there’s so much to think about when planning a trip overseas.
Before taking a trip, I spend hours hovering over my laptop searching for answers to all the million and one questions I have about the destination I’m traveling to.
Where should I stay?
How can I get around?
What are the must-do things in every city?
What will the weather be like?
What’s the currency?
Will I need a visa to enter the country?
The list goes on.
I’m not the only one who does this, right?
This past October, the kids and I spent a glorious month traveling through various regions in Egypt. We had so many incredible experiences while there, and we learned a lot about the country and customs. While traveling, I also had many people writing and asking many different questions about our trip. I’ve compiled some of the most frequently asked questions that I received, along with other important insights that we learned on our journey.
When is the best time to travel to egypt?
October through April tends to be the most optimal time to visit. We traveled in October, and it honestly was a great time to be there. The weather is still warm but not overbearing in most parts of the country; October can still produce nearly 100 degree Fahrenheit temps in Luxor and Aswan, but Cairo and the Sinai will be in the high 80s/low 90s—perfection. December and January are peak tourist months, and the crowds will be intense. The summer months are smolderingly hot, and I was advised by many Egyptians not to come then—especially in August.
what currency is used in egypt?
The Egyptian Pound is the currency of Egypt, and is commonly referred to as LE. At publishing, $1USD is equal to 17.91LE. Check current rates and other currencies here.
do you need a visa to enter egypt?
Yes. A tourist visa is required to enter the country with a U.S. passport.
Can you get a visa upon arrival in egypt?
Yes. Visas are available for purchase at the airport. They can only be obtained upon arrival when traveling via air; those who want to visit the country via land or sea must purchase visas prior to entering the country. The visas are valid for 30 days for U.S. citizens and many countries in Western Europe. It is also important to note that these upon-arrival visas are only available to citizens of certain nations—be sure to check to make sure that your passport allows this. It is an unfair privilege that many of us have.
Remember to bring $25USD per person in cash with you to pay for your visas. Euros may also be accepted, but U.S. dollars are preferred.
You cannot pay for your visa with a card- ONLY CASH is accepted. I have have a friend who visited Egypt in 2016 and paid for her and her family’s visas via card—the rules have since changed. We visited Egypt in October of 2018, and cards were no longer accepted for the purchase of tourist visas.
Can you pay for your visa in Egyptian pounds
Well, no. I never got the “bring cash with you to pay for your visa” memo, and I didn’t have enough U.S. dollars or Euros on me to pay for ours. I asked someone if I could take Egyptian Pounds from the cash machine that was a few feet from the visa line, and he told me “no.” I decided not to panic, stay in line and use my life’s motto: you have not because you ask not. I asked the man selling the visas if I could pay in Egyptian currency, he said yes and told me to go take 1800LE ($100USD) from the cash machine. I’ve been told that I was lucky and that an exception was definitely made for me, so don’t risk it and just have $25USD with you. Everyone else in line had $25USD with them—including Europeans.
Can you use U.S. dollars and/or Euros in Egypt?
Most places only accept Egyptian Pounds, but from time-to-time you can pay in USD or Euros. If you hire a private taxi driver or tour guide, they would prefer USD or Euros if you have them. But most often you will pay in Egyptian Pounds.
Can I use my credit card in egypt?
Yes, I used my card often while there. In Cairo, credit cards are widely used in restaurants and shops. While you can use credit cards all over Cairo, it’s still a good idea to always have LE on you. Depending on where you are it is common for credit card machines to go down, and you will need to pay in cash—this happened to me more than once. Thankfully, I always had LE on me.
Is Egypt expensive?
Egypt is VERY affordable to be in; like, it blew my mind how inexpensive hotels, meals, taxis and transportation were. It is the perfect destination for families looking to budget travel, while also maximizing their experiences with many activities.
is there uber in egypt?
Yes. Uber is in Egypt. From my experience, however, it is only available in the Cairo metropolitan area. Uber is very inexpensive in Egypt, I would recommend using the app as your prices will be confirmed.
Be sure that you ask your Uber driver their name when they arrive, and check to be sure that the car description matches what the app says. There are many people who will say that they are your Uber ride, and they are not—yes, this happened to us.
Sometimes your driver’s GPS will get out of wack—be prepared to pull out google maps to make sure that you arrive to your destination.
An Uber from the airport to central Cairo should be about 100LE or less (around $5USD).
can i use english in egypt
Yes! Arabic is the country’s official language, but many people in Egypt speak some English. In hotels and tourists areas, English is widely used as a common form of communication for non-Arabic speakers. People’s fluency of the language will vary, and there is a good chance that you will be lost in translation from time-to-time. But, hey, that’s a part of the adventure of travel, right? There were plenty of times that I had to bust out my phone and depend on Google translate to save the day.
is egypt safe?
I’m going to write an entire blog post on this subject, but the short answer is—yes. Egypt is very safe to travel to, and I never once felt any political instability. Honestly, I felt safer there than in most places in the U.S. and Europe.
Is it safe for a woman to travel alone in Egypt?
This is another topic that I will dedicate a whole blog post to because it is complex. Yes, it is safe for a woman to solo travel—with or without kids—in Egypt, but like anywhere precautions should be taken. I traveled alone in Egypt for nearly a month with three children, and I felt safe most of the time. There definitely were some levels of harassment that I experienced, but I still felt safe overall.
is egypt a muslim country?
The overwhelming majority of Egyptians are Sunni Muslim. There is also a small, but thriving, Coptic Cristian community in the country, and there was also once a Jewish presence there—one of the oldest Jewish cemeteries in the world is in Cairo. Traveling in predominately Muslim countries has become a favorite of mine as Islam values kindness and authentic hospitality—don’t let the media fool you.
Is it safe for Christians to travel to Egypt?
There are so many misconceptions about the Islamic world, and one of the main ones is that Muslims are hostile to Christians. Although Egypt is nearly 90% Muslim, it is steeped in Christian history. Remember when Mary and Joseph took off to Egypt with a baby Jesus in tow? Many of the oldest churches in the world are there, as are many other early Christian remnants.
Christians, Muslims and Jews had lived side-by-side in relative peace for millennium until the last century or so. But even now most Christians and Muslims in the Middle East live in peace as neighbors. Muslim Egyptians were excited to share Egypt’s historic tie to Christianity with me, and never once did I feel unsafe because of my faith. There is still a strong Coptic presence in Cairo, and you see numerous large churches across the city. So, yes, it is safe for professing Christians to be in Egypt.
Is it safe for jews to travel to egypt?
Look, I’m not here to speak for Jews as I am not one; I’m here to share what I witnessed while in Egypt. My non-Jewish opinion—for what it’s worth—is that it is safe for a Jewish person to visit Egypt. In fact, the Sinai region of the country is a hot vacation destination for Israelis, and hundreds of thousands of them visit the area every year. While in Dahab, I saw young orthodox guys sporting tassels, yarmulkes and payot (those long, curly sideburns for those of you who are wondering), chilling and drinking beers. We were the only non-Israelis at our camp on the Red Sea, and none of them seem to feel that their lives were in immediate danger. Again, I am not Jewish so I am not here to tell you where you should and shouldn’t feel safe; I’m here sharing my experience and what I saw while in Egypt.
how should women dress when traveling in egypt?
Every country in the Muslim world is different when it comes to cultural expectations of women’s attire. So be sure to do your research before traveling, and don’t put the Islamic world in a box. For example, lots of women in Cairo wear tight jeans, but with loose shirts and shoulders are usually always covered. If you are a woman traveling alone, or alone with children, I wouldn’t recommend showing your legs.
Wear long skirts. For skirts that are not floor length, wear leggings underneath.
Always cover your shoulders. Before leaving, an Egyptian woman in the U.S. told me that it was okay to wear tank tops in Cairo—umm, don’t do this. Wearing loose t-shirts are fine, but always have a shawl or light cardigan handy to wear out as well.
Don’t wear form-fitting skirts and dresses. Try to wear skirts and dresses that are loose and flowing.
Don’t show cleavage. Just don’t, okay. We’re not here to have a debate about what one feels like one should be able to wear and not wear—just respect the culture and customs of where you are.
Don’t expose your belly outside of beach areas.
Don’t wear shorts outside of beach areas. It wouldn’t be proper for a woman—with or without a male travel companion—to wear shorts outside of beach towns.
You will see loads of lingerie shops in Cairo with large busted mannequins wearing less than what you’d see in Victoria’s Secret window, but the average Egyptian woman dresses without showing much skin. From my experience, Egypt is much more conservative than other North African countries, and what you may have worn in Morocco may not be acceptable in Egypt. There are exceptions to this rule, like in beach areas where I saw both Egyptian and Western women in skimpy bathing suits. I never worried about covering my arms in Dahab, and I also wore shorts while there and felt fine in my one piece bathing suit. In Abu Galum and Taba, there were women in bikinis.
How should men dress when traveling in egypt?
With the exception of beach areas, men should avoid sleeveless shirts and shorts. It is more culturally acceptable for men in cities like Cairo to be in pants or jeans, this would be true in most other parts of the country as well. It would not be appropriate for a man to walk shirtless around cities, or at the pyramids—despite raging heat. Again, the exception would be in beach towns as they are more lax overall.
Can You drink alcohol in Egypt?
Yes, you can drink alcohol in Egypt. It is not free flowing and obtainable everywhere, but it is there. I did notice some people walking around Dahab with beers, but you would never see this scenario somewhere like Cairo.
In Cairo, you will find a variety of alcohol in major hotels and restaurants that cater to foreigners.
You can find beer, wine and other alcoholic drinks at many resorts and restaurants in the Sinai
Who do you tip in Egypt?
Trying to figure out who to tip when traveling is always tricky. While in Egypt, I tipped our guide at the pyramids, our private tour guide/private driver, and a waiter at a French cafe because he was really sweet to us. It’s not customary to tip non-private cab drivers, or even most waiters at many of the restaurants. However, you will find that a person on the street who helps you with a bag or directions may want a small token of appreciation—you can always resist their help to avoid this scenario. If you are taking a bus to travel to another city, it is polite to leave the man who stores bags under the bus about 5LE.
how much should I tip in Egypt?
This is another tricky question when traveling because I never want to under tip a person and come across as cheap and rude. I spent my college years waitressing for extra cash, so I always like to give a little extra when service was good or when I built a connection with a person. If there is no set rule in place, for example leaving 15% of a bill, I normally ask a trusted local for their advice.
Should i get a SIM card while in egypt?
Absolutely yes. Having a SIM card and access to the internet while in Egypt is a lifesaver, but this goes for anywhere that you travel overseas. SIM cards are inexpensive to purchase, and they are available at the airport or an official store across the country.
There are a variety of providers to choose from, I used Etisalat as it was the first one I saw when stepping out of passport control. The service was good within Cairo, but that data became a bit choppy when entering the Sinai region. I was overall pleased with the service and would recommend them for use.
I always ask sellers to set up the SIM card for me, that way I know that nothing will go wrong in the transition process. This is especially helpful in countries whose languages you cannot speak or read—all of Etisalat’s info and messages were in Arabic, making it impossible for me to read instructions and notices.
other useful Egypt information:
Remove shoes when entering someone’s home. Removing one’s shoes before entering a home is customary in many parts of the world. This is also true in Egypt, as it is in other parts of North Africa and the Middle East.
If an Egyptian invites you to their home, bring a small gift such as nice chocolates to give as a token of gratitude.
Ask for seconds if eating in someone’s home. Asking for second (or third or fourth) helpings of food prepared in someone’s home is seen as a compliment and a sign that you enjoyed what you ate. Egyptian hosts will prepare a large amount of food for their guests, so be prepared for a banquet of deliciousness and leave your diet at the door.
Wait for your hosts to direct you to your seat at the table before eating.
Be prepared to use the squatty potty. Squatting to use the restroom is very common all over the non-western world. Most hotels in Egypt will have western-stye toilets, as do many restaurants and homes. But it is highly likely that you will encounter the squatty potty sometime on your trip—so embrace it and respect it.
Greet someone of the opposite sex with a hand shake. I’m a hugger and a greet-everyone-with-a-kiss-on-their-cheek type of person, so this one is alway tough for me. But when in Egypt, you do as they Egyptians do: men and women who are not closely related shake hands. It is also customary for the woman to extend her hand first if she is comfortable with a hand shake.
Greet someone of the same sex with a kiss on the cheek. It is common to see men greet each other by kissing both cheeks, and this same goes for women. You are not obligated to do so if you or the other person doesn’t find it appropriate.
Egypt is an amazing place for adults and children alike. It is safe and secure; the locals are kind and love showing the beauty and warm hospitably of their culture. From the great pyramids of Giza, the Red Sea and everything in between, Egypt is a place that one has to explore in one’s lifetime!
do you want to visit egypt…and why?
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