Natasha Puspakartika is a mother and wife from Jakarta, Indonesia who takes every opportunity she gets to trot the globe. When she’s not travelling, she’s writing about her adventures on her blog. She recently joined in on the Nile Jewel tour with her husband, 10-year-old daughter Kirana and a family friend. We caught up with her to find what she enjoyed about Egypt and got a few tips on travelling to Egypt with kids.
According to Natasha, it doesn’t have to be pricey to travel to Egypt with kids. She was first alerted of a great Expat Explore offer on Egypt tour rates by some of her friends and decided to book it there and then. “Egypt is not an expensive place,” explains Natasha. “We got an excellent deal on the tour package, which included accommodation and certain meals. On top of that, there were the added expenses of flights, entrance fees to certain sites, as well as tips for the staff that we came into contact with. All things considered however, it was worth every penny we spent.”
Insider tip: Certain accommodation venues in Egypt still offer guests the option of smoking rooms. When booking a trip to Egypt for you and your family, make a point of requesting non-smoking rooms ahead of time to avoid an unpleasant experience.
“An organized tour is much more economical, and you get to meet other people and get to know them along the way. You learn from them too!” says Natasha. “Travelling with strangers is not a big deal, after a couple of days, they are not strangers anymore! We could learn about their home country, about travelling in different stages of life, and about other countries they’ve travelled to so far.”
Please note: Expat Explore has a lower age limit of ten years of age. This ensures that the children who join us on tour are physically able to keep up with the group so they may enjoy the experience alongside their parents.
One of the reasons why Natasha was so quick to book the Egypt trip with Expat Explore when the opportunity presented itself was that her daughter Kirana (10) is fascinated by ancient Egyptian history and myths. “My daughter is well-read at her age,” says Natasha. “Three years ago in grade one, she asked me to buy her a history encyclopedia and a collection of ancient Egyptian mythology book. She read them all and is fascinated by them. She had seen a documentary on the Nat Geo channel on TV about ancient Egypt, and she adored the myths. That was why she got interested in those books. The most eye-opening experience for us was seeing how advanced the ancient Egyptian knowledge and technology was, and how it grew into the mighty empire it was.”
If at all possible, choose to travel to a country that offers attractions that will appeal to your children’s innate interests. This way, they are far more likely to have a fun time despite any travel-related frictions that may arise. Alternatively, you could prepare your team for your adventure by reading up on interesting aspects of the history of the country you’ll be visiting. Get a few books and spend some time immersing yourself in the culture you’ll be exploring, and your kids are bound to be excited when they get to experience it firsthand.
Whenever you visit a new country, there are bound to be certain cultural differences that feel a little jarring at first – doubly so when you’re travelling with children. According to Natasha, it is best to adopt a relaxed attitude about these encounters and see it as a part of the experience of immersing yourself in a new culture. “In Egypt, it took some time to get used to strangers trying to talk to you and people haggling you to buy things or use their services. We just tried to keep an open mind and we realised that their talking and haggling was just that. We never felt physically threatened, so we just took it in our stride,” says Natasha.
Natasha had stocked up on granola bars and other snacks just in case, but it turned out it was completely unnecessary – they loved the food on tour! “If I were to do it all over again, I would definitely pack fewer snacks because the food in Egypt was simply delicious! We ended up eating only a small portion of our snacks when we got hungry before it was time for lunch,” says Natasha.
“Our family loves cheese but unfortunately it is not easy to find good varieties at decent prices where we live. That was why during breakfast at the hotel we were happy to try the many types of cheeses served with flatbread (we also love those but we can’t easily get them here). The lunches we had throughout the tour had many types of fresh salads, flatbread, and meat like kofta and grilled chicken. The chef on the cruise was always on standby during meal times and he was very accommodating in terms of my daughter’s meals. He would prepare freshly cooked pasta, bring out extra cheeses, and treat her to lovely fruit.
“My absolute favourite was the feta cheese. Unlike what we are used to elsewhere, the Egyptian feta cheeses were light and fluffy. I ate them with bread, with strawberries, salads, and everything else on my plate. I was told that they were also good with watermelons but I didn’t try that combo. Before our flight, I made a special trip to Carrefour to buy boxes of feta cheeses to take home.”
Natasha and her family were very impressed with their local tour guide and found that he played a big role in Kirana’s enjoyment of the trip. “Michael, our local guide was wonderful,” she enthuses. “He was full of information and was kind and attentive. My daughter loved to follow him everywhere and listened to whatever he had to say. He definitely met and exceeded our expectations throughout our trip.”
When you travel with children you should be willing to be flexible about your itinerary whenever you have some free time on tour. “There were two kids in our group tour and that actually inspired other tour members to bring their kids/grandkids on their next tour! Of course, we can’t go and explore as freely as we liked, because our daughter also had things that she wanted to see in her agenda and someone has to go with her to supervise. It’s about balancing the who-gets-what of it all,” explains Natasha.
A couple of Natasha’s friends had embarked on the Nile Jewel Egypt tour with Expat Explore on an earlier occasion, so he was able to prompt them for info before her family set off on their adventure. Their most useful tip? “Pack extra layers just in case!” says Natasha.
“We’ve always known that deserts can be cold at night, but I honestly didn’t imagine that Egypt has four seasons and that it can be cold in the spring! Luckily our friend who went in February reminded us to pack extra layers and I was glad we did. Aswan and Luxor were warmer than Cairo but Hurghada was surprisingly cold. It was a great time to travel though, I imagine roaming the temple in the heat would not be as much fun.”
The visa requirements for Egypt depends on your country of origin. Certain nations, such as Canada, Germany and the USA, can apply online. Others need to go to the Egyptian embassy in their country. Make sure to check your visa requirements as soon as you book your trip to Egypt so you have plenty of time to get the paperwork sorted before you jet off to this exciting destination. Natasha personally found that it was easier to get her visa processed by a travel agent, so bear this in mind if you get a little frustrated battling with the red tape.
There you have it – nine insider tips from travel blogger and mom Natasha Puspakartika. If you follow these guidelines when you head to Egypt with the kids in tow, you’ll be paving the way for a safe, enjoyable, cost-effective and educational experience that will open your children’s eyes to a fascinating culture.