Did you know that Sharm el Sheikh is considered “the Maldives of Egypt”? Well. To clarify, there is one part of it that looks like the Maldives, but a whole other town south of Hurghada that really does look like the Maldives.
But for the sake of search engines and referencing my social media posts, I’m going to tell you about Sharm el Sheikh in this post!
Most people from the U.S. haven’t heard about it, and don’t go there. Probably because most tours just promte the pyramids and temples. But don’t miss out! Europeans and wealthy Egyptians vacation in Sharm el Sheikh all the time, so let’s take part in the fun!
Full disclosure, I was not nearly impressed with Sharm el Sheikh as I was with a small, boho beach town called Dahab. I have a separate post for Dahab that you can see here! Also, the tour company that basically sponsors my life in Egypt called Lady Egypt Tours sent me here to check it out, thank you! I’d highly recommend booking with them as well!
Where is Sharm el Sheikh?
Most people probably wouldn’t realize that Sharm el Sheikh is even in Egypt. That’s because it’s located on the Sinai peninsula, which on the map looks like it’s not part of Egypt. But it is!
You may have heard of Sinai before; either bad things in the news, or you know, from the bible. It’s allegedly where Moses climbed up a mountain and received the 10 commandments, and then parted the Red Sea.
How to Get There?
If you’re already in Egypt, you can easily take a domestic flight from Cairo to Sharm el Sheikh airport. There are several small airlines like Nile Air or Fly Cairo which are fine to take. Or if you prefer bigger airlines, Egypt Air flies there too. Airline tickets are also pretty cheap depending on the time of the year. I went in August (low season) and it was about $80 round trip.
For those wanting to skip Cairo, or go to Sharm first, you can also get a flight directly there.
Hiring a driver is also an option. But it’s a 10 hour drive. And likely close to the same price. There are buses, but for the sake of safety and the fact that I haven’t used them, I cannot recommend that option.
Once you arrive in Sharm el Sheikh airport, you will need a ride to your hotel. I would suggest pre-arranging it with your hotel, or with a tour company like Lady Egypt. In fact, Lady Egypt can plan your transfers for your entire trip, so you don’t have to worry about individual ones.
Entry Requirements for Sharm El Sheikh (as of September 2021)
Crazy times we’re living in! Luckily, Egypt is relatively relaxed, at least at the moment. We did run into a few hurtles, like some airlines requiring a QR code on your negative PCR test for entry (this was in the US coming to Egypt), so below is what I know right now.
- If you are already in Egypt, you do not need anything extra to go to Sharm el Sheikh. You don’t need a PCR test or additional visa, you can just go.
- If you are entering Egypt for the first time to go to Sharm el Sheikh, you need EITHER your vaccine card with PCR (acquired digitally but only for some states) or a negative PCR test WITH a QR code. I recommend both just to be safe.
- For Egypt visas, you can get it online for $25 at Visa2Egypt (yes that’s their official website). You can also easily get it upon arrival, just be sure to have cash on you.
Dress Codes and Drinking
Two things you need to consider when visiting Egypt in general (as well as any predominantly Muslim country) are dress codes and drinking.
Typically you should try to cover your knees and shoulders in Muslim countries. In Sharm and Dahab, it’s a little different since they are beach towns. Especially Sharm since it’s a known vacation spot and consists mostly of hotels and resorts. That being said, you can get away with wearing typical hot weather clothing, and even bikinis. Just be sure to cover up when going into town or restaurants.
For drinking, normally this isn’t something I include in my blog posts, I swear. I just don’t want anyone to be surprised, or get in trouble. Since most Muslim people don’t drink, you won’t find many places that serve alcohol.
It’s not like a typical vacation beach town where everyone’s drinking and there’s plenty of beach bars. The bars on the beaches are mostly for juice. Some big name hotels, and most of the bigger restaurants do serve drinks though.
Best Sharm el Sheikh Hotels
I only stayed at one hotel, and honestly wouldn’t recommend it, so I can’t be a ton of help here. Most of the hotels in Sharm el Shekh are massive, but a bit old. I jokingly (but seriously) say the “five star hotel” I stayed at was probably deemed five stars…back in the ’80’s.
Perks were that it was right on the beach though! Which mostly came in handy at night when I walked around to find a restaurant that serves wine, since the hotel’s restaurant does not.
I did some research for you though for top rated hotels in Sharm el Sheikh, and here’s what I found:
Best Things to do in Sharm el Sheikh
It was recommended that I only stayed in Sharm el Sheikh for a few days, and I would completely agree with this. I liked Dahab A LOT more, and found more things to do, and nicer places to relax there. But Sharm is still worth a visit because a few of its key sites!
My recommendations for best things to do in Sharm el Sheikh are:
“Maldives of Egypt” Boat Tour
I made that name up so don’t try to google it. It’s actually just the basic snorkeling tour to Ras Mohammad (underwater National Park) and “White Island” which is actually what I refer to when I say “The Maldives of Egypt”.
The tour is a full day, and definitely has some high and low points. High points are that it’s pretty cheap (about $35), the boat is huge (like a massive yacht), the crew is really fun (and cute), the water and snorkeling are incredible, and the White Island is actually very stunning.
Low points are that the tours are insanely packed, even when I went in low season. Like it took close to two hours just to get to the boat harbor, sort all the people onto boats, get everyone their gear, and get on the boat. Luckily the boat is big enough to not make you feel like it’s that crowded though. And I did meet several lovely people on it, including the cute dive masters and photographers.
Speaking of which, there are two photographers on board! Just be aware that they are NOT included. And the cost for the photos is more than the tour. Definitely worth it if you want high quality photos and don’t want to take them yourself though!
Al Sahaba Mosque
This is probably one of the first photos you will see when you search for Sharm el Sheikh. It’s a beautiful mosque in the city center, that’s definitely worth a quick visit. Try to go early in the morning or in the evening to avoid the extreme heat. I went in the middle of the day due to timing issues and everything was closed, and I was melting.
This was a little secret that I learned from locals and some girls living in Dahab! Farsha is a super popular lounge-like restaurant/bar that looks like something out of a movie. A movie like Aladdin.
It’s perched on the side of a cliff that overlooks the Koolaid-blue waters of the Red Sea, and consists of several nooks, crannies, and patios where you can sit and enjoy the views, a drink, food, or shisha.
There’s colorful pillows and umbrellas for sitting, and trinkets decorating the few indoor spaces that will remind you of being in a souk (market). At night it gets really busy, so try to go just before sunset to grab a spot!
Go to Dahab
Ending my list of best things to do in Sharm el Sheikh…is leaving and going to Dahab! It’s only an hour away, and a lot less crowded.
BUT! This is just my own opinion! If you prefer resorts and maybe nightlife (it wasn’t open when I was there, but Sharm is normally very popular for it) definitely stay longer in Sharm!
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