by / Thursday, 12 January 2017 / Published in DAHAB, GUESTS, MARINE LIFE, NEWS

It’s not cheating if I get someone else to write a blog.. is it?! Oh well, over to Lee:

At time of writing the UK government still has a blanket ban on direct flights to Sharm and for no good reason that I can think of

This has had impact on Egyptian tourism and stopped a large number of UK divers from going to the Red Sea in 2016… but not me!

There are a number of reasonably well known indirefct routes us Brits can use to get to Sharm:-
Flying with Easyjet to Hurghada then a transfer flight to Sharm with Egyptair although they dont tend to fly on the same day.

Flying using Turkish Airlines with a 2 to 8 hour stopover in Istanbul which by all reports is a good way to get to Sharm

Flying with Air Egypt via Cairo form the UK , which by all reports is also a fairly decent way to get to Sharm

A lesser know but quick AND cheap to get to Dahab is via Israel. Monarch flies from Luton to Eliat for as little as £100. I flew for £295 pver the expensive Xmas and New Year period and this was massively cheaper than the other options listed above.

Luton airport is easy to get to off the M25 and the cost of parking for a week is significantly lower than Gatwick or Heathrow. I paid less than £50 for the week for a drop off and collect car parking service right to the door of the airport. The flight times are also really reasonable with a 9am takeoff from the UK on Thursdays and a return around 10pm on Thursdays. All very civilised. The Asperion lounge (which you can book for a decent discount through Monarch) is well worth using once you are checked in for a relaxing free breakfast , coffee and they even have sleep pods!

When booking online with Monarch make sure you have added your hold baggage costs BEFORE you do online check in for both the outward and return flight. Once you’ve done the online check-in you cannot change your baggage allowance.

The baggage allowance for Monarch is the best value I’ve seen for divers in a while. You get 20kgs hold luggage for £28 AND you can add an EXTRA 20kgs of dive kit if you want for another £30 on the sports equipment option. For a rebreather diver like me with lots of gear this is super value.

Monarch also have a whopping 10kg hand luggage allowance so you can get regs , rebreather head unit and camera in your hand luggage. I travelled home with 50kgs of gear for £58 !

The flight with Monarch to Eilat (OVDA) takes between 5 and 6 hours. You then land in OVDA Eilat airport which is very small ( I suspect only takes about 3 to 5 flights per day ) and is based on a military air base outside Eilat . From there you can book the Eilat Shuttle for $15 from www.eilatshuttle.com which is hassle-free on arrival at Eilat and drops you at the Taba crossing 45 mins later . They are expecting you on the flight and as the airport is so small you can go from landing to outside the airport in 30 mins. If you were travelling in a group of 2 or more it’s probably cheaper and easier to get a taxi to the Taba border (there are loads at the airport) they will accept sterling and charge around £40.

Once at the Taba crossing you will need to dedicate about an hour to get from one side to the other. It feels like a continental ferry port. You will be charged about $25 by the Israelis to go through and you can pay by credit card. If you have a lot of bags keep your eyes peeled for trolleys when you enter which I missed first time!

Once you’ve paid your charge you will get a cursory passport control questioning. I strongly suggest you tell them you are diving with English friends at an English dive centre in Dahab. Be friendly and smile. If you are a single bloke travelling like I was or with specialist dive kit expect a sterner grilling. They may well ask the name of the dive centre and names of the people you are diving with. If possible give English names.

Once you get to the Egyptian side H2O will arrange a taxi transfer to be waiting for you. A good estimate for collection at the taxi point is about 7pm local time. You will need 120 Egyptian Pounds in cash on you to leave the crossing area when you are in the car. This caught me out and they wouldn’t take sterling or a card so I had to traipse to the nearby hotel to get money changed which wasted an hour.

Once picked up and on your way its less than 2 hours drive to Dahab where you should arrive before 9pm. The whole journey from door to door was half the time it took me for the same destination in Sept with Pegasus and cost half as much.

The return journey is much the same in reverse apart from a few things. Firstly you won’t pay any charges to go from Egypt to Israel. Secondly the Eilat Shuttle is far less reliable for a Taba crossing pickup to Ovda and mine never showed up. If you are two or more travelling forget the shuttle and get a taxi at a time that suits you for £40 sterling. The shuttle only collects at 1pm for the Taba border which is far too early for a 6pm flight back so using a taxi instead buys you an extra 2 to 3 hours in Dahab for a more leisurely pack or early lunch. If you wanted to arrive at Ovda at 4pm for a 6pm flight then aim to arrive at the Taba crossing Egypt side for 2pm.

Once across Taba expect the same Xray machine etc all over again at Ovda. The departure lounge at Ovda is fine for its size and even has free wifi.

Monarch were superb throughout.

If you are looking for a very very cost effective way to get to Dahab, which is quicker than the long layovers in Cairo or Istanbul and has a reduced chance of losing luggage due to only having one flight then you should definitely consider the Monarch / Israel / Taba route.