Reading a bit about Egypt before you go will save you from unnecessary trouble when you finally arrive. This article deals with practical stuff like electricity, currency, customs and safety.
Congratulations, you are headed to Egypt! No matter how long you plan to stay there, you will be visiting a country with some of the most important, impressive, and awe-inspiring monuments and natural wonders in the world.
Before you begin to pack your bags and plan out your itinerary, there are a number of key things to know about life in Egypt, what you should plan ahead for as a visitor, and what to bring with you to ensure your stay is comfortable, fun, and stress-free. With this in mind, here is a handy-dandy comprehensive guide to all the different things you should know before visiting Egypt, no matter what time of year.
Egyptian bank notes. Canva/markwilliamsonspace.
Currency: Egyptian Pounds
Electricity: 220V/50hz, adapter needed if traveling from the United States
Time Zone: GMT +2
Languages: Arabic, although many speak English
Visa Requirements: Tourist visas are required for most nationalities. Single-entry, 30-day tourist visas cost $25 USD and can be purchased/ordered online for a variety of countries. If unavailable online for your country, visas can be purchased upon arrival at the airport. It is possible to extend your visa once you are in-country.
Other Entry/Exit Notes: Entering the country as a tourist through an international airport is largely a stress-free, fairly quick process with no major concerns. Crossing into the country via a land border with your own vehicle or with your own boat is significantly more arduous.
Internet/Phone Service: Free wi-fi is the norm in most hotels throughout Egypt, and also commonly offered in cafes and tourist areas of the major cities. There are also Internet cafes in locations with less wi-fi coverage. As always, phone service can be spotty especially in rural areas, so securing an international data plan or a SIM card upon arrival is a good way to be sure you have a phone if needed throughout your travels.
While costs obviously vary depending on how much comfort and luxury you require, or if you are planning to travel on a budget, Egypt is generally affordable for all ranges of travelers and budgets. Basic accommodations can run as low as $10 USD, while midrange air-conditioned rooms will typically cost somewhere in the $30–50 USD range. Luxury rooms, such as at the Red Sea resorts or at the best hotels in Cairo can approach upwards of $150, although these are still very affordable when compared to prices in the U.S. or Europe.
Tours and experiences are also relatively cheap and you can hop on day trips for around $50 and sometimes even less.
ATMs are widely available, as are money exchanges. As with most countries, remember to follow basic smart principles when exchanging money to avoid sleazy vendors and fraudulent practices. These include using banks or exchanges located after clearing customs at your port of arrival, as well as only using reputable money exchanges. Be wary of surprisingly great deals, as these are often too good to be true. Always make sure your money has been counted before exchanging or leaving the vendor.
Finally, in terms of tipping, it is important to keep change or small bills on your person as traveling. Tipping is generally expected for all manner of service. For café employees, guards and staff at tourist locations, and mosque attendants, LE5 to LE10 is expected, although you should offer more if the staff provides extra services.
In metered taxis, you should round the fare up or offer 5%, especially for longer rides. In restaurants, good service generally is compensated with 10% extra, with 15% expected for exceptional service or in higher-end establishments.
Most travelers and international flights arrive through Cairo, although it is possible to fly into Alexandria or several other cities throughout the country. If you are coming via land or boat, be prepared for extended time at border crossings as you navigate customs and security checkpoints.
Once you are in Egypt, travel is generally easy to secure and reasonably priced. Be especially aware of travel to more risky regions – in some cases, you should be sure to secure a local guide before travel to areas like the Sinai peninsula (outside of the resort areas) or western and southern Egypt near the Libyan and Sudanese borders.
Domestic airline flights through EgyptAir are available from Cairo to most locations, although many travelers opt to use the train for trips to Aswan, Alexandria, or Luxor. Aside from being a more interesting way to see the country as you travel, most trains offer air conditioned 1st-class and 2nd-class seating options depending on your travel budget.
See also: A Guide to Cairo by a Local
Cabs are ubiquitous throughout Egypt, not only in the major cities but also in relatively small towns. While some of the cars are not in the best shape, the cost is often reasonable and will get you where you need to go relatively quickly.
Be aware that while metered cabs have become largely the norm in Cairo, many places across the country do not have them. This can lead to some awkward negotiations if you aren’t prepared, as often cab drivers will be (dramatically or truly) aghast at how little you have offered to pay them.
One tip to avoid this is to exit the car and handle the negotiation through the window, but another is to simply give up the extra LE5 that the driver may be asking. It is not a significant sum to a tourist, but for drivers who are not making much every day, it can be a simple way to make everything easier.
Boat travel on the Nile is largely a given for most visitors to Egypt, and there are a number of offerings from midrange to experiences that resemble five-star luxury. Be sure to browse ahead of time to compare some of the different options for cost and amenities, as well as the different routes and trips you can take.
Finally, bus travel takes a number of forms in Egypt. Traditional buses are often the only way to traverse certain parts of the country, although the buses are not always reliable or quick and can often get stuck in city traffic, especially around Cairo. There are standard (cheaper) and deluxe bus options for longer routes, but be aware that neither is particularly glamorous and can be downright uncomfortable.
Visit our detailed guide to safe travel in Egypt for an in-depth breakdown of political, social, and cultural expectations and current situations before traveling.
Visit our detailed guide to safe travel in Egypt for more information on vaccinations, heat risk, appropriate clothing, food and water, and medical infrastructure in Egypt.
Egypt is a great place to bring the entire family, from the amazing sights to the chance to get up close and personal to a camel. You will be shocked by how much locals will be excited and happy to see your children. Little ones might even be passed around to be fawned over, much to their and their admirers shared delight.
Teenagers should be aware that they should be expected to follow the same social customs outlined for adults, and should be taught grown-up etiquette before making the trip.
In terms of safety concerns, be aware that many of the risks we outlined in our safety guide are doubly worth remembering when bringing children. This goes beyond questionable food preparation and tap water quality, and also includes the lack of seat belts (or car seats) in cars, as well as child-sized life jackets when traveling on the Nile or the Red Sea.
It is also smart to make sure and pack all food, snack, or formula needs before traveling out of Cairo or the major cities, as these things can be tough to find in more rural areas of the country.
There are plenty of solo female travelers in Egypt, but the social norms of the country make this a particularly foreign concept for many Egyptians. Locals will often be curious as to your marital status, and will often be confused and prodding if they find out you are single and without any children.
Unfortunately, sexual harassment is also a consistent issue in Egyptian culture, although it was made a criminal offense recently and other modest steps have been taken by institutions throughout the country. With that said, a vast majority of women have reported some form of sexual harassment, from name and cat-calling to groping in crowded areas.
There are women-only carriages on the Cairo metro that are a great option to avoid this while traveling on public transit throughout that city. As with anywhere else, being aware of your surroundings and avoiding or removing yourself from threatening situations is the best method to avoid this.
You should also feel free to make a scene if the harassment is particularly bad – bystanders will often come to your aid if you do.