Egypt is a country that connects northeast Africa with the Middle East and dates back five thousand years to the time of the pharaohs. Today it’s rich history is captured in the form of the enchanting pyramids and surreal landscapes. The pleasant, albeit hot, climate and luxury holiday resorts along the coast make this country a popular vacation with travelers from around the world.
Dodge crocodiles and take in the Millennia-old monuments as you cruise along the river Nile. Giza’s Pyramids, the Great Sphinx and Luxor’s hieroglyph-lined Karnak Temple and Valley of the Kings tombs are a few of the most breath taking sights to behold. In Cairo, Egypts capital and the 15th largest capital city in the world, wonder around Tahrir Square and the vast Egyptian Museum, which features the royal mummies and King Tutankhamun artifacts.
Egypt Travel Info
Language: The official language of Egypt is Arabic. Egyptian Arabic is spoken as a second dialect, although most educated Egyptians also speak English. Many people in cities and at tourist centers are fluent in English. Still an Arabic phrase book is worth bringing along with you.
Currency: Egyptian Pound.
Visa: An Egypt visa is necessary for most American, European and British passport holders. You can obtain an Egypt visa on arrival at the Cairo International airport at the bank kiosks before the immigration counters for $25 USD and you can stay for up to 30 days. Some travelers do not need a visa to enter Egypt such as citizens from Bahrain, Hong Kong, Kuwait, Macao, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates who can enter without a visa for periods of up to 3 months.
Electricity: In Egypt the standard voltage is 220 V and the frequency is 50 Hz. You can use your electric appliances in Egypt if the standard voltage in your country is in between 220 – 240 V (such as in the UK, Europe, Australia and most of Asia and Africa). I recommend bringing a Universal Travel Adapter so you don’t need to keep buying new adapters for each country you visit.
Egypt Festivals & Celebrations
Sham al-Naseem: Sham al-Naseem, the meaning of which is “Sniffing the breeze” is celebrated across Egypt to signify the beginning of Spring. The festival is celebrated by relaxing and spending time at the beautiful parks or enjoying a boat trip on the river Nile. During Sham al-Naseem the streets get packed with musicians, dancers and food stalls and the locals eat pickled or dried fish, which is the traditional food of Egypt.
Moulid an-Nabi: The major Islamic festival of Egypt; the festival celebrates the birth of the Prophet Mohammed. Locals carry out processions and the streets are full of dancers, drummers, and musicians. Families exchange gifts and decorate every house and street with colorful lights and candles. The celebrations last for two days.
Cairo Jazz Festival: A three day celebration of jazz music founded in 2009. Cairo Jazz Festival attracts acclaimed local and international musicians to Cairo each year. The Cairo Jazz Festival aims to widen the reach of Jazz music throughout the world through it’s innovation and expression.
Safety In Egypt
Terrorist attacks and violent protests have made certain parts of Egypt unsafe to travel to. The crime rate, in general, is low with petty crimes like bag snatching and pickpocketing prevalent in big cities. Based on my own travel experiences in Egypt I wouldn’t leave home without travel insurance no matter how safe the destination is considered. You can still miss flights, lose your luggage or break a leg, especially if you’re as accident prone as I am. For this reason I recommend checking out the travel insurance plan that World Nomads can offer you a few weeks or months before you plan to visit Egypt.
Top Things To Do In Egypt
Abu Simbel Temples
These are among the most impressive and most as popular sites in Egypt. The temples are enormous rocks carved to depict Egyptian Pharaohs. They were built initially to set the boundaries between Egypt and Nubia and demonstrate the strength and power of the Egyptian rulers to their neighbors. Here also lies the burial site of Abu Simbel, which was rediscovered in 1813 by a Swiss explorer, and is now open to visitors.
Visit Luxor Temple
The temple of Luxor is situated on the east bank of the River Nile in the town of Luxor (Thebes). Witness the temples vast statues, thick columns, and high stone walls. The construction of the temple took place in 1500 BC, and the annual Opet festival was held here in which Thebans celebrated the royal renewal. It is also a belief that the Luxor temple was the original location of the obelisk now situated in Paris in the Place de la Concorde.
The Great Pyramids of Giza
The Great Pyramid of Giza (also known as the Pyramid of Khufu or the Pyramid of Cheops) is the oldest and largest of the three pyramids in the Giza pyramid complex bordering what is now El Giza in Egypt. It is the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and the only one to remain largely intact. The Great Pyramid of Giza is a defining symbol of Egypt and one of the most popular tourist attractions. Did you know that The Great Pyramid of Giza was the tallest man-made structure in the world for over 3,800 years until a spire was built on the Lincoln Cathedral in England in 1300.
Scuba Dive the Red Sea
The Red Sea is a seawater inlet of the Indian Ocean, lying between Africa and Asia. The Marsa Alam, Dhaba, Sharm el Sheik or Hurghada are the best places to go Scuba diving in Egypt’s Red Sea. The connection to the ocean is in the south through the Bab el Mandeb strait and the Gulf of Aden. To the north lies the Sinai Peninsula, the Gulf of Aqaba and the Gulf of Suez.
Cruise the River Nile
The best way to see the river Nile in all its glory is by taking a boat cruise. You can go on a historic steamship or modern cruise and see the river and the various Egyptian cities like Memphis, Luxor, and Cairo situated along its coast. The cruises will also take you to some of the famous historical monuments of the country on the way like the Temple of Luxor and the Pyramids of Giza.
Siwa Oasis lies in Egypt’s Western region, about 30 miles from the Libyan border. The best time to visit this remote and isolated place is during the winter season, even then it is very warm. Some of the highlights of Siwa are Cleopatra’s bath where you can take a dip, Temple of Oracle Amun, and the olives and dates groves around the oasis. Siwa has centuries of history attached to it, and this stunning paradise is a must visit for travelers to Egypt.
Desert Quad Biking
A unique way to explore the desert in your own pace is on a quad bike. Start your excursion at sunrise, so you have plenty of time before it gets too hot. Revel in the vast openness of the desert while exploring dunes and crags as your bike zooms along the sand. You will love this unique experience away from the bustling crowds of the city.
Visit the Mummification Museum
Mummification was the funerary process in Egypt in which the dead were wrapped in strips of linen cloth after having their internal organs removed. Ancient Egyptians believed that the process was necessary to ensure their immortality after death and in the afterlife. The Mummification museum is in Luxor city, and here visitors can witness human as well as animal mummies, the tools used to mummify the dead and also a few items that got buried with the dead.
White Desert National Park
Towards the northeast of Farafra lies a 300 sq kilometer national park called the White Desert National Park. The bright white rocks pop out from the ground in a very supernatural manner giving the entire area a surreal look with the desert winds playing hide and seek with the visitors. You can see these white rocks best at sunrise or sunset when they are a little less blinding with an orangish pink hue.
Visit the Valley of the Kings
The Valley of the Kings is a graveyard that serves as the burial ground to the Pharaohs of the New Kingdom of Egypt. From 1150 BC to 1070 BC, the place was used to rest the dead Egyptian kings like Hatshepsut, Tutankhamun, and the Pharaohs of Ramses lineage. The journey to the area is a hot and tiring one and not all the tombs are open for the visitors at all times but it’s still worth the effort.
Other than these top things to do in Egypt, there is so much more to see and experience in this amazing country. Be prepared to be flexible because sometimes other travelers that you meet on your travels will have the best suggestions for things to do in Egypt that are off the beaten path.
What To Eat In Egypt
The cuisine of Egypt is unique yet straightforward. It is not fancy or elaborate like Italian or French or dense and creamy like that of the Gulf countries. It’s the simplicity of the dishes that makes them so delicious. Some recipes that you must try when you visit the country are listed here.
Ta’meya: Among the most common dishes in Egypt, the main ingredient is fava beans which are crushed to form a paste and then fried. Ta’meya is a cheap and delicious breakfast dish and a local staple.
Egyptian Fatta: It’s a simple dish, that is cheap to make and very filling. Egyptian Fatta is basically a layer of rice over a layer of fried bread, coated with vinegar, garlic, meat soup and sometimes tomato sauce. The delicacy is usually served in Muslim as well as Christian festivals and is one of the tastiest dishes in Egypt.
Kushary: Kushary is not a dish but a platter which includes rice, pasta, onions, chickpeas, lentils, tomato sauce and garlic. The plate is cheap and healthy with lots of ingredients and excellent taste. Every restaurant serves Kushary, and you can order it at any time of the day.
Hawashy: A meat dish that includes bread that is baked and then stuffed with minced meat. Some people even put sausage or pastrami inside. Nowadays, you will find Hawashy being made by most Egyptian butchers.
Egyptian Kunafa: A classic dessert in Egypt. Egyptian Kunafa is a traditional recipe using shredded Konafa, baked in a deep tray and filled with cream or creamy cheese in the middle. Syrup is drizzled over it as soon as its taken out of the oven.
Where To Stay In Egypt
Egypt is a moderately priced place to visit. Finding excellent accommodation in Egypt is easy but finding affordable accommodation, if you’re on a tight budget, is the hard part. Luckily Egypt hostels and dormitories make travel here really affordable for backpackers and anyone visiting Egypt on a tight budget.
Whether you’re a backpacker, flash-packer or a luxury vacationer, Egypt will not disappoint. Still, a basic 3 star hotel room in Egypt can cost about 50 euros a night. If you’re traveling to Egypt during peak season or you prefer to stay in a luxury hotel then it’s wise to book your accommodation well in advance and expect to pay a high price.
Don’t wait until you arrive to see what’s available or you may be disappointed to find that all the best accommodation options have already been snapped up. Egypt is a popular year-round destination with business travelers and sight-seeing tourists alike.
Jetset Bunny recommends using Booking.com for the best accommodation deals in Egypt.
If you’re backpacking in Egypt or traveling on a tight budget then Hostel World is another great option. Staying in hostels makes travel in the Middle-East much more affordable and is also a great way to meet new travel buddies.
Egypt Trip Planner
Best Time to Visit Egypt
The best time to visit Egypt is between April and October, this is if you want mild and reasonably warm weather. December and January is peak tourist season and be aware that the iconic sights such as the Pyramids of Giza, the Temples of Luxor and Abu Simbel get very crowded.
Egypt Travel Budget
Egypt can be an expensive city if you want to see all of the popular tourist attractions and do lots of excursions but it’s still generally an affordable destination for travelers on a low budget. The cost of your trip to Egypt depends on the level of comfort you will want while here. If you’re backpacking and planning on staying in dormitories, hostels and eating fast food then budget between 35 to 50 USD a day. If you prefer to stay in 3-4 star hotel rooms and eat in mid-range restaurants you could spend anywhere between 50 to 100 USD per day. If you want to enjoy luxury 4-5 star accommodation and gourmet restaurants in places like Istanbul or Ankara then budget about 250 USD plus a day.
- Budget: $35 – $50
- Mid-range: $50 – $100
- Splurge: $150 +
Meal For One
- Budget: $8 – $25
- Mid-range: $25 – $60
- Splurge: $60 +
Egypt Packing Guide
Packing for a trip to Egypt, like most other places in the Middle-East is easy, just remember to pack lightweight and breathable clothing because the Middle-East can get very hot.
If you forget to pack something you can buy anything you need while you’re in Egypt. Prices are generally higher in smaller boutiques than they would be online so expect to pay a premium if you don’t have the option of shopping around due to time restraints on your Egypt trip.
Other essential items to pack for a trip to Egypt include a good quality travel backpack. Choose the brand carefully and make sure you find the right size backpack for your torso. Believe me, doing this will make all the difference and prevent major backache. Smaller items to pack include a padlock, sleep sheet and a money belt to keep important documents close to you.
For the full list of everything you need to pack for a trip to Egypt check out the Jetset Bunny Ultimate Middle-East Packing List For Female Travelers.