Africa, Travel

Egypt Travel Tips: Top 20 Things to Know Before Traveling to Egypt

Egypt is one of those places at the top of everyone’s bucket list.  What brings most people here is visiting the Great Pyramids and the Sphinx, but Egypt is much more than just visiting Cairo alone.  It’s full of incredible history, Egyptian pharaohs, kings, and queens throughout Egypt.  I’ve seen the awe-inspiring temples in Luxor, taking rides down the Nile river, and seeing the tombs of the greats in the Valley of the Kings.  Seeing these incredible monuments while traveling to Egypt was an experience of a lifetime.  We were surrounded by ancient historical monuments feeling nostalgic. 

Of course, traveling to a different country can be terrifying, especially with the rumors you may have heard about it being unsafe.  It’s not all peaches and rainbows when it comes to Egypt.  

There are pros and cons to visiting Egypt.  Like getting hassled to buy goods from the souks, and constantly being asked for baksheesh (tips) everywhere you go.  Even though I did a ton of research to help prepare for our trip to Egypt, there were some things that I still didn’t know until planting my feel there in Cairo.  

Tips for traveling to Egypt

That’s why in this post, I’m going to give you the nitty-gritty on what you should know before traveling to Egypt, along with great travel tips of what to expect traveling to Egypt.  

Besides, if you’ve never been to Africa or the Middle East, you may be in for a culture shock.  

But don’t worry, this post includes the do’s and don’ts for first-time visitors to help you be well prepared for your trip to Egypt and to keep you from making the same mistakes I have. So then you can fully enjoy your experience in this remarkable and captivating country.  

So continue reading along as we go through some travel tips and things to know before traveling to Egypt. 

This post contains affiliate links to the products that I use and recommend. If you click on any of the links and make a purchase, then I may earn a small commission. For more info, click my full disclosure.

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1. Must take a PCR COVID test before traveling to Egypt

Abu Simbel Temples Entrance;
Abu Simbel

First, let’s start by getting some of the Logistics out of the way.  I started planning our trip months before we went to Egypt.  Before, a PCR test wasn’t required if you are fully vaccinated, but with everything going on now and multiple changes of COVID-19 and the new OMICRON variant, it is required to take a PCR test within 72 hours of traveling to Egypt from the UK.  

COVID-19 seems like it is going to be with us for a while. So with the COVID pandemic traveling has forever been changed.  The requirements to enter Egypt are that you must be fully vaccinated or take a PCR test within 72 hours of traveling.  Although I am fully vaccinated, I still had to complete a PCR test since I have a US CDC card, and it doesn’t have a QR code. Bummer, I know, but the PCR test results usually take 48 hours, so make sure you give yourself enough time to have your results before flying. 

Just a quick disclaimer. I am NOT an expert, a doctor, nor do I work for the CDC or NHS, so I would highly recommend you go to the UK.Gov or CDC website and research the airline’s website that you are flying with, as well as Egypt’s government site. The requirements change all the time, so you must ensure you keep up with the latest travel restrictions. 

2. Traveling to Egypt requires a Visa on arrival

Picture of Egypt Tourist VISA

Once you arrive in Egypt, you will need a VISA upon arriving at Egypt airport to enter and travel throughout the country.  You can purchase your VISA online beforehand here, but it’s just as easy to get one at the bank in the airport.  It cost $25 US dollars or 392 Egyptian pounds/LE for the single entry tourist Visa.  They require us to pay them in cash, so make sure you bring some money with you. 

But, if you forget your dollars at home, that’s okay because they have ATMs to use in the airport. You must have a VISA before you can go through passport control. 

3. Airport Security is Everywhere

Flying in Egypt can be a little stressful.  That’s because the security in the airports is on 10.  They will ask to see your passport/boarding pass at least five times.  If you are flying to different cities throughout Egypt then you must have your flight confirmation and your passport out and ready to show them before you can even get through the front entrance of the airport.  

Then you will have your bags screened before you even check in to receive your boarding pass.  But wait, there’s more.  Once you get to the gate, to board, you have to go through security again and show your paperwork.  Then again, while boarding the plane to the flight attendants. 

So it’s not like the US where you walk right in, check-in your bags, and only go through security once.  Nope, you will have to show your documents every step of the way.  

My ultimate travel tips for you are to make sure you have all your documents well before stepping into the airport.

4. Get a Sim Card while traveling to Egypt

Luxor Temple

While at the airport, I waited in line to get a SIM card from Vodafone, but it took too long, it was late, and we were ready to get to the hotel to sleep.  But how I wish I would have stayed to get that SIM card because it is pretty cheap, and it was annoying not having any cell service while being out and about all day.  

My tour guide and sometimes the driver let me use their hotspot, but I didn’t want to use up all the data.  And of course, when she wasn’t with me, we were just SOL until we were back in the hotel with Wi-Fi.  And sometimes even the hotel wi-fi wasn’t that great.  

Another travel tip is if you don’t get a SIM card with Vodafone at the airport, you can get one in the city with mobile company Orange.  So don’t be like me.  Make sure you get yourself a SIM card while traveling in Egypt, especially traveling solo.  You don’t want to be out anywhere without any cell phone service.  Just in case you need to make a phone call, or catch an uber, that SIM card will come in handy.  I was ill-prepared before traveling to Egypt, and that was all my fault, but that won’t happen again. 

5. Is it safe traveling to Egypt?

In front of Abu Simbel Temples
Wonderful Tour Guide Heba

So many people ask is it safe to travel to Egypt right now.  I think it is pretty safe to travel to Egypt.  My daughter and I traveled to Cairo, Egypt alone.  However, there are terrorist threats currently in North Sinai, which we were not traveling there anyway.  There weren’t any attacks while we were there or any that I’ve heard of since being back.  However, due to the threats in North Sinai, I would highly recommend not traveling to that area at all. 

But because of the terrorist threats, my husband wasn’t allowed to travel due to military travel restrictions.  My daughter and I decided to go anyway because I had already planned and paid for everything, plus it was too last minute to do anything else. 

If you are traveling to Egypt as a solo female traveler, you have to be very careful and choosy about who you interact with.  Make sure the transportation you decide to use is through legit companies.  Another travel tip is to go to the hotel reception and ask for recommendations for escorting or places to go and avoid.  

In our hotels, the employees were very helpful in giving us advice on Egypt’s dos and don’ts.  Other than all of that, I felt very safe.  The Egyptians welcomed us with open arms.  

They were excited to see people travel to their country because that means we are helping their businesses and economy.  I felt good traveling to Egypt.  Some of them said, “welcome back home”, cousin..LOL.

6. Currency is Egyptian Pounds

Egypt Currency

So the local currency in Egypt is Egyptian Pounds (EGP)/LE.  The current rate of EP is 15.71 for every $1 US dollar.  Before going to Egypt, I didn’t realize that they accept any type of currency.  They especially love and prefer American dollars.  The first thing the locals will ask is, where are you from?  Then say, “we accept American, British Pounds, Etc.”  

I didn’t bring that much US or UK money with me, so the locals seemed to be let down when I used the Egyptian Pounds to pay them.  I would’ve brought more cash if I had known before traveling to Egypt that they accept and prefer American dollars.  

The crazy thing is that a 1K dollar stack of Egyptian pounds is worth $63 US dollars, but the stack will make you feel like you’re balling.

7. You will need to carry cash while traveling to Egypt

With that being said, you will need to carry cash and lots of it.  So my Egypt travel tips would be to bring some American dollars with you since they love it so much.  You will have access to ATMs but only for EGP’s.  And the part that sucks is that every time you use an ATM, you will get charged a conversion fee.  I believe I was charged fees at the ATM and by my bank. Whooh, and those charges will add up.  

Our hotel was the safest place to get cash from the ATM.  Our hotels at the Marriott Mena House, Movenpick Resort Aswan, Hilton Luxor Resort, Rixos Premium Seagate, and Fairmont Nile City had ATMs available.  I didn’t have any issues pulling money out of the ATMs at the hotels, but when I was out, I was running low on cash and had to go to a local ATM in the city.  Once that happened, my US bank deemed it as fraud.  

So my travel tip is to A.) make sure your bank knows that you are traveling to Egypt and B.) if you can help it, just get cash from your hotel. 

Some places accept cash only, while others will take a credit card.  I brought two credit cards: a Chase Preferred Visa and a Marriott American Express card.  I’m glad I brought my Visa card because AMEX is not accepted everywhere.  I had to pull out EGPs pounds a few times because the max you can get out at once at the ATM is 4,000 EGPs.  So why would you need to carry cash?  To get into tourist attractions, buying souvenirs, food, and primarily because of tipping. 

8. Tipping in Egypt is expected

(things to know before traveling to Egypt)
We gave him a tip for helping us take photos

Before traveling to Egypt, you must know that it is expected of you to tip.  I cannot even begin to know how much money I shelled out in tips alone.  Everyone, I mean everyone, expects a tip.  Practically anyone who is providing a service to you wants a tip.  This includes the Drivers, Concierge, Luggage helpers at the airport (don’t fall for it), temple guards at the doors of the monuments and tourists attractions, and even tips for going to the toilet.  

I mean, it is kind of ridiculous!  

So my tip for you is to have small bills with you, like 10’s, 20’s, 50’s.  A 20 EGP is 1.27 American dollars.  Don’t be like me.  I screwed up at the start of my trip and did not have any small bills, and it cost me. 

Having to tip 100-200 EGP was way too much.  So learn from my mistake and carry small bills for a $1 to $5 tip, not $12!  

Another tip, if someone comes up to you and is being extra friendly and helpful, it’s a trap. Because whatever help you receive from them, you will have to tip that person for it.  

Sometimes it is worth it, though, like when an employee took pictures of us together at the monuments.  But I don’t think 50 EGPs ~ 3 American dollars is worth tipping to a bathroom attendant that’s handing you a piece of paper.  Nall, that’s worth about only 10 EGPs IMO.  

9. Cat-calling and men boldly flirting

(things to know before traveling to Egypt)

Just know that before visiting Egypt, the men are very flirtatious.  I don’t know if it’s just to get your attention or if they feel this way, but they are very blunt.  My tour guide, Heba, told us just to ignore them and not even respond, but sometimes they are so outlandish and humourous I couldn’t help but crack a smile and laugh. 

While walking around, I heard things like Beautiful, Nubian, “don’t break my heart,” “You are a goddess,” and “I got what you want and what you need.”  Also, “everything in here is free for you”.  Some of them were even very funny.  It was pretty flattering, funny, and yet annoying at the same time.  I think it’s harmless fun unless you get offended by things like this, but I didn’t. 

10. Shopping can be overwhelming

(things to know before traveling to Egypt)
Papyrus Store

Who doesn’t love getting beautiful, unique items from foreign lands?  Now I am a girl that loves to shop, especially in places that I’ve never been.  There are so many beautiful things to shop for in Egypt, such as gorgeous Kaftan dresses, scarves, spices, cartouches, artwork, trinkets, you name it.  But shopping in Egypt can be intense.  Therefore, I want you to prepare yourself for things to know before traveling to Egypt.  You have to be strategic in learning how to shop in Egypt.  

Trying to shop in Egypt can be a bit chaotic.  It gets crazy to think about what you want because the workers will talk you to death in going into their store.  It’s like they will hound you and hound you until you buy something.  So just a forewarning.  

Even though it is quite intense at some souks and markets, you really should go and partake.  You will find incredible souvenirs for yourself and your family.  Oh, I loved going shopping for local clothing; it made me feel like I was “fitting in” with the culture.  I had a few gorgeous finds of bright-colored dresses with extravagant and bold patterns.

My travel tip would be to have a guide or local take you to a market such as Khal el Klein in Cairo or other places.  My tour guide took us to some pretty elegant stores where we were not harassed and hounded, and I felt like the quality of the products was top-notch. 

Of course, quality products come with a steep price, so just be picky with what you buy.  It’s easy to rack up the dollars on exquisite gifts.  I would advise setting a budget on how much you are willing to spend on souvenirs.  

11. Army presence and security checkpoints

Egypt
Ram Statues at Karnak Temple

So I was in the military, and I am used to getting IDs checked by the military police while going on base.  But OMG, I’ve never seen it like this before.  There is an Army presence everywhere in Egypt.  They have their weapons, sitting in convoys and in towers overlooking the streets and cities.  You will see a military presence everywhere throughout the country.

They are at all of the significant landmarks.  You will have to get screened by Metal detectors upon entry.  Plus, you will have to put your bags and purses on the conveyer belt to go through the screening process.  

While in Sharm el Sheik, we did a Dune Buggy tour and were on-site with a guide.  As we were leaving the premises, our van was stopped by security.  They looked inside the car and saw that I had a book bag.  I had to get out of the car, go inside and have my bookbag screened.  I’m like, whoa, they ain’t playing no games around here.  I only had a camera, scarf, and water in my bag anyway.  They were friendly and asked me where I was from, so no harm, no foul.  

12. Think again about getting a rental car before traveling to Egypt

So that brings me to my next point.  If you think you would want to rent a car and drive around in Egypt, then you may want to think again.  We had a driver, taxi, or Uber to take us around to where we needed to go.  

While you are getting chauffeured around, you will see many checkpoints in the city and between cities.  They will stop you to see where you’re going while looking in the car at all passengers.  

So I don’t know how you would navigate driving in Egypt on your own with all of these security checkpoints.  You would probably need a special pass and an international license.  Every time we stopped at a checkpoint, the driver had to pull out their card and explain where we were going.  

We had to pull over on our way to the airport, and our driver had to pay a fee.  I don’t know what that was all about, but I wouldn’t want to take that risk driving around like that myself.  

So before traveling to Egypt, do your research if you feel like you would want to rent a car and drive on your own.  But personally, I would advise against that. 

13. Driving in Egypt is insane

Additionally, driving in Egypt is a little…no a lot of crazy.  I thought driving on the opposite side of the road in England was nuts.  But it ain’t got nothing on Egypt.  In Cairo, traffic is ridiculous.  Not to mention that people do not heed the lines to keep them in their respective lanes.  Oh no, they will teeter between 2 lanes and pass others up a little dangerously.  All while trying to duck around people that jump in the streets trying to cross.  

Then there are all the different modes of transportation on the roads like horses and carriages, Tuk Tuks, Scooters, and cars all on the streets, together, making it very hectic.  Seeing about 20 people piled up in a ten-passenger van is nuts.  You’ll also see kids directing the horse and buggies or mules. Then there are people standing up on car ledges catching a ride.  And not just one person standing on the bumper, it is like 5 of them.  It’s a little crazy.  Do you know how it’s illegal to ride in the back of a pickup truck in the states?  Well, I don’t think that applies in Egypt.

So, even if you are just a passenger in the car, you may get a little nauseous from all the ducking and dodging of cars and people.  Sometimes my heart would start racing a little, thinking we may get side-swiped.  Whooh, it’s stressful, but they all seem to drive the same way, and we indeed made it to our destinations.  

14. Get a Tour Guide while traveling to Egypt

So I’m sure if you’ve read my post up to this point, you’ve heard me mention my travel guide.  That’s because before visiting Egypt I decided to hire a tour guide.  I would recommend getting a tour guide while visiting most of the major monuments.  A tour guide knows exactly where they are going and will help you navigate Egypt more easily.  

A major bonus is that they’ll help keep the hagglers off of you and getting taken advantage of in Egypt.  Our tour guide Heba was wonderful and was with us for almost the entire trip.  So my travel tip is to when getting a tour guide, make sure to do your homework and look at the reviews of the company or person.  

I initially found our tour guide on another travel blogger’s post and then I went into investigation mode.  She had great reviews and a stunning IG page full of the tours and travel guides throughout Egypt.  I especially loved how she had shown many black women and solo female travelers around.  That made me feel more comfortable since I am a black woman traveling in Egypt. If you want to have Heba as your tour guide you can contact her on Instagram here and she will quickly respond to your inquiries.

Anywho, while planning your visit to Egypt, a good place to start exploring tours and guides is TripAdvisor.  What I love about Tripadvisor is that you can read all of the comments and recommendations by other travelers that took a tour with a company.  If you don’t do anything else, hire a guide to visit the Pyramids and shop at the Souks or the Bazaar.   

15. Photography Pass

To bring your professional camera into some of the monuments, you will need to get a photography pass to take photos.  For example, for a pass for the Valley of the Kings in Luxor, I had to pay an extra 300 LE.  The photography pass is not included in the cost to enter the monument.  I decided to spend the extra money because I needed to take photos for my blog.

But if you don’t want to pay the extra fee, you can still take pictures with your regular phone camera.  And these days, phone cameras can take some incredible photos.  

Don’t try to bring in a camera without a ticket, because the workers check the tickets at the door.  Even while inside, the workers will ask you if you have a pass for your camera, and you may have to pull it out to show them.  Even one of the tourists looked at me strangely while I was taking photos, telling me, “you need a ticket to use a camera.”  I‘m like I know that, and I have my ticket, thank you very much.  I mean..the audacity of them.

16. Hagglers at every stop

(things to know before traveling to Egypt)
Kind of getting hassled to buy while trying to take in the beautiful scenery on this boat ride (it was cheap so I gave in)

Before traveling to Egypt, just know there will be hagglers everywhere.  Beware of hagglers at every stop you make and tourists attractions.  Some hagglers are trying to sell you cheap products for high prices that aren’t worth it.  

Our tour guide warned us about not acknowledging the hagglers no matter what they say to you.  Once you acknowledge them, that’s just an opening for them to continue a conversation while convincing you to go into their shop.  Even if you make eye contact with them, that is a green light for them to approach you.  Our guide even told us not to touch the products they shove in our face because they will try to make us pay. 

Not to mention, they are rather aggressive.  The hagglers will get in your face with their products trying to convince you to buy.  It’s nothing like in America.  A car dealership ain’t got nothing on these Egyptians trying to sell.  They will get in your face and say, come into my shop, please give me a chance, sister.  I mean, I can understand to a certain extent of them wanting you to purchase something from them because that’s how they make a living. 

If you acknowledge and ask you to come in later after touring, please believe me when I say they will remember you.  And they will say “you promised me that you will come into my shop.”  I have been to many places where hagglers are prevalent, like Turkey and Morocco.  But the guys here just take their haggling up 100 notches.  

17. Scammers be scheming

(things to know before traveling to Egypt)
Gave the Temple guard a tip for photos

When a local is being extra nice or super-duper friendly, more than likely they want money.  So take special heed to this travel tip, don’t fall for the scams.  This is a big don’t.  There are scammers everywhere that are ready to get you out of your money.  

For instance, if someone is offering you a service for very cheap, it’s just an opening for them to get you to say yes.  Like as we were walking down the street in Aswan, these guys hounded us to take a horse and carriage ride.  Even though we said “No, thank you,” they kept insisting that we take one.  These two guys told us they would show us the city by horse and carriage ride, and they told us it would only cost 150 EGP’s.  That’s equivalent to $9.55 US dollars, and I’m like, oh, that’s cheap, and they’re going to give us a tour of the city?  Sounds good to me.  Cool…right?

Uh-Uh 

Don’t fall for it.  Because by the end of the ride, I offered them double that price, and they still said this is “little money.”  But you told me it was 150.  They said well that was before we took you here and here and blah blah.  So needless to say, it wasn’t the price they quoted us.  If I had known that I would be getting played, I would have never accepted because I didn’t intend to ride anyway.  I initially just wanted to walk around and see the city but they convinced us otherwise.  

18. Local kids asking to take a photos

(things to know before traveling to Egypt)
Kids surrounded my daughter

But, on a lighter note.  So my daughter is a 16-year-old brown-skinned girl, and she has colorful sky blue and grey box braids in her hair.  Since she had such colorful hair and a foreigner, she attracted many people, especially the local school girls.

During our visits around Egypt, people would ask my daughter Ariana to take pictures with them.  Once one girl asked, and she said yes. The next thing I knew, a swarm of girls would surround her to take a photo.  My baby was like a local celebrity around there. LOL.  

It was harmless though, but we had to get on with our tour so we didn’t want to spend too much time taking photos with the local girls.  Our tour guide was like, “see what you started”?  We finally had to walk off saying no thank you.  

It became a minor issue when my daughter started getting swarmed with by school girls at the Philae Temple and Temple of Hatshepsut.  We are Americans, but people would often mistake us for South Africans.  But I think they may have even thought my daughter was French because they kept saying Bonjour and merci.  It was pretty cute.  But I think my daughter enjoyed the attention and connecting with school girls from another country.  

It may be fun and dandy, but my tip is to keep it moving because once you say yes to one…they will surround you. 

19. Dress modestly (like you got some sense)

Egypt- Philae Temple (things to know before traveling to Egypt)
Philae Temple

As a woman traveling in Egypt, I’ve been advised to dress modestly here.  Egypt is mostly a Muslim country that expects women to dress modestly.  Dressing modestly is out of respect for their country and culture as well as their religion.  Most local women you will see covered up.  The women covered their arms and legs by wearing pants, dresses, and long-sleeved shirts.  Others will have headscarves for their hair.  Some women will have their faces covered up as well.  I was surprised to see some women wearing tight-fitted jeans.  

So when you start thinking about what to pack for Egypt, I think wearing loose-fitting pants, maxi dresses, and long skirts will suffice.  As well as shirts that cover your shoulders. But if you do have sleeveless shirts and dresses, then just accompany that outfit with a scarf or jacket. 

Wearing modest clothing may also help keep the catcalling to a minimum by the men.  I wore mostly dresses and loose-fitting pants.  Then at the resort, I wore bathing suits to lay on the beach of the Red Sea and by the pool.  My teenage daughter did wear a dress that came above her knees while traveling in Luxor.  I don’t know if it was because she was a teenager, but I didn’t see any dirty looks or rude comments from anyone, so thank God for that. 

20. Egypt may not be as luxurious as expected

Egypt Karnak Temple
Karnak Temple

In some parts of the cities, it won’t be as luxurious as you may see on TV.  In some areas, you will see trash in the streets.  You will also see a slew of stray dogs and cats everywhere looking very malnourished. 

Additionally, you are in a desert environment so there is dirt everywhere. And piles and piles of it.  Just like any other major city, you’ll also see some homeless people sleeping on the street or asking for change. Some of these areas make me sad and grateful for what I have.  

Things to Know before Traveling to Egypt Conclusion

So I know it may seem like there are more cons than pros in my post while visiting Egypt.  But I had an incredible experience of traveling to Egypt, going to the motherland with my daughter, and seeing a different culture.  Egypt is an enchanting country that you should visit at least once in your lifetime.  Traveling to Egypt and seeing thousands of years of history first-hand was mind-blowing.  

So is it worth it to travel to Egypt with all its do’s and don’ts?  I would say Hell Yes, it’s worth it and then some.  It is a trip of a lifetime.  If I get the opportunity of going back to see more of this incredible, awe-inspiring country of Egypt, I will jump on it in a heartbeat.  Besides, it’ll be awesome to see my long-lost cousins again.  

I hope you enjoyed my post and that it’ll help you on your travels to Egypt. 

If you like this post, please share and Pin this for later.  

2 Comments

  1. Aquarius says:

    Thanks for the awesome review, especially as a black female traveler! We will definitely use a travel guide!

    1. Thank you so much. I’m glad I could help.

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