Spending a week in Egypt has been great, and we’ve gathered a few tips and helpful things along the way. Some were passed on by our tour guide, some were learned the hard way. Here’s a list of things we think you should consider when traveling in Egypt.
1. They will ask for tips (“baksheesh”) everywhere. Except perhaps Aswan. But still, expect to be asked for tips. In most places, tips are appropriate because that is really a part of how Egyptians earn a living. Their wages are too low to depend on those alone. But be reasonable and don’t let them bully you into much higher tips that you think are deserved.
2. Nothing is free in Egypt. And if someone gives you a very cheap price on something, there’s probably a catch. For example, getting a horse carriage ride around town may only be ten pounds, but getting off the carriage afterward will cost quite a pretty penny. If vendors at huge attractions push things into your arms and tell you it’s free, don’t believe them and push it back into their hands.
3. Egyptian museums aren’t the best in the world, so we were glad we had a guide to explain most things to us. There usually aren’t signs or any details at ruins or old temples either, so either have a guidebook or an actual guide. Several people told us that the big Cairo Egyptian museum wasn’t really worth it unless you paid the extra fee to see the mummies, so we didn’t end up going. They are building a new museum with lots of exhibit halls now, but that probably won’t be open until at least 2016. When it’s open, it will be amazing!
4. Egyptians, like many people around the globe, have a very flexible, fluid approach to time. So when someone tells you “ten minutes,” don’t expect it to be an actual ten minutes.
5. Many taxis do not have meters, so it is important to negotiate a price BEFORE you get in the cab. Yellow taxis usually work by reservation only, and black-and-white taxis are more likely to have meters. All others (varying shades of white) have no meters. Often taxis will charge an extra 10 pounds to put luggage in the trunk or to turn the car off at the destination while they help you get out of the car and to the place.
6. When a temple site says “no photos,” such as Abu Simbel or the Valley of the Kings, they mean it. There are guards in normal clothing patrolling the area, watching for cameras. If you’re caught, they will delete your photos for you, and if you resist, suggest calling the police. If they begin to call the police, it’s usually because they want you to bribe them to put their phone away. So just don’t get in that situation, and enjoy the tombs and ruins peacefully.