage.

Pretty sure even Ramses II would have tipped his tour guides!

Other Companies Tell Guests “Tipping is Optional”

So, they’re telling the Egyptian guides and drivers that they will be working on tips, but they’re telling the foreign tippers that tipping is not required. Y’all. People who book cheap trips are cheap. They’re not tipping appropriately. And if they come from a culture where tipping is not required, they’re not tipping at all. Work for no pay is slave labor.

Tour companies that tell you tipping is “optional” or “not required” or “discretionary” are not ethical or honest. It seems so ridiculous that it can’t possibly be true, but it is. Do not book with a company like this.

Just like you can’t go to Luxor without a visit to Karnak Temple, you can’t expect to take a tour in Egypt without tipping anyone!
Read on: What I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started Traveling

Nice Things Egypt Elite Colleagues Said

This is my favorite part of the post. I think I have enough supporting evidence to convince you to go with Egypt Elite, but if you still don’t believe me, you don’t have to take my word for it. Here are the things that Egypt Elite’s colleagues said about the company, and often specifically about John.

I heard these comments throughout our trip, sometimes because I asked, but often without any prompting. Remember, these are not employees looking to climb a ladder, these are independent contractors who can choose to work with anyone they want.

  • He cares about everyone.
  • He pays us fairly.
  • He is not Egyptian, but he knows a lot of things about travel in Egypt, more than anyone.
  • He takes the stress out for us.
  • We don’t have to worry about anything.
  • He takes care of everything.
  • I like him the most. I like the way he is doing the bookings, and the way he is doing with the guests.
  • He is doing this with love.
  • He cares about his guests and his tour guides, drivers, everyone.
  • He is always checking on everyone.
  • He isn’t just telling what to do like a manager, he is working with us.
  • All John’s guests know what to do. They are prepared. 
  • He is really organized, and this is really important to me. 
  • He is working with me like a friend, like a real friend. 
  • He’s amazing. Really Amazing. 
Cheers to John and Egypt Elite!
Book your trip here: Egypt Elite: A World Apart in a World Away

Note: This is not a sponsored post. We paid for our entire trip. I also don’t get a cut if you choose to book with Egypt Elite. I just want you to have the best information about the best tour company for your Egyptian adventure!

Want more? Get everything you need on my dedicated Egypt Page!

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11 responses to “Why Egypt Elite is the Best Tour Company in Egypt”

  1. […] Essential info: Why You Need to Plan Your Egypt Trip with Egypt Elite […]

  2. […] Special thanks to John Nicholson of Egypt Elite for taking the time to explain the finer points of travel safety in Egypt! Check out his Egypt Travel Blog, Egypt Travel Podcast, and his travel company, Egypt Elite to help plan your trip. Read more about our experience with the company here! […]

  3. […] Must read: Why Egypt Elite is the Best Tour Company in Egypt […]

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  6. […] Must read: Why You Need to Travel Egypt with Egypt Elite […]

  7. […] A solo trip to Egypt is totally on the table, but I highly recommend visiting with a guide from a reputable tour company. You won’t be in danger if you go around by yourself, but you will be a target of scams from […]

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