Egypt travel tips & useful info
What vaccinations do I need for Egypt
You should seek medical advice from your local health practitioner before travelling to Egypt and ensure that you receive all of the appropriate vaccinations. As a guide Tetanus, Diphtheria, Typhoid, Hepatitis A and Rabies are strongly recommended.
Is it safe to drink tap water in Egypt?
Tap water in Egypt is actually safe to drink but as it is heavily chlorinated we do not recommend that you do as it causes stomach upsets. Bottled mineral water is readily available in hotels, shops and restaurants and inexpensive. Brushing your teeth and showering with tap water in Egypt poses no problem.
ONE OF EGYPT'S NATIONAL DISHES - KOSHERI, WITH RICE, LENTILS AND PASTA TOPPED WITH SAUCE AND ONIONS
Safe eating while travelling in Egypt
With succulent grilled meats, fish and vegetables, Egyptian cuisine has something to appeal to most eaters though in order to avoid stomach troubles while on holiday, it's worth taking a few precautions. As tap water is highly chlorinated it's best to avoid salads unless dining in upmarket restaurants, hotels and cruise boats. Any food you do eat should be piping hot to ensure it's been cooked properly - avoid food that looks like it has been sitting around for awhile. Try taking a probiotic a few weeks before and during your holiday to build your own natural defence against bugs that may come into contact with your stomach.
What's the food like in Egypt?
Egyptian cuisine is not unlike the cuisine of Turkey, Syria and other Middle Eastern countries. The basic staple centres on pulses - fuul medames (fava beans often served with vegetables and boiled egg) and ta'amiyya (chickpea patties) though visitors to Egypt are more likely to encounter a delicious spread to meats accompanied by salads, rice, seasoned vegetables, and mezzes. Houmous and other yoghurt-based dips, coupled with fresh pitta, schwarma (similar to a Turkish doner kebab), kofta (a skewered spiced meat dish) and fiteer (a kind of pizza) are other popular dishes. The lunchtime bargain has to be kosheri, though - a curious mix of noodles, rice, lentils, fried onion and spicy sauce. It's very tasty and exceedingly cheap. Bread is a staple of Egyptian cuisine and you'll a version served with every meal. Vegetarians should find plenty of options with stuffed peppers, grilled aubergine and baked squash popular meat-free dishes in Egypt.
Exotic juices freshly squeezed from the fruits of mango, guava and other seasonal varieties are also widely available, as is fresh fruit. Alcohol is not readily available as Egypt is a predominantly Islamic country though the major hotel chains usually have well-stocked bars.
Is it standard to tip in Egypt?
The word 'backsheesh' can refer to a tip or a bribe and it is a word you are likely to hear when travelling around Egypt as tipping is a natural part of daily life. You're likely to have a tip requested from you by anyone who has provided a service including the usual, waiters and drivers, to the less expected, including security guards at some tourist sites. As a guide, it's customary to tip restaurant staff with 10% of the bill (assuming a service charge has not already been added though this goes to the restaurant and not to the waiter), housekeeping staff at hotels around USD $2 per day, taxi drivers around $1 and cruise staff $4-5 per day to be divided between the on-board crew. When delivering your backsheesh, fold the notes in your hands and pass the money in the form of a handshake.
How to bargain in Egypt
Bargaining and haggling over prices is a fundamental part of shopping in the markets and bazaars of Egypt. Vendors will often inflate their prices considerably so that after a back-and-forth exchange of numbers, a final price will be agreed on that suits both parties. The key is to go in low and work your way up but always have a maximum amount in mind. It's a good idea to suss out prices in the fixed price souvenir stores that often accompany many of the popular tourist sites so that you know what you should be paying for goods.
What to shop for in Egypt
Egypt is a virtual Aladdin’s Cave. While Cairo's Khan al-Khalili bazaar is cavernous and full of unusual and everyday objects, smaller souks and bazaars abound in other towns too. Top buys include cotton shirts, brass wear, leatherwear, mosaic lamps and mirrors, backgammon boards, hand-crafted sheesha pipes, Pharaonic objects fashioned in marble and alabaster, Egyptian cotton sheets, clothing and, of course, authentic papyrus.
Travelling in Egypt as a solo woman
The cultural attitude towards women in Egypt is different to that of the West so travelling as a solo female does require consideration to ensure a more comfortable travelling experience. The best way you can avoid unwanted attention is to dress conservatively at all times and this means keeping shoulders and upper arms, legs and chest covered with loose-fitting and opaque clothing. The hot Egyptian sun might tempt you to do the complete opposite in order to perfect your tan but you'll demonstrate respect for the local culture if you make an effort to dress more appropriately. In the Red Sea resorts the Egyptian staff are more familiar with Western culture and therefore a more relaxed attitude to clothing is generally not a problem.
Like any large city anywhere in the world, it's advisable to avoid walking the streets of downtown Cairo at night. If you do receive any unwanted attention, it is best to appear standoffish as any friendliness can be misconstrued. Egypt is by no means a dangerous place for female visitors - Egyptians are hospitable, friendly and humorous people and are likely to leave a lasting positive impression of their country but in order to make the most of your time there as a solo female, it's wise to be a little more cautious and aware of how you present yourself.
Cultural Hints and Etiquette
It's not just women that need to consider how they dress when visiting Egypt - it's also best for men to wear trousers and keep their shoulders covered, keeping in line with how Egyptian men dress. Shorts are only acceptable at beach resorts but it's surprising how many visitors to Egypt ignore this. When visiting a mosque both men and women will need to be completely covered with women also required to wear a headscarf. Remember to remove shoes before entering.
Displays of physical affection should not be made in public. It's common to see Egyptian men greet one another with hugs and kisses but members of the opposite sex should refrain from any such contact outside the privacy of their hotel room.
When visiting bazaars, markets and shops, you may encounter persistent offers in an attempt to sell you something. The best way to respond is by being polite and when refusing an offer do so with your right hand over your heart - this is seen as a sign of humbleness and gratitude in Egypt and an extremely polite way of declining any offer.
In Egypt the left hand is considered unclean as it's used to remove shoes and wipe your bottom after going to the toilet so to avoid any embarrassment around the dinner table, use your right hand for eating and when presenting gifts or money to anyone.
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