15 Questions About First Time Travel to Egypt
Updated: May 9
Congratulations on your first trip to Egypt! Here are 15 tips to get you started on what to expect and how to prepare. From what to wear and when to bargain, you will be ready for the trip of a lifetime.
1. Do they speak English in Egypt?
Yes, and many other languages are widely spoken too. But learning some basic Arabic goes a long way in helping you communicate, and it also shows respect.
Beyond that, it’s so much fun chatting with Egyptians as they are lively conversationalists!
2. Should I bargain?
Bargaining is expected in bazaars like Khan el-Khalil; otherwise, prices are set in grocery stores, hotels, and restaurants.
Tours are a set price when you book online, but if you set one up after you arrive, you may be able to haggle a bit. A felucca ride on the Nile River, for example, you can definitely bargain for the price.
3. What should I wear in Egypt?
Dress in clothing that breathes well, as it’s likely to be hot depending on when you travel. Some mosques ask that you cover your hair when visiting.
It’s advisable to cover your arms, legs, and chest while visiting conservative or religious monuments & areas out of respect. Save your skin-baring outfits for the beach resorts and Western-style hotels (this goes for men too).
4. I don’t like group tours; is it easy to travel solo?
If you’re traveling with your family or children, a tour is highly beneficial for maintaining your schedule and logistics.
If you are a solo traveler, I suggest a personal guide to help you get around. A guide can help you maximize your time, introduce you to hidden gems, and take your picture at the sites.
5. Can you climb the pyramids of Giza?
No, you cannot climb the pyramids. If you do, you may find yourself in an Egyptian prison. That said, I saw someone climb to the top of one of the queens' pyramids (smaller ones at Giza) this week.
However, you are allowed to hop on the first few rows of massive stones at the base of the Great Pyramid to get a memorable photo.
You can buy a ticket to go inside the Pyramids, but there’s nothing there; it’s a small cramped shaft to crawl down, and you must pay extra - skip it unless it's your thing.
6. Are things cheaper in Egypt?
Many things are cheaper in Egypt, and many things are similar in cost to your home country. It really depends on your travel style. Budget travelers can travel easily within Egypt because there are lots of options.
But just because things are cheaper doesn’t mean you should tip less! Egypt is a tip-centric culture, and you are expected to tip for nearly every interaction. Always keep small bills or baksheesh handy for tips.
7. What should I avoid in Egypt?
You should avoid tap water, ice cubes, the fruit & vegetables you can’t peel, and some say salad altogether.
Avoid camels if you don't like bumpy rides!
I don’t avoid the salads in bustling restaurants, but you may want to avoid salad from a street cart. It depends on how sensitive your stomach is.
You may want to avoid giving out your phone number because everyone will ask for it, and they will definitely use it.
That being said, you will make many friends in the land of Pharaohs!
8. Is Egypt safe for tourists?
Everyone’s opinion differs on this subject, but my feeling is Egypt is much safer than the United States if I were to compare. Petty crime is rare, and it’s illegal to own guns, so there’s that.
Egypt also has Tourist Police and soldiers at nearly every corner to patrol for safety. If you are a female solo traveler, use the same judgment you would in any country you are unfamiliar with.
9. What should I know before going to Egypt?
The most up-to-date information about monuments, museums, and temples is not online and subject to change on the mood of whatever official or organization you’re dealing with in Egypt.
This applies to hours of operation, prices, transportation, accommodations, customs, and anything else.
My advice? Expect the unexpected and stay flexible. Egypt is a mood, and if you go with the flow, you will fall in love.
10. Can unmarried couples stay together in Egypt?
Foreign unmarried couples may stay together in Egypt. Egyptian couples may not, as it is illegal. The same goes for an Egyptian man/foreign woman or Egyptian woman/foreign man, as it is illegal for them to stay in a hotel together.
11. Do they drink alcohol in Egypt?
Egypt is a Muslim country, and Muslims are forbidden to drink alcohol.
You can find alcohol at all the Western-style hotels and bars, as well as many nightclubs. Drinkies is a popular store you can buy beer and wine with locations all around Cairo.
Try the local beer, Sakara; it’s delightful!
12. Are there any gestures inappropriate in Egypt?
The left hand is considered unclean. Please don’t use it to shake hands or hand something to someone. Also, do not offer your hand to a Muslim woman to shake, as it is not acceptable to touch a Muslim woman who is not your wife or relative. You must remove your shoes when you visit a mosque, and it's polite to do the same at someone's home.
13. Can I bring a drone to Egypt?
The short answer is no, and don’t bring any pieces of your drone either. You will not get through customs without losing your equipment and raising overall suspicion. Avoid the headache and leave it at home.
14. Can I take pictures and videos everywhere?
Do not photograph government buildings, military compounds, soldiers, police, or the general public in conservative areas.
Be careful about photographing any area with trash, as Egyptian authorities are serious about preventing Egypt from being seen in a bad light. You may be approached and required to erase your footage.
Photography at monuments and sites can differ drastically. Often, you must pay a separate fee to enter with a camera, but this doesn’t usually apply to your camera phone. Some sites or areas do not allow actual cameras at all.
Bonus Photography & video dos & don’ts. Try not to bring too much photography equipment because it will raise red flags at customs. If they suspect you are a journalist or are planning on selling the equipment, they will confiscate it. If you have anything new in your luggage, remove it from the packaging so you’re not suspected of selling it.
15. Do I need a visa for Egypt?
Yes, you can buy your visa right at the airport for $25. It’s not necessary to arrange a visa before you travel.
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