Dahab, Egypt – How 5 Days Turned Into 9


H2O Divers Dahab, Red Sea, Egypt

H2O Divers Dahab, Red Sea, Egypt

In my year of travelling around the world, I’ve only encountered a handful of places that have enticed me to stay longer than planned: Chiang Mai, Thailand; Koh Tao, Thailand; and Novi Sad, Serbia (Facebook photos).

All these places are laid-back, safe, have lots of cafes, warm weather, abundant WiFi and offer good value for your money. Dahab, Egypt turned out to be one of these places too. See my Dahab Facebook album for more photos.

But first, the ordeal of getting to Dahab…

After two weeks of travelling comfortably with private transfers through GetYourGuide, I decided to be adventurous and take the bus alone from Sharm el Sheikh to Dahab.

It was a 100km and 1.5 hour ride and the owners of the Sharm el Sheikh guesthouse I stayed at were kind enough to drop me off at the bus station and even show me how to buy my bus ticket.

Sounds so simple. What could go wrong?

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Turned out tickets can only be bought when the bus is arriving, but the station doesn’t know the exact timing of the bus either. I ended up waiting over 2 hours at the bus station before I manage to buy my ticket.

During those two hours, taxi drivers tried to convince me I should get a ride with them instead: “only 180 Egyptian pounds ($30), so cheap!” Even people working at the bus station tried to convince me to take a taxi, saying the bus wouldn’t come until “much, much later.”

After going to the ticket counter 4 times to inquire if the bus was here yet, the attendant finally told me to come back at 3pm (I arrived at the station around 12:30pm). Of course when I came back at 3pm there was a big queue of people trying to buy their ticket too.

Long story short, between a few helpful locals who spoke some English trying to let me cut the link, telling me to go right into the office instead of waiting, and an older man worked at the station tried to talk to another manager so I could buy a ticket directly from him instead of the booth, I eventually got my ticket and found my way to the bus following another man who was going to Dahab.

Sounds chaotic? It was.

It was also a little uncomfortable to be surrounded completely by men, although nothing unsafe actually happened. I also knew worse case scenario I’d play the “I’m-a-lost-tourist-card” and ask to use someone’s phone to call my guesthouse to pick me up again.

Luckily, once I got onto the bus, it was a comfortable air-conditioned ride with 1 smooth passport-check on the way.

For you’re considering taking the bus themselves between Sharm el Sheikh and Dahab, don’t do it unless you have plenty of time. If I was on a two week vacation I’d rather pay extra (say $30, instead of $6.50) and arrange a private transfer or taxi to save myself the hassle of using up an entire afternoon.

A long wait for the bus to Dahab

A long wait for the bus to Dahab.

Bus from Sharm el Sheikh to Dahab

Air conditioned bus from Sharm el Sheikh to Dahab, 20 Egyptian pounds ($6.50)

The inconvenience of getting to Dahab was worth it

After the ordeal at the Sharm el Sheikh bus station, it was a relief to be picked up at the bus Dahab bus station by the Dahab lodge I booked, Sunrise Lodge. Arriving at the charming entrance way of the 5-room lodge, I felt relaxed again.

The lodge was seconds from the main boardwalk, which was lined with beachside cafes, shops and dive centres. As I wandered around that first evening, I was reminded of Koh Tao, Thailand and I had a feeling I’d end up staying longer than the 5 days I planned.

Here’s a detailed look at my time in Dahab.

1. Great weather and overall good vibes

With a temperature of 25C and blue skies every day, it’s hard not to be in a good mood. To top it off, there’s lots of delicious Egyptian and western food at a great value, like breakfasts with 2 eggs, bread, fried onions/sausage for 15 Egyptian pounds ($2.75).

The town was laid-back, all the shop owners say hi as you walk by. People are trusting, there were multiple times when the cafes didn’t have enough change and just trusted me to come back later to pay for my meal.

I was initially considering a short trip to Israel before going to Jordan, or staying extra days near the border of Egypt before crossing to Jordan, but I felt perfectly happy in Dahab.

A long wait for the bus to Dahab

Entrance at Sunrise Lodge, Dahab.

A long wait for the bus to Dahab

One of the many beachside cafes on the boardwalk.

2. Scuba diving and snorkelling

I’m newly licensed PADI scuba diver and was paranoid of everything from salt water burning my eyes (the Red Sea is saltier than Thailand) or accidentally inhaling any water that seeps into my mask.

Fellow travellers like Connie Hum, convinced me that diving was amazing on the Red Sea and that I should at least attempt one dive for the experience.

Being the paranoid diver that I am, I visited almost every dive shop on the boardwalk and eventually found myself at H2O Divers Dahab. I told them I was a nervous diver. They nicely laughed at my anxiety and assured me things would be fine.

After a refresher dive, some encouragement, plus 2 more dives, I finally felt at ease enough to actually start identifying the marine life while diving, instead of just concentrating on breathing. We we even saw a beautiful large green turtle on one of the dives.

I ended up doing a total of 6 dives, including a night dive under a full moon and with close supervision (2 instructors to 2 students).

The water visibility was incredible and even better than Koh Tao, Thailand, which was where I got my PADI Open Water license earlier this year.

H2O Divers Dahab, Red Sea, Egypt

H2O Divers Dahab, Red Sea, Egypt

Night dive under a full moon in Dahab

Full moon over Dahab, my first night dive.

3.) Beach camp at Abu Galum

I skipped on the Mount Sinai climb (where Moses allegedly received the 10 commandments from God) but did take an overnight excursion to a Bedouin beach camp north of Dahab at Abu Galum, a protected area by the Red Sea.

Some highlights of the trip:

  • A ride along the beach, on a camel that was constantly wandering off from the group
  • Waking up to the sun rising over Saudi Arabia across the Red Sea
  • The playful children of the Bedouin families at the camp
  • Meeting a couple from Cairo who were on their honeymoon, and were shocked to find out there was a camel ride and that we were all sleeping on the ground under the same hut that night.

See the vibrant blue colour of the water in the pictures below? That’s really how it looks.

A long wait for the bus to Dahab

Reefs at Abu Galum, beach camp, excellent visibility for snorkelling.

A long wait for the bus to Dahab

Beach camps at Abu Galum and village of Bedouin families.

A long wait for the bus to Dahab

Two playful kids of the local families at the beach camp.

4.) Abundant and free WiFi

With lots photos to upload and being an internet geek, I could probably be happy anywhere as long as I have WiFi and power outlets. Have this, plus being right beside the beach with access to cheap smoothies and coffee was heaven.

Dahab Beach Cafe, Red Sea, Egypt

Jays Cafe, one of many beachside cafes with WiFi and plugs

5.) The ferry to Jordan caught on fire

After hearing about one of ferries used in the Egypt-Jordan border catching on fire while in transit (BBC News), I decided to fly to Jordan instead. Flying saved me about 2 days of travel time since the ferry would have entailed staying extra night at the border on the Egypt side (Nuweiba), a full day for the ferry journey which I’ve heard is frequently delayed, plus an extra night on the Jordan side (Aqaba).

The flight from Sharm el Sheikh to Jordan (Air Jordanian, $295 purchased last minute), was just 1 hour and probably the most scenic short-haul flight I’ve been on, with views of the turquoise waters and islands on the Red Sea.

Flight - Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt to Amman, Jordan

Flight from Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt to Amman, Jordan.

Dahab… would definitely consider a repeat visit

When I was planning my Egypt trip, I expected the ancient Pyramids to be the highlight of my visit; after all, I’ve wanted to see this world wonder since grade school. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how touched I’ve been by experiences I only heard about right before my trip, name camping in the White Desert and hanging out on the Red Sea.

>> If you’ve been to Dahab, did you enjoy your stay too? What’s your favourite beach town or diving/snorkeling spots in the world?

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Other Egypt articles you might like

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    The south of Egypt, Upper Egypt, is full of extraordinary archaeological sites: the Valleys of the Kings and Queens in Aswan, world famous for the tomb of Tutankhamen and the magnificent Temple of Hatshepsut; fascinating temples of Abu Simbel and Luxor Temple built by Ramses II the Great! Lower Egypt, with Cairo and Alexandria, also has many historical and cultural monuments: the Pyramids of Giza, the Sphinx and the archaeological museum in Cairo! Northern Egypt is also the economic and political center of the country.There is so much to see and learn that a tour guide is highly recommended! He / She will prepare your tour with you and help you to understand the hieroglyphics without the need for the Champollion’s Rosetta Stone!

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  • The photos are gorgeous Lily, I can see how you would want to stay. But really how could you leave?

    • Hi Ayngelina,

      Thank goodness 1.) the Egypt visa is only 30 days and 2.) I was going to Jordan next. I could easily see how Dahab could turn into Chiang Mai, Thailand for me (i.e. I’m on my 3+4+4 weeks here in Chaing Mai). 

      – Lily 

  • Imperator

    It reminds me of Nuweiba (the beach place a bit North)… I have fantastic memories from there !

    • Hi Cezar,

      I didn’t go as far as Nuweiba, but I did some some photos of beach camps near there. Is that what you did there? I have an impression that the entire stretch of Red Sea/Gulf of Aqaba looks this beautiful…

      – Lily

  • I’ve heard really great things about Egypt as a destination – thanks for sharing your experience here! We have to get there someday. ~Andrea.

    • Hi Andrea,

      Yes, yes, you must go to Egypt one day ;) I thought the Pyramids would be the highlight, but was pleasantly surprised to see so much more. I’d definitely consider taking another (longer) trip in the desert and coming back for more diving or snorkelling.

      Thanks for stopping by!
      – Lily

  • Sounds awesome! On a totally random topic, what camera do you have? Your photos are really great!

    • Hi Rebecca,

      Hope you’re doing well! Guess what, I’m back in Chiang Mai at the moment :) As for the photos – I’m using a Canon XS. It’s Canon’s lowest entry level DSLR (about $500 when I bought it 3 years ago), however I organize my photos in Adobe Lightroom. Sometimes the photos turn out too dark or too bright compared to how the scene actually looked so fixing them in Lightroom helps a lot.

      Hope to talk to you again soon :)
      – Lily

  • Anonymous

    How gorgeous!! After reading your post, It dawns on me that I really need to just bite the bullet and finally get my PADI cert so I can do dives like this!! also, love the fact that you embrace flexibility in your travels, something that I really need to learn how to do.

    • Hi Jen,

      Was just reading your travel bucket list – one of the Thailand islands would be a great place to get your PADI Open Water. Visibility is supposed to be great everywhere around, plus the water is a bit warmer compared to the Red Sea. Plus, the street food in Thailand is phenomenal :)

      Thanks for stopping by!
      – Lily

  • Hi Lily,
    I am new here and I am glad to discover your blog. Very beautyful pictures anyway. 
    You remind me my six-month travel. Thank you for sharing so many things with us.

    • Hi Lenia,

      Thanks for your kind words, I’m glad you’re enjoying my blog and photos. Traveling is such an adventure, isn’t it? :)

      Thanks for stopping by!
      – Lily

  • Anonymous

    This title sounds like my Thanksgiving Holiday. Instead though it would be called how 1 day felt like 9. I love my family, but watching football games around the TV and watching my aunt slowly get annoyingly hammered is no fun. I wish I was traveling.

    Chiang Mai is one of those places for me. I planned 3 days and stayed 14.

    • Hi Ted,

      Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family. It’s a privilege to share it with family and friends, isn’t it? :) As for Chiang Mai, I planned 1.5 weeks and stayed 3 + 4 weeks… and now adding another 4 weeks. I tell you, it’s the world’s most cult-ish city!

      Thanks for stopping by!
      – Lily