Accommodations in Egypt run the gamut from flea-pit to palatial, and an enormous number of choices exist throughout the country. Despite the numbers, however, value for money can be a little hard to find.
At the palatial end of the market, there has been a huge, and often slapdash, investment in holiday resort-style facilities -- big glitzy hotels designed to live up to a not-always-realistic idea of what luxury-loving Westerners want when they come on holiday. At the low end, the emphasis has been on delivering the cheapest beds to backpackers, with little thought to cleanliness, let alone quality. There is relatively little midrange quality to be had, and while second-rate resorts abound, few hotels deliver either a first-rate resort experience or a truly Egyptian sense of place and culture.
That said, every city has its gems, and with careful perusal of this guide, you can now visit most parts of the country and be well accommodated on a variety of budgets.
Egyptian hotels are rated by the Ministry of Tourism on the basis of a star system. The rankings are complicated and obscure, and they're based on size, facilities, and service; they aren't very useful in deciding which hotel to stay at.
At the two-star end of the spectrum (don't consider anything less), you are guaranteed a hotel with 30 rooms or more. At the four- and five-star end, you are guaranteed a large hotel with two dining rooms, at least one bar, a swimming pool, elevators, and Internet access. You are not, however, guaranteed decent service or good food in any of them.
At the upper end of the market, foreign-run chains dominate and offer substantially better service than their scarce domestic competition. Prices in these hotels are quoted and charged in dollars (only Egyptians pay in local currency at a substantial discount, usually around 50%), and all services in the hotel (including meals and drinks) are taxed at about 24.5%. Rack rates in these hotels run around $100 (#51/LE550) to $500 (#255/LE2,750) per night for a double. Note: Most tourist-class hotels (and all international chains) in Egypt only accept payment in "hard currency." As you go downmarket, you'll notice increasing flexibility on this point, but if you only have local currency, check before you check in. Prices in LE are provided for comparison only.
At the middle and lower end of the market, however, prices -- which range from $20 to $80 (#10-#41/LE110-LE440) for a midrange facility -- usually include taxes and often breakfast as well. This is a good negotiating point. If you're quoted a price that doesn't include taxes, try for one that does, and tell them to throw in breakfast, too. Here are the major chains in Egypt:
- Accor/Sofitel specializes in blandly renovated heritage properties such as the Old Winter Palace in Luxor, the Cataract in Aswan, and the Cecil in Alexandria. These hotels are generally overpriced for the level of service.
- Four Seasons has four hotels (two in Cairo, one in Alexandria, and one in Sharm el Sheikh), and is possibly the best chain in Egypt. Its hotels are well designed and well run with an emphasis on seamless, understated service.
- Hyatt's Cairo property goes all out to impress with its cavernous, glitzy lobby but follows up with characterless, overpriced rooms. The chain's Sinai resorts, however, are top-notch. The Hyatt in Sharm el Sheikh, embracing a little water park that tumbles down to the Red Sea, is one of my favorite hotels in the area.
- Marriott's Egypt hotels are generic, cookie-cutter properties for the most part, but they make up for lack of character with professional service and above-average food. The exception is the Cairo Marriott, which has some character but below-average food.
- The Meridien hotels in Egypt rise considerably above their Accor siblings, and feature some of the most stylish decor in the country. If snappy color schemes matter to you, forget the Four Seasons and head to the Meridien.
- Once you get outside Cairo, Movenpick's facilities are usually the best in town. This certainly holds true for its resorts in Quseir and Aswan.
- Oberoi competes with the Four Seasons in terms of price, and wins hands down on location with a hotel next to the pyramids in Giza and one on a long, lovely sweep of beach south of Hurghada. Unless you like Indian food, the menu tends to be mediocre, but everything else is perfect.
- Pyramisa is a chain to avoid. Some of the facilities look great on paper, and some (like the Isis Island resort in Aswan) are fun, but facilities are second rate, and the food can be truly bad.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.