10 things you need to know before traveling to Egypt to help you have a safe & memorable adventure.
As Roger was checking us out at the Hilton Luxor Resort & Spa, our last resort before heading back to Cairo to return home, the concierge came up to me & was asking me about our trip.
He asked if I felt safe & what I would tell people back in America.
He mentioned our media (in reference to how our media negatively portrays the safety of traveling to & in Egypt) & I reassured him that we had a wonderful time & that we would be spreading the word about our wonderful trip.
And that’s the truth.
We really enjoyed our Egypt adventure & I want to encourage you to make the leap across the pond (and the Mediterranean) to the Middle East to explore the ancient civilization ASAP.
Because the word is spreading & soon the place will be crowded with tourists.
One of our guides even told us that the Egyptian tourism industry is on track for a tourist year like 2010, which means that by 2020 I personally predict that they will be well beyond any of their previous years.
Tourism has drastically increased around the world in the last 9 years & now that the word is getting out that it is safer to travel to Egypt I truly believe that they will soon be overrun by tourists.
But don’t worry, unlike some countries that wish that tourists would go away, Egypt is quite the opposite.
Not only do they want tourists to come (back), but they are advertising for it, requesting it, & preparing for all of the eager tourists who have been waiting to check Egypt off their bucket list.
Sadly there is still a lot of misinformation floating around the internet about Egypt & I’m determined to help get the word out about the beauty & adventure awaiting you in Egypt.
But I’m also not going to sugar coat anything.
Egypt is not America, it is a Middle Eastern country, & what you experience in Egypt will not be identical to your everyday life in America.
So to help you prepare I thought I’d create a post that shared all of the tips that I garnered through personal experience to help you prepare for your grand Egyptian adventure.
1. Avoid Tourist Traps
No matter where you travel in the world, whether it be Egypt, Paris, or Key West, people want your money.
And some people will do any number of things to try to get it, some will try to sell you something (& walk with you as you try to move past them) others will try to hand you something (they may even say it is free) but once you have it they will demand money (this didn’t actually happen to us, but I’ve read the stories), & some will just hold out their hands and ask for money straight up.
As we wandered about the pyramids I had a little boy do this to me (I had nothing but credit cards, Roger kept all of the cash on him).
About a minute later my hat blew off & as I ran after it (only a few feet away) I heard the little boy start running while yelling “No, miss! No!”
I knew if I didn’t get to the hat before he did I would be asked for money as a thank you for him “retrieving” my hat.
So next time we travel I am going to keep small packaged bags of food on me to give to children when they ask for money, as I saw another lady do when we went on our hot air balloon tour.
I so wished I had thought to do this sooner.
But if someone comes up to you or follows you trying to sell you something simply look away, ignore, keep walking (this really works best if you have dark sunglasses on), if they persist simply say no or “la” (which is no in Arabic) repeatedly & keep walking.
Never stop or smile politely unless you plan to buy.
A smile can be seen as encouragement or even a “yes” that you plan to purchase something.
I’m not saying you need to be rude, just walk like you are on a mission.
A real trap to avoid, that my husband read about prior to leaving, is that when you are arriving at the airport (whether just landing or coming to it by taxi) there will be people (some even dressed up who look like they are with the airport) who will try to help you with your luggage.
He read that if they take your luggage for you that you will be asked to pay something, whether it be a tip or even (as he read) $100 US dollars to get your luggage back from them.
Again, that’s just what he read.
We held on to our luggage and were quick to get to our luggage when we arrived at the airport by taxi to ensure no one would take our luggage, as some bystanders did try to get them out of the trunk (let’s just say I quickly scurried around the car to get our luggage first).
We researched this both before & during our trip to ensure we were tipping everyone properly.
The rule of thumb we went by was 10% (which we found consistently suggested online) across the board for everything.
And when I say everything I mean you are expected to cash tip for everything!
Well except for uber rides, which I thought was weird considering you tip for everything else.
We tried tipping our uber drivers & they respectfully declined, so instead of a cash tip, we tipped on the Uber app instead.
You may be used to tipping at a restaurant or your Uber, but you will also be requested or even required to pay something just to use the public restroom.
The first nontoilet toilet (aka hole in the ground) was at the airport in Istanbul.
These disposable funnels were a major lifesaver & a game changer when it comes to traveling.
I will never travel overseas again without them.
If you are a woman or are traveling with small girls you will love them.
One of the reviewers on Amazon said that she takes them with her anywhere they go for her small daughter.
I should note that this was the only hole in the ground I personally encountered during our trip.
And I didn’t find out until the end of our trip that just a few stalls down there was a regular toilet.
But I should also note that we didn’t go off the beaten path a lot in Egypt & usually stuck to resort/hotel bathrooms when possible.
Even still, I often used the disposable funnels out of convenience due to all of the long dress & skirts I wore.
4. The roads
While there are lines on the road, they aren’t used as a guideline for where to drive & often you will see people driving down the center of a line.
And if you see what looks to be a two-lane road you will instead see three rows of cars & sometimes a motorcycle will pass between two of the three vehicles.
They use their horns a lot (& at night they flash their lights a lot too), but it’s not an angry thing, more of a “hey, just so you know I’m passing you.”
Also, people just walk out into the roads, you will even see people walking along & through the busy interstate at night.
We even had a camel cross in front of us in the middle of Cairo.
All of this may seem scary at first, but by the end of the trip, my father-in-law declared that Egypt must have the best drivers in the world because they navigate the traffic, people, & animals with ease & without many accidents, even though they drive super close to each other.
Not only are they cheap, but you can easily check the rating of the driver so that you know what you are getting into “literally.”
Unfortunately, there weren’t any Ubers in Luxor yet (& we didn’t need one in Hurghada), but from our resort to the Luxor airport it was only 150 LE (Egyptian pounds – which is currently about $8.73 American dollars).
Our transfers from the Cairo airport to our resort, from our resort to Hurghada, & Hurghada to Luxor were all with EmoTours (highly recommended on TripAdvisor).
While in Cairo we opted out of booking a tour of the museum & instead took an Uber to the Cairo museum so that we could explore it at our leisure.
For a basic Uber for four people it was about $4 US Dollars & for a nice Uber for four people, it was about $7 US dollars & the trip was around 30 minutes one way from our resort to the Cairo museum.
6. Booking Tours
We booked a tour of the pyramids through our hotel with Viator (a TripAdvisor company) when we arrived in Cairo.
And when we were in Luxor we also took two other tours with Viator to the West Bank & East Bank to tour places like the Karnak & Luxor temple, the Valley of the Kings & Queens, Hetshapsups Temple, & King tuts tomb (in the valley).
Our hot air balloon tour came with transportation too, which was booked through Trip Advisor.
I should also note that booking tours should be discretionary based upon your desires for your trip.
If you want to spend time listening to an Egyptologist share different aspects of history while touring be sure to book a tour with one.
If you prefer to have a guide/driver that is more so there to take you to different pyramids or temples allowing you to spend your time absorbing & admiring everything up close & from a distance, you can do that as well.
You could call an Uber instead of booking tours, but when it comes to visiting these historical places I recommend booking some sort of tour.
The only reason for this is because a tour guide (whether an Egyptologist or driver/guide) can help you get into everywhere you want to go & they can help ward off persistent sellers of goods.
7. What to wear
I’ve written a whole post about what to wear in Egypt here, but if you want just a quick tip I recommend that women wear light loose clothing that leans more towards conservative rather than revealing.
I have a whole post about this (what I wore & what I saw others wearing) that you can read here if you want more details.
8. Play it safe
Before leaving we purchased insurance, both trip insurance & health/medical insurance.
We never used it, but having that security is always nice, especially in a foreign country.
The one we got was based on age (for Roger & I, it was $25 each) & it covered up to one million dollars in medical evacuation, $100,000 in medical bills, & a bunch of other miscellaneous things.
That peace of mind is totally worth it!
9. Staying healthy
I have another post all about staying healthy when traveling to another country coming soon.
But basically, we avoided fresh fruits & vegetables & instead stuck to eating cooked/baked fruits & vegetables.
We also only drank bottled or canned drinks.
We used bottled water to brush our teeth & avoided opening our mouths while taking a shower.
10. Flying In & Out of Cairo
You never know how many different security checkpoints you will need to go through when traveling out of a foreign country, especially when your destination is the United States.
We had heard a variety of things about the Cairo airport & this is an example of what we experienced.
Upon departure from the Cairo Aiport, we went through security before going to the ticket counter to drop off our luggage & get our tickets.
Once we were through security & we picked up our tickets/dropped off luggage, we went through emigration & then walked through shops before arriving at our gate & going through another security checkpoint.
Of course, things could vary on any given day, but since security checkpoints are usually what takes the longest, I wanted to make sure you were prepared for all of the security procedures.
I should also note that we went through security 2 more times during our layover in Istanbul before boarding our plane to ATL.
I truly hope that this post helps you prepare for your trip & that nothing I shared made you nervous or scared, because honestly, there is nothing to fear.
You can spend hours pouring over articles that can easily scare you away from Egypt, but I recommend remembering that a lot of those posts are years old & your trip will be unique in & of itself based upon your planning.
Egypt is quickly evolving as they prepare for tourists.
In this country, you can even study for a degree in tourism!
My biggest recommendation is that you go & go now!
The word is out & Egypt is about to be the hottest tourist location in the world.
And for good reasons!
I hope these Egypt tips help you as you plan your Egyptian adventure.
I have more blog posts focused on tips that will help you plan your grand adventure to Egypt.
And if you enjoyed these tips, be sure to subscribe to my newsletter below so that you don’t miss out on another blissful tip!
What are you most excited about when visiting Egypt?
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With love, Giusti
The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
Psalm 19:1-2 NIV