If you're already in Siwa and planning to get out and back to Cairo, and you don't have a ticket yet, be sure to check the small bus terminal booth one day before or at least in the morning before noon. This happened to me, not a big issue though.
It wasn't a peak season and Siwa isn't that crowded during the April 2012 I was there. I plan to take the same bus company that took me from Cairo to Siwa, back to Cairo, so in the morning I went to the bus depot. The ticket office was close and with my limited arabic I spoke to a couple of guys waiting there and told me that it will normally open at 4:00pm, so I came back walking the way to the centrum and back. The friendly attendant at the ticket booth told me - in arabic - that the 8:00pm bus to Cairo (see schedule on photo) had tire busted, so no Cairo bus and instead he recommended to take the 10:00pm bus to Alexandria. So I took that at EGP50 I think?
There was 2 or 3 checkpoints along the way during the 9 hours trip. Very inconvenient for some who have baggages under the bus (luggage compartment) as the uniformed military men are searching bagages, and checking passports as well, even my backpack on the top cabin compartment was checked once. The bus stopped at Marsa Matrouh where some people got off. My ticket though is all the way to Alexandria, and right where it stopped there's a bus that goes to Cairo so I immediately took it, cost I think 20 or 25 EGP?
DON"T forget to get off at the downtown Cairo stop if you're hotel is around downtown, as the bus final stop is it's terminal almost near the airport, and I overslept and ended up there from where I have to take a taxi that costs more than my bus fare, back to downtown.
The easiest and fast mode of transport in Siwa is the tricycle - a shaded cart driven by a motorcycle, much like the tuktuks of Bangkok but rougher. Most of them are just like 3 pieces of plywood nailed together to form a shade under your head, seta are makeshift too covered with pads and carpets to make it a little comfortable to sit on.
I took the tricycle when I arrived at Siwa bus terminal to the hotel at EGP5 and I've rented the same driver for EGP35 for 2 hours or so to take me to the popular sights in Siwa - Mountain of the Dead, Temple of the Oracle, Temple of Umm Obayda and finally Cleopatra's Bath.
They're just parked at the intersection at the center. The drivers are honest workers and can give you loads of info on hotels and other sights to see.
If you have the energy, you can rent a bike and cycle your way to Cleopatra's Bath, the Oracle, Mountain of the Dead and probably the desert oasis. The road is flat although dusty and some parts are bumpy. There's good bike rental infront of the Albabenshaal Hotel just at the foot of the Shali fort at the center of the town. Costs very cheap, I think from EGP5 to 20 from half day to full day.
Still one of the popular mode of transport for people and goods. You can take a donkey cart from the bus terminal of Siwa to town center, and also you can rent it for the whole day or couple of hours. Although I did not take it as I pity those animals who seems like they all want to retire. And while I was watching the activities of the town's square from the rooftop of the hotel, I saw a commotion on the intersection and I could see a donkey lying down apparently hit by a motor vehicle. I felt sad.
I know it's ok to take a donkey cart ride as long as the poor animal is not being beaten hard. They call them "taxi" in Siwa (I'm not kidding, see pictures).
Donkey carts can take you around Siwa - like Cleopatra's Bath, Mountain of the Dead, the Oracle, it's an experience but tricycles are faster.
I went to Turgoman (Cairo Gateway) bus terminal and bought a ticket to Siwa a day before. I think I paid EGP60 or 65 from the counter on the left side (2nd office) - West & Mid Delta Bus Co. - upon entering the Turgoman terminal.
The bus left from the basement parking, not much people that night except for a european family and some locals. The bus left before 7:30pm with several stops to pick up some more passengers. I slept all the way to Siwa. The bus is airconditioned showing arabic film on the tv in front. No steward or refreshment though or maybe I got used to those excellent buses in Turkey.
The bus arrived at the small bus terminal in Siwa early in the morning - a kilometer or less to the center of Siwa town. Tricyles and donkey drwan carts both at EGP5 to take you to the center of the town. If you don't have a hotel booking, just ask the tricycle driver for a recommendation.
See 3rd photo for the bus schedules out of Siwa to Marsa Matrouh, Alexandria and Cairo (taken 04 April 2012 posted beside the ticket window at Siwa bus terminal).
Loosely is the mot juste. The concept of the locknut has not spread to these parts.
Renting a bke (around ten LE for the day from several places in the centre of Siwa) is in theory a nice way to see some of the surrounding landscape. Unfortunately standards of maintenance are shocking and you will have to check everything on all the bikes on offer and then make a difficult decision as to which is the least unsevicable.
Being heavy single speed Chinese bikes, they do require a rather different riding technique to a lightweight geared bike. You need to get some serious momentum up. It's a mercy the going is by and large flat.
The bus company advise you to buy you ticket out at least an hour before the bus goes, and, in the case of the early morning bus, the night before.
Timetable current as of January 2007. Second picture is a detail and is legible.
The man in the photo is the ticket seller and whatever his expression, wanted to be in the photo!
The inhabitants favour donkey-drawn carts for getting about. And there are donkey carts providing a taxi-service, mostly driven by kids. It's not a very comfortable way to travel, even on metalled road. In my opinion best for the trip between hotel and bus-station.
The first time I went to Siwa by bus 1 year ago with 3 friends of mine, it was such a bad experience, to AND from Siwa. The bus was very uncomfortable (a typical bus charactersitic) with all the smells and excessive stops. But this year I decided to go by car, I have a 2001 Nissan Sunny, not even a 4X4..we decided to take the risk..and we were up to the challenge! We reached Siwa (and back) much faster..we didn't want to be under the mercy of the bus and its intelligent driver and his highly esteemed company. But make sure to make a good car-maintenance before you travel (tires, oil, dying spare-parts, etc.). And make sure that someone can take the wheel every once in a while so you can have some rest, it's a long way! So we travelled for 1660 (830X2) Km. and the only bad thing was having to change a flat tire which was already old! Siwa is my secret heaven..It's definitely worth seeing for even once in your lifetime. Have a great journey.
Buses from Alexandria to Siwa leave from the bus station close to Sidi Gaber. But you can buy tickets from the office downtown (in the south western corner of Midan Saad Zaghloul) and it is good to do so at least a day before. A ticket is 27 pounds (August 2005) and the bus journey takes about 9 hours. There are a few buses going every day. Along the way the bus stops three times. First at a cafeteria, then in Marsa Matruh where it stays a bit longer, and finally at another cafeteria (close to where the road takes off to Qara Oasis).
Going back from Siwa to Alexandria (there are no direct buses to Cairo) it was not possible to buy the ticket until the evening before, after 8 pm. If you are going to go to Cairo it could be quicker to change buses in Marsa Matruh rather than in Alexandria (as those direct buses take the desert road to Cairo and not the agricultural road). But be sure first there are seats available on the buses as many people from Cairo go to Marsa Matruh for holiday. The bus I travelled with left Siwa at 7 in the morning. To change to a train for Cairo in Alexandria was quick and before it got dark I had found a hotel room (after trying two other hotels first). From Siwa there is also a night bus to Alexandria.
A very funny way to see around Siwa is to take a donkey coach. This small coaches can carry up to 4 people. But even that can be too much if the donkey is too weak. In Slovenia, we have proverb: ''the oldest donkey, the hardest work''. And it proved to be right. Ours was quite young and we were always the last.
You never know, how long the tour will last. You neve know when a donkey decides not to move any more.
The coach drivers are always kids. And by looking at them, during the tour, you can learn how to drive a donkey coach. It seemed easy. But I didn't try.
You have two options. The first option is coming to Alexandria by train (ca. 4 hours) and catch a bus to Siwa (7-9 hours). On the way you may like to stay in Alexandria. But remember the buses from Alexandria starts for Siwa either early morning or in the early afternoon. There is no overnight buses. Buses this way makes several rest-stops on the way.
If you want to skip Alexandria, you may take a direct bus to Marsa Matruh (longer distance but faster and more expensive and less frequent daily, makes almost no rest stops out of ca. 5 hours of journey) and then catch a bus to Siwa (4 hours, several services daily).
Try to be at Siwa by the day to check out the hotel room, etc. Late-night arrival is not to say dangerous but perhaps makes it difficult to find a good place to stay and sleep.
When the bus came out the loose sand, after flattening the tyres, it had to keep some speed.
So we had to walk a little, till we could get in again at a place where the bus could stop without any problem.
It was amazing to be in the empty desert all around, with only our bus and jeep.
The track through the desert from Siwa to Bahariya is 380 KM. You need a special permit to take this track.
The track from Siwa to Bahariya was most of the time rather good, but sometimes we had to cross a lot of loose sand.
Then we had to flatten the tyres of our bus by letting escape some air to solve the problem.
We were lucky: most of the time we didn't lose too much time in the sand.
To get in Siwa by public transport you have to come from Alexandria and pass Marsa Matruh at the coast.
If you want to go directly from Bahariya to Siwa ( or from Siwa to Bahariya) you need your own transport and a special permit.
We travelled with the bus from a travel agency in Cairo, accompanied by a jeep for possible problems.
We didn't see any car at the road Siwa-Bahariya, except one with problems waiting for help. Our bus dragged this car for three and half hours in the direction of Bahariya and then we saw the lights of an oncoming car comig for help. So we saved them all together 7 hours to reach Bahariya safely.