Five Things First Time Travellers To Egypt Should Know
- There's a service charge that's added at most upmarket hotels and restaurants. Expect to pay anywhere between 10% to 15% extra before VAT and municipal taxes. As a result, a good rule of thumb is to add 25% on top of the price quoted to get the total cost.
- Keep coins on you. Egypt has a tipping culture that far exceeds the hospitality industry. You'll need to tip people for all kinds of reasons throughout the day, even to get entry into a public bathroom.
- You need to know how to haggle. Everything is negotiable in Egypt, and it's expected from anyone. In fact, you can even haggle the price down for bottled water at the corner store.
- Bring your own toilet paper. Most public bathrooms don't have their own, or you'll have to buy some sheets from a person nearby. To avoid spending unnecessary money, keep a roll in your bag.
- You can drink the tap water, but you may want to avoid it. The water is heavily chlorinated in Egypt, which usually causes upset stomachs. Instead, stick to bottled water, it's cheap and available everywhere.
Best Time To Visit Egypt
The best time to visit Egypt is from October to April. These fall and winter months usher in cooler weather, making sightseeing in the desert a lot more bearable.
But the favourable weather conditions mean it's high season in Egypt. Popular attractions like the Pyramids of Giza and the Temples of Luxor are full of people, and resorts near the Red Sea are at their most expensive.
If keeping costs to a minimum is a priority, the best time to visit Egypt is during its shoulder season. From June to September you'll find cheaper tours, flights and hotel rates but you'll have to deal with the sweltering heat. It can make sightseeing difficult, but the coastal resorts are a welcomed respite.
With many of the country's ancient sights located in the desert, you need to plan your sightseeing carefully. If you're visiting in the summer months, avoid touring attractions in the midday heat. Instead wake up early, or go in the late afternoon, when exploring airless tombs is more comfortable.
An important holiday to keep in mind when travelling to Egypt is Ramadan. During the holy month of fasting, shops and banks close for most of the day and many restaurants only open in the evenings. It can be a bit of a dull time to visit unless you plan your trip for the end of Ramadan when there are plenty of festivities to experience.
Located near the ancient city of Memphis, a visit to Egypt would be incomplete without exploring Cairo.
It's ideally situated for cruises up the Nile and to explore the country's most popular attraction, the Pyramids of Giza.
In the city's Tahrir Square, you'll find the renowned Egyptian Museum. It houses rare artefacts from ancient Egypt, including the treasure of Tutankhamun.
But that's not all this bustling metropolis has to offer. Historic Cairo is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and includes beautiful mosques, ancient mausoleums and buzzing markets.
Located on the banks of the Mediterranean sea, lies one of Egypt's oldest cities. Founded in 331 BC by Alexander the Great, it's full of historic sites from the city's glory days.
Considered the centre of Greek civilisation, Alexandria was once the home of the Pharos Lighthouse. Upon its completion, it was the tallest building in the world, but today only ruins remain.
Other notable attractions include the pristine Maamoura Beach, the Montaza and Ras el-Tin palaces and the Bibliotheca Alexandrina.
Luxor is a city that is dominated by incredible ruins and temples. It was once the ancient city of Thebes, the New Kingdom that arose after power shifted in Egypt.
For history buffs, it's one of the best places to visit in the country. It boasts the finest open-air museum in the world, full of relics from the Pharaonic Age.
Its highlights include the temples of Karnak, the ancient royal tombs and the spectacular desert scenery that frames the city.
Top Attractions in Egypt
Pyramids of Giza
The Pyramids of Giza are the last surviving Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Built by Pharaohs Khufu and Menkaure around 2550 BC, their sheer size has awed travellers and archaeologists through the ages.
The pyramids were used as tombs for the Pharaohs and were strategically placed along the west bank of the Nile. Inside, you'll find a maze of passageways, designed to protect the treasures that lay within as well as the Mummies.
Plan your trip for the early morning, not only to avoid the intense sun but the main pyramid has a daily quota. Only 150 people are allowed in each day, and you don't want to be turned away.
Abu Simbel is the Sun temple of King Ramses II. It's guarded by four megalithic statues of the pharaoh and is full of opulent wall paintings.
Ramses designed the entire building so that the sun's rays would align twice a year, on the date of his ascension and his birthday. However, the temple was famously moved during the 1960s to stop the erosion from Lake Nasser. As a result, the sun strikes a day later but is still a beautiful sight to withhold.
Make sure you don't miss the mural reliefs in the Hypostyle Hall. They depict the King's campaign against the Hittites in the Battle of Kadesh.
The Egyptian Museum is a treasure trove of ancient Egypt. It's considered one of the world's greatest museum collections.
Built in the late 1800's, it opened its doors in 1902 and has been wowing visitors ever since with its dazzling amount of exhibits. Inside you'll find more than 100,000 objects including King Tutankhamen's death mask and the mummy rooms.
Due to the museum having minimal labelling, hiring a guide is not a bad idea if you want to know more about Egypt's history. If you wish to avoid the tour groups, avoid the hours of 9:00 a.m. and noon when most visit.
The Valley of the Kings
Located in 4,000-year-old Luxor, the Valley of the Kings is one of Egypt's most important historical sites.
It's home to elaborately decorated tombs that were used to enclose the pharaohs awaiting their passage to the afterlife. Some of ancient Egypt's most famous sarcophagi were discovered here including Ramses II, Amenhotep II and King Tutankhamen. But there are a number of tombs that have been found unoccupied, which only adds to the mystery of ancient Egypt.
One of the site's most interesting features is its ancient graffiti. There are over 2,100 examples dating as far back as 278 BC. The graffiti proves that the Valley was a popular attraction even in the Roman era.
The Temples of Abydos
Located in the ancient city of Abydos, there wouldn't be much to see if it wasn't for the temple. It became the epicentre of the cult of Osiris and an important burial site for the kings of Egypt.
The walls and columns of the buildings are full of beautiful hieroglyphics and paintings, showing off the artistry of the period.
But the best part about visiting the temples is the lack of crowds. Despite its archaeological importance, it still receives fewer visitors than the Pyramids of Giza.
Located only 162 km from Luxor, the temples of Abydos make a fascinating day trip and glimpse into Egypt's past.
Major International Airports in Egypt
- Cairo International Airport
- Hurghada International Airport
- Sharm el-Sheikh International Airport
- Luxor International Airport
- Marsa Alam International Airport