When traveling to a new country or continent, it is essential to do a bit of research into the local culture and the customs and the main things to know which will prove invaluable when you arrive. In hindsight, many people look back and wish they had learned a sure thing before embarking on a big trip, and this can be anything from the language or the food expectations to the dos and don’ts or the overall costs.
By looking into a range of topics before you leave home, you will be prepared for anything that comes your way, and let’s face it, you will cut out that unnecessary stress and hassle that can sometimes happen En route.
Here are the main things to know before traveling to Egypt.
Before traveling to a new country, you will want to plan your budget and know exactly how much to expect to spend for the activities you have planned. It goes without saying that like anywhere in the world, Egypt’s tourist areas will be more costly than rural or off-the-beaten-track places, including for food, accommodation, and even for souvenirs, so expect to pay more when staying in these famous tourist hubs.
The currency of Egypt is the Egyptian Pound, and as of February 2022, $1 was equal to EGP15.66, but recheck this before the time you plan to travel there, as currency exchange constantly changes.
When it comes to overall costs, there are many budgets ($10), midrange ($30), and luxury ($150) hotels, and the same goes for food with options such as local street food, local restaurants or high-end restaurants, so there is truly something for everyone. Haggling is a significant way of life here, and don’t expect the first price to be the list price because you are expected to haggle to find a price that suits both you and the vendor.
Haggling can be a daunting experience if you have never done it before, but when you get into the swing of how things are bought and sold in Egypt, you will be a pro in no time.
Make sure to shop around and compare prices for everything, always carry some local cash, especially for markets and be aware that tipping is expected in Egypt, ranging from 5% to 15% depending on the service.
There are many ways to get around Egypt, with buses and trains being an excellent option for long-distance travel, domestic flights being a top choice for getting around while saving time, and of course cruise boats, to take you up and down the River Nile. For saving money and traveling more locally, shared taxis and buses are the best option, while cruise boats can be more expensive but offer a great way to see the main attractions along the Nile. By taking a tour around Egypt, you can save a lot of time and money, as they generally include most meals, transport, accommodation, and admission to major attractions. You can find out more about tours in Egypt that may suit you here.
Although many parts of Egypt are easily accessible, you may need travel permits for specific areas, including the Siwa Oasis and surrounding desert areas, which you can get in Siwa. Trains are best used for long haul journeys to and from a limited number of routes, while buses are more reliable for shorter trips and destinations that the train routes will not cover. Driving can be stressful in the cities of Egypt, especially in Cairo, so it is best to have a guide or take a taxi when in these cities due to the hefty traffic.
Arabic is spoken all over Egypt, but it is generally referred to as Egyptian Arabic due to its unique dialect compared to other Arabic-speaking countries. If you have some Arabic under your belt, you will thrive here. The locals will be happy to hear a traveler communicating in the local language; however, if you are traveling to the famous sites that Egypt is known for, you will find many people speaking English.
One of the best things to do before traveling anywhere is to attempt to pick up a few phrases in the local language because you never know when you will need it, but if you have a ‘Destination Expert‘ On the hand, they too can teach you a few phrases as you go.
While Egyptian Arabic is the language you will mostly hear throughout your travels, you may also hear some local languages such as the Nubian language in Aswan or Bedouin, which is the language spoken by the inhabitants of the isolated Siwa Oasis.
There are a few things to know when it comes to the culture of Egypt, and here are the main ones:
- Use your right hand when eating, greeting someone, or giving or receiving items.
- Men and women should dress respectfully and modestly, especially when visiting historical or religious monuments.
- Egyptian people are hot, welcoming, and above all, very helpful, so don’t be afraid to ask for help or stop chatting with the locals.
- Public displays of affection are a big NO in Egypt, so be aware of this when out and about.
- If invited to a home, always take your shoes off before entering the house, and it is customary to bring a gift or token of appreciation for the invitation.
In a country where many people live on less than $75 per month, it is expected that you tip for daily services, such as tour guides, taxi drivers, waiters, and of course if someone helps you by opening a door/a site after hours/gets you a seat on a train, etc. Foreigners are, in fact, expected to be entirely free with their ‘baksheesh’ or tips, so try to strike a balance when it comes to this etiquette.
Of course, you may be traveling to Egypt to visit some of the most famous historical sites on the planet, including the pyramids, the sphinx, or Luxor temple, but there is a lot more to Egypt than meets the eye.
With some incredible off-the-beaten-track destinations like Siwa Oasis and Dakrour Mountain, it is worth noting that Egypt is such a fantastic destination when it comes to diversity, and it is crucial to have an open mind when traveling here.
It can be easy to be swept away by all the famous places, but once they are ticked off the list, why not get in touch with a ‘Destination Expert,’ who can guide you to some remarkable, hidden gems. If you are the type of person that likes to see some super spots off the tourist trail, this could be the perfect tour for you.
Believe it or not, Egypt is a safe country to visit and should not be judged before visiting. Like any new country, it is essential to be vigilant against pickpockets and petty theft, but safety is very rare in the country. Although scams and petty crime can happen, it is worth knowing that getting mugged or robbed is a rarity in Egypt, and you should not feel unsafe when traveling around the country. However, you should take some small steps to optimize your safety, such as keeping valuably hidden, not flashing money around, and perhaps taking a guide if you feel like that will give you peace of mind in some areas.