Here are all the information and travel tips you will need to have a successful holidays to Egypt. So, if you are thinking about visiting Egypt, read our pages and hopefully they will give you the proper travel advice for your trip to Egypt, as well as providing you with all the information .
Egyptian Visa Information
There are two types of Egyptian Visa:
1. Tourist Visa: valid for a period not exceeding three months and granted on either single or multiple entry basis.
2. Entry Visa: is required for any foreigner arriving in Egypt for purposes other tha tourism, e.g. business, study, personal, etc. The possession of a valid Entry Visa is needed to complete the residence procedure in Egypt.
Who needs a Visa?
Afghanistan, Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Chechnya, Croatia, Georgia, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Kazakhstan, Kirghizia, Lebanon, Macao, Macedonia, Moldavia, Montenegro, Morocco, Pakistan, Palestine, The Philippines, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, Sri-Lanka, Tadzhikistan, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and All African countries except south Africa.
Citizens of the above countries may apply for a visa through their nearest Egyptian Consulate or Embassy pre-arrival.
Valid passport with at least 6 months left, before expiry.
One passport-sized photograph
A completed application form
A valid passport and a tourist visa are required for most nationalities. Tourist visas are available at Egyptian embassies and consulates around the world. A single-entry visa is valid for 3 months from when you acquire it, and allows you a 1 month stay in the country. If you are planning to pop in to any neighboring countries while in Egypt, I would suggest applying for a multiple- entry visa, so you can get back in to Egypt without any problems. Check with your closest Egyptian consulate or embassy for fees and the most up to date information. Some nationalities are able to get a tourist visa upon arrival at the major airports.
Note: All tourists have to register with the local police within a week of their arrival. Most hotels will take care of this for you for a small fee. If you are travelling with a tour group it is likely you will not even be aware of this formality.
Cairo airport is located 22Km to the south east of the centre of Cairo. The trip to, or from, the airport should take around 30 - 45 Minutes. So dear traveller, make sure to leave your hotel at least two hours before your departure time!
There are two Terminals at Cairo airport. All EgyptAir and domestic flights depart from Terminal one, while all other airlines depart from Terminal two.
If you fly with EgyptAir, or have connection flights, it is recommended that you confirm your flight, at least 48 hours before departure, it is very important to do that.If you are staying in a good hotel, the guest relation, or reception, should be able to do this for you if you wish. If you are an individual traveller and wish to confirm your flight, you can call EgyptAir directly. Use one of these numbers:
EgyptAir at Cairo International Airport
Tel: 634 1460 / 418 3690 / 265 7222 /265 7244/ 265 7257/ 256 7255
Fax: 267 4555 / 418 2818
It is not allowed for visitors to bring more than 5000 LE in cash. You will find plenty of banks at the airport and several foreign currency exchange offices. Your duty free goods must be purchased within 48 hours after arrival.
Customs at Cairo Airport
You are allowed to bring 250 grams of tobacco, two cartons of cigarettes, one litre of alcohol and personal stuff. If you are planning to bring your own pet, make sure you have a veterinary health certificate, which should include a valid rabies certificate.
The official currency of Egypt is the Egyptian Pound (Genaeh in Arabic). 100 piastres ( girsh in Arabic) make 1 pound. Banks and American Express will readily exchange your traveler checks or cash. ATM cards can also be used in major cities, as can Visa and Mastercards. If you plan to travel off the beaten track, always make sure you have enough local currency with you. Nothing worse than spending a precious vacation day searching for a bank when you could be exploring tombs! For current exchange rates use this currency converter. The maximum amount of Egyptian currency that can be brought in or taken out of Egypt is 1,000 Egyptian pounds.
In Egypt, most of the banks are open from Sunday to Thursday; working hours being 0830 to 1400, though banks at the airports and the major entry ports are open 24 hours daily.
Note: Most of the major credit/debit cards, such as American Express, MasterCard, Visa, all Euro cards and JCB, are widely accepted in various hotels and shops. If you want to use an ATM machine, they mostly accept Visa, MasterCard and Cirrus cards. If you can't find an ATM machine in your vicinity, you can still obtain cash if you go to any of the Misr Bank braches. Banks are unwillingly to accept $100 notes issued before 1992. If you wish to convert your currency, you can use $US, £UK or Euros, as they are accepted in many banks and other places. Please don't bring Scottish pounds, Irish punts, and New Zealand dollars etc. as they are not accepted here!
If you at any point during your tour, you run out of money, and your credit cards are not being accepted, you still can get money wired to you from abroad. In Egypt, there are plenty of Western Union branches; it takes just a few minutes to get any sum of money sent you from abroad.
Tip: Hold on to your one and five pound notes, they come in handy for tipping which you will be doing a lot of. Baksheesh is a phrase you will come to know well.
Weekends and Holidays
Friday is the principle day off in Egypt with many businesses and banks closed on Saturday too . Banks, shops and businesses close for the following Egyptian National Holidays (civil, secular), and public transport may run only limited services:
7th January (Eastern Orthodox Christmas)
25th April (Liberation Day)
1st May (Labour Day)
23rd July (Revolution Day)
6th October (Armed Forces Day)
1st Shawwal,the 10th Hijri month (Eid Elfitr)
10th Tho-Elhejjah, the 12th Hijri month (Eid Al-adha)
The best time to visit Egypt is October through May. The nights will be cool but most days are still sunny. December through February aren't the best times for swimming in the Mediterranean though, it gets quite cold and rainy. Watch out for dust storms from March until May. If you don't mind swampy temperatures above 100 degrees Fahrenheit and want to save a little money, visit Egypt in the summer.
What to Wear
Loose, light cotton clothing is absolutely essential especially if you are travelling in the summer. Buy some clothes while you are there, it is always fun to shop for something practical in the bazaars. It is a good idea to bring a water bottle with you, sunglasses and eyedrops for the dust when visiting the temples and pyramids.
Egypt is a Muslim country and unless you are looking to offend, please dress conservatively. When visiting churches and mosques men should not wear shorts and women should not wear shorts, mini-skirts or tank tops unless on the beach or by a pool.
Getting Around Egypt
If you have little time but a lot of money, flying within Egypt is your best option. Most visitors to Egypt will get there by air. A huge number of airlines operate in and out of Cairo and Egyptair offers international flights in and out of Luxor and Hurghada. Charter flights from London also fly in to Cairo, Luxor and Hurghada. Egyptair flies daily from Cairo to Alexandria, Luxor, Aswan, Abu Simbel, and Hurghada and twice a week to Kharga Oasis. Air Sinai (a subsidiary of Egyptair)flies from Cairo to Hurghada, Al Arish, Taba, Sharm el Sheikh, St. Catherine's Monastery, El Tor, and to Tel Aviv, Israel. You can book through a travel agent or go directly through Egyptair. Egyptair has booking offices throughout Egypt.
You can take a bus to either border, cross by foot and then take local transport again. Taba seems to be the only border open to tourists. Check with the embassy locally when you arrive for updated information.
The major car rental agencies are represented in Egypt; Hertz, Avis, Budget and Europecar. Driving in Egypt, especially the cities can be a bit hazardous to say the least. Take a taxi and enjoy the wild ride from the back seat! Tips on how to hail taxi's, bargain for a reasonable rate and tipping procedures can be found here.
Buses range from luxury to overcrowded and grim! But they service all towns in Egypt. In general, the faster more luxurious buses will run between major cities and tourist destinations. Tickets can be bought at bus stations and often on the bus itself.
Trains are an excellent way to travel within Egypt. There are air-conditioned express trains as well as ordinary trains which tend to be a bit slower and less likely to have AC. Note that trains do not go to the Sinai or the main beach destinations of Hurghada and Sharm el Sheikh.
There are ferries operating from Greece and Cyprus to Alexandria. You can also catch a ferry to Jordan (Aqaba) and Sudan (Wadi Halfa).
If you are traveling with a tour group then most of your transport will be arranged for you. If you have a few days on your own, or are planning to travel independently there are many options to get around the country.
The romance of a Nile Cruise has sustained an industry of well over 200 steamers. A Nile Cruise used to be the only way tourists could get to the tombs and temples of Luxor. You can get excellent package deals usually ranging from 4-7 days. Get as much information as you can about the vessel before you go. If you are booking in Egypt, try and see the vessel before you purchase your ticket. Most boats start off in Luxor, sailing down to Aswan, with stops at Esna, Edfu and Kom Ombo.
Feluccas are lateen-sailed boats which have been used on the Nile since antiquity. Cruising on a Felucca at sunset is one of the pleasures of visiting Egypt. You can also opt for longer sails, heading down river from Aswan is the most popular route. Packages are available but most tourists organize their own trips. Be choosy about your Felucca captain!
The electricity current is 220 volts, 50 Hz, and uses round-pronged plugs. North American and other non 220-volt users are advised to bring a converter! If you are coming from the UK, you will need an adaptor for your plugs (these are available from most high street chemists – Boots, Superdrug etc.
Phone call codes
To call Egypt from abroad, the country code is 002.
If you have friends calling you from North America or Australia while you are in Egypt, tell them to dial 011 before dialling country code.
To call any country outside Egypt, dial your country code, then city code then numbers are :
Sharm Elshiek 069
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and the most important month in the Islamic Calendar for Muslims, the majority religion in Egypt. Commemorating the time when God revealed the Qur'an to Mohammed, during this holy month, Muslims abstain from eating, drinking or smoking until after sundown on each day. Although strict adherence to Ramadan is for Muslims only, some Muslims appreciate that non-Muslims do not take meals or smoke in public places. During Ramadan, many restaurants and cafes won't open until after sundown. As expected, exactly at sunset minute, the entire country quiets down and busy itself with the main meal of the day (iftar or breaking-fast) that are almost always done as social events in large groups of friends. Many richer people offer (Tables of the Gracious God ) in Cairo's streets that cater full-meals for free for the passers-by, the poorer ones or workers who couldn't leave their shifts at the time. Prayers become popular 'social' events that some like to enrich with special food treats before and after. An hour or two later, an astonishing springing to life of the cities takes place. Streets sometimes richly decorated for the whole month have continuous rush hours till very early in the morning.
Ramadan dates :
2009 (1430): Aug 21 - Sep 19
2010 (1431): Aug 11 - Sep 9
2011 (1432): Aug 1 - Aug 29
There are a number of options for washing clothes whilst travelling in Egypt:
By far the easiest, most practical - and not at all expensive - is to arrange for your hotel to have your washing done for you. By prior arrangement, clothes left on the bed or handed in at reception will be returned to you by evening freshly laundered and pressed. Determined self-helpers can persist with hand-washing or finding one of the many "hole-in-the-wall" laundries where the staff will wash and press your clothes manually - a fascinating process in itself!
Address : 8 Kamal El Din Salah St., Garden City, Cairo, Egypt.
Tel :   797-3300
Address : World Trade Centre (11th Floor), Corniche El Nil, Boulac (Code No. 11111), Cairo , Egypt.
Tel : 20-2 575 0444
Fax : 20-2 578 1638
Address : 7 Ahmed Ragheb Street, Garden City, Cairo , Egypt .
Tel : (20) (2) 794 0852
Address : 26 Kamel El Shenaway Street, Garden City, Cairo ,Egypt .
Tel : +20 (2) 791-8700
Address : 2, Sh. Berlin (off Sh. Hassan Sabri) Zamalek / Cairo, Egypt .
Tel: (00202) 739-9600
Fax: (00202) 736-0530
Address : 15, Abdel Rahman Fahmy Str., Garden City, Cairo , Egypt .
Tel: +20 (0)2 7943194 - 7943195 - 7940658
Fax: +20 (0)2 7940657
Address : 41, Ismail Mohamed.-Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt .
Tel : 735 58 13, 735 64 37, 735 36 52 and 735 64 62
First and foremost, 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 because 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.
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.
Get your 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. You have to book the tickets through a travel agent.
Internal flights by EgyptAir 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 what not to do. They should also be able to tell you where the best restaurants and bargain centres 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. This includes transport, a driver, a tour guide, 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 much you will need for admissions, and keep this money separate from your spending money.
If you want to go on a felucca trip, be careful! Again, ask for advise from your hotel first, to find out the best captain to approach. Unfortunately there have been reports of some captains demanding extra money for the return leg of a journey, or demanding to take you somewhere else first! While this is not the norm, it does occasionally happen.
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.
Be prepared for delays when entering some sites. Because of the threat of terrorism, you will have your personal belongings (camera bags, carrier bags etc.) searched before gaining admittance. Though this is annoying, it is for your safety! Also, on some sites, they may find video equipment, which they will take from you. Don’t worry you will get it back! It is just that certain sites do not allow video’s to be used.
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.
Once developed for cleaning the parts underneath a babies nappy / diaper, “Wet Wipes” (the small, damp, tissue usually bought in a plastic tub) are becoming more and more popular with adults. They are also very useful when travelling in Egypt. When you have felt the relief’s in a Temple, touched the hieroglyphs in a Tomb, caressed the stones on the Pyramids etc., you only have to take one of these wipes out to instantly clean your hands. No more looking for a washroom.
Make up a small “medical-kit” before you go! Include things like safety pins, plasters (different sizes), antiseptic cream, diarrhoea tablets, headache tablets and sun cream.
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.
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.
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.
If you on a “multi-centre” holiday, and you will be returning to your first hotel before your departure, arrange to leave some of your luggage, and items you have bought, with the hotel. Most hotels offer this service free of charge (or for a very low cost) and it saves you having to carry too much to your next destinations.
When you have paid your entry into the Egyptian Museum and received your ticket(s), a “guide”, offering his services, will approach you. These “guides” are not employed by the museum, they are freelance. Most of the museums exhibits are not labelled, so the chances are, you will not know one from another. A guidebook is available from the museum, but it is up to you if you want to employ one of these “guides”. If you decide to do so, make sure you haggle for a good, low price, so that if he is useless, you have not wasted much money. You could even try and form a group of visitors to share the cost! To avoid this problem in the first place, ask at your hotel for advise on getting a proper guide.
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.