Your Ultimate Egypt Travel Planner Tips and Tricks for a Memorable Trip

Your Ultimate Egypt Travel Planner: Tips and Tricks for a Memorable Trip (2024)

Are you dreaming of Pyramids? The Mummies? Then Egypt is surely the country you want to visit. With thousands of history and mystery, this country has plenty of stories to tell. In this post, you will find the perfect Egypt travel planner that will help you plan your holiday in Egypt effectively.

I have always been intrigued by the stories and mysteries of the Mummies. And that is why when these Mummies were flown into Sydney for an exhibition at Powerhouse museum, I had instantly bought tickets. And hence, even after the advice from Australian Government about not traveling to Egypt alone, I booked my flight tickets and tours to visit Egypt.

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About Egypt

Spanning across both continents of Africa and Asia, Egypt is the land with rich history, ancient civilisation, and deep traditions and heritage. With Pyramids and world’s one of longest rivers River Nile, the country is extremely popular among the tourists.

The capital and the largest city of Egypt is Cairo. Cairo is the political, economical and cultural centre of Egypt as well. Islam is the main and dominant religion in Egypt.

Cairo City
A glimpse of Cairo City

History of Egypt

Dating back to over 5000 years of history, Egypt has had many dynasties and kings who have ruled the country.

The First Dynasty began under the King Narmer where he unified the Upper and Lower Egypt during 3100 BC. The construction of the pyramids of Giza was around 2868 BC to 2181 BC.

Then came the foreign invasions by the Hyksos and Persians. In 332 BC, Alexander the Great conquered Egypt. It was later ruled by the Greek Ptolemaic dynasty where Cleopatra VII was one of the famous queens of Ptolemaic. Romans took over in 30 BC and was then ruled by Byzantine and the Arabs in 641 AD.

The Arab conquest marked the beginning of Islamic rule and Egypt then became the centre of Islamic culture and education. Then rose the Mamluks between 1250 AD to 1517 AD which was later incorporated into the Ottoman Empire in 1517 AD.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, Egypt saw modernisation efforts by Muhammad Ali Pasha. During that time there was British influence which lead into the establishment of a British protectorate in 1914. Egypt gained its independence in 1952 and became republic in 1953.

Things to Know Before Visiting Egypt

  • The local guides are very passionate about Egypt history and they study for 4 years to complete their education in Egyptology. This is really awesome and shows how amazing their history is.
  • Use Uber or Careem apps for booking taxis and they are more trustworthy than the local taxi drivers.
  • While leaving the city of Cairo, the security at Cairo airport happens twice. Once before the check-in and the other at the departure gate.
  • It is a common practise for locals to expect for lot of tips from tourists. If you do not give tips to the locals (even for Uber rides), they becomes aggressive towards the end. During an Uber ride from Cairo airport to the hotel, my driver had asked extra money as tips. I had given him $10 as tips and he wanted more money. His excuse was that the $10 was for the vehicle and that I had not given the tips for him. He became extremely rude and hostile where my hotel staff had to intervene.
  • If you are not buying anything at a shop or a store, ensure you set the expectations beforehand. Ultimately, the storekeeper becomes rude and aggressive if you do not purchase anything.
  • Egypt is, unfortunately, notorious for various scams that target tourists. Local individuals employ different methods to deceive visitors, emphasizing the importance of staying vigilant. It is crucial to remember certain precautions, such as ensuring you have local currency on hand and being prepared to haggle in various situations, as these measures can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to scams and prevent tourist scams altogether.
  • Cat calling and whistling at women is again very common in Egypt unfortunately.
  • Do not take drone to Egypt. The permission for flying a drone is very difficult to get and if you do not have the permission, then the airport authorities (customs) confiscate the drone at the airport. And trust me it is a very stressful process as they do not have any process. They make you run pole to post to ensure that drone is kept at the airport. And getting the drone back while leaving the country is a nightmare.
  • By the way, even to get back your drone at the airport, you need to tip the airline staff who escorts you everywhere.
  • If you are a solo female traveler, expect locals, especially men, to ask you about your marital status or about your boy friend.
  • Some of the taxi drivers sometimes try to touch you unnecessarily.
  • The locals at the tourist spots try to take your pictures without your permission.
  • Learn a few Arabic words as not all of them speak English.
  • You need to pay money to use public toilets.
  • Traffic is intense in Cairo. So, plan for your arrival and always have buffer time for up to an additional one or two hours.
  • There are too many stray dogs and cats in Egypt and unfortunately they are not taken care of.

How to Get to Egypt?

By Air

The best and easiest way to get to Egypt is by flying into Cairo International Airport. It is the largest and busiest airport in Egypt. There are many other international airports at Luxor, Hurghada and Sharm El Sheikh. Egypt Air, Etihad Airways, Lufthansa, Emirates and British Airways operate from Cairo and has connections with other major cities internationally.

Note: Do not carry your drone to the country unless you get permission. It is a very stressful process to deposit and retrieve it back at the airport. Customs are a nightmare here.

By Cruise

There are many cruise lines that stop at Egypt and has Alexandria or Port Said as their port stops. Celestyal Cruises is one of the cruise lines that have a cruise touching three continents and has a stop over in Egypt.

Where to Stay in Cairo?

Cairo has a range of options for accommodation. From budgeted to 5-star hotels, they have all sorts of stay. I stayed at Ramses Hilton Cairo that overlooks the River Nile. Situated at Tahrir Square right opposite to the Cairo Museum, the accommodation was decent and comfortable.

Click here to check availability on Booking.com

Room at Ramses Hilton Cairo
Room at Ramses Hilton Cairo

Most of the tourists opt to stay at Giza as you have hotels that have views of the Pyramids. However, I have heard that Giza is not that safe for tourists, especially at night.

 

Tourist / Visitor Visa for Egypt

You will need a visitor visa to enter Egypt. The tourist / visitor e-visa must be applied online before entering Egypt. Some countries do have an option of visa on arrival at the airport.

The document required is passport (machine readable), clearly displaying personal photo, passport number, given name, surname, date of birth, nationality, issue date, country name, and passport type. Sometimes depending on your country, Egypt embassy requires an additional certificate that clearly specifies that you are using an authorised tourist agent in Egypt. I was not asked for this certificate when I was applying for e-Visa but two Indians who were with me on a tour were asked to provide this certificate.

The visa processing takes up to 7 days and hence apply for your visa at least 7 days before your flight departure date. I received mine in a couple of days.

E-Visa processing fees is non-refundable. And for single, the visa fee is US$25 entry per applicant, and for multiple, the visa fee is US$60 entry per applicant. You have to pay the visa fee with credit / debit cards issued by banks outside of Egypt. The approved single entry visa expires in 90 days and approved multiple entry visa expires in 180 days from issuing date. All communications about the visa are done through emails.

Currency, Money Exchange and ATMs

The official currency of Egypt is the Egyptian Pound (EGP), also denoted as LE. Currency exchange services are widely available in Egypt, with exchange offices located at airports, banks, hotels, and commercial areas. I highly recommend exchanging the money either at airports or at banks so you are not deceived.

Egypt also has ATMs all around where you can use your credit / debit cards (Visa and Mastercard) to withdraw cash. But ensure to inform your bank of your travel plans to prevent any card-related issues.

Language Spoken in Egypt

Arabic is the main language of Egypt. English is not widely spoken, even at the airports. You will need to use all kinds of signs and few English words to make people understand. It is best to download the Google Translator app on your mobile.

Egypt SIM Card

It is always advisable to buy a local SIM card unless you have an e-SIM or any international SIM card that works well in Egypt. You can buy a SIM card at the airport for as low as US$10 for 40GB data. To buy a SIM card, you need to provide your passport. And you can either pay by cash or credit / debit card.

Best Time to Visit Egypt

The best time to visit Egypt is during the winter season, between October and April when the weather is relatively cooler. The hottest months are between June and August, and they are also the cheapest months to travel. I visited Egypt in the first week of October, and it was still very hot. The peak season is during December and January.

Number of Days Required to Explore Egypt

You need at least 7 to 8 days to cover the highlights in Egypt. But you need at least two weeks to enjoy the travel and explore the country. I was there only for four days before coming to Jordan.

Traveling within Egypt

You can use various modes of transportation in Egypt to get around, including domestic flights, trains, buses, and taxis.

Book a taxi with Uber or Careem apps in Cairo and other major cities. Do not go with local taxis as the driver creates a problem at the end of the trip by asking (forcing) for tips.

What to Wear in Egypt?

Egypt is a very conservative country, even though they have always had tourists. Ensure to dress modestly if you do not want unnecessary attention.

For women and men, it is better to wear clothes that cover your legs and shoulders. Also, for women, ensure to carry a scarf wherever you go. On a group tour or with others, you can still get away with shorts and sleeveless blouses.

For footwear, wear comfortable shoes when visiting the Pyramids as you have to walk a lot.

In front of National Museum of Egyptian Civilisation
In front of the National Museum of Egyptian Civilisation

Highlights of Egypt Travel

Great Pyramids of Giza

Located outside Cairo city, the Great Pyramids of Giza are a trio of ancient pyramids. Even though the site includes smaller pyramids, temples, and causeways, the three main pyramids are the Pyramid of Khufu, the Pyramid of Khafre, and the Pyramid of Menkaure. Built for Pharaoh Khufu, the Pyramid of Khufu is the largest.

Dating back to 2600 to 2500 BCE, the construction of pyramids took place during the Old Kingdom period of Ancient Egypt. Recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Pyramids of Giza is one of the main reasons to visit Egypt.

Your Ultimate Egypt Travel Planner Tips and Tricks for a Memorable Trip

Cruise the Nile River

One of the best ways to enjoy and learn the history of Egypt is by taking a cruise on the Nile River. Considered the lifeblood of Egypt, the River Nile flows through the country. On the cruise, you will sail between Luxor and Aswan.

Scuba Diving in the Red Sea

Known for its crystal clear waters and colorful reefs, scuba diving in the Red Sea must be on the scuba diving bucket list. Many popular dive sites exist, such as The Blue Hole in Dahab, Sharm El Sheikh, and Hurghada.

Climb Mount Sinai

With an altitude of 2285 meters, Mount Sinai is the second-highest mountain in Egypt. Starting at St Catherine’s Monastery, the trail to the summit is steep and uneven. The hike takes around 4 to 5 hours, and the distance is around 10 kilometres.

Do not use the public toilets at the top of the mountain as they are disgusting.

Eat Traditional Egyptian Meal

One of the best ways to enjoy travel is by cherishing the local cuisine and food. With a fusion of flavors, colors, and ingredients, traditional Egyptian cuisine usually includes bread, rice, legumes, vegetables, and various meats, including lamb, beef, and chicken. If you are a vegetarian, try out falafels. Also, Cairo has amazing restaurants where you can enjoy Egyptian food.

Cities / Towns to Visit on Egypt Travel

Cairo

With a history of thousands of years, Cairo is Egypt’s capital and largest city. Referred to as the City of a Thousand Minarets, the city is home to many mosques, including the Sultan Hassan Mosque and Al-Azhar Mosque.

View of Sunset at Cairo
View of Sunset at Cairo

Giza

Home to the Pyramids, Giza is on the outskirts of Cairo. It is a vibrant, touristy city with many restaurants and hotels. Some of the main attractions are the Pyramids of Giza and Sphinx. You can also visit the Solar Boat Museum when you are in Giza.

Pyramids of Giza and Sphinx
Pyramids of Giza and Sphinx

Memphis

Holding a significant place in the history of ancient Egypt, symbolising the achievements of the Old Kingdom and the region’s rich cultural heritage, Memphis is an ancient city located close to Cairo.

Founded around 3100 BCE, Memphis has an open-air archaeological museum featuring a variety of ancient ruins and artifacts. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Memphis was the seat of power for pharaohs (meaning Great House) and the administrative center of the nation.

Alabaster Sphinx Memphis
Alabaster Sphinx in Memphis

Saqqara

Also spelled as Sakkara, Saqqara is located around 20 kilometres from Cairo. Saqqara has many ancient burial sites, pyramids, and a rich historical tapestry with layers of tombs and structures from various dynastic periods.

Some of the historical sites to visit are:

  • Step Pyramid, or The Pyramid of Djoser, was built for Pharaoh Djoser and is considered one of the earliest colossal stone structures.
  • The pyramid of Teti, containing pyramid texts, is a sand pyramid. You can go to the burial chamber to see the tomb. But there is no mummy at the tomb, and it is empty.
Pyramid of Teti
Pyramid of Teti

Luxor

Referred to as the world’s most excellent open-air museum, Luxor served as the capital of Egypt during the New Kingdom period. Some key attractions are the Karnak Temple, Luxor Temple, Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Queens, Deir el-Bahri, Medinet Habu, and Luxor Museum.

Many of these monuments host sound and light shows at night. These shows provide dramatic and informative experiences showcasing the history of these sites.

Alexandria

Known for its rich history, Alexandria is a coastal and port city in Egypt. Founded by Alexander the Great in 331 BCE, Alexandria served as the capital city of the Ptolemaic Kingdom. Some of the key attractions are Qaitbay Citadel, Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Montaza Palace, Catacombs of Kom Ek Shoqafa, Pompey’s Pillar, Pharos Lighthouse, Alexandria National Museum, and Stanley Bridge.

Egypt Travel Planner: 3 Days Itinerary for Egypt

Day 1 – Cairo

Even though most of the blogs and travel companies suggest that you combine the Pyramids and Cairo into one day, I would say that this is just too much to see in one day. I suggest starting your first day by exploring Cairo. There are many things and places to see.

You can start your day by having a delicious Egyptian breakfast (like falafels) and heading to the National Museum of Egyptian Civilisation. This is the museum where you can see the real mummies. You need at least 3 hours at the museum as there are many things to see.

  • Entrance ticket for the museum – 240 EGP.

Note: You cannot take pictures of the mummies.

National Museum of Egyptian Civilisation
National Museum of Egyptian Civilisation

There are other museums, such as the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, the Gayer-Anderson Museum, and The Coptic Museums, that you can visit after the National Museum of Egyptian Civilisation.

In the evening, explore the culturally rich area of Islamic Cairo. You can visit the Sultan Hassan Mosque, the Al-Rifa’i Mosque, and the lively bazaars of Khan el-Khalili. Khan el-Khalili is a bustling market where you can shop for souvenirs, local products, spices, and more.

For dinner, I suggest a local restaurant in the Old City. Be careful of your belongings during this whole day.

Day 2 – Pyramids of Giza, Sphinx, Memphis and Saqqara

Located just outside of Cairo in Giza are the Pyramids of Giza. Start your day early and spend your time learning about the pyramids. You can go inside one of the pyramids. This is a narrow path (climb) where you must bend and climb to the tomb that once had the mummy. All these mummies have been shifted to the National Museum of Egyptian Civilisation.

If you are claustrophobic, then you may want to consider going inside the pyramid.

  • Entrance ticket for Pyramids – 650 EGP and
  • Entrance ticket to go inside the Pyramid – 360 EGP.
Your Ultimate Egypt Travel Planner Tips and Tricks for a Memorable Trip

Just close to the Pyramids is the Sphinx. The Sphinx is a massive statue with a lion’s body and a pharaoh’s head. Built to protect the Pyramids and the mummies, this is an iconic structure and an ancient symbol in Egypt.

The Sphinx
The Sphinx

After the Pyramids of Giza, visit the ancient city of Memphis. The visitors can see many historical artifacts in Memphis, such as the Alabaster Sphinx and a statue of Ramesses II. You need a couple of hours to explore that museum.

  • Entrance ticket for Museum – 100 EGP.
Memphis Museum
Memphis Museum

Your last stop for the day is Saqqara. In Saqqara, be sure to visit the Step Pyramid and other Tetu, Unas, and Pepi I pyramids. You can also go inside one of the pyramids.

  • Entrance ticket for Saqqara Monuments – 300 EGP.
Stepped Pyramid at Saqqara
Stepped Pyramid at Saqqara

Day 3 – Alexandria

On day 3, take a one-day trip to the ancient coastal city of Alexandria. Even though the city requires at least two days, you can still explore the highlights in one day. You can either drive to Alexandria or take a train.

Egypt Travel for Women

Egypt Travel for women is a bit tricky, especially when you are solo traveling. You get unnecessary attention, and people tend to click on your pictures without your permission. There will be catcalling and whistling. Also, there will be times when people will try to touch you without your consent. You need to be stern and show people the boundaries. It is not one of the safest countries for solo female travelers.

However, if you are always cautious and alert, you will still be able to travel around and have a good time. I traveled solo and made sure that I took a tour through Viator or GetYourGuide. And I stayed at a good hotel in between the city.

Queen at Memphis

Closing Notes

Egypt is a fascinating and incredible country to visit, even though you must be a bit more cautious than in other countries if you solo travel. From the monumental pyramids of Giza to the blue waters of the Red Sea, you have plenty of things to see in Egypt.

Disclaimers:

  • The prices mentioned in the post are valid only at the time of publication. Ensure that you check the booking websites for up-to-date information and prices.
  • My opinions and views are unbiased. If the post is a collaboration, then they are specifically mentioned.
  • Ensure that you check the relevant websites for up-to-date information on COVID protocols.
  • For any adventurous activities, please note that there is a risk that can be dangerous. Ensure you read the terms and conditions recommended by individual agencies and do them at your own risk.
  • For visas, it is best to see the embassy website for changing rules.
  • While using the recommended guides, auto-drivers or taxi drivers, do your due diligence and trust your judgement.

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