The four different train options to get to Luxor and Aswan from Cairo, Egypt

The four different train options to get to Luxor and Aswan from Cairo, Egypt

For those unwilling to purchase an expensive plane ticket, who have more time in which to travel and / or who wish to see more of the country, train travel to Luxor is a great and amazingly inexpensive option.

Four different modes of train travel exist between Ramesses Station Cairo, Luxor and on to Aswan (some trains even start in Alexandria):

- Air-conditioned express train - travelers to Luxor can choose from 1st and 2nd class carriages, both with comfortable aircraft-style seats. The journey down the Nile Valley takes the larger part of the daylight hours (approx. 9-10 hrs), but is a relaxing way to sit back and view the lush rural landscape of Egypt, its many towns, people and animals. 1st class tickets Cairo-Luxor cost about LE 110 - 165, 2nd class LE 40. Refreshments are served, but are basic and lacking in choice: a good tip is to go shopping before your journey to stock up on water, chocolate and nibbles. A good book also helps whittle away the hours. Note on refreshments: they will cost extra money to have them "served" - sometimes 3-4x as much as the same or similar food choices you can grab yourself in the dining car, if available.

- Overnight air-conditioned express train - the night service, otherwise identical, saves sightseeing time compared with traveling by day and costs far less than the deluxe sleeper. Cairo-Aswan costs about LE 110 - 165 one-way 1st class air-conditioned. Luxor is the same price despite lower distance. Note: train tickets can be hard to nab at times, so be assertive and hold your place in line at the station.

- Overnight deluxe sleeper - saving time and discomfort, modern air-conditioned sleeping-cars are run between Cairo and Luxor by a company called Abela Egypt. Each train has a selection of 1- and 2-berth rooms and a club / lounge car. An evening meal and breakfast are included in the fare. Note that passengers traveling alone who don't opt for a single-berth compartment will be booked into a 2-berth compartment with another, random traveler of the same sex. Prices are currently around 60USD each one way from Cairo to Aswan.

- Slow trains - 2nd & 3rd class slow trains also run between Cairo and Luxor, stopping at most stations - these are incredibly basic and are not only not recommended for tourists, but actively discouraged by the Egyptian government.

Tickets can be arranged through most travel agents in your city of departure for minimal commission. Otherwise, tickets can be purchased directly at Ramesses Station by proceeding through the chaos to Platform 11, where signs will point out the ticket booth. Tickets are best bought a couple of days in advance of travel, although the same day is often enough. The big exception to this rule is Egyptian holidays, when it is best to reserve a ticket at least a week in advance. Weekend travel (Thursday and Friday in Egypt) is the busiest time.

Train tickets have assigned seating to a particular carriage and seat, written in both English and Arabic. Train travel is possible without a prior reservation, but it will add a whopping (!) LE 3 to the price of your eventual ticket... More seriously, you will not be guaranteed a seat on what is a very long journey or you may be forced to change seats throughout the journey. That said, on quieter travel days, you seem to be able to change seats and even upgrade yourself with impunity....!

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