Egypt Travel Tips for First Time Visitors
Are you planning to visit Egypt in 2020?
If your answer is yes, then this Hub will provide you with the necessary tourist information to make your visit to this exciting country very pleasurable. I've visited Egypt a couple of times and all advice I provide, is based on my own experiences. The past seven years have been a turbulent period in the "Land of the Pharaohs" causing the tourism industry to take a serious beating.
Please always review your country's own travel advisories for Egypt, before making any booking.
The Mighty Nile
Egypt, land of mystery. Green treasure in the harsh North African desert. For millennia this mysterious land has drawn visitors to its shores, to experience the magic that is Egypt! The mighty Nile, bringer of life and key to the very survival of the Ancient kingdoms of Egypt and Nubia, has been the magnet, which has lead visitors down to Upper Egypt (Southern) and sometimes as far south as Nubia.— ogrote
Egypt, Why Egypt?
So the question that might be asked is, "What makes this country and especially the Nile so captivating?" The answer lies in the human search for adventure and discovery. In Egypt, you will discover something new around every corner and if you plan your visit correctly, you will experience an adventure like nothing before. Most people visit Egypt to go to the Pyramids and to experience a Nile Cruise. I've decided to create the following Hub to share my opinion on what I feel are the most important places to visit in Egypt. I'll be focusing on a couple of areas of interest:
- General Egyptian Travel Advice
- Safety Precautions
- Cairo and surrounds
- Aswan and surrounds
- Luxor and surrounds
- Nile Cruise and the sites you might encounter
Travel Advice for Egypt
Do your research and homework before you leave home!
The Importance of planning, prior to your visit.
The first rule before visiting Egypt, or any foreign destination for that matter, is to do the necessary research to ensure you have a pleasant and enjoyable trip. This can however be quite a stressful exercise. So let's first get the stressful questions addressed, before we start focusing on the fun part of the planning.
Map of Egypt
Magical Egypt! - The People of Egypt makes every visit worthwhile!
Be Careful. Watch all news channels. Post MetroJet plane explosion and Cairo church attack, extra care needs to be taken.
Is it safe to travel to Egypt?
Egypt, as a Middle Eastern country, has gone through a lot of public unrest in the past couple of years (since late 2010), due to the popular uprising against the government of Hosni Mubarak. The tourist industry has suffered a lot due to these uncertainties. There is currently a couple of bad reports coming out of Egypt, relating to tourists being impacted. The best rule would be, to do various searches on the Internet relating to violence and uprisings in Egypt. You can also go to the British or American Governmental websites where the necessary travel alerts are posted. Your tour company will also inform you, if extra care should be taken. The most important thing to remember is that tourism is the lifeblood of the Egyptian economy. A lot of care is taken to ensure that all tourists are being looked after. Hundreds of people visit Egypt every day, having a fantastic time.
What is your opinion on the current situation in Egypt?
Will the current political situation in Egypt stabilize?
Do you think it is safe to visit Egypt in 2020?
1) Visit your local travel clinic, prior to your departure.
2) Take some precautionary medicine.
3) Take bottled water, with you when you go and visit the temples or Pyramids.
Do I need any special Immunisations?
The answer to this question will differ from individual to individual. Best would be to go to your nearest Travel Clinic for information. These clinics will have the latest International health warnings available and they will advise you, on any required medication. Important to always take some precautionary medicine (diarrhea, cold and flu, nausea) with you, when you travel to destinations where doctors or pharmacies might not be easily accessible. In Cairo you will not have any problem finding a doctor or pharmacy, but it will be more difficult in Southern Egypt. Always ensure you have enough chronic and prescription medicine with you. Remember to pack lots of sunblock. Purchase a lot of bottled water at the hotels, shops etc. as you will need a lot of fluid in the Egyptian heat.
Will I be able to use my credit card?
Credit cards are accepted at most of the hotels and on most of the Nile cruises. It is however advisable for visitors to take travellers checks in U.S. Dollars, as well as, a couple of hundred Dollars in cash. Change bureaus are generally available.
What about Tipping/Baksheesh?
It is advisable to keep a lot of small denomination cash at all times. The reason for this? In Egypt, tipping (baksheesh) is a way of life. No service is carried out without the expectation of a tip. This can be become quite frustrating, if you urgently need the use of a restroom and you haven't got small cash at hand. There might be some frowns if you don't give a tip. Try to also get a feel for the local prices (e.g. the price of a can of 330 ml Coke might be L.E.3 - 3 Egyptian Pounds - but some of the small shop owners might try their luck and charge you more. It is best to question the price, if you do feel comfortable with your surroundings, if not, rather just pay the price asked.
Egyptian Weather Report
What will the weather be like?
Egypt has got a harsh climate, especially in summer. The best time to visit Egypt is in winter (December, January, and February). Spring and autumn are also not too bad, but you must be prepared for still some very hot days during this period. Southern Egypt does get a lot hotter than the North - be prepared!
Dress Code - Religious Respect
Are there any special clothing requirements?
Wear cool comfortable clothes for visiting temples and historical sites. Modest clothes need to be worn, if you plan to visit any mosque or church. Long trousers for men and shoulders should be covered. It is all about respect. Take some open and closed footwear with you, as both will come in handy during your stay. Swimming costumes are a necessity if you visit in spring, summer or autumn!
Will I be able to eat the food?
The hotels and Nile cruisers do serve very fine cuisine. It is however advisable to only eat food that has been cooked. This is a general rule, if you want to be careful to not pick up any tummy bug.
Required Travel Documents
Will I require a Visa?
The requirements for a Visa are dependent on your nationality. Please check with your Tour Company or the Egyptian governmental website. Most nationalities can purchase a Visa on arrival at Cairo International Airport.
Keeping in contact with Friends and Family
Will my Mobile phone work?
You should have no problem using your mobile phone in Egypt, if you have roaming enabled. Please however check with your service provider (before you leave home), who their roaming partner network is in Egypt. You could be in for a big surprise when you get your bill, if you just use any mobile network in Egypt on arrival.
Your reason for visiting Egypt?
1) Rest and Relaxation.
2) History and Archaeology.
3) Snorkelling at the Red Sea.
4) Experience the culture.
What tour package should you choose?
Based on your reasons for the visit, you need to start looking for the ideal travel package. There are thousands of tour operators all over the world that market Egyptian touring options. Select one that fits your budget and most importantly fits in with your objective for visiting Egypt. We booked directly on the web with a reliable Egyptian tour operator who has been in business since 1955. Many tour companies operating in Egypt has got the option available for you to let them know which cities, towns and monuments you would like to visit and they would then put a custom tour together, specifically based on your requirements. This is a good option if there are certain places you really want to see. Most Nile cruises have got a fixed itinerary, so you don't need to worry too much about the cruising itinerary. You however will need some knowledge to be able to give a tour operator information to put a tour together for you. This is where your research will come in handy.
Planning a Nile Cruise
What do I need to know about planning a Nile Cruise?
The most important thing to keep in mind when you book a Nile cruise, is to try and book a five star or higher rating cruise. The cruise ships are floating palaces. The most important thing to keep in mind is to rest and relax while you are cruising down the Nile. All the ships have got pools, so you can relax on deck while the desert floats pass you. The sights and sounds on the banks of the Nile are magical. You can book all expenses to your room number and pay when you disembark. One thing to take note off is that all drinks that you purchase on board are quite expensive. On some of the cruise ships you are allowed to bring your own drinks on board.
Sample Itinerary for a Nile Cruise Package
Day 1: Arrive in Cairo (Sightseeing)
Day 2: Sightseeing in Cairo (Possible daytrip)
Day 3: Sightseeing in Cairo and Surrounds - leave for Aswan (Southern Egypt) by Air or Train.
Day 4: Arrive Aswan - transfer to Nile Cruiser - Sightseeing in Aswan - Felucca Ride
Day 5: Nile Cruise - Leave Aswan - Visit temple of Kom Ombo
Day 6: Nile Cruise - Visit Temple of Edfu. Visit sites in and around Luxor
Day 7: Disembark Nile cruise. Visit more sites in and around Luxor.
Day 7: Leave for Cairo by train or air.
Day 8: Arrive Cairo - Leave for home
Important note about Nile Cruises
Try and book a five star deluxe or luxury Nile cruise package, if your budget allows for it.
Important Historical sites
It is important to have a broad overview of the towns and monuments that you will be visiting, even if you are only visiting Egypt for shopping or relaxing. You will miss so much of the hidden history of some of the sites, if you visit them, without doing research prior to the visit.
Cairo and Surrounds
The hustle and bustle, sound of vehicles, smell of smog and throw in a lot of historical landmarks - that is Cairo. There are a lot of historical places in and around Cairo.
The Step Pyramid at Saqqara
This is oldest structure on Earth, built entirely from stone. It was built by the architect Imhotep, for Pharaoh Djoser in the year 2660 BC. Saqqara is one of the biggest burial sites in Egypt. There are also other pyramids in the vicinity, although they are not in such a good condition, as the Step Pyramid or the Pyramids at Giza.
Pyramids at Giza
This is without any doubt, one of the top 5 tourist destinations in the world. These structures were built during the 4th Dynasty. The most important of these is the Great Pyramid of Khufu.
Important information about visiting Giza Pyramids.
Confirm with your tour company if the entrance fees to enter at least one of the pyramids are included in your tour price. Many tourists get a surprise when they arrive at the gates of the pyramid enclosure and the tour guide asks them if they want to enter any of the great pyramids, as this will cost extra.
Most tourists end up going on a camel ride in the vicinity of the pyramids. This can be a lot of fun. Very important to get a clear understanding from your tour guide, the costs involved. This can vary from very expensive to fairly cheap. Have a look at all the camels waiting to be ridden. It is quite a show and something that will stay with you forever, especially seeing them asleep!
The Great Sphinx
The Sphinx is an amazing structure. Have a look at its weathered body. This has caused a lot of controversy about the age of the structure. There is a group of historians lead by Robert Bauval and Graham Hancock that believe the Sphinx is more than 10000 years old, while the majority of Egyptologist will tell you that the Sphinx is probably about 5000 years old. Decide for yourself!
Who do you think was responsible for the construction of the Sphinx?
Cotton Shops, Carpet factories and Perfume shops in Giza
Your tour guide will ask you, if you want to visit any of these while you are in Giza. This might be included as part of your tour as well. It is important for first time visitors to experience these shops. They have got interesting wares, especially the cotton shops. Buy yourself a t-shirt. Don't spend too long at these shops if you have got more sites to visit, as traffic going back into central Cairo could be hectic and it could mean less time at any of the other sites.
The Egyptian Museum
This museum has got the biggest treasure trove of Egyptian Antiquities on the planet. This is one place you have to visit, while in Cairo. You however have to be aware that the museum is in close vicinity of Tahrir Square, which is the focus point of any public uprising in Cairo. Your tour company will be up to date on any event that might put you at risk in this part of Cairo.
What can you expect to see in the Egyptian Museum?
Oh glorious things!
Collections not to be missed at the Egyptian Museum.
Queen Hetepheres I Collection.
Khan el Khalili Bazaar
This is one place you need to visit if you are going to Egypt for shopping. Enjoy the atmosphere that makes this Bazaar unique.
Aswan and Surrounds
Aswan is the most southern city, close to the border with the Sudan. It is a beautiful city geared towards tourism. Many Nile cruises start in Aswan and sail up the Nile to Luxor. The city is also famous for the location of the Aswan High Dam.
The Quarries of Aswan
These quarries supplied the ancient Egyptians with most of the granite used in the temples and pyramids. There is an unfinished Obelisk at the site. It provides insight in how these massive structures were carved.
The Philae Isis temple on the Egilka Island.
This well preserved temple dates back to the time of the Ptolemy's (200 BC). The temple is dedicated to the well-known Egyptian goddess Isis. This temple was moved block by block in the 1960s from its original location on the Island of Philae to the island of Egilka, as a result of the construction of the Aswan High dam.
Temples you will see on most Nile cruises.
The Temple of Kom Ombo
This temple is fairly well preserved and is dedicated to the Egyptian Crocodile headed god of fertility called Sobek.
The Temple of Edfu
This temple is one of the best preserved temples in the whole of Egypt and is dedicated to the falcon god, Horus.
Luxor and Surrounds
The Valley of the Kings
This is one of the most important Archaeological sites in Egypt. There are still active excavations happening in the valley and you might just be lucky enough to see an archaeologist at work. Some of the latest digs centered on tomb KV 63 (which did not have any occupant) and KV 5 which belonged to the sons of the great pharaoh Ramses the second. You can read more about the valley in books written by the well know archaeologist Kent Weeks.
Colossi of Memnon
The Temple of Hatshepsut
This temple is at a place called El Deir El Bahary. It is set in an absolute stunning location. The temple has been beautifully restored. Work is still continuing, as at so many other monuments in Egypt. Please note that you do need to be quite fit to walk up the ramp/stairs that lead to the temple.
The Temple of Karnak
This is the largest place of worship ever built. For generations Pharaohs have extended the complex adding their own flavor and style. The most important part of the temple to visit, is the “Hypostyle Hall” which looks like a forest of giant pillars.
The Temple of Luxor
This is a beautiful temple in the center of Luxor town. It was built for the god Amun. There are huge statues of Ramses the second. You will see an avenue of Sphinxes stretching into Luxor town. This is currently being excavated and will one day join up with the temple of Karnak as in ancient times.
This was just a high level summary of some of the important things to look at prior to booking a tour to Egypt. Egypt as a destination is a never ending adventure. The memories of your trip, will stay with you, long after you have left the banks of the Nile.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2014 ogrote