Egypt has had some problems during the 1990’s with attacks directed against Western Tourists. Today the Tourism Police is there to directly protect tourists against any possible attack again.
Hence movement on overland roads and some areas may be restricted to convoys and armed guards. On some desert roads tourists are not allowed to travel individually and are under the protections of armed police. This applies for travel in the Sinai, the roads leading out of Cairo, and all travel to Luxor and the Aswan Dam.
My husband and I had the misfortune of ending up at the Suez bus station, on our way to St. Katherine's Monastery ( to climb Mt. Sinai ).
THIS IS WHAT SHOULD HAVE HAPPENED :
Take the East Delta Bus from Cairo ( Mahatet Al Turgoman area ), direct to St. Katherine's monastery : 6 hours trip total.
WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED TO US :
We go to the East Delta Bus ticket booth in Cairo, only to find that the bus was fully booked. The ticket booth guy told us of an alternative route : Take the bus to Suez instead, get off at the Suez bus station, and then ride a bus there to St. Katherine's Monastery. Being that the guy works for the East Delta Bus ticket booth, we assumed that the transfer bus from Suez would be an East Delta one. Dead wrong!
After 2 hours on the road, we arrive at Suez bus station. The area around it is desolate with rigs, electrical lines and some very mean, leery looking people who did not want to help my husband and I bc we were not willing to fall for the " baksheesh " tricks. We found out that THERE IS NO EAST DELTA BUS that goes through Suez canal ON A REGULAR BASIS. It only goes by there ON OCCASION. We were upset that the guy who worked at the East Delta Bus ticket booth would give us such unreliable information. Instead, what we had to catch at the Suez bus station were those small, white mini buses that is filled with locals and hitch hikers.
As per tourist police guidelines, this is how the pricing works :
1 mini-bus has 14 seats
- 14 seats is 35 Egyptian pounds each
- Every passenger who occupies a seat must pay 35 Egyptian pounds ( one way )
- 14 seats x 35 Egyptian pounds = 490 Egyptian pounds / one way ( driver's profit ).
Since my husband and I were THE ONLY ONES at the bus station ( starting point ) who desperately needed to go to St. Katherine's Monastery from Suez, the guy was trying to charge us 300 Egyptian pounds. We thought it was a rip off, so we tried to look for other taxi drivers, but he made sure that NO OTHER TAXI drivers would take us, so he can have the sale. After 2 HOURS OF HAGGLING, we finally caved in at 300 Egyptian pounds PROVIDING THAT WE WERE THE ONLY ONES IN THE MINI BUS. He agreed.
So, we go off on our merry way, on the road, when HE STOPS THE VAN AND PICKS UP A WHOLE BUNCH OF HITCHHIKERS ALONG THE WAY! Not only does he NOT lower our price, but he charged the other hitch hikers 35 Egyptian pounds each, on top of the 300 Egyptian we gave him and on top of BREAKING our deal. He promised that he was going to take us privately for the 300, and yet, there he was, picking up hitch hikers and making profit.
We raised hell in the car and violently yelled at him. My husband and I are not stupid nor scared : We are pretty tough with martial arts and we work for the govt. We are also quite vocal and used to bargaining hard, dealing with difficult people etc. We yelled and yelled, and we recorded everything on video camera, unbeknownst to him. Eventually, he caved in and drop the price to 200 Egyptian pounds.
Throughout the whole way, he kept on trying to get the 100 Egyptian extra from us by threatening to drop us off in the middle of the desert. The other passengers around us were giving us dirty looks and looking very leery as they saw that we were pretty tough and refused to get scammed. The crook driver eventually gave up when I really bellowed and we started using our cell phones to contact the govt and started warning the army guys at check points what he was trying to do.
We got to St Katherine's monastery....and we realised, that after all that, the yelling, the haggling, the fighting etc....it was worth it, bc we weren't like the other tourists that many have tried to take advantage of in mini bus situations. Tourists are being fooled into paying 800 Egyptian pounds ROUND TRIP....which is extortion, I believe.
MORAL OF THE STORY :
1) Make reservations for the East Delta Bus company ( anywhere you need to go ) at least a week in person. Most of them are useless, lazy and give the wrong information. Hence we wouldn't have gotten into such a bind.
2) If you do get into a situation like this, KNOW your prices well. Thank God that my husband and I researched all the necessary prices for all things during our travel, so we wouldn't get scammed or charged " tourist prices ".
3) Make sure that during independent, " off the beaten path " travel, that you are healthy, physically strong and fit, emotionally strong, have some sort of defensive martial arts tactics, and be very smart, perceptive and alert to all the cues.
4) AVOID detours to Suez Canal area at all costs. The bus station is filled with hungry, leery people who want tourists to scam. Since tourists rarely end up at the Suez bus station, we were prime targets for scams...but little did they know how independent and strong we were.