Egypt is an amazing country. It literally has it all; sunshine, beautiful beaches and more cultural sights than you can shake an ancient stick at! It’s also more affordable than you might think with an all-inclusive week starting at just £299 with Holiday Gems – be sure to visit their website for some great deals.
I holidayed in Luxor many years ago and loved every minute of exploring the ancient tombs and temples. It’s just breathtaking! I’d love to go back and see more of the country so I’ve been eyeing up the destinations on the Holiday Gems website this weekend and wondering if I can convince Andy to take a week off work in the October half term! I reckon I’ll be in need of a bit of sunshine by then.
Admittedly, I wasn’t particularly organised the last time I went so I did make a few mistakes, but I definitely learnt my lesson and now I always research a new destination before jetting off! If you’re thinking of going too, here’s my 5 essential tips for visiting Egypt…
1. Respect the Culture
This is a biggie and applies to any country you visit. Be respectful of the Egyptian culture and local etiquette. Dress modestly – cover your shoulders and knees unless you are in a private beach resort and if visiting a mosque make sure you are covered from wrist to ankle (shoulder to knee for men).
Avoid PDA’s! Hugging, kissing or holding hands in public is especially frowned upon so save it for the hotel room, folks! Also, remember that Egypt is a muslim country so open drunkenness is a big no-no.
And here’s the local practice that I fell foul of… do not eat with your left hand! Your left hand is for unclean jobs such as wiping your bum! Always eat meals or greet people with your right hand, even if you’re left handed.
Okay so you don’t need to be fluent but learning a few basic phrases in Arabic will go a long way with the locals and may even be handy if you find yourself in a tricky situation (shurta! = police!). YouTube is great for learning the correct pronunciation of basics such as hello, thank you, please, yes and no.
3. Budget Extra For Tips
Not only is tipping expected but it is essential income for many Egyptians, particularly in the tourist hotspots. You may feel like you spend the whole day handing out money as even the smallest service, such as pointing you in the right direction, will warrant a tip! But do keep in mind the exchange rate and the fact that a couple of Egyptian Pounds can go a long way for a local. Keep a separate pocket or section in your wallet for tips (known as baksheesh) and make sure its in local currency. Check on sites and forums such as TripAdvisor for up-to-date ideas on how much to tip for various services.
4. Grow a Thick Skin
If you’ve not been to a country such as Egypt before you might find the constant begging, offers of ‘help’ and haggling a bit of a shock to the system. It is a predominantly poor country so the open poverty is somewhat heartbreaking when we’re not used to it. Be sensible but polite and remember you can’t help everyone with a sob story. This is where your Arabic phrases will come in handy! A confident but genuine “la shukraan” (no thank you) should do the trick when you want to keep moving. It’s important not to be completely cynical because the Egyptian people are generally a very friendly bunch but there are also plenty of con men (and women, and children!) that are happy to fool a “rich foreigner” out of their money.
5. You Can Drink the Water
It’s widely thought that the tap water in Egypt is not safe for drinking but in reality the water in developed areas and those frequented by tourists is chemically treated and is unlikely to make you ill. That said, it is high in chlorine and tastes bloody awful so you may want to invest in a LifeStraw filtration bottle which will eliminate any bacteria and reduce chemicals. It’ll also cut down on your use of plastics so is a great option if you’re eco conscious. Brushing your teeth with tap water or eating salad should be perfectly safe but if you are staying in a more rural area I would stick to bottled and be sure to check the seal to make sure you’re not being fobbed off with tap water.
Have you been before? What are your tips for visiting Egypt? Let me know in the comments or come find me on social media for a natter. I’m always happy to talk travel and feed my wanderlust!