How To Visit Egypt Like A Pro
Egypt has been at the top of my travel list way before I even had a passport. As a child, I obsessed over Egyptian culture and of course the pyramids, so when I had a business engagement scheduled in Egypt, my bags were packed and ready.
Before I get started, I know what you want to know…is Egypt safe? I was there for 1 week and at no time did I ever feel scared or fear for my life. Yes things we’re pretty chaotic back in 2011 but since then the country has taken measures to improve for its citizens and for tourists. I visited with another female cousin and I felt just as safe as I do when visiting London, Los Angeles or Lagos. Please don’t let the media dissuade you from visiting Egypt. Instead, be aware of your surroundings, just as you would anywhere, be mindful, respectful of the cultures and just go! Visiting Cairo was easily one of my best trips ever.
I’m the founder of an African based business and travel often to different African countries and now I want to teach you how to visit Egypt like a Pro.
Change your currency
There is lots of shopping to be had in Cairo. Khan Khalili Bazaar is one of Cairo’s famous shopping centers. It’s a great place to get jewelry, clothes and accessories. But before you go shopping in the markets be sure to change your currency over to Egyptian Pounds. Most hotels can change your currency for you or you can find money-changers on the street.
Don’t use US dollars, British Pounds, Euros etc. because once shop owners know you have certain foreign currencies, the prices will then magically increase. The Central Bank in Egypt recently had no choice but to float the Egyptian pound and leave its value to be determined by the market. So when I went in November 2016 US dollars were now worth twice as much then they were before.
Be an Early Bird. If you plan on visiting the different pyramids it may be best to go early to avoid the tourist rush and to get better pictures. I visited The Pyramids of Giza and the Saqqara Pyramids both located in and near Cairo.
When visiting the pyramids there are many people there working, selling things, offering camel rides etc. so unless you want to buy from them its best not to hold what they hand you, or to make small talk because if you do they won’t leave your side. It’s a tourist site but it’s also their workplace, so if you’re truly not interested just keep walking and go along your way.
Bring a scarf. It’s very windy near the pyramids and a scarf would help keep your hair in order and sand out of your eyes. Infact, keep a scarf with you while discovering, if you end up somewhere and feel you need to be a bit more covered, it’ll come in handy.
Walk around the pyramids, usually the first side is full of tourists taking pictures, so instead go around to the side or back to get tourist-free pics!
Home of the Haggle
NEGOTIATE everything just as you would in any tourism country. This includes cab rides, shopping and even at your hotel. Around this time hotels are not at capacity so there are always empty rooms. We negotiated a suite at our 5 star hotel for half the price.
When shopping, in cabs or even finding a tour guides; if you’re a tourist, locals can most times sniff you out immediately so it’s hard to get fair prices. So I have a technique I use; whatever price the vendor says I adamantly offer half (or even lower). If they turn it down I proceed to physically walk away and 99% of the time they reconsider and offer a more ideal price or take my price.
Crucial Tip: When shopping, Do NOT, I repeat Do NOT show how excited you are about an item. Once you do this, the game is over and you lose. Instead, hide your enchantment and stick to negotiating so you can get the best price for this jewel!
Uber is available in Cairo and they even have an option to pay the Uber driver cash upon arrival at your destination. There are also white and black taxis everywhere. We explored downtown Cairo and most of our taxi rides were about $40 EGP or $2.50 USD we never spent more than $75 EGP or about $5 USD on a cab. Always agree to a price before you enter a cab, this helps avoid any confusion later. And try to get an idea of how much your cab fare should be by asking a local or your hotel concierge first. I have a deep Texan accent and sometimes I can be hard to understand, so I always write down my hotel address and the places I want to go and keep it with me to show cab drivers. While in Cairo, I had the hotel staff even write it in Arabic for me to have.
I’m pretty terrible when it comes to dressing down but I decided to work on it while in Cairo. I love to dress up and usually do, no matter what country I’m in but I always respect culture and religion when visiting foreign countries. Cairo is a pretty casual city. We visited a few nightclubs and nice restaurants and all the locals dressed very casual. So if you don’t want to stand out too much, you may want to pack toned down outfit choices and avoid showing too much cleavage, short skirts and shorts.
I like to take my time when visiting tourist sites and hate to feel rushed, so I decided not to book a group tour and instead opted to hire my own personal tour guide for about 6 hours and paid $480 EGP or about $30 USD, which is very reasonable. He was great, we visited the Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx. Tour guides are plentiful in Cairo and are very easy to find. If your hotel arranges one for you be sure to negotiate the price if you feel it’s a bit high. A day tour guide should never cost you more than $1600 EGP or $100 USD and that is even on the very high side.
So I’m definitely lost
Always walk with a purpose but if you find yourself wandering around lost, step inside a store and ask for directions not out on the street. Most people are friendly and happy to help but you don’t want to look too vulnerable out on the street.
Avoid the Bait and Switch
If you want to go site-seeing and you hire a driver or if your hotel arranges a driver for you, and he/she offers to take you to a marvelous store that you’ll love…beware…like most tourism reliant countries, many drivers rely on tourist generated kickbacks. We had a driver that persuaded us to go to the “best store in Cairo”, one that he was sure we’d love, so we walk in, I picked out a bracelet I liked and asked the price, it was $10,500 USD! It suddenly made sense to me why he was so persistent on bringing us here – because anything we bought he would get a percentage, so why not take 2 American tourists to the most expensive store he could think of. Lesson: Always have your agenda and know where you want to go, sometimes suggestions are great but other times they’re just part of a bigger game.
…You’re in EGYPT!!!!
You are a tourist, embrace it, and have fun. F*ck the Stares!
It’s likely that no matter how hard you try you’re going to stand out, so embrace it and have fun. Get all the selfie stick pictures you want, wear a fanny pack- a bejeweled one at that and smile! You’re in EGYPT! Most people will never get to visit a place so magical and you’re there. Always be aware of your surroundings and keep your composure but most of all have fun, take lots of pictures and indulge in every moment.
I hope these tips helped you and if you wanna chat with me feel free to contact me! I’d love to help you in any way I can.
About the Author: I’m Christina Tegbe– the founder of an ethical, made-in-Africa beauty brand.
For more pics and travel tips, follow me on Instagram, www.mag.54thrones.com and Shop here