Frequently Asked Questions
Is Egypt safe to visit?
Egypt is very safe place to visit and the police and army are in prominence wherever you go, giving you a feel of being in secure surroundings. Egypt prides itself on its high safety record for tourists and will do all it can to maintain this.
How do I get my tourist visa?
Usually you need to apply to your local Egyptian Embassy or Consulate General for a pre-entry tourist visa but if you are from North America, Western Europe, Australia/New Zealand, Brazil/Argentina or Hong Kong/Japan/Macau/Malaysia or Singapore you can get your tourist visa upon arrival in Egypt.
How do I get my tourist visa if I live in a different country to that of my passport?
If you hold a residence permit in the country you live in you can apply to the Egyptian Embassy/Consulate General in that country, otherwise you have to apply to the country that issued your passport.
I am staying in a resort in Sinai; can I visit Cairo or Luxor?
Though many nationalities are exempted from requiring a visa for the many Sinai resorts, a full tourist visa is required if you come to any place in Egypt that lies to the west of the Red Sea/Suez Canal.
I am staying in a resort in Hurghada; can I visit Cairo or Luxor?
Though many nationalities are exempted from requiring a visa for staying in Hurghada, once you leave the confines of the town a full tourist visa is required.
I am going to visit Jordan and/or Israel; will I require a visa when coming back to Egypt?
Yes, as soon as you leave Egypt your visa will be stamped and so you will require another one. If you are from a country that can get their visa upon arrival in Egypt, you can get the new one when you re-enter the country, but if you require a pre-entry visa you should apply for 2 of these, using the second one when you re-enter Egypt.
Can my tourist visa be extended to more than one month?
A tourist visa can be extended if required. To do this you have to apply to Mogamma, El Tahrir Square, or to the equivalent offices in Alexandria, Luxor or Sharm El-Sheikh
What is the difference between a 5* and a 5* deluxe hotel/cruise?
The star ratings get higher as the facilities and overall standard of the accommodation gets better and so it is easier to imagine 5 star deluxe (or any suffix added to 5 star) as being 6 star; something that those who fix the star ratings seem feared to utilize.
Why am I being advised to stay in a hotel close to the Pyramids rather than in downtown?
If you are only in Cairo for a few days, it is a lot easier for you to see the sites starting from a base in Giza. The traffic from downtown to the pyramids can cause the journey to take over an hour, which means an early start if you want a full day’s experience, especially if you require to enter the Great Pyramid, when you have to be at the plateau before 0800. If you are in Cairo for a while, the hotels at the Pyramids are all on a resort basis, built in acres of land with outdoor swimming pools and relaxing areas, something which Downtown hotels cannot really provide. This is why you tend to find that the Downtown hotels are built like towers. Very tall and narrow, while Giza Pyramid hotels are limited in height, but cover more ground.
Cost also comes into the equation as a simple 4* hotel in the Downtown area is more than often a lot dearer than a 5* resort in the Pyramids area. Cairo is like most major cities in the world in this regard as city center property is a lot more expensive. Though it may appear that Downtown hotels do afford the luxury of being able to wander around the area for shopping and restaurants, etc, most of the Pyramid hotels offer free shuttle buses to allow you to do the same, plus taxis are not expensive and will still work out cheaper in the end.
What are the differences between bed and breakfast, half board, full board and all inclusive?
Bed and breakfast means that only breakfast is supplied.
Half board means that breakfast and dinner are supplied.
Full board has all meals supplied (breakfast, lunch and dinner)
All inclusive, means that all meals and drinks are supplied; some hotels also supply alcohol. This last point should be checked when making the booking.
Do I have to stay in my hotel after the day’s tour ends?
No, definitely not, and we would encourage you to go out and enjoy the culture of Egypt. Many packages are full board, which tends to make people think they have to stay imprisoned in their hotel, but the sights and sounds of Cairo, especially, are too great to be missed. Why stay in the same hotel, with the same faces, when you could go out and have your dinner on a cruise boat sailing around Zamalek Island, accompanied by either a belly dancer or a Whirling Dervish; or sometimes both. This is your holiday, so enjoy every minute and get out and explore.
I have some expensive items which I do not want to leave lying in my room/cabin, what should I do?
All hotels and cruises have safety deposit boxes, sometimes even in your room/cabin. All you need to do is ask at the reception and they will give you instructions on how to use them, or will safely put away your valuables until you need them.
Where is the main bus depot in Cairo?
The main bus depot is called Cairo Gateway (El Torgoman) bus station and is situated just off the city center. Any taxi will be able to take you there.
Where do I get the bus in Luxor?
The bus station in Luxor is situated behind Luxor Temple.
Where do I get the bus in Hurghada?
The bus station is situated in Hurghada town center.
Where do I get the bus in Sharm El-Sheikh?
The bus station is on the outskirts of the town on Freedom Road. You will require a taxi to get there, though many hotels do have shuttle buses which can do this.
Can I get tickets for the sleeper train service online and if not, how do I order them?
There is no online facility for this but you can order them by telephone. Call “El Watania” on +20225749474 or +20225749274, or fax them on +20225749074. You will be given a booking reference and you can pay and pick the tickets up at Cairo station at least 24 hours before departure.
How do I get from Hurghada to Aswan?
Many travel books mention the road and bus service between these two towns, but this is not advised for tourists and buses will often refuse admittance. The advised route is to get the bus to Luxor and then the train to Aswan.
Can tourists use the Cairo/Luxor or Luxor/Cairo bus service?
Though these buses are air-conditioned and are good to use, tourists are advised not to and will be very lucky to either obtain a ticket or even be allowed to board the bus. This journey, for tourists, is restricted to trains or flight.
Can I just turn up at the bus station and buy a ticket?
You can, but you are advised to get your tickets at least 24 hours before travel, if possible. If you wait until the last minute you may find that you cannot get seats that are next to one another, or they may even be at separate ends of the bus. Not a good idea if you have children with you.
Can I hire a car in Cairo?
Car hire is available and many of the world’s major car hire companies are available in Cairo. Car hire is NOT advised for those who have not been to Egypt before and therefore do not understand the laws of driving implemented in Egypt.
Is it safe to drive in Egypt?
Unless you are used to the way that Egyptians drive, it is not advised to attempt this. Lane etiquette is unknown, cars will cut across you to make a turn, and the use of lights during the night is very seldom done. Though some road signs are in English and Arabic, the majority are in Arabic alone and there are simply not any good road maps, especially town ones.
I am on a tight budget so to save money is it okay to hitchhike between towns?
NO!! If you were to do this, you could find yourself paying more for the ride than the fare by bus/train would have been.
Can I hire a bicycle to visit the West Bank at Luxor?
Yes, there are many places that will allow this but before you do so please remember a couple of very important things:
As the day progresses so does the heat, so by the early afternoon it can be exceedingly uncomfortable. Do you really want to be cycling for miles in this, with very little chance of shade? This is especially important for children, who will be very exhausted as the day progresses because of the heat.
There are no cycle lanes and so you are sharing the roads with all other forms of vehicular traffic, which is not the best thing to experience. Many cyclists have been injured because of other road users not noticing them.
Can I get to Egypt by Ferry Boat from Europe?
Unfortunately, the links between Alexandria (and Port Said) and other Mediterranean ports are not available right now due to the ongoing problems in Palestine and Israel. It is hoped that these will be resumed in the near future. Commercial ferries are available, some of which carry passengers, but you would need to contact the relevant port authority for information on these.
How do I get to Abu Simbel?
Abu Simbel can be reached by flight, which is the easiest and most convenient method taking about 4 hours for the round trip and visit, or, there are 2 police controlled bus convoys that leave Aswan at 0400 and 1130 that take about 9 hours for the round trip and visit.
Can I get to Esna or Kom Ombo without having to get a cruise?
You can visit either of these sites by taking the train, getting off at the relevant station and then getting a taxi, or by hiring a taxi or private driven car to take you to them (from Luxor or Aswan).
Can I get a cruise from Cairo to Luxor/Aswan?
Though movies like “Death on the Nile” show people using this cruise, it has not been possible to cover this route since the late 1990’s. Flight or train are the only ways to get from Cairo to Luxor or Aswan nowadays.
Can I go inside the Great Pyramid of Khufu (Cheops)?
Yes, but ticket sales for this are restricted to 300 people per day; 150 at 0800 and the other 150 at 0300. Tickets for this can only be bought at the main entrance, not the entrance close to the Sphinx. As tickets are sold on a first come basis first served basis, so it is advised to get to the office as soon as possible as buses will arrive at opening times and they tend to get the majority of the tickets. If you can spare the time, try for the tickets in the morning, and if you are not successful you can be first in line for the afternoon tickets.
Can I go inside the Pyramids of Khafre (Chephren) and/or Menkaure (Mycerinus)?
There is no restriction on these sales but only one of them is open at a time. The timings change to allow them to breathe, dispersing the high levels of carbon dioxide levels that tend to accumulate inside. Tickets are available at the main entrance to the site.
Can I take photographs inside the tombs?
No, photography inside tombs, including the pyramids and Abu Simbel. It is strictly forbidden thus, all cameras are banned from the Valley of the Kings (you have to leave all cameras at the x-ray point at the second entrance). Excessive flash damages the paintwork inside the tombs and so, because of people who ignore these rules, draconian measures have been implemented to safeguard these ancient works of art. The simple rule of thumb when visiting sites is: no cameras inside, cameras are okay outside.
I notice that the same sites seem to be repeated in every package tour program I see, are these the only sites available for tourists to see?
Though most companies will use the same sites for their packages, this is mainly because the majority of visitors are experiencing Egypt for the first time and so these are the “must see” sites. Egypt has literally hundreds of ancient sites which can be visited and it only takes a request for them to be explored.
Do I need to take anti-malaria tablets/injections?
NO!! Malaria has not been in Egypt for well over 85 years and there is no need for any type of anti-malaria medication. To be honest, it is quite observed that any type of anti-malaria medication can actually cause side effects that will simply ruin your holiday. Just because Egypt is in Africa does not mean malaria is here as well.
Can I bring prescribed medication with me?
Yes, but please ensure that you only bring enough for your stay, with just a few days’ extra supply as a back- up. It would also helpful, if you could bring with you the prescription as well, as a proof, or for topping up (there are many pharmacies in Egypt that can do this for you). If it happens to be traveling onwards from Egypt and have a lot more of your prescribed medicine with you, please ensure that you do have the prescription as proof.
Is it safe to drink water in Egypt?
Yes, but it is not recommended! Egyptian water has a high chlorine level in it which can upset the microbes in your stomach, causing diarrhea. For drinking purposes, it is far safer to stick with bottled mineral water, ensuring the seal is intact before drinking it.
Is it safe to brush my teeth with tap water?
Egyptian water is highly chlorinated, not poisonous, and so it is perfectly safe to do this. You often swallow small amounts of water whilst in the shower, or swimming, and this causes no problems, so why should cleaning your teeth be a problem?
How should I dress for entering a mosque (male)?
Protocol does ask for men to wear long trousers as opposed to shorts, though Egyptians are used to the latter being worn and so say nothing, or little, if it occurs.
How should I dress for entering a mosque (female)?
Protocol does ask women to cover bare skin as much as possible and so shoulders, especially, should be covered and a simple scarf will suffice. Again, it is advised to wear long trousers, or skirts, as legs should also be covered. Heads do not need to be covered, despite what some tourist books say, though it is a sign of respect if you do this.
What clothes should I wear on the cruise?
You may wear whatever you like onboard the cruise but you are asked to dress formal for dinner. Casual but neat is acceptable, you do not have to dress formally. Swimwear is not acceptable.
What clothes should I wear walking around towns?
When walking around the towns, dress as you would for a hot summer’s day back home. Shorts and t-shirts are actually worn by many locals.
What clothes should I wear when visiting sites?
This really depends on which site you are visiting and at what time of the day. Some offer little shade and so you should ensure that you do not have too much skin available for the sun to burn (the Giza Pyramids, in the afternoon, is a prime example of this). Temples are well shaded so you do not have to cover so much, but remember that even though they are shaded well, tombs tend to accumulate the heat from the sun as well as the many visitors, so try to wear something lightweight in them, especially cotton fabrics. Though many people like to wear open toed sandals, please note that many of the floors are exceedingly unlevel and so it can be easy to stub your toes. Ladies, please do not wear high heels; not only they can be easily broken, but also, they can become trapped between the large stones in flooring, and you will also find you will tend to slip and slide on the stone. High heels and sand are not the best partners either as the heels will sink in (you may laugh, but many ladies do insist in wearing high heels).
Is it safe for women to travel alone?
Many women travel alone and have found that they are safe. The police, tourist police and army are always close by and the Egyptians themselves are generally safe and will try to protect solo travelers. In general, it is less safe for a solo female traveler in Egypt than places like Greece, Italy or Spain.
Although the chances of being confronted are almost negligible, please ensure that you take the same precautions that you would do anywhere else and do not be tempted to walk in deserted areas alone: get a taxi back to your abode! You may receive some invitations, which on the whole are innocent, yet do not accept any of these from strangers.
Do women have to cover arms/shoulders/legs when walking around the cities/towns?
This is a tourist book fallacy. Women walking around these towns can do so as if they were walking around their home towns in the summer. You will be amazed at how many of the local women dress like this as well, looking more like tourists than Egyptian.
Can I use my credit/debit cards easily?
Yes, most places accept these nowadays, including all decent hotels and cruises. You are advised to carry cash when shopping in the many street markets (souks) though the larger malls, and street shops, can accept plastic.
Are there plenty of ATM’s?
Almost every bank has an ATM outside it, or just inside the front doors, and you will normally find that they are guarded by a policeman. Many shopping malls have its own ATM’s stand and you can also find them located along a busy pavement (sidewalk), or where two busy pavements meet. Airports and railway stations also have ATM’s the same the offices of big tour companies.
What voltage does Egypt have and what kind of plugs?
Egypt has a voltage supply of 220V and the plugs are the 2-round pin type that are common throughout Europe (except the UK).
Can you purchase alcohol in Egypt?
Yes, alcohol is available in Egypt, either in the classy hotels, higher class restaurants and cafes, pubs, and beer gardens. You will also find license as well. Nevertheless, please note that it is illegal to drink alcohol in the streets in Egypt, so do not walk around with a can of your favourite tipple.
Are there restrictions about bringing alcohol into the country?
Yes, you are only allowed to bring in 2 liters with you.
What is the legal drinking age in Egypt?
The legal drinking age is 21.
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