PRACTICAL INFORMATION ABOUT EGYPT
Home to the last remaining of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Ancient World’ Egypt is a tourism destination that needs little introduction. From the Pyramids at Giza and the ancient civilisations of Karnak and Luxor to modern-day luxuries on the shores of the Red Sea, this is one country that truly does offer something for everyone.
Labelled as the world’s largest open-air museum, Egypt is a history story waiting to be told. Visitors can walk in the footsteps of the god-like Pharaohs, follow Napoleon’s march across the desert, visit the haunting battlefields of Alamein or kick back and relax on the golden sands of Sharm El Sheikh.
Egypt is a country rich in archaeological discoveries, cultural experiences, natural beauty, diverse shopping options and luxurious spas, so whatever you are looking for from your visit Egypt has it.
Location: Northern Africa, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Libya and the Gaza Strip, and the Red Sea north of Sudan, including the Asian Sinai Peninsula
Geographic coordinates: 27 00 N, 30 00 E
Total: 1,001,450 sq km
Land: 995,450 sq km
Water: 6,000 sq km
Passports and Visas: All visitors must have visas and passports valid for six months. Visas can be arranged through Egyptian embassies worldwide and they can also be authorized at airports of entry. Visitors must register with tourist police within 7 days of arrival. Hotels take care of this service upon check-in. Visitors from the US, Canada, EU and GCC countries may be able to purchase a visa stamp upon arrival at many large airports. One-month visitor's visas can be extended.
Health regulations: Vaccinations may be required against yellow fever if arriving within 6 days after leaving or transiting infected areas. Children under one year old are exempt. Persons without a valid yellow fever certificated - if required as above - are subject to quarantine. Other vaccinations may also be required or recommended. Please check with the nearest travel medical clinic in your home country before making your travel plans. Bilharzia (schistosomiasis) is present in the Nile Delta and the Nile Valley. Avoid swimming and paddling in fresh water. Swimming pools that are well chlorinated and maintained are safe. Filariasis may occur in the Nile Delta. Precautions against hepatitis A and E and diphtheria should be considered.
Language: The official language is Arabic, however, English and French are widely spoken
Time: GMT/UTC + 2 (GMT + 3 from May to September)
BUSINESS HOURS: Banks are usually open from 8:30 AM to 1:00 PM every day except Friday and Saturday. Stores are usually open from 10:00 AM to 2:30 PM and 4:30 PM to 12:00 PM. Businesses close on Fridays and many on Saturdays. Some shops close on Sundays.
January 7 - Coptic Christmas
January 25 - Police Day
April 25 - Liberation of Sinai Day
May 1 - Labour Day
July 23 - Anniversary of the 1952 Revolution
October 6 - Armed Forces Day
Currency: Egyptian Pound (E£) = 100 piasters. Well-known brands of Travellers Cheques will be honoured everywhere, although having Travellers Cheques in US dollars, UK pounds or in EUROS will prove the most hassle-free. American Express, Visa, MasterCard, JCB and Eurocards are accepted at various stores and hotels displaying the appropriate signage. Visa and MasterCard can be used to obtain cash advances at Banque Misr and Bank of Egypt branches.
ATMs: It’s possible to travel in Egypt now relying solely on plastic as ATMs are becoming more and more widespread. Tourist-friendly cities such as Cairo, Alexandria, Luxor, Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada are saturated with cash dispensers, and you’ll also find them in Alexandria, Dahab, Nuweiba and Aswan. However, if you are travelling between Cairo and Luxor, or out in the oasis, make sure to take cash as ATMs are limited.
Credit cards: Amex, Visa, MasterCard and Diners Club are all welcome in Egypt. However, if you are shopping in local souqs or visiting local restaurants or hotels there might not be a credit card facility and cash is strongly recommended. In many places you will be charged a percentage of the sale (anywhere between 3% and 10%) to use your credit card.
Visa and MasterCard can be used for cash advances at Banque Misr and the National Bank of Egypt, as well as at Thomas Cook offices.
To report lost cards in Egypt, call Amex (02-870 3152); MasterCard (02-797 1179, 796 2844); Visa (02-796 2877, 797 1149); or Diners Club (02-578 3355).
Currency Exchange: International currencies can be exchanged for Egyptian Pounds at Amex and Thomas Cook offices, as well as commercial banks, foreign exchange (forex) bureaus and some hotels. Rates don’t tend to vary much, especially for the US dollar, but generally forex bureaus offer better rates than banks.
It is also possible to have money wired to you from home through Amex. This service operates through most Amex branches, and can be used by anyone, regardless of whether you have an Amex card or not. The charge is about US$80 per US$1000, payable in the country from which the money is sent.
Electricity: 220V, 50 Hz
Telephone: Full IDD is available. Country Code: 20. Outgoing International Code: 00.
Internet: Most major hotels offer Internet facilities with many having a Business Centre. WIFI is available in some locations but is not widespread. Internet cafes can also be found in all major cities.
Drinking water: Drinking water in Egypt is safe. But it is recommended to use mineral water wherever possible.
Alcohol: Alcohol is served in most hotels, restaurants and local bars. Egypt produces good quality beers such as Stella and Sakkara, and good white and red wines, such as Omar Khayam and Obelisque, which come from the delta. International brands are also available.
Weights & measures: Metric
Climate: Egypt benefits from year round sunshine although some areas are best avoided in mid summer and others become very cool in winter. Upper Egypt and Luxor can get uncomfortable hot in mid summer and is best avoided in July and August. Summer is traditionally high season at the Mediterranean coast at Alexandria, as the weather is very good with long sunny days. Winter in Cairo can be quite cool. In the desert expect sand storms in March and April.
Clothing: Egypt is a Muslim country and therefore visitors are advised to dress conservatively. Women should cover their shoulders and upper arms, especially when visiting mosques or churches. Loose cotton clothing is recommended in summer, and comfortable walking shoes are essential for sightseeing.
Tipping: “Baksheesh” is the Arabic word for tips that can be solicited from outsiders. Even if a service charge is included tipping is expected and appreciated. It is not a rule but an international custom and 15-20% added to the total bill is generally recommended.
Taxes and charges: A service charge of 12% applies in restaurants and hotels, and a sales tax of 5-7% is also levied. Additionally, you might find yourself paying a further 1-4% tax on upper-end accommodation, so it is possible to find that a 23% tax has been added to the price you've been quoted for a mid-range or top-end hotel room.
Bargaining is a part of life in Egypt and virtually everything is open to negotiation. This includes your room for the night, your lunchtime roadside snack and the felucca you ride down the Nile in. There are a few rules to observe in the bazaars: never offer a price that you're not prepared to pay, get a feel for the real price before you begin haggling, take your time and enjoy the friendly sport of it (which might include a cup of tea from the vendor), and remember that you're never obliged to buy anything - you won't offend anyone.
Photography: Egypt is the perfect place for enthusiastic photographers. However, photography is strictly prohibited at military installations public works and government buildings. Some museums and historical sites may not allow photography while others may require a fee. It is also bad manners to take photos of Muslim women.
Transportation: Public transport options in Egypt are varied and include buses, trains and boats, even camels, donkeys and horses! Buses service virtually every town in Egypt while 5,000 kms of train track links just about every town in the country from Aswan to Alexandria. You can also hire service taxis, which shunt carloads of passengers between towns and cities. Internal flights are another option if looking to travel between the main cities.