If you’re looking for a few Egypt travel tips, you’ve come to the right place! We’ve just returned from a fantastic few weeks in Egypt, and there is so much to share about this overwhelming, ancient, and mesmerizing country.
Egypt is a place that will frustrate you beyond belief, but at the same time, it will reel you into its history and sites, which feel unworldly at times. It’s a country worth visiting, but it’s worth noting some essential Egypt travel tips first.
Our Best Egypt Travel Tips
When Should You Visit Egypt?
Timing your Egypt trip right is critical as it can get boiling. If you visit in the wrong months, you might just seek shade and AC everywhere you go on your vacation.
The best time to visit Egypt is between October and April. This is when temperatures are more relaxed, but there is still plenty of sunshine. Summertime in Egypt is between May and September, and temperatures can easily reach 34°C+ with an average of 28°C. Not super enjoyable if you don’t like intense heat.
Where Should You Go in Egypt?
There are so many places to visit in Egypt that you could spend months uncovering all the best sights. We spent 12 days in Egypt and felt it was an adequate amount of time, but we definitely could have benefitted from a few more days, I’m happy we at least had the 12.
If you are a history buff and exploring Ancient Temples gets you excited, we recommend taking a Nile River Cruise from Luxor to Aswan to enjoy all the fabulous sights. Of course, you should tack on Abu Simbel to that itinerary as well.
If you want to spend time on the beach and love diving and snorkeling, head to the coast and explore the Red Sea. The coral here is in unbelievable shape, and Egypt is a fabulous beach destination. For a dose of adventure, head to the desert!
Another important note on this Egypt travel tips list – is your entrance into Egypt. Most likely, unless you’re making a big overland journey across Africa, you’ll come to Egypt by plane. Most people’s port of entry will be in Cairo, but there are also direct flights from the region into Aswan, Alexandria, and Luxor.
We flew into Cairo at midnight from (sort of) nearby Oman. They had stacked all the flights as the airport was packed.
Most visitors to Egypt will need a visa. Visas can be purchased upon arrival. Make sure you do this first before waiting in line at the border check, as you’ll be turned back if you don’t, making the whole process much longer. There are signs saying you need your visa, but we met multiple people who waited in line at the border check only to turn around and get their visas.
To purchase a visa, you need $25 and can do so right before the border check. You can pay for your ticket in dollars, euro, or British pounds but not Egyptian pounds for some reason. If you don’t have those currencies (we didn’t, as we had been traveling for a few months), you can wait in a separate line where there is a card machine.
Although it wasn’t clear to us that we couldn’t pay in Egyptian pounds and that only one of the lines at a credit card machine, so we ended up waiting in line twice, and the sneaky device charged our card an extra $10. I can only assume the Egyptian official rang our card through as a “cash advance.”
If you don’t have USD, Euro, or British Pound Sterling, there is one ATM where you can pull out Egyptian pounds (£E) and then exchange them for an alarming rate at the currency exchange.
All of this may sound simple, but at the airport, no signs or directions are, making the whole process confusing. It took us more than an hour with the lines and multiple steps to finally enter Egypt. If you’re still reading this far, your takeaway should be to just have USD on you before you land.
Cairo Kinda Sucks
My next Egypt travel tip is to not base your experience in Cairo on your experience in Egypt. Cairo is not Egypt, but you can’t go to Egypt and NOT visit Cairo. It’s where the Great Pyramids are, the oldest city of Memphis, the first pyramid of Saqqara, and of course, the Egyptian Museum, which houses fabulous artifacts.
I must admit that Cairo isn’t the most pleasant of cities. I haven’t met one person that disagrees with me. It’s filthy, loud, aggressive, and it has horrible traffic and buildings I have only ever seen on a horror movie set. But what can you expect from Egypt’s capital of over 20 million people? It’s the 15th-largest capital city in the world and one of the largest in Africa – so expect craziness.
However, you must at least see this and take it all in. Chances are you’ll pass through Cairo, either in or out of Egypt. We contemplated spending just one, two, or three days in Cairo and decided on two full days.
Two days was enough to enjoy the sites but not pull my hair out and go grey. I would also recommend 2-3 days in Cairo to others deciding on how much time to give to the capital.
Uber is Everything
One of the main ways to get around Cairo is with Uber. It works very well in the city and is very cheap. After taking Uber 10+ times, I can confirm that it is reliable in the city, and we also found it to work well in other parts of the country!
We love taking Ubers around the world, as it means I’m not going to get ripped off. There’s no haggling with the price, and I don’t have to deal with cash. This is exactly what we wanted from a trip to a crazy city like Cairo!
It only took us one time to walk between destinations for five minutes in Cairo to realize it was not a walking city. I even wanted to call an Uber if it was less than a 10-minute walk, which is not normal for us who like to walk everywhere when we travel. The streets are busy and without crosswalks, and as a blonde I got quite a few uncomfortable stares.
Crossing the road is like playing a game of Frogger and gambling with your life. Have you been to Hanoi? We found it worse than there!
Should You Rent a Car in Egypt?
Renting a car in Egypt is not recommended as the roads are hectic and chaotic. According to the NADA Foundation for Safer Egyptian Roads, the death rate due to road accidents in Egypt is among the highest in the world.
There aren’t many “rules” of the road, and car horns and reckless drivers will be constantly frustrated. I typically worry about scratching a rental car, but in Egypt, I would fear for my life. I couldn’t imagine driving a car in Egypt and I recommend hiring a guide or driver for your trip.
Is Egypt Safe to Visit?
Since the 1970s, tourism has been one of the leading drivers of Egypt’s economy; tourism is crucial to employment, income levels, and the economy. In 2010, Egypt was a popular place to visit, drawing in people from all over the world. At its height, the country saw almost 15 million visitors a year.
During and after the Egyptian Revolution in 2011, tourism plummeted to less than 9 million visitors. More than a 30% drop in the country’s top sector hurt Egypt hard. What followed was a series of terrorist attacks that only crippled the country more. But now tourism is bouncing back.
So is Egypt a safe place to visit? Well, of course, I can’t say that because nothing happened to us that it is safe. But after our recent trip, I felt secure and well looked out for during my entire trip.
Tourism companies and the government have gone to great lengths to make their country more secure. We never entered a single site without having to pass through multiple security checkpoints; we got police escorts to certain temples in the middle of nowhere. When we flew from Cairo to Hurghada, we had to pass through three security checkpoints at the airport.
If you want to go to Egypt but are nervous about your safety, it’s best to book through an organized travel agent.
Prepare to be Hassled
We’ve traveled to over 90 countries and can confirm that the constant hassling at tourist sites in Egypt is particularly bad. It only rivaled other nearby Arabic nations (looking at you, Morocco). It will be impossible to avoid the touts at any ancient site, but if you let it bother you all the time, it will completely ruin your holiday.
The touts aren’t aggressive, but they are persistent in selling you their trinkets. Most Egyptians are impoverished and just trying to get by, and therefore will try anything to get you to buy; there is no shame. If you want to buy something from them, remember to haggle your way down from their original price – this is expected.
If you don’t want anything and don’t want to be bothered, it’s best to keep your head down, don’t act interested, don’t look them in the eye, don’t engage in conversation, and keep walking. Don’t worry – you’ll learn quickly.
Beware of Scams
As with many developing nations, you should look for scams in Egypt – particularly at famous sites. This includes sitting down for tea, coffee, or hookah near an ancient place.
The quoted price will almost always have an additional “fee.” Usually, it is not more than £E 20-30, which isn’t much, but it doesn’t make it okay. If you are quoted something ridiculous, it is also acceptable to pay them what you think is fair and no more.
We found that at many sites, particularly at the Valley of the Kings, the men working in the tombs will offer to show you around, take your photo, help you get into a “secret” spot, allow you to stand somewhere you shouldn’t or provide unwanted advice. If you engage or allow this to happen, you will be asked for a tip afterward.
You don’t have to pay and shouldn’t if no “service” was provided, but if you want to or feel bad £E5-10 is enough. Again it’s all harmless, and if you let it bother you, your trip to Egypt will not be enjoyable. Yes, it isn’t pleasant, but I understand why it is happening, and that $1-2 to you means much less than $1-2 to them. The average Egyptian makes less than $400 a month.
It’s worth noting that having a guide with you usually limits interactions like these.
Get Ready to Tip!
Tipping in Egypt is standard practice and can also be very confusing. Almost everyone in Egypt expects a tip, and they let you know it too. Of course, there are standard tipping practices, like at restaurants, for a guide and bag porters.
But also outside every public restroom is someone to hand you toilet paper – he expects a tip of around £E5, or at Ancient sites, you may even be asked for money. It’s best to have Egyptian Pounds on you for these instances like this, as if you only have USD, Euro, or British Pounds, you’ll likely be overtipping at every stop. No one ever has change.
Horde Your Small Bills
Bringing me to one of my next Egypt travel tips. There’s a severe lack of small bills in Egypt, so when you get 5, 10, and even 20 Egyptian pound notes, hang on to them for instances when you need to tip. Otherwise, you’ll probably find yourself overpaying, as many will state they have no change for your 50 and 100 notes.
Those Tourist Sites Will Start to Add Up
There’s no “Egyptian Temple Pass” that is a buy one-time get all access to temples type of deal in Egypt. (However, there is a Cairo Pass and Luxor Pass). Instead, you’ll have to pay individually for each site you visit, and they will start to add up. Expect to pay anywhere from £E100-300 for most areas, with some costing even more (Valley of the Queens is more than 1000 EGP).
So if you come to Egypt to see Ancient Egypt; just be prepared to spend some money on each temple. If you go with an organized tour, all of these entrance fees are typically included in the tour price, making things much simpler for you. However, it’s best to make sure your tour consists of the cost of entry fees, as some do not.
Photography Permits at Egyptian Sites
The spending doesn’t stop there. Depending on the site, you will also be asked to pay for a photography permit if you want to bring anything more than a phone to take photos. We found photography permits to range from £E50 (at the Egyptian museum) to £E300 (at Saqqara and Valley of the Kings, and a few others).
If you want to bring a tripod, this is usually a £E20 fee, but it depends on the site. You’ll have to pay special attention to the rules and regulations regarding cameras at each location (if you have a guide, they will be able to inform you).
Some sites do not allow flash photography, and some prohibit video taking, we also got in trouble for having a microphone on our vlogging camera as it was seen as a “commercial.” Some sites don’t allow photos (even with a phone). Oh, and don’t even think about bringing a drone into Egypt.
Sometimes the photography permits can cost more than the entrance fee, so if you’re happy with just phone photos, one of my top Egypt travel tips is to just bring the phone to the sites for your photos.
Keep Those Tickets
You’ll want to hang on to those entry and photography tickets until you are done with the site you are visiting. You may be asked for them multiple times, especially if you have a big bulky camera or tripod.
Get a Guide
We aren’t really “guide” people. We often travel independently and take our time at a place, but I cannot recommend a guide enough in Egypt. They are essential to telling you about Ancient Egypt and the site you are visiting.
There is little to no information on any of the sites. Nope – none. No placards or pamphlets to let you know what you’re looking at. You will want a GOOD guide that knows their stuff. Abdul, our fabulous guide in Southern Egypt, was knowledgeable and friendly – I can’t recommend him enough (here’s his email email@example.com).
Not only are guides suitable for conveying information, but as mentioned before, they can be great at shooing off unwanted attention and touts.
Dress for the Desert
One of my top travel Egypt tips is to dress appropriately. It gets HOT in Egypt, especially the further south you go. Peak tourist season in Egypt runs from mid-October to May, during winter and Spring. If you visit in the summer (June – September), you’ll constantly seek heat relief.
We visited in mid-October, and while Cairo and the Red Sea were pretty comfortable, it was stifling hot once we got to Luxor until we departed Egypt.
It’s important to dress for hot temperatures while still respecting the fact that you’re in a conservative country. This means white and tan loose clothing. Dresses past the knee, light pants, and shirts that aren’t too revealing are ideal.
I prefer linen in hot temperatures like this. Also don’t forget to bring a hat, sunglasses, and sun protection!
Bring the Right Shoes to Egypt
You’ll be walking around a lot in Egypt, so it’s essential to bring a good pair of shoes. Most people in our tour groups wore trainers; Cameron wore his Allbirds Tree Runners, which were comfortable, and let his feet breathe. On the other hand, I wore my Sanuk Yoga Slings as I find flip-flops and sandals very comfortable and stylish in hot places.
Get Up Early
The coolest temperatures are before 8 am and after 4:30 pm. It’s best to start your day at sunrise to enjoy the comfortable weather. We started many of our sightseeing days before 6 am.
This meant fewer crowds, and we weren’t stuck in ancient hot tombs full of people at noon!
Purchase a SIM card
If you want to stay connected while on your trip, pick up a sim card at the airport once you land. While most of the places we visited had WiFi in Egypt, it never worked remarkably well. We were happy to have 4G almost everywhere we went, including on our Nile River Cruise.
Data is cheap in Egypt! You can expect to pay about 100 EGY for 10 GB of data with cell phone providers like Orange and Vodafone. It’s best to make sure you understand the plan you purchase; we felt we got scammed a few times by the salesman not telling us the complete rules on data.
If you want to be set with data when you land, you can also get a e-sim with Airalo.
Bring Hand Sanitizer
It’s worth noting again that we rarely found accessible public restrooms while venturing around Egypt. Despite paying, soap to wash your hands was also a rare find. I’m happy we had hand sanitizer!
Can You Drink the Tap Water in Egypt?
Tap water in Egypt is not drinkable and should be avoided. In Cairo, we didn’t even brush our teeth with it. I usually don’t advocate buying bottled water as we travel with a filter, but we primarily had bottled water to stay hydrated in Egypt. You’ll need to drink AT LEAST two liters a day in this hot country.
It’s essential to check the bottled water you buy from street vendors. A common trick here is to fill bottles with tap water and seal them shut again but charge for the price of a new bottle. If it tastes or look funky, I will steer clear even if you bought it. Remember the saying for bottled water – “If it clicks, it’s safe.”
It’s essential to stay hydrated in Egypt! You’re in the desert and will likely be walking around the ancient sites all day in the heat.
You may not even realize you’re sweating out all your fluids, so drink plenty to be safe. I would recommend bringing electrolyte tablets, just in case.
Euros, British Pound Sterling, and USD are Widely Accepted
If you are short on Egyptian Pounds, rest assured that any major currency will be gladly accepted. Just don’t expect a fair exchange rate. Oh, and cash is king in Egypt.
Service Charges and VAT
At any resort and many mid-range to high-end restaurants, expect VAT (13%) and a service charge (12%) to be added to your bill. If you’re somewhere fancy, that extra 25% can add up; it’s best to be aware beforehand.
It’s worth noting that the service charge added to your bill is not going back to your waiter, but rather to the establishment, so you will have to tip him separately.
Egypt Has Some Seriously Friendly People
Despite the annoying touts and occasional scams, I found almost any Egyptian I interacted with to be incredibly friendly. Most were happy that tourists were returning after the stark downturn after the Arab Spring.
People often went out of their way to accommodate us (this is especially true if interacting in the tourism sector).
You can expect many smiles and questions about where you are from. The most common phrase we heard was “Welcome to Egypt” happily. I was often approached by women who wanted photographs with me and chatted about life in general.
You may get asked for tips, and the touts may bother you a little more than you are comfortable with, but I found it all pretty harmless.
If you can only learn one word in Arabic before visiting Egypt, it should be “Shukran.” This means “Thank You,” and you’ll use it a lot. Learn also to say “La Shukran,” telling “No Thank You,” as that will come in handy when you’ve had enough of the touts trying to sell you little plastic Sphinx figurines.
Should You Book a Nile River Cruise?
Of course, this Egypt travel tips list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning a Nile River Cruise. Some websites recommend not booking a Nile River Cruise, and some do. They can be an expensive affair, especially the higher-end boat you choose. They stick to a schedule and don’t allow hours upon hours at each ancient site. This may deter some people. As independent travelers, it would prevent us. We love to spend as long as we want at a destination and like to travel on our schedule.
However, I can say that our Nile River Cruise was the best part of our Egypt trip and will remain a core travel memory until we die. We cruised the Nile on the luxurious Steam Ship Sudan, easily the most iconic steamship in Egypt – and perhaps the entire world.
No, it’s not a cheap trip, but what can you expect after hosting Agatha Christie, the King of Egypt, and becoming a source for books and countless movies (Death on the Nile)?
We loved our Nile River Cruise; it took the planning and stress out of everything. Our guide was fantastic, and we always felt we had adequate time at the Ancient Sites while fully relaxing and enjoying cruising the Nile.
Ultimately it’s up to you if you want to take a Nile River Cruise, but I don’t think you will regret it. Nile River Cruises can start for less than $100 a day, which considering it takes the headache out of planning and getting from site to site, is a great deal, in my opinion. Ours was a bit more expensive, but worth it. You can read about cruising on the Nile on the Steam Ship Sudan here.
READ MORE EGYPT TRAVEL TIPS
I hope you enjoyed this guide on our best Egypt travel tips! Hopefully, you found it helpful. Here are a few relevant articles for more travel around Egypt.
- What to Wear in Egypt
- 25 Best Places to Visit in Egypt
- Inside the Steam Ship Sudan • A Fantastic Luxury Nile River Cruise in Egypt
- 35 Fun and Interesting Facts About Egypt
- When is the Best Time to Visit Egypt?
Plan and Pack for Egypt
Are you planning a trip to Egypt and wondering what to wear? We just returned from a fantastic month in the country and loved every second of our time. However, the Egypt dress code can get confusing. It’s a hot desert country but also a conservative, predominately Muslim country.
Shop For Travel Insurance
We don’t travel without travel insurance, and neither should you. You never know what can happen in a foreign country, and it’s best to be prepared. HeyMondo offers excellent short and long-term travel insurance policies.