Are you thinking about visiting Egypt? This article will tell you the key Egypt travel tips that you need to know before visiting this amazing country.
It had long been a dream of mine to see the Great Pyramids of Giza and float along the Nile River.
And Egypt surpassed every possible dream I had for the country.
As much as I loved Egypt, it can be a difficult country to navigate. So it is important to carefully plan out your trip in advance.
The Egypt travel tips in this article will help you to prepare for an incredible trip to Egypt.
1. Use a tour company when visiting Egypt
Egypt is a complex country to navigate.
I used a tour company when traveling to Egypt. I saw numerous occasions where the Egyptian tour coordinators needed to converse with local authorities to access particular areas, pass through security, and generally smooth over any issues that arose.
These conversations were always in Arabic and often required a local Egyptian’s diplomatic expertise to navigate the unique cultures and norms.
Without the assistance of Egyptian tour coordinators, we would have missed flights, would not have seen certain cultural sites, and would have been endlessly harassed by local vendors.
When I traveled to Egypt, I had the opportunity to travel with TBA Escapes, a tour company that leads all female-tours.
If you are traveling with your family or significant other, Abercrombie & Kent offers spectacular tours of Egypt.
These tour companies have relationships in Egypt that open doors for you that you would not otherwise be able to access. I highly recommend both companies.
2. Expect extremely aggressive vendors at cultural sites
Many cultural sites in Egypt (like the Sphinx), have a row of vendors at the entrance to the site.
These vendors are extremely aggressive. They will try to talk to you and will follow you.
Your local Egyptian guide will tell them to back off, which is a huge help. And another reason it is important to use a tour company in Egypt.
But the vendors are still trying to make a living and will try to get you to purchase something.
Two tips that I found helpful when dealing with the vendors:
- Do not respond verbally. At all. Any type of acknowledgment leads to even more aggressive sales tactics.
- It is not possible to browse. If you pick something up or look closely at something, the vendor is expecting you to buy something. Avoid looking at something closely unless you intend to make a purchase.
These two tips were essential for me to navigate the row of vendors at cultural sites.
3. Do not even think about driving in Egypt
Driving yourself is just not possible in the chaos of Egyptian traffic.
Only Egyptians can possibly navigate the craziness of this traffic. It is truly spectacular to witness. I loved seeing it in action. But I would never, ever drive myself in Egypt.
Here are just some of the things you will witness with Egyptian traffic (especially in Cairo):
- Micro-buses stop in active highway traffic lanes to pick up passengers.
- Those bus passengers will *run across the highway* to get to the other side, even as vehicles and motorcycles are flying around them.
- Portions of the highway become small parking lots, as people stop in the traffic lanes to get food from vendor stands along the highway.
- Horse-drawn buggies and mules compete with cars and trucks for highway space.
- Lines to mark traffic lanes are rare and are usually completely ignored.
- Cars are really run-down, so it is not unusual for cars to break down in the highway.
I still marvel at how Egyptian traffic possibly works. But it does. And it is best experienced from a tour vehicle while an experienced Egyptian driver safely takes you to your destination.
4. Bring motion sickness medicine
With all that crazy traffic comes a lot of sudden, jerky vehicle movements. Plus, there are speed bumps everywhere.
None of this is great for those who suffer from motion sickness.
If you suffer from motion sickness like me, take precautions. Bring any motion sickness medication you usually take to manage motion sickness. Or talk to your doctor about getting a prescription for motion sickness medicine for the trip.
5. Prepare for lots of sand dust and cigarette smoke
Egypt naturally has a lot of sand in the air. And there is a lot of cigarette smoking in restaurants and public places.
If you have allergies or asthma, you may need to bring medication or inhalers to keep you comfortable on the trip.
Because I am not used to sand dust or cigarette smoke, I found that my throat and sinuses were pretty irritated at the beginning of my trip to Egypt. I ended up having to take allergy medication to help cope with it.
My body adjusted to the irritants by the end of the trip. But I was glad to have the allergy medication with me for the beginning of the trip.
6. Bugs, bugs, bugs
There are lots of bugs in Egypt, including annoying flies.
And the biting bugs. Wow. My feet and ankles have never itched like they itched after getting bit by bugs in Egypt.
While in Egypt, one of my friends gave me a bug repellent bracelet to wear on my wrist. I never had a single bug bite on my upper body. I should have also worn a bracelet on my ankle to prevent bug bites there.
7. Expect to see a lot of police while visiting Egypt
During one of our days in Cairo, we were assigned an Egyptian tourism police officer to accompany us. The tourism police officer’s job is to make sure that tourists are not doing anything that would jeopardize Egyptian security.
We were also escorted by a police car for a portion of a day in Cairo. Again, the intent was to make sure that our group was not a threat to Egyptian security.
These types of situations would be extremely difficult to navigate as a foreigner. Our Egyptian guides spent quite a bit of time talking to the tourism police to help ensure there were no problems.
This is another reason that it is important to have an Egyptian guide with you at all times. Otherwise, language and cultural differences can cause misunderstandings.
8. Plan on going through a lot of security screenings
Egyptians have many amazing cultural sites. And with those cultural sites comes a lot of security.
Expect to go through security at every cultural site and almost every hotel. This includes going through a metal detector and having your belongings scanned by an x-ray machine.
At some of the more crowded cultural sites, you can expect long lines at security that may take some time to go through.
You should also expect multiple security checks at the airports in Egypt. There is usually a higher-level security checkpoint as you enter the airport and a more thorough security checkpoint after ticketing.
Plan on allowing for extra time at the cultural sites and the airports to get through security screening.
9. You can (but probably should not) drink the water
The water in Egypt is drinkable.
However, like all other countries in the world, it has naturally-occurring bacteria in it.
Since that naturally-occurring bacteria is likely different than the bacteria in your drinking water at home, your body may not react kindly to it.
You can use the tap water in Egypt to brush your teeth. You can also drink coffee and tea (which would have been heated to a level that killed the bacteria). However, you should likely avoid drinking tap water (including ice cubes made with tap water).
10. The cultural sites will likely be crowded
I visited Egypt in late November, which is a fairly popular time to visit Egypt.
The weather was fantastic (in the 70-80 degree Fahrenheit temperature range), but I did find the cultural sites to be pretty crowded with tourists.
Just plan on coordinating with your tour company to get to the sites at non-peak times during the day so that you can avoid as many crowds as possible.
And bring a lot of patience.
11. Wear comfortable walking gear when visiting Egypt
Most of the cultural sites have a lot of sand. Many of them also have uneven or rocky pathways.
I preferred to wear leather sneakers at the sites, which I thought looked stylish while still giving me decent support.
While many people did wear sandals, those people who wore sandals often had swollen and dusty feet at the end of the day, even if they wore sandals with support.
12. Dress comfortably and on the conservative side
While the dress code is not as strict in Egypt as in some other countries, you will likely stand out if you dress in revealing clothes.
You can avoid unnecessary attention by dressing comfortably and on the conservative side, such as by wearing crewneck tops or long-sleeved shirts.
There are dress code requirements to enter mosques. These requirements typically include wearing long pants or skirts and covering up the shoulder and chest area for women. Some mosques may also ask women to wear a head scarf.
13. Currency considerations when visiting Egypt
Credit cards are widely accepted at the tourist locations throughout Egypt.
However, if you have the chance to go slightly off the beaten path with your guide, have some cash ready.
You can pick up some Egyptian Pounds at an ATM at the airport when you land to have readily available throughout your trip to Egypt.
Egyptians also happily accept Euros and U.S. Dollars, especially during times of high inflation with the Egyptian Pound.
Plan on bringing some Euros or U.S. Dollars to tip Egyptians who support you throughout the trip. Although tipping is not required or expected in Egypt, it can go a long way to support the local economy and demonstrate your appreciation for the help you received.
14. Know Egypt visa requirements in advance
You may require a visa to visit Egypt.
As a U.S. citizen, I required a visa to visit Egypt. However, the process was very straightforward.
I was able to complete an advance e-visa application at a cost of 25 USD and was approved before I arrived. You can also purchase a visa when you arrive in Egypt. However, I found it easiest to just get the visa in advance. Then it is one less thing to think about when you land.
I made the unfortunate mistake of leaving my middle name off my first Egypt e-visa application. This resulted in an initial denial of my visa application. Make sure when you complete your visa application that you include your middle name if it is written in your passport.
15. Get to know the Egyptians while visiting Egypt
Another great reason to use a tour company? You get direct access to local Egyptians.
I found Egyptians to generally be friendly, kind, interesting, and good-humored.
During your travels in Egypt, spend some time getting to know your guides. Learn about their day-to-day lives that can be very different from the experiences in other countries.
You will likely have some wonderful conversations. And will leave Egypt having met some incredible people.
Egypt was a dream vacation for me. I loved visiting this amazing country.
I hope these Egypt travel tips will help you to have an amazing vacation.