Diary of a 2nd class train ride in Egypt!

Last time I took notes during a transportation day was the time I was in Central America getting from Nicaragua to El Salvador. I wrote the post Diary of a “Transportation Day” in there I explained about how I hate transportation days & a full detailed account of getting from one place to another in Central America. I hadn’t thought about taking notes during a transportation day in a while, but I knew taking a 2nd class train ride from Luxor to Cairo would be interesting so did so.

Train travel in Egypt is reliable and even though it still takes for ever to get from place to place it’s the best way to get around (where available) and actually good. My 1st experience with train travel in Egypt was taking a 1st class sleeper car train from Cairo all the way down to Aswan. I normally avoid 1st class and take whatever is cheapest. However in Egypt they will not sell you anything, but 1st class at the window if you are a tourist. They do it for our protection because in the past their has been terrorist attempts on trains. The ticket was 360L.E. ($60) and not much in reality for a long 15 hour ride in a sleeper train, but compared to 52L.E. ($8.66) for a 2nd class train ticket that’s a huge difference (especially when you are on a budget).

Sleeping Car train 1st class train in Egypt!

The train ride down to Aswan was amazing. I was treated very well and was traveling in luxury something I’m not used to. They served us dinner after in hour in route and then after that came back to do the beds. I had the top bunk and loved it. I couldn’t stop EEEEeeee-ing I was like a kid and so excited. I was going to stay up and do some writing, but the bed was actually comfortable so I knocked out and slept like a king. I woke up in time for sunrise by coincidence and then went back to sleep.

Sleeping in the sleeper car of a 1st class train in Egypt

Yup that is me sleeping in the train! Ahh it was so cool… I would so do it every time if I could afford it. Made it to Aswan and I enjoyed the Temples of Abu Simbel & Philae and then fell in love with Elephantine Island. I then hopped on a train to get to Luxor and enjoyed a view of Luxor the Pharaohs didn’t even have. After 8 days in Upper Egypt it was time for me to get back to Cairo. I was missing a certain someone and well ready to get back to him. The thing was I did not want to pay $60 to take a sleeper train back to Cairo. Luckily a girl in my dorm was going to Cairo that night and told me she was just going to hop on the 2nd class train and buy the ticket on board. I couldn’t believe it and told her I would tag along, because I wanted to do that too, but to scared to do it alone.

What happened next is the following:

7:15pm – Arrived at station for a train that departs at 7:45pm.

7:45pm – Of course the train is still not here… ahh Egypt how I love ya!

7:50pm – Some random man tells us it’s going to arrive at a different platform. So we change platforms.

8:00pm – We get on the train. We have no tickets which means we have no assigned seats which means we will play musical seats the entire ride to Cairo.

8:03pm – The train starts rolling!

8:05pm – We found some empty seats.

8:09pm – Okay yeah they weren’t empty… ah let the fun begin.

8:11pm – Found an empty seat so took it. Every one is looking at me crazy and like I don’t belong in that seat, im sure it is someones. I guess I’ll find out in a bit.

8:15pm  – I notice a group of kids in front of me looking at me in awe.

8:30pm – They start speaking English to me and asking me questions:

“What’s your favorite subject?”

“Are you married?”

“Where you from?”

“How old are you?”

8:35pm – Yay the ticket guy just sold me a ticket for 52L.E. ($8.66).

Oh & that doesn’t mean I get a seat… that just means I can stay on the train until Cairo.

9:00pm – My 1st yawn… ahh this is going to be a long night, but these kids are too cute and still talking to me.

I can’t stop smiling. 

9:25pm – They ask if I can please take a photo of me with their parents cell phone. They take several.

9:30pm – They then ask me to please touch their baby sister.

I’ve never been asked to touch a baby, but okay.

9:35pm – I am asked to please be quite by the guy behind me because he is trying to sleep. So the talking stops.

9:37pm – Since I haven’t been asked to move I will close my eyes and try and to get some sleep.

9:51pm – Ahh thought to soon… was asked to move because it’s someones seat.

9:52pm – The father of the children offeres me the seat next to him because it’s his friends and he won’t be back for a while.

10:04pm – I am then offered sunflower seeds. I accept and eat away.

10:30pm – I want to go to sleep, but can’t.

10:48pm – Ugh it’s gonna be a long ride.

1:03am – Wow I slept for a while.

2:11am – Damn it the guy came for his seat… time to move again.

Not a single seat is available.

2:26am – I am now standing between cabins with others and it’s fucking freezing.

2:27am – It is Superbowl Sunday at home and I know my girl Kelly Clarkson is sing the national anthem.

I wonder how my girl Kelly Clarkson did singing the national anthem at the Superbowl.

2:49am – OMG it’s fucking freezing here and I am tired of standing up… ugh are we in Cairo yet?

3:15am – Someone sitting on the floor has moved so now I am sitting on the floor and freezing to death.

3:30am – Yup still freezing and still have about 5 Egyptians just looking at me like what am I doing here.

3:48am – I still can’t get comfortable… ugh just kill me now… this is when I start questioning everything.

Why am I traveling?

Why am I on a budget?

Why am I cheap?

Why am I doing this?

5:07am –  I must have fallen asleep clenching my day pack. I wake up to someone tapping me on my shoulder and telling me that they are getting off and that I can take their seat.

5:08am – Oh it’s cus we are pulling into Cairo… well I don’t need it anymore.

2nd class train, Egypt!

The entire time I am dealing with this the other girl had a comfortable crate to sit on in the kitchen area through out the whole ride. So yeah that is what traveling in 2nd class looks like in Egypt. It is by all means very uncomfortable and crazy yet so amazing at the same time. I will never forget talking to the kids and being asked to take a photo or touch their baby sister. I won’t forget freezing my ass off between cabins. It’s the small crazy experiences like this that make travel fun and such an adventure. Now that I know how to use the train system on a budget when I get back I will continue to do so. I will just hop on a train pay and enjoy! So tell me would you be able to handle this? What’s your craziest train ride story? When things are so uncomfortable do you start questioning everything too?

Related Posts with Thumbnails


  1. Alright so some questions:

    If tourists aren’t supposed to get 2nd class, how exactly DO you get a seat in 2nd class? You sat in someone else’s seat and you slept on the floor yet you paid for a 2nd class ticket that doesn’t even get you a seat! How do you get a confirmed/guaranteed seat in 2nd class if you’re a tourist?

    I understand $60 is a lot for a budget but that’s decent compared to a ride like this in western Europe is for a 2nd class sleeper car 🙂

    • Yeah Shannon we aren’t supposed to they don’t sell them to us at the window, but once we are on the train the ticket vendor doesn’t care and sells it to us there. The thing is when he sells it on board… we don’t get a seat, so we have to hop around from empty seat to empty seat… and if their are non then you have to stand or sit on the floor. If you are a tourist the only way to get a confirmed seat ticket in 2nd class is if you have a Egyptian to buy it for you. Oh & yeah I know $60 is cheaper then a 15hr sleeper train would cost in Europe.

  2. This is definitely an interesting experience. Very similar to taking a second class sleeper train in India! You have people all around you and you share your seats with everyone and everyone stares a little at you in the beginning. I guess in India it was much more crowded but travelling the local way is much more real!

    • Anji oh wow… India is going to be amazing. I will be there in about two weeks! Should be very interesting. I can imagine though how much more crowded it is in India… i mean the country has over 1 BILLION people there.

  3. Awesome story…If you’re like me you’ll wonder in a few years where those kids are, and all that will be totally worthwhile…
    D.J. – The World of Deej recently posted..The Georgia Aquarium – A Whale Shark of a Good Time

  4. Aww, I loved all of the interactions with the kids — HOW CUTE!!! They would definitely help make time pass (well, a little bit faster!), so I’m sorry you got shushed by the sleeping man!
    Heather recently posted..At Home in Berlin

    • Heather I loved them too so much… it was way to cute. I wish the man behind me wouldn’t have shut us up. It did help move time but ahh when your dealing with all this… time seems to never move!

  5. What a difference between 1st class and 2nd class! You poor thing, it sounds like you froze playing musical chairs on the train. You made some great memories though talking with the kids. Maybe because politicians kiss babies on TV all the time, they wanted you to touch theirs? Budget travel in a nutshell – not always comfortable, but always memorable! 🙂

    I took the first-class train from Liverpool to London years ago. Every seat was in front of a wood table with a vase of flowers. I felt so spoiled and excited upgraded from coach. I watched the English countryside roll past my window. It was something I’ll never forget, least of all how quickly it took (only 3 hours!) to span the length of the entire country!
    Patricia GW recently posted..Floating in New York (An Insight on Life)

    • Oh yes Pat… huge difference from 1st class and 2nd class… I sadly did freeze to death playing musical chairs, but yes I made some great memories… I mean really having the kids there was priceless. I think they wanted me to touch the baby, cus they are just not used to seeing tourist on the trains and maybe hadn’t seen one in a long time or something like that… it was strange but so cute.

      I love love love your quote and may use it in the future (i will credit you of course)… that is so perfect. That is what budget travel is in a nutshell.

      Wow looks like your 1st class experience was great… that is way to luxurious for me…lol!!!

      • Feel free to use the quote, it came off the top of my head 🙂 The first class train ride was luxurious, I thought I was acting too giddy (like you did in your sleeper compartment!) that people would think, “Ah, must be her first time” haha! I hope you get to experience it in the future! My goal is to take at least on flight in my life in first-class. Leg room, plus free drinks? Count me in! Haha
        Patricia GW recently posted..Floating in New York (An Insight on Life)

        • Jaime Davila says:

          Thanks will do… it’s a great quote!

          Oh & yes I know… i feel like people look at me like that too…lol. Oh I would love 1st class, but could never afford it. I always think we all arrive at the same time… no matter the price.

  6. Jaimito!!! This was hilarious!!!!! Lol!!! How adorable!! Ay pobrecito! I feel so bad you were freezing. It’s so funny how you’re going through a stressful time like having to move seats and wonder what the heck you’re doing but then the first thing popping in your head is Kelly Clarkson lol!! You’re so freak’n cute and adorable! Te quiero muchisisimo!!! Lol! Xoxoxoxo!!

    • Glad I can make ya laugh Rubi, yeah sadly I think Kelly Calrkson is on my mind like 24/7… isn’t that sad… oh man so damn sad!!! Te quiero mucho tambien!!!

  7. “I’ve never been asked to touch a baby, but okay.” 😀 This made me laugh out loud!
    Ahhh Egypt, I love you… and I’ve never traveled by train in Egypt so this was interesting to read! But I would definitely opt for the 2nd class seat:) For the 1st class price you can buy an internal flight!
    Giulia recently posted..My Manifesto of the frustrated traveler

    • Giulia, that is what I serioulsy thought when they asked me if I can touch their baby… I was like strange but okay…lol why not! Ummm how have you NEVER traveled by train in Egypt? I’m starting to think you never left Cairo while you were here??? Just what exactly did you do here? Oh & yeah the 1st class price is crazy… just crazy!

  8. I think I would have needed a drink after that experience!

  9. Haha – I guess I’m glad I took the first class sleeper train to Cairo! It would have been so exhausting having to stay awake on the second class train, although I might have thought it would be an interesting enough experience to give it a try. I think I’ll just remember your experience, though, instead of having to have my own 😉
    Sabina recently posted..Why Four Days at the Hilton Luxor Resort and Spa Isn’t Enough

  10. Hahaha I love your description of you “eeeeeEEEEEing” in 1st class – I do the same too, when it comes to unexpected luxury!

    Second class sounds….well, a lot more challenging! I don’t know if I could handle a 15 hour train ride if I didn’t have somewhere that I could sprawl out and lay down. Kudos for surviving it! I had a hard enough time standing for 4 hours after a festival in Busan – but then again, I had spent the previous hour fighting throngs of other festival-goers to get onto a subway train when it should’ve taken 10 minutes to get to the station.

    Damn, now I’m exhausted just thinking about your journey…
    Waegook Tom recently posted..5 Signs that an Expat should go back to their Adopted Country…

    • Jaime Davila says:

      Ahh yes us budget travelers… get all crazy when we get even the tiniest bit of luxury…lol!!!

      Yeah it was intense… but fuck it sounds like yours was too. That is a long time standing up… I’m glad I at least had a horrible seat on a cold as floor between cars…lol!!!

  11. Jaime, I had a 2nd class ticket purchased beforehand and I still played musical seats! And yes, I agree that it is an event to travel on a 2nd class train in Egypt.

    In my case, the guy sitting next to me (before I had to move) offered me food out of nowhere, then I moved, and sat close to a girl who wouldn’t stop playing with a can ALL night and making noises with it… oh, and a guy a couple rows ahead playing music on his phone like if it was a boom box. I also froze my ass all night! And, I met my Spanish travel companions for the rest of the trip on board the train. 🙂 Yayy!!
    Norbert recently posted..If I Was An Ancient Maya Architect

    • Jaime Davila says:

      Norbert… how the hell did ya still play musical seats? That’s crazy… wow!

      Oh & yeah I think your ride was way more annoying then mine… at least mine was quite and peaceful even though I was freezing and uncomfortable on the floor.

  12. Craziest train ride story to date: standing ticket only (same thing as yours – no reserved seat) for hard seat on a Chinese train one week before Chinese New Year. Shit. Gets. Crazy. Musical chairs through about seven different carriages, people crammed into every available space, with a foggy haze over everything from people smoking everywhere, and every single person on board staring at me and randomly shouting out, “Hello!” or “Obama!”. Finally, a group of Chinese friends offers to let me sit with them and I shove into the available space, thanking my lucky stars. The girl on my left keeps taking photos of me the entire night…even when I was sleeping (awkward!)…but the guy on my right is really nice. Oh, and it’s boiling hot and no one will open any windows.

    8.5 hours later, one sign above the “bathroom” window that says, “Cherish your life, do not jump!” and I finally arrive in Beijing and swear to myself, never again.

    Ahhh, train adventures.
    Mary recently posted..Finding happiness in Hong Kong

    • Jaime Davila says:

      Holy shit wow… Mary that is one crazy train ride. That sounds worse then mine. I don’t think I could have handled that, but then its kind alike mine…lol! I so wanna see a photo of this sign!

      • Dammit, I wish I’d taken a photo too. I was too scared of the possibility of dropping my camera in the squat “toilet” to return and take a photo (after having a scare with almost dropping my passport into a squat toilet a few hours prior)! And honestly, no one should have to see what that toilet looked like. Let’s just say the worst gas stations in America ain’t got nothing on some toilets in China…
        Mary recently posted..Comment on Finding happiness in Hong Kong by thesearchforcookiemountain

        • Oh lord yeah I can only imagine… that is for sure. Ahh man it’s small photos like that we always wish we had taken, but just can’t cus the circumstances are too much!

  13. Man! thanks for the flashbacks!!! so funny…
    Ash at The Most Alive recently posted..By: Ash

  14. Hello,

    My friend forwarded me your story because I went through the exact same experience just a month before you went through yours. Haha. Except that I paid for my ticket twice. Once for at the platform and second time in the train. We got the timing wrong and missed our train. Hence the second ticket.

    Oh the cold air! I can still feel it against my face.

    • Jaime Davila says:

      Hi Ikmal, so cool that a friend fwd’d you my story. Ahhh the trains of Egypt they are crazy, but you gotta love them. Sucks you had to buy two tickets. Good thing they aren’t too expensive unless you were staying 1st class sleeper.

Speak Your Mind