A few years ago, my aunt and uncle went to Egypt (this was before the Arab spring) and I have gathered a few useful Egypt travel tips for you.
Egypt Travel Tips – Money
Money money money …. They were told to make sure they had enough Egyptian cash at hand, for tipping, for buying souvenirs etc. Truth is though that it is far much easier to just pay with euros or dollars and cheaper to do so as well. In most places they are able to return in euros and dollars, especially in Cairo and more touristy areas and they also accept foreign coins.
You will need Egyptian pounds in order to get into anything owned by the government, meaning that you will need to make sure you have just enough Egyptian money with you to enter the different museums, temples, public transportation etc. but there are a lot of ATM´s and it is easy to exchange whenever you need to, even in the street people are willing to offer their euros for pounds.
One word of advice, make sure you keep your receipt when you do exchange Egyptian pounds or withdraw it from an ATM, you can be asked to show it at the airport customs if you leave with Egyptian money still in your pockets.
Egypt Travel Tips – Haggle Your Way to Souvenirs
Almost everything you will want to buy in Egypt comes with the added “fun” of having to haggle the price. There are only very few places where you will see fixed prices and even on products that have a fixed price for Egyptians the price tag will magically disappear (and double or triple!) as soon as a tourist shows interest.
If you travel to Cairo and are in need of souvenirs, you will probably find the biggest collection in Khan Al-Khalili, the worlds oldest bazaar. And yes, it might sound touristy but it is really worth a visit. All the colorful stands, the atmosphere and crowd of people is just something that has to be on your to do list!
Some Egypt Haggle Tips:
* Do not be surprised if a shop owner invites you in for tea, this is custom and you are not obligated to buy anything.
* Try to enjoy the process, just smile, make a few jokes and be polite
* Make up your mind on what you are willing to way for something and then start at half that price as a counteroffer for the “asking price”
* Remember that you will get many opportunities along your trip to buy the same article, so do not worry if yo do not get it the first time around
* Want to get the price down quickly? Just walk away!
* Paying in foreign currency seems to be cheaper then in Egyptian pounds.
* Focus on what is really important, haggling over a few pennies is not!
Egypt Travel Tips – Tipping
Tipping is a big part of Egyptian culture and especially as a tourist you will be expected to tip every where. So it is handy to have change in your pockets so that you don´t have to hand out the big bills. The word you will hear the most during your stay will probably be “Backsheesh”. In one word it means tip, but it can also be a charitable gift or bribe and especially in Egypt you will find you are continuously asked to tip.
Asking for tips is done in several ways, from whispering and making small gestures to basically almost blurting it out directly in your face but you must realize that apart from the standard tipping in restaurants (mostly it will be added to the bill automatically) you are not obliged to tip, especially not if you feel that the service you are getting is not worth it.
You should also understand that it forms part of the culture even though at times it might feel that the “rich tourist” is again being taken advantage of, I have seen taxi drivers “tip” police officers in order to make a short cut or get permission to drive through a gate. Also keep in mind that Egyptian people earn an average of around 60 euros a month and tipping is therefor a need rather than just luxury.
Egypt Travel Tips – Clothing and Skin Protection
Egypt being mostly Islamic, the dress code is rather formal and most body parts are expected to be covered. Before traveling to Egypt make sure to bring a few items to cover up whenever it was called for. The first thing my aunt did buy in Egypt was a scarf to actually wear on my head. Not just to protect from the sun, but also to easily cover up her shoulders whenever she felt uncomfortable by the staring of Egyptian men. If you are planning to visit a lot of temples, churches and the like, make sure you are dressed appropriately. Nowadays though you will find that in those places where you need to be covered in order to enter, you will be “lent” some clothing, of course in return of the usual backsheesh.
The sun in Egypt is bright and if you are fair skinned make sure you have a high factor sun protection with you at all times. With many temples to visit and a lot of walking involved in open areas you just can not go without sun protection!
Another thing to think of when visiting temples during the afternoon is to put on protection against mosquitoes and other bugs or you will spend the rest of your holiday scratching yourself to get rid of the itching!
Egypt Travel Tips – Number One Medication to Bring Along
Although medical care in Egypt is pretty poor, pharmacies are well equipped and it is very easy to get most medicines not just easily but also a lot cheaper than in your home country. However it is advised by most physicians, travel guides and tour operators to at least carry on you a diarrhea remedy just in case, apart from particular medication you need.
A large percentage of people who visit Egypt will have problems with their digestive system and having an emergency in a public Egypt toilet is probably the last thing in the world you will want to experience!
Egypt Travel Tips – Taking Pictures
My aunt and uncle went to Cairo a few years ago and they lost a memory card full of pictures. Here’s why:
Take care not to take pictures of policemen or military people, official buildings like banks etc because you might lose your camera if you do. Taking a picture from a policemen, even from a distance, is not allowed either, so if they find you doing it, they might come up and take your memory card to avoid the pictures being published.
It is a pain at times, especially when wanting to take a snapshot of that architectural beauty you capture in your sight and you have not paid attention to your surroundings.
Obviously you can get away with it because they cannot be checking everything all the time, but avoid taking the risk of loosing all you nice picture. My uncle and aunt didn’t even realized there was military in their pictures, they were quite innocent pictures.
More Egypt travel tips:
Featured image from Dennis Jarvis on Flickr, used under CC