Egypt

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ShermansTravel experts rely on years of collective travel experience to bring you the best money-saving tips for your vacation. We take a discerning look at all the attraction passes, public transportation options, and other local bargains to make sure you get the most bang for your buck while traveling.

Egypt Money-Saving Tips

Language

Most people in Egypt speak at least a little English since tourism is their biggest industry. A phrase book could be handy in the countryside and people always appreciate a greeting of “assalaam alaikum” (“peace be with you”) when meeting them or entering their store.

Souqs

There are many souqs (markets) throughout Egypt. Be sure to explore several of these to experience the true culture of the country. Khan al-Khalili in Cairo is the most famous.

Bargaining

If you see something at a souq (market) that you really want, offer half the price and go from there. If you don’t reach a price you think is fair, just say thank you and walk away.

Money

Credit cards are becoming more popular in Egypt’s bigger cities, but cash is the only accepted currency in most rural areas. And most places do not accept U.S. dollars, only Egyptian pounds.

Cafe Culture

Be sure to take some time out of your sightseeing to relax with a tea or coffee and a sheesha (water pipes used to smoke flavorful tobacco). Like a cigarette, these pipes are smoked while chatting with friends and enjoying a drink. Sheesha are usually shared, however, among your table – so each person has their own mouthpiece.

Ramadan

Exact dates of the Islamic holiday of Ramadan vary from year to year (dates follow the Muslim lunar calendar as opposed to the western Gregorian calendar) – in 2008 it occurs throughout the month of September; in 2009 it takes place from August 21st to September 19th. During this time stores, cafés, and monuments may not open at normal times – if they’re even open at all.

Etiquette

Egypt is known as a very liberal Muslim country, but it still keeps its religious values in a very high place. Dress appropriately and don’t show too much skin. Egyptians of the same sex generally hold hands and kiss in public, but this does not mean they condone same sex affection, especially among foreigners.

Curse of the Pharaoh

For tourists in Egypt, diarrhea is common. To avoid falling ill, drink only bottled water and bring along a bottle of charcoal pills (found at your local health food store) to take before meals.

Cuisine

Egyptian cuisine draws on cultural influences from Africa, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East. You’ll find perennial favorites such as hummus, lentil soup, and mahshi (grape leaves stuffed with rice or meat), but specific Egyptian dishes include koshari (pasta, rice, tomato sauce, and fried onions), bamiyya (stew of okra, tomatoes, and meat served with rice) and baklwawa (a variety of filo-wrapped pastries). Most dishes are fairly simple – think grilled meats and stuffed vegetables – but many spices and condiments are offered to give your meal a kick.

Whirling Dervishes

Well known in both Turkey and Egypt, the spiritual dance of the Sufi is quite colorful (and a bit dizzying). Dervishes perform in most big cities and in some restaurants.

International Camel Race Competition

Every April in Sharm el-Sheik, the swiftest camels race to be the fastest in the Sinai.

Crime

Egypt is proud of its relatively low crime rate, but tourists and natives alike should take extra precautions against potential pick-pockets in crowded places like monuments, bazaars, and other tourist sites.

Women's Dress

Egypt has become slightly more conservative in recent years, and even though it is not expected for female tourists to wear headscarves, especially in the cities, it is highly recommended in rural areas and obligatory in mosques.

Visa

All North Americans, New Zealanders, and Australians (and most Europeans) are required to have a tourist visa when visiting Egypt. These can be obtained in advance at the Egyptian Consulate. General visas are valid for up to a month and can be obtained by contacting any Egyptian Consulate in the U.S. www.touregypt.net/usconsulates.htm

Tipping

People asking for baksheesh (gratuity) is common in Egypt. Do not give money to people who simply walk up and ask for money, but you should tip people who offer a service: bathroom attendants, valets, and informal guides at tourist sites. One Egyptian pound is greatly appreciated.

Join an Archeological Dig

Join Egyptian Exploration Society, a well-respected British archeological society, for a minimal fee (about US$22) and sign up for one of their archeological digs at various sites throughout Egypt.

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