For some reason booking train tickets in Egypt has been made difficult. I am guessing this is because the train companies want total control over tourists and how they spend their $$$. Call me cynical but I’m sure that this is what it’s about. Read on for our top four tips on how to book your travel around Egypt.
We spent an eventful ten days in Egypt.. I say eventful because it seemed like nothing went right and even the mundane events were a huge chore of negotiation and frustration. I hope your trip to Egypt is much more fun!
Why can’t I buy tickets myself at the station?
There’s some sort of fallacy that the day trains are only for locals, possibly because Egyptian authorities have suggested they’re unsafe for tourists. This is a lie, the day trains are perfectly safe and it’s just another spin from Egypt to get tourists to pay more for the night trains. If you’re on holiday in Egypt, don’t believe this hype. The trains that run through the day are clean, safe, relatively comfy and, in my opinion, much better than the night train.
So it is impossible for tourists to buy tickets directly from the ticket offices in train stations, therefore you’ll need to book tickets in one of the four ways beneath.
But first, use the phone app to check train times
There are two phone apps where you can check the time and the number of the train. Neither app allows you to buy tickets but they do give you a list of stops.
These apps are only for ANDROID currently.
Rail Egypt: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=rail.egypt&hl=en_US
Egypt Trains: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=elbanna.khaled.egytrains&hl=en_US
Four ways to book train tickets in Egypt
- BOOK ONLINE
- SELF SERVICE MACHINES
- ASK A TOUR GUIDE, AGENCY OR HOTEL
- BOARD & BUY ON THE TRAIN (except for the night sleeper train)
Book day tickets online
So nothing in Egypt is simple and booking online has been made a nuisance but it is still possible. In order to book online you will first need to register as a user.
You can signup with this url (https://enr.gov.eg/ticketing/public/login.jsf) Scroll down the page until you see ‘I Agree to terms an conditions above‘ and click it. This will take you through to seat availability and you can book TWO TICKETS. You cannot book any more than two tickets. Even if you log back in, you cannot book more than two!! Even if you log out and log in with someone else’s username you cannot book more than two.
The only way around this is to attempt to use a different device with a different IP address, although there’s no guarantee this will work, as it did not for us. We were forced to book two tickets in first class and two tickets in third class and then when we got on the train we had to buy two further tickets for first class because you cannot upgrade a third class ticket and pay the difference. What a kerfuffle.
You cannot book more than two weeks in advance either. See what I mean about them making everything needlessly difficult.
Booking the sleeper train online
The sleeper train is a bit exciting in that it’s something we wouldn’t normally have done but in hindsight it’s a total waste of money at $80US/£60GBP each and we got no sleep! The toilets are shared and you must leave your cabin (which only sleeps two) in order to go to the toilet. In my mind, the night train is far riskier than the day train.
You must book the train through Watania a few days prior to travelling (http://wataniasleepingtrains.com/) and pay online. You will notice there are two difference prices, one for Egyptians and one for foreigners. The price difference is excessive!!
The Egyptians are quoted between £130-600EG which with current rate of exchange is £5.60-25GPB. Foreigners pay more than double and there is no difference in the service. The food on the train was horrendous. Despite ordering four vegetarian meals we were only allocated one which comprised of a container of tepid rice and two small containers of potato wedges with two dry bread rolls. Not at all nutritious and not tasty either.
If you’re not happy to book online, you can call Watania on + 202 374 894 88 or + 202 374 893 88.
TOP TIP: If you want any sleep, I suggest taking an eye mask.
Self service machines
The main stations in Egypt have self-service ticket machines with a touch screen and English language facility although some people have recently suggested they don’t work as well as they should.
Self-service machines accept overseas credit cards but I would recommend that you use a card similar to Revolut because you have the ultimate ability to keep track of and block the card if necessary.
Ask a local, book through an agency or your hotel
There really is no urgency to booking train tickets and it’s not something you have to complete weeks in advance, unlike the UK!
You can ask a local, book through a travel agency or even ask your hotel to book them for you. They’ll usually add on a charge so do ask how much the tickets and the charge is. It’s not unfair to ask for a charge but in our experience they will take the piss if they can (like the time a man tried to charge us £15GBP for 4 cans of drink).
Board and buy tickets on the train
Except for the night sleeper train, this is the easiest and least stressful means of buying tickets.
You literally walk onto the train, find a seat (I recommed first class) and the conductor will come and find you, treat you like a criminal for a few minutes and then take a few hundred £EG from you. This is roughly £5-6GBP.
Train tickets are really cheap but are nearly always delayed and never take the amount of time they should do.
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