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How to Plan Your Egypt Travel Experience

Egypt Travel Sphinx
The Sphinx, Giza

Traveling to Egypt is a journey through time. You explore 6,000 years of history through monumental relics from the ancient past – tombs, pyramids, soaring Pharaonic temples and an ancient civilization that flourished in the great Nile River valley.

Egypt is a diverse country with great distances to cover and plenty of places to see. Most attractions are concentrated around Cairo, Luxor, and Aswan in Upper Egypt; and Sharm el Sheikh and Hurghada near the Red Sea. Do your homework and plan your trip well to make the most of your Egypt holiday.

When to go

Winter (December to February) is the best time to visit this hot country. However, if you want to travel on a budget, you can visit during shoulder seasons in autumn or spring. The religious fasting month of Ramadan is best avoided, as restaurants and many public places will most likely be closed.

Before you go

To make the most of this vast country, run through this checklist.

Visa – Although you need a visa to enter Egypt, visa-on-arrival is available for countries like the U.S. and U.K. Canadians can avail of e-visa, within 60 days of date of trip. Check this list to see if your country is eligible for en e-visa. All visa related details are available here.

Vaccinations – Generally, if you stay in safe areas, adopt healthy practices and take care not to have contaminated food or water; you will be okay. However, typhoid, cholera and Hepatitis vaccinations make for good travel sense.  Check out the list of recommended vaccines for Egypt.

Plan your itinerary – The World Heritage sites of Egypt must have been in your bucket list for long. If you plan your itinerary well you can cover most of the sites in a short span. For instance, focus on Cairo as most of the famous tourist sites are in and around Cairo. Go further to Luxor or Aswan if you have more time.

There is more to Egypt than tombs, pyramids and museums. So if you suffer from historical ennui, head out to the resorts along the Red Sea; to Sharm el Sheikh, Marsa Alam, Safaga or El Gouna for water sports, diving and snorkelling.

Clothing – Egypt is a hot country, and what you pack depends upon the locations you plan to visit and the season of travel. Even in winter, temperatures are fairly moderate. Pack light, loose and comfortable cotton or linen clothes to ward off the heat. Pack a hat, sunscreen, sun glasses, insect repellent creams and comfortable, sturdy walking shoes.

As Egypt is a Muslim country, dressing conservatively is recommended. Long pants or full dress take care of both, the local sensitivities and protection from the hot sun. Pack some formal evening wear, as it is quite the norm to dress up to dine or go out.

DIY or organised – If you can read a little about the history of Egypt, grab a good guide book and look up reliable internet resources, there is no reason why you cannot do Egypt on your own. It gives you the flexibility and saves on your travel budget. However, you must be prepared to haggle with service providers, and get yourself a guide at the museums. Buy a “Cairo Pass” permit for all the sites in Cairo and Giza, and you are all set to go.

However, if you want to insulate yourself from all the hassles and take it easy, you can always avail of a package tour. The services of a guide are certainly an advantage.

What you need to know

  • Ask around, check out online travel forums, and be aware. As Egypt is a predominantly a tourist destination, tourist hoodwinks are plenty. So you need to be on guard.
  • The local taxis will usually over-charge tourists. Be ready to haggle or get yourself a car and driver for the day through your hotel.
  • Do not fall for local tourist operator advice at Giza. The distance from the taxi entrance to the pyramids and sphinx is a short walk, and not worth the painful camel rides local operators may try to push you into talking.
  • Luxor and Aswan are easily accessible from Cairo by internal flights on EgyptAir. You can log in to the website for the best prices.
  • Hotel and restaurants add a service charge between 10% and 15% as well as value-added tax (VAT) and municipal taxes. Which means you will ultimately be paying about 25% higher than the printed cost.
  • Carry local change and small currency to tip and make the smaller payments.
  • Taking photographs of bridges and canals, including the Suez Canal, military personnel, buildings and equipment is illegal.
  • Possession of illicit drugs is liable to deportation, a prison sentence, or the death penalty.
  • Egyptian culture has its roots in an ancient civilisation. So learn about the local traditions and customs, and display respect. Adhere to the local laws.
  • Women and men should ideally cover their shoulders and upper arms with skirt/pants below the knees.
  • When you shop for souvenirs, make sure you are not short-changed. The papyrus scroll makes a good takeaway, but be aware these are only modern replicas.
Egypt Travel art
Papyrus scroll

Places to visit

Cairo is the capital of Egypt and the starting point of your Egypt holiday. The legendary sites of the Pyramids and Sphinx at Giza are just outside the city. Must-dos at Cairo are the Egyptian Museum of Tahrir Square, the Al-Azhar Mosque, Sultan Hassan Mosque, the Khan el-Khalili  bazaar, and a climb of the Bab Zuweila Cairo gate for splendid rooftop views. Take the Cairo Metro to Mar Girgis station to visit Coptic Museum, the Hanging Church, the Church of St. Sergius and Bacchus at the ancient sites of Babylon. Visit the Nile island of Gezira for the Museum of Modern Egyptian Art, the Palace of Arts, and a trip to the observation deck of the 87-meter-high Cairo Tower.  Cairo is also a popular point of taking the famous Nile River cruise.

Aswan boasts of the temples of Philae and Kabashaand, and the temples of Kom Ombo and Edfu on the way to Luxor.

Egypt Travel stone temple Ramses II
Temple of Ramses II, Abu Simel

Luxor has plenty of attractions – the Valley of the Kings, Karnak Temple, the Memorial Temple of Hatshepsut, and scores of temples and tombs along the West Bank of the Nile. Abu Simbel is a top Egypt tourist destination, for the famous Sun Temple of Ramses II carved out of the mountainside.

Read more about traveling to Egypt!