Monday, April 25, 2011

Letters from Egypt: Red Sea Travel Advice

Looking for the best way to travel to the Red Sea but you don’t have a car? Never fear, Go Bus is here and will remain stuck on the side of the road for hours. So if it departs without you, just walk five minutes and I’m sure you’ll find it.

I started my journey for Easter weekend to Hurghada, a resort town located on the Red Sea, to see some good friends of mine. I don’t have a car and nor was anyone that I knew (or rather, wanted to spend four hours locked in a car with) traveling at the time I had planned. Thus, I purchased a Go Bus ticket for LE 80 ($13.50) to depart from Cairo at 4 pm. There are different buses that range from LE 45 to LE 125 leaving at various times (going from economy to elite).

I arrive at Nady el Sekka in Nasr City around 3:30 pm on April 21, only for the time to pass 4 pm and still no bus anywhere in sight. I overheard some woman complaining about the delay with the Go Bus official explaining that the bus was just now in downtown (please note, it was 4:25 pm). Finally the bus arrives around 4:45 pm and we take off.

Five minutes later – literally – the bus breaks down. We were so close to the bus station that I could’ve walked back. I always speak about how education levels and common sense is far behind in Egypt, so allow me to give another example.

We stand on the side of the road and watch the 5 pm bus pass. Then we watch the 6 pm bus fly by. Wouldn’t it have been wise to have sent the 5 pm bus to those that had purchased the 4 pm ticket and so on and so forth until another bus was made available? Oh no, that would require a brain and clearly there is no priority here. Right before 7 pm, we are finally sent a new bus and we begin our journey…again.

Then around 7:30 pm, directly in front of us four cars including a truck carrying building stone carved out of a mountain collide. While other cars are able to pass, a huge rock is blocking my bus. This poses a problem for two reasons: a) an ambulance was behind us and unable to get to those wounded and b) I’m still in Cairo although I should’ve been almost nearing Hurghada at this point. So all the men on my bus get out to literally push this rock out of the way bringing me to another conclusion as the rock is only able to be moved centimeters at a time: there is no way Egyptians built the pyramids.

Finally everything seems normal until another car stalls in front of us once again blocking our passage. God forbid the traffic behind allow my bus to back up and move around the car, no – that would actually require them to be considerate. Thus more guys get off the bus to stop traffic in order for the bus to move around the stalled car. FML.

Throughout the excursion, my bus driver felt it pertinent to make sure the tv was constantly showing a movie. Therefore he needs to stop AGAIN to start some horrendous D-class Arabic film. When it skipped (please note we’re not working with advanced equipment here although it was a tad better than VHS), he also had to stop to make sure that we didn’t miss anything from the movie.

I arrive in Hurghada after midnight, two hours after the friend who took the 5 pm bus arrived.

So for all of you thinking of traveling to Hurghada via Go Bus, here are some helpful suggestions:

  • First of all, NEVER and I mean NEVER purchase any ticket under LE 100. The LE 100 ticket is for Royal Class and only has a five minute stop with a better bus. You will thank me immensely for this advice as the other buses are just too risky.
  • Take snacks with you as you are not going to like the snack box provided and bring water. Although water is provided as well as a juice box, just trust me.
  • Charge up your ipod and make sure you have good headphones so you can drown out the annoying people who feel the need to speak so loudly on their mobiles as well as (and this is of utmost importance) the crappy Arabic movie that will be blasted on high through busted speakers.
  • Get your ticket in advance. I just found out that there are only so many foreigners allowed on each bus, usually ranging around five (and I did count on my buses how many foreigners there were). This is because it is seen as high risk to have more (ie terrorism).

And finally, pray to sweet Baby Jesus that you do not incur half of the problems that I did. Although it’s always a mystery if you’re ever going to make it via any Egyptian transportation – which is sort of half the fun – you definitely appreciate the journey more once you’ve arrived safely.

For information about schedule and ticket purchase, contact Go Bus at 19567. The website on the company’s Facebook page says www.gobus-eg.com, but it isn’t valid (red flag maybe).

Remember, take Go Bus so you can get goin'... unless you're like me and then maybe pack a big dinner, a few books and a blanket so you can hunker down for the night on the side of the road.

2 comments:

  1. Wow. I took a bus from Hurghada to Cairo and back ten years ago or so and nothing much has changed :) Crazy! Do they have toilets now on the busses? I remember ours didn't have one and only stopped once at a distustingly dirty place in the middle of nowhere. Ever since I've taken Egyptair to get back and forth. They're not very expensive if booked in advance... maybe $50.

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  2. I've taken Go Bus from Sharm to Cairo and know what you are talking about. To Sabrina, they do have toilets on the bus but you won't appreciate it if they are uses as the smell travels everywhere in the bus. Far better to hold it.

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