On the majority of our Egypt tours, we include one or two journeys by overnight sleeper train, from Cairo to Aswan and Luxor to Cairo. There are several reasons for doing this. Namely, using the Egypt sleeper train keeps costs down when compared to flying. We can pass these savings on to you to help keep our tours affordable. Travelling overnight also means there’s plenty more time for sightseeing during the day. We wouldn’t have time to visit hidden gems such as Philae in Aswan if we were having to wait around all morning at the airport. And finally, travelling by sleeper train is a fantastic experience! It’s no frills, and you may not love it, but you will definitely remember it when recounting your trip in a few years!
Find out a bit more about what to expect as we answer your questions about the night train. I rode the sleeper train twice during my Egypt tour, so I’ve based the below on my own experience.
What company operates the trains?
The night trains in Egypt are operated by Ernst, on behalf of Egyptian National Railways. You can book online at their website or app, or in person at the Ernst ticket office. This is located on the right-hand side of the main entrance at Ramses station in Cairo. Please note that if buying your ticket at the station, cards are not accepted as payment, and you will need to pay in US dollars. Of course, if you are travelling on tour with us then the cost is included in your tour price, and we will handle all of the logistics.
Is it stressful to get on the train?
The train platforms at all the major stations are crowded, as you would expect. The sleeper train is expensive by Egyptian standards, although it is cheaper for locals than tourists. And some locals do use sleeper trains to travel around the country. But there will likely be lots of other tour groups and independent travellers on the platform alongside you. If you are travelling with us then your tour guide will be on hand to help you get onto the train in the right place. And we were actually escorted on the platform and onto the train by a member of the Egyptian tourism police to ensure we were safe, and our luggage was watched over.
What are the cabins like?
Cabins are small, with bunk beds for sleeping. When you board the train the bottom bunk is folded away and there are two seats, with a tray table in between. The train attendant will come round at approximately 21:00 to put the bed together for you. As well as seating and beds, there is a small washbasin with a mirror and plenty of overhead storage for your luggage. There’s a power socket for charging your phone, too. Some cabins have doors to adjoining rooms which are locked unless requested but can be useful if travelling with family. The cabins are quite cramped but comfortable enough, with large windows to enjoy the view before it gets dark.
Will I get any sleep?
I’m going to be honest and say that you won’t have the best sleep in the world. The train is loud, and I found that the driver seemed to have a particular fondness for blaring his horn. Due to the relatively poor quality of the tracks, the train also shakes quite a lot. However, the bed was fairly comfortable, with linen, blankets, and fluffy pillows provided. And you do get used to the motion. I managed a few hours of shut-eye, and you will too. It’s only one night anyway, then it’s back to the four and five-star hotels! One tip is that if you are a light sleeper, I would recommend taking the top bunk. The shaking is not as bad and the bed is more comfortable, perhaps due to the fact that the top bunk doesn’t double up as train seats like the bottom one!
Is there food?
I had heard some horror stories about inedible food on the Egypt sleeper train. So I arrived at the station armed with a carrier bag full of snacks to see me through. However, I actually found both dinner and breakfast to be absolutely fine. Sure, it wasn’t the best food I’d ever eaten, but it did the job, and I went to bed full. I would compare it to aeroplane food. I had stew and potatoes for dinner, and breakfast was bread, jam, a croissant and, thankfully, coffee.
There is also a classically decorated lounge car in the middle of the train. Here you can purchase additional drinks and snacks if needed. This is a nice place to spend an hour or two in the evening and have a chat with the locals or your tour group. Be aware that smoking is permitted in the lounge car. You will also not be able to purchase alcohol onboard. Though you are welcome to bring your own beverages with you.
What are the bathrooms like?
The Egypt sleeper train has shared toilet facilities in each carriage. The toilets are basic, but I found them to be surprisingly clean. And the staff onboard kept them well stocked with soap, paper towels and toilet paper.
Is the sleeper train safe?
Given that they are mainly used by tourists, safety is considered a priority on the Egypt sleeper trains and serious incidents are no more likely than in Western countries. Armed security personnel are also present on each train, though you are unlikely to notice them as they are plain-clothed and will keep to themselves unless needed. I never felt unsafe on either of my sleeper train journeys.
So, out of 10?
Let’s go with a solid 6. Look, the sleeper train isn’t for everyone. It isn’t a luxury travel experience, but it is the most convenient way to get around Egypt. And it’s nowhere near as bad as I had been led to believe before my trip. Travelling by overnight train is something of a romantic experience, harking back to times of old. And although I wouldn’t want to ride the sleeper train every night, once or twice on tour is a memorable and fun experience. It’s clean and comfortable, the staff are friendly and helpful, the food is fine and when you wake up you’ll be in a new city, ready to explore!
On my King Tutankhamun tour, we arrived in Aswan and headed straight to the beautiful temple of Philae, one of the surprise highlights of the trip. The afternoon is deliberately kept free the day after the sleeper train – I caught up on some sleep on a sunbed by the pool!
If you really don’t fancy taking the sleeper train then our premium Treasures of the Nile group tour includes domestic flights instead. The rest of our Egypt group tours include one or two memorable experiences on the sleeper train!