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Egypt Travel Advice

Egypt is generally a safe country for travel and Egyptians are friendly and helpful and are usually happy to assist foreign visitors. The most typical greeting between Egyptians is "as-salamualaykum” (peace be upon you), the response to which is “wa-alaykum as-salam” (peace be upon you).

Arabic is the official language of Egypt, while English is widely spoken in major cities, especially in tourist areas.

Trains connect most urban centers in Egypt with frequent service. Tickets should be purchased in advance to ensure a place. First class tickets are relatively cheap, and second class is reasonably comfortable for the low cost. Several companies run an extensive inter-city bus network. Bus passengers should be aware that there have been several deadly bus crashes in recent years and should stick to the major bus companies, which adhere more closely to safety regulations.

Egypt is known for its dangerous traffic and lack of traffic rule enforcement. Accidents rates are high and motorists should exercise caution and be aware of the often unpredictable actions of fellow motorists.

Taxis are relatively cheap and a convenient means of transportation. Some taxis have meters while others require negotiating the price. Negotiate the price and determine the destination before entering the vehicle.

Foreign currencies can be exchanged at exchange offices or banks, and street moneychangers should be avoided. High-end hotels often accept euros and dollars. ATMs are widespread in the cities and offer the best rates, since there are many foreign bank branches in Egypt.

Credit cards are usually accepted at bigger hotels and restaurants in the capital and at establishments in tourist areas.

Most Egyptian workers expect a tip after providing a service, even for the smallest tasks. Such tips usually range from 50pt to 1 LE. In high-end restaurants a service charge is usually included in the bill, but a 5-10% additional tip is common. In taxis, passengers should tip 10% of the metered fare, but no tip is required if the price is negotiated. This source of income is important for many Egyptians. Tips are especially requested in tourist areas.

Malls, Western stores and restaurants, and traditional souks make up the vibrant shopping scene in Egypt. When shopping in markets, haggling is a must.

Travelers should be aware that during the month of Ramadan, which varies based on the Islamic calendar, the daily routine of the country changes drastically and life slows down to a crawl. Because this is a month of fasting, many businesses, especially restaurants, are closed during the day.

Hygiene in eating establishments often does not meet Western standards, and customers should exercise caution and bring appropriate medications.

Egypt has an extremely dry climate and temperatures during the summer month can prove a challenge for travelers. Make sure to drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Tap water will often make foreign travelers sick, but bottled water is widely available. Be sure to wear sunscreen, and a hat and sunglasses will prove useful as well.

Swimming in the Nile or other waterways should be avoided, as it could expose you to the schistosomiasis parasite. The flatworm can cause fever, diarrhea, abdominal pain and fatigue and requires medical treatment.

Politics and religion are sensitive topics in Egypt and are best avoided, especially the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Egyptians are a religious people and expect respect for their faith.

Alcohol is widely available, especially in tourist areas. However, excessive drinking and public drunkenness is not tolerated in this conservative, Muslim-majority country.

Egyptians dress conservatively, but are not surprised to see Westerners dressed less modestly. However, foreign travelers should be respectful of Egyptian culture in their own dress and choose modest outfits. Skimpier dress is more acceptable during the summer in tourist areas, especially outdoor areas. Women especially should dress modestly to avoid unwanted attention or comments. Sexual harassment is a widespread problem in Egypt in general.

Violent crime is rare in Egypt, but pickpockets and thieves do target foreign tourists and travelers are advised to be cautious with the personal belonging and wallets. Scams and fraud are a major concern for travelers in Egypt. Beware of being befriended by friendly individuals who may show you around the city and may even invite you to their home, only to forcefully demand that you pay them for their “hospitality” in the end.

Terrorism is a concern for travelers as terrorist groups have frequently targeted venues frequented by Westerners. Violence is particularly a concern now, following the popular uprising in January and February 2011 that toppled the president. Religious tensions have also escalated. However, the chances of being affected by terrorism are unlikely and the majority of Egyptians are perfectly accepting of Westerners. There is a strong security presence at all major tourist sites. Security checkpoints will be encounter on some roads, such as from Cairo to Alexandria and in desert areas and you may be escorted by tourism police.