Egypt is one of the most amazing countries I’ve ever had the pleasure to visit. Many people who have never been to Egypt have various preconceptions about the country. To help you see this amazing country as it truly is I’ve put together this blog post of Egypt travel tips.
Upon arrival in Egypt, I suffered a bit of a culture shock in Cairo. As I got used to the way things are done, I found everyone to be friendly and helpful.
Egypt Travel Tips
Is Egypt safe?
I was asked, “Is Egypt safe?” before I left and after I got home and the answer is yes and no. Did I feel safe in Egypt? Yes. Do I think every person has a different experience and level of comfort to the western world? Yes.
2 weeks before I left home to go to Egypt there was a bombing in Coptic Cairo what killed several people. a month before I left there was a shooting at a Black church in North Carolina where people were also killed. Bad things happen everywhere. We can’t control when they happen or how. I personally will not live my life in fear of bad things happening when I travel.
To feel safe here are a few Egypt travel tips:
- Visitors should be aware when walking alone at night.
- Make sure friends and family know your itinerary.
- Keep your personal belongings secure at all times.
- Be smart and aware of your surroundings, like most other countries, and you’ll be good to go.
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Egypt Travel Tips: Do’s and Don’ts
The do’s and don’ts for traveling in Egypt I have written here will help you have a more relaxing and safe journey.
Egypt Travel Tips – Do’s
Do: Eat all the Egyptian Food
There is so much delicious food to eat throughout Egypt, and you should try it all! My personal favorite is shawarma; a delicious shaved meat that I can’t get enough of. No matter if you get street food or go to a sit-down restaurant you’ll find scrumptious food cooked fresh with plenty of Egyptian hospitality. During your time in Egypt make sure you try:
- Mahshi: stuffed grapes leaves.
- Fiteer Baladi: Egyptian pizza
- Hawawshi: minced beef sandwich
Do: Carry small Egyptian pound bills and coins
Most places you’ll visit in Egypt or want to buy something from don’t take credit cards. It is easier to carry cash in small bills when it comes to money in Egypt. Additionally, it is easier to have exact change, especially when you’re in a market or buying street food.
Another thing to keep in mind is that Egyptian culture revolves around tipping. I wish I had known this the first time I went to Egypt. It would have made my life much easier.
Many people will ask for a tip for simple tasks like holding a door, serving, or giving assistance on directions. This is expected by not just visitors, but locals as well.
Do: Learn some Arabic phrases during your trip to Egypt
Learning Arabic phrases during a visit to Egypt will not only help you get around more easily, locals will be thankful for your effort. While there will be many locals that speak English working at and guiding tours around the many temples of Egypt, most people only speak Arabic. Here are a few common Arabic phrases that will help you get around during your time in Egypt:
- Hello: as-salām ‘alaykum
- What’s your name?: Male – mā ismak? Female – mā ismik?
- My name is…: …mā ismik?
- Have a nice day: atmna lk ywma tyba
- Please: mīn fāḍlīkā
- Where is the bathroom?: ayn al-ḥammām?
- How much is this?: Kam howa thamanoh? (th as in bath)
- Me/You/Him/Her: Ana/ anta/ anti (you female). Houwa/ Hiya
- I’m hungry/thirsty: Ana jae’/ ana ‘atshaan
- My Arabic is bad: Lughati al arabic laisat kama yajib
For a little more help on common Arabic phrases watch the video below!
Do: Respect Egyptian temples and monuments
One of my biggest pet peeves, no matter where I travel to, is the lack of respect many people have for local monuments. In Egypt, my biggest pet peeve was when there are both signs and personnel telling visitors not to take photos and people do it anyway. PLEASE, follow the rules and don’t take photos in prohibited places.
During my time in the Valley of the Kings I saw so many people taking photos inside the tombs. This is distressing because at the entrance of the Valley of the Kings, the people that work there ask visitors to leave their cameras at the front and not take photos inside any of the tombs.
With our Insta-focused culture, it was extremely disappointing to see people taking photos inside anyway. The images painted on the walls of the temples, tombs, and statues of Egypt are delicate. Taking photos of them dulls the coloring on the paintings. Many of them are well preserved, meaning taking photos damages artifacts that are over 5000 years old.
Additionally, don’t climb on the statues, or anything else for that matter, at the temples. When I was visiting Abu Simbel I saw someone try and climb on one of the statues of Ramesses II. There were multiple signs and they still decide to take photos.
I’ll step off my soapbox now. But seriously, please help preserve the monuments of ancient Egypt, and don’t take photos when it isn’t allowed.
UPDATE: With the purchase of a special pass in many of the temples across Egypt, you are now allowed to take photos.
Do: Visit the Pyramids of Giza
If you go to Egypt and don’t visit the pyramids you’ll be missing out. While the pyramids are a big tourist attraction, it is an amazing place to see in person. I had been dreaming of seeing them for years and I actually got to go inside the Great Pyramid! It was an experience of a lifetime and I can’t wait to go back.
Keep in mind that the Great Pyramids aren’t the only ones located near Cairo. Don’t forget to visit the pyramids of Dashur and Memphis as well.
Egypt Travel Tips – Don’ts
Don’t: Follow someone trying to “help” you
Egyptians are a kind people who, in recent years, have fallen into tough times because of the Arab Spring. When I was there tourism was down 80% and many people were out of work because of the lack of jobs.
Because the Egyptians are so helpful, some people, like in any other place in the world, take advantage of this and try to “help” people, but instead try to harm them. Oftentimes these people will rob you, which sadly is a pretty common scam in Egypt. For safety reasons don’t follow someone trying to help you down back streets and into closed-off areas.
In some tourist areas, some people might tell you they’re going to show you or bring you into special areas of the attraction. These people tend to allow tourists into areas that are off limits in order to get tips, and sometimes rob them.
Don’t: Wear shorts and/or tank tops when visiting Egypt
Egypt is a predominately Muslim country and the people who are not Muslim are very conservative. Therefore shorts, tank tops, and generally revealing clothing are not recommended. In Egypt, showing your shoulders and knees is considered inappropriate. I personally think this is one of the biggest Egypt travel tips I can give you.
While it seems like you’re going to be extremely warm wearing pants and shirts with sleeves, it’s all about the material the clothes are made from. I recommend wearing linen and cotton.
Additionally, when entering certain religious sites you will be required to wear clothing that doesn’t show your knees and shoulders. Women will need to wear a scarf over their heads at many religious sites as well.
Don’t: Drink in Public
Drinking is taboo in Egypt. Being a predominately Muslim country – and people who practice the Muslim faith do not drink – drinking is not prohibited in public. Not all restaurants sell alcohol either, and if they do you should not drink in access.
Additionally, while you are trying to be friendly when offering it is considered rude to offer alcohol to someone who is Muslim.
Don’t: Take photos of locals without permission
Taking photos of locals without permission is a big no-no no matter where you’re traveling. While people in Egpyt dress differently than people in the western world that doesn’t mean taking photos without permission is OK. Keep in mind taking a photo may require you to give the subject of the photo a tip.
More importantly, taking photos of the military and police is strictly forbidden in Egypt. This includes not only personnel but buildings and vehicles too. This is one of the most important Egypt travel tips I can give you.
Don’t: Use drones in Egypt
Visitors and locals alike cannot fly Drones anywhere in Egypt. According to the Drone Travelers, there may be some hope in getting to fly a drone in Egypt. According to the Egyptian Aviation Act under Article 46, sentence 8:
“No unmanned aircraft is allowed to fly or to work in the territory of the State unless upon a permission of Civil Aviation Authority. In all cases, using unmanned aircraft is prohibited as per Rules of the Air and Air Traffic set forth in this respect.”
While it seems like there is hope in obtaining permission The Drone Travelers say they have never heard of anyone actually getting permission.
Don’t: Get in a taxi before agreeing on a price or using a meter
Getting scammed is something no one wants to happen to them while traveling. One way to prevent this while visiting Egypt is to not get into a taxi before agreeing to the price to your destination. I have a few friends that have been completely overcharged while they were in Cairo because they didn’t negotiate the price before they sat down.
If there is a meter in the cab that will work too, or use Uber they have it in Cairo and it is slowly expanding to other cities throughout the country.
Egypt Travels Tips – Don’t: Drink the tap water
This is good advice no matter where you’re traveling to. At the same time, don’t go out and buy bottled water because it’s terrible for the environment. I always carry my Sawyer water filter with me, no matter where I’m going. I highly encourage you, no matter what water filter you bring with you, to do the same.
Don’t: Be intimidated by market vendors in Egypt
When walking through markets in Cairo as well as tourist attractions across Egypt there are vendors everywhere. They will all be trying to sell you something, and it can get a bit overwhelming. You do not need to be intimidated by vendors in markets throughout Egypt.
If you are not interested in what they’re trying to sell you, simply tell them no thank you, and continue walking. In Arabic, no thank you is: “la, shukraan.”