Egypt, a country linking northeast Africa with the Middle East, dates to the time of the pharaohs. Millennia-old monuments still sit along the fertile Nile River Valley, including the colossal Pyramids and Sphinx at Giza and the hieroglyph-lined Karnak Temple and Valley of the Kings tombs in Luxor.
Upon arriving at the Cairo airport we were all shuttled from our plane to the arrivals area, the arrivals area was just like an Indiana Jones movie setting, humid, flies whizzing around, the ceiling fans spinning around churning up the heat and the lines of impatient travelers waiting to get processed through customs. This country and it’s unique history was one of my dream places to visit and checkout. For any traveler heading there i do recommend some research and preparation before arriving it will certainly help you in the long run.
Here are my tips for when you arrive in Egypt at the airport.
1. Preparation: First and foremost, prepare yourself for a culture shock! Many seasoned travelers are amazed when they first visit Egypt, and find that it is unlike any other country that they have previously visited!. Do your research before arriving and book your tours, transport to and from the airport and hotel way ahead of time.
2. Visas: If your from New Zealand you need a visa, these are available at the airport arrivals area for $25 Egyptian Pound = $4 NZD. Don’t be put off by the custom officers wearing white with handguns on each side, they are rather helpful if you need some assistance.
3. Money Exchange: You can exchange your $, £ or Euro for Egyptian pounds at the same place your getting your visa from – the conversion rate is far better in Egypt!.
4. Hustlers & Wolves: We arrived into Cairo without organising any transport to Alexandria this was a learning lesson for us but also a blessing. After we got our bags from customs we made our way out to the public area where hundreds of locals and beggars were waiting for tourists. We were approached by several strangers claiming to be from a reputable agency who wanted to take us wherever we wanted to go but for US dollars only, and after a few minutes i became annoyed with them and told them to piss off which they did. Along our travels in Egypt we came across many hustlers trying to pawn off crap goods or food it’s best to buy from actual shops and get a receipt in case the good is faulty.
If you wish to organise everything yourself like we did, be prepared for the occasional “rip-off”. Like many other tourist destinations, Egypt has its “wolves”, those who prey on unsuspecting travelers. Often the total cost of an excursion can be a lot more than if you had arranged it through your hotel, or a travel agent, and a lot less enjoyable.
Luckily we ended up going with a touring agency called Blue City Star Tours they have a booth setup within the Cairo airport much like the ones Budget rentals and the like have back home. We negotiated our price for them to take us from Cairo to Alexandria 250kms, which ended up being $25 NZD each way each person in an air conditioned late model car. Our driver was excellent and he even came all the way back to Alexandria to come get us on time, what a blessing! Checkout the video of his cool music.
5. Backup: If you are traveling alone, or in a couple, and wish to organise everything yourself, please let the hotel know your plans before you leave. If you should get lost, the hotel will be able to act on your behalf! Also, take a note of the hotel’s name and telephone number, in case you do get lost, or change your plans.
6. Food & Drink: Never drink the tap water! It is okay to wash, shower and clean your teeth with it, but not advised to drink. Bottled water is cheap and plentiful; use it instead! I bought 2 litres of bottled water for .40c NZD. You will find it a lot cheaper to buy in the various shops, than buying at your hotel or cruise boat. You may not drink a lot of water at home, but make sure you do in Egypt. It is very easy to become dehydrated if you don’t.
If you want to dine out, then you must know where the recommended restaurants are, and where you will find the clean healthy food. Don’t consider the price, even if you dine in a 5 star hotel, it is still cheaper than in your own country.
There you have it, some helpful tips to get you prepared for your dream trip to Egypt.
Checkout my On The Road In Egypt video here