Planning to backpack Egypt? Here are the best tips for backpacking Egypt that will give you everything you need to know before your trip and how exactly you should behave
When you think of a country that has it all (literally) everything, think Egypt. Between the impressive historical Egyptian landmarks that we all studied about in history class like the Giza pyramids, big cities, small towns to the insanely beautiful beaches in Sharm el sheik and Dahab, Egypt has a little bit of everything for every kind of backpacker.
To most backpackers, traveling to Egypt is a dream, at least it was for me. And even though I was a bit skeptical due to what I had read, I had an amazing time.
But throughout my trip, there are a few backpacking tips and hacks that I picked up that I believe will be very helpful as you backpack Egypt.
So if you’re planning on backpacking Egypt, here are the top things you need to know for an amazing time in the Pharaoh land.
Insanely useful tips for Backpacking Egypt
1. Polish your bargaining skills
Egypt is a backpacker’s destination! Aside from the famous landmarks it possesses, it’s quite budget-friendly hence attracting a number of backpackers.
And as a backpacker, you’re ultimate goal is to save money on all your expenses, and that’s why it’s important to bargain. Don’t be embarrassed about this, even Egyptians kinda expect this that’s why the first price they say is always high.
If you don’t bargain and just buy at the initial price, you’re going to be ripped off yet you would have gotten the product/service at almost half that price.
So when a seller tells you a price, start by dividing the said price in half and start from there. If you reach the price you feel comfortable buying at, pay and move on but if the seller still insists, try the “walk away” technique, and chances are high that the seller will call you back to give you the product at that price or at least slightly higher.
This bargaining trick works in literally all African countries and Egypt is no exception – it’s what I use to get a good price or even a locals’ price.
2. Tip but don’t tip away all your money
You’ve probably heard that tipping in Egypt is a huge deal and locals are known for always waiting on it regardless of which service they provide.
Whether it is your server at a restaurant, a driver, or even someone giving you directions, they will all be expecting a tip. And even though it’s a good practice to always tip people who serve you, do not tip away all your money as you backpack Egypt.
It’s so easy to spend a lot of money on tips as at the point of tipping you don’t see that its a lot, but by the end of the day if you tipped everyone, that’s when you’ll realize that so much money went into tipping.
Remember that as a backpacker, your goal is to travel more while spending less. So if you keep spending like $10 a day on just tipping, you’ll lose a lot of money- and $10 is a lot to a backpacker – almost your daily expenditure in some cheap countries in Asia.
But don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that you shouldn’t tip at all! No, you should, but make sure that you tip “reasonably”.
You should not tip your driver the same amount as your tour guide – make sure that you always have some coins or small bills to tip people with. And if you don’t feel like tipping, then don’t do it. It’s your money and you should do what you want with it.
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3. Shop around before booking a tour or an activity
One of the things I realized in Egytpt is that there are a number of people that sell tours especially in small kiosks on the streets.
And since they all charge differently, the best way to get a good deal is to “window shop” around before buying to compare prices.
Ask different sellers how much they charge, compare the different prices, and go with the best alternative.
Cheap is not always poor service as some people might think and expensive doesn’t necessarily mean good. So use your judgment, understand what each tour comes with, and make your decision.
4. Eat street food
Like any other Middle Eastern country, Egypt prides itself on having some of the most delicious cuisines in Africa. And the good news is that it’s not only delicious but also affordable even to a shoestring backpacker. Egypt is also famous for its street food.
So as you backpack Egypt, make sure that you eat street food. It is cheap, delicious and will save you a lot of money.
Some of the streets foods you should try out while backpacking through Egypt include, Kushari or koshari which is probably the most famous in the country (also the national dish), Falafel, shawarma, Hawawshi, etc
5. Take cash, it works better
One of the things to know while backpacking Egypt is that cash works much better than cards.
Cards are accepted in most high-end places but if you plan on visiting some bazaars and Cairo downtown, make sure that you carry cash.
You also have a higher bargaining power if you pay with cash. However, I should add that there are lots of ATM machines across Egypt so you don’t have to carry cash from your home country, you can easily withdraw it from a number of places.
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6. Take note of what your entrance ticket includes
There is no doubt that there are so many beautiful places to visit in Egypt and to be granted access, you’ll need an entrance ticket- at least for a number of them.
However, most places in Egypt require having 2 separate tickets even if its one main entrance to the attraction.
For example, you’ll need a separate ticket to enter the mummies room in the Egyptian museum on top of the Museum ticket. You’ll also need to purchase a separate ticket to enter inside the Great Pyramid atop the general pyramids tickets.
I saw a number of people getting denied entry at those respective places because they thought that one ticket was all they needed.
So as you backpack in Egypt, check the entry tickets well to know what they cover to avoid surprises. Or better yet, ask the seller and they will clarify for you.
7. Take advantage of the happy hour
Unlike what most people might think, Egypt is one of those Islamic countries that allows alcohol but of course with regulations.
Egypt’s happy hour normally starts at 7pm where alcoholic beverages are slightly cheaper than normal.
And as a foreigner backpacking Egypt, you should take advantage of the happy hour not to feel weird about drinking in “non-designated times” and you also get a good bargain on the drinks.
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8. Pay for services/goods in Egyptian pounds not dollars
We all know that tourists get overcharged literally anywhere in the world- but Egypt adds a twist to that. Egyptian pounds generally trade fairly well alongside the US dollar. So what Egyptians do is to tell you the price in USD.
Ofcourse to you, it will seem low because you might be familiar with that currency but in reality the price is like 2 times higher.
For example, a seller might tell you that a Plastic pyramid sculpture is say $5 which sounds really cheap but when you ask for the price in Egyptian pounds, you might realize that it’s actually approximately $2.
Many sellers will tell you prices in USD but insist on asking for the price in Egyptian pounds. And if he seems like he’s fidgeting to convert the money back to Egyptian pounds, that’s a good indicator that he was overcharging you in USD.
9. Carry an anti-theft backpack
One of the things you should do especially when backpacking Cairo is to carry an anti-theft backpack.
Like any big city, Cairo is crowded and pickpockets can easily make you a target especially in places like the Khan el Khalili market.
So to make sure that you don’t fall a victim of street theft as you backpack Egypt, carry this anti-theft backpack.
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10. Bring sunscreen
If you’ve never been to Egypt in the summer, then you probably have no idea how blazing hot it can be. Temperatures can rise up to like 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) but can go as high as 122 F (50 C) and the sun at its hottest.
That means that your poor skin will be burnt if you don’t protect it. So as you travel to Egypt especially in the hot months, do yourself a favor and take sunscreen.
The sunscreen you take should have an SPF of 50+ for full protection. This Neutrogena sunscreen meets all the requirements recommended by dermatologists.
11. Stay in hostels
The best tip for saving money while backpacking Egypt is to stay in hostels. Egyptian hostels are generally cheap and ok to stay in.
Staying in hostels is also a great way to meet other backpacking buddies that could turn into life long friends. Always opt for hostels that provide free breakfast and have a kitchen where you can prepare your own meals.
This will save you a lot of money that you can later use when visiting the famous landmarks of Egypt.
12. Sign up for airline alerts because flight prices between cities can drop drastically
For my backpacking trip to Egypt, I took advantage of the airline alerts and it paid off. After visiting all the top attractions in Cairo, the plan was to take a 9 hours bus to Dahab to enjoy the beautiful beaches in this coastal town.
But guess who survived those long 9 hours on a bus? Me!! So, just 1 day before the bus, I got an alert from Skyscanner that the flight from Cairo to Dahab had been slashed to almost 50% which was approximately $30, jackpot, right!
You can’t imagine how excited I was. I just canceled my bus ride and booked a flight instead. But without the alert, I would have missed it and “wasted” 9 hours on a bus – yes every hour is important especially if you have just a few days in the country.
So yeah, signing up for alerts on Skyscanner is important if you plan to travel between cities.
13. Go on a Nile cruise
Going on a Nile cruise is honestly one of the best things to do in Egypt and missing it would be a mistake. There are a number of Nile cruises from the luxury ones to the ordinary ones.
As a backpacker whose goal is to travel to Egypt on a budget, I’d advise you to go for this Nile cruise. Also as a tip, if you want to save a bit more, bargain in person while booking the cruise.
They tend to write an exaggerated price for tourists and that’s how most tourists get cheated but if you talk to the ticket seller in person, you might bag yourself a good price.
However, if the Nile cruise is something you’d like to splurge on, then opt for this luxurious one instead.
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14. Buy a pre-paid tourist Simcard
A number of countries are trying to adopt the tourist Simcard thing and Egypt is one of them. A pre-paid tourist Simcard normally has a prepaid data plan and prepaid voice calls.
Choose a package depending on your data consumption and the number of days you intend to stay in the country. Of course, the price depends on the package you choose.
For my trip, I opted for Vodafone and I had no issues with it. It had a wider coverage as I used it across the country. Other network providers you can check out include; Orange and Etisalat.
But one of the mistakes I made is to purchase the Simcard at the airport. When I, later on, compared what I spent with the going rate in the city, I realized that I had spent more. So you can avoid this mistake by purchasing yours in the city instead of the airport.
15. Do not drink tap water
One of the mistakes you should avoid making in Egypt is drinking tap water. Egyptian tap water is totally unsafe to drink and you might get sick if you do. Stick to bottled water which can literally be bought from anywhere.
But, to make sure that you minimize the use of non-reusable plastic bottles, take this collapsible re-usable travel bottle, then buy one big water bottle so that you just keep refilling every time your travel water bottle runs dry.
You can also carry your own travel water filter to purify any kind of water especially if you plan to go off the beaten path.
16. Pack light
Finally, as you backpack Egypt, make sure that you pack light. Pack only the essentials and not what you might need. I always use this travel weighing scale to make sure that I never carry more than I intended to.
On top of the comfort of not carrying a heavy backpack around, packing light guarantees that you won’t pay extra baggage fees at the airport.
However, packing light doesn’t mean that you leave behind the essential items for Egypt.
So to make sure that you don’t forget anything behind, below are some of the Egypt must haves.
- Sun hat: It gets real hot in Egypt and this sun hat will keep your head protected
- Large scarf: Egypt being a Muslim country, modesty is important especially when visiting places of worship. So throw in this kind of scarf to cover yourself well and it’s also perfect for dusty places.
- Sunglasses: Protect your eyes from dangerous rays by carrying these sunglasses.
- Travel insurance: Stay safe at all times while in Egypt by purchasing travel insurance. I recommend World Nomads travel insurance.
- A good quality backpack: It can’t be a good backpacking trip in Egypt without a quality backpack. This Osprey backpack is your answered prayer as a backpacker.
- Packing cubes: Keep all your essentials organized and travel light by taking these packing cubes.
- Universal travel adapter: Instead of buying one for each country, you’ll save money if you just buy this universal travel adapter that you can use everywhere.
- Power Bank: Stay connected all the time by taking this portable power bank.
You can check out this complete Egypt packing list for everything you’ll need in Egypt. It also includes what you should wear in the country.
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There you have it, folks, I hope that this backpackers guide to Egypt was useful and that you’re now ready for your backpacing trip.
Do you have any other travel tips for Egypt that you found useful, please share them with us in the comment section below, and don’t forget to share the post as well.
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