• Franny the Traveler

20 Essential Things to Know for a Successful Trip to Egypt

Updated: Jul 2

So you are thinking of going to Egypt? Egypt is a trip every person should make at least once in their lifetime! The history, the architecture, the culture. It is literally one of the ancient river valley civilizations. However, Egypt is not a country that you should just spontaneously travel to. I mean you can, but you will feel overwhelmed.  There are many things that I wish I knew before arriving in Egypt in order to be more prepared and so I am creating this post so that YOU are much better prepared than I was! Learn from my experiences!


Keep reading this blog post as I will answer the following questions:

  • How do I prepare for a trip to Egypt?

  • What are the Do’s and don’ts in Egypt?

  • What is the best time of year to visit Egypt?

  • Is Egypt expensive?

  • How many days do I need in Egypt?

  • What should I avoid in Egypt?

  • Is it safe to travel to Egypt for US citizens? 

  • What things do I need to know when travelling to Egypt?

  • What are the essentials for Egypt?

  • What do I wear in Egypt?

  • What do I pack for Egypt?

TOP 10 Mistakes to Avoid Traveling to Egypt


How many days do I need in Egypt?

Mistake 1: Just visiting Cairo and Giza! 


I think this depends on how many cities you are trying to visit. I highly recommend that you spend at least 10 days in Egypt if you are visiting multiple cities, like we did. I highly recommend visiting Cairo (and Giza as that is why you are there, the pyramids!), Luxor, Aswan, Abu Simbel, the East and West bank, and doing the Nile cruise. I could pass on Memphis and Saqqara.  Read my comprehensive Egypt guide in order to get more specifics on our itinerary! 


Although we did the trip in 6 days, it was very exhausting and intense! I would have liked some days built in to just relax and also explore more in Cairo. We were on the go, nonstop literally.  If you are just visiting Cairo, I think that 4-5 days is enough. Remember that there is more to Egypt than Cairo! The highlight of my trip were the other cities. 

What is the best time of year to visit Egypt?

Mistake 2: Visiting during May-August 


One thing to remember is that  Egypt is desert land. Only 8% of the country is habitable. Imagine 98 million people living on only 8% of the land along the Nile? As a result, be strategic when you visit!  The best time, and cooler times to visit, is from November through March. During the summer, the temperature is oppressive. Yes, oppressive. Temperatures can range from 40 to 55°C (104 to 130°F). We went in April and some parts already felt that way, especially down South. Aswan’s temperature was typically between the high 90s to  early 100s°F.  In Aswan and Luxor, rain is rare. In fact, Aswan is the third sunniest place in the world with 3863 hours of sun each year, that’s 10 hours of sun each day! 


Side-by-side comparison of my skin color first full day of trip and towards the end of the trip!

What to wear in Egypt?  What to pack for Egypt?

Mistake 3: Dressing cute & uncomfortable or wearing open clothes to keep cool. 


Egypt is intense. As a result you want to be as comfortable as possible. I highly recommend 

  • wearing sneakers instead of sandals because there is so much sand and uneven terrain. I brought sandals with me, but never wore them!

  • Bring a jacket or scarf as the weather is chilly in the mornings and evenings. Since it is a desert, it is surprisingly cool at the beginning and end of the day.

  • Sunscreen and glasses: because the sun is blazing! 

  • Wear light, loose clothes (and cotton). You will be hot and you want a fabric that will not make you sweat! 

Wearing loose clothing, long pants, t-shirt, and sneakers

Is Egypt expensive?

Mistake 4: Carrying US currency only or depending on credit cards


Things in Egypt are not expensive. However, make sure to carry lots of smaller bills of local currency. Most places only take cash. Many places will also take US Dollars, but that’s because our money is worth a lot more than Egyptian currency. This is helpful for souvenirs, but it is not helpful for when giving tips.  For example, for the bathroom, most attendants expect you to pay 5 EGP (which is only about $0.30 USD). Also, most people in Egypt are expecting (not politely asking) tips for services. Therefore, small bills are necessary, which leads to my next point.


What is the etiquette around tipping? 

Mistake 5: Not having small change in Egyptian currency 


In Egypt, most bathrooms have an attendant, a person who keeps the stalls clean, provides a small amount of toilet paper, and hands you a towel to dry your hands (in some cases). It is customary to tip this attendant before or after you use the bathroom. It doesn’t have to be much, 5 EGP is sufficient. But small change can be hard to come by, so save this for when you need to use the bathroom!



Is it safe to travel to Egypt for US citizens? 

Mistake 6: Avoiding Egypt because of fear.


Safety is a HUGE concern for many people traveling to Europe, myself included. Once I saw Gate1 Travel offer Egypt tours again, I felt more comfortable because they are super organized and they would not offer a tour if they did not think it was safe enough.


Gate 1 Travel Tour Group

Yes, Egypt has its political problems. Yes, Egypt has had some incidents involving tourists. However, the Western news outlets also try to evoke fear. As you would be traveling anywhere, you should check the State Department’s website for travel advisories. 


A huge wonder I had leading to the trip was “How safe would we feel?” Once there, my fears were relieved because of the amount of security Egypt puts in place for tourists. They are not ignorant of their problems (and people’s concerns). Since tourism is one of their main sources of income, nearly $12.5 billion at its peak in 2010, they truly go out of their way to ensure safety compared to any other country I have been. Here are several things to know:

  • Security Checks: When you enter just about every tourist place (pyramids, temples, museums) AND hotels, you will have to go through security. You will be required to put your belongings through an X-Ray machine and walk through a metal detector. It felt like a faster version of airport security! In the beginning it felt annoying, but it becomes a normal part of your routine while in Egypt.

  • Military and Police Presence: You will see armed guards with rifles and police vehicles at most sites. As an American, I am not used to seeing that. However, I know that  they are there to provide protection to the site and tourists.  During our entire tour, we had security personnel on our bus and a police car escorting our tour bus. 


Our personal security guard on the bus for the entire trip

I highly recommend either joining a multi-day tour (if you want to visit multiple cities) or hiring a tour guide if you plan to stick to one city. You can also book excursions on Viator. It will give you a huge peace of mind!

What things to know when traveling Egypt?


These are things I wish I knew before traveling to Egypt!


Airport Security:

Mistake 7: Assuming airport security operates like the states


EgyptAir is part of the Star Alliance. I did not realize that pre-TSA did not apply so when I arrived at JFK airport, I was surprised that I had to get on the long security line, take off my shoes, etc. Luckily, we arrived at the airport with enough time to go through the regular process. 


This is the most intense airport security check I have experienced so far. There are at least 2 airport screenings,  the initial screening to get into the check-in area of the terminal (your luggage also goes through an X-ray machine) and then a second screen at the actual gate. Whatever belongings you have on you at that point also goes through x-ray screening. 



Extra Charges for Photography Passes & Sites’ Special Access

Mistake 8: Assuming Admission Price Includes Everything


This is the first place I have been to where so many sites ask you to pay extra in order to be able to take photos. For many of the tombs, temples, and museums, you will need to purchase a photography pass especially if you have a special camera like point-and-shoot camera and camcorder. Many places will allow you to use your cellphone for photos, but designate certain temples and tombs as “special” that require you to pay extra to have access to take photos. This was something I had not budgeted in for, so carry more money than you normally planned for this special expense. Also, they would open certain sites for access with the admission ticket, but you would have to pay extra for other things at the site. For example, at the Valley of Kings, we had to pay extra to see King Tut’s tomb.  We had to become very selective of which sites were a priority for us to visit and pay extra to see or take a picture. I have witnessed people’s cameras without the photography pass being taken away. In fact, if they catch you with cameras, they go through your camera to delete photos. You may luck out with a guard there who will let you take photos in exchange for a small tip.



Tipping...be prepared for harassment

Mistake 9: Tipping is fully optional 

  • EVERYONE is expecting a tip. At some points, it was hard to know if some of the kindness was genuine or just for the tip. For example, Egyptians would randomly greet you at the site, but then try to be in your picture so that they can then ask for a tip. Many sites require you to pay an extra fee in order to take a picture. Therefore, some of the guards would allow you to take a picture if you offered a tip. Someone may offer to tell you the best spot to take a photo, but then make the money motions with their hands expecting a tip before they take you anywhere. I found this to be a very annoying, frustrating part of the trip. Kids are also trained early to ask for money! So although tipping is optional, it is expected.  


Learn to say no & keep it moving 

Mistake 10: Engaging with hustlers you are not trying to buy from

  • Egypt is the most aggressive experience I have had with hustlers so far. Literally in every site you visit there are people selling things and they will follow you even after you say no. All of the sitesplace the exit conveniently at the end of the shops where you have no choice but to walk through them with tens of people calling out (and sometimes yelling) at you as you walk pass. Best to keep saying no thank you and keep it moving. Don’t make eye contact! 



Here are 10 Tips: 5 Do’s and 5 Don’ts in Egypt 


The following will feature a detailed list of Dos and Don'ts in Egypt:


Top 5 Do’s

  1. Travel in the early mornings or late afternoons: It is much cooler to visit sites then because the sun is blazing by 10-11am! This will mean that although you are up early to venture outside, you also finish earlier!

  2. Always carry a toilet paper roll and hand sanitizer. Most places don’t have toilet paper or if they do, you have to pay for a very small piece of paper. They are very stingy with the amount of toilet paper you receive. Most places have no soap (or bar soap that is unsanitary).

  3. Embed naps to keep you energized: since you are waking up early to beat the heat and facing heat exhaustion and dehydration, you will be more tired than normal!

  4. Carry LOTs of water. We went through at least 4-5 bottles a day per person because it was so hot. I recommend freezing the water everyday in your hotel room or cruise ship because although it will melt very quickly, it will at least be cold. I would also pour on my skin too to cool off. Hotels and cruises provided two bottles of water a day, and our tour also provided two bottles of water.

  5. Dress more conservatively than you normally do to respect the culture. Also, because the heat is intense, it is better to have your skin covered anyway! 



Top 5 Don'ts

  1. Do not use the tap water to drink or brush your teeth. 

  2. Do not settle for the first price in shopping. Always bargain. Everyone is willing to bargain. Also realize that they very often start at a higher price knowing that you are a tourist and may settle for that price.

  3. Do not assume the price told to you for a service is the actual price. Keep an eye out for being ripped off. There is a joke that it “takes 5 pounds to get on a camel and 100 pounds to get off.” This is not a joke.  *Story time* This happened to my fiance where they tried to make him feel obligated to pay for getting on the camel for a picture and tried to charge triple the price to pay for the photographer, the camel, and the owner of the camel. I had to have an argument and convince my fiance to just walk away. 

  4. Do not expect any photo to be free. In fact, a photo can be pricey. I recommend you asking a tourist or guide to take your photo. *Story time* My fiance and I had a situation where after an Egyptian took some photos and we took some photos with him, we went to my fiance’s wallet as he opened it and pulled out $60 USD with his own hands. I demanded he gives my fiance the money back! At this point, I was not caring if I had to drag the police into this, but I was getting that money back. He first gives $20 back. I demand more so he gives another $20 back. I let him have the other $20 and we leave. I end up having a mini quarrel with Andy! 

  5. Do not book every Sound & Light show at these famous monuments. You will come to discover that almost every monument has a sound & light show over their monuments at night. Personally, I did not enjoy the one over the pyramids and many people expressed that sentiment there. I think you can pass on it!



Which tip or mistake to avoid did you find most helpful to know to prepare for Egypt?

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About Me

Part-time traveler and full-time nationally award-winning educator. My passion for travel led me to start my travel blog so I could share the stories of my adventures and tips I have learned along the way as I conquer at least two new countries and two new states a year to reach 50 states & 50 countries by age 50.

 

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