Information about traveling to Egypt includes tips about: Egyptian visa requirements, Health and Safety in Egypt, Egyptian holidays, best time to go to Egypt, the weather in Egypt, what to wear when you travel to Egypt, tips on how to get to Egypt and how to travel around Egypt.
Egyptian Visa Information
A valid passport and a tourist visa are required for most nationalities. Tourist visas are available at Egyptian embassies and consulates around the world. A single-entry visa is valid for 3 months from when you acquire it, and allows you a 1 month stay in the country. If you are planning to pop in to any neighboring countries while in Egypt, I would suggest applying for a multiple- entry visa, so you can get back in to Egypt without any problems. Check with your closest Egyptian consulate or embassy for fees and the most up to date information.
If you are on a group tour, the travel agency will often organize the visa for you, but it is always good to check on this yourself. Some nationalities are able to get a tourist visa upon arrival at the major airports. This option is actually a little cheaper, but I would always recommend to plan ahead and get a visa before you leave. Visa rules and regulations change with the political winds, you don't want to run the risk of being turned back at the airport.
Note: All tourists have to register with the local police within a week of their arrival. Most hotels will take care of this for you for a small fee. If you are travelling with a tour group it is likely you will not even be aware of this formality.
In general, Egypt is a safe destinations, but politics can rear its ugly head, and terrorist attacks against tourists have also occurred. Crime rates are low, and violent crime against visitors is rare. Women traveling alone need to take basic precautions and dress conservatively to avoid hassle, but violent crime against women is rare. Click for more details on -- Health and Safety in Egypt.
The official currency of Egypt is the Egyptian Pound (guinay in Arabic). 100 piastres ( girsh in Arabic) make 1 pound. Banks, American Express, and Thomas Cook offices will readily exchange your traveler checks or cash. ATM cards can also be used in major cities, as can Visa and Mastercards. If you plan to travel off the beaten track, always make sure you have enough local currency with you. Nothing worse than spending a precious vacation day searching for a bank when you could be exploring tombs!
For current exchange rates use this currency converter. The maximum amount of Egyptian currency that can be brought in or taken out of Egypt is 1,000 Egyptian pounds.
Tip: Hold on to your one and five pound notes, they come in handy for tipping which you will be doing a lot of. Baksheesh is a phrase you will come to know well.
Weekends and Holidays
Friday is the principle day off in Egypt with many businesses and banks closed on Saturday too. Official holidays are as follows:
- January 7th - Coptic Christmas
- February 22nd - Union Day
- April 25th - Sinai Liberation Day
- May 1st - Labor Day
- June 18th - Evacuation Day
- July 1st - Bank Holiday
- July 23rd - Revolution Day
- September 11th - Coptic New Year
- October 6th - ArmedForces Day
- October 23rd - National Liberation Day
- October 24th - Suez Victory Day
- December 23rd - Victory Day
The best time to visit Egypt is October through May. Temperatures vary between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The nights will be cool but most days are still sunny. Watch out for dust storms from March until May. If you don't mind swampy temperatures above 100 degrees Fahrenheit and want to save a little money, visit Egypt in the summer.
What to Wear
Loose, light cotton clothing is absolutely essential especially if you are travelling in the summer. Buy some clothes while you are there, it is always fun to shop for something practical in the bazaars. It is a good idea to bring a water bottle with you, sunglasses and eyedrops for the dust when visiting the temples and pyramids.
Egypt is a Muslim country and unless you are looking to offend, please dress conservatively. When visiting churches and mosques men should not wear shorts and women should not wear shorts, mini-skirts or tank tops. In fact it is inadvisable for women to wear anything short or sleeveless unless on the beach or by a pool. It will save you some unwanted attention. This article from Journeywoman.com gives more practical advice for women travelers in Egypt.
Getting To Egypt and How To Get Around Egypt
Getting To and From Egypt
Unless you are visiting Libya or Sudan it is most likely that travelers will be coming overland from Israel. There are some bus services from Tel Aviv or Jerusalem to Cairo. You can take a bus to either border, cross by foot and then take local transport again. Taba is the main border open to tourists. Check with the embassy locally when you arrive for updated information.
Getting Around Egypt
Buses range from luxury to overcrowded and grim! But they service all towns in Egypt. In general, the faster more luxurious buses will run between major cities and tourist destinations. Tickets can be bought at bus stations and often on the bus itself. Ask Aladdin has the main bus routes and schedules listed as well as prices.
Trains are an excellent way to travel within Egypt. There are air-conditioned express trains as well as ordinary trains which tend to be a bit slower and less likely to have AC. Note that trains do not go to the Sinai or the main beach destinations of Hurghada and Sharm el Sheikh. For schedules and booking information see The Man in Seat Sixty-One.
If you have little time but a lot of money, flying within Egypt is your best option. Egyptair flies daily from Cairo to Alexandria, Luxor, Aswan, Abu Simbel, and Hurghada and twice a week to Kharga Oasis. Air Sinai (a subsidiary of Egyptair)flies from Cairo to Hurghada, Al Arish, Taba, Sharm el Sheikh, St. Catherine's Monastery, El Tor, and to Tel Aviv, Israel. Your local travel agent should be able to book these flights for you or go directly through Egyptair. Egyptair has booking offices throughout Egypt if you decide to buy a ticket while you are visiting.
Book well in advance during peak season.
The major car rental agencies are represented in Egypt; Hertz, Avis, Budget and Europecar. Driving in Egypt, especially the cities can be a bit hazardous to say the least. Congestion is a huge problem and very few drivers actually follow any traffic rules, including stopping for a red traffic light. Take a taxi and enjoy the wild ride from the back seat! Tips on how to hail taxi's, bargain for a reasonable rate and tipping procedures can be found here.
The romance of a Nile Cruise has sustained an industry of well over 200 steamers. A Nile Cruise used to be the only way tourists could get to the tombs and temples of Luxor. You can get excellent package deals usually ranging from 4-7 days. Get as much information as you can about the vessel before you go. If you are booking in Egypt, try and see the vessel before you purchase your ticket. Most boats start off in Luxor, sailing down to Aswan, with stops at Esna, Edfu and Kom Ombo.
Feluccas are lateen-sailed boats which have been used on the Nile since antiquity. Cruising on a Felucca at sunset is one of the pleasures of visiting Egypt. You can also opt for longer sails, heading down river from Aswan is the most popular route. Packages are available but most tourists organize their own trips. Be choosy about your Felucca captain!