Some trips take a lot of preparation and planning, while with some, you just jump into the adventure. My trip to Egypt happened in this second way, for me. Suddenly it was me going to work at a hotel in Egypt in the place of my roommate.
With a sudden move and almost no preparation, I went to Egypt. I was able to have tons of fun and learn a lot about this country. In this guide I will share some of what I learned to help you get ready for your adventure.
Egyptian people speak Arabic, but most people in touristy spots can speak English on top of a handful of other languages. You’ll meet small kids eager to practice their incredible conversational skills with you.
Like everywhere else, a very basic Arabic knowledge pleases Egyptians. If you go way off the grid, some real Arabic skills may become handy. I was told the Arabic used in Egypt was different, so it might be difficult to communicate if you know the Standard Arabic instead of the Egyptian one.
Egypt uses C and F type of power outlets, the European ones. The voltage used is 220V. If you are coming from countries using a different voltage range (like the Americas), I strongly recommend you buy a voltage converter.
But there is another question. Will you even have electricity to break your electronics with? In big cities, you will, most of the time.
Hotter summer months are when you can face problems. AC usage can get too much for cities to handle. That’s when the electricity cuts start. Hotels with generators are an excellent idea for this reason. Egyptian nights without AC are not fun.
WiFi in Egypt is not the best. Egyptian people usually laugh and say “This is Africaaa!” when they see the WiFi is not working again. It is a nice change to do the same and take a break from the internet for a while.
In smaller towns, you’ll see people are very positive about the internet. They tend to call any half working WiFi as good internet. If you are planning to work in a smaller city, best to inquire thoroughly with your hotel.
Culture and People
Egypt introduced me to some of the most incredible people I’ve met. It has become one of the most memorable places I’ve ever been because of the amazing locals. Filling your day with random adventures is easy with fun-loving Egyptian people.
People also like to get personal in Egypt. Get ready for lots of uncomfortable questions. If you are alone, they will ask you why. If you are with your partner, they will ask why you are not married yet. When is the proposal, man? For couples who can have fun with situations like that, it is really fun to talk to people in Egypt.
You’ll also have your moments of stardom. If you go to a zoo, for example, you might see people wanting to take pictures with you instead of the animals.
Sometimes traveling in groups can offer unexpected benefits. For example, we were traveling as two girls and a guy for a while. Lots of people would come and congratulate the guy for having two wives. We couldn’t explain this wasn’t the case and ended up going along with it.
That’s when we realized the guy in our group earned the deep respect of Egyptian guys because the wives were getting along so well. We were invited to dinners and shisha parties thanks to the status he gained.
People in Egypt might be comfortable around foreign females, but you shouldn’t be around Egyptian ones. It is especially frowned upon for males to go and talk with an Egyptian lady, even in a relaxed holiday town.
Egyptian food is some of the best. It is cheap, it is not difficult to digest and it is insanely delicious. If you are not a vegetarian, you’ll find the meat in the Egyptian meals is something else. The people at our favorite restaurant in Dahab insisted it was cow meat, but for us, it was unicorn meat.
The restaurants usually offer very elaborate 3-course meals and some side dishes for 4-5 US dollars. Try everything on the menus. You can’t go wrong.
If you want to have cheaper snacks, the options are still incredibly tasty. For example, you can try delicious falafel sandwiches from the food carts.
Another great cheap option is koshari. This common Egyptian food consists of macaroni, lentils, rice, some chickpeas, and delicious sauces. You can have it for about $1. You won’t need to eat anything else for a while if you can finish a portion.
Before leaving Egypt, you need to have a proper Bedouin breakfast. It is an amazing spread of food and the most impressive part is the breakfast beans. Try it with some fresh bread and you will never want to leave the desert.
The only thing about Bedouin breakfast is that, just like Bedouin lunch and dinner, it is usually served in very remote places where you won’t see any other option or any civilization. This makes these meals a bit more pricey. Still, it is definitely worth it.
Tea is a big part of Egyptian food culture. It is important to accept when you are offered tea. It is sweet, minty and feels lovely in the heat.
When you are traveling around Egypt, your options are buses, trains and, airplanes. The best and easiest way would be traveling by airplane, but trains and buses are more budget-friendly.
With buses, you can reach more remote places. Get ready for delays and many security stops on the way. Soldiers in all black uniforms with machine guns is a sight that takes some getting used to, but they are the good guys (I think).
Places to see
There is no shortage of places to see or things to do in Egypt. Here I’ll mention some of the places that I enjoyed.
Pyramids of Giza
No trip to Egypt is complete before you see the legendary Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx. The sight is something else.
You can also go inside the pyramids. If you want to see the inside of all Pyramids, you need to pay a little extra. I’d suggest not to do that. You can already visit one of the Pyramids with your ticket and the pyramids are pretty much the same inside. The mummies and the treasures were all taken to the Egyptian Museum anyways, so the pyramids are pretty empty inside.
You can get to the Pyramids easily with a taxi from anywhere in Cairo. Taxis are usually very cheap in Egypt and they are the most comfortable way of traveling inside the city.
You need to get yourself ready for these two things before visiting the pyramids. First is the heat. It is a good idea to bring a hat and wear light clothes. People don’t care what women are wearing around the pyramids. I was told it was fine to wear shorts and a shirt, and I didn’t have any problems.
If you visit during summer months, it is best to go early, the temperatures get very high during the afternoons. Then, the only shade you will find is the inside the Pyramids.
The second thing is hassling. The Pyramids are the heart of tourism in Egypt and you might meet lots of people trying to sell you things, sometimes a little aggressively. You just need to be patient and firm.
The second place to visit in Cairo is the famous Egyptian Museum. Even if museums are not your usual scene when you are traveling, this one is a must-see. This is a place where you can see the amazing treasures of pharaohs like all the gold from Tutankhamen’s tomb.
The museum has way too many items and it can get a bit confusing after a while. So learning about the history of ancient Egypt, or getting a guidebook can be helpful. I chose to not get it and kinda regretted it. It felt like I wasn’t getting the most out of my visit at times.
The best part of the museum is the mummies. You have to pay a bit of extra money to enter the mummies section, but it’s definitely worth the money. The mummies are in great condition (considering) and there is much more information in this part of the museum. You get to learn about the life of the mummies you are seeing, a unique experience.
Life in Cairo is mesmerizing and also a bit tiring at times. This park is one of the best places to unwind. It is the perfect spot to hang out with your snacks and watch the beautiful Egyptian sunset. You can also hear the call to prayer coming from mosques all around echoing, one of the best experiences.
Valley of Kings and Queens
Luxor is home to many archaeological sites and for me, the most impressive ones were Valley of the Kings and the Queens. Instead of the pyramids, the second wave of rulers of ancient Egypt were buried in these underground rooms.
Being underground, the drawings on the walls are preserved very well and the shining colors are amazing. My favorite one was a tomb in the Valley of the Queens. It belonged to Nefertari, the favorite wife of the pharaoh at the time. You can see Nefertari and the pharaoh parting ways as Nefertari leaves for the next world and the couple waving goodbye to each other.
The Valley of Kings is home to Tutankhamen’s tomb. It’s in great condition and the mummy of Tutankhamen is inside the tomb.
Taking photos inside the tombs is forbidden as they can harm the artifacts, but the guards are very (very very) open to make an exception. Even when you don’t want any exceptions, if the guards like your vibe they can force you to take a picture together.
Speaking of people, Luxor is the place where hassling reaches its maximum and it is constant. Since tourism is going low, it is normal for people to be a bit more aggressive. It might also make you feel overwhelmed at times. I’ve seen people’s will to travel broken by Luxor.
My solution was to rent a bicycle and just be on it as much as possible. If you leave in the morning when it is not too hot, you can visit the valleys with your bicycle. When you are faster than walking speed and not needing a carriage, things get much simpler.
Egypt is not just a place to see archaeological sites and thousand year old artifacts . The coasts of Egypt are filled with beautiful beaches with pristine waters. Especially the Red Sea is filled with documentary worthy corals and fish.
Dahab is a coastal town by the Red Sea. You can think of it like the relaxed, backpacker sister of resort city Sharm-el Sheihk. The hotels are smaller and humbler but it is more lively and fun for younger people. You don’t need to be a diver to enjoy the corals, snorkeling is more than enough. But if you are into diving, Dahab is one of the cheapest places to get a PADI certification.
This beautiful mountain is best enjoyed at night. If you are staying in Dahab or Sharm-el Sheihk, you can join hiking tours at night. You are dropped to the foot of the mountain with these tours. Your Bedouin guide will then help you reach the top. Usually, the camel path is preferred for climbing. A second, more scenic path called Repentance is taken when you are going down.
If you are not a night person or feeling less energetic, you can ride a camel instead of walking. For the last leg of your hike, you’ll face some stairs to climb. If camels can climb that part, I’d recommend you ride one. The path itself feels like a breeze, but those 750 steps really got to me and made me realize how much more time (than zero) I should have spent in the gym.
Still, it is easy for everybody to reach the summit on time to watch the sunrise. It is a breathtaking view, with the the beautiful hues of sunrise bouncing of the peaks of nearby mountains.
One of my favorite things about this trip was looking at the night sky while we were going up. There is no light pollution and the walk is under the moonlight, so the milky way is shining above you.
Egypt has an abundance of places to watch the stars, there are many camping opportunities in the deserts, and it is always so beautiful. But I think the night sky of Mount Sinai was something else.
I love Egypt and I wish there wasn’t much to say when it comes to safety, but there is. If you are planning to visit Egypt, these are some things to consider.
The Northern Sinai region is considered a dangerous zone with a high potential for terrorist activity. It would be best to avoid traveling there. Even in Southern Sinai, it is best to not travel on your own, or to places you don’t know.
It is best to be on the lookout, especially in Luxor where people seem a bit more aggressive. When we arrived at our hostel in Luxor, the owner showed us all three people working there and wanted us to remember them. If anybody else were to approach us claiming they work there, we should stay away from them. It seemed weird at the time but the next day a random guy approached us claiming he worked at our hostel (naming it correctly) and wanted to take show us a shortcut to get there, pointing towards a small, shady street.
When you are traveling in the deserts, make sure to have a skilled guide. Some parts of the desert are off-limits and it can be quite dangerous to violate those limitations.
Most people in touristy spots are kind and they behave appropriately. Still, if you are a woman traveling alone, it is best to be cautious at all times.
Other than that, the things that can happen to you in Egypt can happen at home as well. If you are from a first world country, Egypt is a good place to get out of your comfort zone and face the unknown. There is so much to see, discover and experience in this beautiful, diverse country.
Özge is a digital marketer from Turkey whose latest project is Outline Turkey, a website about exploring Turkey. You can follow Özge on for her future digital nomad adventures.