Theives and Liars at the Siva Grand Beach Hotel.
A few weeks ago a friend and I both in our early 30s decided to book a cheap all inclusive holiday in the sun. After some deliberation we decided on Egypt due to its relative proximity (only 5 hours flight time from London Gatwick) and the fact that we could almost certainly be guaranteed some winter sun. We settled on the Siva Grand Beach Hotel due to its low price, all inclusive package and favourable reviews on trip advisor. Our holiday was soon to turn into a disaster. Here I have documented the main problems we faced.
As a seasoned traveller who has visited over 30 countries worldwide and is familiar with the middle east and northern Africa. I can honestly say that my experience at the Siva Grand Beach and Egypt in general was the worst holiday experience of my life and at one point I even feared for my
We were two of only four English people in our resort at the start of our holiday – this rose to 6 or 8 by the time we left – but the hotel is majority German, Austrian, French and Russian (probably in that order.) I was hoping to meet more British – but if they simply aren’t going – I don’t suppose there is a lot you can do.
During our stay in Hurghada we got word of 3 tourists who had been murdered whilst we were out there – 2 swiss nationals were murdered for their home and a dutch national was murdered, he was stabbed 26 times and was robbed.
The first thing you become aware of when you land in Hurghada is that there was an awful lot of half finished buildings, boarded up shops and the streets are empty.
31st December – arrived in Egypt on time with our Thomas cook flight. The flight was on time and went without issue. We collected our baggage swiftly and was greeted by our rep who took us to an awaiting vehicle. At this stage my friend realised he had left his phone on board the aircraft. We quickly reported it to a nearby official who was able to help us retrieve it – however, his attitude was very poor. When we explained what had happened to us, rather than attempt to help his first statement was “If I find this for you – what are you going to give me?” The phone was found – he was rewarded with a couple of british pounds and we went on our way hoping this attitude wasn’t indicative of Egypt at large. The transfer went smoothly and we soon arrived at the hotel very hungry and ready for the new years eve festivities. One thing that concerned me was the amount of armed police and military on the street. I counted around 50 young men with semi automatic weapons on the 15 minute drive to the hotel – some placed on roof tops – although the rep advised me that they were there to ensure my safety – and that it was no problem. On reflection I am glad they were there despite my initial reservations. I think without them Hughada would descend into complete lawlessness – a process that already appears to be occurring in my opinion. On arrival we were advised only to deal with reception with regards to all matters regarding our stay and only to pay money to them. Something we should have taken heed of. We decided to drop our bags off at our room (102) and explore. Our first stop was at the all-inclusive buffet. We had been advised that drinks were all inclusive. However, this doesn’t extend to bottled beer – only the in house draft beer which is served in cups so small that they do not even represent ¼ of a pint. You are not advised this option is freely available and by default they try to give you the paid for option. We only became suspicious when asked for our room number after they let us drink them. The two drinks we had ended up costing us 70 Egyptian pounds (around £7 UK money – which is more than I would expect to pay at my local pub, these beers are also available from the local supermarket for around £1.50 for the two – so there was a healthy mark up on these) Still, this was our mistake, it was our first night – we didn’t make it again. We were then put under pressure to buy something called the executive package – (essentially a poor quality sparkling white wine which we were to open at midnight) It was so overpriced that we did not take up the offer. Instead we decided to venture out into Hurghada. It is impossible to walk down the street without being pestered by the locals, they are in general rude, will not take no for an answer and can at times be intimidating.
1st We missed the welcome meeting due to it being at 10.30am on new years day morning and decided to enjoy some time by the pool. We were awoken by our room door being opened 3 times – in spite of the fact that we had left the do not disturb sign on the door. The first time someone knocked, then opened the door and two bottles of water were delivered. I was still in bed at that stage and due to the position of the mirrors I was able to see out into the hallway meaning that hotel guests were also able to see me unclothed in bed. I hadn’t been sitting on my sun lounger for more than 10 minutes before I was approached by very pushy massage salesmen. I have no problem with saying no to people no matter how nice and friendly they are being – but these people were something else. They didn’t hear no – they didn’t hear go away. They didn’t hear you are irritating me – they sometimes responded to F*ck off and leave me alone – however, once he finally gave up – he didn’t waste much more time with me instead focusing on the new pickings that arrived daily – particularly focusing on single women. Sometimes even offering them a free sample of a beauty treatment – for example eyebrow thinning and then only doing one side – leaving the person feeling obligated to pay to get evened up.
Due to the fact that the internet is so very very poor in the hotel and only works at all (abeit slowly) when the main reception is quiet (which it rarely is except in the middle of the night and when the midday sun is out) I decided to go and visit the Siva Pub only a few doors away outside and with its own internet which was free to use assuming you were drinking. Heineken was priced at 26 Egyptian Pounds (it was 11 down the street 400 metres – and as low as 8 in old town Hurghada) we attempted to barter with him but he claimed prices were set by the Siva Grand Beach Hotel and that he was unable to offer any changes in price – what he didn’t tell us that on a sign in the hotel there is a list of discounts available to Siva Grand Beach Hotel guests – including 15% at the Siva pub. We had already explained to him that we were staying there and I can only assume he was pocketing the difference. He would not provide you with change unless you specifically asked for it – I assume hoping you would forget and one time asked us if we wanted drinks – we said yes – and then the moment we had bought them said he was closing the pub and that we had to leave immediately. We said that we only came here for the internet and would he be as kind as to leave it on for us so that we could sit outside and use it. He said that the hotel cut the power at night and this would not be possible. I asked him how he managed to keep his refrigerators working and why the lights were still on and the internet wasn’t on and he looked blankly at me and said he didn’t understand – despite the fact that we had been able to converse well with him up until that point.
On day three we met another English guest who was new off the plane and saw her being sweet talked by the massage guy. Being aware that we had previously been offered two massages for £55 (A special price just for us) down from the advertised £60 cost per massage. We decided to ask her how much she had agreed to pay and tell her what we had been offered. She had agreed £50 per massage assuming she booked a course of them. She had agreed. Once she was told the price that we were offered she felt cheated and did not attend her massage session. Instead sitting at the pool bar with us. When the time came for her session 5 men started to bother her and by association us. They once again would not accept no for an answer and had me and my friend not been there I dread to think what lengths they would have gone to to separate her from her money.
Later that day another lady called heather agreed to a massage treatment which she had got for £25 per session – assuming she had got 8. After what she described as a reasonably pleasant massage she was asked to pay. She offered the £25 for the first session and they explained that wasn’t how it worked (It is.) They claimed that she would have to pay for all of the sessions up front. They then locked her in the spa room and harassed her until some burly men arrived to escort her to her room to get the money. She became very agitated and complained to reception – who sided with her and the massage sales people offered an insincere apology. Thus ended their business relationship – if only they had of been more understanding and friendly (as they are when attempting to initially sell it to you) They would probably have got all 8 sessions paid for out of her. As it stood – they left a bitter taste in her mouth and only walked away with £25 of her money. I feel obliged to point out at this stage that the average Egyptian working on these resorts will earn roughly £100 per month UK money and a large proportion of this will go towards rent and food and go directly back to the hotel. The amounts of money involved here are huge to the average Egyptian and it strikes me that not only are they attempting to rob their tourist clients – almost every member of staff is stealing from the hotel – and the price you pay doesn’t correlate to the money they say they took from you when they report it to reception.
Our room cleaner and mini bar checker Mohamed asked us to pay him directly the 75 Egyptian pounds that we had spent at the minibar. We agreed as he was friendly and convincing – he told us that he would sort all of our problems directly and under no circumstances to contact front desk as it would cause him problems. Due to his friendly nature we agreed. I was pretty sure that Mohamed had a scam going on whereby he would replace the items in the minibar himself and claim we never used them – as there was an exorbitant mark up on all items this could be quite profitable for him – I admired his tenacity initially. Upon paying him we were then visited within the hour by 7 different Egyptian men – all claiming to be there to fix something – one the hair dryer – one the light bulbs – one the television. I felt this must have been to give us no reason to contact front desk although I found it very intrusive.
On day 6 we decided to take a taxi to the old town – to experience a bit of what I consider to be authentic Egyptian culture. On the way there in a taxi we had pre agreed a price for – we were stopped at a police road block – the windows were wound down and men with what I believe to be AK47s inspected us (the passengers) relatively quickly we were allowed to pass through. The further we went from the hotel – the more and more road blocks I saw – it hadn’t been this bad since arrival date – im not sure as to why. The taxi driver (as per standard Egyptian practice) did not take us to where we wanted to go – instead to a local shop that sold model camels and other such tourist crap. After some arguing to the point where you have to show aggression – where they think you are either going to walk off without paying or hit them they generally concede. We were eventually taken where we wanted to go – although he did decide to drop us off outside another trinket shop. Old Hurghada is dirty – but the people there are not interested in stealing from you – they are not really part of the tourist circuit and are just getting on with the daily grind – as such I enjoyed a quiet hour or two without bother. We hailed a taxi for our return journey and eventually managed to agree the same price to get back. We started travelling the 10 miles back to our hotel and although we didn’t recognise the route – we weren’t really bothered as we had been taken a strange route there. Around half an hour into our drive we realised that we weren’t heading home and instead were being taken out into the desert. We started to become concerned we were going to be murdered in the desert or abandoned there. When civilization ended we started questioning our taxi driver – who could no longer speak English – despite the fact that he spoke it perfectly during the negotiation stage. He said he had made a mistake – but then asked us if we wanted to buy hashish, when we refused he started driving erratically slapping himself in the face and shouting in Arabic. By the time we eventually got home my friend and I were so scared that we paid him what he was now demanding (double) and just left happy to be alive. We sought refuge in the Siva Pub – where we decided to order some food from the local Turkish restaurant (under Siva Grand Beach management also) we ordered 2 chicken kebabs as they had none of our preferred options. We were served the amount of meat that comes in 1 of them – split between two plates – again the local staff were preying on the ignorance of tourists and pocketing the money for themselves.
7th We awoke 11.30am well in time to pack our bags and get to our 2pm checkout and 2.35pm transfer. We were packed and ready to go by 1pm. The sign on the hallway lobby stated that we should leave our bags outside our door for collection by the hotel porters. Due to the amounts of dishonesty we had encountered during our time in Egypt we did not feel comfortable with this. We went to reception and told them we had left our bags in our room. We were advised that this would be fine. We decided to quickly grab a chicken burger from the poolside grill and then return to the lobby where the only other couple on our return flight were waiting with their bags ready. They advised us that Mohammed our room cleaner had been asking questions to them regarding whether we had vacated our room. They advised him that they believed we had. When the coach transfer arrived to take is to Hurghada airport we quickly realised that our bags were not present and asked our Red Sea Holidays rep (Ismael) to look into this issue. We advised him that they were in the room. He explained that we should have left them outside the room as requested. We explained to him about the issues we had with trusting people in Egypt after the catalogue of dishonesty we had encountered and that we had advised reception that we had left the bags on our sofa in our room. A porter was summoned and quickly we had our bags. At this point Mohammed appeared and claimed we had not settled our minibar bill. We were summoned off of our coach and back to reception where Mohammed was waiting by reception. We were told that we had a 70 Egyptian pound bar bill. We explained that after paying Mohammed the first time that we were apprehensive regarding using the minibar again and if anything appeared to be missing the only reason for that would be that we had taken our own items out of the minibar that we had filled it with. Mohammed immediately denied that this was the case and said he had received no money. When asked how much money he had received from us he stated that it was 45 Egyptian pounds. We explained that it was 75 he was shouted at by the reception manager and we were told to have a nice day and that we were free to go.
We were running late so we never bothered to check our luggage and were just happy to see it had been added to the coach. It was upon our arrival at Hurghada airport that I decided that it would be best to have my ipad for use in flight. Upon opening the luggage I realised that although my Ipad case was still there that the ipad had actually been removed from the leather case I kept it in. Upon further inspection it became clear that I had also lost a new box of aftershave (Costing £70).
As we had already passed through the x-ray machine we were unable to alert Ismael and instead attempted to find someone else who could help. We found a man called M Souliman who had a very poor attitude towards us but had said he was going to help. He phoned the hotel on our behalf who claimed that it must have happened when we left the bags outside of our room (something that never actually occurred and was witnessed by Ismail). M Souliman attempted to suggest that we had left our ipad by the pool or otherwise misplaced it. We showed him the empty case and said that we never removed it from its case. He looked blankly at us. At that point I explained I wanted the police involved immediately, our flight was less than two hours away from departure and without a police report I was unlikely to get a pay-out from my travel insurer. The police arrived and made us empty all of our possessions onto the floor, they were initially rude and talked amongst themselves in Arabic but refused to answer our questions – it was almost as if we were now suspected of being liars. I was getting increasingly fed up that with around an hour to go till our flight that no progress had been made.
It was then explained to us that to get a police report would require us to return back to Hurghada attend the police station and wait whilst the suspect(s) were arrested and questioned. We didn’t have time for that – and asked the police to issue me with some paperwork. I was told that they could only issue me with something called a “lost” report. In this report I could not make any allegations or it would be rejected. It had to implicitly state that I lost it and that I was blaming no one else. They said this would suffice for insurance purposes.
I was not happy at all. First of all I did wish to make a specific allegation against the room keeper Mohamed. Secondly it would mean that essentially he would get away with robbery from hotel guests and that this could potentially happen again. Thirdly this would result in me presenting false information to my travel insurer to make my claim – this was going to make the whole process very difficult.
Upon my return to the UK I also discovered that my Samsung Galaxy Camera had also been taken – as I hadn’t had enough time to fully check the contents of my bag. This entire experience has made me sick to the core. I understand that the situation in Egypt has worsened and that there are fewer tourists – but that is all the more reason to treat the ones that remain with courtesy and respect. They are just biting the hand that feeds them and I expect Hurghada to experience increasing levels of robbery, violent crime and murder as the situation there worsens. I will never be returning to that country because of a few discraceful peoples actions – Until the political situation improves I would suggest that you too avoid all but essential travel to Egypt. I also feel that it is the responsibility of Red Sea Travel to keep an eye on the situation regarding the Siva Grand Beach Hotel and Hurghada as a whole – I will continue to write to them until I receive a satisfactory response. Simply saying they have taken on board my concerns is not enough. I do not want this to happen to anyone else at all. I hope my dealings with Red Sea Travel are productive and I will be publishing all correspondence I receive from them on this website.
The Good points.
It was sunny
The food catered for all tastes
The swimming pool was better than expected.
The rooms were spacious
The safe was free to use.