We know you’ll have a lot of questions about visiting the Sinai and hiking the Sinai Trail! Below is what we get asked the most, so see if your query is answered here. If not, please contact us.
Safety and security in the Sinai
Is it safe to visit the Sinai? We get asked this one a lot. It’s hard to give a definitive answer about the Sinai, mainland Egypt, or indeed many parts of the world. Things can change quickly. However, we can say a few things with certainty. There has never been an attack on tourists in the interior Bedouin parts of South Sinai, where the Sinai Trail is. The area has been peaceful in recent times, despite unrest in other parts of Egypt. The well-publicised unrest in the Sinai has occured largely in a small pocket in the far north east of the peninsula, on the border with Gaza. We always urge caution and suggest you consult a balanced range of sources, including the advice of your government, in considering whether to visit the Sinai or not.
OK, so what are the best sources? Local sources in the Sinai, including the Sinai Trail Team, plus any of its partners, are worth sounding out. Unlike many other sources, they are on the ground with an excellent understanding of the region, its culture, and access to information, including information about safety and security, that many others won’t have. You shouldn’t rely on their advice alone, but it is one way to build up a better, more complete understanding of the region. You should monitor news about the Sinai and check advice from your government travel advisory service before travel too.
Travel practicalities for the Sinai
Where can I get travel insurance for the Sinai? Insurance can be hard to get for the Sinai today, especially if your government advises against travel to the region, as many Western governments have in recent years. Many standard insurance providers do not offer insurance meaning more specialist cover is required. Hikers from the UK can join the British Mountaineering Council, whose insurance currently covers travel in South Sinai. The Austrian Alpine Club has a travel insurance policy that will cover you for South Sinai. People can join the club from anywhere in the world and then purchase its travel insurance policy. When buying insurance, read the small print and make sure it covers you for hiking to a height of 3000m if you’ll be visiting the highlands of St Katherine. Some policies set an altitude limit. Camel riding, jeep travel and rock scrambling cover are advisable, plus an air evacuation component.
What visa do I need for the Sinai Trail? To hike the whole Sinai Trail you need a full Egyptian visa. These cost US$25 and can be purchased at any airport or from any border crossing – except the Taba land and sea borders – on arrival in Egypt. For more info check our page on visas.
Hiking practicalities on the trail
How difficult is the Sinai Trail? Is it all a hike? Yes, most of the trail is a straightforward walk. Sometimes there are defined paths; other times you walk off-piste, in wide wadis or sandy plains. On some parts of the trail there are sections of scrambling, but they can all be avoided if necessary.
OK, so what is scrambling? Scrambling is moving on steeper ground, where you need to use your hands for support. Some people describe it as a halfway stage between hiking and rock climbing. Generally, scrambling is technically easier than rock climbing; certainly, on the Sinai Trail, all the scrambling has big, comfortable holds. Nevertheless, it can still be exposed and care is always needed. Scrambling sections are always marked clearly with a special icon on the hiking map.
How fit do I need to be to hike the trail? Hiking the whole trail is within the capabilities of most fit, active people. Generally, it’s helpful to be in good shape to hike; it will make things much easier and more enjoyable. You don’t have to be upto athletic levels though; if you’re not super-fit you can adjust your style and hike more slowly, doing shorter distances each day. You can combine hiking with camel riding, riding camels a few hours a day, or on alternate days. You can hike short sections as day hikes in themselves too. Don’t let a lack of fitness put you off: there are ways to work around it.
How long does hiking the whole trail take? Most fit, active hikers take 12-14 days to hike the whole trail, from the Gulf of Aqaba to the town of St Katherine. Generally, 14 days if you start at the northerly trailhead, near Bir Sweir; 12 days at the southerly one, near Ras Shetan.
OK, but that’s uphill! Can’t I walk it downhill? Yes! You can do the trail the other way, starting in St Katherine, and walking downhill to the sea. When you walk this way, the descent is very gradual; so gradual, you might not even notice it. There are plenty of uphill sections, even walking it this way too. You should also reckon on it taking 12-14 days, depending on where you finish.
Which part of the trail is the best? It depends what you like. If you’re a mountain person, head to the highlands of St Katherine or the coastal mountains near Ras Shetan. For classic desert scenery with sandy plains, sandstone peaks and canyons, head to Ein Hudera, in the middle section of the trail. Wherever you go on the Sinai Trail you will find spectacular landscapes and history.
Hiking safety on the Sinai Trail
Is there potentially hazardous weather in the Sinai? Sometimes, yes. Heat and exposure to the sun is a hazard for hikers; especially during summer, and especially in the lowlands, which are hotter.In hot weather, it’s best to hike during the early morning and evening, resting in the shade during hotter times of the day. Rain is most common between October and March but it can happen any month, including summer months, and it may lead to flash floods. Deep, narrow canyons should be avoided altogether in rainy weather and you should not camp in the beds of large wadis, as they see powerful, unexpected floods. Sometimes, rain many kilometres away can send a flash flood running through part of the Sinai where there was no rain at all, so stay vigilant. In the mountains of St. Katherine, poor visibility from mist and fog can make navigaton tricky, especially in winter. Sub zero temperatures with snow and ice can occur, usually in the winter months, so carry clothing and shelter to deal with these kinds of weather, even if the skies are clear when you begin your hike. Bad weather has been a killer for hikers in the Sinai.
Can I hike without a Bedouin guide? Most Bedouin tribes require hikers to take guides on the Sinai Trail. Guiding is one of the few legitimate ways Bedouin tribes can make a living in a desert landscape like the Sinai – especially when they are sidelined from beach tourism along the coast – and it is a profession they have been practising for many centuries. There are some areas of the Sinai Trail where it’s more common to go alone, such as the Ein Hudera oasis, but only do it with the permission of local people.
Is water safe to drink on the trail? There are several kinds of drinking source, from wells to open pools and dripping springs. Generally, water in the high mountains is better than in the desert. Many hikers drink water striaght from the sources, but we recommend you purify any water you get, just to be on the safe side; especially if your stomach isn’t used to water in the region.
Organisation of the Sinai Trail
Who runs the Sinai Trail in Egypt? The Sinai Trail is managed by Bedouin of three different tribes in the Sinai, working together in a cooperative. This cooperative manages the day to day running of the trail and is 100% responsible for taking collective decisions about its future. Sometimes, outside staff are employed to strengthen the skillset of the cooperative in key areas and build its capacity for the future.