Beyond the Tourist Trail: A Day’s Travel from Cairo to Luxor by Train

Train station – Beyond the Tourist Trail A Day’s Travel from Cairo to Luxor by Train

With Cairo and Luxor being the two must-visit cities when in Egypt, choosing your method of travel between both places offers some interesting options. 

Over 650 kilometers separate Cairo and Luxor, and while some opt for an unforgettable cruise down the Nile, this can be a rather expensive few days. 

And although catching a flight is quick, it’s not a very sustainable travel option. But there is another choice to consider: to travel by train. 

As a train ride enthusiast when abroad, I jumped at the chance to spend a day on Egyptian National Railways when I visited the country back in January 2024 and was rather surprised with how my day unfolded. 

In this blog post, I’ll recount everything that I experienced traveling from Cairo to Luxor, including what surprised me most and whether it’s really a good travel option or not. 

Why Travel To Luxor From Cairo By Train?

Well, let me be totally honest from the get-go here: this train journey was a really long day of travel and if I had the choice again I would most likely bite the bullet and jump on a plane instead or take a Sleeper Train rather than traveling by day.  

But I would recommend the train journey if you want to discover what Egypt is really like away from the major tourist destinations – it is quite an eye-opening experience, to say the least. 

It is also the cheapest travel option and the best sustainable option, but as mentioned, expect a very long, very tiring day!

Buying a train ticket from Cairo to Luxor

Buying your train ticket in advance and/or at Cairo train station is quite a confusing affair, to say the least. 

I tried and succeeded in buying a ticket on the Egyptian National Railways (ENR) app prior to my trip to Egypt. However, this doesn’t always work and is a bit of a lottery. 

If this option doesn’t work for you then I would advise buying a ticket directly from the station a few days before your trip. 

Whether you have luck buying a ticket on the app or not, you still have to pay an extra fee as a foreigner. To do this you have to head to the Foreigners Reservation Office at Cairo station. 

The Foreigners Reservation Office isn’t exactly well signposted at the station, but from the main hall head up the escalators, take a left into a corridor and you should see signs to the office from there. 

I headed to the office and showed the ticket I had purchased on the Egyptian Railways app. I then paid the extra fee as a foreigner (which cost around 40 Euros) and then was given a handwritten ticket. 

Finding your platform at Cairo station

So after paying the extra fee as a foreigner at the Foreigners Reservation Office, all you have to do is find your platform, get on your train, sit back, and relax – if only it was that easy!

There are plenty of display boards at the station but of course I couldn’t find any info for my train to Luxor that was scheduled at about 8 am that morning. 

I asked at an information desk and showed my ticket and it was explained to me that I needed to go to platform 11, which was a little further away from the main hall in the station. 

Having headed through an underpass I found platform 11 and was kindly greeted by a train conductor, who took me aboard my train and showed me to my seat. 

In retrospect, this was quite fortunate, but most Egyptians are very friendly and are all too willing to help you out, even if their English isn’t all that great. 

My Experience of traveling from Cairo to Luxor by train

So what is the Cairo to Luxor train journey actually like? Well, I found the state of my carriage to be quite adequate – I’ve certainly traveled on a lot worse trains in my time (India immediately springs to mind!). 

The seats are just about comfy enough and the carriages are spacious, although maybe not the cleanest or most modern you’ll ever see. My carriage was fairly quiet to start with, but there is a constant flow of people boarding and getting off at the various stops throughout the day. 

As for the train journey itself, at times it was tediously slow, with several instances when the train stopped for 10 or 15 minutes with no explanation why, but that’s no big deal really.

The train stops at numerous stations and passes through small towns and villages as well as the Egyptian countryside.

The most surprising aspect of the journey for me however was witnessing the alarming amount of poverty in these backwater, middle-of-nowhere places which is quite saddening to see. 

It reminded me a lot of the same kind of poverty that you see when traveling via train in India, and I honestly wasn’t expecting to see the same level of poverty here. 

It’s quite an eye-opener to see how poor of a country Egypt really is, and I don’t think I would have had the same perspective if I had traveled between Cairo and Luxor via plane or on a cruise. 

Apart from that it was nice to see the Egyptian countryside; it’s scenic at times but the deserted towns and poor villages are far too frequent throughout the journey. You see a lot of abandoned buildings that never completed construction, which is a reflection of Egypt’s poor economy. 

Is the sleeper train the better option?

So I caught a train from Cairo to Luxor during the day as I wanted to actually see as much of Egypt as possible from my train window, rather than sleeping through the journey. 

I’m not the best at sleeping on any mode of transport and the sleeper trains are a bit more expensive, with a bed in a twin cabin costing around 80 Euros and a single cabin costing about 120 Euros. 

You can find flights for around the same price or cheaper between the two cities, so it’s all a question of if that is worth the hassle or not. 

Sleeper trains are by far the more popular option with tourists, with plenty of tour companies offering more expensive sleeper train ride tickets to Luxor

The benefit of traveling on the sleeper train is that you don’t waste any of your holiday day traveling by train, so in that respect it is an advantage. I’d rather experience the train views during the daytime, but it’s all a question of personal preference. 

Arriving in Luxor

Having left Cairo at 8 in the morning, it was dark by the time my train finally arrived in Luxor. Getting off the train at Luxor with so many other travelers can be quite an overwhelming experience. 

It’s not easy to find your bearings and you are soon approached by several local taxi drivers offering their services. 

I was approached by an Egyptian as soon as I left the train, and I perhaps naively accepted his offer (I just wanted to reach my hotel ASAP after such a long day!).

My hotel was based on the West Bank of the River Nile, with Luxor train station being situated on the East Bank, which is the main central half of the city. 

My taxi driver insisted that the ride to the East Bank would take over 40 minutes and it was another long journey off the beaten track – not what I wanted after the train journey!

As it turned out, I could have just caught a public ferry at the Nile and cross over to the West Bank which would have been a lot quicker and cheaper. Another lesson why it’s important to research your destination before setting off. 

Is Cairo To Luxor By Train Worth It?

So all in all, would I recommend traveling to Luxor via train from Cairo? It all depends on your preferences. 

If you enjoy train journeys in exotic lands and have a sense of adventure then sure, it can be an enriching experience and you definitely see a lot of Egypt you never normally would. 

However, if you’re short on time and just want to get from Cairo to Luxor as quickly as possible, then no, this is definitely not the right option for you. Travelling by plane is the quickest option if not the best sustainable option. 

Traveling by sleeper train is a good option too if you don’t mind sleeping on public transport and potentially sharing a cabin with strangers. 

Cairo To Luxor By Train FAQs

Still not sure about traveling to Luxor from Cairo by train? Let’s answer some of the most commonly asked questions about this topic:

How long is the train from Cairo to Luxor?

The train ride itself takes around 10 hours. When you factor in travel times from your hotel to each train station at both Cairo and Luxor, then you can see why it’s such a long, tiring journey. 

I would definitely recommend having a good book to keep you occupied throughout the day as there’s no wifi signal on the train. 

Are there food options on the train from Cairo to Luxor?

Yes, but good luck when choosing from the menu! Around lunchtime on my train journey, a train crew member passed through my carriage handing out menus and taking lunch orders. 

I had a look at one of the menus and of course, it was all in Arabic. I could make out a few meat options, but as a vegetarian, there didn’t really seem to be anything suitable. 

I tried to communicate with the crew member that I’d like a cheese sandwich and I thought he understood what I meant. He then returned 10 minutes later with a tray full of desserts! 

There was a muffin, a croissant, and some other basic cakes, which wasn’t exactly what I requested, but it wasn’t an issue. 

There are a lot of food stalls selling snacks like crisps etc at Cairo station and at the various stations you pass throughout the train ride. My advice would be to have a hearty breakfast if you have time and stock up on snacks for the journey. 

Is it safe to travel by train from Cairo to Luxor?

Yes, I have to say I felt completely safe throughout my train ride to Luxor. Egyptians are known to be very friendly and I received several smiles from fellow passengers and people asking where I was from in their broken English. 

Which is the better city: Cairo or Luxor?

Personally, I much preferred Luxor to Cairo. Yes, Cairo is a must-visit city because of course the Giza Pyramids are close by, but it really doesn’t have much to offer apart from that. 

In my experience, I found Cairo to be one of the most chaotic cities I’ve visited, with crazy drivers on the roads (I still have nightmares about airport taxis to my hotel), bad air pollution and locals constantly trying to sell you things you don’t need. 

Yes, definitely go to Cairo to see the Pyramids which are without a doubt an amazing sight, and maybe stay for an extra day or two maximum to visit some of the top museums, but that’s all I would recommend. 

Luxor on the other hand was a much more peaceful and aesthetically pleasing experience. With the city being divided on either side of the River Nile, the atmosphere is more tranquil. 

Locals still try to sell you things you don’t need (I had a terrible experience with a shop owner who forced me to buy some tat in the El-Souk market), but there’s so much fascinating history to see in Luxor. 

There are several amazing temples (Karnak Temple was my favorite) and of course, the Valley of the Kings is a must to explore some amazingly preserved tombs.

There are also some really top-rated activities to do here, such as going on a hot air balloon ride at sunrise or relaxing on the Nile on a Felucca boat ride

Conclusion: Cairo To Luxor By Train

So that’s everything I experienced on my train ride from Cairo to Luxor. It is one of those train journeys that bring out a mix of emotions – it is bewildering, saddening, and confusing but enjoyable all at the same time!

It is an adventure for sure, but would I really recommend it? I would have to say probably not, it’s a long, exhausting day that eats up your vacation time, but a unique journey all the same. 

Getting to see a side of Egypt that is not typical for most tourists is a privileged experience and one that I can promise you won’t forget in a hurry! 

Mark (Wolverhampton, England) runs MJ Travel Guides. He has visited over 40 countries, mostly as a solo traveler. Follow his adventures on Instagram @mj_travelman and Twitter @MJ_TravelMan.

Keep reading: From Pyramids to Pharaohs: A First-Timer’s Guide to Egypt