Every year, millions of tourists flock to Egypt to catch a glimpse of its historical artifacts, beautiful beaches, and the magical Sahara Desert. However, recent political developments have led many to reconsider their travel plans. Here is what you need to know before traveling to Egypt in 2020.
The History of Egypt
Egypt is an ancient land, one of the cradles of human civilization. Egyptians were building pyramids back in the 2700s BC when many other civilizations were just discovering bronze. These megalithic wonders are still captivating out attention, thousands of years later. Built as tombs for pharaohs, pyramids endured countless wars and conquests. For almost three millennia, the Egyptian empire was a major player in the East Mediterranean. Later, when conquered by Alexander the Great, it continued to be a regional power. It was restored by Ptolemy I Soter after Alexander’s death. The Ptolemaic dynasty ruled Egypt until the death of Cleopatra in 30 BC when it fell under the Roman government. It was known as the breadbasket of the Empire, which is kind of ironic, considering that it is mostly desert. The Nile valley could produce so much grain that it fed a huge portion of the Roman Empire. It remained under the rule of Rome and Byzantine until it was conquered by the Islamic Empire in the seventh century. Later came the Ottomans, then Mamelukes, and finally British. All of these empires left distinctive traces of their presence in the Nile Valley. Modern Egypt has very little to do with the ancient one, but it is still a country worth visiting.
Egypt requires an entry visa for almost all visitors. You can click here to see the exact requirements and whether you need it. You can get a visa online, but there are a few catches.
Is Egypt Safe for Tourists?
In general, yes, Egypt is safe for tourists. Although, to claim that there is no risk at all wouldn’t be true. The last major terrorist attack that killed 20 and wounded 47 happened in Cairo in 2019. It is impossible to claim that another one won’t happen next week or next month. The political climate in Egypt can be fragile and there are several groups in the country that don’t shy from using terror as a political tool. Officially, none of those groups targets tourists, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Then again, that can be true for London, Paris, or New York as well. One way to increase your safety is to closely follow the precautions below.
Make sure that a hotel has adequate security before booking it. Most hotels that cater to tourists are surrounded by protective barriers and have plenty of security guards on duty at all times. As we said, chances of you or your group being deliberately targeted are very small, but better to be safe than sorry. When booking a tour outside the hotel, as a visit to the pyramids, use only recommended guides and tour companies. When on the street, you need to stay vigilant, as there are plenty of pickpockets and you could easily be relieved of your wallet or phone if you don’t pay attention to your surroundings.
Watch Out for Hustlers
A huge part of the Egyptian economy relies on tourism. Tourists are a rare source of foreign currency and money in general in the country. That means everyone, from paupers on the street to security guards and even officials, will try to hustle you or scam you. You will be bombarded with offers, many including the word “free” in them. Never accept them, as nothing is free in Egypt.
Tipping Is Mandatory
Everyone will expect a tip, from the baggage handlers (even though they carried your bags less than 10 feet), toilet attendants, hotel staff, tour driver to your guide. People are very poor in Egypt and salaries are low. Those tips are very much appreciated.
It Is Hot During the Summer
During the summer months between May and August, the temperature gets incredibly hot. If you can set your travel date for some other period of the year, do so. The Sun is almost unbearable even for locals, let alone tourists. Add in the fact that most sights you want to visit are in the desert, with little or no shade and it gets easy to see why sensible people visit Egypt between September and April. Even then, you will need a lot of sunscreen during the day and a hat is mandatory.
This is especially true for women. Egypt is a deeply traditional country, with strong religious feelings. Shoulders and legs should be covered every time you go outside the hotel, and this goes for both men and women. You may see people in tank tops near the most famous sites, but don’t chance it in cities.
If you were hoping to get that amazing drone footage of the pyramids, we have to disappoint you. Drones are forbidden in Egypt, except by the permission of the Ministry of Defense. That means the drone stays at home since you risk customs seizing it on entry. Plus, there is a hefty fine for perpetrators and you can even end up in jail.
Almost every major touristic site has some extra charges. For instance, The Egyptian Museum sells separate tickets for the main exhibition and the room with the mummies of pharaohs. There are also photography ticket and a video ticket, also sold separately. You can easily end up paying three or four times more than you have planned on tickets alone. Make sure you know the cost in advance, so you can avoid surprises.
Don’t Drink Tap Water
Tap water is not drinkable in Egypt and you should avoid even brushing your teeth with it. Always use bottled water, or you can boil it for teeth brushing. We wouldn’t recommend drinking even boiled water. Hotels will usually provide plenty of bottled water for their guests.