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Arab Spring Countries Top Destinations for 2012

Monday 7th November 2011

Egypt and Tunisia are both promoting themselves as top destinations for 2012 at the World Travel Market in London. The recent political upheavals in both countries mean that this could be a "once in a lifetime" kind of backpacker trip, one where you can say to your grandchildren when you are old "ah yes, I travelled there just after the revolution of 2010". 

Both countries are better known for their package tours from the UK rather than as backpacker or gap year destinations, but they are undeniably great destinations for travellers on a budget. Hostelbookers have hostels in Cairo from as little as £3.90 GBP per night, so accommodation is fantastic value, food is also cheap and plentiful if you are happy to eat in local cafes and restaurants, and travelling around by bus or train is easy. Some people are put off Egypt by stories of hordes of tourists and pestering by hawkers, but you can plan your visits to major sites like Giza, Abu Simbel and Luxor to avoid the tour buses and crowds, which attract hawkers.

As a backpacker, you will want to get off the beaten track anyway, and away from the tourist hotspots, and there are plenty of opportunities to do that. You can hike through the Sinai mountains, sail the Nile, try a desert safari, overland trip or go diving in remote parts of the Red Sea. Just stay away from the big resorts.

Tunisia has a rep as a package tourists heaven, and not really as a backpacker destination, but that's not to say that you won't enjoy the glorious weather from March to May, the beaches, diving and sailing opportunities. You can also try out camel treks, sand yachting and other desert-based adventures. The Medinas of Tunis and Sousse are UNESCO World Heritage sites, but if you aren't interested in buying carpets or trinkets amidst thousands of people you might be better off exploring the medinas on a Sunday, when it is less crowded and full on.  

It's important to support the people of Egypt and Tunisia, who have taken such bold action, and one of the ways travellers can do this is by visiting the countries and contributing to the economies while they are there. Its also important to check the up-to-date advice of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office before travelling to your destination to make sure the situation is stable.