Skip Navigation

North Africa and Middle East Travel

Travel Forums Africa and The Middle East North Africa and Middle East Travel

1. Posted by mikeylikes (Budding Member 3 posts) 6y

I am planning a trip through North Africa and the Middle East and am looking for suggestions, directions, ideas...

To give a rough idea of what type of trip I am looking for. I am 25, will not be traveling with anyone else, but expect to meet people along the way. I am hoping for a budget trip, think university student budget. I don't want something "luxury," but at the same time I don't want to stay in hostels where safety is a concern. I consider hot water a luxury that isn't necessary, but I prefer a room to a dorm. I have travel extensively through southern Africa (south africa, Botswana, mozambique, zimb, zambia, swaziland), east africa (Tanzania, uganda and kenya) and south east asia (laos, thailand, vientnam, cambodia, indonesia) so I know what to expect (sort of).

I would like to go around the middle of March 2010 through June/July (ish) 2010. The countries I would really like to see (although am not set about) are Egypt, Morocco and Syria. If time permits, I would also like to check out Senegal and Jordan, as well as Israel and the Palestinian territories. I want to avoid trying to see too many places and not having enough time in each destination. I have just begun my research, but I think i will need at least three weeks in Egypt, at least two in Morocco and at least a month for the middle east. (possibly two weeks in Senegal, and at least two or three weeks in Israel/Palestine/Jordan )

If you have any experience with a similar trip, I could use suggestions for where to begin and end (I suspect this has a lot to do with flights, so therefore, maybe someone can advise where to fly into). Also, what is the best method for getting around once I make the trip from NJ/NY to _ (insert name of destination airport)?

I suspect flying into Cairo will make the most sense and from there either heading West to Morocco, or NE to the middle east. While I have more time than money, I would prefer to spend money on a flight to save a lot of time traveling on shady and uncomfortable buses, but I understand that half the fun is the chaos of navigating the buses. For example, probably the best method to get from Egypt to Morocco is plane correct?

I have a friend who will be living in Syria, so I expect him to have some suggestions for me, but I would prefer to not go in blind.

I appreciate any help you can provide.

Thanks
Michael

2. Posted by t_maia (Travel Guru 3289 posts) 6y

My recommendation: Look into the classic overland trip Istanbul to Cairo. 3-4 months is a very good timeframe for covering Turkey, Libanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel and Egypt.

From the USA fly return into Istanbul. At the end of your trip fly one-way from Cairo to Istanbul. It is a bit inconvenient, climate-wise it would be better to fly into Cairo and then go north, but if you want to visit both Israel and Syria going south from Istanbul is the only option. Your passport will always be worth a bit less after it has been marred by an Israeli entry and exit stamp because a list of countries including Syria will deny you entry if this is the case.

If you are a US-citizen the visa for Syria will be the biggest problem, IIRC you can get all other visas at the border. Keep an eye on the visa-fees, they can be quite steep. IRRC the Turkish charge US-citizens a whooping 100 USD for entering their country as a tourist.

If you are set on Morocco in addition to Egypt and Syria I would recommend flying roundtrip into either London or Frankfurt from the USA and then using budget flights to connect. There are some decent offers with charterflights and budget airlines from Europe to Morocco, Egypt and Turkey. Choices directly to Syria are a bit limited, but ok if you are at the right departure points and spend a little bit more cash.

3. Posted by t_maia (Travel Guru 3289 posts) 6y

I suspect flying into Cairo will make the most sense and from there either heading West to Morocco,

You cannot go west from Cairo to Morocco, at least not overland. You'd have to fly. Algeria and Libya are both off-limits, visa for Libya is practically impossible to get and Algeria is just too dangerous, plus the border with Morocco is officially closed, thus you'd be illegally in Morocco if you entered via the Algerian-Moroccan border.

I have travel extensively through southern Africa (south africa, Botswana, mozambique, zimb, zambia, swaziland), east africa (Tanzania, uganda and kenya) and south east asia (laos, thailand, vientnam, cambodia, indonesia) so I know what to expect (sort of).

Your experience in SEA and Africa will be similar to what you are looking at in the ME. Hostel dorms are rare, aside from Israel and Istanbul you'll mostly end up in budget hotels and have your own room.

Egypt and Morocco both have many tourists and even more touts, it gets very tiring after a while. Don't let it spoil your experience there.

I would also like to check out Senegal and Jordan

I would drop the Senegal from your list, it doesn't make any sense to combine the other countries on your list with it. Better save it for a later West Africa trip and combine it with Mali, Ghana and other West African countries.

If you are determined it will probably be best if you fly into Europe and then look into flights from Europe (Frankfurt, London, Paris) to the Senegal and your other destinations.

Also, what is the best method for getting around

Bus, minibus and shared taxi. Morocco, Egypt and Turkey also have trains, but most of the time you'll end up taking the bus or shared taxi. Many people in the ME do not own a car, thus it is normally fairly easy to find public transport. There is always somebody enterprising with a car who is willing to take you as long as you pay, it is no big deal.

While I have more time than money, I would prefer to spend money on a flight to save a lot of time traveling on shady and uncomfortable buses

In the ME flying makes only sense on really long distances, say Istanbul to Cairo. In all other cases it makes far more sense to take the bus, the savings are substantial. Examples: 50 USD vs 250 USD for Jerusalem-Cairo, Jerusalem-Amman and Istanbul-Damascus; I am sure you can do the math.

4. Posted by mikeylikes (Budding Member 3 posts) 6y

Thank you so much T_maia!

I can't tell you how helpful you have been.

I am averse to doing an overland trip because I prefer less structured trips. Although I have been on overland trips in the past, and had a lot of fun, i like the ability to change one's itinerary last minute because you met a group of people you want to travel with. Or you decide to stay in _____ (name of fun city) another night. I am sure you understand. Also, I don't think I want to do Turkey on this trip. I am sure it is beautiful, and it is on the list of places I want to see before I die, but I think I might be stretching myself too thin if I try to fit Turkey in (and attempt to do it proper as opposed to seeing more places, but not giving them the attention and time they deserve).

The only way I will be able to see Syria and Israel is if I go from Syria to Israel (as opposed to from Israel to Syria) correct? I feel like a trip to the ME isn't complete unless you see Israel, but as I said, I have a friend in Syria who I want to see and all things being equal I would prefer to see Syria rather than Israel, although both places seem fascinating. If I don't go to Turkey is it possible to see both Israel and Syria without incurring difficulties? You say
[quote]going south from Istanbul is the only option. Your passport will always be worth a bit less after it has been marred by an Israeli entry and exit stamp because a list of countries including Syria will deny you entry if this is the case.

I am going to call the US Embassy to see if they have suggestions for seeing both Israel and Syria. I also plan on getting the syrian visa before leaving the US (I think that is the only way).

I think I am set on Morocco, but you're not the first person to say I need to focus on East or West. Initially when I was planning this trip I wanted to focus mostly on North Africa (2/3 N.A 1/3 ME), and Morocco seems great. I realize you can't get there overland from Egypt but I wouldn't be opposed to flying to Morocco and busing around the ME. Is that possible?

I feel you on dropping Senegal. Honestly, do you think it is a bad idea to keep Morocco?

Thanks again!

Michael

5. Posted by t_maia (Travel Guru 3289 posts) 6y

If I don't go to Turkey is it possible to see both Israel and Syria without incurring difficulties? You say
going south from Istanbul is the only option.

Well, you can also fly in and out of Cairo and do a circle. Go north from Egypt to Jordan using the Aqaba-Nuweiba ferry, thus avoiding Israel on the way north. Visit Syria and on the way back from Syria to Egypt you dip into Egypt. But that means backtracking plus getting the Egyptian tourist visa twice. Or fly into Beirut or Damascus and then go south.

But going overland from Istanbul to Cairo is really the most practical and the most economical way to see the ME. Especially if you combine ME with Morocco you can end up saving substantially. From Western Europe there are very cheap flights to Turkey, Egypt and Morocco, but not to Damascus, Beirut or Amman. You usually save around 300 EUR and more if you fly into Istanbul instead of Damascus from Frankfurt and take the bus into Syria. (One-way flight from Frankfurt to Damascus around 300-500 EUR, one-way flight to Turkey from Germany between 20-150 EUR and bus to Damascus is around 50 EUR.)

Further: Istanbul is definitely a city that is "see it and die happy". The vibe there is amazing and I strongly recommend visiting. The mix of European and Middle Eastern takes your breath away. A possible initiary for Turkey if you aren't too interested in this country would be Istanbul for around 5 days, then Göreme, Cappadocia for around 4 days and then on to the Syrian border.

You say you have 4-5 months (middle of March 2010 through June/July (ish) 2010), that should be enough time for Morocco plus Istanbul to Cairo.

Another advantage of going overland: It can be very very difficult and expensive to get the required visa to Syria. If the reports on the Lonely Planet Thorntree forum are correct the easiest and cheapest way for an US-American citizen into Syria is to just show up at the Turkish-Syrian border and apply directly on the spot. Fee should be around 10 USD as opposed to 100 USD with an 90 % success rate opposed to a 10 % success rate when applying at the Syrian embassy in the USA.

Honestly, do you think it is a bad idea to keep Morocco?

No, it is ok, provided you can get some cheap flights and have enough time and money. www.skyscanner.net can help you finding bargains from Frankfurt or London to Morocco. They also list some cheap flights from Western Europe to Turkey and Egypt. But often the best bargains to Turkey, Egypt and Morocco are last-minute charter flights and those are not listed there.

6. Posted by mikeylikes (Budding Member 3 posts) 6y

Little bit of a change of plans. If I were to skip Morocco entirely, is it possible to properly do Egypt and the Middle East (focusing on Syria, Lebanon, Israel and maybe Jordan) in seven or eight weeks? My cousin is getting married and initially I was going to miss the wedding because of traveling but I don't feel right so I want to be at the wedding (end of April). Realistically I can be on a plane in one week / 10 days, which would leave me with just over seven weeks.

Alternatively, I could travel for a longer amount of time in May, June and July, but that isn't an ideal place to be in the Middle East considering the temperatures.

Any ideas or suggestions would be very welcome.

Thanks to everyone for helping me out.

Michael

7. Posted by t_maia (Travel Guru 3289 posts) 6y

Little bit of a change of plans. If I were to skip Morocco entirely, is it possible to properly do Egypt and the Middle East (focusing on Syria, Lebanon, Israel and maybe Jordan) in seven or eight weeks?

7-8 weeks would be pushing it. Egypt properly and in-depth alone takes 4-5 weeks, there is so much to see there. 3 weeks is minimum for Egypt. You'd have just enough time left for Jordan and Syria.

If you have 7-8 weeks and need to be back by April consider going to Morocco and Southern Spain plus a few days in Europe (England or Germany).

http://looklex.com/spain/index.htm

For this fly into London or Frankfurt, catch a Ryanair flight to Morocco, go north and then catch a Ryanair flight back from Spain (Seville for example) back to London or Frankfurt.

You could also look into going Morocco to Senegal overland, I think the timeframe is right for that trip if you rush a bit and you seem to be a seasoned enough traveller to organise this without too much trouble. But expect to shell out a fortune in flights if you do this.

Another possible combination would be Morocco and Tunisia, maybe with a sidetrip into Europe (Spain, Italy, UK, Germany, France, etc for transport options (ferrry, cheap flights)).

http://looklex.com/tunisia/index.htm

Alternatively, I could travel for a longer amount of time in May, June and July, but that isn't an ideal place to be in the Middle East considering the temperatures.

You'll survive.

May is a very pleasant time, especially in Syria and Lebanon. The only place where the heat will be really bad is southern Egypt, Aswan and Abu Simbel. Northern Egypt along the Med (Alexandria) is ok even in August. Ok, so temps above 40 C / 104 F won't be unusual in July, but when you are there for 3 months you get used to the heat. May is not so hot, so you can "ease in" somewhat.

[ Edit: Edited on 27-Feb-2010, at 10:09 by t_maia ]

8. Posted by omran67 (Budding Member 9 posts) 6y

my name is omran and i live in jordan .
i can give you My recommendation a bout jordan coz i live in jordan .
what the most interesting place the Tourists visit in jordan :
petra full day
wadirum full day
aqaba full day
jersh and ajloua castle full day
baptism + mount nebo + madba + dead sea full day
Roman theater + Citadel Hill + down town in Amman full day
Qasr Kharana + Qusayr Amra + Azraq Wetland + Azraq palace full day

hotel in jordan the price between 10 j.d and 50 j.d
you can move from jordan to :
syria and from syria to lebanon by car or bus but u have to check first the visa
u can go from jordan to Egypt by fly or ship
u can go from Egypt to jordan by fly or ship
and if u need any help in jordan i will do my best to help u

9. Posted by KarinaBezz (Budding Member 11 posts) 6y

I didn't feel threatened in Algeria at all. Spent a wonderful month in Algiers, was incredibly nervous going but found that as soon as I left I wanted to go back. Although a little run down, the architecture was stunning, similar to the older towns of southern France. As long as you dont stick out like a sore thumb, have your wits about you, you should be fine. Loved the ice-cream parlour culture that seemed to replace the bars of other cities. I dont like to hear people ruling out Algeria as a destination due to danger - I felt far more threatned in India and alot of the other destinations listed above are just as dangerous. Anyway, I know, not particulary relevent but just had to say!
x