There is one thing that every visitor needs to understand about tipping in Egypt: It is NOT optional. It’s essential. Many tour companies will tell clients and potential visitors that tipping is optional, but that is not true in Egypt, and that company is not acting ethically. Why? Because many people in Egypt work only for tips. They don’t get a fee, a cut, or a salary. They support themselves and their families solely on tips.
This is why tipping is so important to Egyptians in tourism and the economy in general. So, because it’s awkward for first-time visitors who either aren’t used to tipping at all, or who live in a culture where tipping is considered “extra” and only for good service, I decided to write about it. How much do you tip? Who do you tip? When do you tip? If your tour company tells you it’s “optional” and offers no other guidance, what do you do? Here is your ultimate guide to tipping in Egypt!
For reference, I’ll be referring to United States Dollars as USD, and Egyptian Pounds as EGP. The conversions below came from the XE exchange rate app, which I highly recommend. Check the app to get the most up-to-date exchange rate before you start your trip!
Distinction: Everyone is Offering a Service; No One is Begging
One of the things Americans find alarming in many developing or third-world countries is the amount and forcefulness of the begging. Americans, Brits, Canadians, etc., are often targeted because we have a stereotype of being wealthy and throwing money around. This may have been semi-true in the past, but over the last 30 years or so, this is less and less often the case.
You may be expecting (and fearing) a lot of begging in Egypt, but this is actually not how it is. There is very little in the way of asking for hand-outs, but there are a lot of services being offered. Sometimes these services are going to be done for you, whether you want it or like it or not, and then you will be expected to give a tip.
Also helpful: Your Ultimate Guide to Solo Travel in Egypt
What to Do about Services You Don’t Want
So, that’s awkward, right? You just have to be aware of it, and say “no” or “la shukran,” or better yet, just say nothing and keep on walking! If you need it, you have my permission not to take a service that is offered if you don’t want it. This could be someone trying to take your luggage for screening at the airport. Maybe it’s someone offering explanations inside one of the pyramids where tour guides are not allowed. The best thing to do is simply not engage.
Essential info: Why You Need to Travel with Egypt Elite
Perspective: It’s Not Unsafe, It’s Just Uncomfortable
Something else to remember when someone is offering you information or a service you don’t want, is that you are not unsafe. You will, however, likely be uncomfortable. And it’s perfectly fine and normal to be uncomfortable when you’re traveling. That’s just part of it! Everyone wants to sell you something, make a commission off you, or do something to get a tip from you. No one wants to hurt you.
(Coming soon) More here: How to Travel Egypt Like a Pro
USD or EGP?
That is up to you! Smaller amounts can be paid in EGP, as long as you have small enough bills (5, 10, 20, 50 EGP). Larger amounts, like tips for tour guides and Nile Cruise crews, can be paid in USD. If you tried to pay $200 USD worth of Egyptian pounds, you’d have to carry a backpack full of bills. Why? Because, at the moment, Egyptian pound notes only go up to 200 EGP, or about $6 USD. So, paying with USD, which you should bring with you from home, is generally easier for everyone.
Also helpful: Can I Use the U.S. Dollar Abroad?
How Much to Tip
Honestly, you don’t have to tip much to make a big impact on someone’s life and income in Egypt. While we were there, the exchange rate was $0.03 USD to the Egyptian pound (EGP), so 10, 20, or even 100 EGP is not going to break your bank. Y’all, 100 EGP is only $3 USD! No matter who or how much you’re tipping in Egypt, it won’t be as much as if you were in the U.S.
Bathroom Attendants (10-15 EGP)
Important: Your tip to the bathroom attendant not only pays them, it pays for the toilet paper they’re offering for you. This is their job, but like many jobs in Egypt, they are working mostly or entirely on tips. Do you like having toilet paper in the bathroom? Tip your bathroom attendant. Generally you’re expected to pay after you go.
You may find exceptions in places like the Egyptian Museum where there is a “No Tipping” sign in the bathroom. This is because they do not want their staff to get into a habit of harassing or begging paying visitors to the museum. I missed this sign in the Egyptian Museum and paid anyway, so be on the lookout!
Keep reading: What to Know Before You Visit Egypt
Porters at Hotels (50 EGP) and Unprompted “Luggage Helpers” at Airports (20 EGP)
My husband and I carry our own luggage for the most part. It’s usually strapped to us, front and back, so it’s not easy for someone to take from us anyway! But if you do want a little help with your luggage, or if someone helps you with it before you can say “no” or “la,” tip accordingly.
Read on: What It’s Like Staying at the Sofitel Legend Old Cataract Hotel
Important: The “Service Charges” you see on your bill for both 12% and 14% do not go to your server, they go to the restaurant. This is different from Europe, the U.S., and other places where the “Service Charge” or “Service Fee” go to the server. Please tip on the total bill, do not assume that anything on the bill goes to the server because it does not. Even after the 12% service charge, 14% service charge, and 10% tip to the server, we still never paid more than the equivalent of $30 USD for a meal for two.
Keep eating: The Best Foods You Have to Try in Egypt
Unofficial “Guides” and Photo Takers (5-10 EGP)
This is not exactly on the up-and-up, but it’s definitely happening in the pyramids, tombs, and temples. When actual tour guides are not allowed into these places, someone will likely be inside anyway, offering information, taking photos, and pointing out interesting elements to tourists. Just know they’re jonesing for a tip.
Fair warning: I finally got worn down in our last tomb in Luxor. My husband wasn’t feeling great, and I could tell he was kind of over taking and being in photos for the blog. I didn’t have any small bills, but had plenty of EGP, so I ended up grossly over-tipping for a few photos. They’re not good or blog-worthy photos, y’all. The photo below is for educational purposes only.
Read on: Your Ultimate Guide to the Pyramids of Giza
Tour Guides ($10 USD per day)
Unless you’re traveling with a company like Egypt Elite that includes tips in your tour price, you will need to tip your guide. If you’re in a group of 6 or fewer, $10 USD (about 300 EGP) is expected. If you’re a group of more than 6, your guide will definitely take you shopping, so they can get kickbacks. You should still tip the equivalent of $5-$7 USD, but know that they are getting kickbacks from the places they take you shopping as well.
Not a shopper? Neither are we! If this is the case and your guide is counting on those shopping kickbacks, plan to tip your guide the $10, or a little more. They are often not being paid by your tour company at all, and work solely on tips.
More here: 7 Things Your Tour Guide Wants You to Know
Nile Cruise Crew ($100 USD per guest for the whole trip)
You won’t need to tip every person on your Nile cruise individually every time anyone does anything for you; you’ll tip for the entire trip at the end. Crew members are kind of cagey if you ask how much is appropriate to tip because they don’t want to tell you the regular amount, if you were planning to tip two or even three times that amount (because that’s closer to what you’d pay back home for such services.)
So, to take the guesswork out, here are the general guidelines:
- $100 per guest for the entire trip.
- Pool all passengers’ money into one envelope, which you can get from the crew.
- Take out 30% of the total from everyone, and give it to your tour guide individually.
- Give the rest to the captain (preferably in front of other crew members).
More here: What It’s Like to Cruise the Nile on a Traditional Dahabyia Boat
Want more? Get everything you need to plan your trip on my dedicated Egypt Page!
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