Hurghada, Egypt: A Local Guide For First-Timers
Updated: Sep 8, 2019
Hurghada, having spent the first hundred years of its life as a sleepy little fishing village, is now one of the most popular beach destinations in the Middle East -- and for good reason. Egypt’s Red Sea, which Hurghada shares a long stretch of coastline with, is repeatedly named one of the best diving destinations in the world -- and has a whopping 11 entries in Scuba Travel’s World’s Top 100 Dive Sites in 2019.
So combine the spectacular diving with 365 days of sun and beach weather, and you’ll start to get why Hurghada is such a tourist favorite.
The coastal area of Hurghada is divided into Hurghada the city and its surrounding resort towns: Makadi Bay, El Gouna and Sahl Hasheesh
Hurghada is on mainland Egypt (ie., not the Sinai peninsula where Sharm el Sheikh is), and is sandwiched between the Red Sea and Egypt’s eastern desert and mountains
Hurghada’s main claim to fame besides its fantastic diving are the 5 star, all-inclusive beach resorts, many of which have inhouse water parks for families and tons of activities
It’s a four hour flight from most European cities and a 45 minute flight from Cairo (4.5 hour drive)
Best Time To Go
Hurghada is a year-round destination, but it really depends on your personal preferences. Spring and fall are Hurghada’s ‘high season’ -- it’s when the weather is at its most ideal (beach weather without soaring temperatures), so that’s when you’ll find Hurghada at its busiest.
Considering it’s a coastal resort city, summer is a great time to go too obviously, but only if you can handle daily temperatures in the mid-to-high thirties (Celsius) or the nineties (Fahrenheit) and super-strong sun.
Lots of Europeans also like to escape below-zero temperatures in winter and hightail it to Hurghada, where it’s sunny daily with highs of mid-twenties Celsius or mid-seventies Fahrenheit.
How To Get There
If you’re coming from abroad (or even planning to fly domestically), then just fly into Hurghada International Airport. Once you land, it’s easy to either get an official airport taxi from outside the arrivals hall or call a car to pick you up (ABC Taxi, more info below). If you’re staying at a hotel, you can also easily arrange pre-arrival for your hotel to send a car to pick you up.
If you’re coming from Cairo, then you have one of three options: a) drive, b) take a bus, or c) fly. Driving from Cairo is now a super-smooth trip thanks to the new Galala Road which allows you to bypass the scary two-way twisty mountain roads of Ain el Sokhna. It takes about 4.5 hours from Cairo.
If you’re coming by bus, then GoBus offers over 20+ buses daily between Cairo and Hurghada. They offer different types of buses according to what kind of ticket you buy (for example, the Elite Plus bus has individual LCD screens for each seat).
You can find more info on: https://go-bus.com/en
As for flying, the trip from Cairo to Hurghada takes about 45 minutes.
Where To Stay
If you check out the accommodation options on a hotel booking website, it’s easy to get overwhelmed because there are SO MANY hotels. So before you choose one, it’s important to understand where exactly your hotel/rental is and the pros/cons of each location.
A hotel in Hurghada city
Hurghada city proper is home to tons of hotels, varying from budget 2 star hotels to stunning 5 star hotels on the beach. The popular areas to stay in are El Mamsha (a long pedestrian street full of hotels, restaurants and bars) or the coastal Old Sheraton Road, near the Hurghada Marina Boulevard.
Pros: you’re close to the action, restaurants, bars and nightlife. Transportation is easy via regular cabs or ABC taxi (info below).
Cons: the city isn’t as peaceful as a resort town and most of the hotels don’t offer the same array of amenities as the big resort hotels.
A hotel in a nearby resort town like Makadi Bay, El Gouna, Sahl Hasheesh or Soma Bay
Outside of Hurghada proper are several different resort towns: El Gouna (half an hour north by car), Sahl Hasheesh (half an hour south by car), Makadi Bay (45 minutes south by car) and Soma Bay, which is technically in the Safaga area of the Red Sea, but some people still consider it Hurghada (an hour south by car).
Pros: these resort towns are secluded and pristine, and many of their hotels are all-inclusive; you won’t have to worry about anything while you’re there. Some of the big hotels also have waterparks for the kids and the hotels can arrange all sorts of adult and family activities.
Cons: Sahl Hasheesh, Makadi Bay and Soma Bay don’t offer much outside of the resorts -- you won’t find all the restaurants, bars and local life that you would in Hurghada city, and it’s at least a half hour drive each way if you decide to go into Hurghada city. El Gouna is the exception -- you can find a full detailed guide to what El Gouna has to offer here.
An apartment rental
In Hurghada city and El Gouna, you can find lots of different villa and apartment rentals on sites like Airbnb.
Pros: Your own space with a kitchen for cooking, plus some of the rentals have their own private pools.
Cons: you won’t have hotel staff to arrange trips, transportation or activities for you.
How To Get Around (Transportation in Hurghada)
If you’re staying in Hurghada city, an easy way to get around is just flag down a passing cab. Chances are, their meter won’t be working, so it’s best to tell the driver where you want to go and agree on the fare before you hop in.
If haggling with cab drivers isn’t up your alley, then ABC Taxi is a great choice. They’re metered taxis (and the meters work) based in Hurghada city but you can order them 24/7 from El Gouna or the other resort towns. You can request one right away or book one for later, and their cars arrive quickly.
Average time it takes for your ABC taxi to pick you up after calling them:
Inside Hurghada: 8-10 minutes
El Gouna: 21 minutes
Sahl Hasheesh: 17 minutes
Makadi Bay: 21 minutes
Soma Bay: 27 minutes
ABC Taxi phone number: +20100 222 8294 (when you call them, they cancel your call and call you immediately back so that they handle the charges)
Uber & Careem
Yup, Uber and its Middle Eastern counterpart Careem are available in Hurghada (the main city area).
Things To Do In Hurghada
1. Diving and snorkeling
Like we spoke about above, Red Sea diving is world-renowned. Dive centers in Hurghada are a dime a dozen, affordable and offer PADI courses in a myriad of languages. If you want to experience the Red Sea’s gorgeous reefs and marine life without actually diving, boat trips to great snorkeling spots are easily arranged too, either by the dive centers or your hotel.
For more details about the best diving spots, check out our article 7 Best Diving Destinations in Egypt’s Red Sea.
2. Spend the day on fully-serviced beaches
The Hurghada area has some of Egypt’s best white sand beaches, with crystal clear calm water. Almost all of the resorts have their own beaches with umbrellas, sunbeds, towels and full service to bring you drinks, food and even shisha (hookah) to where you’re lounging on the beach.
You might like: 9 World-Class Beaches in Egypt
3. Boat trips to the islands
There are several different islands peppering the coast of Hurghada, and depending on the island you can either snorkel and explore, or spend the whole day at a beach bar/restaurant that offers sunbeds and umbrellas (the most popular being Mahmya and Orange Bay on Giftun Island)
For more info about the islands, read: 7 Tropical Islands You Won’t Believe Are In Egypt
4. Water sports/activities
Aside from diving, snorkeling, swimming and sunbathing, there are a ton of other things you can do in the water.
-Glass bottom boat
5. Water Park & Aquarium
If you want something to do that appeals to both kids and adults alike, then try one of Hurghada’s water parks. The most popular is Makadi Water World, which has free entrance for anyone staying in a Jaz Makadi Bay hotel, or you can buy an entrance ticket. There are tons of slides for people of all ages, plus a restaurant/snack bar that offers food and drinks.
Another family-friendly activity is going to The Grand Aquarium in Hurghada city.
6. Desert Activities
If you’ve had your fill of beach and water-related stuff, fear not, there’s still lots more to do in Hurghada. Egypt’s Eastern Desert and mountains border Hurghada, and your hotel or a local tour company can easily set you up with desert activities:
-Hiking and camping on the Red Sea Trail
7. Explore Hurghada the city
If you want to get a feel for the ‘real’ Hurghada, away from the curated resort experience, then the best way to do this is by exploring the city.
El Dahar -- the ‘old town’, where a few souks and bazaars are. This is the area where most locals live and it’s very different than the touristic areas; it’s an eye-opening look into the ‘real’ city.
Hurghada Marina Boulevard -- the polar opposite of El Dahar, where everything is shiny and new. There’s restaurants, bars and shops galore on the yacht-lined marina.
Old Sheraton Road (also known as El Sekala) -- parallel to the sea, it’s where local life and touristic life melt together. It’s a long busy street filled with budget hotels, dive centers, tour agencies, local shops and bazaars, Hurghada’s best seafood, banks, coffeeshops and cafes, restaurants (both local and touristy) and a mix & match of other things that any of the city’s inhabitants or visitors need.
El Mamsha -- a long pedestrian promenade where the bulk of Hurghada’s hotels, restaurants and bars are.
8. Religious Sites
-El Mina Mosque -- El Mina translates to ‘the port’, and it’s a fitting name for this mosque built right on the Hurghada Red Sea harbor, with little fishing boats and bigger yachts dotting the water around it. Built over an area of 4,000 meters, this mosque has 25 domes, a large marble courtyard and two towering minarets. The architectural style is eclectic, with nods to different Islamic motifs and designs.
You might also like: 10 Most Beautiful Mosques in Egypt
-St. Anthony’s Monastery -- St. Anthony was one of the most famous “Desert Fathers”, a group of Christian monks who lived in the Eastern Egyptian desert in the 3rd century. He was roaming the desert when he came across an oasis surrounded by trees, and it was in this spot that he was later buried and his monastery built a few years later. Today St. Anthony’s Monastery is the oldest inhabited Christian monastery in the world and is home to paintings dating back to the 7th and 8th centuries, as well as 1,700 ancient documents. It's about a two hour drive from Hurghada, and close to St. Paul's Monastery, which dates back to the 6th century.
You might also like: 9 Egyptian Churches, Cathedrals and Monasteries You Need To Visit At Least Once
For more inspiration about activities in Hurghada, read 25 Fun Things To Do In Hurghada & El Gouna.
Where To Eat In Hurghada
Most visitors to Hurghada end up eating at their hotels, but if you want to try some of Hurghada’s best stand-alone restaurants, we recommend:
-Thai Garden (in El Mamsha)
-Om Yassin Kitchen for local Egyptian food
-Star Fish (fresh seafood on Old Sheraton Road)
-Granada (go for the amazing view, also on Old Sheraton Road)
El Gouna also has an amazing collection of restaurants. For more details, read 7 Best Restaurants in Hurghada and El Gouna.
The most popular clubs in Hurghada city (all of these are on El Mamsha) are:
-Hard Rock Cafe (foam parties, Ladies Nights)
For more a more laid-back bar/pub feel:
You can also head to El Gouna and go to:
It’s just as straightforward as arriving. If you came by GoBus, then you board your return bus at the same bus stop in Hurghada (el Dahar area) where they dropped you off.
If you came by plane and need to go to Hurghada Airport, Uber/Careem or ABC Taxis can take you.
Looking for more info about El Gouna? Check out El Gouna, Egypt: A Local’s Guide.