Safaga, a working port on the coast of the Red Sea, brings you close to what may be the world's greatest open-air museum -- the temples and tombs of Luxor (what was ancient Thebes). "Close" is the important word here, however.
Port of Safaga
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The bus ride from the Red Sea port to inland Luxor, which is in the Nile Valley in central Egypt, is 3.5 hours each way, making for a very long day. (Full-day shore excursions run 15 hours or more, and nearly everyone falls asleep on the bus ride back to the ship.) That's why several lines also offer Luxor and the Valley of the Kings as an overnight option from Safaga. Experiencing Luxor's bounty can easily fill two days or more.
As a tourist destination in and of itself, few cruise passengers choose to stay in Safaga, unless they're really into diving or windsurfing.
With steady thermal winds blowing year-round, it's not surprising that Safaga's claim to fame is hosting the 1993 World Windsurfing Championships. Divers also come here for spots not yet spoiled by crowds. Not far offshore, the Red Sea's world-renowned turquoise waters are home to stunning reefs teeming with marine life.
At the port, most memorable are the rugged desert cliffs that end right at the sea. Their reddish hue makes for a pretty view, but at the same time, your ship will be surrounded by ugly industrial vessels that serve the port's primary function of hauling phosphate from local mines. Located on the western flank of the Red Sea, Safaga is also a port for ferries to and from Saudi Arabia, across the way.
The town, about 1.5 miles from the port (cabs are rarely available unless you arrange them in advance) is a dusty, rough-and-tumble kind of place with a few unimpressive shops and banks and not much else. It's not a charming place. North of town is a beach strip, with clean beaches and moderately priced hotels that attract tourists -- many from Germany -- with their diving and windsurfing centers.
But if your goal here is Luxor -- and it should be -- you're in for a special treat. Amazingly, Luxor has been drawing tourists since the Greek and Roman periods. And, when you get there, your eyes may just pop out. You might have trouble convincing yourself that you're really in Egypt and not, instead, watching an Indiana Jones movie.
Important to know: To enter the Nile Valley, you have to go through border stations, and buses and taxis are required to travel this route, with police patrol, as part of a convoy. (Your bus will also have a plain-clothes security guard with a gun under his dark suit.) This is the result of terrorist incidents in the 1990's, including the 1997 shooting of terrorists in Luxor at the Temple of Hatshepsut. It also explains why your shore excursion to Luxor will probably require you to leave at the crack of dawn – the first convoy departs at 7 a.m. And don't forget your passport; you need to carry it ashore in Egypt.
Top Safaga Itineraries
Nautica30 Night World CruiseVenice, Ancona, Dubrovnik, Corfu, Taormina , Naples, Florence , Florence , Rome , Naples, Crete , Haifa, Haifa, Safaga, Safaga, Aqaba, Salalah, Muscat, DubaiNow
Norwegian Jade21 Night Mediterranean CruiseRome , Athens , Kusadasi, Rhodes, Limassol, Haifa, Haifa, Haifa, Cairo , Safaga, Safaga, Aqaba, Salalah, Abu Dhabi, DubaiNow
Nautica20 Night Far East CruiseRome , Naples, Crete , Haifa, Haifa, Safaga, Safaga, Aqaba, Salalah, Muscat, DubaiNow
Viking Sun118 Night 2020 Viking World WondersLos Angeles, Tahiti , Tahiti , Bora Bora, Rarotonga, Suva, Auckland, Auckland, Tauranga, Napier, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin, Hobart, Melbourne, Sydney , Sydney , Brisbane, Whitsundays, Cairns, Thursday Island, Darwin, Komodo Island, Bali, Manila, Manila, Hong Kong, Hong Kong, Hong Kong, Ho Chi Minh City , Ho Chi Minh City , Sihanoukville, Bangkok , Bangkok , Koh Samui, Singapore, Kelang , Penang, Colombo, Colombo, Kochi , Mumbai , Muscat, Aqaba, Safaga, Alexandria, Malta , Malta , Sardinia, Algiers, Cartagena , Malaga, DoverNow
Seven Seas Mariner131 Night World CruiseMiami, Cartagena , Colon , Puntarenas , San Juan del Sur, Puerto Quetzal , Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo, Cabo San Lucas, San Diego, San Francisco, San Francisco, Honolulu, Honolulu, Maui, Hilo, Tahiti , Moorea, Tahiti , Tahiti , Bora Bora, Pago Pago, Lautoka, Auckland, Auckland, Tauranga, Napier, Wellington, Sydney , Sydney , Sydney , Brisbane, Cairns, Cooktown, Darwin, Bali, Bali, Singapore, Singapore, Kelang , Penang, Langkawi, Phuket, Colombo, Colombo, Kochi , Mangalore, Mormugao , Mumbai , Mumbai , Muscat, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Khasab, Salalah, Aqaba, Safaga, Safaga, Haifa, Haifa, Kusadasi, Athens , Taormina , Sorrento, Rome , Florence , Monaco , Barcelona, Barcelona, Alicante, Malaga, Ponta Delgada, Hamilton, Hamilton, MiamiNow
Where You're Docked
Port Safaga is mostly an industrial port, located about 1.5 miles from the town of Safaga. There are no tourist facilities at the port.
Good to Know
Avoid aggressive souvenir vendors, especially in Luxor. It is best to say a firm “no” when offered merchandise on the street. If you don't, expect to be pestered for several minutes.
Taxis are not readily available at the port, nor are they in town. If you do see one, you can flag it down, as in other cities, but if you want to take a taxi, it is best to arrange one in advance through your ship. The ride to town should cost less than $4. Taxis to Hurghada are about $20 each way. Taxis to Luxor can run $100 or more each way and must be arranged in advance, due to requirements that they travel in police convoys.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
The Egyptian Pound is the currency, and $1 U.S. equals about 5.69 Egyptian Pounds. (Check XE.com for the latest currency rates.) Most souvenir shops are happy to take U.S. dollars. Bank branches (Banque Misr and Banque du Caire) in Safaga have ATM's, which dispense Egyptian Pounds. Exchange traveler's checks on your ship or at hotels and banks. Credit cards are widely accepted at shops and restaurants.
Arabic, but English is readily spoken by those in the tourist trade.
Food and Drink
Mediterranean cuisine and fresh fish are popular food choices. The Coral Beach café at the Holiday Inn Safaga Palace serves sandwiches and grilled entrees, while the Diver's Snack Bar features pizza and pasta (open late morning to sunset). Another good lunch spot is the Al Fresco Pizzeria at the Lotus Bay Beach Resort and Gardens, specializing in freshly baked pizza.
The best shopping opportunities in Safaga are the hotel gift shops, but don't expect to find much more than postcards and T-shirts.