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Egypt's well-developed rail network is ideal for long journeys in this country. These air-conditioned trains are much more comfortable than buses and taxis. The rail network operates from Cairo to Alexandria, the Delta, and the Canal Zone, along with the coast to Mersa Matrouh and up the Nile Valley to Luxor and Aswan. But for shorter journeys, the rail network is a bit too slow by comparison. Egyptian National Railways or ENR is the national railway of Egypt which is managed by the Egyptian Railways Authority or ERA.
Timetables are posted on all major stations but only in Arabic. Schedules and fares for different routes can also be found on the Egyptian railway website, where you can even buy online tickets for your rail journey. Schedules for sleeper services are available on the website of the company which operates them, Watania.
Trains running from Cairo to Alexandria or Aswan may include sleeping arrangements, and non-ac rail service is also available. When traveling through the Cairo-Luxor/Aswan route foreign travelers are allowed to use only the four tourist trains whose compartments are guarded by gun-toting plainclothes cops. When buying a ticket at major stations you might find it little frustrating as separate queues exist for different ticket classes.
Air-conditioned trains in Egypt usually have two classes, the first class which offers waiter service, reclining armchairs, and no standing. They also screen videos until midnight. Another is second class superior which is less plush and more crowded – but two-thirds the price of first class. You can choose any of the two as both classes are comfortable enough to allow you to sleep on an overnight journey, at a fraction of the cost of a sleeper.
You can reserve any seat on Egyptian trains seven days in advance of your journey. Booking a return ticket at the point of origin is somehow not possible though, and the best season for traveling are summer for Alexandria and winter for Upper Egypt. Many travel agencies in Egypt sell first-class tickets for a small commission, saving you the time of standing in the queue. Non-a/c trains in Egypt consist of ordinary second class carriages, with padded bench seating and third class with wooden benches. Both are invariably crowded. Few foreigners use them, but on a few routes they are the only services available, and over short distances, you might enjoy the disorder. There is no advance booking service available for seats on these services and you will not need to stand in a queue for a ticket at the station.
Egyptian Railways form the backbone of passenger transportation in Egypt with 800 million passenger miles annually. There is an Egyptian railways museum next to the Misr station which was built in 1932 and opened in 1933. The place is great for all those who wish to know about the railway system and history of the Egyptian railways.
This article first appeared on www.ask-aladdin.com
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