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Egypt Travel Guide

Egypt is the world's premier tourist destination for historical sightseeing. From the mysterious and awe-inspiring Pyramids of Giza, to the Nile's West Bank, to the 3,000-year-old temples of Abu Simbel and the beguilingly beautiful Coptic Cairo, those with an interest in ancient civilisation will find themselves in heaven on holiday in Egypt.

However, tourists who take a less cultural approach to holiday-making will not be disappointed by the Land of the Pharaohs. Activities in Egypt include diving and snorkelling on the coral reefs, river cruises on the Nile, and camel treks into the Sahara. In places such as the magnificent Sinai Peninsula, tourists can combine these adventures with experiences of real cultural significance.

Egypt has a world-class array of holiday resorts. From the bohemian charm of Dahab, to the glitzy elegance of El Gouna (known as the 'Venice of the Red Sea') and the creature comforts offered by Sharm el-Sheikh, those looking for a top-quality holiday resort in Egypt will find themselves spoilt for choice.

With an astounding variety of things to see and do, great weather, a healthy and delicious national diet, and wonderful souk (open-air market) shopping opportunities, it is plain to see why Egypt is one of the world's favourite holiday destinations.

Best time to visit

Egypt experiences hot and dry weather all year round, although things are marginally cooler and wetter in areas adjacent to the coastline. The sun can be uncomfortably fierce during summer (May to October), so tourists to Egypt are advised to travel between November and April. Visitors are also strongly advised to assess the political situation in Egypt before they finalise travel plans, as the region has sometimes been volatile in recent years.

What to see in Egypt

-Be awe-struck by the Great Pyramid of Giza, the last remaining ancient wonder of the world.

-Don't miss the 3,000-year-old temples of Abu Simbel: mind-blowing structures carved into the surrounding sandstone cliffs.

-Do a little souvenir shopping at the Asfour Crystal Factory.

-Explore the wonders of the beautifully located Saladin Citadel built in the 12th century.

What to do in Egypt

-Take a cruise down the Nile and savour the incredible sights, including the Temple of Karnak and the Valley of the Kings.

-Get lost in the narrow streets of Coptic Cairo, the oldest part of the city, once known as the Roman stronghold of Babylon.

-Go scuba diving in the Red Sea to explore the coral reefs and shipwrecks.

-Send the senses into overdrive shopping at Khan al-Khalili, one of the largest, most vibrant markets in the world.

Holiday resorts in Egypt

Egypt has many popular resorts for sun-seekers looking for the perfect beach holiday. Each resort has its own character, some offering lively nightlife and others secluded tranquillity, some designed for sun-seeking singles and others for family fun.

Getting to Egypt

There are direct cheap flights to Egypt available from the UK. The flight duration from London to Egypt is approximately four to five hours. There are also direct cheap flights to Egypt available from the US. The flight duration from New York to Egypt is about 12 hours.


The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell, Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie, The Yacoubian Building by Alaa-Al-Aswany, and Beer in the Snooker Club by Waguih Ghali.


Mohamed Mounir, Amr Diab, Abdel Halim Hafez, and Umm Kulthum.


The Yacoubian Building (2006), Anthony and Cleopatra (1963), The Mummy (1999), and Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981).


Karkaday is a ruby-red, hibiscus flower-infused non-alcoholic drink, served in tea shops right across Egypt. Wonderfully refreshing and cooling, it is also (apparently) a good hangover tonic.


Taamiya is a falafel made from green beans and spices, usually served in a pita with baba ghanoush (pureed aubergine spread). Shwarmas are pita bread typically filled with marinated lamb and hummus (pureed chickpeas).

What to buy

Be on the look-out for perfumes, brass and silver ornaments, blown-glass and clay figurines and, pick of the lot, rich Egyptian cotton products with Bedouin embroidery.

What to pack

Lightweight (but not overly revealing) clothing, plenty of sunscreen, good walking shoes as well as sandals, and a swimming costume or two. Cairo is also a notoriously noisy city, and many travellers recommend taking a pair of ear-plugs.

What's on in Egypt

Held each year in February and October, the Abu Simbel Festival celebrates Ramses II's birthday. In October each year, the Cairo Opera House produces an outdoor performance of Verdi's Aida, a tragic tale of thwarted love set in Ancient Egypt, which is performed at the Great Pyramid of Giza. The Cairo International Film Festival (November) is one of the longest-running film festivals on the African continent.

Did you know?

-Beer was invented in Ancient Egypt.

-Africa's only subway is found in Cairo.

-Egypt is home to about 30 percent of the Arab world's bloggers.

-Egyptians invented the 365 day calendar.

A final word

A favourite tourist destination, visitors to Egypt can look forward to unique sights, exciting activities and plenty of hours of relaxing on one of the sunniest coastlines in the world.


Arabic is the official language although English and French are widely spoken, especially in the tourist areas.


The unit of currency is the Egyptian Pound (EGP), which is divided into 100 piastres. All major credit cards are accepted in midrange and high-end establishments. Banks are usually closed on Friday and Saturday, but money can officially be changed at foreign exchange bureaux (forex) and some hotels. Cairo branches of the Egyptian American Bank and Banque Misr have ATMs available that accept Visa, MasterCard and Cirrus and are quite common in the main tourist areas.


Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. European-style two-pin plugs are standard.


Tipping is known as 'baksheesh' and some small change is expected for most services, though small change can be hard to come by. 'Baksheesh' can be a useful practice in order to gain entry to seemingly inaccessible places, or for extra services - a small tip can open doors, literally. A service charge is added to most restaurant and hotel bills but a tip of about 10 percent is normally given directly to the waiter. Taxi drivers are tipped about five percent.


The US Department of State and the British Foreign Office advise caution when travelling to Egypt, as there is a high threat from terrorism. All travel is advised against in North Sinai. All but essential travel is advised against in South Sinai, however the area within the Sharm el Sheikh perimeter barrier (including the airport, Sharm el Maya, Hadaba, Naama Bay, Sharks Bay, and Nabq) is protected by enhanced security measures and has experienced little violence. The resort areas in Hurghada have similar measures in place, although isolated incidents in non-tourist areas have been reported. Other areas under travel advisories include the border with Libya and swathes of Egypt's western desert (west of Cairo and the Nile Valley). Travellers should stay up to date on travel warnings and advisories.

Terrorist attacks have been ongoing, with several bombings taking place in Cairo and other regions in the last few years. Attacks against tourists have been reported.

Demonstrations are common near foreign embassies and around Tahrir Square in Cairo, and in other cities, including Alexandria. There have been incidents of foreigners, including British Nationals, being targeted and attacked during protests. There have also been reports of sexual assaults on women during demonstrations. Tourists are advised to avoid all street protests and gatherings and not to attempt to cross roadblocks.

Visitors to markets and major tourist sites will experience a fair amount of hassle from touts and are advised not to carry more money on them than needed, as petty crime is a concern. Women should be extra cautious when travelling alone as incidents of harassment and sexual assault are not uncommon. Women should be particularly alert when visiting spas and doing other tourist related activities, and should be careful to dress conservatively. Racism towards black and Asian people is prevalent and considered acceptable. Egypt also has a poor train safety record with several fatal accidents each year.


The international access code for Egypt is +20. Most hotels, cafes and restaurants around major tourist centred areas provide free wifi access. International calls made from hotels have high surcharges; travellers can cut costs by purchasing local SIM cards.


A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required for entry into Egypt from travellers over nine months of age coming from infected areas. No other vaccinations are required but vaccinations are commonly recommended for hepatitis A, hepatitis B and typhoid. Travellers to Egypt should come prepared to beat the heat with a high factor sunblock and drink plenty of water to combat dehydration. Tap water in the main cities and towns is normally chlorinated but it is still advisable to drink only bottled water or tap water that has been boiled or filtered. Visitors should only eat thoroughly cooked food and fruits they have peeled themselves to prevent travellers' diarrhoea. The waters of the Nile are contaminated and should not be consumed.

Medical treatment can be expensive and standards vary (private and university hospitals are excellent; others are patchier) so comprehensive travel health insurance is strongly advised, including evacuation insurance. Medical facilities are generally adequate for routine ailments in the big cities and main tourist areas but outside of the main centres medical facilities can be very basic in Egypt.

Public Holidays

Coptic Easter Sunday19 Apr2 May
Revolution Day25 Jan25 Jan
Coptic Christmas Day7 Jan7 Jan
Shem El Nessim (Spring Festival)20 Apr3 May
Sinai Liberation Day25 Apr25 Apr
Labour Day1 May1 May
Eid al-Fitr (end of Ramadan)24 May13 May
Armed Forces Day6 Oct6 Oct
Eid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice)31 Jul20 Jul
Islamic New Year20 Aug9 Aug
Birth of the Prophet29 Oct18 Oct
July 23 Revolution Day23 Jul23 Jul


Egyptians are friendly and approachable at work, and personal relationships are very important when conducting business. Business is usually conducted formally in Egypt. However, meetings may not take place in private and it is normal for them to be interrupted with other matters. Punctuality is important for visitors doing business, though foreigners shouldn't be surprised if their contact is late or postpones the meeting. It's important to remain patient. Dress should be formal and conservative; suits and ties are standard and women should dress modestly. Women may encounter some sexism in the business world. Most Egyptians are Muslim, so business people should be mindful of Islamic customs. English is widely spoken and understood, although attempting to speak some basic Arabic will be highly appreciated. The normal working week runs from Sunday to Thursday. Business hours vary, but in the private sector they are usually 9am to 5pm and in the public sector, 8am to 3pm. It's wise to avoid scheduling business trips during the month of Ramadan as working hours are minimised during the holiday period and many key players will not be available.

Passport & Visa

A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required to enter Egypt, if travellers are arriving from or transiting through infected areas. Persons without a valid yellow fever certificate, if one is required, will be subject to quarantine. The wives and children of Egyptian men and the children of Egyptian women born after 25 July 2004 are exempt from visa requirements upon presentation of a birth certificate, passport or National ID Card of the relative. It is highly recommended that travellers' passports have at least six months' validity remaining after the intended date of departure from their travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.


Egypt is a conservative society and visitors should respect local customs and sensitivities. Homosexuality is solemnly frowned upon and homosexual acts are illegal. Public displays of affection are frowned upon. Religious customs should be recognised, particularly during the month of Ramadan when eating, drinking and smoking during daylight hours is forbidden by Islam. During Ramadan travellers should be discreet in public places or choose to partake in the custom themselves. Travellers to Egypt should dress modestly (women's clothes should cover the legs and upper arms). Photography of military institutions is prohibited and the Suez Canal counts as a military institution. Egyptians can be sensitive about any photography of infrastructure and it is best to ask for permission if in any doubt.

Duty Free

Travellers over 18 arriving in Egypt do not have to pay customs duty on 200 cigarettes or 25 cigars or 200g tobacco; one litre of alcoholic beverages; and perfume for personal use. The import and export of local currency is limited to EGP 5,000. Banned items include firearms, cotton and drugs.


Egyptian Tourist Authority:

122 (Police); 126 (Tourist Police); 123 (Ambulance)

Entry Requirements

US citizens must have a passport valid for six months beyond the period of intended stay in Egypt. A visa is required, except for tourists arriving at Sharm El Sheik (SSH), Saint Catherine (SKV) or Taba (TCP) airports, and staying in the Sinai resort area only for up to 15 days. Visas can be obtained on arrival, for a maximum stay of 30 days. E-visas can be obtained online at

British citizens must have a passport valid for six months beyond the period of intended stay in Egypt. A visa is required, except for tourists arriving at Sharm El Sheik (SSH), Saint Catherine (SKV), or Taba (TCP) airports, and staying in the Sinai resort area for up to 15 days. Visas can be obtained on arrival, for a maximum stay of 30 days. E-visas can be obtained before departure at

Canadian citizens must have a passport valid for six months beyond the period of intended stay in Egypt. A visa is required, except for tourists arriving at Sharm El Sheik (SSH), Saint Catherine (SKV), or Taba (TCP) airports, and staying in the Sinai resort area for up to 15 days. Visas can be obtained on arrival, for a maximum stay of 30 days. E-visas can be obtained before departure at

South African citizens must have a passport valid for six months beyond the period of intended stay in Egypt. A visa is required.

Irish citizens must have a passport valid for six months beyond the period of intended stay in Egypt. A visa is required, except for tourists arriving at Sharm El Sheik (SSH), Saint Catherine (SKV), or Taba (TCP) airports, and staying in the Sinai resort area for up to 15 days. Visas can be obtained on arrival, for a maximum stay of 30 days.

New Zealand citizens must have a passport valid for six months beyond the period of intended stay in Egypt. A visa is required, except for tourists arriving at Sharm El Sheik (SSH), Saint Catherine (SKV), or Taba (TCP) airports, and staying in the Sinai resort area for up to 15 days. Visas can be obtained on arrival, for a maximum stay of 30 days.

Embassy Consulates

United States Embassy, Cairo: +20 (0)2 2797 3300.

British Embassy, Cairo: +20 (0)2 2791 6000.

Canadian Embassy, Cairo: +20 (0)2 2461 2200.

South African Embassy, Cairo: +20 (0)2 2535 3000.

Irish Embassy, Cairo: +20 (0)2 2728 7100.

New Zealand Embassy, Cairo: +20 (0)2 2461 6000.

Embassy Consulates

Egyptian Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 966 6342.

Egyptian Embassy, London, United Kingdom: +44 (0)20 7499 3304.

Egyptian Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 234 4931.

Egyptian Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 (0)12 343 1590.

Egyptian Embassy, Dublin, Ireland: +353 (0)1 660 6566.


Visitors have come for years from far and wide to experience Egypt's world-famous attractions for themselves.

Cairo, the capital, houses the market place Khan el-Khalili, the Egyptian Museum, and the necropolis at the City of the Dead. Just outside stand the iconic pyramids of Giza, and the Sphinx. To the north sits the port city of Alexandria. Founded by Alexander the Great, the city is home to the Pharaohs Lighthouse, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The city is at the estuary of the Nile. One of the best ways to experience Egypt is a boat cruise down this mighty river.

On the banks of the river lies Luxor. Built on the ancient site of Thebes, Luxor is home to the Valley of Kings and the tombs of Tutankhamun and Ramses II. Further south Lake Nasser offers peace and quiet, and visitors can take a multi-day cruise from Aswan to Abu Simbel, the site of the great temple of Ramses II.

The Red Sea is world-renowned for its scuba diving. Holidaymakers flock to resorts such as Hurghada for the warm waters and abundance of ocean life. In stark contrast are the plains of the Sahara. Egypt plays host to a corner of this arid landscape, featuring the rocks of the White Desert, and the palms and olive trees of the Siwa Oasis. If you've ever dreamt of being an explorer, the ancient world awaits.


With the small exception of its strip of Mediterranean coastline, the whole of Egypt has an arid desert climate. The weather is constantly hot and dry and there are only two seasons. Summer brings blistering heat between May and October. Winter is mild and warm, and stretches from November to April. As is typical of desert climates, it tends to get cold at night in Egypt, whatever the season, so visitors should be sure to bring something warmer for the evenings. Egypt has a low annual rainfall and the majority of rain falls in the coastal region. It hardly ever rains during the summer months. A phenomenon of Egypt's climate is the hot wind that blows across the country, known internationally as the sirocco and to Egyptians as the khamsin. These desert sandstorms usually arrive in April but occasionally occur in March and May. They can continue for days and cause temperatures to rise dramatically, as well as cause damage to crops and buildings.

The best time to travel to Egypt is during the mid-winter, between December and February, when temperatures range comfortably from 68°F to 79°F (20 to 26°C). If travellers are keen to visit in summer, the best city to spend time in is Alexandria, as it has cooler summer temperatures then the rest of the country.

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