Non-Egyptian visitors arriving in Egypt are required to be in possession of a valid passport. Entry visas may be obtained from Egyptian Diplomatic and Consular Missions Abroad or from the Entry Visa Department at the Travel Documents, Immigration, and Nationality Administration (TDINA). It is, however, possible for most tourists and visitors to obtain an entry visa at any of the Major Ports of Entry. A Tourist Visa is usually valid for a period not exceeding three months and granted on either single or multiple entry basis. Please check with your nearest Egyptian Consular mission for more details concerning visa regulations applying to your citizenship. A notice stamped in passports on entry into Egypt says "registration within 7 days" but arrivals in Cairo should in fact be registered within 48 hours, either at the nearest police station or at the Mugama'a. Visitors need re-registration at each new city visited for the sake of the tourists' safety. Hotels perform this service routinely, but visitors staying in private houses, must make other arrangements to be registered. Their hosts may be held responsible for failure to do so. Air Egypt is served by international airports at Alexandria, Cairo, Luxor, and Hurghada on the mainland, and at Sharm el Shaykh on the Sinai Peninsula. The largest and most active airport is in Cairo. Cairo International Airport is one of the few airports that have a duty free shop upon arrival and departure. All airports in Egypt have a taxi service to city centers, operated on a flat fee basis. The Airport Bus Service operates from Terminal 1. The bus leaves when full and stops at Midan Tahrir in downtown Cairo, in Mohandeseen, and along Pyramids Road in Giza
With some restrictions, all borders are now open.
From Israel: Private vehicles are not permitted to enter Egypt from Israel; however may use public transport and enter Egypt via Rafah on the northern coast of Sinai or from Eilat on the Red Sea. Buses run regularly from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to the border at Rafah. The border passengers disembark from the Israeli vehicle, go through customs, and take an Egyptian bus or taxi. There are no facilities for issuing visas at the Rafah border. In Eilat, Israeli buses are permitted to enter Egypt and travel as far as Sharm el Shaykh at the southern tip of the Sinai.
From Sudan: There is a twice-weekly steamer that ferries cars the length of Lake Nasser from Wadi Halfa in the Sudan to Aswan in Egypt. Information is available from the Nile Navigation Company Limited, Ramses Square (in the train station), and Nile Maritime Agency, 8 Quasr el Nil, both in Cairo; and the Nile Company for River Transport, 7 Atlas Building, Aswan. Alexandria and Port Said on the Mediterranean Sea, and Suez and Nuweiba on the Red Sea are ports of entry for visitors, but sailings have been reduced of late.
Persons traveling with expensive electronic equipment such as cameras, video cameras, or computers may be required to list these items in their passports to ensure that they will be exported upon departure. Travelers are free to buy and export Egyptian goods. There are restrictions on certain items that are not permitted to leave the country. Under no circumstances are antiquities, either ancient Egyptian or Islamic, permitted to be exported. Nor are precious jewels, carpets, paintings or other works older than 100 years.
Egyptian summers are hot. While most of the country is dry, the Delta and along the Mediterranean Coast sees high humidity. In recent years, the humidity has spread to Cairo, causing the city to swelter in August. Winters are mild with some rain, but usually there are bright, sunny days and cold nights. There is a short spring and autumn and during the 50 days 'khamseen' (between the end of March and mid-May), dust storms can occur sporadically.
Modern Egyptian currency (specifically paper money) ranges from 25 Piastres (quarter pound note) up to a 1,000-pound note. Egyptian currency is not the same size; the smaller the note denomination, the smaller its physical size. Egyptian coins duplicate the value of some of the Egyptian bills. There are 25 Piastres and 50 Piastres coins, but because of this duplication, many establishments in Egypt rarely have coins. In fact, the value of 25 Piastres is so small that they are often difficult to find in either coin or bill, and businesses often round up the price of merchandise to the nearest pound. Egyptian money is both colourful, and attractively designed.
UTC / GMT + 2 hours, add 1 hour during DST (Daylight Savings Time)
Business hours are generally from 8:30 am to 1:30 pm and from 4:30 to 7 pm, Saturday to Thursday. Government offices are open from 8 am to 3 pm. In the summer, many workers take a longer lunch break because of the heat and then work later in the evening. Shops are generally closed on Friday afternoon, but work is not prohibited. During the month of Ramadan, business hours are often cut by an hour, and work slows down in many areas. However, many shops open again in the evening. The Central Post Office at Midan al Ataba in Cairo (tel: 912-356) is open 24 hours a day except Friday and the occasional holiday. All other post offices are open from 8:30 am - 3 pm daily, except Fridays. Pharmacies are usually open from 10 am to 10 pm.
There are a number of local newspapers publishing in English, French, Greek and Armenian.English-language magazines include Arab Press Review, a biweekly political magazine, Business Monthly, featuring business news, Cairo Today, a monthly general interest magazine, Places in Egypt, designed for tourists, and Prism, a literary quarterly. Mailboxes found on street corners and in front of post offices are red for regular Egyptian mail, blue for overseas airmail letters and green for Cairo and express mail within Cairo. Allow 5 days for airmail post to Europe, 8-10 days to America. Most 5-star hotels offer direct dial service in your room and via the telephone operator in the hotel. The Central Telephone and Telegraph Offices (8 Adli; Midan Tahrir; 26 Ramses) are open 24 hours a day, as are many branch exchanges. Others are open from 7 a.m. -10 p.m. daily. Telex and fax services are also available from the above business centers dotted around the city. ATandT and Sprint offer services to card holders visiting Egypt.
220 Volts, 50 cycle (Hz)
Arabic is the official language although English and French are widely understood by educated classes.
Egypt is a conservative country and visitors should respect this attitude. No topless or nude bathing is permitted. On the practical side, leave your synthetics at home; they will prove to be too hot in summer and not warm enough in winter-bring materials that breathe. It is advisable to wear cotton in summer, as the heat can be intense. In winter, wear layers that can be taken off during the heat of the day and put back on for cool evenings. Wear loose and flowing garments, which are not only modest, but also practical in a hot climate. Bring comfortable shoes. You will be doing a lot of walking and temple floors are far from even. In summer, wear a hat to protect yourself from the heat of the Egyptian sun. Sunglasses are a must as the sun is very strong in Egypt.
In Egypt, there are hardly any restrictions on foreign women. Ticket lines, for example, are occasionally segregated. Women should line up with other women (especially since the lines are usually shorter). On buses, the driver may want you to be seated in the front with other women. On the metro lines, the first car is usually reserved for women. For men, speaking to an unknown Egyptian woman is a breach of etiquette. Take care in any liaisons you form because some families still follow ancient traditions.
Egyptians, if offered anything, will refuse the first invitation, which is customary. Therefore, (unless you're dealing with Egyptians used to Western frankness) you should do the same. If the offer is from the heart and not just out of politeness, it will be repeated. If you're invited into a home, especially in small villages, and have to refuse, the householder will often press for a promise from you to visit in the future, usually for a meal. If you make such a promise, keep it, for having foreign guests is often considered a social coup. If you fail to arrive, your would-be host will be humiliated. To repay invitations, you may host a dinner in a restaurant, a common practice.
Baksheesh, Do not offer tips to professionals, businessmen, or others who would consider themselves your equals. You may seriously offend them by your act.
Egypt has two national carriers for internal flights, Egyptair and Air Sinai. Egyptair flies daily from Cairo to Alexandria, Luxor, Aswan, Abu Simbel, and Hurghada and twice a week to Kharga Oasis. Air Sinai flies from Cairo to Hurghada, Al Arish, Taba, Sharm el Shaykh, St. Catherine's Monastery, El Tor, and to Tel Aviv, Israel.
The Nile flows through Egypt from south to north. Lower Egypt is thus the north and Upper Egypt is the south. This is because the country slopes downhill toward the Mediterranean. Going upriver means heading south to Luxor and Aswan, and going down the Nile means heading north towards Cairo and Alexandria.
The Egyptian State Railway is a government-owned system founded in 1851, which services the entire Nile Valley down to Aswan, the Red Sea cities of Suez and Port Said, the Delta and Northern Coast cities of Alexandria (two stops) and Mersa Matruh. There are at least half a dozen through trains a day on major routes. Fares are inexpensive, but unless one is traveling with a tour, tickets must be purchased at the main railway stations (in Cairo at the Ramses Station at Midan Ramses). There is one privately-owned train operating in Egypt, the Wagon Lits sleeper with first, second and third class compartments. The train travels overnight from Cairo to Aswan and back again, leaving Cairo at around 7 in the evenings and arriving in Aswan at 9 the following morning. Bookings are one week in advance through a travel agent or from Compagnie Internationale des Wagons Lits Egypte, 9 Sh Menes, Heliopolis, Tel: 290-8802/4; 48 Sh Giza, Giza, Tel: 348-7354, 349-2365.
Air- conditioned buses link most parts of Egypt to Cairo and Alexandria. Seats may be reserved up to two days in advance. There is also a fleet of cheaper non-air-conditioned buses. Although bus times may change without notice, departures are so frequent that schedule changes are not a problem.
Both Alexandria and Cairo have tram or metro systems that run through at least part of the city. Trains run every few minutes from early morning (5:30 a.m.) to midnight and fares are inexpensive, usually under a pound to the farthest destination. In Cairo, transport includes limousine, taxi, and bus. Regular city buses are not recommended, as they are often too crowded for foreigners.
Official Cairo taxis are predominantly black and white and Alexandria taxis are black and orange. There are also Peugeot taxis in a variety of colors and sizes, but they all have an emblem and number painted on the driver's door. Fees are the same as the limousine service. Official prices are strict and meters should be used. It is preferable to ask the driver if his meter is working or not. Most taxi drivers are honest, but few try to cheat unwary foreigners. At your destination, pay the fare in exact change. No tip is expected. Taxi drivers are friendly, many speak English, some are college graduates moonlighting to supplement their income, and most are very eager to be hired by the day. If you plan to visit a number of sites and wish the driver to wait for you, this may be a good option. Taxis in Luxor, Aswan, Hurghada, Esaphagas and Sinai are easier to find (they line up at all hotels) but for the distance traveled they are more expensive than those in Cairo.
Driving a car in Egypt allows a great deal of freedom. Streets are congested in the cities, especially Cairo, but highways throughout the country are not. Car rental agencies exist at most major hotels. Foreigners must have an International Driver's License and be at least 25 years of age to rent a car in Egypt. Some agencies offer 4x4s, with or without driver, for desert travel. You will need your passport, driver's license, and a prepayment. Credit cards are accepted. It is not advisable to drive at night; vehicles stop dead on the road and turn out their lights; unlit donkey carts move at a snail's pace and are usually not seen until it is too late, and long distance taxis and overloaded trucks travel too fast and are driven by drivers who use "stimulants". Road signs are similar to those used throughout Europe. Driving is on the right-hand side of the road. Speed limits are posted on major highways and are enforced by radar.
Alexandria and Cairo are crowded cities, and walking in the streets is generally not very pleasant. Walking in Luxor and Aswan, however, is a pleasure. These towns are not crowded and there is a pleasant country atmosphere. Hiking as a pastime is not popular in Egypt and should not be under-taken in remote areas without a local guide. That said, there are interesting hikes and local people may be willing to act as guides in the Eastern Desert, Sinai and the Oases. Hitchhiking is not a common practice in Egypt and is not recommended, especially for women.
Modern hospitals are abundant all over the country, both in governmental and private sectors. Governmental hospitals in general and university hospitals in particular, enjoy a high standard of modern equipment and efficient staff members. Numerous private practices are quite near to Western standards. Hospitalizations in most general hospitals, particularly in emergencies, are free of charge. However, a visitor is always advised to use a private hospital, which is still strictly supervised by the health authorities. Hospital charges vary according to different standards, but in general, the cost is much less than one would expect at home. There are good hospitals in Cairo and Alexandria. However, they operate on a cash basis and patients cannot use foreign medical insurance plans. Many hospitals accept credit cards. It is illegal for a private hospital to reject or transfer any emergency case for financial reasons. Once a patient is admitted to a private hospital in Egypt, a professor or consultantis immediately assigned to handle the case. Contacting your embassy is advised, as its personnel might also review the hospital charges. All hotels have references for medical services and some have a doctor on call 24 hours a day. All Egyptian doctors speak good English. Embassies can also be consulted as they usually have contracts with physicians. The red crescent is the symbol of medical services in Egypt equivalent to the red cross seen in many countries. It designates hospitals, ambulances, and other medical services.
Pharmacies are usually open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and are staffed by competent professionals. Both locally made and imported medication is subsidized by the government and is inexpensive. Some medication requiring prescriptions abroad is sold over the counter in Egypt. There are no custom restrictions for medication. Pharmacies are abundant everywhere. They are easily spotted by the sign of a red crescent, sometimes with a red cross inside.
In case of problems, it's worth knowing the distinctions between types of police. Tourist Police wear green armbands and stand guard at major tourist sites and hotels. Traffic Police wear black and white in winter, and white in summer, and can be found on most major street corners. The Central Security policemen wear black and guard embassies, hotels, and public buildings.