The first time I visited Egypt, I went on an organised group tour. I had such a fabulous time that I went back there for my first solo holiday just two months later. It was an incredible trip, to a fascinating country that I grew to love, but I made a bunch of rookie blunders. In this post, I’m sharing some solo travel mistakes to avoid. I made them all while I was visiting Egypt! I hope you won’t do the same!
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6 Travel Mistakes to Avoid
Travel Mistake #1: Careless Cabin Bag Preparation
This was a super annoying mistake. Stupidly, as the flight only took four hours and I had everything I needed in my main backpack, I decided to take the teeniest little backpack as a cabin bag. In my defence, it was a cute bag.
So, I had my wallet, travel documents and passport, a book and that was pretty much it. What an idiot!
As I watched other passengers wrestling bags into the overhead lockers, I felt quite smug for travelling light. I wasn’t quite so proud though after I arrived at Egypt’s international airport in Cairo when I was the last woman standing at the baggage carousel.
After lengthy discussions with countless local service staff, I discovered that my backpack had not made it onto the flight. Yes, my bag was still in London and it took four days to arrive!
Four long days with the mercury rising to well above 40 degrees. Not the ideal time to be without spare undies/clothes, toiletries and deodorant. I was quite peeved.
To make matters worse, I didn’t know the city or speak a single word of Arabic. I’d never felt more alone, or more like a fish out of water.
After two days, I managed to get some toiletries (sign language is a wonderful thing), and a very kind tour guide donated a battered pair of trousers plus two T-shirts that had seen better days.
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There was zero chance of buying new undies in Cairo!
One horrendously embarrassing and fruitless shopping foray convinced me that ‘wash, wear and wait’ was far the better option! (I’m still not sure what the correct sign language is for a bra!!)
Pro Tip: It’s good to travel light, but always carry enough in your cabin bag to last the first few days in your destination. These days, I’ve refined my packing to the point where I travel carryon only on most trips. I never want to experience the lost bag crisis again. Or the horror of trying to buy underwear in a very foreign country.
Travel Mistake #2: A Crappy Camera
It’s embarrassing now to admit it, but I didn’t give a second thought to buying a half-decent camera for my first trip to Egypt. I knew about all the amazing places I was going to visit, but I didn’t know then how much I would regret the crappy, grainy photos that are my only tangible record of the trip.
Lesson learned: Memories are great. They are even better when you can look back at good quality photos of the places you’ve been, the adventures you’ve had and the people you’ve met along the way. I don’t go anywhere these days without my lightweight mirrorless camera, and I always have my phone as a backup camera!
Pro Tip: Want to improve your photography skills? I highly recommend pro photographer Laurence Norah’s excellent step-by-step photography course. It’s easy to follow and designed for keen beginners. The best bit is that you submit your projects to Laurence and he gives personalised feedback! You’ll also learn how to choose and use the perfect travel camera for you!
Travel Mistake #3: No Imodium
I can’t quite believe I made this really stupid mistake.
I was lucky and I didn’t get sick on my first visit to Egypt. Very lucky! So, I got complacent and totally forgot to pack any Imodium when I returned for my solo trip.
Big mistake. HugeJulia Roberts as Vivian in Pretty Woman
My most painful and embarrassing travel mistake – one to avoid!
Once my stray luggage arrived, I struck out from Cairo for the remote oasis town of Siwa in the Western Desert. 10 hours from Cairo by coach, with no airport, Siwa Town is closer to the Libyan border than to Cairo!
When I finally arrived in Siwa, I felt like I’d travelled to the ends of the earth. Or the centre of the earth – at 46 centigrade it certainly felt hot enough!
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For three glorious days, I explored the incredible oasis town. I bathed in the hot pool used by Cleopatra and ate the most incredible food. Then I ventured out on a 2-day jeep safari, deep into the desert. It was completely magical to sleep under the inky blackness of a sky without the taint of light pollution. I’d never seen stars shine so brightly anywhere else.
My luck ran out the night before my (non-changeable) 10-hour return coach trip to Cairo. The dreaded Delhi Belly struck. My stark choice was whether to extend my stay in Siwa, denting my travel budget, or to press on as planned.
I got on that bus and hoped for the best.
I’m still traumatised by the memory of the ‘facilities’ on board. The dreadful stink of the toilet beckoned from the back of the bus, and the condition of it was beyond description. Much as I needed to, I could not make myself use it!
Luckily, I’d reserved a seat near the driver, as far from the loo as I could get. Through willpower alone, I managed to “hold on” between stops, but it was an agonisingly close call.
Oh, how I kicked myself on that journey for not having packed any Imodium! Of all the travel mistakes to avoid, this is a seriously big one.
Pro Tip: Always carry a first aid kit when you’re travelling away from home. Make sure too that your travel insurance will look after you and get you home again if disaster strikes.
Travel Mistake #4: Not packing enough bug spray
I can’t begin to describe how much the vicious little Egyptian mosquitoes enjoyed chomping away on my poor lily-white legs! And the bites were horribly itchy! Suffice to say, I looked like I’d been pebble-dashed within minutes after my bug spray ran out.
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I did manage to buy more bug spray locally (at great expense), but boy did it take a long time for the bites scars to disappear. I wore trousers all summer long.
Pro Tip: Buy plenty of bugspray before you go and reapply it often while you’re there. If you do get bitten, I’ve found the best thing to take the sting away and to help irritated skin heal (relatively) fast is pure aloe vera gel.
Travel Mistake #5: The Wrong Shoes
This is a mistake I could so easily have avoided. The shoes I packed were no match for the dust and grit I encountered everywhere in Egypt.
Stupidly, I chose fashion over function and ended up with infected blisters where my lovely leather sandals rubbed my poor feet raw. It cramped my style and meant there were times when I couldn’t walk as much as I wanted.
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Pro Tip: It’s a big mistake to pack the wrong shoes! Do your homework and only buy shoes that your feet will love you for.
Travel Mistake #6: Avoiding the details
I love to be spontaneous and to try new things, but I got seriously caught out when I was in Aswan. My travel companion and I were offered a private sailing trip down the Nile on a felucca.
The big mistake was that I didn’t check all the details of what was involved!
Sailing is in my blood, so I leapt at the chance to escape from the sweltering heat of the city.
I learned fast that not checking the details is one of the most basic travel mistakes to avoid
I was romanced by the notion of scudding along beneath a snowy white sail and I forgot to ask two crucial questions. “How long are we going for?” and “what’s included in the trip?”.
Like an innocent to the slaughter, I turned up at the jetty at the appointed time, armed with lashings of sun protection cream and a bottle of water.
Little did I know, but the trip was an opportunity for my (newly acquired) travel pal and her Nubian boyfriend to have a ‘romantic rendezvous’!
Once onboard and miles from Aswan, I discovered that we were actually heading off for a 2-day trip. As there were no cabins, we were going to sleep on the deck, and I only had half a litre of water with me!
Very soon I was incredibly thirsty and I was almost tempted to do as the locals were doing and to drink from the Nile. Luckily I knew this would be a huge mistake – I knew about the bugs that live in the river, so I steeled myself to be thirsty rather than risk a horrible infection.
Suffice to say, by the end of the trip I was severely dehydrated. It took me a couple of days to feel quite well afterwards, but I’ll never make that mistake again!
Egypt is an amazing country and so rewarding to visit. If you plan well for your trip, and remember the travel mistakes to avoid, you’ll have a fabulous time in Egypt!
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Have you made mistakes on your travels? What happened? Do let me know in the comments if you’ve got a story to share! As always, I’d love to hear from you x