I read A LOT of conflicting reports from people on their experiences taking the overnight sleeper train from Giza/Cairo to Aswan. So this was probably the one peice of our trip I was most nervous about.
Turns out the most stressful part of the whole adventure would be communicating with our uber driver that we wanted him to take us to the Giza Train station lol…
From trouble purchasing tickets, to scammers preying on passengers waiting on the train platform, and filthy sleeper cabin conditions, I kept going back and forth on wether we should take the train or just fly down from Cairo to Aswan. Tickets were almost the same price to fly or take the train, but we ultimately decided that taking the train meant that we could cut the price of one hotel night out of our budget… and to be honest, I was excited to ride on a sleeper train for the first time.
Turns out the most stressful part of the whole adventure would be communicating with our uber drive that we wanted him to take us to the Giza Train station lol… (side note: for more info on taking Uber rides while in Egypt check out my other post here!)
After reading about the nightmares some people had trying to purchase tickets directly from the ticket counter the train station. We decided to purchase our tickets online HERE in advance.
The site can be a bit confusing, but essentially there are three sleeper trains that travel down to Aswan, the one we took that departs from the Giza station (Train No. 84), and two that depart from the main Cairo station (Train No. 86 and No. 1086) all of which depart around 7:45pm and arrive in Aswan between 8 and 9am the next morning.
If you are traveling with a friend/spouse, you’ll want to select 2 beds in a double cabin, then at the bottom of the form, and to the left of the blue “book now” button, you should see a button that says “edit followers” click on that to add another passenger to your cabin. (Also can we just take a moment to enjoy this stellar arabic to english translation moment on the edit followers pop-up box: “Important* By clicking this checkbox you get reservation with each 2 shared in one cabine so keep followers in the order and only in family case.“)
When you go to pay for your tickets, if using a credit card with fraud protection it may be a good idea to alert your bank first. The first card we tried kept being denied due to fraud protection measure, but then we changed cards and the payment was able to go through just fine.
After your payment is finalized you should be given a PDF with a printable ticket. I kept one digital copy of this PDF on my cloud drive for emergencies and then printed out paper copies in advance of our trip for us to have on hand when we arrived at the station.
Joe is vegetarian and we were excited to see there was a vegetarian option for your choice of meal (represented by a cute little picture of stalk of broccoli on the form). And I opted to play it safe and choose the vegetarian option as well.
As you can can see the cabins are snug, but there there is a little table that the porter comes in and folds up from under the red curtains on the wall opposite the bench seat after the train departs when they serve your meal.
And while the food didn’t make my “best things I ate while in Egypt list” it was edible and honestly better than some airline meals I’ve had.
During our trip we were served two meals one shortly after the train departed (pictured above) and then a small snack in the morning of coffee/juice and a small pastry.
Let’s not beat around the bush, these cabins have seen better days. They’re certainly dated and feel a bit more like being inside a hostel on wheels than in a 1st class train compartment. The Orient Express this is not.
Let’s not beat around the bush, these cabins have seen better days. They’re certainly dated and feel a bit more like being inside a hostel on wheels than in a 1st class train compartment. The Orient Express this is not. That said, the space was clean, the beds, while quite firm, were comfortable and the overall service by the porters was impeccable. In the end we were really happy with our choice to travel by train rather than fly.
When we arrived the cabin was made up with a bench seat, and then, after diner, the porter came in and used his key to pull down and set-up the beds for us. In the morning, we had the option of having the porter put the beds back up again to give us a bit more room in the cabin once more.
We even had our own personal little sink in the corner of the cabin that we could use to wash before going to bed and freshen up in the morning. In addition each of the cabins has electrical outlets you can use to keep your electronic devices charged while on board.
Things To Be Aware Of
At The Station:
It’s a good idea to arrive at the station and be on the platform at least 30mins in advance of your train’s departure time. If you’re departing from the Giza station like we were, there is a small cafe and a few shops where you can buy snacks and water next to the platform. Once on the platform, you should see small numbers attached to the light posts or platform canopy, these help you know where each wagon will end up once the train has pulled into the station. You can find your assigned wagon and cabin number on your ticket, that way you can wait on the platform next to the wagon number that matches yours.
Be aware that this station handles local trains as well as the Watania Sleeper trains, so just because a train pulls up to the platform at your designated departure time, doesn’t mean it’s the one you want.
Be aware that this station handles local trains as well as the Watania Sleeper trains, so just because a train pulls up to the platform at your designated departure time, doesn’t mean it’s the one you want. You’ll want to wait for the green and white colored train that has the words “Sleeping Car” stenciled on the side of it… if you’re worried about not knowing if you’re getting on the right train, if you’re trip is anything like ours was, there is most likely a giant tour group on the platform also waiting to board the sleeper train as well… so you can always just follow their lead. 🙂
Scams To Be Aware Of:
While you are waiting, be aware that if you are approached by anyone with an official looking notebook offering to help you and asking to see your ticket, DO NOT SHOW THEM YOUR TICKET.
After you’ve arrived and located your platform and wagon number, it’s best to just wait there with everyone else. While you are waiting, be aware that if you are approached by anyone with an official looking notebook offering to help you and asking to see your ticket, DO NOT SHOW THEM YOUR TICKET. This is common scam that is run where they write down your name and destination off the ticket info and then call ahead to their friends at your destination and provide them with all your details. Their friends are then waiting for you at the station when you arrive using your first names and claiming to be there to pick you up.
On The Train:
When the sleeper train finally arrives at the platform, and this is Egypt so don’t worry if things aren’t exactly on schedule, a Watania staff member should be waiting at the entrance to each wagon to verify your ticket and make sure you are getting onto the right train car. You’ll then proceed down the hallway until you’ve located your cabin. If you’ve purchased a single bed in a shared cabin you will also have an assigned bed number in addition to your cabin number.
Ahh the bathrooms. While there are no private bathrooms in each cabin, there are two bathrooms at the end of each wagon. And while these start off about as clean as could be hoped for, (besides from the fact that when you look down at the toilet, instead of a basin of water, you are greeted instead with the site of train tracks blurring past lol) the cleanliness quickly degrades as the trip goes on, running out of toilet paper, soap, etc. and getting down right filthy by the time we finally disembarked in Aswan. So be aware you may want to come prepared with your own supplies.