If you must take a taxi, then it would be best if you asked the reception/ concierge of your hotel to get you one. They have certain assigned taxis that they know very well, and deal with on a daily basis If you want to tour a site on your own, you have to be aware of where you are going, how much you are going to pay for the ticket, and what is included with the ticket!
Prepare yourself for a culture shock! Many seasoned travellers are amazed when they first visit Egypt, and find that it is unlike any other country that they have previously visited!
Egypt is a Muslim country, so please respect their faith. Many things that you take as the norm, such as kissing and/or fondling your partner in public, wearing revealing clothing etc., are frowned upon here, so try and be more conservative in your attitude. Homosexuality is actually illegal in Muslim countries!
Do not rely, solely, on travel books such as Lonely Planet and Rough Guide. Though they do give a lot of good information, they do not explain everything, or how to help if you get into problems. Too many people have come to Egypt armed with one of these books, and have left, totally disappointed with their trip, vowing never to return again!
If you are travelling alone, or in a couple, and wish to organise everything yourself, please let the hotel know your plans before you leave. If you should get lost, the hotel will be able to act on your behalf! Also, take a note of the hotel’s name and telephone number, in case you do get lost, or change your plans.
If you wish to organise everything yourself, be prepared for the occasional “rip-off”. Like many other tourist destinations, Egypt has its “wolves”, those who prey on unsuspecting travellers. Often the total cost of an excursion can be a lot more than if you had arranged it through your hotel, or a travel agent, and a lot less enjoyable.
Never drink the tap water! It is okay to wash, shower and clean your teeth with it, but not advised to drink. Bottled water is cheap and plentiful; use it instead!
In Egypt they drive on the right, be careful when crossing roads. Take special care in Cairo, where the traffic is a lot busier than in other Egyptian cities – especially outside the Egyptian museum! UK and Japanese travelers should be extra careful, as you will be used to traffic driving on the left.
Get your entry visa at your destination airport; it often works out cheaper than getting it at home. Also you can exchange your $, £ or Euro at the same time – the conversion rate is far better in Egypt!
If you are going to be using the Abela Sleeper Train service, please try and make your reservation in advance. For help with this, try here.
Internal flights by Egypt Air must be booked in advance as well.
Get to know the other guests in your hotel, many of them will give you advise about what and whatnot to do. They should also be able to tell you where the best restaurants and bargain centers are; no one will knowingly recommend a bad place!
Do not be scared of being part of a group for excursions. These groups have leaders (a tour guide and/or Egyptologist) who will help with problems, explain about the site you are visiting, arrange transport (if necessary!) etc., things you would find difficult if you tried it alone. You will also find that you will get less hassle if you are part of a group! Many traders will not approach a group of people, but they will approach a lone traveller or a couple.
When you pay for a group excursion, the price includes everything except for tips (sometimes admission prices are not included). This includes transport, a driver, a tour guide, tolls etc. Some longer excursions may even include a stop for lunch (often included in the price too). Many will take you to places where Ancient crafts are still practised, giving you the chance to buy good quality merchandise at low prices.
Buy (and drink) plenty of water. You will find it a lot cheaper to buy in the various shops, than buying at your hotel or cruise boat. You may not drink a lot of water at home, but make sure you do in Egypt. It is very easy to become dehydrated if you don’t.
Remember that Egypt is a 3rd world country, and has many poor people who think that all tourists are rich, no matter where they come from in the world! Learn the phrase “La Shukran” (No thank you!) and don’t be afraid to say it to anyone who tries to sell you anything, or asks for “baksheesh”. Believe it or not, it does work. Please do not say “Emshi” (as many tour books advise), this can be taken as an insult.
If you forget the expression “La Shukran” just politely say “No thank you” and walk away. Don’t get abusive to the trader; he is only trying to feed his family.
If you feel that someone is being too pushy, let a member of the Tourist Police know. You will see them everywhere in Egypt and their job is to protect you.
Admission to all sites is payable in LE, so make sure that you carry enough with you. Try and plan each day in advance, work out how
You will find that many tours (especially to the desert sites) are done either early morning or late afternoon. The reason for this is because of the heat in the middle of the day. If you do want to visit sites independently, please try and follow the example of the experienced tour organisers and avoid the midday sun!
Take a small, pocket, flashlight with you when visiting the sites. Many tombs, temples etc. use the natural light for illumination (including a local with a large mirror, reflecting the light!) and a small flashlight can be very handy. A small mirror, such as the one in a ladies make-up, can also be used to highlight a relief. Please Note: Do not take one of the really bright halogen torches, you could cause damage to the monuments!
Take a box of cheap ballpoint pens. The children (and many adults) are very happy when you hand them out, handy for baksheesh.
When shopping for bargains, keep your own currency and credit cards out of sight, and separate from your LE. It is easier to haggle over a price if you can show that you have only a few Egyptian pounds in your possession! Plus, some traders may try and insist that they meant $ or £, instead of LE, if they see that you are carrying them.
Wear sensible footwear when visiting the various sites. High heels and open toe shoes are not advisable. The floors of most sites are either sand or rough-cut, uneven stone. Inside many tombs, wooden floorboards have been installed, but thin heels could get caught in the gaps between the floorboards.
Many monuments have signs that say ” No Flash Photography”, please obey these signs (you can be ejected from the site if you ignore the sign!). The very bright flash can cause serious damage to some of the ancient paintwork!
Some reliefs have depictions that show male genitalia – this is not pornography, so there is no reason to be offended! If you are part of a group (of any size) the leader/guide will explain the reason for the depiction.
If you are travelling by road to Abu Simbel, ask your hotel or cruise boat if they supply a “breakfast box”. Some hotels do this, as they cannot supply you with a breakfast before you depart. If they do not do this service, take some food with you, as hunger will set in before you reach Abu Simbel (a 3 ½ – 4 hour trip, each way!) Also, make sure you take plenty of water with you; it tends to be hot here and you can dehydrate very quickly.
When visiting the West Bank sites at Luxor, again take plenty of water with you! You will be there for either ½ day or a whole day (with a break for lunch) and it can become very hot, drink a lot of water to avoid dehydration!
Ladies, if you intend visiting the inside of one of the pyramids, please wear trousers (or jeans). You may have to ascend/descend ladders and/or crawl through narrow passages. For the same reasons, I would advise men to avoid wearing short trousers.
Public transport (town bus services, and in Cairo, the Metro!) in Egypt is very cheap, but try and avoid it if you can. You will only put yourself into an awkward position having many locals staring and talking about you. Taxis are not expensive so use these for travelling about town. Your hotel will let you know the best companies to use.
At most sites, especially if you are alone, or in a couple, a “guide”, offering to show you around, may approach you. To these people you should say “La Shukran” or “no thank you”! The Egyptian Government does not employ any guides at any of the sites and monuments! Again, ask at your hotel, for help, before you visit the site.
Do not buy anything from the traders inside the Giza Plateau! The items they are trying to sell you can be bought a lot cheaper at places like the Khan El-Khalili. Also beware the many people offering you camel rides, as they are not all genuine! Head for the main stables if you want a camel ride, or better still, arrange one at your hotel.
If you go to the Citadel, try and ignore the traders selling “papyrus” pictures, as the “papyrus” is made from banana leafs, they are not genuine papyrus! Also, if you buy some from one trader, another will approach selling you “pictures that the other man did not have”! To get mementos here, there are some stalls between the bus park and the old bank, where the traders are better to deal with, and not so pushy.
Many people, to save money, use the express train service, Cairo – Luxor/Aswan – Cairo. This is a long journey, though it is comfortable (and the scenery is breathtaking!). Before boarding the train, make sure you take some food with you, as the supplies “on-board” run out very quickly and are not replenished. A book is often advised, to help pass the time. Make sure you get the 1st Class, air-conditioned express train (normally, tourists have no option – the lower class carriages are for locals only!). They are non-smoking, but you can smoke in the entrance/exit area!
Do not feel that 5 star hotels are always the best! There are many 3 star hotels, that are Egyptian owned and run, that offer the same facilities as the big multi-national ones, sometimes they offer a better service and in most cases, a lot friendlier!
And finally: Please do not let this list put you off going to Egypt. It has been compiled from questions that people regularly ask, and complaints that travelers have experienced. This list is to help make your visit as enjoyable as possible.