I think it’s safe to assume that Egypt is a bucket list place for lots of people. Especially history and art nerds like me! Planning a trip to Egypt can be super exciting! After all, you’re going to explore one of the oldest civilizations in history. From the Great Pyramids of Giza to cruising down the Nile River, Egypt truly was one of the most amazing trips I have ever taken and it probably will be the same for you as well. Whether you are in your planning stage of Egypt or about to hop on a plane tomorrow, these 12 must know things about visiting Egypt is sure to help you to be fully prepared for your trip!
1. When to Go
Egypt is HOT! Almost all months except in the winter. I visited at the end of May and the temperature was already 110F degrees. You could go in the winter months but know it is also the most crowded. Early spring is probably your best bet and a good balance between the crowds and the heat.
2. There’s So Much to See
With so many ancient sites and so much history, it can be overwhelming to plan a trip to Egypt. The good news is that I’ve narrowed it down for you in this blog post on the Must Visit Sites and Places in Egypt. In addition to sightseeing, it also includes not to miss activities as well. You can see all this in a 8-9 day tour and adjust if you have more or less time.
3. Security is Tight
This is the number one thing that really shocked me about visiting Egypt and therefore I’m adding this to this list of must know things about visiting Egypt. We had a full-time armed police officer in civil clothes with us everywhere we went. He was in the hotel, on the bus and visited every site and place that we went to. Even more shocking is that we had a police escort more than a few times on this trip. There are also check points at various places.
Also you will have to send your bag through an x-ray machine at all the various archeological and historical sites. With all these measures, I never once felt unsafe in Egypt.
4. Egypt is Best Visited with a Guide
This is definitely one of the most important must know things about visiting Egypt. Whether you opt for a group tour or whether you travel independently, I cannot recommend hiring a guide enough. Egypt is the one place I think you should visit with a guide who can show you and teach you about everything you are seeing. Even if you have read it all, I still recommend a guide to help you navigate Egypt and all the security measures and check points in general.
I don’t usually like group tours but some places (especially if you can’t afford a private tour) warrants them. If you are interested in checking out the tour I did, click HERE. Timeless Tours is a top rated tour company for Egypt. This company is also the same one I used to tour around Morocco and they were great. Our guide was so knowledgeable and accommodating. I really enjoyed the tour and met some awesome people in the process.
5. Be Prepared to Wake Up Early Morning
3 AM wake up calls anyone? There are 3 reasons to start your day early in Egypt 1. to beat the crowds 2. to beat the heat and/or 3. you need to drive long distances (i.e., Aswan to Abu Simbel). The 4th reason can be because you book a hot air balloon experience at sunrise. The good news is that there is plenty of downtime built into the trip if you are on a group tour. If you are doing a private tour, then build that time in (keep your afternoons free to relax or jump in a pool)
6. Wear Comfortable but Somewhat Conservative Clothes
I was honestly surprised at the varying degrees of clothing tourists were wearing in Egypt. It was a lot more relaxed that I had read up on. As a general rule, cover shoulders, make sure your upper legs are somewhat covered and that your garments are not transparent. As much as I hate to even talk about what people should wear or not wear, I think It’s important to mention this. Certain countries have cultural norms that need to respected when you are in that country as a tourist. Also respecting these norms makes for a more enjoyable travel experience.
7. Carry Cash
One thing to know about visiting Egypt is that Egypt is still very much a cash economy. You will need cash to pay for food and tourist attractions. Most big hotels have ATM machines and so does the airport. Make sure to pull cash from a Egyptian Bank. Interesting, my ATM card didn’t work with some bank ATMs but don’t be alarmed if this happens to you. Just try another bank. Egypt has plenty of banks!
8. Expect to Tip
One more thing you are going to need cash for is tipping. Tipping is not uncommon for a wide variety of services and activities, including using the bathroom at a public location. If people offer to take pictures for you, know that you will be expected to pay a tip.
9. Don’t Drink Tap Water
Another impost must know thing about visiting Egypt! My Sri Lankan heritage failed me big time in Egypt. I thought I had a stomach of iron, until I went to Egypt. Although I never drank water from the tap directly and always only drank bottled water, my stomach still wasn’t great in Egypt. In retrospect, it may have been because I brushed my teeth with tap water. Which people recommend not to do. Bring any and all stomach pills with you! This is what helped me stay a float even somewhat.
10. You Probably Need a Visa to Visit Egypt
Unless you are a citizen of a small handful of nations, you will need a visa to visit Egypt. The good news is that Egypt has an e-visa option for 70+ countries and a visa on arrival program for a few counties, including the US. The process to get a visa on arrival is super simple. I was picked up by someone from my tour company before I got to immigration. I handed him $25 USD (in exact cash only) and he essentially got the visa and then handed my passport and visa to the immigration officer to stamp. It’s a simple process even if you are by yourself.
11. Ratings Mean Different Things
I feel this is important to mention too. 3 star, 4 star, 5 star in Egypt may not be the same as it is where you are from. Just forget all the definitions and rating you have known before and experience true Egyptian hospitality!
12. Prepare to be Asked to Buy a Lot of Things
You will see a lot of children and adults alike trying to sell you various things from hats, drinks, souvenirs, guide books and clothes. You have to be gentle but firm with these vendors. It can be a bit chaotic at times because there can be so many of them and they will follow you for a bit. Don’t engage and get their hopes up if you are not going to buy any of their goods but also don’t dismiss them completely. It’s a gentle balance between making sure you acknowledge them and say hello but don’t encourage them if you have no intent to buy or to help them out.
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See below for the must visit sites and places in Egypt if you haven’t checked it out already!
Going on a Nile river cruise and wondering what it’s like? Click HERE or below to learn more!