A (Must) Know Info Before Traveling to Egypt
Egypt has a very low crime rate, and given that tourism is an important source of income for Egypt, security is excellent at all hotels and tourist sites.
Egyptians are known for their warm hospitality, making Egypt not only a safe place to visit, but also extremely welcoming. Although there is unrest in other areas of the Middle East, you will be pleasantly surprised by the sense of security you will find in Egypt – it is one of the safest places to travel in the world. Egypt maintains good relations with ALL of its Neighbours and is truly an oasis of peace in this region. The country is fairly liberal, westernized, and alcohol is freely available.
For many travelers, the weather is a crucial factor in deciding when to travel to Egypt. The climate is generally is hot and sunny most of the year, but the temperature could get very low during the winter season. However, the red sea coast cities, Luxor and Aswan remain very warm in winter, and that’s why beach vacation in Hurghada or Sharm is a perfect choice at Christmas, beside Luxor and Aswan Nile River cruise. The Winter season in Egypt is mainly mild with warm temperatures in the daytime which makes Egypt a perfect destination during Christmas and New Year holidays. It is important to remember that many of Egypt’s attractions and sites are located in the desert and open-air areas, and that’s why we make sure to start our client’s day tours in the early morning, especially if they are going to visit the Egypt pyramids. Egypt is a great option around the year, but the trick is to choose the right visited cities at the right time.
As a tourist country, Egypt cannot be compared to other countries. Almost everything is cheaper here; even entry fees to the sites are cheaper than in many other countries. Flying to Egypt is also cheaper than many other destinations in the world.
Egypt’s currency is the Egyptian pound (referred by LE) and one LE is equal to 100 piasters, or (Genaeh) in Arabic. You will find 25 and 50 piaster notes and 1 pound coin. At present $1 dollar is equivalent to about 18.6 Egyptian pounds.
The best option, if you want to save on commission is to take Egyptian Pounds out directly from ATMs. Although, if you prefer to have cash with you, you can change to foreign currencies in exchange offices.
If you wish to convert your currency, you can use $US, £UK, or Euros, as they are accepted in many banks and other places. TIP: Don’t change your $, £, or Euro until you arrive in Egypt – the conversion rate is much better here!
If at any point during your tour, you run out of money, and your credit cards are not accepted, you can still have money wired to you from abroad. In Egypt, there are many Western Union branches, and it takes moments to have money sent to you.
In the main cities and most hotels throughout the country, all major credit cards are accepted although some, not all, stores may charge you a 3-5% service fee if paying for your shopping with a credit card. ATM machines are available around Egypt should you need to use them. However, you are likely to find smaller shops and restaurants are cash only. It is recommended that you keep cash on you, so you don’t find yourself out in the desert, far from an ATM!
Please note that banks are unwilling to accept $100 notes issued before 1992.
In Egypt, tipping is cordially accepted and often expected. You can offer tips for all the people who have helped you during your travel but do not offer them small coins or notes. These activities are taken as insulting to the people you have tipped. However, your tipping should be spontaneous and it is considered offensive otherwise. It is a good way to create a good impression on the people surrounding you.
Many women travel alone and have found that they have been safe. The police, tourist police and army are always close by and the Egyptians themselves are generally safe and will try to protect solo Travellers. On the whole, it is generally safer for a solo female Traveller in Egypt than places like Greece, Italy or Spain.
Although the chances of being confronted are almost negligible, please ensure that you take the same precautions that you would take anywhere else and do not be tempted to walk in deserted areas alone: get a taxi back to your abode! You may receive some invitations, which on the whole are innocent, do not accept any of these from strangers.
Most Egyptians usually become more holy during this month, visiting their mosque more regularly and reading as much of the Koran as possible. At night you will find a very festive atmosphere especially in major Egyptian cities. People usually go out after breaking their fast to coffee shops, sporting clubs or big hotels. Often you will see oriental tents set up outside these places where shisha, food and drinks (no alcohol) are served all night with live music, Sufi dancing and traditional dancing.
These parties go on all night till just before sunrise when people have their second big meal called ‘El Sohour’ which will help them fast for the next day. At this time of year services will be slower, opening hours reduced and traffic chaotic but it is likely that you will witness and often experience the true hospitality, generosity and kindness that the holy month of Ramadan brings to the nation.
As a moderate Islamic country, Egypt is a relatively conservative nation, and travelling there – as anywhere – you should do your best to respect local customs and norms to avoid awkward moments or offending anyone. We recommend Dressing modestly by making sure shoulders and knees are covered, especially in rural areas and religious sites. This doesn’t apply when in resorts or on the beach, and larger towns and cities are usually more relaxed. Losing cotton or linen clothing will be more comfortable in the heat.
Respecting religious sites and holidays: mosques are considered sacred ground, and you should remove your shoes before entering – most places provide foot covers and shoe storage, just follow what everyone else is doing.
Never drink 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!
Most hotels have their own private filtration plants, and should not cause any digestive problems.
Most hotels, restaurants, cafes, pubs, and beer gardens offer a wide range of alcoholic beverages. Egypt has excellent local wines and very nice locally produced beer.
Please note though, it is illegal to drink alcohol in the streets in Egypt, so do not walk around with a can of your favorite tipple.
- It’s advisable never to hire a taxi to tour the sites. Local taxi drivers really only care about what you’ll pay at the end of your trip. Travel agencies, or local licensed guides, will treat you much better.
- Egypt is home to seven UNESCO-designated World Heritage sites: Abu Mena; ancient Thebes with its Necropolis; Historic Cairo; Memphis and its Necropolis; Nubian monuments from Abu Simbel to Philae; the Saint Catherine area; and Wadi Al-Hitan, or Whale Valley, home to fossil remains of the earliest and now extinct form of whales.
Egypt is located in the southern east of Africa continent as the peninsula of Sinai geographically located in Asia continent, The area of the Arab Republic of Egypt is about 1,002,000 square kilometers and the inhabited area is 78,990 km2 of the total area, Egypt is divided to 27 governorates, most of the population concentrated in the Nile valley where the City of Cairo contains more than quarter of the population followed by Alexandria city.
Border countries: Gaza Strip 11 km, Palestine 255 km, Libya 1,115 km, Sudan 1, 273 km.
The total area of the Arab Republic of Egypt reaches nearly 1.002.000 square meters, while the populated area reaches 78990 km2 representing 7.8% of the total area.
The Nile Delta is the only delta in Egypt and is 100 miles long and 155 miles wide. It is in the shape of a triangle. There are 5 important oasis in Egypt and they are all located in the Libyan Desert. They are the Farafrah, Bahriah, Dakhla, Kharijah, and the Siwah oasis.The area of Egypt is 386, 662 square miles. The distance from east to west is 770 miles and from north to south is 675 miles
There are no forests but there are date palms and citrus groves. Papyrus plants grow only near the river Nile.
The highest point is Catharine Mountain that is 8,668 feet high. The lowest point is Qattara Depression and is 436 feet below sea level.
Muslim (mostly Sunni) 90%, Coptic 9%, other Christian 1%
The official language in Egypt is Arabic. English and French widely understood by educated classes.
Egypt has many different Water resources including the Red Sea and Mediterranean coasts, 10 natural lakes and Nasser Industrial Park, as well as the main freshwater resource of the Nile River which extended along Egypt and ends in Rasheed and Damietta, the available water resources are around 68 billion cubic meters which used in agriculture, industry and in drinking.
The national airline in Egypt is Egypt Air (MS). The international airports in Egypt are located at Alexandria, Luxor, Cairo, Sharm el Sheikh, Aswan, and Marsa Alam.
The major international airports in Egypt are:
Cairo International Airport, Airport Code- CAI
Sharm el-Sheikh International Airport, SSH
Hurghada International Airport, HRG
Luxor International Airport, LXR
Government offices, including post offices, are open from 8:00AM – 3:00PM, Saturday through Wednesday, and are closed Fridays and on national holidays. Shops are open daily from 9:00AM – 1:00PM, and from 4:00PM – 8:00PM, with some shops closed on Sundays.
Your duty-free goods must be purchased within 48 hours of arrival.
In Egypt, the climate changes greatly from place to place, as well as from season to season and throughout the day.
Its desert location tells us a lot about Egypt’s climate: high temperatures and very little rainfall. Learn how hot and cold it gets, when it rains, and decide the best time to travel.
Summer in Egypt
During the summer months (May to October), Egypt is HOT. As you’d imagine, the climate varies slightly depending on where in the country you are. Coastal areas such as the northern Mediterranean region and places around the Red Sea are more humid, and the desert plains of inland Egypt are hot and dry with virtually no rain at all.
During the day, average high temperatures are around 32 ºC (89.6 °F), while average lows are 23 °C (73.4 °F). The temperature at night drops significantly, potentially reaching as low as 7 °C (44.6 ºF) in inland desert areas. It very rarely rains.
Winter in Egypt
Between November to April, Egypt has a very mild winter. These months will see some rain, but not a lot, and mainly just concentrated on coastal areas. The average temperatures in January and February are between 9 ºC and 14 ºC (48.2 – 57.2 ºF). Again, nighttime will be cooler, and we’d definitely recommend bringing a jacket.
USEFUL TELEPHONE NUMBERS:
123 Main Ambulance
126 Tourist Police
128 Traffic Police
122 Emergency Police
180 Fire Department
121 Electricity Emergency
129 Natural Gas Emergency
144 International Calls from land lines
177 Land line telephone bills inquiries
16 Land line telephone complaints
WHAT TO BUY:
An Ancient Egyptian invention, papyrus is the perfect souvenir from your trip to this magical country – especially as it’s also very easy to pop in your suitcase! The good stuff is quite heavy and sturdy, and should have visible veins running through it when held up to the light. True papyrus could cost you up to LE 500.
Cartouches are pendants – usually gold – which include your name, or someone else’s, in Hieroglyphs. They make a great gift, or personal souvenir, and it’s often necessary to order them a day or so in advance so they can be handcrafted. The price is based on the weight of the gold, plus extra for the work, so we recommend checking the market price before buying, so you’ve got a rough idea.
Beautiful hand-woven fabrics are a popular purchase. Have a feel for the material and take a close look at the weave and stitching to inspect the quality – the price will reflect how well it is made. You can buy it by the meter, to make something yourself when you get back home, or you can often commission local tailors to make you a clothing item or something for the home.
Egypt has a great tradition of scent and perfume making, and you’ll find many shops and stalls selling essential oils in all cities. Lotus (Sawsan) and jasmine (full) are the most typical Egyptian fragrances.
MAJOR PUBLIC HOLIDAYS:
2nd Monday after the Coptic Easter day – It is called Sham El-Nessim day (Just avoid going out on this day to national parks and the zoo)
25th April – Sinai Liberation Day
1st May – Workers Day
23rd July – 1952 Revolution Day
6th October – Armed Forces Day, Victory Day 1973
13th October – Suez Liberation Day
23rd December – Victory Day
Eid El-Adha (Sacrifice feast) – Comes right after the pilgrimage season, it lasts for four days
Eid El-Fitr (Breakfast feast) – Comes right after the Holy fasting month of Ramadan
WAHT TO EAT:
Baba ghanoush: a delightfully smoky eggplant-based dip commonly eaten throughout the region.
Hummus: the mashed chickpea staple popular in the Middle East and Mediterranean.
Fetir: Popularly known as Egyptian pizza, fetir can be prepared with different ingredients and has a dough similar to puff pastry.
Kofta: Among the meat dishes the most consumed option is kofta, minced meat with spices that is usually served in the form of balls that are roasted by skewering them.
Hawawshi: a traditional dish of bread stuffed with minced meat and vegetables.
Hamam mashwi: One of the typical dishes of Egypt is the hamam mashwi, a roasted pigeon that is usually served filled with rice, liver and sweetbreads.
Kushari: a dish with roots in 19th-century Egypt, now consumed at food carts and restaurants nationwide. Ingredients include macaroni, lentils, and rice along with a tomato sauce, and it’s often topped with chickpeas or fried onions. Add a splash of hot sauce if you like!
Shawarma: This dish became Egyptian after Egypt came under the Ottoman Empire. This delicious dish is basically a middle-eastern sandwich is comprised of shaved goat, chicken, chicken, lamb, beef or turkey. A special Egyptian sauce called tahini sauce is used along with this tasty sandwich.
Eggah: an egg dish not unlike a frittata. There are numerous variations when it comes to fillings, some involving meat, but many including only vegetables and spices: Onions, tomatoes, leeks, zucchini, coriander, cumin, turmeric, and more.
Ful medames: a traditional Egyptian food with a history stretching back centuries. Ful consists of cooked fava beans plus various herbs and spices.
Feeseekh: Feeseekh is a traditional Egyptian dish that is prepared for the Shaam-El-Nessim festival. This dish consists of fermented, salted and dried gray mullet. The fish is first dried in the sun and is then salted. Special care needs to be taken in the preparation of this dish as any mistake can lead to getting very sick from the fish.
Fatta: This delicious and consistent dish is made with meat, rice and bread. This is a very simple and flavorful recipe that is often served especially during the holidays.
Basbousa: This popular Egyptian dessert is proof that delicious and simple recipes can be made using basic ingredients such as yoghurt, semolina and flour.
Konafah: It is a yummy Egyptian sweet dish which is made from a thin noodle-like pastry. The origin of Konafah is very mysterious but it is mentioned in early books of ancient Egypt as well as Turkey. The noodles are first made dry and rigid and then butter or oil is added. This is baked with fruit syrup on top and it tastes extremely delicious when it’s done.
Baklava: If you like sweet snacks, baklava is the ideal choice for you. Its main ingredients include filo dough, butter, sugar and nuts.
Om ALI: It is an Egyptian bread and butter pudding that is made from butter, puff pastry and lots of cream and nuts. It is an extremely delicious and soft dessert and is usually served with raisins and warm cream.
Shai: Tea is the preferred drink in Egypt. It is offered practically as a social ritual and is commonly consumed throughout the day.
Beer: If you want to try the local Egyptian beer, you will have no problem finding a Stella in any bar or restaurant. It’s a fairly mild drink compared to other beers.