As I sat down to plan my trip to Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, on the Sinai Peninsula, there was the smallest or small twinges of doubt about the decision I was making. It just feels a little bit irresponsible to plan a trip, by myself, to visit my husband… while he is deployed. So, the rational part of my brain probably had a legitimate concern for safety and well-being. However, the media is 90% to blame for a concern that was already pushed to the back of my mind. The thing is I don’t REALLY follow media that closely except to keep up with current events. But I have been all too aware of the fear that most Americans are being feed right now. I know many people who have had friends and loved ones cancel trips to Europe because the news has made it a “scary place”. So, my God, the Sinai Peninsula isn’t even a place to talk about… And I was seated at my computer looking up flights to the, banned in multiple countries, Sham El Sheikh airport – through Turkey no less. And you know what… I booked it without hesitation! And here I sit, telling you about it after the fact – totally unscathed except for a strong yearning to go back.
Now, was it easy to get there… No! Not at all. It was one of the bigger pains in my backside while traveling. Was it worth all the work to get there? ABSOLUTELY. I would do it again even if it was harder the second time around. But it really was a pain….
I originally had booked tickets through Turkish Air from Nuremberg to Istambul, to Sharm for right around $200 USD. Now… I was proud of this! EVERYONE told me I wouldn’t find tickets under $600. So I watched… and I watched… and I watched some more. And then prices hit $200 and I jumped! And to top it all off… I could fly out of Nuremberg, less than an hour drive away! This ticket was GOLD!
A few weeks later I received a cryptic email saying a “change” had been made to my reservation, but it would not be reflected on the website and I must call the airline… Great…
After literally days on the phone of people telling me my flight was fine, or just delayed, or there was a change in layover, I finally got down to the truth – and it was a huge problem. My leg from Istambul to Sharm had been canceled. And not just that… ALL Turkish flights to Sharm had been canceled for the foreseeable future. So instead of working it out and finding me a new flight, they just canceled my entire transaction and issued me a refund. A refund, mind you, that didn’t show up for nearly a month. Thanks for nothing Turkish Air!
So here I was, with big plans to travel to Sharm El Sheikh despite everyone telling me I shouldn’t, and then my airline decides to jump on the same bandwagon and high tail it out.
So… time for recon. I started watching tickets again… and it was SCARY. I thought for sure I was simply not going to be able to make the trip. Most of the flights I was finding were over $900. (And to make this a little bit more stressful, it was now up in the air as to whether my husband, who I have not seen for over 6 months, would be able to meet up with me while I was there) So I waited…
And then a ticket showed up for just under $400. So, with quite a bitterness at the doubled price, I booked the flight. Now instead of flying with the posh Turkish Air, I paid twice as much to fly with the budget Pegasus. And to add insult to injury, I also had to fly out of Munich… a much further drive.
Now as your reading, don’t forget… I DID say it was all worth it and I would do it again.
I had a problem getting any type of receipt, or really any info to my email at all, from Pegasus. Aside from adverts, that is… which was proof they did, in fact, have my email correctly. I ended up having to call on three separate occasions until they finally just gave me my confirmation number over the phone so that I could look my flight up on the website. I kept a close eye on the new flight to watch for any changes and it looked like I was going to make it unscathed. Until I checked into my flight the day before to find that a second layover city, Hurghada, had been added… and with a VERY short layover time. But upon closer inspection I saw that it was the same flight number into Hurghada as it was out of Hurghada… so here was hoping I could just not move from my seat.
The travel day came, and oh boy was it a long one. I had on good authority that the Munich airport was taking an abnormally long time through security due to possible strike… So I left my house around 0630 so that I could get parked, catch the bus, and get INTO the airport by 0900. At this point, I had to check with Pegasus about my ticket because the website only checked me into the first leg of my flight. Unfortunately, they had no clue how to get me checked into the rest and said I would have to take care of it in Istanbul, but no, they didn’t know how. So at this point, I thought there was about a 50% chance I was going to get stuck in Istanbul. From there I got in line for security and passport control. I then commenced standing there for the next 2 to 3 hours as I watched the line wrap around the corner and disappear behind me. Good thing I left so early. I think I made it to my terminal about 45 min before boarding.
So jump to 1300 – We take off. 1700 – We land in Istambul. I spend a horribly boring 6 hours wandering around the Istanbul airport mostly just eating. 2300 – We take off again.
Que “Paige makes new friends”. Come on guys… I talk to everyone. But the British couple next to me on the flight out of Istambul where just great! They were heading to Sharm to go diving as well, but from a liveaboard…. jealous. But they were also just interesting, friendly people. We shared delirious laughter through the entire stop we made in Hurghada which ended up being much longer than it was supposed to be because a very drunk lady on our flight refused to claim her bag while also yelling at all of the “scavengers” who had ironically… stolen a bag that she was missing. We chatted the entire way to Sharm and then went through security together and parted ways with hugs like we were leaving old friends. My husband who saw this from the other side of the airport just thought I was running around hugging strangers in the Sinai… glad he waited for me after deciding I might have lost it. Then security tried to tell me I couldn’t leave the airport because I had to collect my luggage. They just could not fathom that I was traveling with only a small backpack (light packing FTW). So around 0330, over 20 hours after I left my house, we left the Sharm El Sheikh airport to drive another 20 minutes to the Camel Dive Center where I passed out and went to sleep!
So no… it was not easy to get there… and leaving was an even bigger pain…
The Sharm El Sheikh airport appears to have tried to step it up on security, but instead, it just feels like absolute Chaos. When I arrived to leave I had to go through full security just to enter the airport. Then there was a table with one man and one woman… going through EVERY SINGLE BAG. Everyone. Two people… stopping everyone. And they EMPTIED the bags. They pulled everything out. I had things nicely organized in smaller bags within my tiny backpack and they emptied those too… but then everything just got crammed back in haphazard. She pulled out a triple A battery and my shaver and told me I had to put these items in my nonexistent checked luggage. I tried and tried to explain I didn’t have any. Then she assumed I MUST NOT be traveling alone. So she commenced trying to get the people around me (whom I had made friends with at the dive center) to put my apparent contraband into THEIR luggage. And then with the best timing possible, my aisle mates from the flight into Sharm showed up and gave me a warm hello… which resulted in an attempts to have THEM pack my naughty battery and shaver in their bags. In the end, she gave up and slowly put the items back into my backpack, covering them with a stray shirt, and sent me on my way. During the chaos of dumping bags, my flight paperwork actually got crammed into someone else’s bag…. fortunately, it turned out to be one of the guys I had been diving with, but I had a brief moment of panic when I opened the pocket of my backpack to pull it out only to find it empty. And then later a moment of unrest when I realized how truly unorganized and chaotic the supposed security checks were in reality. I then went through check in, who also could not grasp that I had only a backpack and nothing to check. Then ANOTHER security. I apparently won this security challenge because everyone aside from me had to unpack their bags… again! Then another passport check by a guy playing games on his cell phone, then actual passport control, then a man hand wrote my passport info into a book, and only then was I through in time to sit… and wait for my very delayed flight.
Now… Forget about everything I have written so far – Egypt was amazing! Granted I spent the majority of my time underwater or preparing to be underwater. But this was a diving trip after all.
So… onto the reasons why you SHOULD go to the Sinai even though everyone is probably telling you not too…
The Scuba and Snorkeling might be the best in the world!
I knew before I left that the Red Sea was supposed to be one of the best dive locations. But it was so much more than I ever expected. I feel like I discovered an entirely new world in those crystal blue waters. I keep a kind of “see the sea life” wish list and I think I could check off 75% on the very first day. I saw over 3 different kinds of Sea Turtles, Moray Eels, Dolphins (on the surface only), a shark, multiple different kinds of Ray, and all the colorful fish I could take in – on day one. It was so overwhelming I think my photos suffered because of it. I was too busy and amazed by all the life surrounding me. I stayed at and dove with Camel Dive center, and I only have good things to say about them.
No Crowds right now
So while I have mixed feelings about this one, it was nice to not have to feel like I was in a constant herd of tourists all the time. It was also nice while out diving, we rarely saw other dive groups, and I have been told they are seeing more life early in the season because of this. The down-side, the businesses who rely on tourism are suffering and closing up shop.
You CAN find great deals on flights and hotels
So despite my harrowing journey, I described above, you can find some really good deals. Even though my flight ended up double the price I thought I was getting, it was still cheaper than the average quoted from previous years. So if you are willing to just accept it might be a longer travel day, you can probably find a deal on a flight. The hotels and dive centers are also having crazy promotions to try and attract more business. I used a deal Camel was advertising (and still has available through July and booked my diving with them and thus got 7 nights free stay at the hotel including breakfast AND airport transfer for around 250 EUR.
*This is not a sponsored post, they just took really great care of me and I want to pass it on.
Go somewhere that doesn’t know if its African or Asian
Ok, I thought it was funny. The Sinai peninsula is sometimes referred to as the bridge between Africa and Asia. While Egypt is an African country, the peninsula is considered to be its Asian side. So…. can I say I check off my first trip to Africa and my first trip to Asia in one fell swoop?