Getting to Marsa Alam from the UK
Although one of the attractions of Marsa Alam is that it is off the beaten track, it actually has its own airport (RMF), and while many countries (especially Germany and Italy) have a large number of flights landing there it has never been busy from a British/UK point of view.
People often ask how to get to Marsa Alam from the UK. The information below shows some of the key options and the pros and cons of each. Travelling to Marsa from any other country or region than the UK is not commented on although some advice can be applied to travellers from other countries.
Fly direct to Marsa Alam
This is the favoured option for many and the one you should explore first because it lands you within five minutes of Port Ghalib and close to many popular hotels in the Marsa Alam region. Currently, the only operator flying in direct from the UK to Marsa Alam (RMF) is TUI and they fly a charter flight from Gatwick (LGW) currently on a Wednesday. To keep an eye on current flight options and to keep this article current, use this timetable.
- Emperor provide transfers from the airport to its liveaboards and transfers are included for hotel packages
- Shortest travel time from UK to Marsa - approx. 5 hours flight
- RMF is a good airport - usually efficient and uncrowded
- Transfer from airport to hotel is between 10 minutes to 1 hour (or possibly more) depending on your choice of hotel and its proximity to the airport, but many popular hotels are within 15 minutes
- Can be booked as flight only
- TUI can also arrange selected hotels as part of package holidays and arrange hotel transfers
- Often get time to relax around the pool and hotel on the last travelling day of the holiday
- Flight only bought outside of packages can be expensive
- Limited flight days and departure airports reduce flexibility
- The baggage allowance is only 15kg although you do get an extra 5kg if you are a diver
- There is no entertainment on board the flight and all meals and drinks are charged
- You will be without a room for quite a few hours on your last day unless you book and pay for late check out
- Arrival back in UK is often after midnight
Fly to Hurghada and transfer to Marsa by road
This is the preferred option of many ex-pats and a growing number of Marsa-loving repeat guests. Currently you can choose from four operators: Thomas Cook, TUI and easyJet. These four carriers offer flights to Hurghada (HRG) from Gatwick (LGW), Manchester (MAN) and Birmingham (BHX) and, while there are a range of days available, the most popular day seems to be Friday with as many as six flight choices while other possible options are Monday, Tuesday and Saturday.
The flights tend to arrive and depart Egypt in the late afternoon/early evening, meaning the 2½ - 3 hour transfer by road will take place during reasonable hours and you can expect to be in your hotel late evening on the first day and have to leave mid-to-late morning on your final day. If it is daylight, the scenery is wonderful as you hug the coast for most of the journey and are sandwiched between the blue sea on one side and the steep mountains on the other. A journey at night is less eventful but as you pass through the traditional town of El Quesir, part way through the journey, you can expect to see typical Egyptian nightlife and vibrancy, which makes for a unique experience as well as a comfort break if you need it.
Taxis are available at Hurghada airport and are an option if you book last minute or like to choose your driver independently. The minimum you would ever pay would be 250LE to a hotel near Marsa Alam airport, though you should be prepared to pay 400-500LE. Agree the fare before getting in, take note of the taxi number on the side of the door and try to get a driver who speaks a bit of English so that you can ask him about stops and keep the journey entertaining and relaxing. If you have a good trip and trust him (and can communicate well with him), take his mobile number to call him one day before for a return taxi as taxis are rare in Marsa Alam and usually more expensive, mostly being booked through the hotel and paid in Euros.
You would be strongly advised to pre-book a transfer though, especially if you are fairly inexperienced with Egypt. Transfers are usually available through Tour Operators if you book one of their packages but not necessarily if you book flight only so you have to look elsewhere. Probably the best people to ask will be the hotel you have booked; they should be able to offer a competitive and reliable service. If you have booked an activity, such as diving or kitesurfing, the company you are using may also be able to provide a transfer from Hurghada and return. A local company called Marsa Alam Taxi has been mentioned a lot in forum posts and seems to get fairly positive comments so they would be a good place to start in order to book outside of the aforementioned options. Whoever you book with, if you are a group then push for a deal rather than a per person rate and if you want a faster transfer and are three persons or less, perhaps ask for a rate for a private car which should shave half an hour or more from the trip without adding too much to the cost.
- Huge flexibility of flight options
- Possible to choose a varied holiday, such as 10 days (Friday to Monday)
- Flights are generally cheaper & easyJet in particular have good flight only fares, especially if you book early
- If you get a good deal with the hotel by booking direct, booking through TripAdvisor or another hotel booking engine, and a decent transfer rate, then you may seriously reduce the cost of the holiday
- easyJet has a diver (and kiter etc) friendly baggage allowance if you also book sports baggage
- You don't lose any days of your holiday - all traveling is still done on the first and last day
- The road journey takes you past some very scenic and unblemished parts of the Egyptian Red Sea coast
- There are more shops/cafes and there is more to do in the departure area of Hurghada airport
- It does add a few hours to your overall travel time (unless you save that in UK by using a more local airport)
- Hurghada airport can be quite busy at times
- While I do not know about Thomas Cook, the other two companies do not include in-flight meals or entertainment without extra cost
Fly via Cairo
This surely does not appeal to everybody, but it's a viable way to travel home and back. Sure, it can add a day to either side if the connections are not great, and even might not save you any money, especially if you connect to Marsa Alam, but there are some heavy hitting benefits such as an unbelievable baggage allowance and top specification aircraft.
Both British Airways and Egyptair operate daily from Heathrow (LHR) to Cairo (CAI). To properly 'connect' you need to use the latter, as Egyptair also operates all the domestic flights and the benefits are two-fold: firstly you don't have to collect you bags and check in twice as your luggage goes straight through to your final destination and secondly it keeps your international baggage allowance intact on the domestic route. BA can sometimes have good offers during their sales, and of course, Heathrow Terminal 1 is a real treat but the hassle you have to go through in Cairo (including changing terminals - not as easy as it should be), and losing half your baggage allowance makes it bittersweet.
Once in Cairo you have options to fly either to Marsa Alam (RMF) or Hurghada (HRG) and while a lot of the information in the above sections regarding their pros and cons of each arrival destination stand, the two major additional points to note when flying via Cairo is that there are many, many flights from Cairo to Hurghada as opposed to a maximum of one per day (not necessarily at a convenient time) to Marsa Alam and the price for the flights to Hurghada (especially at off peak times) can be significantly lower than to Marsa Alam. You may find that, while you would like to connect to Marsa, it may involve an overnight stay in Cairo (the Novotel and Le Passage are the only hotels inside the airport grounds) and the cost of that added to the price difference compared to Hurghada is enough to convince you that a road transfer even after two flights is OK!
A third option to consider is the 700km road trip from Cairo to Marsa Alam. The taxi link given in the Hurghada section above provides quotes for that.
- Emperor provides transfers as above for RMF and HRG arrivals
- Daily flights mean you can pick the exact itinerary of your trip
- 46 kg of hold luggage per passenger on Egyptair
- Good hand luggage allowances on each carrier
- Planes from both carriers are usually very modern, spacious and have full interactive entertainment on board
- Usually well-staffed, good service flights. Drinks and meals are complimentary (no alcohol available at all on Egyptair however)
- Possible to easily combine a Red Sea trip with a short city break in Cairo at either end of your trip
- Flying into Heathrow is a bonus for some people in the UK
- Price wise you can sometimes pick up a deal which makes it the cheapest flight option of the lot (LHR-CAI-HRG only)
- Connecting to Marsa can be costly and will often lose you a day's travel
- Connecting to Hurghada still leaves you with a road transfer as detailed in the previous section
- Possibility of waits and delays in transit
Flying to Luxor and transfer to Marsa by road
This is a bit of an oddball, as it is a very similar option to Hurghada but without the number of flights. The same carriers as Hurghada fly there, although Birmingham (BHX) is not an option and there are a reduced number of flights compared to Hurghada and on different days but you do have options from Manchester (MAN) with Thomas Cook and TUI and London Gatwick (LGW) with easyJet and TUI. You can realistically add at least half an hour onto the road transfer time. However, you may be able to sniff out a deal, and of course by going to Luxor you have an opportunity to take in some sights. Again, a lot of the information about transfers from and the pros and cons of flying to Hurghada listed in that section still stand, the ones below are additional to Luxor.
- Emperor can arrange the transfers and the short break in Luxor (POA)
- Some deals to be had and the flight days might suit your travel plans
- You can combine a Red Sea holiday with a short break in Luxor
- Road trip takes you through some interesting Nile towns and villages
- 3-hour plus road transfer, especially if the route is limited to Qena - Safaga road
- Transfer will be more expensive than Hurghada prices
There are a lot of options for coming to Marsa Alam that can be hard to find out about. The advertised package and charter flights can often make it seem that dates, prices and hotel choices are very limited but hopefully armed with the above you can spend some time looking into a trip to Marsa Alam that suits your holiday dates, your location in the UK, your Marsa Alam hotel choice and your budget. And if you get to combine that with an Egyptian city break, have more experiences on your trip, or manage to increase your baggage allowance in the process, then it will all be worthwhile! Looking forward to seeing you in Marsa Alam.