Egypt Tours, Red Sea & Travel

   

Egypt General Frequently Asked Questions

This page provides answers to some of the most frequently asked questions we receive about visiting and traveling in Egypt. We hope you find it useful.

 

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Table of Contents

  1. Why is Egypt a popular destination for travelers?

  2. Is it safe to travel in Egypt?

  3. Where are you located?

  4. What is the local time zone in Egypt?

  5. What type of communications are available in Egypt?

  6. What languages are spoken in Egypt?

  7. Do I need any immunizations to travel in Egypt?

  8. How do I get around in the major cities in Egypt?

  9. What is the dress code for travelers in Egypt?

  10. How much should I tip for services in Egypt?

  11. What type of food is available in Egypt?

  12. What other activities are available?

  13. Who do I contact if I have any problems in Egypt?


Why is Egypt a popular destination for travelers?

Few places on earth capture the imagination of both young and old the way Egypt does with its parched desert landscape dissected by its one eternal river. The Nile flows from beyond Egypt's southern border some 1500km through high cliffs and plains before the river valley splits into the many tributaries of the Delta. To either side of the river are baked stretches of desert - the 'Red Land' or 'deshret' of the ancient Egyptians which formed a natural barrier against invasion for thousands of years. The 'Black Land' 'kemet' is the river valley itself, a life-giving ribbon of cultivated land which never extends more than a few kilometers from the river and was fertilized by each year's inundation until the building of the Aswan High Dam in the 1960s.

 

Egypt is geographically located in the Northeastern corner of Africa and is divided into three major sections. It covers about 386,000 square miles and only 5% of the country is populated. The concentration of inhabitants in Egypt is on the banks of the Nile river that ranges over 900 miles/1440 kilometers. Starting from Burundi the farthest point south, the Nile river continues north for about 4132 miles/6650 kilometers where it runs into the Mediterranean Sea. Libya lies on the Western border and the Eastern region is a desert plateau, the Sinai and the Red Sea.

 

The capital of Egypt is Cairo, with a population of over 14 million inhabitants. The dense population of people creates a metropolitan atmosphere and we recommend you use public transportation if you visit Cairo. Most visitors who have traveled to Cairo find the pyramids and Sphinx located in what's known as Pharonic Cairo their favorite place to visit. 

 

The Nile Valley, the principal inhabited region, the Eastern desert and the Western desert. The Eastern desert is a plateau extending from the Nile Valley to the Red Sea and the Sinai including Mount Catherine. The Western desert covers about 70% of Egypt. It ranges from the Nile Valley to the Libyan border and from the coast of the Mediterranean Sea to Sudan.

 

Because the Nile Valley was the most populated area in ancient times, this is where the bulk of remaining Egyptian monuments are situated and where most tourists visit. The popular way to get to Egypt is to fly into one of the main cities - Cairo, Luxor or Aswan, whose airports have recently been modernized and extended. For those who want a more leisurely holiday the Red Sea coast is becoming increasingly popular, a diver's paradise with its coral reefs and wide sandy beaches in resorts such as Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada. There are package tours to suit every taste and every pocket. It has to be said that the Nile Valley is by no means the only monumental area and 'specialist trips' are now being organized to the Oases of the Western Desert as well as the Eastern Desert and Sinai.

 

Many visitors opt for a cruise. These flat-bottomed riverboats, 'floating palaces' which may be merely luxurious or blatantly ostentatious that sail along the Nile river from Luxor to Aswan and back weekly. The long cruise from Cairo to Aswan is no longer available at the present time for security reasons, but on the shorter cruises the visitor has the opportunity to pack about three weeks worth of holiday into a week. Cruises are usually accompanied by Egyptologists who will guide you around the sites in a whirlwind tour of knowledge and wit. While catching your breath between visiting monuments and eating huge meals there is time to just relax and watch the banks of the Nile, hardly changed since ancient times, silently float by. There are now also cruises available on Lake Nasser which take in the Nubian monuments.

 

For those who prefer to travel alone or with friends, there are many small Egyptian-owned hotels at extremely reasonable prices as well as the large five star tourist hotels. Travel from one city to another is comfortable by either air, train or air-conditioned coach. Since the trouble with terrorism in the 1990s however, independent travel isn't quite so easy for foreigners as it once was because security has been greatly increased to protect us and at present all tourist road travel has to be accompanied by armed police convoys.

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Is it safe to travel in Egypt?

Egyptian people remain very friendly and  peaceful toward foreign visitors. Few incidences of violence and terrorist activities have been reported in recent years making Egypt safe as any place as a holiday destination. Even in recent years with the higher levels of awareness of terrorist activities in the middle-east acts of aggression have not increased in Egypt even toward western nationalities.

 

There has been no major terrorist incidents since 1997 and security has been stepped up drastically since then. This means that independent travel isn't as easy as it once was but terrorism is taken seriously in Egypt and not tolerated. It is a common practice for armed police trucks to accompany convoys of vehicles traveling out of the major cities and it is practically impossible to go anywhere now without going in the convoy.

 

If you're intending to travel in the desert it is best to check out local advice. A four wheel drive vehicle with a supply of good spare tires is essential and many preparations are necessary before taking a trip. Your driver should make all the arrangement but it does not hurt to check and make sure there is a plentiful supply of the obvious things such as water, food and petrol. There is a small risk of unexploded mines (left over from previous conflicts) in some desert areas, so keep to the tracks and avoid areas marked as dangerous.

 

Millions of tourists enjoy trouble free holidays in Egypt every year, so you shouldn't be intimidated by the events of terrorism in other countries. Travel in Egypt is as easy and as safe as it can possibly be; there will always be friendly Egyptian people anxious to make your holiday a safe and memorable experience.

 

For updated information check with your embassy before traveling to Egypt or any foreign country.

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Where are you located?

Our main office for diving services is located along the Red Sea coast in Hurghada and our main office is located in Cairo. Additionally, we have representatives in all the major cities throughout Egypt to help customers with services during their holiday.

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What is the Local Time Zone in Egypt?

Egypt is two hours in advance of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT +2) and adheres to the daylight savings time (+1 hour) from the last Friday in April until the last Friday in September.

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What type of communications are available in Egypt?

General postal offices can be found in all cities. Normal operating hours are 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. hours daily except for Fridays. Posting mail in hotels avoids the pilgrimage to the post office and stamps are readily available in the hotel shops. International express mail systems like EMS, DHL, Federal Express and other courier services are also available.

 

Telephone service is available in the hotels but it normally expensive.

 

The country code for Egypt is +20. International access code from within Egypt is 001 + country code. Be aware of the time difference, Egypt is GMT +2 hours.

 

You can save money by purchasing telephone cards that work for public phones and there are readily available. You can purchase phone cards at the main telephone offices, mobile phone shops or even normal super markets.

 

Mobile phones work almost everywhere in the Red Sea except for some far off areas like the off-shore islands and the shore from Marsa Alam to the south. Satellite phone services may be available instead but be prepared to pay about 6 US dollars per minute.

 

Faxes can be sent and received at main telephone offices, EMS offices and at most hotels.

 

Internet cafes are everywhere in Egypt. DSL connections are now common and in some internet cafes you can make calls for free (computer to computer calls).

 

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What Languages are Spoken in Egypt?

Arabic is the official language in Egypt. Egyptians speak a different dialect from other Arab countries. This is usually understood but there is a colloquial dialect or street Arabic which varies throughout Egypt. The dialect between Cairo (lower Egypt) and Luxor (upper Egypt) is very noticeable.

 

Egyptians have an amazing talent for languages; most Egyptians who come into contact with tourists will speak English and/or several other European languages. In many cases even before you speak your nationality will be accurately determined by the way you dress and your actions.

 

In many regions popular for tourism children as young as two years old know how to say welcome to Egypt, what's your name, baksheesh (tips), give me money / cigarettes / candy in many languages. The government encourages foreign languages to be taught in schools and most children love to practice their language skills.

 

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Do I need any immunizations to travel to Egypt?

No special vaccinations are not required to travel in Egypt. For additional information on medical concerns visit our Medical FAQ's page.

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How do I get around in major cities in Egypt?

Although it is the most expensive way to get around, the easiest and quickest to travel around Egypt is by domestic flights. Egypt Air offers a range of daily flights between most larger cities; Cairo, Alexandria, Luxor, Aswan, Hurghada, Sharm El Sheikh and Marsa Alam to mention a few. From the major international airports in Egypt you can take an airport bus which makes several stops between the airport and the Pyramids Road in Giza. Alternatively there are always lots of taxis waiting at the airport to take visitors to their hotels.

 

The entire Nile Valley from Alexandria to Aswan is covered by a rail service run by the Egyptian government but when trying to book a ticket on these trains visitors are often told that they are only allowed to travel on the tourist trains. First class sitting and sleeper trains that run daily from Cairo to Aswan operated by a private company. These trains are very comfortable. It is advisable to book reservations at least a day in advance especially during high seasons; otherwise, be prepared for an argument at the ticket office. Although we don't recommend it you can travel on any government train which are less expensive but also less comfortable.

 

Air-conditioned coaches (public buses) operate throughout Egypt and are generally inexpensive. Two coaches a day run between Cairo and Aswan but be prepared for a long journey. There are also local buses without air-conditioning between all Egyptian towns. Check the main bus terminals for current schedules and rates. Expect to pay a little more to travel in the more comfortable coaches but the difference is worthwhile.

 

In Cairo and Alexandria there are metro routes covering many parts of the cities. This is an easy, exceptionally clean and inexpensive way to get around. There are also underground trains run at very frequent intervals throughout the day. A one-way journey on the metro systems cost about 50 piasters (1/2 Egyptian pound). The entrance to underground stations can be recognized by a circular sign with an 'M' in the center of it. Separate coaches at the front of the trains are typically used for women which we recommend for women traveling alone. They are usually much less crowded than the rest of the train and you're not as likely to be hassled or treated as an object of curiosity. The Cairo metro system is currently being extended and updated.

 

There are two types of buses in Cairo. Large overcrowded buses travel routes throughout the city often with a dozen children hanging on to the sides and you can get to most places on these routes. Smaller more comfortable buses which don't allow standing also operate along the major city routes. This is an inexpensive way to get around in Cairo.

 

Taking a taxi in Cairo can be an experience of a lifetime; Hang on to your hat and be prepared for a rollercoaster journey through the city unless you get stuck in a traffic which frequently happens. Although not enforced, there is supposed to be a standard metered tariff for all journeys which is 5 Egyptian pounds for each city district covered in a journey. Before accepting a taxi for travel be sure you understand the agreed price! You can hire a taxi by the day for an agreed price but make sure the driver knows where you want to go, how to get there and always agree a price before you start. Taxis are available any where, any time but will always be waiting outside major hotels. Taxis in Cairo operate by district. If you're staying outside the city center you may often find that a taxi driver isn't able to take you to the other side of the city. This is because they may only have a license for their local district. Most taxis waiting outside the larger tourist hotels have an 'all district' license. You can also hail a 'service taxi' which is shared by other people who are going your way.

 

Taxis are the easiest way to get around Luxor. Any transfers within the city limits should cost between 5 to 10 Egyptian pounds from one end of town to the other; from the southern part of town to Karnak. This is the price for the entire taxi, not for each person.

 

In Luxor, caliches (horse driven carriages) operate in the same way as taxis for short journeys. This is a more leisurely way to get about; it can be cool and pleasant on a warm day or evening. The prices should be the same as taxis, though the cliché drivers may argue for more. Again, be sure to agree a price for your transfer before starting. Drivers may often try to take you on a roundabout route luring around shops and bazaars for which they get commission or they may suggest a visit to the camel market. Be warned; the camel market is only open on Tuesdays. don't be shy about being firm with the driver as to where you want to go.

 

A passenger ferry boat operates from the Corniche to the West Bank all day and most of the night. They cross the Nile about every 15 minutes depending on the time of day and cost about 1 Egyptian pound for each one-way transfer. Alternatively, owners of motor boats will constantly tout for your business and usually charge up to 5 Egyptian pounds for each one-way transfer. Be alert for Egyptians crossing by motor boats which operate the same way as the ferry and for the same price.

 

Another popular and fun way to get cross the Nile river in Luxor (and Aswan too) are traditional sailing boats or 'feluccas'. Felucca trips usually cost around 15 to 20 Egyptian pounds per hour / per person but it is worth bargaining over the price since the competition is fierce.

 

On the West Bank there are also taxis for hire. A return trip to the Valley of Kings should cost about 35 Egyptian pounds per taxi and the driver will either wait or come back for you at an agreed time. There are also mini-buses on the West Bank which come in the form of covered Peugeot pick-up trucks. They do a circuit of the West Bank but don't go to the King's Valley. Just wave one down wherever you're and bang on the window to get off. They usually cost about 25 piasters for any one-way transfer.

 

You can also hire bicycles inexpensively in Luxor and on the West Bank. A good way to get around as there are no hills. There is no charge for bicycles on the ferry.

 

There are also mini-buses which operate on circuits around inside the major cities - this is a very inexpensive way to get around once you know the routes. Any journey in a mini-bus costs about 25 piasters (.25 Egyptian pound). You can get on and off anywhere on the route but they can get very crowded and you may have to share your seat with a basket full of live chickens. It's good fun if you like adventures.

 

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What's the Dress Code for Travelers in Egypt?

Here is an area where it's important to balance, in other words, it's good to know some basic information but don't think you're going to another planet either. Egypt is an Arab country and although much less observant in Muslim traditions of dress than some of the other Arab states, visitors should try to respect their customs. Many Egyptian women no longer abide by the Islamic custom of wearing a veil to cover their hair, especially among the younger generation and in larger cities. In recent years Western dress has become very fashionable in most parts of Egypt.

 

In the hotter months loose cotton clothing is the most comfortable thing to wear for both men and women. If you burn easily it is wise to cover all exposed skin when out in the sun. A hat or scarf to cover your head is essential to protect you from the fierce heat in order to avoid sunstroke. A good pair of sunglasses will protect your eyes from the glare and it is usually a good idea to have a spare pair because these are easily lost. Comfortable shoes are also a must. A robust pair of sandals and a pair of enclosed flat shoes are ideal. Trying to walk in high heals on Egyptian pavements is definitely an art!

 

In winter, especially in Lower Egypt, the evenings get suddenly very cold in comparison to the warm days. It is advisable to take warm outer clothing to wear in the evening between October and March, and perhaps even light rainwear for Cairo and the north. In summer you shouldn't need these.

 

In Cairo you can buy anything you may have forgotten to take with you. In Upper Egypt it may be a little more difficult to get exactly what you need, so try to pack a good basic wardrobe which will see you through your holiday. Most hotels and cruises operate a laundry service for guests.

 

Most importantly is try to keep in mind you're not coming to another planet but Egypt, with her millenniums of history and culture. Use common sense and logic and you'll enjoy your visit much more!

 

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How much should I tip for services in Egypt?

For tours, guide and driver gratuities are left entirely to your discretion. Basic tips are not included in the price of land tours services unless you request us to do so.

 

Tips are a major portion of income for many Egyptians working in tourism. While any amount is appreciated, tips often range from 5% to 10% of meals or trip costs and is to be split among those who provided the service.

 

Tipping (baksheesh) is considered a way of life in Egypt; kind of unofficial purchase tax on all goods and services. You should keep plenty of small notes on you at all times. Again, the amount of tip is entirely up to the individual and how much you value the service you had. As a general rule a tip of 1 to 5 Egyptian pounds is usually acceptable. This is a small amount to the tourist but is often a large portion of income to an Egyptian whose monthly wage may not even cover our weekly food bill at home. They usually have large extended families to support on very little money. Nearly everyone who offers services or sells merchandise expect some form of tip including hotel staff, taxi drivers, shopkeepers, guards at the tourist sights.

 

We recommend the following - if any service is done well and to your appreciation, tips is a very nice way to show gratitude. On the other hand, if service on lets say a restaurant isn't good, then save the tips for someone who deserve it! For more information on tipping in Egypt visit our Etiquette Protocols page.

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What type of food is available in Egypt?

Egypt is a meeting point between Africa, Europe and Asia and this meeting point is clearly reflected in her different dishes. The last few hundred years influenced by Turkish cuisine due to the Turkish presence in Egypt - and yes McDonalds and KFC more recently. Still there is something Egyptian going though the diversity of the local cuisine, much with roots back to Ancient Egypt. In the villages in the Luxor area you'll soon see the traditional round sun bread and in the nobles or royal tombs you find the same bread painted on the walls. Egyptian food can be hot but not like many other cuisines where everything is hot. In general Egyptian food is a pleasant surprise for most visitors.

 

The range of food in Egypt is very wide and cosmopolitan. Mostly you'll find dishes are a cross between Middle-Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. Food is available in large restaurants or from street corner stalls and snack bars. The smaller snack-bars and cafes usually offer a good range of inexpensive lightly-spiced Egyptian food as well as sandwiches, pizzas and French fries. Falafel is a snack made from beans and is available freshly cooked on every street corner. Check out how clean the stall looks, as some of these places don't have running water or refrigeration.

 

The traditional Egyptian breakfast is 'ful' which is a kind of bean stew and extremely filling, but larger hotels will offer a buffet breakfast with just about anything you could possibly imagine, including a wide range of breads and cakes. Smaller hotels tend to stick to a continental breakfast of croissants or bread rolls with jam or cheese, and sometimes eggs. Yoghurt is also popular.

 

Egyptian people often eat their main meal at lunchtime and this is usually chicken or beef with rice and vegetables and may be preceded by a soup. Pork is rarely seen in Egypt as it is considered unclean by Muslims. Bread accompanies every meal and there are many types of breads in different regions. The common 'Aysh' or Egyptian bread is an unleavened circle of coarse dough (and sand) a little like pita bread, or larger loaves or rolls of risen white dough. Bakeries are abundant and the choice of pastries and very sweet cakes makes your mouth water.

 

Egypt is famous for its coffee shops, the traditional place where men go in the evening for a game of dominoes or backgammon. There will usually be a television blasting out a loud football game in Arabic. In these pavement cafes you can have a cup of coffee (Nescafe or Egyptian coffee), tea or a soft drink and watch the world go by. Western women are just about tolerated now in these places but you'll rarely see Egyptian women here except maybe in Cairo. Hot tea is a traditional drink in Egypt and you'll probably drink gallons of it while there, whether you like it or not. It is made by boiling a powdery form of tea leaves in a kettle of water until it is stewed, and then a large quantity of sugar is added. It is served in small glasses without handles. Coffee, unless you ask for Nescafe, will be similar to Turkish coffee, served in tiny cups with a thick residue of coffee grains in the bottom. This will also be very sweet unless you ask for only a little or no sugar.

 

Beer was as basic as bread in ancient Egypt and the good beer of today will most likely surprise many. Egyptian wine was the favorite wine throughout the Roman Empire but wine in modern Egypt has been of a lesser standard than its good beer but this is in the process of changing. The more traditional Muslims don't drink alcohol although they're tolerant of visitors drinking in moderation. Alcoholic drinks are usually confined to the bars of larger hotels and restaurants and can be very expensive but limited stocks are now available in some supermarkets. A local beer called Stella, a fairly weak lager, is available in many places as is Stella Export which is stronger and more expensive. Several types of reasonable Egyptian wines are also available, but expensive.

 

Most major hotels and resorts offer a variety of international cuisine. In addition, the local cuisine includes excellent seafood dishes, pastas and sandwiches. There are also a few major fast-food chains in major cities, including Hurghada. Expect to find just about any type of cuisine with limited menus. A three course meal in a hotel will cost anything from about 30 Egyptian pounds and  upwards, whereas you can get a three course meal in a local cafe for about 10 Egyptian pounds. Western-style fast food restaurants, including places like McDonalds and Pizza Hut are popping up everywhere in the major cities. These fast-food restaurants are  inexpensive compared to their branches in Europe.

 

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What other activities are available?

Egypt, a world class holiday destination, offers something for everyone! Aside from the popular water sports activities you can golf, go shopping, visit museums, take a Nile cruise, go on land tours, or visit the desert. The night only brings more life to the cities including dancing and fine dining. There are also a lot of scheduled annual events.

 

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Who do I contact if I have any problems in Egypt?

We're available to you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week the entire time you're in Egypt. Don't try to take care of any major problems without our assistance and, if you do experience any problems don't wait until you return home to inform us because we can do much more when you're here. Very rarely does this happen but just in case the first thing you should do is contact us for assistance as soon as possible. We'll provide you with all our contact details before you arrive so you know who to contact should you have any problems.
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