Researching for a trip to Egypt is a beast, y’all. There is so much out there, and it’s super intimidating to sift through, not to mention try to plan all the logistics. Between the site permits (oh, you thought you could just walk up to the pyramids?), the flights, the Nile cruise schedules, and all the other details, it’s just too much, even for me. But there are a few insider tips I can give you to help you make your trip to Egypt as legit as possible. Here’s how to travel Egypt like a pro!
Have Small Bills for Tips
Tipping is not just a suggestion here, it’s part of the culture and economy. (And if you start researching a tour company that claims tipping is optional, that is not a good or ethical tour company). But you definitely don’t want to be throwing around the equivalent of $10, $20, or $50 in Egyptian pounds.
Keep small bills on-hand (check out the XE app for the most updated exchange rate) so you can tip everyone—and I mean everyone—accordingly. They will not have change for you. Small bills are best!
More here: Your Ultimate Guide to Tipping in Egypt
Remember that It’s Not Unsafe, It’s Uncomfortable
Travel is generally uncomfortable, right? So this is no big deal. My husband has an extreme fight-or-flight response to random people in third-world or developing countries rushing up to him and begging for money. It happened a lot in Morocco, and that’s one of several reasons that trip ended up being less than wonderful for us. But the interesting thing is, that’s not what generally happens in Egypt.
Egyptians don’t want a hand-out, they want to offer a service to earn a tip from you. Once you wrap your head around that difference, it gives you a new perspective, and prepares you for what will happen. You will be swarmed by helpful people and scammers. They won’t be asking for a hand-out, but they will be offering a service—or even giving you a service—even if you don’t want it! Just say no and be firm.
No one’s going to be slipping their hands into your wallet, but they will be wanting to earn your money. Just be prepared for that, and remember that it’s not unsafe, but it will likely be uncomfortable!
Read on: Why Egypt is a Safe Place to Visit (Even as a Woman!)
Be Prepared to Fly within Egypt
Unless you are a “road trip or no trip” kind of traveler, you’re going to need to fly between destinations in Egypt. Why? Flights are reasonably-priced, and they’ll save your valuable, limited time. Driving in Egypt is very different from driving in the United States or really almost any other country, so your trip will be far less stressful if you decide to fly instead of drive or hire a driver.
Here are some things to keep in mind when planning travel within Egypt:
- There are places where you are not allowed to drive yourself. Why? It’s not safe, the roads are not well-maintained, and distances are much longer than it seems on a map.
- The train between Cairo and Luxor is 10 hours, overnight, and not at all comfortable. The flight is only an hour, and there are multiple flights per day.
- The drive from Aswan to Abu Simbel is four hours each way. The flight is less than an hour. Driving costs less, but think about how much time you have, and how much your time is worth to you.
Keep reading: What to Pack for Two Weeks in Egypt in a Carry-on
Listen to the Egypt Travel Podcast
This is how you travel well in Egypt! I did so much research before booking our trip to Egypt, but I found so much conflicting information, so many seemingly sponsored posts, and so many unhelpful blog posts, reviews, and other resources. It was hard to know what was true, what was current, and what was good advice. I’m not a huge podcast listener, to be honest, but I was looking for something to listen to while folding laundry one day, and I found this one. Now I’m a loyal listener!
John, the host, has lived in and led tours in Egypt for nearly two decades, so he has all the best, most accurate, actually helpful information. The Egypt Travel Podcast complements his blog, and he runs the #1 Western-led tour company in Egypt, called Egypt Elite. My husband and I both listened to all the episodes before our trip, and I even took notes because there was so much specific information I knew I wanted to remember! Trust me when I say you need to listen to this podcast if you want to travel Egypt like a pro!
Essential info: The Most Important Things You Can’t Do in Egypt
Go with a Reputable, Ethical Company
As I mentioned above, I did a lot of research before we booked our trip to Egypt. I looked into several tour companies of multiple sizes, and I even worked with a travel agent to help me sort through more Egypt tour companies. But there were red flags with all of them. They all claimed that tipping was optional (many Egyptians in the tourism industry work solely on tips, no fee or other payment, so no, it’s not optional).
And that’s just scratching the surface. Because I didn’t know all the intricacies and geography of Egypt, having never been there before, there were some sites we wanted to see that I thought were included, until someone pointed out that they were not. As an example, Queen Hatshepsut’s Mortuary Temple in Luxor was really important for me to see, and I thought it was included because the Valley of the Queens was on our itinerary. I didn’t know that her temple is in the Valley of the KINGS! Who knew, right? Oh, and it’s a separate ticket—you don’t get in with your regular ticket to the Valley of the Kings. And that’s just one example.
It was really important to me to have a positive trip with as few unpleasant surprises as possible—really more for Steve than for me. I was so disappointed with the options I was finding, until I found the Egypt Travel Podcast and Egypt Elite travel company. No, this is not sponsored, and if you know me or have been reading the blog for long at all, I don’t recommend bad or inauthentic experiences.
Egypt Elite includes tipping in the price of their trips, they pay their people well, they use local guides in every city you visit with them. It was the only company I found that gave me a sense of ease and did not set off red alarms in my travel-savvy mind. Go with a reputable company, and make it Egypt Elite!
Read next: Why We Chose to Travel to Egypt with Egypt Elite
Need more? Get everything and more on my dedicated Egypt Page!
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