Updated: Apr 5
I‘ve been to Egypt more times then one could count, I sometimes consider it my second home. One may be curious as to why this is, if I am not Egyptian. The main reason is that Egypt is one of the cheapest countries in the Middle East, therefore a flight there prior to heading to any other country in the Middle East is usually much cheaper. Not to mention, it doesn’t really hurt to stop in a country where your dollar will take you a VERY long way!
So, where does one start? As soon as you get off the plane, you get hit with a wave of heat. And right after baggage claim, it is just complete chaos! If you don‘t have someone waiting for you, I highly suggest using ride sharing apps like Uber or Kareem. If you use Uber in the states, you can just open up the app and use it as you would anywhere else.
Well, as long as you have a plan that allows this.
1) Health Risks to Watch Out For
ٌYou may want to avoid tap water unless it has been sterilized. The tap water throughout the country is not dangerous to drink and those living in the country for an extended period of time have no problems with it. However, it is highly chlorinated and hard tasting for those who are not use to it. It is recommended to stick to bottled water, which is both readily available and cheap. The tap water is fine when brushing your teeth and showering.
Spending long periods of time in the sun can lead to sunburn and dehydration. Use high-factor sun cream and drink plenty of water. When in exposed places wearing a hat is an absolute must and don’t forget your sunglasses either.
If traveling to high-altitude areas, visitors should take due care. Sunburn, cold exposure, and altitude sickness can cause problems for the underprepared.
2) Accessing and Spending Money in Egypt
Visitors should keep the following pieces of Egypt travel information in mind...
-Egypt’s currency is the Egyptian pound (LE: Livre Egyptienne)
-Inform your bank before traveling to prevent your card being blocked
-Most banks are open from Sunday to Thursday 8:30 - 14:00
-ATMs are common in towns, cities, and resorts
-Major credit and debit cards are widely accepted in hotels and larger shops
-Keep track of your bank balance during your trip to identify any fraudulent activity early
-Tipping is expected so carry change to give away
Egyptian Pounds (LE) note comes in denominations of 200, 100, 50, 20, 10, 5, and 1. There is also a 50-cent note and if you’re not vigilant, this can get confusing.
Euros, dollars and sterling are often accepted as payment, but your budget will go much further if you change it to Egyptian pounds. Don’t change your money before you arrive in Egypt, as you’d get a better rate once inside. The best places to exchange money are the many currency exchange shops or the bank. You are suggested not to do it prior to arrival or at airport.
Credit cards are another option of spending money. Most tourist hotels will accept major credit cards, with Visa and MasterCard having the widest acceptance. American Express is less commonly accepted while Diner’s Club is rarely accepted in Egypt.
3) Respect the Culture
Egypt is a conservative, Muslim country and it can be a culture shock. Visitors from western countries should be aware that public displays of affection, such as holding hands and kissing, are not approved of. Homosexuality is still illegal.
Wearing revealing clothing is also frowned upon and it can draw unnecessary unwanted attention. Dress extra-conservatively when visiting mosques. Ladies, you will need some sort of head wrap (scarf is fine) and you must cover from wrists to ankles to enter a mosque. You can also find cheap options there instead of bringing them along.
In America, we pride ourselves on our informality and easygoing attitude. This does not apply in the Middle East. Don’t do hugs, affectionate slaps on the shoulder, high fives, or any other “chill” quintessentially American greeting unless you know for certain that it will be well received. A firm handshake will get you a lot further.
4) Basic Arabic Phrases and Numbers
Arabic is the official language though most people understand English. You can get by with just English though using a few basic Arabic phrases acts as a good ice-breaker and generally gets a positive reaction.
Knowing the Arabic numbers can be a lifesaver and can stop you from being ripped off. Prices in restaurants, shops, and markets are in Arabic and if you understand them you won’t be overcharged.
5) Most Nationalities Need a Visa to Travel to Egypt
The easiest option for US citizens is a visa on arrival, which requires queueing and completing the application at the Egyptian border.
There is a $25 fee for this and you are advised to arrive at the Egyptian point of entry with the exact change to avoid delays.
6) Recommended Vaccinations for Egypt
There are no obligatory vaccinations for Egypt but you should see you doctor before your Egypt trip. If you are traveling from a country where yellow fever is present you need to show you’ve been vaccinated.
Travelers to Egypt should get the following vaccinations:
Hepatitis B and Rabies in some cases
Negative PCR test within 72 hours with QR code
Those who are vaccinated don’t need PCR test if there is a QR code attached to the vaccine card
7) Places in Egypt to Avoid
Is Egypt safe? Yes, overall Egypt is a safe country to visit.
Most of the best places to travel in Egypt, such as Cairo, Sharm El Sheik and Hurdagha (where tourism in Egypt is central to the economy), are well-protected, safe locations to visit.
It is highly recommended to check with your carrier to see what your plan will allow you to do while in Egypt. Make sure to ask questions to find out if you’ll be able to still use your everyday apps or if there is an alternative. T-Mobile is highly advised for travelers as most of there plans include data and texting in most countries, and to top it off wifi calling is included. This means you can use your phone as normal and even make phone calls off of apps (including facetime audio and video) for free. And if you absolutely have too, you can call anyone by making sure you are on wifi and have your wifi calling turned on. You will not be charged if you do it this way. Your phone will say T-Mobile Wifi on the top for confirmation.
If your phone carrier doesn’t have these options, dont worry! As long as you have an unlocked phone, you can grab a sim card once you get there and pop it in. (They have prepaid plans that are inexpensive) Then you too will be able to stay in tune with the world.
9) Packing Essentials
I have partnered with Amazon and created a list of highly suggested items to bring along on this trip. You can find the list here.
Be prepared to walk and be humid.
I suggest keeping the uncomfortable shoes to a minimum.
Definitely bring some sort of backpack or fanny pack for on-the-go essentials.
Uber or Kareem are highly suggested ride share apps. If you use Uber in the states, you can just open up the app and use it as you would anywhere else. I do NOT suggest taking a taxi. They WILL charge you much much more then necessary, I’ve seen it happen too many times. After all, you are a tourist and they know it!
It may be a good idea to ask the hotel staff to write down its details and address for you in Arabic, as it helps if you have to get directions from people who cannot read English.