Table of Contents
- 1 Booking Experience of Egypt Trains
- 2 So how to get the train ticket that you want?
- 3 Where to get your train tickets from?
- 4 Before Hoping On the Train
- 5 Watania Sleeping Trains
- 6 Watania Sleeping Trains Schedule
- 7 How does it work?
- 8 Important to Know
- 9 Watania Sleeping Trains Price List
- 10 Overall Feedback
- 11 Should you Give it a Shot?
- 12 Packing List for the Train Ride
Since we’ve been asked countless times whether to choose to fly to Luxor/Aswan direct, or if it’s better & cheaper to go by train? To answer your question, I rolled my sleeves, and decided to travel to Aswan by train, experience it myself to give you my personal feedback.
Egypt trains can be booked through two companies;
Sleeping trains are ONLY provided by Watania.
Booking Experience of Egypt Trains
Not the easiest nor the pleasantest, as it takes some time to understand how it works, I’ve put myself in the shoes of tourists, refused to ask for any help. Went to the station with a Swiss-Peruvian friend last year (Hello Lorenz), and researched for several days, so here are my conclusions;
- Foreigners who decide to book from the station – especially Cairo’s- will be told that foreigners are not allowed to book any train except the sleeping train, that IDs/passports will be checked on board to verify the nationality of the holder, who’ll pay a fine in case this person is not Egyptian, which isn’t actually true. I believe that their reasons are;
- ticket officers think that foreigners cannot handle traveling with locals —absurd, I promise you that Egyptians don’t bite
- they believe that the sleeper train is the best on offer —right now I can’t comment on that, since I haven’t tried the seated
- it is the most expensive too —so more money for the country struggling with tourism
- If you decide to go by seated train, it’s very hard to pick the right train, as their names on the site don’t explain much, not only but also the counters at the station are usually PACKED, people tend to skip the queue, and officers are EXTREMELY impatient to explain anything at all. Thankfully, a friend of mine (hello Mohamed) who frequently travels to Aswan by train recommended train no. 2008 Special Service OD that can be booked here.
Add around 4-5 hours to get from Aswan to Luxor by train, and check this comprehensive guide to the ancient city of Luxor to get the best out of it.
So how to get the train ticket that you want?
To avoid the hassle of speaking with an impatient representative who barely speaks English, while trying to prove your point of traveling on a seated train;
- you can always go to the Tourism Police Office -near the exit door at Ramsis Station- who will be happy to help you buy a ticket on your desired train and selected class,
- if you’re flexible on time and a risk taker, you can hop-on any train and pay on board
- you can buy your ticket online (but you’ll pay an extra fee for booking online)
- you can buy your ticket from those vending machines at the station that have Arabic, English, and French versions, but they don’t sell Watania Sleeping Trains’ tickets
The vending machines at Ramsis Station
Where to get your train tickets from?
- Online with an extra charge —there is no need to print your tickets, they accept e-versions
- From the counter at the station located near platform 11 -ask before standing in a queue, as there are several queues for men, one for women and handicapped, and a window that is dedicated for Watania Sleeping Trains
- From vending machines at the station that only sell tickets of the Egyptian National Railways
- From some post-offices (will go visit the one I know for sure that it sells tickets -not sure though if they sell tickets of the sleeping train- to ask them about the locations of other offices)
- Via Fawry which is currently unavailable
- If you are an android user -which I am not, so I have no feedback about it- you can download the app here.
In this post, I will be detailing my experience on the sleeping train, given that I’ve only tried it, but the next time I visit Luxor or Aswan, I’ll make sure to try out a seated train.
Before Hoping On the Train
- Your train schedule & platform might not be indicated on the screen displayed at the station, therefore you might need to ask in one of the counters in the main hall, as they announce the platform number and arrival of the train only in Arabic
- All trains going to upper Egypt leave from platforms 8,9,10 & 11
- There is a cafeteria on the upper floor of the station that has a seating area, a bunch of restaurants & cafes -nothing fancy at all-, KFC is there -not recommended to avoid diarrhea-, Ful -mashed fava beans-, falafel sandwiches & koshary which I do not recommend eating before going on a sleeping train for 12 hours plus, there are also kiosks selling all sorts of snacks, refreshments, and books!
Don’t freak out -like I did- from those badass lunatics who cross on the tracks of the railways fearlessly -HORROR!
Watania Sleeping Trains
- Single cabins
- Double cabins
- Seated chairs that look comfortable, I’ve checked it myself-the class is called Top VIP a wagon attached to Watania’s sleeping trains, but SURPRISE! it can’t be booked through the website, it also isn’t a frequent service
If you are not booking online, make sure to tell the booking agent what your preferred meal for dinner is; vegetarian, chicken, meat or fish, so you’d end up eating something that you want.
My dinner meal on my Cairo-Aswan ride
Watania Sleeping Trains Schedule
Watania Sleeping Trains Schedule*
How does it work?
You get into your cabin that has a sink, a mirror, a hanger for your jacket and just one electricity plug, with two seats at the bottom, a table in the middle, and an unfolded upper bed on top, you press the call-attendant-button whenever ready to eat dinner, who fixes tray tables in front of those seats to serve your pre-ordered dinner meal, then again whenever ready to remove the dinner trays, and have the seats turned into another bed.
I took the sleeping train from Cairo to Aswan, then Aswan to Cairo. If I only took the Cairo-Aswan my feedback would have been completely different from the one you are reading right now…continue reading 🙂
Important to Know
Before you book you must know that; nothing is guaranteed at all, my ride on train no. 87 from Cairo-Aswan was pleasant, the train-attendant was polite & efficient, the food was great -yet too many carbs in one meal; bread, rice, potatoes, served with chicken curry, tahini, and a dessert- and for breakfast we had croissant, cheese-sandwich, and cheese spread, white honey, more bread & tea, the toilets were regularly cleaned, pretty old & depressing, but not smelly or dirty.
As for my Aswan-Cairo ride train no. 85; the service was awful, the call-attendant button was out of service, the attendant was rude & inefficient, had the hardest time finding him to ask for food or to unfold the lower bed, the food was really bad, even in the morning, we had tea 30-60 minutes after breakfast.
You must have your ID/passport & ticket with you, as they will be checked a couple of times.
Watania Sleeping Trains Price List
Watania Sleeping Trains Price List*
*Those are screenshots from Watani’s website
**Prices may slightly vary when you click on the “Reservation” button on the site
- the air-conditioning is really good and efficient, you might feel cold in fact, it’d be a good idea to pack an extra layer
- even if you don’t usually sleep on a train/bus you’ll sleep like a baby
- if you got lucky with the train, it will be a good experience
- time can only be killed by sleeping, reading, or chatting with whoever you are sharing the cabin with -in case you’re not in a single cabin- or met someone in the corridor -which is VERY unlikely, hehe.
- It’s a pro but also a con that the train has many stops, yet it gives you the chance to maybe visit some other cities in upper Egypt that have interesting monuments & temples –more on that in future posts 😉
Don’t let the train’s old & rusty look from the outside turn you off, it’s different from the inside.
- from Cairo it doesn’t leave on time, and stays at stations longer than it should, we arrived in 15 hours instead of 12
- prices are higher than all other trains
- no WiFi
- sometimes you’d smell cigarettes smoke, as the sleeping wagon is smoking or people break the rules
- The train has so many stops, which causes delays
Should you Give it a Shot?
- you don’t mind a 12 hours plus ride
- you’re not picky
- you’re adventurous
I’d do it again 😀
- you’re tight on time
- you’re someone with high-expectations
- you easily get dizzy or motion-sick
Packing List for the Train Ride
- A pair of slip-on shoes or flipflops would come handy whenever you want to go for a walk, a smoke, or to use the bathroom
- A headlamp, in case you want to read or move around the cabin without bothering your companion
- Earplugs, in case you are intolerant to noise
- An eye mask -not necessary though, as lights are dim, and there are curtains
- Toilet paper & wipes, just in case the bathroom ran out of papers
- An extra warm layer, just in case the air con was too cold for you
- An extra outfit as you will eventually feel the need to freshen up & change your clothes
- A small fast dry towel will come in handy whenever you feel like washing up
- A bottle of water to keep you hydrated
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