Egypt Travel Tips - Do's and Don'ts
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Travel Tips for Egypt
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. I found Egypt to be a little difficult to navigate as a traveler. When I first arrived it was a bit of a culture shock in Cairo, but as I got used to the way things are done, found everyone to be friendly and helpful.
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 in Egypt, women shouldn’t walk alone at night, make sure friends and family know your itinerary, and 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 Do’s and Don’ts
The do’s and don’ts have written here will help you have a more relaxing and safe journey through Egypt.
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 delcious 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 scrumptous 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
Many place 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 for some places too. 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 the 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 es 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. 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
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 is 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.
I’ll step off my soapbox now. But seriously, please help preserve the monuments of ancient Egypt and don’t tale photos when it isn’t allowed.
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.
Don’t: Follow someone trying to “help” you
Egyptians are a kind people who, in recent years, have fallen on 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. For safety reasons don’t follow someone trying to help you down back streets and into closed off areas.
At 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 reveling clothing are not recommended. In Egypt, showing your shoulders and knees is considered inappropriate.
I know it seems like you’re going to be extremely warm wearing pants and shirts with sleeves, but 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 a 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, and if they do you should not drink in access. While it may seem like you’re being friendly 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 doens’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.
Even more importantly, taking photos of military and police is strictly forbidden in Egypt. This includes not only personnel, but buildings and vehicles too.
Don’t: Use drones in Egypt
Drones are not allowed to be flown anywhere in the country of 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.
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. However, there is no need to be intimidated by vendors in the 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.”