A few years ago I traveled to Dubai and wrote about the “Dos and Don’ts of Visiting Dubai”. It is still my single most popular post because there simply isn’t enough information about what to truly expect in these types of places. That’s why I’m creating a similar one for Egypt. There are some crazy stigmas about Egypt that it’s terrifying and that if you do something wrong it’ll be the end of the world. Hopefully this can help show you that Egypt is an incredible place to visit and it’s not as intimidating as one might think. If you want more help for planning a trip to Egypt, check out my previous post here!
DOs of Egypt
Eat Lots of Cultural Food
There’s a lot of good food. Eat it all. Street food is some of the cheapest, but even nicer restaurants are fairly cheap. Just eat all of the food. I always try to go to a McDonalds or some chain store at least once in different countries just to see how they differ around the world. It’s a kind of fun way to see how other countries put twists on American classics.
Visit the Pyramids
The Great Pyramid of Giza is the only remaining wonder of the world. If you don’t see the pyramids while there, did you even go to Egypt? I’ll be creating a post exclusively for the pyramids soon, but until I can, head over to my all-encompassing Egypt post to help you out.
Have Small Bills and Change for Tips
The Egyptian culture thrives on tips. Asking someone where the museum is? Better expect them to ask for a baksheesh, or tip. Someone opens the door for you? They’ll probably want a baksheesh too. It’s kind of obnoxious and bothersome but it’s just a part of Egyptian culture, so you need to be prepared. Additionally, like in many places, it’s easier to give exact change to street vendors to ensure that you aren’t screwed over when they give you change.
Learn some Arabic
Even a simple shukran can get you so far. Those who know me kow that I am a huge proponent of learning a bit of the local language wherever you are going. Obviously it’s going to be hard to learn how to read Arabic, but try to learn a phrase or two.
Many prices in Egypt are negotiable so haggle away! This is especially handy when you are at the pyramids if you want a camel ride. I have some qualms about the ethics and treatment of the camels, but it’s a fact that most people will ride a camel while there. Negotiate the ride that you want! I haggled them down for a price of 3 riders to go out for a certain viewpoint that I wanted.
Uber was one of the most surprising parts about Egypt in my opinion. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Uber, it’s an app that allows for a driver to pick you up and take you to a predetermined location. The rides are tracked and you pay from your phone, so no cash is ever exchanged. I think it’s a lot safer than taxis (anywhere in the world) and in Egypt it is ridiculously cheap. I’m talking about a few dollars for an hour-long ride. Use my code Marisam2567ue for a free ride for new users!
While we’re on the topic of driving, be carefully when crossing the street. Egyptian drivers are crazy. For some reason, Egypt doesn’t believe in having crosswalks, so in order to cross the street you have to just start jaywalking. Everyone does it. It may seem scary at first Once you’ve started walking across the street, don’t turn around and go backwards or you will [possibly] die.
Respect the History and Monuments
This is home to some of the oldest monuments in the world. I can’t count how many times I’d round a corner to see something that was over a thousand years old. It’s truly mindboggling to think that some of these places have been around from before Jesus was born.
DON’Ts of Egypt
Be intimidated by vendors
You will encounter them at every tourist site and they can be verrryyyyy aggressive, especially to foreigners. In their eyes, you are a rich foreigner who has unlimited amounts of money. Although we know we aren’t Warren Buffet, to them we are extremely rich. And the vendors will use every tactic possible to try and get us to purchase their wares or services. When I say ‘every tactic’, I mean EVERY TACTIC. One man told me that I would be worth ‘one cow’ and another followed me and asked to marry me because I was a ‘beautiful Egyptian’.
Ride Camels in Distress
This is an ethical issue. Camels are extremely iconic in Egypt and are at a lot of tourist sites. Unfortunately, there are not of regulations ensuring that the camels are in good health. So when choosing your camel (because I know you’ll want to ride one), please don’t ride the one that looks exhausted and thirsty and worn down.
Dress Too Provocatively
This topic always is difficult because as humans, (and me as a woman) we shouldn’t be forced to dress a certain way. However, you have to take these things into consideration before visiting a conservative country like Egypt. My mom and I chose to cover up when we were in Egypt? Do you have to? Nope. But in order to enter some holy places, you at least need to have your knees and shoulders covered.
Drink Tap Water
It’s generally not safe. Whenever you can, drink bottled water just to be cautious.
Drink Alcohol on the Street
It’s not acceptable in most places; remember that Islam doesn’t allow alcohol. In some areas it may be punishable by law. There are ways to get alcohol if you absolutely must have some but be very cognizant that it is not as readily available as it is in other countries.
Egypt has an extremely bad reputation following the political unrest of the Arab Spring. It’s understandable for people from western countries to be nervous because the media LOVES to scare people! That’s what gets people to read their publications. So take a lot of news about the ‘danger’ of Egypt with a grain of salt. I didn’t find it to be dangerous… BECAUSE IT ISN’T. Egypt isn’t any more dangerous than any other country. Just like anywhere else, you should be cognizant of your surroundings.
Forget to Have Fun!
Egypt is an amazing country and I had the time of my life when I visited. There is so much history there that you literally cannot find anywhere else on this planet. Because of that, I cannot stress the importance of having a great time in Egypt. It’ll probably be hot and your first day will likely be stressful but it will be a trip that you remember for the rest of your lifetime.