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Egypt

                                   Official Flag of Egypt bearing the national emblem of the shield of Saladin

          The Land of the Pharaohs

Travel Tips and Safety Issues

Overview

 



In some mosques, vendors will sell you paper booties, if you do not want to remove your shoes

Traveling in Egypt requires  more planning than many trips, but we think the rewards are worth the effort.  On this page we cover issues that you need to know about before you depart for Egypt. 

Since the "Revolution" in 2011, travel in Egypt has been "iffy" and public safety is not a certainty. We urge all travelers to delay travel to Egypt until the country returns to normal. Armchair travel is still allowed and it may be the best way to explore Egypt at this time.

There is much more to see and do in Egypt than we cover  and we recommend that those desiring more detail on more places order a comprehensive guide from the favorite book seller.

For most of us, Travel time to Egypt takes a day or two each way and those who do visit usually budget a week or less for their tour. A week in Egypt is not enough to see our recommended best places to visit in Egypt, but sampling our list is almost as rewarding as seeing it all. Each of the locations recommended to the right links to the section of our complete Egypt Guide, which includes a more information and photos describing the location of interest.

Travel Visa

You will need a visa to enter Egypt. You can buy one at the Cairo Airport after you land and doing so is cheaper than arranging one outside of the country. However, it can be slightly less of a hassle to arrange a visa before you depart, especially if you will be visiting several countries that require visas (say a trip to Egypt and Jordan).  If you want to acquire your visa before departure, we suggest using the services of a "visa runner", as these firms specialize in arranging travel documents.   Using  visa runner can save you some hassle, if you are willing to pay the price.

Drinking Water

Avoid the tap water anywhere in Egypt including your hotel. Drink bottled water or suffer the consequences. Order soft drinks without ice and ask that the bottle or can not be opened before it reaches the table. Salad is usually another offender, since it is washed in local water. We recommend that you avoid salads, but the choice is clearly yours to make.

Medicine

In case you experience diarrhea on your trip, take some packages of Ceralyte. This is a rice-based oral hydration drink that can be quite effective in helping you get back up to speed after digestive upsets due to bacteria or viruses. Rehydration is the basic step you can take to overcome the problems associated with diarrhea,

Cipro - if you do come down with a bad case of diarrhea, you might need to take an anti-biotic. We work with a physician specializing in travel medicine who writes us a prescription for a small amount of Cipro, which, if taken in time, may reduce the duration and severity of the problem. Ask your doctor for a recommendation suited to you. If all else fails, their may be medical assistance available on your Nile cruise.

Deet-based Mosquito repellant -Some people are not comfortable with the use of products that use Deet, but it is an effective safeguard against mosquitoes that you should consider if you are going to take a Nile River Cruise.  Deet should not be used on children less than two years of age. Another safeguard to wear long pants and long sleeved tops.  Egypt is not considered a malaria-prone country.

If you are need to take prescription drugs while on vacation, try to carry them in their original vials or with a copy of the prescription ordering them in case you are questioned at airport security. Refilling prescriptions while is Egypt is extremely difficult if not impossible, but your tour leader may be of assistance.

Guides/Egyptologists

If you are traveling through Egypt with a tour group, it is likely that they will arrange your guide for the trip. In most cases these guides are excellent, but if you are traveling as an independent and have to acquire your own guide, you need to make sure that they are knowledgeable, reliable, assertive and dependable.  Let them know your expectations and if they are uncomfortable with what you want, find another.  Reputable hotels can provide reliable guides, but let them know your expectations before you hire.

Remember also that Egyptologists are trained and go to school in preparation for this role.  A normal guide may not have the depth of background that you desire, so make sure to hire an Egyptologist if that is the depth of information that you require.  Most guides who accompany tour groups on Egypt-wide tours are Egyptologists and quite knowledgeable.

Vendors, hawkers and the horde

Touring -  The economy of Egypt is deplorable and numerous people have no job and little potential for finding one. So when you exit the bus at the pyramids or any other attractions in Egypt, expect to be mobbed by vendors who will try to sell you souvenirs that usually are overpriced and of poor quality. In some locations, particularly Giza, Luxor and the Valley of the Kings, the crowds of vendors can be unnerving. They will claim to know you, love wherever you are from, offer you unheard of deals and this continues after you make it clear that you will be buying nothing that day. Do not let anyone drape a product over your arm, as they will then claim that you have bought it. Simply give it back them and walk away.

If you are going  for a camel ride, ask your tour guide for a recommendation on which vendor has reasonable prices (of course, this is a relative question - as all prices will be inflated). Most  tour guides will have a preferred vendor with a fixed price and often you will pay the guide who will then pay the vendor. Whatever you do, do not arrange a camel ride by yourself.  It is not uncommon for unwary tourists to be taken on a ride into the desert and then asked for more money to return them to their starting point.

Do not expect your guide to haggle prices for you as this is not a service they provide, nor is it a position that it is fair to put them in.  Before you arrive at a destination, some guides will let you know a fair price for goods that may be of interest.

There is little you can do to avoid the crowds of vendors at the monuments.  Here are some suggestion for running the gauntlet:  keep looking straight ahead, try to avoid eye contact and show absolutely no interest in what is being sold. If you look at the vendors, their goods, or engage the vendors  in conversation, you will regret it for the next ten minutes, if not longer. Tell them "no thanks” in a serious voice,  or shake you head "no" and move on.  Finally, don't let them get under your skin, as to them this is a sign that you might pay them just to go away.  However, if you do this, you will be besieged by vendors.

Taking Taxis - Our best advice is to let your hotel arrange the taxi and to have the driver wait for you on the return or pick  you up at a pre-arranged time. Yes, this costs a little more, but you do not want to pick a taxi at random anywhere in Egypt

Toilets

You will find many of the toilets not up to your standards. Restroom attendants will expect baksheesh, collect it when you enter and, in turn, will dispense two sheets of tissue that was recently concrete. The stall will often be filthy, so ladies should take a package of toilet seat covers and a packet of tissue because the two sheet dispensed might not be adequate for your needs. Finally, we recommend carrying and using hand sanitizer. Public toilets seem to be cleaner in Nubia, but in lower Egypt (northern), especially Cairo, they leave a lot to be desired.

Money

The official currency of Egypt is the Egyptian Pound that is divided into 100 piasters. At current exchange rates the US Dollar is worth approximately 6 Egyptian Pounds, while the Euro is worth approximately 8 Egyptian Pounds.  We prefer to tip and pay in Egyptian Pounds when possible, but US Dollars and Euros are accepted currency throughout much of Egypt.  Currencies other than the British Pound, Euro and US Dollar are often not accepted.

Tipping

When touring you should tip Bus drivers the equivalent of $3 USD/day per person. Carriage drivers $2-$3, and tour guides/Egyptologists $9-11 USD per day per person. Hotel room attendants $5 a day per person, ships crew $5 - $7 per day per person and other personnel based on your value for the services. However, you may need to understand the concept of Baksheesh, It’s somewhat like tipping, but the level of service may be more difficult to appreciate.

Baksheesh - a visitor to Egypt and the Middle East should get used to tipping for services that are not compensated in the rest of the world. For example, at your hotel, a staff person will always seem to be in the hall when you exit the elevator and then rushes to your room to open the door, expecting a tip for this service.

Almost every person whose path you cross will expect a “little something” and, indeed, this is the pattern of life in Egypt. For example museum guards may turn on a light to show you the details of something that is hidden in the dark, or offer to open a room for you that is currently closed. In return, they expect a modest payment from you. Carry lots of coins and small bills to dole out. Trust us, it is easier to dispense the money than deal with people who think they have been wronged. It may not go down well, but baksheesh is the norm in much of the Middle East.

Clothing

Touring Egypt calls for casual, modest clothing. Remember you will be visiting a country in which ninety-percent of the population is Muslim and the other ten-percent Coptic Christian. We advise dressing in a manner that will not attract attention to yourself. In order to do this, show as little skin as possible. Also, note that public displays of affection are frowned upon.

Shoes – You will be doing quite a bit of walking on a tour and river cruise of Egypt and sturdy shoes are a must. Sandals do not provide you protection from rough pavements, rocky trails and…..scorpions.

Hats - take a sun hat or an umbrella for shade as the sun can be oppressive and the can be heat staggering.

Suntan Lotion - We recommend taking a product that offers a high level of protection (SPF) as the sun will shine higher in the sky here and sunburn will occur much more quickly than at home.

Sunglasses - are a must. The Egyptian landscapes are barren, bright and often unbearable without the assistance of tinted lenses. You will also run into blowing sand, so your sunglasses may do double duty.

Safety in Egypt

Unstable times - These are unstable times in Egypt, although order appears to be slowly returning to this wonderful country. Each traveler should determine whether they personally would feel safe traveling in Egypt.  We suggest you examine the news about actions that might influence your desire to travel in Egypt and check with your government's organization responsible for foreign travel to determine whether there are travel alerts or warnings about travel in Egypt.

If you decide to travel to Egypt, you should be prepared to take a few extra precautions, including making sure that the company offering your tour has experience in leading tours in Egypt and local personnel to assist you when required.

Touring in Egypt may not be quite what you are used to experiencing.   When we arrived at our hotel in Cairo in early 2012, our car was stopped outside the wall of the hotel complex and searched by an armed guard accompanied by a bomb-sniffing dog. Once we passed this layer of security we ran into a second gauntlet at the hotel door, which was equipped with a metal detector and manned by four security personnel, who were armed. Our personal items were scanned, or searched before we were allowed to enter. Although this might have been disconcerting to some, we were glad to see that our hotel was taking the security of their guests as their leading priority.

We recommend that all touring be done in association with a tour company whose guides are experienced in travel in Egypt.  If you should desire to take a day trip before your tour starts, we recommend that you ask your hotel concierge for a safety assessment of the location you want to tour. Also, you might consider asking them to arrange transportation for you to and from the location, as well as to recommend the services of a guide.

Note also, that after immediately after the revolution in 2011 and through much of 2012, there was a breakdown of order throughout the country.  However, this does not mean there was an absence of authority or local policing.  In fact, in rural areas communities formed militias that were responsible for law and order within their community. Do not be surprised to see remnants of these armed militias on duty in some locations as order is slowly restored.  You will most commonly find them in small villages along the Nile where they enforce traffic and ensure the safety of their citizens.

Security Personnel – will likely accompany you on formal tours. They will ride the bus with you, tour the attractions, and generally keep an eye on you and the crowd to guarantee your safety. The guards we observed were armed with machine pistols and look quite capable of using them if necessary. Again, we were glad that they were there, although their presence served to unnerve some travelers.  Expect to tip these guards when their duty has ended ($5 - $7 per day per person)

Tourist Police - The uniformed tourist police are everywhere, but often seem to have no actual function, other than to suggest a good place to take a photo and then wait for baksheesh.

Cairo Security  -  Many people arrive in Cairo a day or two ahead of their tour date.  Cairo is not somewhere you should wander by yourself. If you want to tour the city, either take a tour arranged by a reputable travel agency or arranged by the staff at your hotel.

Airport Security - There are a number of layers of security at each airport and, as you pass through one layer, you may find that the next layer does not allow something that passed through the last inspection. Bottled water is generally not allowed, nor are other liquid products. Your carry-on luggage may be scanned, pass inspection and then be physically searched ten minutes later. Be polite, comply with all requests and you will likely get through security with a minimum of hassles. Note, that your tour company will provide a representative to accompany you to the airports and often on the flights. Let them know if you have any problems and let them talk to the security personnel involved.

Access

Wheelchair access in Egypt is often not available or is difficult to find.  However, there are travel agencies that specialize in wheelchair accessible tours in Egypt and we urge you to use your favorite search engine to discover which of these firms might meet your needs.

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Best Places To Visit in Egypt

Overview
Cairo
Giza
Luxor
Nile - Luxor to Aswan
Aswan Area
Abu Simbel
Lake Nasser Temples

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Nile River Cruising
Travel Tips
Things to know about Egypt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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