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Organised tour or solo backpacking?

Travel Forums General Talk Organised tour or solo backpacking?

1. Posted by bertles86 (Inactive 108 posts) 7y

Right I want to hit the middle east in big time. I am uber tempted by tours on offered by Imaginitive Traveller as they organise a lot and I should meet likeminded people around my age. But for a little of two months from Istanbul - Tripoli, with everything included would set me back about £5k.

Could I get more in going solo for that much money or would it roughly be the

Also how easy is it to get around in Turkey/Syria/Jordan/Egypt? And are border crossings fairly painless so long as you have the visas?

2. Posted by bentivogli (Travel Guru 2398 posts) 7y

I don't know about the ease with which one can travel those countries, but given how low local price levels are, I'd say you could arrange things yourself for a lot less than 5K.

3. Posted by bertles86 (Inactive 108 posts) 7y

Cool I'll look at going solo then, Bulgaria - Tunisia (Turkey>Syria>Lebanon>Jordan>Egypt>Libya>Tunisia).

How's public transport in these countries?

4. Posted by mim (Travel Guru 1276 posts) 7y

Good choice, you'll get a lot more satisfaction knowing 'I organised that' If it's hard and you sweat while you're there you appreciate it all the more when you're back.


5. Posted by t_maia (Travel Guru 3289 posts) 7y

Public transport is excellent in these countries, bc many people cannot afford a car there.

Crossing the borders is not too much hassle as long as you got your papers in order. (No Israeli entry stamp when trying to get into Syria or Lybia.) The biggest problem will be organising the Lybian visa. In fact, just for the hassle of getting it I am tempted to go with a tour to Lybia. (And that is saying a lot, since I really detest organised tours and have been to Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Turkey, Iran, Tunisia, ... and speak some Arabic too.)

When travelling around the ME you need to adapt to the local culture, the "inshallah" mentality as it is sometimes called. Be prepared for things to take longer and to spent a lot of time sitting around and waiting for things to happen - like for somebody to finally come after 5 hours and tell you what the f*** is going on and why they took your passport.

Money: I estimate the cost for a trip from Istanbul to Tunis lasting for 2 months to be around 2000 EUR, maybe 2500 EUR if you splurge, cannot get cheap flights or spent a lot of time in Turkey and Tunisia. I am also a bit unsure about the cost of travelling in Lybia. Flights from the UK to Istanbul should be available for around 70-150 GNP one-way if you fly charter, for flights back from Tunisia look into taking the ferry to Sicily and flying home with Ryanair or another budget airline.

Time: Considering the recommended timeframes for the countries you intend to visit, 2 months for Bulgaria-Tunisia would be really really rushing it. You end up having 8 days per country, which is an utter shame for countries like Syria, Egypt and Turkey. I would plan on having 2 months for going Istanbul-Cairo alone.

recommended timeframes:
Turkey 3 weeks
Syria 3 weeks
Jordan 8-14 days
Egypt 3 weeks
Lybia 2 weeks
Tunisia 2-3 weeks

[ Edit: Edited on 23-Feb-2009, at 17:39 by t_maia ]

6. Posted by bertles86 (Inactive 108 posts) 7y

Great, public transport it is then!

I've been reading up on my visas, so I know to set aside a good couple of months to get them sorted.

And t_maia are you serious c. £2000 GBP would see me through 14-16 weeks in the Middle East/North Africa?

That's ridiculously cheap! Why would anyone ever go on a tour!

7. Posted by t_maia (Travel Guru 3289 posts) 7y

And t_maia are you serious c. £2000 GBP would see me through 14-16 weeks in the Middle East/North Africa?

Unfortunately no.

I wrote: I estimate the cost for a trip from Istanbul to Tunis lasting for 2 months to be around 2000 EUR.

So a 16-week trip Bulgaria-Tunis should be something in the range of 4000 GBP, maybe more depending how much you pay for travelling Lybia.

minimum budget in EUR per day and person
Turkey - 35-40
Syria - 15-20
Jordan -20-40 (depends how long you stay in Petra, the entry fees are steep)
Egpyt - 15-25
Tunisia - 35-50 EUR

Why would anyone ever go on a tour!

Because they are scared of the crazy Arabs, the chaotic Arabic city life and have never heard of guidebooks like Lonely Planet. Really, all you have to do is pick up the Lonely Planet guidebooks, either the Middle East guide or the coutry guides and use it as your step-by-step instruction manual. It is travelling in the Middle East for dummies.

Regarding visas - if you are a British citizen and go only Istanbul-Cairo there is no reason to sort out the visa in advance. Getting the visa for Syria in advance might be a good idea, but you can also get it in Turkey or at the border (law says you should get it in the UK, but thanks to the chaotic Syrian bureaucracy ...) Visa for Turkey, Jordan and Egypt can be gotten either at the border or on the road. (You need to pick up a visa for Egypt at the consulate in Aqaba if you enter Egypt via the Sinai.)

BTW, since this is your first time to the ME I would recommend that you put Lybia on the backburner. It is just too much hassle to get a visa - latest news is that you must go with a tour and that this tour must have at least 5 people. There are plenty of posts on the Lonely Planet thorntree forum about this very problem. Even people who have been booked on a 1500 GBP tour cannot go because there are not enough people in their party. Instead I would recommend that you look at Iran or Libanon as a substitute. While Iranian visa is not easy to get for Brits it is most definitely easier than Lybian visa. Considering the current visa situation for Lybia you'll have a much better chance of getting one once you are fluent in enough in Arabic that can waltz into the Lybian embassy in Cairo, tell the employees the latest jokes and then kindly request that they issue you a business visa because you intend to do research in Lybia for your PhD in Middle Eastern studies.

[ Edit: Edited on 24-Feb-2009, at 12:22 by t_maia ]

8. Posted by bertles86 (Inactive 108 posts) 7y

Ok t_maia cheers for all that, I'll look into Lebanon and maybe Iran! I was looking at having £4k saved by the end of 09 anyway, so I should be ok to get myself at least from Eastern Europe to Egypt!