Treks can be organised with 100% independence or you can go through a local trekking agency; it’s even possible to use a bigger, Western-based trekking agency. Each has its own advantages and drawbacks, which will in turn depend on your familiarity with the Sinai, Arabic, haggling etc. And simply how you like to do things when you travel. However you organise, always ask around for tips on guides, local trekking agencies etc, as they’ll come tried and tested. You can check out our favourites in TOP RECOMMENDATIONS. The sections on ST KATHERINE and TREKKING BASES have more information about organising treks. They’re in the GATEWAY TOWNS section.
FINDING A GUIDE YOURSELF This is usually the cheapest way to trek and it gives maximum flexibility: you can do it YOUR WAY – when you want, with whatever guide you want etc. Most budget trekkers like to do it like this but there can be downsides: limited English, a poor choice of guides at small trailhead towns etc. Anyway, if you’re organising a trek from complete scratch, you do it like this. First, go to the trailhead of the trek you’re doing and ask around for guides: you’ll no doubt be invited in for tea as people go off to find a guide, who’ll soon be presented. When you meet the guide it’s vital to chat, sussing his personality out: is he enthusiastic, does he seem knowledgeable about the land? And, as much as anything, will you get on? Personal relationships ARE important: especially when you’ll spend long periods together. Don’t assume every guide will be up to the job and if you get a bad feeling about a guide, heed it. Some so-called guides can wreck the best treks soon after they’ve started. It can be awkward rejecting guides, especially in small villages where you can’t walk off like you can in a bigger town. But you CAN do it tactfully, and it’s better than the alternative.
Trekking route Once you’ve found a guide you like, discuss two key things. The first is the ROUTE. There are often different routes between the same basic trekking highlights and they won’t all be of equal merit. The one you want to do and the one the guide has in mind might differ so it’s important to specify the way you want to avoid misunderstandings later. You can read out places from route descriptions in the book if necessary.
Schedules You, your guide, the camels, the season and other things all have an effect on schedules. Some guides push for longer than you need; others rush to finish. The times in this book are just suggestions. It’s best to aim for a couple of days’ flexibility on our suggested schedules, seeing how you go and adjusting accordingly from there.
Camels For most desert treks, you won’t need a separate camel. Your guide will act as both guide and cameleer. It’s more common to need separate camels in the mountains. If you do, you won’t have to go through a new organising rigmarole. Your guide should organise it. On any trek, if you want an extra camel to ride tell your guide early so he can get it organised.
Cost In the desert, the cheapest rates will be about LE200/£20/US$35 per day: this will cover the cost of a guide/ cameleer (usually the same person). In Wadi Feiran it’ll cost a minimum of LE200-250 per day for a guide and the same on top if you need a camel. Prices in the High Mountain Region will be about the same. Food won’t always be included in these prices so you might have to add on LE25-30/ day (based on you and a guide sharing; it’ll cost more if the group is bigger). There could be extras like a jeep/ taxi to the trailhead too. If your guide has to go back the same way at the end, he’ll expect payment for the return trip too: as a rule of thumb give one day’s extra pay for every three you’ve been on the trail (eg if you’ve trekked six days, pay two extra). Remember, your guide will expect BAKSHEESH as well. Before anything is final, you’ll have to haggle the price. The Bedouin are tough negotiators so haggle hard.
LOCAL TREKKING AGENCIES The Sinai has plenty of trekking agencies, many of them run by local Bedouin. They might offer their OWN treks but you can still use them to organise any paticular trek you want to do. You don’t HAVE to use them to organise a whole trek either: you could use them to organise any part of it – e.g. a jeep to the trailhead etc. Organising like this can be very useful for long, complicated treks; or for those treks in remote areas, where it would be difficult both to GET TO and to FIND GUIDES in yourself. You can organise a trek with these agencies before you arrive in the Sinai too, which will save time on arrival (remember to haggle the price down over email). The best are in TOP RECOMMENDATIONS.
WESTERN TREKKING AGENCIES A few Western trekking companies offer programmes in the Sinai, but many have scaled back since the Egyptian Revolution of 2011. Typically, they offer places in group trekking tours; generally, on popular routes in the best known areas. They won’t organise individual treks YOU want to do. There are advantages to going through a company like this. There’s no organising hassle, expeditions are usually more comfortable and medical know-how is better. You get to meet like-minded others too. The downsides are rigid schedules, limited independence and a lack of genuine, spontaneous contact with the local culture. Whether you’d like one just depends on your travel philosophy.