Visiting Abu Simbel from Aswan on a budget

Cover Image for Visiting Abu Simbel from Aswan on a budget
Lisa & Pol
by Lisa & Pol
This post is linked to the following video :
Youtube thumbnail
Alone in the Valley of the Kings, Aswan and Abu Simbel | Egypt travel vlog

Filmed on : october 2023

Filmed in : Upper Egypt

luxoraswanabu simbelkarnak templethe nileelephantine island

We're backpacking Africa from Cairo to Cape Town and of course we try on the way to experience the most unique places and traditions. But we're travelling on a pretty low budget, so it's always a question of "is it really worth it to us" and "how can we make it cheaper" :)

Lisa in Abu Simbel without the crowds !
Lisa in Abu Simbel without the crowds !

Abu Simbel was for both of us a pretty mythical temple that we had heard about a lot, but seeing it's location on a map makes you reconsider, it's very far south, and there is barely anything on the way. It's great if you have the budget to fly there, but that's not our case, so we were left with a choice.

Is a 9h drive roundtrip worth it to us, for a chance of seeing Abu Simbel ? And can we make it ourselves for a reasonable price ? Indeed, many tour agencies offer daily Abu Simbel packages but usually starting around 30$/person and that's too much for us for simply taking care of the bus.

After talking to a few locals, we understood that a public bus is doing the journey every morning from Aswan, that this bus is open to tourists (yep, sometimes buses exist that won't take foreigners), and that it is pretty cheap (100egp/person). The problem with the bus we're told, it's that it leaves in the morning at 8am from Aswan, arrives in Abu Simbel around 12:30pm and departs almost immediately back towards Aswan at 1pm. So that you cannot visit the site on one day. That seemed a bit annoying, considering that there is very little to do in Abu Simbel and that we had our flight booked for Cairo (much cheaper and comfortable than the train sadly) 2 days later.

But we figured that anyway there was little chance of us getting stuck in Abu Simbel and that we would manage somehow to return, even if that meant that we would need to hire an emergency private taxi back. We were willing to take that risk.

The window is located on the rear left of the bus station (24.126776, 32.896657)

So on the morning next day, we're heading to the bus station (around 7am) where we find a small window selling the bus tickets to Abu Simbel for the advertised 100egp. The bus exists and is scheduled for 8am. We find there another traveller that is trying the same journey as us. The ride is quite comfortable, there is AC, and you can finish your night with the sight of a never-ending desert on both sides of the road.

Abu Simbel lies directly on the Nile river, not so far from the Sudan border
Abu Simbel lies directly on the Nile river, not so far from the Sudan border

At 12:30pm, we get to the Abu Simbel station and we decide to walk to the site (around 30 minutes), although many tuktuk are here if you want.

Many tourists are part of groups in Egypt, but that's even more true of Abu Simbel, being so far from everything else, so you definitely stand out a bit when you arrive alone to the site. By the way, most of these tours have started very early in the morning, to avoid the peak of the heat of the afternoon, so getting there around 1pm turns out to be quite a perk, as many of the groups start leaving the temple by that time.

Every angle offers a great view on the main temple
Every angle offers a great view on the main temple

The site is incredible, breath taking, unmissable, gigantic ... From the very first glimpse we knew we had made the right decision to come. We learned there that the temple had been moved (just like Philae), and that makes it even more extraordinary.

The scale of everything in Abu Simbel is impressive
The scale of everything in Abu Simbel is impressive

Pretty soon we're almost alone on the site and we enjoy it fully, without rush as anyway we have no idea of how we're getting home. We stayed around 1h30, and our first idea on exiting is to try to hitch a ride back to Aswan in one of the last few buses remaining. There is a café just outside the temple, so some guests have been chilling here. We ask all the drivers and guides but sadly all of them refuse to take us.

We then spot a private car driven by two young taiwanese women (no clue if they're actually from Taiwan, but we had met many in the past days, so that's what I thought 🙃). I approached the car with my best smile, asking if they would be willing to give us a ride back to Aswan, but I got the feeling right away that I scared them, and I got a new rejection. To this day I blame my strategy, I kept my head scarf on and I think that played a role.😅

Pol and his head scarf in front of the second temple of Abu Simbel
Pol and his head scarf in front of the second temple of Abu Simbel

So around 4pm, were left alone on the empty parking of the temple, under the crazy hot sun, with little ideas (and a flight to catch the next morning from Aswan). We start taking numbers of taxi drivers, asking for their fare, and we get quoted around 30$ for a direct ride to Aswan. While expensive, we at least know that we have an out. We take a WhatsApp number just in case, but are still looking for better.

We walk back to the bus station where we witness the last seat of a minibus being bought and the bus departing in front of our eyes. Of course the staff there right away offers to board the new one, but warn us, it might not get full before dark and not go at all... We try hitchhiking for 15min giving us good conscience but no success, there is barely any car on that road.

So we go back to the station and negotiate to get the minibus going right away. In the end, we agreed on starting the journey now, but they would still be able to pick up anyone on the way, for a total of 600egp, around 20$.

The journey was very long, and boring, so boring in fact that the driver was playing dominoes for money on his phone while driving. We got back to Aswan around 9pm, tired, but satisfied of our journey. We were staying at this Nubian House on Elephantine Island, and it was cheap, a perfect location with a view on the sand dunes, and far from the business of the city.

In total we spent 800egp, around 28$ for us two. Had we been luck and arrived 10 minutes earlier at the station, we probably could have paid 100egp each to sit on that minibus, making the journey much cheaper.

We hope this helps you a bit in your planning of Abu Simbel, it's one of our favorite temples of Egypt, and it's very doable on your own. You can spend the night there if you want to catch the public bus the next day, and then if you do that, you could wait for the evening to visit the temple, to enjoy a beautiful sunset there.

Here is a link to our 3-part series about Egypt if you're interested : our egyptian playlist.

And this is our instagram (@lisaandpol), where you can find some inspo about Egypt or many other countries on the African continent !

View post on Instagram

Lisa & Pol
Lisa & Pol
We're a Slovak-French couple in our twenties currently backpacking across Africa for a year. One of our goals is to inspire travellers to go explore this often forgotten continent. On this blog we're focusing on providing up to date info about prices and itineraries, especially geared towards backpackers on a budget. We also create content on Youtube and Insta if you prefer a more visual approach 😉
Some links on this site are affiliate links. We may earn a commission from your clicks, at no extra cost to you.
Did you like this article ? Consider sharing it or getting us a coffee !