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…
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?
View Larger Map
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Other Egypt articles you might like
- A Weekend in Egypt’s White Desert [Photos]
- Egypt Landscapes That Put Life in Perspective
- Best of Ancient Egypt Pyramids [Photos]
- Egypt Activities for the Next Two Weeks
- Reader Question: How Much Does It Cost to Travel?