Egypt is undeniably one of the best countries to visit in Africa. In fact, in most cases, it is the first country in Africa that African first time travelers start with. Blessed with an outstanding history that everyone wants to learn about in-depth, this Northern African country is always atop most travelers’ bucket list. With so much to see, from the Giza pyramids, the valley of the kings, to beach holiday destinations, first-time travelers can easily make mistakes while in this gorgeous country. So in this post, you will get to know all the Egypt travel tips plus all the big mistakes to avoid when planning a trip to Egypt.
Egypt is a beautiful country with incredible people, so as you read this post, know that it is not to scare you from going to Egypt but rather to help you know the common mistakes that travelers make especially first-time visitors and brace yourself on how best you can avoid them.
Egypt travel tips: Mistakes to avoid when planning a trip to Egypt
1. Spending too much time in Cairo
Cairo is the getaway to Egypt and there is no doubt it has so much to offer to its visitors. With incredible landmarks and famous tourist attractions, it is not impossible to get carried away and spend many days more than you may need.
To make it clear, you could absolutely spend close to a month in Cairo and not see everything like a local, but Egypt is more than just Cairo. So make a realistic itinerary of the places you want to visit in Cairo and how much time you have.
But even though you have limited time, make sure you don’t miss out on places like the Giza pyramids (duh! obviously! who goes to Egypt and not go to the Giza pyramids), the Egyptian museum to explore the thousands of artifacts that are a thousand years old, Old Cairo to learn about the way of life of the locals.
You can read this post to find out all the best places not to miss in Cairo. And if you only have 2 days, this two days Cairo itinerary will show you exactly how to get much out of Cairo in just 48 hours.
2. Expecting “free help” all the time – Tipping is the order of the day
The “what is in for me” phrase works really well in Egypt. I have to admit that Egyptians are really friendly people who will go out of their way to help someone – if only all that didn’t come with conditions. Of course, they’re not going to tell you to pay for the help before you actually receive it but the looks they give will make you understand.
They’re used to the idea of being tipped in that even a person giving you directions expects a tip. If not to get a tip, others will be super kind to you in hopes of taking you to their shops so that you can buy something.
This is not to mean that everyone will be expecting a tip for their help but it’s important to know that having a few coins come along way when it comes to traveling in Egypt. Whether it is to tip your driver, the cleaning person, or the person that directed you – just be ready to tip away.
Of course, the amount you tip depends on you but you can keep the bigger tip for tour guides/big things and smaller tips for “direction givers”.
3. Just visiting Cairo
One of the big mistakes you’ll make when planning a trip to Egypt is only visiting Cairo. I agree, Cairo has some of the famous places but most people only plan to visit the Giza pyramids and some other few places in Cairo and leave the country.
4. Not trying out Egyptian local foods
Egypt being part of the Middle East is endowed with famous delicious dishes and cuisines that you ought to try. I mean whats traveling to a new country if you don’t try out their local foods.
Some of the foods you should definitely try out while in Egypt include Koshari (a mixture of rice macaroni, lentils, chickpeas and topped off with caramelized onions), Falafel, Manshi ( vegetables esp. Eggplants stuffed with rice,) Fattah and so many others.
5. Forgetting how to haggle
Bargaining is a norm in Egypt and if you forget to haggle, you’ll end up buying stuff double the price or even triple. So for every price you’re told, try dividing it into half and start your negotiations from there.
So my advice? Haggle, haggle and haggle some more until you feel like it’s a somewhat fair price for whatever you’re trying to purchase.
6. Buying souvenirs inside the Giza pyramids
One of the biggest mistakes you’ll make while in Egypt is to buy souvenirs inside the Giza pyramids! There are a number of sellers (they can be aggressive actually) who sell souvenirs like small pyramids, local Egyptian handcrafted pieces but try to contain your urge to buy!’
Like everything in a tourist place, they’re always overpriced compared to other places. What you should do instead is to wait until you go to the khan el Khalili market – a bazaar in downtown Cairo. You can get a wide variety of souvenirs to take back home and at a highly subsidized price.
7. Paying for a service/ good in a foreign currency
Unless it is in a somewhat high-end place which clearly states that payments should be made in dollars, I’d urge you to stick to paying in Egyptian pounds!
The reason is, most sellers will tell you that “it’s just 1 dollar” and yes however much it might seem like a really good price, if you buy in Egyptian pounds, it could be just a few cents. This normally happens if you’re buying souvenirs or even a quick service!
The best thing to do is to ask for prices in local currency and also have a currency converter app to find out exactly how much you’re being charged before you accept to pay for something in a foreign currency.
8. Not respecting the ancient artifacts, history or stones
Egypt is a country that celebrates its ancient history like no other on the planet. When it comes to artifacts or the stones, try to be respectful and mindful of everything.
In places like the mummies room in the Egyptian museum, tourists are not allowed to take photos – abide by the rules or else your phone can be confiscated. Also at the pyramids, it’s not allowed to climb them however much the idea might be exciting.
On top of respecting the artifacts, don’t be tempted to take something with you. Imagine if everyone who visited before took something with them, by now there would be nothing to see.
So enjoy Egypt as much as possible but don’t forget to be respectful and abide by the rules put in place to preserve some of Egypt’s landmarks and artifacts.
9. Not packing the right clothes
Egypt is an Islamic country and quite a conservative one when it comes to dressing code. Though you can wear anything you want when traveling in resort towns like Dahab or Sharm el sheik, its quite important to mind what you wear when visiting mosques and places of worship.
To give you an idea of what clothes to pack, for women, clothes should cover your shoulders and legs and even when not visiting mosques, try to wear clothes that at least exceed the knee level.
However, contrary to what you might have read/heard before, female tourists do not need to veil themselves or cover their heads while visiting Egypt.
10. Not buying travel insurance
Some may argue that Egypt is not a safe country but I’d say the opposite. During my visit to this beautiful country, I never faced any challenges or problems – everyone was so helpful and welcoming. But regardless of what the situation might be, travel insurance is a vital thing to have while traveling in Egypt.
Honestly, you never know when you’ll lose your really expensive camera, need medical attention or anything else. This is not to worry you that something bad will happen but its always better to stay safe than sorry.
And to guarantee the safety of your expensive travel items, I recommend buying world nomads travel insurance. It is easy to request a quote, in fact, just use this link if you want to buy it, and it is also easy to claim your cover in case of any misfortunes.
11. Not researching the common Egyptian scams
Just like in any other country, scams are quite common in Egypt. Some of the major scams to keep an eye out while exploring the land of the pyramids include;
Buying fake gold or buying genuine ones but at a rip off price.
Buying unlicensed tours from unlicensed tour guides. These normally stage at the entrance of the popular sites and will bombard you with tours as soon as you reach.
Try to find your way and stand your ground. If you want to buy any kind of tours, I suggest you book in advance. Getyourguide has a number of licensed tours you can book in advance to avoid a rip off from unlicensed tour guides and not getting the exact value you might have paid for.
In addition to that, look out for pickpockets in places like the khan el Khalili market – a bazaar in Cairo, and while in the market, be vigilant of what you buy since there’s a number of gold-coated products that are sold as if they’re pure gold.
12. Not preparing for the attention
I could go on and on or even write a book about this. Egyptians are really bold and they’re not afraid to reach out to anyone or spark a conversation at any time, anywhere! And I know this is not bad at all but wait until you get a 1000 requests from locals to take photos with you.
It might not be all the time but I am sure I took like a thousand photos with the locals for my short time in Egypt. I guess it might have something to do with the fact that I am a black woman and they rarely see black people visiting Egypt – but I’ve heard the same even for white people.
And if you’re a woman, add name-calling, catcalling to the list of things that might happen. Though it’s harmless since they never come close to grabbing you but it can be pretty annoying when people are staring and catcalling you literally everywhere you go – some will even propose marriage to you from miles away, smh!
13. Not hiring a tour guide for some tourist sites
This is one of the mistakes I made myself while in Egypt and I hope you don’t fall for the same. While some tourist sites in Egypt can be easily visited without a tour guide, some do require one.
For places like the Egyptian museum, I thought just buying an entry ticket will be enough since I had read a bit about it. It was only after the trip that I realized how little I knew about the place I supposedly visited when I talked to someone else who had hired a tour guide. He knew so much about the artifacts – something that made me feel like I had just browsed the museum instead of learning about ancient Egypt.
So don’t be like me, book a tour guide while visiting some places. Getyourguide provides a number of experienced tour guides that will give you all the info needed about ancient Egypt. this Egyptian museum tour is highly rated and if you want to combine it with the Giza pyramids, then book this tour instead.
Below are some other tours you can book while traveling in Egypt
14. Buying gold without prior knowledge
For most people, a trip to Egypt not only means going back into history but also get a good bargain on Gold. I mean who wouldn’t want to buy pure gold for cheaps. Unfortunately, that love for gold sometimes comes with ignorance on how to measure it or even tell if it’s really authentic.
So many people have been ripped off, so before you go to buy gold, make research about how to tell if its authentic gold or just a look-alike. Also, keep an eye out on how it’s measured and pricing – you don’t want to but a 5-carat gold for a price of a 10 carat.
15. Showing too much PDA
Like I, mentioned earlier, Egypt is an Islamic and conservative country where too much PDA, might deem you disrespectful or even win you some eye rolls.
So if you’re traveling with your loved one, keep the romance in your hotel room. Nevertheless, resort towns are much more relaxed about this – a bit of PDA is ok but if you’re roaming around cities like Cairo, keep your love on the down-low.
16. Missing out on the Nile river cruise
Other than seeing the Giza pyramids, the other thing that is high on most people’s Egypt bucket list is seeing the Nile and cruising on it – which is btw the longest river in Africa with its source in Uganda. So as you plan your trip to Egypt, make sure you include it on your itinerary. You actually book your Nile cruise from here.
But somethings to note before a Nile river cruise include;
It only happens on certain days, so find out the days before you go since you can’t just show up and expect to get onto the cruise. If you don’t know where to book your Nile cruise from, this Nile river cruise is highly recommended.
There you have it, folks, those were the tips to traveling to Egypt plus the mistakes to avoid while in this incredible nation. Have you been to Egypt before? Did you fall for any of these travel mistakes? Let me know in the comment section on how it all happened.
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