“Excuse me! Where are you from?”
The next guy yells at us, “Hey, friend, where are you from?”
The next guy yells at us in Russian.
The next guy runs up and yells, “Hello friend”, with his hand out to shake mine, but I ignore him… which clearly annoys him, to which he demands, “shake my hand!”
We decided to forget the plan of eating outside the hotel and turned around immediately (but crossed to the other side of the road). On the way back, we were lucky enough to have an annoying guy on a camel chasing us with his camel, also yelling greetings. (Maybe you saw the vine I posted on twitter of the camel).
Sharm El Sheikh is clearly a tourism based resort town… and that’s all it has going. Imagine Las Vegas. The incredibly desolate flat land with an incredibly desolate mountain range in the background. An odd thing on it’s own if you’re from the green mountains of Virginia.
Yet, somehow an entire tourism based city thrives in this odd climate. Shows upon shows, with crowds of tourists.
Now imagine Las Vegas where 90% of the tourists stopped coming 5 years ago. It’s a super odd thing.
The hotels are there, the workers are there, the shows are there… but the money isn’t.
Let me start with the pros.
To be totally honest, I like Sharm better than Cancun, and I’ll explain why more in the “what you need to know section”. I just think the range of experience is a lot wider than Cancun. So picking the right hotel here is way more important.
You’re on these rocky cliffs over looking super blue water, well, the super blue water starts after the coral reef shelf that the Hilton has a walkway over.
And, you’re paying 5,000 points a night. In the points world, it’s the dollar tree price. And the cash rate was $68.
It is super cheap, and you can choose the kind of resort you want… just like everywhere.
If you like the resort life, you’ll like at least some of the hotels. Like, do you enjoy lounging in Cancun? Or a better comparison, do you enjoy Puerto Vallarta?
It is Europe’s Puerto Vallarta… except better.
We were in Puerto Vallarta for an $18 mistake fare at the Sheraton awhile ago. Sea View Club Room with breakfast and club access. We and 4 friends lounged around, swam, sipped drinks on the beach, and ate chips in the lounge.
Not exactly pros
The downside of Puerto Vallarta was that the timeshare people were hounding us at every juncture.
At the Hilton Waterfalls here in Egypt this guy came around to us at dinner and kept selling us a $100 private dinner on the beach. Like, he just didn’t get the “no” part.
And the next morning, guess who comes over to our table telling us about a private dinner? Like, dude, are you kidding me? My position on the private dinner has not changed since I last saw you. Nor would I pay $100 for this food.
Hard economic times cause people to be more aggressive and cut corners.
Now I didn’t stay at the Hyatt or Four Seasons, but every hotel had terrible internet.
This is not a joke, but the Hilton Waterfalls:
1) Doesn’t have wifi available in the room… and we were there 10 days. And the internet available was capped at .5 mbps. Not a joke. .5 mbps. 10 mbps is good internet. Google fiber is 1,000 mbps.
However, after nagging them they decided to upgrade my internet and give me a router when it was available, tomorrow, day 2 at noon. I was told it was a benefit for Gold members. When 2pm rolled around I called back and they told me the benefit was only available for Diamond members. After a game of he said/she said, I got a router. And “premium” internet.
I kid you not, premium internet was capped at 2 mbps. Capped. Now it often didn’t get half that fast and the latency was still high, but that’s the condition.
And the reason isn’t Egypt, it’s just being cheap. They didn’t want to buy more routers. And after all, a hotel can buy more bandwidth.
Be careful with cheap hotels
We were supposed to stay two nights at the Park Inn, but we left our keys and switched to the Radisson Blu instead of finishing day two. We were going to have to leave a day early in my two day reservation at the Radisson, but I got them to move it up. So leaving the Park Inn a day early didn’t cost me extra points (as it was booked with the BOGO rate).
The hotel didn’t have wifi at all except in the lobby, and it was still so slow that you couldn’t load most sites.
It had empty soap containers in the bathroom. So I had no soap, shampoo, or wash clothes. The lights weren’t working, so it was a creepy dimly lit room, and so on and so on. It was just a dingy motel room.
If your desire is to vacation there, I just don’t get why. The hotel has no beach, I didn’t feel like finishing breakfast it was so bad.
Just a note about breakfast. Most of the hotels we stayed at had like the hi-c versions of orange juice, the eggs were from a carton of liquid eggs, and the “french toast” was literally fried bread with syrup next to it. Honestly zero flavor on anything you could eat.
The thing is that all the hotels are cheap on points, so you should really pick ones that have great reviews. And if at all possible, ones that aren’t solely all inclusives. When you look at the cash rate, the Park Inn is more than the Radisson, because it includes food (not on points). And it’s like $50 more than the Hilton Waterfalls – where we spent $20 a day on food.
The Park Inn is full of people who are terrible at math. You’re getting a hotel far away from the beach, with disgusting food, no amenities (or even shampoo), and you’re actually paying more money in the end.
What you need to know
Avoid the Park Inn, Hilton Dreams, and Hilton Fayrouz. Any hotel not on the beach is a skip.
The Hilton Dreams is a battle to get wifi at all, and there is one annoying guy always upselling food, but it’s a real resort.
The Radisson Blu is also a nice property, but the wifi is slow (but at least it exists).
My assumption is that the Hyatt is super nice, it has good reviews and looks nice. Any high end hotel is also going to be nice.
You’re not missing anything in town!
If you’re going for snorkeling, I’m told the Hilton Marsa Alam is the best. And there are other options actually on the Red Sea, like the Radisson El Quseir. Those seem like decent options but harder to get to.
In Sharm El Sheikh, you need to be outside of the downtown Naam bay. Period. The water is clearer, the coral is better, it’s way less crowded, and you have less touts.
The Hilton Waterfalls and Radisson Blu were both good experiences. Both have piers that get you past the coral shelf, to where it just drops off. This means that you have decent snorkeling right at the hotel. Just get in the water at the end of the pier, and the fish will be at the wall eating the coral.
The big difference between the hotels: to the south where the Waterfalls is, it is super rocky and therefore there are small beaches in between cliffs. More scenic, but I prefer the bigger beaches, like at the Radisson Blu.
The Radisson Blu has a bigger beach, with a better peer out to more coral with less boats. I’m a little biased towards the Radisson Blu but had way more Hilton points.
Another thing you need to know, is that in August, it’s hotter than hades. For real. Summer is super hot and winter is too cold to swim. Spring and fall are optimal, but if you don’t mind the 100+ degrees and tons of sun, summer is fine. But you’ve been warned.
If you thought I was too hard on Sharm El Sheikh, well, it’s a very honest review. There’s a lot I can’t stand. However, the Radisson was completely relaxing. Only one in-house tout experience (guy selling diving tour), and the beach was the best.
Really, the “beaches” in Cancun are big and sandy, which I suppose is great for relaxing in a chair. But I personally prefer this off shore snorkeling to any beach in Cancun (and we’ve literally walked the entire strip, however many miles that was). Blue water is one thing, but experiencing it with snorkeling is another.
That being said, there’s no way I’d fly from the US to Sharm and turn around. If I was going to fly somewhere for a beach location, I’d just go to the Caribbean. Whatever you save in hotel points to go to Sharm, you’d lose in wasted miles.
The beach is better here than Oman, but I found Muscat to be way more culturally interesting/authentic, while having a similar but less desolate feeling landscape. There are more interesting cultural things in Egypt as well… so culture and scenery is not the reason to come here to Sharm El Sheikh.
So I would tack Sharm onto a trip to Luxor and Cairo if you’re interested. Although it’s not the only option for the Red Sea and snorkeling.
I’ll have more about the entire long trip to Egypt later.