Advice for Travel to Egypt: Things to Know as a Tourist

I had a fantastic experience during my travels in Egypt. Despite its flaws, I HIGHLY encourage visiting. Here are my travel tips and advice for travel to Egypt, Make your trip the best it can be by coming in prepared!

My goal here is not to complain or incite fear, but to make you an informed traveler. The hope is after reading, you are prepared for what you may come across, and have a better experience overall.

Some links in this post are affiliate links, meaning if you book or buy something through one of these, I may earn a small commission (at no additional cost to you!).

1.) Yes, Egypt is safe for tourists

pyramids, giza, cairo, egypt

This is the question I hear most. As an American, I understand the media often portrays Egypt in a less-than-flattering light. In fact, it sometimes makes all of the middle-east seem like one homogeneous zone of awful. To that, I will respectfully disagree!

I felt very safe during my entire trip. While yes, our tour company often had armed guards on our bus, this did not cause fear or take away from our sense of safety. If you use common sense, you will be fine.

Yes, there have been terrorist attacks in Egypt. Despite this, I always felt quite safe. They do their best to protect and defend tourists as it’s a huge part of their income as a country. Most incidents have not been directly targeted at foreign visitors.

In many places we drove, they would give us military escorts at the checkpoints. At the historic sites you always have to go through a metal detector. There is a risk with most things in life, but visiting Egypt is not a reckless decision.

2.) You should go with a guide for your first visit

Selfies with locals in Cairo, tips in egypt
Local kids wanted so many selfies

Egypt is overall very welcoming to tourism, and while I know independent visits are possible, I think you will have a better experience going with a guide or tour for your first time.

Things like transportation, hotels, and communicating with locals can be difficult, unless you are fluent in Arabic. Having a guide with you at the sites is invaluable as well, as most are certified Egyptologists.

Given that there are so many affordable Egypt tour options, it would be a mistake to not consider it.

3.) Public hygiene standards differ

This is not only the case in Egypt, as it is common for many other nations around the world. However, know that public restroom facilities will be quite different than what you may be familiar with. Even in nice hotels or restaurants, toilet paper and soap are not a given. Keep some hand soap and toilet paper in your bag at all times, and you won’t be left unprepared!

4.) Do I have to give tips in Egypt? Yes- and the tipping culture can be annoying

philae temple, egypt, aswan
This guy wanted a tip for a photo that was his idea

First of all, what is baksheesh (the name for tips in Egypt)? In my own words, it is basically the expectation that foreigners will give tips or bribes to locals for anything and everything.

Did someone take a photo for you? Give a tip! Did someone give you directions? Give a tip! Did someone let you take a photo in a tomb? Tip! Did they point out a restaurant to you? Tip! You get the idea. It is aggressive and exhausting, and something foreigners aren’t accustomed to it.

I found you almost have to be rude to get these men to leave you alone. Some will be extra pushy, and follow you around for a while too. They may even try to give you a “free gift” or put jewelry items on you (which you must of course refuse).

With this said, Egyptians as a whole are a friendly, outgoing and funny crew. They are proud of their country and will try to engage you in conversation either out of genuine curiosity, or wanting to make a quick buck.

If you tell them you’re from Canada, you’ll hear a hearty “Canada Dry!” followed by a long laugh. If you say you’re American, be ready to talk about the Obamas being fellow Africans. The friendly ones are harmless, but the hustlers can get under your skin. Have your wits about you, learn the powerful word of NO, and you’ll be fine.

5.) Respect the religious and cultural differences

cairo egypt
This guy insisted we took his photo?

While this is the case for any place you visit, in Egypt it is particularly important. The best thing you can do is research what is appropriate beforehand, and do your best to follow these norms.

Obviously Egypt is a Muslim country, and with that women are expected to dress conservatively. Local women will wear a hijab (head covering which hides the neck and head), and long robes.

While you will see foreign women in all sorts of outfits, the respectful visitors will keep covered. This means cover your shoulders, your arm to your elbow, and your legs to the knee on a typical day.

After a week, I started to relax this dress code as the other women in my group did, but I think it’s better to cover up and do your best to not offend. For the men, really anything goes, but I’d say avoid tank tops. Dressing conservatively is one of the easiest ways to show you respect the culture, and can help avoid unwanted attention.

6.) As a woman, expect some struggles

kom ombo, nile cruise, tips in egypt

I don’t want to say that as a woman visiting Egypt you should expect to be treated differently, but you will be.

It’s nothing personal against you, and I’m not saying it’s wrong or right, but it is a deep rooted societal norm. It is reality. In blunt terms, I would say you should almost expect sexism and verbal harassment. I know these are harsh words, but hear me out:

To start, when I was walking around with my husband, very few people would address me directly. I’d say 90% of the time the locals would talk to my husband on behalf of me. The most annoying part was this sense of feeling like a second-class citizen.

Before our tour began, I noticed that at local restaurants when I tried to order food for myself, they server would ignore me, and bring me a duplicate of my husband’s order. I thought this was a language barrier issue, until it happened multiple times. Finally we figured out my husband is supposed to be ordering my food FOR me, and then they got it right.

Having my husband with me did not exempt me from verbal harassment, and even some minor physical harassment. I read that 98% of female foreign visitors to Egypt experience some type of harassment from local men. As bad as it is to say- just expect it.

Another thing is that lots of locals will want to take selfies with you. Unless its little kids asking though, it’s a bad idea to oblige. One man tried to take a selfie with me, then he lowered the phone and did a nice ass grab- so there was that. 😔 I was SO mad! I tried to follow local dress customs, but it didn’t matter.

Even covering up like I did, I still experienced harassment and groping. It’s nothing too terrible, but certainly frustrating and in some cases maddening.

7.) Don’t have high hopes for food in tourist areas

Egyptian cuisine is flavorful and filled with great options. While on a tour or guided excursion though, don’t have high expectations.

Most tourist places serve a set menu or buffet which typically consists of chicken, rice, and vegetables. Most of this is bland and standard fare. If you want “real food” you’ll have to set out on your own.

Also, as a tourist, do NOT drink the tap water in Egypt. Seek out bottled water or filtered water, which will be easy to come by.

8.) Get ready to barter

Any market you go to will not have fixed prices, so come prepared to barter. Especially in the big markets in Cairo, the starting prices can be ridiculous.

Be assertive, talk your way down, and don’t be afraid to walk away if the prices are still too high. Don’t feel bad for going “low” either- they wouldn’t sell it to you if they were losing money.

9.) Prepare to sweat like never before

I can’t speak for the other seasons, but visiting Egypt in the summer will allow you to feel a heat you’ve never known before. We were there in mid June, and some days the temps would reach around 113°F (45°C). One day, my rubber shoe soles literally melted while I was walking!

Staying hydrated is essential, and bringing some Advil is a good idea for headaches you will likely get. Do your best to stay in the shade. Take things slow, wear sunscreen, and you will survive!

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Advice for travel to Egypt!

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