Getting to Egypt
Most international travelers fly into Cairo International Airport. It’s always best to book early for the best availability and prices.
- Flights to Cairo from Auckland takes in excess of 23 hrs.
- Flights to Cairo from Cape Town via Johannesburg takes around 11 – 12 hrs.
- Flight direct to Cairo from London typically take under 5 hrs.
- Flights to Cairo from Los Angeles are available direct at just over 11 hrs.
- Flights to Cairo from Sydney are approximately 26 hrs.
- Flight to Cairo from Toronto are available direct under 11 hrs.
Main airport for Egypt
Cairo International Airport. Is located 20 km from the centre of Cairo, IATA code: CAI
Geography & landscape of Egypt
In the North Eastern corner of Africa, Egypt borders Libya to the west, Israel to the northeast, and Sudan to the south. It covers over 1 million square kilometres, making Egypt the 10th largest country in Africa. Cairo is the second largest city in Africa, second only to Lagos in Nigeria.
Although predominantly desert, Egypt has thousands of kilometers of coastline along the Mediterranean and Red Seas and of course the River Nile. Despite only covering about 5% of Egypt, the Nile River and Delta are home to over 90% of the population.
Steep rocky cliffs rise along the banks of the Nile in some stretches whilst the delta consists of flat, low-lying areas. Whilst this is home to most of Egypt’s farmland, some parts of the delta are less suitable as they are marshy and water-logged.
Culture, religion and etiquette
Egypt’s population is roughly made up of 90% ethnic Egyptian, which includes the minority Christian Copts, Nubians and Berbers. The total population is estimated to be just over 100 million, making it the 3rd most populous in Africa and 14th in the world. Egypt is officially a Muslim country, with most identifying as Sunni Muslims. There is also a significant, but minority Coptic Christian population thought to be approximately 10% of the total.
Egypt’s tourist industry has been hard hit in recent years due to certain events. With the lifting of travel restrictions, tourists are now returning to the country bringing much needed income. Egyptian people are generally very helpful, if you ask a question, or seek direction, don’t be alarmed if a crowd gathers to help.
The country’s official language is Arabic, though French is also widely spoken. Nubian languages such as Nobiin and Kenzi are spoken in the lower Nile Valley around Kom Ombo and Aswan. Egyptians often communicate without using words. Useful to know if you are in the markets as an upwards nod or a ‘tsk’ sound means ‘no’. If you hear a stall holder hissing at you it means that they want to gain your attention. Learning basic greetings in Arabic is an excellent way to break the ice and it is good manners to greet people properly including shopkeepers and taxi drivers. Ahlan means ‘hello’ and is an informal greeting that can be used at any time of the day. ‘Thank you’ is shu-kran.You will often here Insha’Allah, a common saying meaning ‘God willing’.
Although the laws of Egypt do not prohibit sexual acts between individuals of the same sex, homosexuality is not socially tolerated. There have been reports that members of the LGBTQ2 community in Egypt, as well as LGBTQ2 travelers in Egypt, have been subject to arrests. Traditional Egyptians see the left hand as fundamentally unclean. Only the left hand is used to take off your shoes and, usually to clean yourself after using the bathroom. Therefore, Egyptians may be offended if you use your left hand to eat. Similar offence may be caused by passing money or handing over a gift using that hand.
Did you know?
Interesting fact: The Suez Canal took ten years to construct. It is estimated that at any one time there were 30,000 people working on it. When it was opened in 1869 it cut the journey from London to India by almost 9000 Kilometers.
Haggling is part of the culture in Egypt so don’t feel shy! Never agree to anything before agreeing on a price.
Photography etiquette in Egypt
It would be impossible to visit Egypt without wanting to capture every moment on your camera, and of course your Twitter and Instagram accounts. As always, we ask that all of our customers respect the people who welcome us to their country. Photography can be intrusive, it’s best to be polite and follow some basic etiquette.
Photographing the locals
Egyptians are famed for their hospitality. That said, it is always considered polite to ask before taking photographs of people going about their usual day.
Restrictions in public places
Many of the ancient sites are open to the elements, and as such allow photography. Many of the Museums allow photography, though be wary that a local charge may apply. Whilst you can take photographs inside the Egyptian Museum, they are strictly forbidden inside Tutankhamun’s treasure room.
Avoid photographing the military and police
It’s best to avoid taking photos of police or military personnel without their explicit permission – they’re often carrying guns (which makes for great pictures) but may not welcome the attention (and they’re carrying guns). Common sense would dictate that taking photos of police in action is not advisable. At the least you’d have your camera confiscated on the spot. Taking photos of military buildings is prohibited and can also result in confiscation if you are caught.
Asking for permission to take a photo
Pointing to your camera, pointing to what or who you want to photograph and smiling maniacally is the universal signal for ‘can I take a photo?’ and may work to some degree. Mostafa, one of our local guides suggests practicing your Arabic and say momken akhood soraah leek? (which means can I take a photo of you?).
The country’s official language is Arabic, though French is also widely spoken. Nubian languages such as Nobiin and Kenzi are spoken in the lower Nile Valley around Kom Ombo and Aswan. English is spoken by many in the cities.
Egypt’s capital Cairo is also the largest city in the country with a population estimated to be around 20 million people. With its strategic position at the gateway to the Nile Delta, this iconic city has stood in its present form for over a thousand years. With Roman, Arab and Turkish influences the city is a heady blend of architectural styles. The city’s historic heart was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979.
Other Important Cities in Egypt
Alexandria is the second largest city with a population of over 4.5 million. It was recognised as the capital of Egypt from 332 BCE – 641 CE.
Giza, on the west bank of the Nile is synonymous with pyramids. Known individually as Cheops, Chephren and Mycerinus, the pyramids are the last of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World still standing today.
Two of Egypt’s most spectacular temples are sited at Luxor. Originally connected by the two kilometre Avenue of Sphinx, the Temples of Karnak and Luxor remain breathtaking to this day. Luxor, known as Thebes in ancient times, was the great capital of Upper Egypt and is thought to have been continuously inhabited since 3000 BCE.
In ancient times there would have been a constant rolling tide of caravans passing through Aswan as traders and merchants made their way between Egypt and Nubia. The city supplied granite to Egypt’s master builders and you can see evidence of their work today at the Unfinished Obelisk. Thought to have been carved around 1450 BCE, the half carved obelisk is estimated to weigh over 1200 tonnes. It was abandoned in construction and remains today as testimony to the craftsmanship of the ancient builders.
What visas do I need for Egypt?
Citizens from over 40 countries are required to obtain an e-Visa, and this includes travelers from Canada, United Kingdom, United States and Australia. Tourist visas granted using the e-visa system are valid for a maximum of 3 months. You can get a visa on arrival by payment in Sterling, US Dollars or Euros; the visa fee is US$25 at approved bank kiosks within airport arrival halls. You will need to complete this before reaching the immigration counters. The authorities require all tourists traveling with an e-Visa to have available the following documentation on arrival:
- The e-Visa
- A passport valid for at least 6 months and this must be the same one used to complete the e-Visa application form
- Travel itinerary
- Hotel bookings or details about places of stay/visit
Please note – it is your responsibility to obtain a visa when travelling on one of our tours. Please contact your local embassy for full visa details.
Vaccinations & travel health
Travel health advice for Egypt may vary slightly according to your country of origin. Most travellers are recommended to have up to date Hepatitis A and Tetanus. There is no risk of yellow fever in Egypt, but a yellow fever vaccination certificate is required for travellers over 9 months of age arriving from countries with a risk of yellow fever transmission (with the addition of Eritrea, Rwanda, Somalia, United Republic of Tanzania, and Zambia).
Mosquitos and malaria
Egypt is not designated as a malaria endemic area. However, we recommend that travellers take precautions against mosquito or flying insect bites.
Get medical advice before you travel
We recommend that you seek country-specific, professional medical advice, ideally 4 to 6 weeks before you travel. Even if you’ve booked closer to your departure date, it’s still worth seeing someone. A travel health expert will consider the destination, your medical history and planned activities, so take your itinerary along with you to the appointment. See the CDC’s travel advice , Public Health England’s travel advice or similar in your own country for further information.
Is it safe to drink tap water in Egypt?
Tap water in Cairo is heavily chlorinated. This makes it relatively safe to drink but not very tasty. Tap water may not be safe to drink outside of Cairo.
If you are concerned about the impact of using single use plastics, and don’t want to buy bottled water, you might consider using a purifier such as Chlorine Dioxide Tablets or Drops.
Water is a scarce resource across Egypt and we ask that all travellers use water wisely.
We recommend that you do not swim in the Nile and that you are careful walking barefoot in gardens that use Nile water for irrigation. Nile water does present a risk of the flatworm parasite, causing schistosomiasis (bilharzia disease). This can cause abdominal pain and diarrhea.
Electricity and plugs in Egypt
In Egypt the power plugs and sockets are of type C and F.
Type C, also known as the standard “Euro” plug, has two round pins, and the type F has the same plus two earth clips on either side.
The standard voltage is 220 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz.
We recommend you check your appliances before embarking on your journey to understand the requirements in Egypt.
It may be helpful to save these numbers on your phone in case of an emergency in Egypt:
- Tourist police 126
- Fire service 180
- Ambulance 123
- Police 122
- Telephone gude 140
Travelling as a single woman in Egypt
Egyptian hospitality is legendary and Egypt has historically been considered a very friendly and welcoming destination for international tourists. As in most countries, the largest majority of locals are kind, generous and will look to be as helpful as they can to visitors.
Women travelling alone, should exercise care when in crowded areas such busy bars, markets and public transport to avoid attracting unwanted attention. Stay safe by remaining alert and being aware of who is around you. if you feel uncomfortable, trust your judgement and leave. If necessary, make contact with the tourist police.
Pickpockets work in busy spaces across the world, and Egypt is no exception. You can deter thieves by planning ahead and keeping your valuables out of sight. If you travel with a backpack, wear it on your front where you can see it. If you stop to take photographs or to eat and drink, keep your bag in reach and in sight at all times. Avoid leaving it, and any other valuables under the table or behind your chair.
If you are using an ATM it is best to do so with someone else, preferably in a supermarket, bank or large commercial building, and ideally not at night. We ask all travelers to be mindful of culture. What you may consider to be friendly and fun at home, may be seen as direct flirtation or an invitation that you what to take the encounter further. Flirtation may also cause offence. Touch, however casual or innocently intended, may attract an unwelcome response.
Just as you would at home, do not leave your drink unattended, even for a moment and be careful about accepting drinks from people you have just met or who you do not know. Egypt offers some great nightlife, but if you are planning to go out at night, it is best to join up with others. Let your hotel and/or your Tucan Travel tour leader know where you’re going.
If you are hailing a taxi, look for an official, registered or licensed (white) taxi or one that has been recommended and booked by your hotel. It may not be safe and we recommend against using unknown, unbooked or surprisingly cheap taxis alone late at night. If in doubt, or if you feel unsafe, tell the driver to stop and change taxi.
Keep your friends and family up-to-date with your adventures on social media, text or email. As well as sharing your amazing adventure, let them know where you are and when you expect to reach your next destination. It always pays to plan for every eventuality and they can raise the alarm if they don’t hear from you as expected.
Being a popular destination, there’s every chance you’ll bump into a lot of the same travellers at different sites along your route in Egypt. This is one of the joys of travel and you may find friendships and people to meet up with as you go. Group tours provide an opportunity to make new friends travelling on a common itinerary – 60% of Tucan Travel tours are made up of solo travellers enjoying the company of like-minded adventurers.
Wifi & internet access
Free, but password protected wifi is commonly available in hotels, cafes and restaurants in the larger cities. Some hotels may charge a day rate for a higher speed wifi service. Access may not always be available in the more remote areas.
Egypt is + 1 hour (one hour) ahead of London (GMT/UTC). Egypt does not have a daylight saving time clock change, but allowances should be made for summer time clock changes elsewhere. Visit timeanddate.com to calculate the time difference for your location.
Using local transport is such a fabulous way to get to see a country and its people. We have given typical costs below for travel in and around Cairo. Travel is typically cheaper outside of the cities. If you are looking to use local transport during your tour we recommend that you talk to your hotel or local guide for suggestions and advice.
Most people live along the Nile valley, close to the Nile and its precious water source. Cities are crowded, roads can appear chaotic and travel within the cities can be slow. Outside of the cities, life has a much slower pace, and this is reflected in the travel styles.
Local buses are available, though not typically tourist friendly as signs and instructions are in Arabic. This is a cheap form of transport, and don’t worry, the conductor will find you no matter how busy the bus. In Cairo the blue buses are owned and run by the Ministry of Transport, and have fixed prices. For buses that travel 30 KM or less, the ticket price is 3 Egyptian Pounds. This rises to 4 Egyptian Pounds for travel up to 40 km and 5 Egyptian Pounds up to 60 km (all equal to less than 1 USD).
White cabs are available to hail in most parts of Cairo, all have air conditioning and electronic meters. These typically cost about 5 Egyptian Pounds for the first kilometer and then 2 Egyptian Pounds per kilometer after that. Be prepared for a standing charge of a couple of Egyptian Pounds if the taxi is held up in Cairo’s infamous traffic jams. The tuk tuk has come to Egypt. Known locally as tok tok, these can be found in the smaller towns and cities. They are typically the same price or cheaper than standard or metered taxis.
There is an expanding metro in Cairo, where you can expect to pay just a couple of Egyptian pounds for a journey across town. Costs range from 3 Egyptian pounds which covers nine stops, up to 7 Egyptian Pounds if you travel more than 16 stations.
All of our small group tours travel to Aswan by overnight train from Cairo.Train cabins have two berths, and a sink. There will be shared bathrooms. The cabin assistant will help to make up your bed and serve the meals. The train station can be chaotic, but interesting. Keep your luggage and valuables with you at all times. The costs of the overnight train is included in all of our group tours.
There is a growing water taxi service in Cairo, helping busy commuters to beat the traffic. They cost upwards of 15 Egyptian Pounds. Outside of Cairo, there are numerous small boats that will offer you the chance to cross the River. These are relatively cheap, costing just a few Egyptian Pounds to cross one way. For a fee, your boatman may wait for you to take you back.
With a records stretching back almost 5000 years Egypt has been casting a spell on us for millennia. Back in the Stone Age people in the area that we know as Egypt left their nomadic lifestyle behind and settled down to farm in the fertile lands around the Nile. Farming communities started to grow, trade began, and separate Kingdoms in the north and south started to evolve.The country was finally united by King Menes around 3,100 BCE.
Ancient Egyptian history is divided by scholars into three Kingdoms, The Old (about 2,700-2,200 BCE), the Middle (2,050-1,800 BCE), and the New (about 1,550-1,100 BCE), all led by various pharaohs. The kings of Egypt, known as Pharaohs all sought immortality through various rituals and ceremonies. We know many of their names today from tombs, monuments and manuscripts. Pharaohs such as Djoser, Khufu, Tutankhamun and Ramses II known as Ramses the Great.
It is thought that Djoser was responsible for the pyramid culture that has become synonymous with Egypt. Around 2630 BCE he asked his Vizier, Imhotep, to build his tomb. Imhotep had the ingenious idea of stacking mastaba tombs on top of one another. Djoser’s pyramid still stands today at Saqqara. Known as the Stepped Pyramid it is thought to have been the tallest man made structure of the time when it was completed.Pyramid-building continued, reaching ever greater heights. The Great Pyramid at Giza, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World was built for Khufu, Pharaoh between 2589 and 2566 BCE. Although his name is known across the world, Tutenkhamun was only a minor Pharaoh. He became famous when Howard Carter’s uncovered his near intact tomb in 1922. The tomb is one in the Valley of the Kings, the preferred burial site for Pharaohs for hundreds of years.
Next came Ramses II, or Ramses the Great. He reigned for 67 years, had 200 wives and is thought to have fathered more than 100 children. Ramses was one of the most prolific builders and is responsible for monuments at Abu Simbel, Karnak and Luxor. Ramses’ mummy can be seen at Cairo’s Egyptian museum. He is as imposing in death as he must have been in life. These Pharaohs, and many others have achieved immortality because we know their names.
Alexander the Great came to Egypt in 332 BCE and he was closely followed by another Greek, Ptolemy, bringing Egypt into the Greek Empire for 300 years.The beautiful temple at Philae temple was built at this time. Christinaity came to Egypt in 37CE, brought by St Mark who founded a church in Alexandria in 40 CE. The Egyptian Christians are still called Copts today, a word derived from the Greek word for the country, Aegyptos.
The country has endured many changes in fortune over the centuries. Its glorious past was rediscovered during the golden age of discovery around the 18th and 19th centuries CE. Modern Egypt is a no less astounding, and Egyptians today celebrate the revolutions that have brought them democracy and the constitutional rule of law. Whether you have a passion for the past, or a love of the modern and vibrant, Egypt remains as mesmerising today as it has always been.