50+ Important Egypt Travel Tips (+ Tips for Women): Know Before You Go!
This past fall I took the plunge and visited Egypt for the first time. I initially started this post with the intention of writing solely Egypt travel tips, however it’s somehow turned into Egypt travel tips + my Egypt journal + a deep dive into everything I saw and experienced while I was there. In this post I’ll give you my 100% honest and unfiltered opinion of Egypt as well as tell you every single little thing you need to be aware of before you visit. Because there’s a lot!
Egypt has a lot of amazing things that can only be found in Egypt, however it’s an extremely difficult country to travel and you need to be prepared. Hence why I’ve put together this super detailed list of important Egypt travel tips: things I wish I’d known before visiting Egypt!
After I tell you all about the nitty gritty things to watch out for (the “don’ts” more or less), I’ll also give you a few fun travel tips (the “do’s”), recommendations for places to visit, and tell you whether or not I recommend travelling to Egypt. Keep reading!
- Change your mindset
- Egypt travel tips for women
- 50+ important Egypt travel tips
- Fun Egypt travel tips
- At the end of this post – find out if I recommend visiting Egypt!
Are You Travelling to Egypt?
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Change Your Mindset: Egypt Travel Tips
Before I give you my 50+ Egypt travel tips, I want to highlight the fact that you’ll need to change your mindset before travelling to this mysterious Arabic country.
Everyone knows the culture, lifestyle, religion – everything – is different in Egypt. But I really don’t think the world knows just how different it is. This is partly because most of us can’t imagine a place that’s SO different from what we know, but also because Egypt officials don’t necessarily want you to know. I’ll get into camera rules later, but briefly, in a lot of places in Egypt you aren’t allowed to take pictures and you certainly are not allowed to take videos. The happenings of Egypt are kept a secret!
When you travel to Egypt expect different. But expect vastly different and different in every possible way imaginable. Expect constant chaos, noise, shock, fear, discomfort. Basically, expect the worst so that when you experience uncomfortable situations or “messy” travel, you’re prepared.
Change your typical travel mindset of “cool experiences,” “fun,” “relaxation,” and “exploration” to “uncomfortable,” “nervous,” “cautious,” “shocked,” “amazed,” “exhausted,” “intrigued,” and maybe even “terrified.” If you prepare yourself and understand you’re about to enter the most chaotic, wild, unorganized country in the world (tied with India), you have a chance at surviving – and maybe even enjoying Egypt!
But you have to know in advance that your Egypt travels are going to be challenging.
Egypt Travel Tips for Women
Travelling Egypt is certainly more intimidating and dangerous as a female – but it is possible. In general there are sooo many more things women need to be aware of than men, and in Egypt this is amplified by an amount I can’t even begin to explain.
Generally speaking (of course this doesn’t apply to every situation) women are not treated well in Egypt. I can say from experience that I often felt looked down upon, unappreciated, and devalued. I have male Egyptian friends so I didn’t do too much research before I visited Egypt. However I wish a fellow girl would have sat me down, prepared me, and told me all the things I needed to know before I went. Because it’s the little things you don’t even think of that you need to be aware of in Egypt. And when you don’t think of or know these things, the unimaginable can happen in the blink of an eye.
Egypt Travel Tips for Women
- Of course, dress modestly. It’s best to cover all skin.
- If males approach you in public, be polite but don’t engage in conversation and try to make a quick exit.
- Upon entering an Uber, ALWAYS sit in the back.
- Try not to go anywhere alone. Use trusted tour guides, group hostel trips, find friends, etc.
- If you’re ordering food in, you CANNOT open the door in shorts!
- Try to avoid going out at night.
- If you’re travelling with male Egyptians (like I did), be prepared to constantly answer questions like “are you married?” “Is this your husband?” Typically, Egyptian women are not permitted to travel with males unless they’re married.
- As much as I hate to say it, Egypt isn’t necessarily the place to “break out and be independent” or to “fight the patriarchy.” Lay low and follow all the rules.
- If you’re travelling with an Egyptian male, you are not allowed to share a room.
- Ignore any unwanted attention and harassment. Just keep on walking and don’t make eye contact.
- There’s a high chance people will ask to take photos of you – it’s okay to say no! I said no all the time.
- Never use the men’s washroom, even if it’s the “only one working.”
- If you’re with a male, expect to be ignored. One thing that really bothered me was whenever I paid for something (me, my money) the change was always handed back to my male friends. Even though I paid!
At the end of the day, just be smart and don’t take any unnecessary risks. If you’re coming from a first world country where you’re used to things being more equal, there’s a high chance you’ll feel “unheard” and possibly even disrespected.
50+ Important Egypt Travel Tips
The following 50+ Egypt travel tips are for everyone, however if you’re a lady or if you’ll be travelling with women, make sure you read my travel tips geared toward women. It’s a super important read!
The Confusing Egyptian Visa
My first Egypt travel tip is about the Egyptian visa. Technically every non-Egyptian who enters Egypt needs a temporary travel visa.
In my next Egypt travel tip I’ll explain the whole “no system” thing in Egypt. But for now all you need to know is that Egypt doesn’t have a proper “system” – in regards to everything. The Egyptian visa is a prime example of this.
In a perfect world you should apply for a 30 day Egyptian travel visa ($25 USD) upon arrival at the airport. However sometimes you don’t actually need to apply for the visa and you’re allowed to walk right through security without one. It’s a hit or miss if the Egyptian government will follow up on any overages on the 30 day stay and usuallyyyy if they do you’ll be slapped on the wrist, given a little fine, and be allowed to stay in the country longer.
I had a different experience with the visa and applied for it online prior to my arrival (tried to be organized). This costed me well over $100 CAD – opposed to $25 USD – and the visa was valid for 90 days total. See what I mean about there being “no system?”
More or less I’d advise you to wait until you get to the airport to deal with the visa for Egypt. Maybe you’ll need it, maybe you won’t. They’re relatively approved quickly at the airport though and you’ll spend significantly less money in person opposed to buying one online.
There’s no “System” in Egypt
Now I’ll go more in depth about the whole “no system” thing in Egypt.
Basically, there’s legitimately no system in Egypt. Like I don’t even know how to accurately explain this over text because you need to experience it in real life to fully grasp what I mean. Essentially, there are minimal rules and everything boils down to how good you are at talking.
Maybe a good way of explaining this is through a few examples:
1st Example: you’re driving and someone hits your car. You don’t go through insurance, – because that’s not a thing in Egypt. You get out of the car and cause the same damage to the other person’s car. You yell at each other a bunch, you both get in your cars and you drive away (direct quote from an Egyptian friend).
2nd Example: you’re driving through military checkpoints. The prior 10 cars drive right through without needing to stop. The officer then stops your car, asks you to exit, searches the entire car, hangs onto your ID, makes you wait for a couple hours (with no cause or suspicion), then allows you to leave whenever they’re ready to let you go.
3rd Example: You’re at a market or in a store with no price tags. You buy the same item as the previous 3 people, only yours costs 200egp more. “Just because.”
You kind of get what I mean now, right? Between these examples and the visa thing? Most things in Egypt are random and up to chance. To be honest it’s unpredictable, quite exhausting, and can be infuriating. But that’s Egypt!
DON’T Choose Egypt as Your First Arabic Country!
I can’t stress this enough.
Egypt is the epitome of chaos in the Arabic world. You’ll find that everything is very intense here, especially if you’re coming from an organized country.
You’re better off starting your Arabian travels in a slightly safer, more organized country. My Egypt travel tip in regards to this is to start with a place like Jordan, then work your way up after that. No sense in overwhelming yourself with Egypt right off the bat! Ease in gently.
Dress Code in Egypt
Egypt travel tips
Egypt is a muslim and very conservative country. In some places (like in touristy destinations or the Sinai Peninsula) you can get away with wearing shorts. However I’d recommend alwaysss wearing pants if you’re on the mainland. Do what the locals do, but remember you’re a tourist which already brings lots of unwanted attention to yourself.
It’s best to cover all your skin, but at the end of the day showing legs is worse than showing shoulders or arms. This is especially true for women, but applies to men as well. Everybody just wear pants, okay?!
It’s best to purchase light, flowy clothes or linen in advance. I tried shopping for proper clothes in Cairo and found it very difficult. If you’ll be travelling within the Sinai Peninsula there are lots of shops on the Mamsha (main street) in Dahab with long, flowy clothes.
Tourists are Viewed as $
Countries like Albania absolutely adore tourists. Unfortunately that’s not the case in Egypt. In Egypt tourists are viewed as a means to make money. The locals often scam you or try to sell you random objects. And they’re pushy. Really, really pushy and borderline aggressive. You’ll most likely be overcharged for a lot of things, too. Tourists are always charged significantly more than Egyptians.
When I was in Egypt I traveled with my Egyptian friends so they took care of our trip’s finances. Whenever I had to buy anything on my own though I was charged significantly greater amounts of money.
If you’re going to Egypt, you’ll have to learn how to haggle – which is my next Egypt travel tip!
Easier said than done, but try to not let all the selling, scamming, and hassling bother you. This ruins the Egypt experience for a lot of people.
Learn to Haggle & Avoid Sellers
Egypt travel tips
Learning to haggle is one of the most important Egypt travel tips I’ll pass on to you – because you’ll have to do it and you’ll have to do it a lot.
If a taxi driver, salesman, tour agency – literally anyone – comes at you with a price, try to reduce it to an unreasonably lower price. For example, someone comes at you with 200egp, come back at them with 20egp. As a tourist you’ll still be charged a crazy high price (for Egypt standards), but if you don’t haggle you might as well start flushing your money down the toilet.
I personally HATE haggling. I’m non-confrontational and I’d never done it before Egypt. I found buying things very overwhelming, so I opted to buy what I needed from shopping centres or malls instead because those have set prices.
Know that wherever you go people will try to sell you random stuff – like really random stuff. You can of course buy things, but if you’re in a touristy area: don’t make eye contact, don’t engage in conversation, say no thank you (“la shukran”), and continue walking.
^This can be super uncomfortable and difficult because sometimes the sellers are children. They follow you around and they are relentless. But keep in mind Egyptians typically make very low salaries and every dollar helps them out!
Egypt has a Tourism Police
This is actually a super important Egypt travel tip. Remember how I just told you about tourists getting ripped off? Well, if you’re ripped off an unreasonable amount, feel unsafe, or like you’ve been treated unfairly you can contact the tourism police.
Egypt’s tourism police don’t f*ck around and everyone knows it. They take their job seriously and they’ll rectify any wrongdoings. They are a force to be reckoned with and they’ll have your back.
You’ll find the tourism police in touristy destinations with “tourist police” written on their uniforms. If you require their phone number, ask your accommodation provider and they can give it you.
Travel with a Local or with a Tour Company
Another Egypt travel tip I can’t stress enough – don’t attempt to travel Egypt on your own!
Everything is wildly complicated, confusing, unorganized, and chaotic in Egypt; especially if you don’t speak Egyptian Arabic. You’ll drive yourself crazy trying to plan things, find local guides, and pay an appropriate price. A lot of tours/activities in Egypt aren’t actually designed for tourists either – they’re designed for Egyptians and you don’t want to accidentally embark on one of these tours! You’ll feel very uncomfortable and there’ll be no English.
I’m such a DIY traveller so this was a really hard pill to swallow, but you just can’t do things on your own in Egypt. Well you can, but your travels will be super stressful and they most likely won’t work out like you want them to.
My Egypt travel tip for finding tours is to ask your accommodations or use reliable tour sites like Get Your Guide and Viator. Just make sure you read reviews before booking anything!
ALWAYS BE PREPARED & PLAN AHEAD
I know I keep saying this, but another “can’t stress enough” Egypt travel tip is to PLAN, PLAN, PLAN.
I’m the queen of not planning trips, showing up, and seeing where the wind takes me. My only exception to this rule is when I travel to expensive countries (like Norway), then I plan the heck out of it.
If you decide to travel to Egypt you muuuuust plan things in advance though. Egypt is not a country where you can just show up and “see what happens.” You need an itinerary, you need to book things in advance, and you need a plan.
You also need to be organized throughout your day – especially with food and water. I swear Egyptian people don’t drink water and they wait hours and hours between meals. If you’re like me (constantly drinking water and on a consistent eating schedule), you’ll struggle. Always bring extra water, always have food on you, and bring anything you deem “essential” for your day. This mentality applies to guided tours as well.
^Egyptian people usually don’t properly communicate or follow through with plans, so you just need to be prepared for everything.
Egypt Transportation Tips
Egypt travel tips
I have about a million Egypt travel tips when it comes to transportation, so I’m gonna bullet point the important ones below. Know ahead of time though how absolutely wild the driving in Egypt is. There are no rules at all (seriously) and the driving is as bad, if not worse than in India.
Finding adequate transportation in Egypt can be very confusing, difficult, and stressful. This isn’t superrr common, but I was actually denied getting on a bus heading from Cairo to Sinai because I was a foreigner. I was charged 2x the price of the bus (which was actually kind of an expensive one) because I “cancelled” the trip. Like what the heck! But that’s just Egypt for you.
Anyways, here are my Egypt travel tips for transportation:
- Don’t even try figuring out the intracity public transport system. Even my Egyptian friends can’t figure it out. As a foreigner it would be scary and uncomfortable/confusing using it.
- If you’re in a city, Uber everywhereeeee – avoid taxis! Uber’s have a set rate and no haggling is required.
- If you do have to take a taxi, you have to barter. They’re super cheap so don’t pay anything more than 50egp!
- You need an international driving license in Egypt if you want to rent a car.
- But DON’T rent a car! Unless you have driven in India or Egypt before and have nerves of steel. The exception to this would be renting a car in Sinai.
- ^If you’re going to rent a car in Sinai though, know there are military checkpoints all over the highways; they’re really intimidating/confusing to drive through. Might be a better idea to rent cars within a specific city, then take intercity buses to and from other locations in Sinai. Also, never drive the Sinai highways at night! They’re soooo dangerous.
- The only intercity bus I trust in Egypt is Gobus. Gobus is professional, clean, spacious, they always accept foreigners, and it’s safe. Gobus costs an extra few $, but it’s totally worth it.
- Besides Gobus, SWVL is the main bus-finding platform in Egypt. But make your life easy and just use Gobus.
- The trains in Egypt are super unreliable and are frequently late/delayed by hours.
Ladies, there are a few additional things we need to be aware of when it comes to transportation. I’ve listed these things here.
DON’T Walk in Egypt’s Big Cities
Egypt’s big cities, like Cairo and Alexandria, are not designed for walking. So don’t even try!
Utilize the public transportation tips listed above because walking in Egypt is dangerous for a number of reasons:
1 – the traffic and streets aren’t designed for foot traffic. If you try walking there’s a good chance you’ll be run over.
2 – as soon as you step off the main street things get sketchy real fast and they become really dangerous. I remember in Alexandria the walk was only 5 minutes between locations, so my Egyptian friend and I decided to walk. Google maps sent us to a horrible area and people started following us. Luckily a taxi passed when things started escalating and it drove us out of the area. If it weren’t for the taxi and for the fact that I was with a male Egyptian, I don’t even want to know what would have happened to me.
3 – crossing the busy streets in Egypt is an extremely dangerous endeavour.
Expect Things to be Difficult
I’m assuming by this point you’ve gathered how difficult travelling in Egypt is. So this Egypt travel tip is all about expectations and acceptance.
Expect things to be difficult, complicated,, confusing and frustrating. When those expectations become reality, just accept it.
If you can master this, your trip to Egypt will be a breeeeeze (okay maybe not a breeze, but you know what I mean)!
There’s Literally no Wifi in Egypt – Buy a SIM Card with Data
Egypt travel tips
Holy wow this was so surprising. I mean it’s Egypt – anyone with a brain I’m sure can imagine that a third world country like Egypt wouldn’t have the world’s best wifi. But damn.
Some cafes were good for wifi, but other than that it didn’t exist. Even when I stayed in hotels – no wifi!
The only way to combat the no wifi issue is to download maps in advance and buy a SIM card with a data plan. You can chose between Vodafone and Orange which are the two most common companies.
There’s a Huge Military & Police Presence in Egypt
The military and police presence in Egypt is super off-putting and intimidating, but it’s totally normal there. In fact, there’s mandatory military enrolment laws in Egypt for young men.
Cops walk around everywhere, especially in touristy destinations. The military is everywhereee and a lot of things (actually most things in Egypt) are owned and operated by the military. The military thing isn’t great to be honest – but I won’t get into that here.
Don’t be surprised if you see military personnel causally strolling around with huge machine guns too. This is especially normally when you drive through the Sinai region. The military checkpoints are absolutely idled with military personnel and guns.
It seems wrong and scary, but an Egypt travel tip from one of my Egyptian friends is to give the law enforcement shit. Don’t put up with any bull from the cops/military and basically tell them to “F off” if they try to pull anything with you. It’s unlikely you’ll have to do this, but apparently as a tourist they can’t do anything to you, even if you defend yourself.
^seems opposite from how every other country operates, but again this falls into the whole “no system” thing in Egypt.
Don’t Drink the Tap Water & Listen for the *Click*
This maybe should have been my first Egypt travel tip, but we’re getting around to it!
Like in many African countries, the tap water in Egypt is not safe for drinking. You can bring a filter, but it will still taste bad. It’s best to just buy bottled water – even though it pains me to say this for environmental reasons.
You also always have to pay attention and make sure your water bottle clicks/breaks the seal when it opens. If it doesn’t click that means the seller has emptied the clean water out and has filled it with tap water.
Also – never buy water from touristy destinations. Bring your own because it’s so overpriced.
Don’t Travel Alone
I absolutely adore solo travel, but to be honest Egypt isn’t a place I’d recommend travelling alone. There’s way too many hazards, things to deal with, and situations that’ll arise where you’ll wish you had a buddy.
People do travel to Egypt alone, but I can’t imagine being there solo.
Be “Mean” and Confident
Maybe not “mean” for Egyptian standards, but for this sensitive Canadian, I was “mean” in Egypt.
You really can’t be friendly or put up with sh*t as a foreigner in Egypt. You have to be direct, confident, and “non-negotiable” in a way when you speak. Especially if you’re trying to buy something or trying to get out of an uncomfortable situation.
If people approach you in public it’s best to ignore them and keep walking. Don’t engage because once you do there’s a good chance they’ll follow and potentially harass you.
Soooo yeah. Be “mean” or at least meaner than you would be in other countries.
Understand “Egyptian Time”
Egypt travel tips
Oh. My. God. Egyptian time absolutely infuriated me.
When I travelled in Albania this past summer there was “Albania time” which was delayed and relaxed, but reasonable.
In Egypt however, time has no bounds. If you say 8am it actually means earliest 11am. My punctual Canadian self was constantly ready hours earlier than my Egyptian counterparts. Everything – and I mean everything – is delayed in Egypt. Being late is just the way of life here.
Here are a few Egypt travel tips for dealing with “Egyptian time:”
- Be patient – easier said than done!
- Have a plan, but expect delays, cancellations, and mishaps.
- Have a plan B and maybe even a plan C because plan A will probably fail.
- Have an itinerary, but leave extra days for plan mishaps.
- ALWAYS travel to your destination hours early if you have an important flight/transportation. Better yet, go a day early.
- Always have all the food, water, phone charger, and necessary entertainment/survival resources with you because in Egypt you just never know.
Understand Egyptian People
Egypt travel tips
If you’re going to Egypt you’ll undoubtedly be dealing with a lot of Egyptian people and I therefore think it’s important to add a little note about what Egyptian people are like. This wouldn’t be a list of comprehensive Egypt travel tips if I didn’t explain the people and the culture!
Egyptian people can be absolutely lovely or they can be very difficult to deal with. Some Egyptian people (the people I was around) will give a stranger the shirt off their back. They’re kind, welcoming, generous, and loving. The person standing next to them though (oftentimes salesmen) might steal the shirt off a strangers back. Unfortunately you will come across some not-so-nice individuals while you’re in Egypt and you’ll have to know how to deal with them (refer to my previous travel tips).
Like anywhere, be aware of people’s intentions and always have your guard up.
Egypt is a Cash Society
Egypt is a cash society and you’ll often find that many establishments only accept cash. You’ll therefore always want to carry cash on you.
The currency is Egyptian pounds (egp). EGP is very unstable and not worth much at the moment. This is unfortunately terrible for Egyptian people, but great for tourists! Your money will go far here.
There are ATMs all over Egypt and there’s normally no withdrawal fee – maybe $5 max. You can only take out 3000egp at a time and it’s best to take out that entire 3000egp.
Also, Egyptian money is confusing! It all looks the same and it’s hard to differentiate. You have to look at the actual numbers on the bills to figure out which bill is which.
Keep Small Bills & Expect to Tip Everywhere
This Egypt travel tip is something I wish I would have known before visiting.
Keep all those 5, 10, and 20 bills. Egypt has a huge tipping culture and you’ll have to tip for random stuff all the time. Like when someone loads your bag on the bus or holds onto your shoes when you go into the mosques.
The tipping might seem ridiculous to you, but just remember that Egyptian people typically make a very low salary and struggle to pay rent, bills, groceries, etc. That 5 or 10 pounds means the world to them, when in reality it’s only worth 50 cents USD to you.
An additional Egypt travel tip for money is to keep your bills separate; small bills in one compartment, large bills in another. You don’t want to be pulling wads of cash out of your purse to count. I had to do this once and a local man literally put his hand in my fanny pack and tried to steal all my money.
There are Security Measures Everywhere
I found this intimidating at first, but it’s totally normal. If you want to go into any of the museums or tourist attractions you must go through enhanced security.
You can expect to put all your belongings (phone, purse, camera, etc) through a scanner and you’ll have to walk through a scanner as well.
There will most likely also be a large police presence at these sites.
Egypt is Weird About Cameras
As a traveller who loves to take photos and document their journey, this was a hard pill for me to swallow.
Egypt’s camera rules fall under the “no system” thing in Egypt which means you can’t really get a straight answer on whether or not you’re allowed to bring a camera around. The best piece of advice I can give you is to upgrade your phone so you have a small, but high quality camera with you at all times.
The following points are more or less a summary of the do’s and don’ts of Egypt’s camera rules:
- DON’T (never) take photos of random people on the street, buildings, police, military officers/check points. This is strictly forbidden.
- Cairo recently changed the camera rule in the city – you are now allowed to bring a camera around, however I wouldn’t. You don’t want to draw unwanted attention to yourself and because there’s no system, if an officer wants to confiscate your camera or have you delete everything on the sd card they can. With no reason behind it.
- You can bring cameras to all the big attractions (temples, ancient sites, etc), however don’t bring a massive one because they’ll keep it at the gate.
- If you bring your camera or tripod to a large tourist attraction you’ll have to pay an additional camera fee. This is worth it for the bucket list places, but the fees do add up quickly.
- A lot of places/areas in Cairo are no camera zones and this includes phone cameras. These areas will be well marked. If you break these rules you’ll face a massive fine.
English is Limited in Egypt
I don’t know what all those other travel bloggers say when they talk about English being widely spoken in Egypt because it isn’t. Well like it is, but it isn’t.
English in Egypt is widely spoken by the younger generation as they learn it in school, however you won’t be dealing with the younger generation when you’re in Egypt. The vast majority of people don’t speak English in Egypt and if they do it’s normally broken English.
If you plan to take any public transit in Egypt I can guarantee almost no one – and certainly not the drivers – will speak English. You’ll find some (broken) English at the tourist sites and maybe your accommodations. If you step one foot outside the touristy spots you’ll be hard pressed to find any English. And in such a different country like Egypt, this can be very intimidating.
Oh, also remember how I said everyone tries to scam you? People pretending they don’t know how to speak English is a favourite trick. Beware!
One of the biggest surprises I found in Egypt was the inexistence of toilet paper. Instead they use something similar to a bidet, except it’s just a hose attached to the toilet; it’s called a shatafa. #1s and #2s are all treated the same – do your business and spray!
I found this really strange and kind of unsanitary at first (actually I still find it unsanitary because we’re all using the same, uncleaned hose. yuck). However you do feel pretty clean afterwards. A big downfall to this though is that you have no way to dry yourself after you spray which feels pretty icky.
But Egyptians LOVE this thing. They’ve even made portable versions so they can bring it with them to other countries when they travel. Wild.
If you’re a TP lover, my Egypt travel tip for you is to BYOTP – bring your own toilet paper!
Food Culture & Eating Habits in Egypt are… Different!
Egypt travel tips
There’s a few things about the food culture you ought to know about before going to Egypt. I’ll write some of the Egyptian food options at the bottom of this post, but for now I’m focusing on the “how” of eating.
Egyptians claim they LOVE food, but they barely eat. They typically have a filling breakfast of ful (beans) and falafel (anywhere from 8am-3pm is considered breakfast) which tides them over to dinner – no lunch! And for dinner we’re talking anywhere from 5-11pm. You won’t have to deal with this as you most likely won’t be travelling with Egyptians, however my regimented eating schedule was struggling with this – big time.
Egyptians also eat community style and with their hands. You will experience this in restaurants! It’s very appetizer style where everyone’s food comes on the same dishes. And you always always always eat everything with bread. Egyptians fold the bread up into a little shape they call the “cat’s ear” and they scoop everything up with that rather than using spoons.
ALSO unless you’re eating at a “North American” restaurant, don’t eat any food that’s deemed North American style. Stick to traditional Egyptian foods because the North American ones will be gross. You’ll find the description is very inaccurate and not what you expect.
And another thing… Egyptians eat seafood with their hands and their eating tendencies become a bit “animalistic” hahaha.
Don’t Budget Accommodations in Egypt
I’m the ultimate budget traveller and I find the cheapest of the cheap when it comes to accommodations, even if it means pitching a tent for the night or staying with strangers.
In Egypt however you can’t do this. I tried and the accommodations I ended up in were absolutely disgusting. For this reason, my Egypt travel tip is to always go with a minimum mid-range option! The cleanliness will be more “up to standard” and you’ll feel much safer.
Alcohol is Almost Non-Existent in Egypt
Egypt travel tips
Alcohol is not common in Egypt and that comes down to religious beliefs.
You won’t be able to find alcohol at restaurants and if you do, be skeptical. Drinking is often seen as disrespectful in Egypt and unfortunately the mentally when it comes to drinking as a woman is “she was asking for it.”
There are nightclubs and “discos” (the popular thing in Egypt), but they’re very exclusive. There’s security, tickets that need to be purchased in advance, and the event is specifically labelled as a drinking event.
At the end of the day you can find alcohol in Egypt, however my Egypt travel tip when it comes to alcohol is to avoid it. I think Egypt is a country in which you want to be fully aware and have your wits about you 24/7. I can’t imagine the danger of trying to drunkenly find your way home in the streets of Cairo after a night out.
Be Bold When Crossing the Street
Remember how I said the driving in Egypt is NUTS. Well, crossing the street is even nuts-er. Even on Egypt’s busiest streets you won’t find crosswalks, traffic lights, or any other aid to help you cross the street. And if you do, don’t trust them.
If you want to cross you just have to put your hand out, walk into traffic, and hope the cars around you stop. It sounds scary and to be honest, it is. If you’re nervous ask local Egyptians to help you cross. Usually they’re more than happy to help because they understand how daunting it can be.
Be Cautious with Public Displays of Affection
Due to the widespread Muslim religion in Egypt, public affection is not okay. Even holding hands is considered a bit much.
Did you know Egyptian people can actually be fined or go to jail if they’re caught sharing a hotel room with someone of the opposite sex if they’re not married? This won’t affect you as a tourist, but I’m sharing this information to give you an idea of how strict the culture is with these things.
This Egypt travel tip is to save those affectionate moments for a private setting. Because they aren’t appreciated in Egypt!
Don’t Venture Off-the-Beaten Path
Another important Egypt travel tip is to stay ON the beaten path!
I love going to off-beat destinations and experiencing the lesser travelled places, but you don’t want to do this in Egypt for about 957923085 reasons.
I’ll let your imagination run wild on this one, but n e v e r leave the safe touristy destinations and never venture solo into “uncharted territories.” Even if it’s with a tourist company, be skeptical.
Don’t Follow People Who Are Trying to “Help” You
9/10 times if a random Egyptian person is trying to lead you elsewhere, they most likely don’t have the best intentions.
Don’t Visit Mosques During Prayer Time
The Muslim religion is taken so seriously in Egypt and it is extremely disrespectful to go to a mosque during prayer time.
During non prayer time you can enter any of the mosques, which I highly recommend! They’re beautiful. Just remember to take off your shoes, wear pants, and cover your shoulders. If you forget, silk robes will be made available to you.
Don’t Put Your Legs Up
Like on a table or when you’re sitting in a car. It’s seen as super disrespectful.
You Will Stand Out as a Foreigner
White people stick out like a sore thumb in Egypt. I’m clearly a brunette, but since everyone’s features in Egypt are so dark I was considered a blonde. I got so many unwanted comments about my features being “colourful.”
If you want to avoid unwanted attention, this Egypt travel tip is all about trying to blend in. Follow the reserved dress code, try covering your hair with a hat, or if you want to go the extreme route you can even dye your hair a darker colour.
Always Keep Safety on Your Mind
In general you always want to have safety on your mind and take extra precautions in Egypt. It’s imperative that you’re always aware of your surroundings & that you follow your gut instincts.
When I was travelling in Albania situations seemed sketchy or looked unsafe, however 99% of the time it was just an appearance. In reality there was no danger at all! In Egypt that’s not necessarily the case. If anything makes you feel uneasy or weird, your gut is probably right and you should follow your instincts. Get outta whatever situation you’re in!
A few Egypt travel tips for safety – don’t go out at night, especially if you’re alone. Don’t follow Egyptian people that want to show you things or “help” you. If you’re a woman, ensure you read my female-specific travel tips.
Register with Your Country’s Embassy
As an extra safety precaution it’s always smart to register your trip & travel details with your home country’s embassy.
This way your home country can assist you and send resources if anything happens to you or to the country while you travel. You may gain some peace of mind in knowing that governments and embassies don’t mess around when it comes to Egypt. If one of their citizens are in danger in Egypt they typically come in swinging because they understand the danger that exists here.
Prepare Yourself for the Desert Climate
The desert climate is (obviously) hot and sunny. Hot is an understatement, actually.
Ensure you always carry an abundance of water and sunscreen. Wearing a hat and long clothing is also beneficial to protect your skin from the intense UV rays.
Don’t Go Hiking on Your own in Egypt
If you’re like me that means you’ve got hiking and outdoor adventure on the brain 24/7. In Egypt though, you can’t just go out hiking or adventuring solo.
A) the outdoor adventure infrastructure doesn’t exist in Egypt; especially for foreigners. B) trails are unmarked, only known by local Bedouins, and it’s very easy to get lost in the desert. C) There are many threats/dangers in the desert as well as a large military presence that you want nothing to do with! D) Hiking is actually illegal in Egypt.
If you want to embark on any sort of outdoor adventures Egypt you MUST go with a guide (Bedouin) or tour group. Get Your Guide and Viator are two great resources for finding tours and guides in Egypt.
Fun Egypt Travel Tips
Now that we’ve gone over all the heavy & scary Egypt travel tips, here are a few fun Egypt travel tips and things you can look forward to!
The Best Time of Year to Visit Egypt is…
The best time of year to visit Egypt is typically winter (November to April) if you want to do any hiking or sightseeing. Summer temps are unbearably hot; like 50 degrees C hot. If you want to visit the beaches, shoulder season (spring and fall) are best, as the beaches will be too cold for swimming in the winter.
The Best Places to Visit in Egypt are…
- History, Artifacts, & Museums – Cairo, Luxor, and Aswan.
- Outdoor Adventure – the Sinai Peninsula. Nuweiba, and St. Catherine (big mountains) in particular.
- Diving – Dahab, Sharm El-Sheikh, and, Hurghada.
- Camel rides – you can find camels everywhere. I chose to ride a camel in front of the pyramids.
- Beaches – the North Coast, Sharm El-Sheikh, and Hurghada.
- Tourist “Friendly” – the Sinai Peninsula. Sharm El-Sheikh is an international resort town.
My Personal Favourite Place in Egypt is…
The Sinai Peninsula! This is the outdoor adventure capital of Egypt and where I spent most of my time there. You can find hiking, diving, and all sorts of water sport opportunities here. And kite surfing! Kite surfing is a beloved sport in the Sinai Peninsula.
St Catherine in particular I loved because this is where I went hiking and camped on top of the tallest mountain in Egypt! Nuweiba is also cute because it’s super quiet and full of beachside camps. Dahab is very tourist friendly and has a lot of cool sport and sightseeing opportunities. Sharm El-Sheikh is a resort town.
My Egypt travel tip is to go straight to the Sinai Peninsula! This is where all the real fun exists in Egypt.
How Long Should You Spend in Egypt
Egypt travel tips
If you’re extremely organized and have a super detailed plan ahead of arriving in Egypt, I think you can see all the country’s highlights in 1 month. However I think most people can only handle 1-2 weeks in Egypt because being there is just a LOT.
I’d advise to look at what you want to see and create an itinerary, but be flexible with your departure date. Some people love Egypt and stay for extended periods of time, other people arrive and leave within a day or two because they can’t handle it.
I stayed for over 1 month between Cairo-Alexandria-Sinai and I personally felt like that was way too long.
Try all the food!
Egyptians loooove their food and they have quite a variety:
- Fresh Juice: you can find freshly squeezed juice everywhere and it’s super cheap. Make sure you ask for no added sugar! A fan-favourite is lemon mint.
- Ful – fava beans. Kind of like a more liquid-y version of refried beans, but packed with spices and fresh lime juice. Remember to make a cat’s eye with your bread and scoop the beans up!
- Falafel (aka taameya) – every Egyptian’s favourite food. The falafel in Egypt is made with fava beans and they’re super fluffy.
- Mahshi – basically a “stuff it with rice” situation made with any vegetable. Although it’s commonly rice stuffed in grape leaves.
- Feteer – Layered, flaky “pie.” It can be plain, savoury, or sweet.
- Konafa – a YUM dessert made of long threads of vermicelli-like dough. Traditionally it’s made with custard or nuts & milk. Now you can find just about every flavour.
- Tahini – sesame paste. Egyptians put it on everythingggg.
- Molokheya – A green, leafy vegetable chopped and cooked with garlic in beef, rabbit or chicken stew. It’s served with rice or bread. It’s very nutritious, but doesn’t have much flavour, and the consistency is sticky & slimy; like snot. Weird, but worth a try!
- Shawarma – meat cooked on a spit, shaved, and put into a wrap.
- Stuffed Pigeon – yup, Egyptians eat pigeon! It’s not common, but you may come across it on a menu here or there.
- Kofta – Minced beef or lamb rolled with spices & grilled.
- Kebab – various meat put on a skewer and grilled.
- Grilled Eggplant – an Egyptian favourite! You can find this everywhere.
- Bread – Egyptians LOVE bread and they have many types. My favourite was Baladi which is a local, fluffy pita style bread. The Bedouins also make all sorts of bread and they cook it in the desert sand.
- Koshari – the ultimate “leftover dish.” A mix of noodles, rice, lentils, chickpeas, onion, a tomato sauce, and a garlic sauce.
- Egg – not necessarily “Egyptian,” but you can find a variety of eggs on every menu. The “Egyptian” thing is to scoop up the eggs with bread – you don’t eat them with a fork!
- Rice Pudding – Egypt’s favourite dessert.
- Prickly Pear – exactly what it sounds like, but typically only found in the summer months.
- Fruit – in general the fruit in Egypt is delicious. Especially the mangos. OMG.
Remember, Egyptians eat community style and with their hands.
Go Out for Egyptian Breakfast
Egypt travel tips
If you ask any Egyptian what their favourite thing about Egypt is, they’re gonna tell you Egyptian breakfast.
Egyptian breakfast is served anywhere form 8am-3pm because Egyptians LOVE to eat late. The “classic” Egyptian breakfast items are: ful, falafel, bread, grilled eggplant, eggs, fries, and fresh juice.
I know – not “breakfast.” But it is in Egypt and it keeps you full almost all day!
Egypt travel tip – Zooba is a restaurant with high quality, authentic Egyptian food. If you want the real Egyptian breakfast experience, go right to Zooba!
Talabat – Egypt’s Food Delivery Platform
Continuing with the whole food trend going here, Talabat is the food delivery platform in Egypt. The delivery fee is so cheap it’s basically free! There were some days I just couldn’t bear the chaos outside and opted to order food in rather than leave the safety and comfort of my accommodations.
Ladies – you CANNOT wear shorts if you open the door to a delivery man. Unfortunately “she was asking for it” is the vibe when it comes to wearing shorts in this situation.
Egypt travel tips
Fresh juice is one of my favourite things about Egypt. There are roadside juice stands everywhere and a glass only costs around $1-2.
This Egypt travel tip is to take advantage of the fresh juice! You most likely won’t find fresh, good quality juice this cheap anywhere else in the world.
Everything is Old & There are Dead People Everywhere in Egypt
Egypt travel tips
ahhhh I know what you’re thinking and it isn’t what it sounds like!
Everything in Egypt is absolutely ancient – like 5000 years old ancient. Egypt has so many artifacts that many of them are just lying around in the streets as if they’re not even important. So those little lion sculptures, pillars, and different items you see on the side of the road – they’re actually 5000 year old treasures!
There’s also a large amount of preserved mummies and historic religious figures on display. These are the dead people I’m talking about.
Egypt has a Bedouin Culture
Bedouins are kind of confusing to describe. They’re locals in the Sinai Peninsula, but they’re more than locals. They’re similar to Indigenous people, but they’re not quite the same. More or less they were the first people to inhabit the Sinai Peninsula and they have special rights and privileges; they actually have some governing power in the Sinai region.
They know the desert like the back of their hand and they’ve adapted so many survival techniques for the climate and landscape. They wear galabiyas and ‘oqals which are their traditional clothing. They make Bedouin tea which is comprised of local herbs from the desert and they load it up with sugar. There are also different tribes; some are chill and the roles between men/women are “more” equal. These tribes typically speak decent English and treat tourists well. Other tribes are extremely dangerous, violent/aggressive, and treat their women poorly. No need to worry though, as a tourist you shouldn’t run into these tribes.
Bedouins are also the local hiking guides in Sinai! Hiking is illegal in Egypt, however there’s a grey zone in which hiking with Bedouins is “okay.”
Something interesting is that Bedouins actually have opium farms scattered throughout the desert. The Egyptian military allows them to grow opium in exchange for their desert navigation skills and knowledge. Another classic “no system” situation in Egypt.
Adventure Options & Sports in Egypt
Egypt travel tips
Egypt actually has soooo many sport options. In the South Sinai region you can find all kinds of water sports like diving, snorkelling, kite surfing, parasailing, water skiing, etc. You can also go hiking – with a bedouin guide of course.
May & September are the Cheapest Months to Visit Egypt
If $ is of concern, you may want to consider visiting Egypt during the shoulder season. In the months of May & September you’ll find cheaper rates on hotels, flights, and excursions. Make sure you book in advance to save an extra few dollars!
Purchase a Tourist Card
A tourist card is a one time purchase which gives you access to all the top tourist sites in either Cairo or Luxor. I personally didn’t purchase one of these so I can’t tell you all the details, however this post from Earth Trekkers outlines the pros and cons to the passes.
Egypt has the Coolest Museums in the World
Egypt is in the process of building the biggest museum in the world. Aside from size though the museums here are absolutely loaded with ancient artifacts, mummies, jewelry and tools dating back to 5000 years old. Museums and history typically bore me (even though I try to be interested), however the Egyptian museums stole my heart and attention.
I spent hours looking and learning, although learning was difficult because there are limited and sometimes no information cards. The biggest highlight of the museums are the ancient pharaohs. They’re exposed so you can actually see 5000 year old human beings. Toe nails, skin, hair, and all!
My Egypt travel tip for you here is don’t JUST go to the ancient sites and temples/pyramids. Make some time in your schedule to see the museums too!
Arabic Music is SO Fun!
Arabic music is vibe-y. It’s sooo different from North American music and I think you should totally take advantage of it while you’re there. Turn off the European or North American music you’re used to hearing and fully soak up the Arabic music scene.
There are Camels Everywhere in Egypt
Egypt does in fact have a huge camel culture! In Cairo they’re a big tourist attraction at the pyramids – however the camels are unfortunately not treated well there.
In the Sinai Peninsula you can find camels everywhere, though. Camels are part of daily life and culture in Sinai. If you’re aiming for a more ethical camel experience, I’d totally recommend riding a camel in Sinai rather than at the tourist sites. Plus, it’ll be much cheaper riding a camel there than going for a ride at the pyramids.
ps – riding a camel feels much different than riding a horse! It should definitely make your Egypt bucket list.
Go Diving in the Red Sea
My final Egypt travel tip for you is to go diving in the Red Sea. Some of the best dive sites in the world exist in Egypt and there are countless diving schools and guides available. A few highlight locations for diving exist in the Sinai Peninsula (Sharm El-Sheikh and Dahab), Marsa Alam, and Hurghada.
I tried diving for my first time at Concorde El Salam in Sharm El Sheikh and had a WONDERFUL experience. The instructor at Concorde is American and explains things exceptionally well. Once you know the drill and understand the logistics of diving, I’d recommend heading over to the Lighthouse dive site in Dahab (I LOVED this spot), or the infamous Blue Hole in Dahab.
BOOK THE FOLLOWING DIVING TOURS:
Diving in Dahab’s Famous Blue Hole
Diving Trip to Ras Mohammed National Park from Sharm El-Sheikh
Boat & Diving Trip in Hurghada
Should You Visit Egypt?
I am so on the fence when it comes to my answer on whether or not you should visit Egypt. My experience there was so horrible and exhilarating and exciting and shocking and amazing and eye opening and unique all at once. Because of this I think it really boils down to who you are as a person, what you’re looking to experience while you’re there, and where you’ve previously travelled.
Yes – you should visit Egypt if…
- You’re looking for a challenging, eye opening, culturally diverse, and entirely new experience.
- You’ve done proper research and understand your trip to Egypt will be difficult, chaotic, frustrating, intimidating, and maybe even horrible.
- You’ve travelled to other third world and Arabic countries before (I personally think Egypt is too overwhelming to start out with).
- You’re a seasoned traveller/backpacker.
- You’re brave and confident. Things don’t easily get under your skin.
- You cope well with chaos/stressful environments and you’re okay with confrontation.
- You’re open minded, non-judgemental, and love being thrown into entirely new cultures.
- You want to experience the history, (huge) culture, atmosphere, and people – not just the pyramids.
- You read all my Egypt travel tips, do’s, and don’ts – make an informed decision!
No – you shouldn’t visit Egypt if…
- You get stressed out easily and chaos/noise bothers you.
- You don’t handle confrontation or disorganization well.
- You don’t fully grasp the cultural differences you’ll experience in Egypt.
- You’re looking for a fun, relaxing, or easy vacation.
- You’re fairly new to travelling and/or haven’t visited third world/Arabic countries before.
- You’re timid, closed-minded, nervous, and new things scare you.
- You haven’t and don’t plan on doing any research on the culture/customs in Egypt.
- You’re just going to see the pyramids.
I personally have a love-hate relationship with Egypt. Part of me wants to return and see the rest of the country. The other part of me couldn’t WAIT to leave and will never look back. At the end of the day it’s up to you, but I truly think Egypt is a destination in which you have to work your way up to. You can’t just hop on a plane and go (like I did) – learn from my mistakes!
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About The Author
Hey! I’m Taylor – the voice behind The Holistic Backpacker.
After moving to Banff National Park in 2020 I became an outdoor adventure enthusiast and vowed to never stop exploring.
I’m now focused on travelling the world and seeing everything our beautiful home has to offer.
I created The Holistic Backpacker so I could share my adventures and help connect people like you with the same amazing experiences.
I am also an advocate for the environment and do as much as I can to take care of our planet.
Get to know me and my story more here 🙂
I can’t wait to share my adventures with you!
I am here in Egypt on my 3rd day of 12. I thought I was prepared as I did months of research on what to expect when traveling. I’m in a group of 3, and we are going through a tour company. My experience has been exactly as you described to a T. You have no idea how much reading this post is helping me right now. I’m starting to get stressed and frustrated already hyper focusing on the negatives. I’ve been waiting for this trip My whole life. It’s just good to know these things are thr norm in Egypt and there’s nothing I can do. So why not enjoy what I can and make the most of it, as there are so many cool things! Anyone traveling to Egypt needs to read this. Sums up everything perfectly!!
I’m sorry your experience hasn’t been what you thought! Egypt is amazing, but it’s definitely frustrating to navigate. If there’s any way I can help, please reach out via the contact page or Instagram @theholisticbackpacker 🙂
Best of luck on the rest of your trip!