With popular tourist attractions like the Giza Pyramids and the endless activities like hot-air ballooning, desert safaris and scuba-diving, Egypt offers one of the best travel experiences for holidaymakers. This said, Egypt has an incredibly distinct culture and way of life and if you are traveling to the North African country, there are a few things you should know to help you make your trip more pleasant and memorable.
The national currency in Egypt is the Egyptian Pound (EGP). Egyptian banknotes come in denominations of 200, 100, 50, 10, 5 and 1 pound. Generally, using credit cards in Egypt is safer than carrying large amounts of cash. Credit cards are widely accepted in large hotels, restaurants and tourist shopping areas. However, you should bring sufficient EGP for immediate expenses like buying a meal at the airport or taking a cab to your hotel. You can also withdraw cash using your credit/debit card in ATMs located in bank branches, main tourist areas and other locations such as supermarkets, shopping malls and petrol stations. Before your trip, call your bank to find out about the charges of withdrawing money in Egypt.
To get the best deal when exchanging currency, avoid the airport kiosks. It’s better to exchange currency at banks. You can find branches of major banks in all large cities. Major Egyptian banks such as Commercial International Bank and Credit and Agricole Egypt offer retail services. HSBC also operates branches in cities like Cairo, Giza, Alexandria and Sharm El Sheikh. Banks are usually open from 9am to 2pm (Sunday to Thursday), though some branches remain open until 5pm.
Most nationalities require a visa to enter Egypt for travel. Nationals of countries such as UK, EU, Australia, New Zealand, all Arab countries and USA can apply the visa upon arrival at a fee of USD15 or equivalent in Egyptian pounds. It is best to check with the Egyptian embassy or consulate in your country whether a visa is required prior to entry. Nationals of UK, EU and USA who are travelling to resorts like Sharm El Sheikh, Taba, Dahab and Nuweiba for up to 14 days are visa exempted. If you intend to stay longer than 15 days or travel out of these areas, you must apply for a visa.
The easiest way to get to Egypt is by air. There are 10 international airports in Egypt, including Cairo, Sharm El-Sheikh, Hurghada, Luxor, Alexandria Borg el Arab, Alexandria Al-Nozha, Marsa Alam, Aswan International, Taba International and Abu-Simel.
Best time to visit Egypt
The busiest season is from October to April. During this period, there is lots of sunshine, little rain and average daytime temperature of 25 degrees. The summer months (from June to September) are the hottest and are considered off-peak. During the holy month of Ramadan – this year from the end of June until the end of July – most shops and restaurants operate on reduced hours.
The general rule when visiting Egypt is to remain respectful of local culture and conservative attitudes towards clothing, although the beach resorts such as Sharm El Sheikh are more relaxed. For women, it’s important to dress modestly, wearing long sleeves and trousers or skirts which fall below the knee. Particularly, when visiting places of worship, your shoulders to knees should be covered. Swimming wear is permitted on the beaches, in the swimming pools or when sailing.
Image by Mohannad Khatib.