I have to be honest, before I got to Egypt I’d heard so many horror stories about the hassle you can receive, not to mention the hordes of tourists, that I was prepared for the worst.
But I honestly could not believe how different my experience was from the ones I’d heard about.
Because, in the interest of laying all my cards on the table, I absolutely loved Egypt!
Yep, this country blew me away with its insanely amazing historical sites, unbelievably cheap prices and extremely warm, friendly people.
Nothing of the hassle or horrors I’d heard about even came close to undermining my time in this country and I really found it one of the most amazing in Africa.
So, if you’re planning to travel Egypt, here’s 27 things it pays to know before you go.
Covering safety, attractions, timeframes, itineraries, transport and what to wear, here’s everything I think you need to know…
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#1 Learn Whether You Need a Visa?
So before you even begin to travel Egypt, do check the visa requirements!
And before you leave Egypt, you’ll want to check out if there is an exit fee too and leave some spare cash for it if so.
As a Brit, I didn’t have to pay one, but certain passport holders do, so it pays to check in advance.
#2 When to Visit Egypt?
Another great thing to think about before you book your trip to Egypt is when you’re going to be visiting this country.
There’s no doubt that Spring and Autumn are the best times to visit Egypt, both in terms of price and weather. This generally includes the months of March, April, May, September, October and November and is known as the shoulder season.
While the hordes descend on this country from December to February to escape the awful European weather and enjoy their winter holidays, the prices and waiting times at the temples skyrocket as a result.
Visiting during the shoulder seasons, on the other hand, means lower prices and less crowds, but you’ll still get some great weather.
I visited Egypt in March and absolutely loved it – beautiful hot days, followed by cooler evenings meant stellar sunsets, amazing prices and reasonable crowd levels.
#3 How Long to Spend in Egypt?
Ideally you’ll have 10 days to explore Egypt. Check out my top 10 day itinerary for this country here.
2 weeks would be even better however!
With 14 days you can take in all the main historical sights, including a Nile Cruise and get to enjoy some time at the Red Sea.
With just one week, it’s likely you’ll be limited to flying visits of Cairo, Luxor and Aswan.
#4 Where to Go in Egypt?
Which leads me nicely on to discussing where to go in Egypt… although I’ve kinda given the game away already!
So yes, the main destinations to visit in Egypt are the capital Cairo and its sister city Giza, which is famous for its pyramids and the wonderful Egyptian Museum.
Next up is Luxor, where you can’t miss the Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Queens and Luxor temple.
And the final top spot is Aswan, where you can day trip to the amazing Abu Simbel, as well as ride on a small Nile sail boat known as a felucca and learn about the traditional Nubian culture of this region.
The other city you may want to visit is Alexandria, situated in the north of the country and famous for its ancient library.
And last, there’s the Red Sea – which offers amazing diving and snorkelling opps. Skip Hurghada and Sharm El Sheikh would be my advice and opt for the independent traveller spot of Dahab instead.
And with any more time, I’d consider a side trip to the amazing Siwa oasis near the Libyan border!
#5 How to Get Around: Trains
Trains in Egypt are amazing. And cheap.
Long distance journeys between Aswan, Luxor and Cairo are a godsend and can be a really amazing way to take in the views of the Nile and splendour of the desert.
The cheapest option for those who want to use trains to get around Egypt, are day trains, rather than overnight sleepers.
Get a local to buy the ticket at the station for you a day in advance and enjoy incredibly cheap prices that, as a tourist, you just won’t be able to access!
Otherwise, you can book your train tickets using the trusty site 12Go.
Also, I highly recommend travelling by 1st class trains in Egypt – it’s 100% worth the extra few dollars!
And finally, it might be useful to know that they crank the air-con in Egyptian trains, so come prepared with blankets and long-sleeves.
#6 How to Get Around: Flights
Egypt has some wonderfully cheap flights right now, because they are keen to encourage tourism back, and many bargain tickets can be picked up from across Africa, the Middle East and Europe.
There’s also some great domestic budget airlines that can shuttle you across the country – particularly between the mainland and the Sinai Peninsula – for some amazingly cheap prices.
Nile Air, in particular, are excellent and using them to get from Cairo to Sharm El Sheikh / Dahab, to enjoy some diving on the Red Sea, is a great option!
As such, I highly recommend checking out Skyscanner once you have your Egypt itinerary in place – get in there and book those flights asap!
You can also take the bus from Cairo or Luxor to Sinai, however this journey takes a long time so, if you’re on a restricted timeframe, this is unlikely to be feasible.
But why travel all the way to Sinai to get your Red Sea fix, I hear you ask?
Well Hurghada (the coastal resort closest to Luxor) is a dump in my opinion, so I’d avoid!
#7 How to Get Around: Uber & Metro
And now we come to getting around Cairo – which can be a pretty hectic city to navigate!
First up, it’s the city’s metro, which is best way to get around Cairo if you’re on a budget.
Super cheap – costing just 5 LE for a journey of up to 9 stations – I’m pleased to report the Cairo Metro is now clean, safe, quick and has English announcements!
I travelled as a solo female and was perfectly safe.
If the metro doesn’t suit you however, or if you’re staying somewhere far from a station, then you’ll be delighted to know Cairo also has Uber.
For those travelling Egypt, this can be a godsend, as it assures you a fair price and you don’t have to speak Arabic for the driver to know where you’re going!
#8 What to Wear in Egypt?
Egyptian is a conservative Islamic country, but having had so many travellers passing through over the years, locals here have got used to Western dress, which is largely accepted and tolerated, i.e. you won’t be given any disapproving looks if you wear shorts.
That said, I generally found I felt more comfortable wearing long trousers in Egypt, accompanied by a t-shirt/singlet and scarf – which meant my legs and neckline were covered.
It’s totally not necessary for women to adopt the headscarf in Egypt, but I did find being a little more discreet worked well for me, and with arms and head bare, I was still able to keep cool!
Learn more in this complete post I wrote about what to wear and pack for Egypt.
#9 Pack an Arabic Phrasebook
And outside of clothing, there’s a few other key things to pack for your trip to Egypt.
And first up, it’s an Arabic phrasebook.
While most of the people involved in tourism industry here speak amazing English, it is worth buying an Egyptian Arabic Phrasebook before you come – at least to help you understand the local prices a bit more and to engage with people outside the tourism industry.
Because let’s not forget that Arabic has its own alphabet and numeric system too and, within this, that Egyptian Arabic is totally different to say, Moroccan, Arabic!
So get up to scratch and make sure you don’t get ripped off when you travel Egypt with the use of a handy phrasebook.
#10 Bring Insect Repellent
And the other thing I highly recommend you pack your travels in Egypt is insect repellent.
While malaria is thankfully not present in this country – an absolute delight for me after arriving from further south in Africa – mosquitoes are still rife and you absolutely must bring repellent.
While DEET isn’t totally necessary, you will need something effective.
I’d suggest skipping the chemical stuff and going for a good natural mosquito repellent instead.
Whatever you do though, bring something, especially if you’re cruising the Nile!
#11 Don’t Forget your Euro Adapter
European plugs are used throughout Egypt, so if your devices aren’t fitted with these already, i.e. they’re not compatible, do make sure you grab a European adapter before you travel Egypt.
Alternatively, if you’re travelling on elsewhere after this country, it may make more sense for you to pick up a world adapter. Skross are a highly reliable brand that I strongly recommend.
#12 Portable Chargers are a Great Idea
And finally when it comes to packing, don’t forget a portable charger.
These devices are awesome for ensuring your phone and camera stay charged throughout the day, especially if you’re on a big sightseeing trip and want to take a lot of photos and videos.
Portable chargers are also handy if there’s any power cuts in Egypt, as they’ll allow you to still charge your devices.
And on the subject of power cuts, a headlamp isn’t a bad idea either.
I love my Black Diamond Storm which served me well in Egypt as well as throughout Africa and the Middle East.
#13 Get Yourself an Egypt SIM card
And now it’s time to move out of the planning phase and talk about tips for when you arrive in Egypt.
And first up, it’s buy a SIM card.
Egyptian telecommunications are top notch and coming from Sub-Saharan Africa, I honestly felt like I’d arrived in Europe when I was trying to get a SIM in this country – standing in an aircon shop with a ticket number and everything!
Sometimes you can take the girl out of the West, but you can’t take the West out of the girl!
Anyway, SIM cards in Egypt are cheap, readily available and easy to organise.
I highly recommend getting one with a good data allowance when travelling here (or anywhere), as doing so will allow you to follow maps, book accommodation, check the weather, translate things and stay in touch with those at home.
I chose a Vodafone SIM in Egypt and found they had excellent coverage across the country and very affordable data packages (my main concern!)
Everything was administered via an app too, which made topping up and checking my balance super easy.
As an example, my SIM card cost just 25 LE (Egyptian Pounds) and I paid just 150 LE for 4GB and 175 LE for 5GB!
#14 Safety in Egypt
I got warned a lot about the aggressiveness of some Egyptian people before I visited the country.
I was told that it would be especially obvious after the insane friendliness of the Sudanese and Ethiopian people, which I thought slightly weird, to say the least. People are just people after all.
But whatever previous travellers to Egypt had said to me, I honestly did not find I was hassled in Egypt at all.
Of course, Egyptian people are keen to try and make a living in a tough economic environment, but if you politely refuse their advances, it doesn’t go any further.
There certainly isn’t an aggressive tourist culture when you travel Egypt and even as a solo female traveller I never felt unsafe or threatened, including when I was walking around by myself.
That said, things can happen when travelling, so buying travel insurance to cover your trip is an option.
World Nomads offers simple and flexible travel insurance. Buy at home or while travelling and claim online from anywhere in the world.
Alternatively, if you’re a long-term traveller, digital nomad or frequent remote worker seeking travel health cover, check out Safetywing’s Nomad Insurance policies.
#15 Temple Visits: Be Prepared
So now we’re getting onto sights, attractions and experiences in Egypt, starting with temple visits.
Because, let’s be real, you’ll be doing a lot of these!
And honestly, one of the best tips I can give when it comes to travelling Egypt is to get prepared for long days of sightseeing.
Bring your sunscreen, bring your sun hat, bring your water, bring your snacks, bring your guidebook, bring your camera and bring your daypack to house it all in.
Wear flat shoes and get ready to walk!
Getting organised this way will mean you have a much better time than if you’re unprepared!
Oh and I also recommend visiting temples either in the morning or the late afternoon / evening.
During midday in Egpyt it’s really too hot for sightseeing and many of the temples close for an extended lunch break too.
#16 Temple Visits: Entrance Tickets
All temples in Egypt have an entrance fee, although luckily this is amazingly small given the historic treasures you’ll be witnessing.
Most entrance tickets are bought onsite and can be picked up when you arrive.
Another great tip when you travel Egypt, and visit any temples, is to check what your entrance ticket includes.
That’s because often the services of a guide are thrown in, which means you can learn a lot about the history and significance of what you’re looking at for no extra cost.
As such, one of my top money-saving tips in Egypt is definitely to bag a free guide if you can!
And if you’ve got a Student Card, then please, please, please bring that with you when you travel Egypt too.
You will literally get money off everything in this country with it.
If only I was young and hadn’t graduated over 15 years ago (eek!)
#17 Temple Visits: Guides are Worth It
Look, I know we’re all trying to save money when we travel Egypt, but seriously, the magnitude and grandeur of what you’re seeing just won’t be hammered home without a guide.
Plus guides are so cheap here, it’s kind of rude not to use the services of one.
Often you can book a guided tour through your accommodation the day before you want to take a trip, but if you’re on a tight timeframe booking some trips in advance can really help cut down on the planning and hassle when you’re away and allow you to enjoy the holiday more.
It will also guarantee you a spot, especially in peak season.
If you do want to book any guided tours in advance, check out these top picks which run across Egypt.
#18 Pace Yourself!
The other very important thing to remember when it comes to sightseeing in Egypt, especially where temples are concerned, is to pace yourself.
Honestly, all that pyramid viewing and tomb visiting can get exhausting, so go slow, spread it out and make sure you get to enjoy Egypt for what it is today, as well as what it was yesterday.
This is especially true given the heat in Egypt, so try to avoid cramming each day to the rafters – you’ll be exhausted, you will stop taking stuff in and likely won’t enjoy it either!
#19 Nile Cruises: Don’t Pay Over the Odds!
And now we move on to Nile cruises, because there’s absolutely no doubt that this experience is one of the best when you travel Egypt.
Yes, despite my budget travel ways and aversion to luxury, I absolutely loved my Nile cruise from Aswan to Luxor.
However, do not book a cruise before you arrive in Egypt.
You will pay a lot and there’s no need!
Instead, book your Nile cruise last minute when you’re already in the city of your intended departure.
Honestly, you can bag some insane bargains this way, especially if you have a bit of flexibility over dates.
Check out my top tips about exactly how I scored my budget Nile cruise here!
Another great thing to know in terms of practicalities if you want to travel Egypt is about the availability of alcohol.
Despite being an Islamic country, I generally found attitudes in Egypt quite relaxed and certainly everywhere I went, alcohol was easy to buy and consumed by both locals and tourists alike.
#21 The Coffee is Awful
Moving onto other drinks aside from alcohol, it’s a sad fact that coffee in Egypt is awful.
If you’re a caffeine freak like me, then prepare yourself, this is the land of bad Nescafe and not much else!
Sometimes you can get a fairly decent cup if you ask for Turkish coffee – just be careful to specify “no sugar” and to learn the Arabic translation!
#22 You Will Eat Excellently
Aside from the coffee however, I’m delighted to confirm that you will otherwise eat and drink excellently in Egypt.
From local dishes such as hummus, falafel and ful to kushari and fresh fruit juices, it’s easy to eat in Egypt like a king for just a few dollars.
#23 Tipping is a Way of Life
Tipping in Egypt is a way of life and is culturally expected. This includes in restaurants, cafes and hotels.
If somebody is going to the train station to buy a ticket for you, they will also expect a tip or a baksheesh.
In fact, tipping rules the roost in Egypt, so do make sure you have enough small change to always give a bit extra to your guide, driver or housekeeper.
This is how people survive in Egypt and respecting this cultural practice is, I feel, very important when you travel here.
#24 When is the Weekend?
And now onto some practical stuff for when you travel Egypt.
As an Islamic country, it’s worth knowing that the weekend in Egypt is celebrated on Friday and Saturday.
This makes Sunday a working day, so make sure you plan any stuff like buying SIM cards and crossing borders accordingly.
Also be aware of when Ramadan falls and check if you’ll be travelling in Egypt at that time.
Some local services will be severely restricted during this important religious holiday.
#25 It’s a Smoke-Fest!
Look, Egyptians smoke a lot, that’s just a fact.
And whether it’s in restaurants, bars, cafes, airports, embassies, bus stations, taxis or trains, you’re going to be getting a lungful.
So if you plan to travel Egypt and can’t handle the smell of smoke… prepare yourself!
#26 Pray you Don’t Have a Cat Allergy!
I’ve never seen a country with so many cats.
#27 ATMs are Plentiful and Easy to Use
When it comes to money, you’ll be delighted to know that ATMs are both plentiful and easy to use in Egypt, with on-screen instructions given in English by most banks.
This makes ATM withdrawals a simple and convenient way to access your money when you travel Egypt.
Both Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted.
When it comes to paying for things, or using the ATM, in Egypt, you want to ensure you’re not being charged overseas transaction fees or getting poor exchange rates, which is why I always take my Wise Card away with me wherever I travel.
The easy way to spend abroad with real exchange rates, no markups and no sneaky transaction fees, you can use your Wise card just like a debit card in Egypt… and it links easily with Google and Apple pay – sold!
Get yours here.
Oh and on the subject of money, it’s also worth pointing out that the 50 LE (Egyptian Pounds) and 50c (Egyptian Cent) notes look very similar.
Don’t get caught out and always check your change carefully!
SAVE THIS TO PINTEREST!
So that’s it travellers, my list of the 27 things you need to know before you head to Egypt.
Have you travelled in this amazing country?
Do you have any top tips I’ve missed out?
If so, please let me know in the comments box below…