The magical land of pharaohs, pyramids and mummies captures the imagination more than any travel destination. A trip to Egypt has been on my wish list since I was a child. But, of course, there is more than ancient Egypt thousands of years ago. How do you prepare for modern Egypt?
12 travel tips for backpacking Egypt
# 1 The country is open to travelers
Egypt does not have the best reputation when it comes to safety. Since 2011, the Egyptian Revolution has made the country unsafe for travelers. Even now there are security risks in, for example, the Sinai desert between Egypt and Israel and there is a risk of terrorist attacks. But apart from that, the country is very accessible and easy to travel. While Egypt in my head has actually remained a ‘risk country’ for all those years since the Revolution, the reality turned out to be so different. Certainly around the famous highlights, such as the pyramids and the Valley of the Kings, it was super busy with travelers!
Tip: always check the travel advice from your government beforehand. But also realize that safety risks apply to almost all non-western and well-traveled countries.
# 2 Don’t just stay on the coast in Hurghada
The Red Sea is most popular with travelers. The beautiful beaches and good opportunities for snorkeling and diving make this a wonderful beach getaway. But don’t just stick to the beach for a week! When you are finally in the land of the mummies, pyramids and the pharaohs, it is a shame not to take anything of it. A day trip from Hurghada on the coast to Luxor or Cairo is more popular, but that really shortens the country. Take a tour and immerse yourself in Ancient Egypt!
# 3 There is more than pyramids and temples
In my mind, Egypt has always remained that land of pyramids, tombs and temples. As a child I learned about it at school and since then that fascination has only grown. Of course, Egypt is not only its ancient history, but also a country today. That country could charm me a lot less than that of the pharaohs, but it certainly has a lot to offer. The capital Cairo in particular is a bustling city with the most beautiful mosques and buildings.
Reading tip: In my overview of the must-do’s in Cairo I mentioned the most beautiful sights in the city.
# 4 Winter has pleasant temperatures, but cold nights
In a desert country like Egypt, you think of exotic temperatures and warm nights. That may be in the summer, but then Egypt is actually too hot to visit. The high season is therefore in winter, but do not forget to bring your warm clothes. In the evening it can get quite cold and at night you will be happy with warm pajamas. It is usually warmer in Luxor than in Cairo.
# 5 Upper Egypt is located in the south
Egyptians often talk about Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt, but that can be a confusing name. Upper Egypt is not in the north, but in the south. This area is in fact situated higher up, which is why the Nile can flow north from there downstream. In Ancient Egypt, Upper and Lower Egypt were even two countries ruled together by a pharaoh. You will often find references in Egypt to the ‘double crown’ of these two countries.
# 6 Egypt is relatively inexpensive
Egypt is relatively inexpensive. During our trip, one euro was worth about 16 to 17 Egyptian pounds. So a snack or small meal on the street from 10 to 20 was a good thing. More luxurious food in a restaurant cost us between 50 and 150 pounds, which is not comparable to Dutch prices. But be aware that the prices can differ greatly. For example, we once paid 7 pounds for three bottles of water, but another time 20 pounds. Also keep in mind that the biggest expense is the entrance tickets to all the sights.
Reading tip: do you want to be able to estimate your travel budget for Egypt exactly? In my blog about costs in Egypt I give overviews of all kinds of prices. From the main sights to hotels and from transport to food.
# 7 Buy your visa at the airport
We read many stories about how difficult it would be to get an Egyptian visa. If you want to make things easy for yourself, you can arrange that online in advance. But it is also perfectly possible to buy your visa at the airport. At the airport in Cairo you can buy your visa at three bank counters just before passport / visa control. You will then receive a visa sticker that you can stick in your passport. You pay the visa with $ 25 or euro in cash. Coins are not accepted, so bring bills with you. Have you forgotten your cash? There is one ATM where you can pin 400 Egyptian pounds and one of the three counters also accepts credit cards.
# 8 As a woman, choose covering clothes
As a woman you are not obliged to walk around completely veiled and not even to wear covering clothes. I advise you to adapt to the Egyptian standard anyway. Not because you have to, but because you will feel more comfortable there. A headscarf is not necessary, but opt for covering clothing. You save yourself a lot of glances and unwanted attention if you don’t walk down the street with bare shoulders and shorts.
Reading tip: In my blog about safe travel in Egypt, I also tell what it is like to travel in Egypt as a woman.
# 9 Pretty much anything is possible if you pay for it
Egypt is said to be one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Of course we cannot say much about that after a trip, but bribing guards seems to be the norm in Egypt. So do you want something that is not allowed? Or take pictures where it is not possible? A tip for the security guard works wonders. That does not always happen on your own initiative. If a friendly security guard takes pictures of you somewhere, where is that not allowed? Or if you are asked if you don’t want to see some extra spaces or want to see something up close? That guard is undoubtedly earning his extra pocket money.
# 10 Arrange your train tickets on time
The best way to travel through Egypt is by train. The train may be slower than the bus, but it is much more comfortable. There are also night trains – both with seats and beds, note the difference – so you don’t have to get much from the long journey. The night train with beds is much more expensive than the one with spacious seats. It is therefore almost exclusively used by travelers and can easily be bought online or at the train station. Do you want the cheaper night train with spacious seats? Then be on time, because buying those tickets last minute or even the day before is virtually impossible.
Reading tip: in our costs blog we tell you all about the costs of taxis, ferries and the train.
# 11 Have breakfast with falafel
Although Egypt is really a country of meat eaters, you can also eat well as a vegetarian. Many side dishes and stews are (also) vegan and that was of course great for me as a vegetarian. Just like in other Arab countries I was completely happy with all falafel. But don’t count on finishing your day in the evening with a nice portion of falafel. You will then be looked at very strange or even laughed at. You eat Falafel in Egypt only for breakfast.
Tip: the Egyptian McDonald’s also sells falafel for a small price. Of course only in the morning.
# 12 Prepare with documentaries
A country really comes alive with some background information. Of course you are in the right place with this travel destination, because Ancient Egypt is the subject of dozens of documentaries. I’ve always liked to watch docs about Egypt, but my trip was a good reason to look back. You can find a great documentary about almost every monument, every tomb and every temple!