Q. What travel documents do I need to enter Egypt as a tourist?
A. A valid return or onward airline ticket, passport and visa. Your passport should be valid for 6 months from the date of entry into Egypt. You can purchase your visa prior to, or upon arrival in Egypt. Please contact the Egyptian consulate nearest you for further details. The current fee is $15 for tourist visas issued on arrival. Note: this fee may vary depending on nationality.
Q. Do I have to pay custom duty on the items I bring with me?
A. All items of a personal nature are exempt from duty, but electronic equipment, video cameras, laptop computers must be declared and may be listed on a declaration form by a Customs official who will retain the original and give you the copy. Keep this safe with the rest of your travel documents in case you need it when you depart.
Q. Do I bring cash or traveller's cheques? Which currency is best, and can I use credit cards?
A. The golden rule wherever you travel, is to carry as little cash with you as possible. It is best to bring your money in traveller’s cheques or credit cards. The US dollar is best known and most widely used. Check with your bank for the current exchange rate or refer to the web at: www.xe.com Visa, MasterCard and American Express cards are accepted at most places, but in some cases amounts to be charged should not be less than LE100. ATM machines are located in the lobby areas of most hotels and banks. It is recommended to exchange enough Egyptian pounds (LE) for a day or so and keep the balance of your traveller’s cheques, travel documents and other valuables in a safety deposit box at your hotel.
REMEMBER TO EMPTY YOUR SAFETY DEPOSIT BOX BEFORE CHECK-OUT!
Q. What would be the best way for an independent traveller to get from the airport to downtown?
A. The easiest, hassle-free way is to ask your travel agent to arrange for a local tour operator to meet, assist and transfer you to your hotel. Some major hotels also provide a "meet & greet" service for their guests, but you must book in advance. Alternatively you can take a taxi. The fare to downtown is usually between LE 30-40. Be prepared to bargain and agree upon a price, before you allow the driver to load your baggage into his taxi. There is also an Airport Express bus service which departs every 20 minutes from terminal 3, with a stop at terminal 1 and then direct to Tahrir Square, terminating at the Pyramids area of Giza, near the Oberoi Mena House. The price either to downtown or Giza will cost you the grand sum of LE 2 (payable in local currency only). You can change money at the banks inside the arrival terminals.
Q. I want to visit Luxor and Aswan but I cannot afford the airfare. How much will it cost to go by train, and how long does it take?
A. There are two ways to travel by train, either by the sleeper train operated by Wagon-List which includes your own sleeper compartment, dinner and breakfast for $95 one-way in a double cabin or $145 in single to either Luxor or Aswan. This may seem a bit high, but bear in mind that you save one night's hotel accommodation. A less expensive alternative is first-class seat on the late-night train to Luxor for about $18 and $24 to Aswan. The journey from Cairo takes approx. 9 hours to Luxor and 13 hours to Aswan.
Q. I would like to combine my trip to Egypt with a visit to Israel? How much does it cost to travel by bus to Tel Aviv or Jerusalem and how long does it take?
A. The bus service operating between Egypt and Israel crossing the borders at either Taba or Rafah, has since been discontinued until further notice. There is bus service from Cairo to Taba and from there you can cross the border into Israel at Eilat and take a bus from there. Buses depart Cairo three times daily at 8.15am/10.45pm/11.15pm and arrives Taba approx. 7 hours later. A one way ticket costs about $15.
Q. I have heard that the food and water in Egypt can make me sick. Is this true?
A. It is highly recommended that you drink only bottled/mineral water, hot beverages (such as coffee or tea), canned or bottled carbonated beverages, and beer. Ice is made with tap water and should be avoided. Make sure that all fruit juices are freshly squeezed and not mixed with non-mineral water. Egyptian food is delicious and by no means bad, but avoid road-side food stalls, and remember that it is not what you eat, but how you eat, that will cause you to be sick. If you lie out by the pool in the heat of the sun and drink ice-cold beverages, especially beer, then anything you eat will likely upset you. Egypt boasts a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, but it is best to stick with cooked vegetables and eat fruits that you peel yourself. Use your common sense, exercise moderation and you will stay healthy and be happy! For vaccination information and additional health advice we recommend that you consult your doctor prior to your departure.
Q. What is the best way to visit Egypt's tourist sites on my own?
A. If this is your first visit, it is best to book an organised tour through a local tour operator. This way you are guided through the sites by a professional guide and transportation is included. Most tour guides are multi-lingual, and all of them English-speaking. If you know your way around and don't need a guide, you could rent a taxi or car with driver for the day or for as many hours as you need, and go it alone. It takes a particular finesse or madness (depending on how you look at it) to drive in Egypt, especially in Cairo, so although there are rental car companies in Egypt (Hertz, Avis, Budget, Euro Dollar), we highly recommend you do not drive yourself. For a listing of sight seeing tours click on the "sight seeing" button.
Q. How hot does it get, and what are the best months to visit?
A. The hottest months are June, July and August when maximum temperatures range between 34C/95F in Cairo and 41C/107F in Luxor and Aswan. Since the climate tends to be dry, especially in Upper Egypt, the heat is more bearable. Evenings are much cooler and very pleasant, which is possibly the reason why nightlife in Egypt is so lively. Weather-wise, the best months to visit is March, April, October and November. Other-wise, any time is a good time.
Q. I don't want to offend the locals. Are there any special dress code or guidelines I should follow?
A. Egypt is predominantly Muslim and therefore a more conservative dress code is observed. This rule does not apply as strictly to visitors, but certain decorum is expected, especially when visiting religious sites (mosques, churches and monasteries). Shorts and tank-tops should be worn only in resort areas or on your cruise boat, otherwise you would be more comfortable in blue jeans, slacks, polo-type shirts and blouses with sleeves for day, and a little more formal at night. The Egyptians are very fashion conscious, so you will find all the most up-to-date fashions and designer clothes in the numerous boutiques and shopping malls almost everywhere. Egypt's cotton is one of the best in the world and leather goods are also of extremely good quality and a really good buy. So pack light and buy what you need in Egypt.
Q. Is a tip and baksheesh the same, and when and how much do I tip?
A. Like everywhere in the world, tipping is customary and Egypt is no exception. Actually the word "baksheesh" is not an Arabic word and was most probably introduced by the British during their colonial days. The Webster dictionary defines baksheesh as a gratuity or tip. Keep small money ready to give to those whom you consider deserving (LE 1 is considered the minimum tip). Charity is something else, and you will see many who will touch your heart, give as you feel, a little goes a long way in Egypt. At hotels, restaurants and cruise ships, international tipping standards apply.
Q. I've been on several tours to Egypt and I still don't know how much to tip. I feel I either tip too much or too little. What would be considered average?
A. Your tour may already include tips, so it is best you first check with your travel agent. But usually you would pay not less than LE 5 per bag to the bellman/porter, LE 3 for maid service/housekeeping per night, 12-15% to your waiter if the service charge has not already been added and if it has, then you may add a little extra, depending on the service you received. LE 20 per day for your cruise staff, plus something extra for the Cruise Director. For doormen, toilet attendants and anyone doing you a small service, LE 1 is sufficient. Given a good heart, anything you give will be gratefully received.