Topics include Transportation, Dining Scene, For Foreign Visitors & more!
The high season runs from October to April (winter). Egypt is still sunny throughout this period with daytime temperatures averaging 25C; which makes perfect weather for travelling and visiting the country’s many impressive historic sites.
The summer months (June to September) are considered off-peak, sites are quieter and more peaceful, and prices are generally lower. If you visit during this period try to do your sight seeing before lunch time, when the heat becomes unbearable. Summer afternoons in Egypt should be spent doing as little as possible. In the evenings weather usually becomes cooler and nicer. During the Summer, temperatures in Cairo will usually exceed 30C, Luxor will reach 40-45C and Aswan can hit 50C!
If this is your first trip to Egypt you may want to travel as part of an organised tour; this will remove much of the hassle associated with independent travel and, if you intend to see as much of Egypt as possible, will work out cheaper than traveling independently. Many major travel agents and tour operators run tours to Egypt, go with a provider you trust.
British nationals visiting mainland Egypt require a visa. If you are flying into Sharm el Sheik, and staying there for 14 days or less, then you only need to obtain a free entry stamp at immigration control at Sharm el Sheik Airport. If you intend to take part in any excursions away from the resort areas you may need to obtain a visa.
Visas can be obtained on arrival in Egypt at the international airports. If you intend to obtain a visa on arrival you will need to present two, recent, passport size photographs (though these were not requested at Hurghada International as at April 2015), and LE200 per visa is acceptable if you do not wish to obtain US dollars solely for this purpose.
You can save a little bit of time and hassle by obtaining a visa prior to travelling. You can apply for a visa through the Egyptian consulate in London. Visit their website for instructions on how to apply — a single-entry 60 day visa will cost £20.
All arrivals also need to complete a ‘non-Egyptian arrival’ immigration card and present it to the immigration officer at passport control. These cards are usually distributed on the aircraft just before landing. When you leave Egypt, you will also have to complete a 'non-Egyptian departure' card — usually given to you upon check-in or by passport control. You may also be given an Egyptian customs declaration prior to arrival, you only need to complete this if you have something to declare.
The currency in Egypt is the Egyptian Pound (written in Egypt as LE — livre égyptienne ). Presently, £1 equals about LE12 — though as a rough guide to understanding what things are worth, divide everything by 10 e.g. LE10 = £1 sterling (approx). You get a better exchange rate in Egypt, so change money on arrival rather than in the UK; there are exchange counters in the arrivals halls at all the major airports.
There are ATMs in all major towns and cities in Egypt and most 4 and 5 star hotels have a bank, an ATM or both. Be aware that the ATMs in Egypt can be rather temperamental. You may have to visit three or four different ATMs before you find one that will let you have money (Bank Misr and Agricole Bank Egypt seem to be the most reliable). Likewise, if trying to pay for things by credit or debit card, you may find it unexpectedly declined. Other travellers have mentioned that persistence wins the day in such situations.
Hoard small change! Particularly LE5.00 notes which are very useful when it comes to buying bottled water and snacks. Egyptians don’t like giving change, so don’t try and pay for LE25.00 worth of water or street snacks with a LE100.00 note; the street sellers won’t be able to break it. Use high-value notes in hotels and more upmarket restaurants if you need to accrue some change.
If you are buying something from a tourist site seller or street seller and you don’t have the exact money to pay for it, it is best to agree upon the principle of receiving change before handing over your cash. If you do not, the seller may assume you are happy for them to keep the change as Baksheesh (tip)
Tipping, known as Baksheesh, is most definitely expected at tourist sites. Be aware that random Egyptian men that show you some especially interesting parts of a temple or pose for a photograph will expect a tip. Do not, under any circumstances, give them more than LE5.00 (don’t be afraid to give less). They will almost certainly look disgusted at your meagre offerings (that’s the con), but stand your ground. Tell them you are insulted that they have rejected your generous and hospitable gift — it’s LE5 or nothing! Hotel porters, room service attendants, taxi and bus drivers will probably expect a small tip but are unlikely to hassle you for it — LE10.00 is reasonable for all these service providers. You can also tip in sterling if you do not have any Egyptian pounds yet, £1 should suffice.
All the tourist sites in Egypt have their cache of people trying to sell you everything from miniature resin pyramids to alabaster figures, drinks, t-shirts, camel and donkey rides. Here I offer advice on how to deal with such situations:
There are two locations that stand out from the rest as being particularly bad for sellers and touts. The fist is the Giza plateau (where the three pyramids and the sphinx are) the sellers here are by far the most aggressive; the second is the Valley of the Kings where you can’t escape them.
How to spot them: You spot a seller by the stuff they are carrying or a tout by their pitch; it starts with: “Hello, my friend! Where you from?” When you reply they will know what language you speak, and then they’ve got you! (most sellers at tourist sites are amazingly multi-lingual). To avoid falling into this trap, don’t speak. Just hold your palm up in a dismissive ‘no thanks’ hand wave and walk-on confidently. Another trick, if you can’t resist the urge to speak when spoken to, is to speak another language, but be aware that many sellers speak other languages quite well; if you are a sci-fi fan and speak Klingon or Elvish then you may, finally, have found a real-world use for these language skills...
Some sellers may grab your arm as you walk past them — stand your ground! Pull your arm away from them and tell them firmly: No! Women are particularly vulnerable to this tactic. Don’t be frightened to push sellers away if they grab you or seriously invade your personal space.
The free camel ride: The camel tout invites you for a free camel ride and engages you in pleasant conversation for 20 mins; during this time he has walked you into the desert. He then demands an over-priced payment for the camel ride or he will not take you back to the main site. A variation of this con is to get you on the camel and make is stand up, then he will demand payment to make the camel sit down again, so that you can get off — it’s a long drop from the top of a camel!
The t-shirt con: A seller will literally thrust a t-shirt (or other trinket) into your arms and tell you it is free; that it is a present from his country. He will then probably welcome you to Egypt. After some pleasant conversation the seller will tell you that he has given you a present from his country and that you must give him a present from your country — meaning hard currency! If you try and give the t-shirt back, the seller will not take it and will begin aggressively haggling with you. To avoid falling victim to this, do not take hold of anything anyone thrusts into your arms, let it fall to the ground if need be.
All the tourist sites have a police presence. If you have a genuine problem like stolen money or lost passport they will probably try to help you.
Egyptian tap water is heavily chlorinated — pour some into a glass and smell it! Because of this, it is unlikely to contain any nasty bugs that will make you ill. However, drinking this chlorine-heavy water may upset some delicate western stomachs, for this reason you may want to buy bottled mineral water. It is perfectly safe to brush your teeth with the tap water. You can pay anything for bottled water in Egypt. If you buy it at a tourist site you will pay over the odds, but don’t be afraid to haggle. As a guide, a large (1.5L) bottle should be no more than LE5.00 — look out for the street sellers that will offer 2 large bottles for LE5.00 as this is a good buy. The small bottles of water should cost no more than LE3.00. Buying water from the supermarket is the cheapest option; a large bottle of water there will set you back about LE1.70. Although, supermarkets are not as plentiful in Egypt as they are in the west.
Arabic is the official language of Egypt and the most widely spoken. In practice everywhere you visit as a tourist you will encounter people who speak English (to some degree). Many sellers and touts are also varyingly proficient in German, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin, and Russian.
Here are some useful Arabic basics:
Hello = Marhaaba
Hi = Salaan (informal)
Yes = Aiwa
No = La
Please = MinFAdlak (m) / MinFAdlik (F)
Thank You = Shokran
You’re welcome = Afwan
I’m sorry/excuse me/never mind = Maleesh
Come on/hurry up/let’s go = Yallah
If you are being hassled:
No thank you = La, Shokran
NO! = LA!
Stop/enough/end = Khalas (with a very soft ‘k’)
Go away! = Imshey! (quite rude)
You may want to say:
Water = Maiya
Tea = Shay
Coffee/Coffeehouse = Ahwa
If you are trying to get around in Cairo, Luxor or Aswan take a taxi, ask the hotel to arrange one for a fixed price if you like (the driver will still expect a tip), or take your chances on the street. If you find a taxi with a working meter, you can ask the driver to use it or agree a price before you set off; be prepared for the driver to renege on his agreement and ask for more money. Just pay the original agreed price and walk off, there may be some shouting, just shout back or ignore it. If you travel by taxi, ask you hotel for a business card with the hotel address in Arabic — useful if you end up with a taxi driver that does not speak English very well. For short distances, ask the hotel receptionist for a map of the area.
Trains run the length of the Nile in Egypt, day and night. The train is the most cost effective method of getting between Cairo and Luxor and Aswan. The overnight trains are a good option as the journey from Cairo to Luxor takes 9 hours and Cairo to Aswan 12 hours (it's nealy 1000Km!). If you are an independent traveler and want to travel off the tourist track by train, you will struggle unless you speak and read Arabic. Station signs in Egypt are only written in Arabic, except for: Cairo, Luxor, Esna, Edfu, and Aswan which are in English as well. The overnight train from Cairo to Aswan will cost you about LE110.00 for a first-class ticket. You can also get sleeper car accommodation but these need to booked at least one day in advance and will cost more.
Jordan: Many tourists prefer to visit Jordan by land from Egypt. You can travel from Dahab or Cairo by bus but you will cross Israeli borders and your passport will be stamped; as a consequence you may experience difficulties if you plan to visit other Arab contries like Syria. To avoid this: take a ferry from Nuweiba to Aqaba and from Aqaba there are many buses that go to Amman and Petra.
Libya: Due to the current political situation and ongoing conflict, you would be ill-advised to travel to Libya.
Sudan: You can travel to Sudan from Aswan; you will need to cross the boarder to Wadi Halfa. This border can often be closed without notice. You will need a visa before traveling to Sudan, you can obtain one from the Sudanese embassy in Cairo. Westerners are advised not to travel outside of Khartoum. You will need to register your presence with the local police within 24hrs of arriving in Sudan.
If you are travelling in Summer, loose and light cotton clothing is absolutely essential. For women it is strongly advised to dress conservatively; especially when visiting churches and mosques, women should not wear shorts, mini-skirts or tank tops.
Bring shirts that cover your shoulders, T-shirts are fine. Cover your legs with long skirts or jeans. If you follow this formula, it indicates a respect for the culture and you're less likely to be approached by local men.
There are no compulsory vaccinations for travelers from the UK, but the following are recommended (N.B. Insurance maybe invalidated if a disease is contracted for which there is a recommended jab and none has been given before travel.)
An indepth explanation can be viewed here:
Tetanus, diptheria & polio - lasts 10 years before booster.
Hep A - lasts 25 years before booster, one course is completed.
Typhoid - lasts 3 years before booster is needed.
MALARIA – At the time of writing, the only Malarial risk is 69km S.W. of Cairo in the El Faiyûm Oasis region. This can be checked online but your Dr is the one with whom you should ultimately check medical facts.
Quote from: http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/destinatio... : Malaria risk area in Egypt: “Very limited risk in El Faiyûm area only. No risk in tourist areas, including Nile River cruises. Risk is very limited; therefore, prophylaxis is not recommended.”
Egyptian people, like most middle-eastern cultures are patriarchal in nature. People are usually very friendly and helpful, many Egyptian people are villagers and you can meet them in Luxor and Aswan or see them on the trains to and from Cairo. Most of the land along the Nile river is green and fertile. Many people live as subsistence farmers. Some Bedouin people still live in Sinai and the western desert; they represent about 5% of the total population. People who live in Cairo are known as Cairenes, Cairo and Alexandria are modern cities and most people dress in western style. The majority of urban Egyptians speak English to a reasonable standard.
Islam is the official religion for 90% of the population and it is the most important influence on culture in Egypt. Egyptian society is conservative, especially on issues related to women. Women are expected to be modest in dress and manner — no flimsy attire or loud talking and laughing, for example. The men are very happy with their position in this patriarchal society. The people are generally friendly, hospitable and very accommodating especially towards visitors. But visitors need to keep their religion to themselves — proselytizing is illegal here. Muslims pray five times daily: at dawn; noon; afternoon; sunset and evening. The exact time is listed in the local newspaper each day. Friday is the Muslim holy day. Everything is closed. Many companies also close on Thursday, making the Egyptian weekend Thursday and Friday. During the holy month of Ramadan all Muslims must fast from dawn to dusk and are only permitted to work six hours per day. Fasting includes no eating, drinking, cigarette smoking, or gum chewing. In general, things happen more slowly during Ramadan. Many businesses operate on a reduced schedule. Shops may be open and closed at unusual times.