The Ultimate Guide to Dahab, Egypt
WARNING, Dahab is one of those places that sucks you in and never lets you go. I was originally planning on being here for a week, and that was 7 months ago. There is lots to do, and its a beautiful place, but I think that it’s the whole vibe here, that makes you never want to leave.
I spend my days living an extremely easy yet fulfilling life here. I dive nearly everyday in the beautiful Red Sea. I sit on great beaches and smoke watermelon shisha and drink cold lemon juice. I talk to other travelers, many of whom where suppose to have left long ago as well. Life is good in Dahab, Egypt. I’m sure my friends back home get sick of me flooding my Facebook page everyday with tons of great photos. So, without further adieu, here is my complete backpacker’s guide to Dahab.
Money: 1 US Dollar = 7 Egyptian Pound
Language: Arabic and Egyptian
Cheap Egyptian meal: $2-$3.
Alcohol: $1.50 a beer,
Fun dives: $25 each.
PADI Open Water Course: $250
Camel desert safari: $30
Budget Hotel: $10
Top Things to do in Dahab
There is actually lots of things to do in Dahab, though when you are in here, it feels like everything is about diving. And it’s pretty much true, this is a diver’s paradise. But if you aren’t a diver, rest assured. Dahab has many more things to do than hanging with fish.
ATV desert excursions
There are a few ATV safari places around Dahab, where for 100 EGP you can follow a local guide into the surrounding mountains, and into some amazing landscape. Over sand dunes, across iconic beaches, through towering cliffs and canyons. It’s no wonder that these trips are so popular. You ride right out of town and into pretty landscape. The guide can take you amazing places you wouldn’t normally see, and even a Bedouin dinner can be arranged.
Camel Safaris in the desert
When it comes to things to do in Dahab, don’t forget camels. Everywhere you go around Dahab there are Bedouins riding around on camels offering rides. But if riding around Dahab beaches isn’t enough, Any hotel can book you a desert excursion. Normally the excursion includes a few hours ride in the beautiful surrounding mountains, a good Bedouin dinner, a short hike to a peak to watch the sunset, and then stargazing. Definitely a great experience.
Ras Abu Galum
Ras Abu Galum is considered one of the most beautiful and possibly romantic place to go in the area. Many couples go there, either by camel/walking north from The Blue Hole, or by boat, and spend a day snorkeling or diving in some amazing reefs. Then when the sun goes down you can lie in a hut or on the beach in complete silence and darkness and watch the stars. There’s no better place on earth to stargaze.
Wind and Kite surfing
Where Lighthouse (and most of Dahab) are all about diving, the Lagoona area is dedicated to the surfer and boating bunch. I am a diver, so I am a little jealous that this area of Dahab actually has the nicest beach, is a little out of town and away from the crowds and is a real chill place. All the hotels in Lagoona, like Swiss Inn, offer lessons and courses in kite surfing, wind surfing and more. There is plenty of wind here, especially in the off season. In fact it’s sort of a saying around here that you get a few days of calm seas for the divers, and then a few days of wind for the surfers. So check it out if you’re interested!
Free diving lessons
Freediving is pretty big in Dahab, and you can take lots of lessons and courses for it. Lighthouse is a pretty popular place for freediving, as it is as shallow or as deep as you need. The pros head down to The Blue Hole to hit the bottomless depths. It’s pretty dangerous there, as all the tombstones commemorating the scuba and freediving accidents line the wall nearby.
There seems to be a massive yoga culture going on in Dahab. (Have you seen the crazy Baby Yoga videos on Youtube?!). Head to Nirvana or Blue Beach to join in on some great yoga classes, or just plot down on a nice sandy beach somewhere and bust some moves on your own!
The snorkeling in Dahab is almost as good as the diving. You can so tons of fish and pretty corrals in places like Canyon Garden, Lighthouse, Islands and more. Please always remember not to touch the corrals. Always watch where you put you feel and hands. Too many guides just let loose their snorkelers, not telling them that they can ruin the reef by touching it.
Diving in Dahab
What can I say about diving in Dahab? Odds are diving is the reason you are interested in Dahab in the first place. All I can say is that it does live up to the hype. Here is a list of some of the local dive sites around the area, with a few of my favorite pictures to go with.
The Blue Hole
Dahab’s claim to fame. This is the dive site that people come to see. Although unless you’re a tech diver, the B-Hole is actually pretty boring. But walking just down the trail and entering the water at Bells, and then diving the wall back to the entrance of Blue Hole is spectacular.
The Canyon is probably my favorite dive site in Dahab. Even if you don’t make it into the canyon or aren’t qualified, there is so much to see around it. The top, or entrance to the canyon is at 20 meters, then the bottom at the beginning is a sandy and flat 30. The length of the canyon comes out at 50 meters. It’s such a beautiful dive.
Lighthouse might be the easiest and most convenient to get to, but that doesn’t mean its not exciting and a great dive. Diving to the left along the wall offers an amazing variety of sea-life, and to the right is great day and night. Tons of lion fish, trumpet fish, eels and even a turtle or two. Definitely a place to try out.
The closest dive to the south, Islands is beautiful for shallow, easy dives and even snorkeling. It’ s only a five minute drive from town, and is much quieter than most dives around. It’s an easy entry and once in you’re in you weave in and around islands of corral with tons of fish. Great place to check out!
The Caves, 3 Pools and more in the south
About a 20 minute beautiful drive from town to the south is a few great dive sites. All along the desert coast are walls and reefs galore. There are huts and cushion areas to chill out away from the desert sun in between dives, with little restaurants serving dives all along the sites. These are real easy dives, with tons of reef and sea-life to check out. and when you’re out of the water the landscape is just as beautiful.
Excursions Outside of Dahab
Saint Catherine’s Monastery
Built between 548 and 565, the Saint Catherine’s Monastery is one of the oldest working Christian monasteries in the world. It lies at the foot of Mount Sinai, the mountain where Moses was said to have been given the 10 Commandments by god. The Monastery is a popular UNESCO site to visit, as well as a midnight hike up the mountain to witness one of the greatest sunrises on Earth.
How to get there: Any hotel you book in Dahab will be happy to get this trip organised for you. If you are renting an apartment, just ask one of the many shops along the beach walk that offer excursions.
Day trip to Thiselgorm
The SS Thistlegorm was a military cargo ship that was sunk in 1941, and is now considered one of the top wreck dives in the world. The deepest end being in about 30m/100ft, meaning no specialty equipment is need to explore the ship. To be seen are motorcycles, trucks, guns, boots, train cars, and much more. This dive is a must-do when in Egypt.
How to get there: Dive center and/or hotels all over Dahab schedule Thiselgorm dives weekly, and they can hook you up. A dive at the wreck is often coupled with another dive at the spectacular reef at the nearby Ras Mohamed.
Day boat trip to Gabr El Bint
This little outing is one of my favorite things to do in Dahab. What it is, is a dive/snorkeling excursion, far down the Sinai coast on a very large yacht. Just the trip to the dive site is amazingly beautiful. On each side, left and right, are the giant sandy dunes and cliffs, completely barren and void of life, and beautiful. To the right is the deserts of Sinai, Egypt, and to the left, similar desert landscapes of Saudi Arabia. Then you anchor at a reef that is amazing to dive or even just snorkel. This trip is definitely worth the 200-300 EGP price.
How to get there: Just like most excursions, this trip an be completely planned by the guide, which is required. The boat ride is one hours each way to the dive site, and don’t forget to bring your passport as they port authority will want to keep it until you return.
Where to Stay in Dahab
Need a place to stay in Dahab? There is nothing, if not a ton of accommodation options, here in Dahab. Not only that, but after the revolution there are not many tourists, and room prices are cheap. From Cheapest to more luxurious, here are some of my recommendations. Any that you choose will be great. You can even click each Hotel name and book directly.
Nesima Resort is in the Mashraba area, which is much quieter and less crowded then the popular lighthouse area. It has a dive center, a pool, WIFI, cheap rooms, and is sea side. What more can you want?!
Price Range: From $40 a night for a seaside single room to $100 a night for awesome suites.
Sheikh Ali Resort
The Sheikh Ali Resort is another awesome hotel that has it all. In a quiet area, with great rooms and a big pool, this place will make you feel like royalty. Definitely a place to check out!
Price Range: From $60 a night for beautiful suites, and lower for single rooms. Check them out and find the best one for you.
Red Sea Relax Resort
Red Sea Relax is in the touristy Lighthouse Promenade area, and is the center of everything fun. Make a reservation now, then when you get there negotiate for cheaper prices for diving as a guest. They are one of the few hotels that offer dorm rooms, and breakfast is included in the prices. This is probably my number one choice when it comes to location. Just can’t be beat.
Price Range: From $6 for a dorm to $75 for a private suite, and everything in between.
Neptune is clean and nice, but more on the cheaper side. It is in a great location, next to the iconic bridge, and is just steps away from the sea and anything else you’ll need here. Worth a visit for sure!
Swiss Inn Resort Dahab
More into kite surfing and boating than scuba diving? Then check out this place, as its in the Laguna area, where it’s known for. A higher end luxury resort on an amazing sandy beach with a nice pool. Can’t go wrong.
Price Range: From $32 a night for a single room, with garden view to $56 for single with sea view. Again, the prices are per room, so if you’re sharing it
Best Places to Eat
Popular, touristy, but good:
There are a lot of fancy restaurants on the Lighthouse promenade along the beach, and to be honest the all basically have the same menu. But if I had to choose the best out of these, I’d have to go with Ali Baba. I’ve eaten there many times and it’s always been good. I’ve been there at evening when the fishing boat brings in fresh fish, and the grill is great. definitely worth a visit.
Blue House Thai Restaurant
If you’re into Thai food, this place will not disappoint. With actual Thai chefs, this place really reminded me of my times in Bangkok. The pad Thai is amazing, as is the rest of the menu. It is located right across from Ali Baba at Lighthouse, and be sure to sit on the 3rd floor balcony overlooking the sea. For me having authentic Thai food once in a while really breaks up the monotony of the daily Egyptian cuisine, and I love it.
Shells is one of those touristy restaurants on the Lighthouse promenade, that attracts beach bums, divers, snorkelers and everything in between. The reason I love it is because I can swim all day, get out, sit on one of their beach lounges or tables, and eat something or smoke good shisha in the sun. Best location in Dahab I’d have to say. You can set down a big mat for your dive gear in front of the restaurant, then sit down and have a drink, or lunch in between dives. It’s such a comfortable place.
Sea Bride Restaurant
I find that 85% of restaurants in Dahab have the same exact menus and prices. Some just have better cooks than others. I felt like giving Sea Bride a mention because its one of the good seafood places that’s NOT on the lighthouse promenade. It’s actually in the Masraba area near the fountain in the vendor walkway area. It has really good food and is cheaper than the other touristy places. Weird name, but great place. I like the Bedouin calamari and shrimp rice.
There are two Every Day Cafes for some reason, but both have pretty good juice and deserts. The one to the right is nice because you can sit on the roof and smoke shisha and drink fresh lemon juice with a nice brownie. The one next to the bridge is a little bigger but pretty much the same atmosphere. They get my vote for best brownies in Dahab, though I hear good things about the ones at Ralphs German Bakery.
Hidden gems, cheap eats, good local hangouts
Mona Momma Egyptian kitchen. Located at the backside of Lighthouse, this little-known place is awesome for cheap, good Egyptian food. They don’t have a menu; just a couple different options every day that are really good. Check it out, definitely worth a try. It is next to the motorcycle shop just between the Scuba One dive shop and Laziz. Or just ask around for Mona Momma.
Laziz. BEST burgers in town, hands down. Maybe even all of Egypt. Instead of being budget oriented, this place goes for quality and quantity. The other day I ordered the most expensive burger, 70 EGP, and me AND my friend couldn’t finish this 6 inch tall monster. 3 fresh beef patties, salami, turkey, egg, cucumber, lamb, cheese, tomato, lettuce, mushrooms and more. It was awesome. I also recommend the spicy Hell Burger. It is located between Blue Beach hotel and Lighthouse. Just ask around.
Ralph’s German Bakery. Eating healthy? Love great sub-like sandwiches with fresh ingredients? Want a foreign owned and operated restaurant that doesn’t care about Ramadan, so is always open? Then this is the place. I love their turkey sandwich which comes with boiled egg slices, tomato, lettuce, thin turkey slices, mayo. My friends like to get the salami sandwiches or vitamin breakfast and more. I love that now, during Ramadan when every other food place I love is closed, this place is still open. I go have a healthy breakfast, then swim all day at Lighthouse. Perfect day. There’s also two locations; one below the gym on the backside of Lighthouse, and one in Asala.
Yum Yum Falafel place. One of those ultimate budget Egyptia food places in Dahab. There are a few Falafal places in Masraba area, but this one really treats me good, gives me good prices, and makes a mean falafal sandwich. The tourist menu says a sandwich costs 5 EGP, but I’ve been here long enough to get them for 3. They taste great (especially for less than $.50) and are really fast. this is the kind of place that most of the locals go to, and I can see why. It is located on the main street in Masraba, across the street from the library and next to the internet shop. Don’t get it confused with the other Yum Yum thats just down the street… although I’m sure it’s good too.
Husini BBQ place. This is my favorite fast/unhealthy/amazing BBQ place in Dahab. Even after all these times of going here, I can’t decide what’s the better BBQ sandwich: The chicken or the kofta…So I always just get one of each. For 15 EGP you get a large sandwich, which consists of fresh kofta or chicken, and is grilled right in front of you and then placed in a round pita type bread. It’s delicious, greasy, fresh, and I love it. It is just down the street from Yum Yum and the end of the main road in Masraba, just past Vodaphone. The best part is that they will deliver to you for no charge. Love this place.
Tips on getting the best shisha-smoking experience:Want to try smoking flavored shisha, but had a harsh or crap one somewhere? I have the solution. If you have a favorite shisha smoking place, like I do at Fresh Fish restaurant, but they don’t really know about good shisha, then I am here to tell you that they can be trained. Most restaurants are desperate to keep you coming back and are willing to do what it takes. with this in mind, and being a serious Shisha-snob, I came up with a few good ways to always get the good smoke. First of all, I think the best flavor is watermelon. By far. Like no question. Thats the first problem. Most of the restaurants buy the cheap stuff like apple and melon, and the are no good. (cherry is a close second if watermelon is out) So I started buying my own watermelon tobacco and bringing it with me to have them prepare for me. After doing that for a while they got the hint and just started buying it their selves. Second tip, is to ask them to clean the jar and water pipes, and if possible give you a new hose. next, fill the water jar with ice, not just water. This is the most important thing you can do! This not only keeps the tobacco lasting longer, but you also get a really cold and refreshing smoke in your mouth and throat when you exhale. Since the first time smoking shisha with ice, I could never go back. And the lasts tip, is to make sure that they don’t put too much coal on the top. # or 4 small cubes spread evenly around the top is best. They will have to replace it more often, but having one huge coal will burn out all your tobacco much faster and turn it harsh fast.
Getting to Dahab:
Flying. Most people fly into Cairo, and then another short hop to Sharm El Shiekh. Or some flights go directly to Sharm. Either way, Sharm has the closest airport to Dahab, and then you can share a taxi to Dahab, which is between 45 minutes to an hour and should cost around 150 pounds.
Buses. From Cairo to Dahab costs about 90 pounds, and takes about 12 hours. Less if there’s no traffic. Make sure to have your passport ready for the many check-points in the Sinai, and don’t be smuggling, because the will catch you! I’m not sure the prices, but there are buses that go all the way from Luxor to Dahab, a 14 hour trip. Take the overnight one.
From the Israel, catch a taxi from the border into Taba. From there you can get a bus direct to Dahab. It should take about 6 hours and cost 50 pounds or so. a taxi all the way to Dahab would be around 300 pounds.
Coming from Jordan. From Jordan you would be taking a ferry to Neiweba, which is about 3 hours and 15 pounds from Dahab.
Getting Around Town:
Dahab is small enough that walking is all the transport you might ever need. I live on one end, and swim and eat one the other end, and its less than a mile to walk. But if you are lazy, or it’s too hot, or you are going far afield, taxis are the only option. Luckily they are cheap. Most charge about 5 pounds a person to get anywhere to anywhere. Taxis are everywhere, even annoyingly so as they honk at you everywhere just to let you know they are there for you. (I never get use to it or like it).
Visas: Visas are pretty easy to get in Egypt. For most countries, inluding USA and UK, visas are issued on arrival. It is a 28 day visa, even though they call it a month. Egypt seems to love to take up a whole passport page or more, so make sure to have enough space. In my opinion, Egypt has got to be one of the most easy countries in the world when it comes to extending visas, which is surprising considering the infamous amount of corruption and bureaucracy going on here. If you are in Dahab or anywhere in the Sinai, head to the consulate in El Tur. A taxi will take you there, wait for you to get finished, and then bring you back for around 400 EGP or less. Bring a couple passport photos, photo copies of the picture on your passport, and copies of your recent Egypt visa. It’s cheap here too! The prices are: 11 EGP for 3 months, 60 EGP for 6 months, and 120 EGP for a year. For multiple entry it might be a little extra, but not much. Cheap and easy, can’t ask for more.
Money: At the moment one Egyptian pound is the equivalent of $7 US or 10 Euro. There are ATM machines all over Dahab, and I recommend using them appose to bringing large amounts of money to exchange. But if you need to, there is a couple pretty good exchanges around that wont rip you off too bad.
Wifi/Phones: The wifi is pretty hit and miss here. Most every restaurant and hotel offers it, but the question each day is if it’ll work or not. Since I have an Iphone, I paid 100 pounds for 7 gig of internet and data on my phone, which lasts a month. Then I have internet everywhere I go, as well as the personal hotspot that comes with the phone. Find a Vodaphone shop, there are many in town, and they will sell you credit for internet or calling.
Nightlife: There is a small chance for some nightlife in Dahab. There few bars are called Churchhill’s, Mojito, Tree Bar, Yalla Yalla Blue Beach and a few others. They aren’t exactly the wildest things in the world o many locals go to nearby Sharm on the weekend to hit up the many nightclubs and bars.
Other types of travelers: Russians! Everywhere. A lot of the Asala area is full of Russian Expats, and the nearby Lighthouse is where they hang. Especially the Nirvana restaurant where they can practice their controversial “baby yoga”. Other than that you get weekend divers that want to cross the Blue Hole off their bucketlist, and then other divers and travelers that arrived here with the intention of leaving, but never left. Dahab is definitely a place that’s easy to stay.