Traveling to Egypt! Read my practical guide.
Moving to Egypt was one of the biggest transitions and challenges of my life. For those who have travel experience, they will need to know the certain situations and procedures that they should follow so that they don’t feel confused along the way with their move towards another country. I have been well educated when it comes to the English language, which makes it easier for me to make friends and be organized if that is what is required from me. Living in another country and having to get used to the traditions is not that difficult for me but only if you are ready for the challenge it will not be that hard for you as well. So the first question everyone asks is it safe to travel to Egypt in 2020
Furthermore, I have had experiences that most people would find difficult, but it will teach you to adapt and enjoy the better things in life when they come around. Living in the biggest metropolis in North Africa and the Middle East, was honestly something different and not expected. Don’t worry, I did sleep in a normal bed setting and I was able to use an average bathroom that was comfortable and suitable for anyone while I was here in the capital city of Cairo. But if you consider moving and travelling to Egypt in the future, there might be some things that you want to know beforehand to make you ready for the future adjustment and changes to make.
As a foreigner to a new country, you are bound to experience a dose of stress, loneliness and possibly home sick from one time to another. The good news is that you are not alone or any different to feel this way because most expats feel the same way when it comes to adjusting to a new life abroad. These issues can be avoided before you even purchase your plane ticket to move to Egypt.
In this guide, I will explain what makes living in Egypt so different, everything you should know about this exciting country, traditions and culture to mentally prepare yourself and avoid any troubles along the way as much as possible. My main purpose with this guide is to provide a practical guide and assist those who need further comprehensive information. In this guide you will find information about vaccinations needed in the future, how to receive your visa, a map for using transportation routes around the city, expat websites and clubs that are worth visiting. This guide was designed for the main purpose to skip the topics that don’t catch your interest and easily gain the information that will be beneficial for your everyday life. However, if you considering moving to Egypt and not just visiting, I would recommend that you would take the time to read all of it because most people that will move to Egypt, will most likely move to the capital city of Cairo which will be our main focus during this guide. In addition, I will also provide some information about travel destinations, public transportation to be taken and other information that can cover the whole country of Egypt. I would hope that you enjoy reading this guide and that it would give you the information you need to require to make your visit or move worthwhile.
There are a few procedures you must put into consideration before you declare your move towards the beautiful country of Egypt. You will need to prepare your passport and make sure that it is valid before you take any further actions. After you made sure that you have a valid passport and is acceptable for travelling then it is best that you apply for a travelling visa (or having a work permit in case you are coming to Egypt for work), the right vaccinations and having the common knowledge among the cultural habits, find a suitable apartment etc.
When you start to prepare for the trip to Egypt, you should also put into further consideration to make a small investment towards your health by purchasing an affordable travel insurance policy for your trip. Not only does this travel insurance policy covers you if your travel baggage is lost/stolen or if your flight has been delayed/cancelled but you will also be covered for all the medical and injury related issues that can happen as well. Do yourself the favor and get the coverage that you need now so that you can be rest assured that you’ll be taken care of in case if a serious emergency happens in Egypt.
Keep in mind that your passport must be valid for at least 180 days on the day of arrival. Some people who are not used to travelling usually end up purchasing an e-visa. You can buy these visas almost anywhere on the internet just make sure that the visa is legitimate and acceptable. There are companies that sell the visa online and charge you additional service costs and will waste a lot of your time and effort which will require you to send a copy of your personal information (passport data, ID card, social insurance or security) which in most cases it will be much easier to get the visa yourself and not having to deal with the hassles of services online.
For the country of Egypt, citizens from the following countries can stay in the country for 3 months without a visa and can enter the country under certain conditions. This list can also be found HERE:
Most citizens coming from Western countries can enter the country by an entry visa on arrival. For example, when you arrive at Cairo International Airport, there is a counter before they check your passport, where you can pay with dollars and euros. A visa on arrival should cost around 25 Euros which is equivalent to almost 28 USD. This can be applied for all the countries from the European Union as well as:
You will need a business visa and a working permit if you are looking forward to travelling for business or as a student to Egypt. If you are a student looking to enroll your next school year in Egypt, there are many different ways to receiving your student visa such as going to extend your entry visa every month or trying to apply for a residential visa for three month. When you are working for a company and looking forward to applying for the business visa, it can be quite complicated as it can differ from each company. They will probably tell you to contact the company or university, which would lead you to asking the legislation department about the in-depth details if you are facing any problems. It can take more time than you would expect, for some it can take months if the proper documents and paperwork is not present to arrange it, which is then recommended for you to contact your embassy that is located in Cairo if they can offer assistance along the way.
For most citizens with international citizenship there is a transit time of 48 hours that is applied. There are also few exceptions. Furthermore, there are some exemptions for some that meet these requirements. You will find good information HERE.
If you want to save some money for direct flights to Cairo, it is recommended to use Egyptian Airlines. For quality luxury flights, you have to stick to the bigger flight companies such as Air France, Lufthansa and Emirates. When you are travelling in Egypt or any close destination like Istanbul or Amman, Nile Air also offers affordable flights. When you are looking towards cheaper tickets to Cairo, the best way to search for flights is to find flights with one or two stops along the way. Personally, this way of travelling is very exciting especially when I am going around Europe. Sometimes you can even take a day or two off and enjoy a visit to Athens or Istanbul if you have the proper documentation with your passport and travel visas. One of the tricks to finding affordable tickets, is by booking as soon as possible on either Tuesday or Wednesday. When booking the flight tickets, it would be better to look up the flight with their search engine and book the ticket on the website of the flight company. This also applies when you are using other flight search engines. Using this method will save you a lot of time and avoid any unnecessary booking costs that can be taken.
CONSIDER HIRING A TOUR GUIDE
The beautiful country of Egypt is well known for its touristic history and wide variety of ancient properties to visit so planning a trip to Egypt isn’t as easy as you might think. From accommodations to be made and transportation routes to be taken, planning to visit all the places you would like can almost always disconnect you from anything that can attract your eyes along the way. I am a person who likes to travel often and it is not common for me to recommend hiring a tour guide but when it comes to the historical country of Egypt, it would be best to hire a well-known tour guide. Egypt is well known for being a country that can be on anyone’s bucket list of places to visit and if you don’t have any prior experience you might not enjoy everything that you might have planned. When it comes to having a tour guide by your side, they can easily save your time from one place to another knowing how to deal with locals and which is the best way to go to the next destination without having to face much trouble not to mention showing you and describing to you the best locations of Egypt and the history that is behind this unique country.
VACCINATIONS AND MEDICINE
When it comes to cleanliness, Egypt is not well known for being the top countries when it comes to that category so it is best to take your own precautions before visiting the country. In most areas, people won’t mind littering among the street as much as you will notice that the hygiene factor in most places aren’t taken so seriously so if you are looking forward to staying in local places for a long time or even having a meal, you would want to be sure that you are well protected. Vaccinations can be expensive, but risking being sick for a long period of time will definitely not be worth it either. When you need any kind of vaccinations, be sure to be on time when it comes to your appointments because for some vaccinations it can apply that you will need more than one dose that is spread over several weeks. When you are planning your vaccinations, don’t forget to contact your insurance company as well. Sometimes they have a contract with a specific vaccination institute where you can get the vaccination for free or even with a discount. In the end, you must remember that it is for the best interest for the insurance company that you are well protected.
There are no vaccinations that are obligated in Egypt. The only exception is when you are travelling from a yellow fever country to Egypt. Click HERE if you want to know more about yellow fever countries. You will need to show your vaccination passport at the border. The following vaccinations are highly recommended:
- Hepatitis A
These vaccinations provide long-term protection as much as they are common in most developing countries, so when you are travelling, it’s definitely worth it in the long run. It would be recommended that Hepatitis B is handled with serious care because the virus is transmittable by having sex or by blood to blood contact which includes insect bites as well so there is high chance that you can get infected. Not every vaccination will subscribe a vaccination against Hepatitis B but there is a Hepatitis A & B combination vaccine that is available and it is just a little bit more expensive than either A or B but it is suggested that both are taken.
Another vaccination that should be taken with serious consideration is Rabies. Rabies, when untreated can be 100 percent fatal and has to be treated as soon as possible. The virus can be transmitted by infected animals, which in the country of Egypt would be a very high risk because it is not rare to see a street dog or cat. However, the Rabies vaccination is a little bit more complicated than most of the other vaccines available.
The pre-exposure vaccination which consists of 4 doses vaccinations that are spread over the period of two weeks. Even when you are vaccinated, you have to get another vaccination immediately after exposure. If you did the pre-exposure vaccination, you will just need two doses of the vaccination but if you didn’t take the pre-exposure vaccination, you will need 4 doses and a shot of Rabies Immune Globulin. You will not need the Rabies Immune Globulin when you are vaccinated before exposure. This obviously makes a big difference, because Rabies Immune Globulin is often not available in developing countries. Summarized, the Rabies vaccine is expensive and will cost you time. However, when you are staying for a longer period, you should definitely consider this one.
A last vaccine that you might want to consider, is typhoid. This is caused by the salmonella bacteria and is able to keep you in your bed for several weeks, fever, headache, and other symptoms are included. Especially during the summer there is a higher chance of infection. However, the vaccine is only giving protection for 2-5 years and protects in general only 70% of the population.
If you have a disease or if you are using medicines that are suppressing your immune system, always contact your doctor before you start vaccinating. If you want to read more about vaccinations, click on the following LINK.
When you are currently under a prescription of medicine, you should consider to check with the Egyptian Drugs Authority about if your medicine can be accepted in the country and will not be seen as a drug of choice. You can find a link to their website HERE. Most medicines will cause no harm but when it comes to certain painkillers, they can be seen differently and cause you some problems. For example, if you are using medicines such as Tramadol or codeine, you can get into trouble with authorities to the point of serving jail time if you don’t have the right prescription or valid medical passport present. Punishments for carrying illegal drugs can be up to 25 years in Egypt so it is best that you ask your doctor for a medical passport and eventually other evidence that can prove your right of this possession of your medicine.
USE OF TRANSPORTATION
One of the major culture shocks for most people visiting or coming to move to Egypt is the difference in driving and going around the city. The driving in Egypt is just as difficult as the traffic, that why it is best to leave it to the locals for now until you are accustomed to the situation. Sometimes people have issues even crossing the street in fear of anything happening to them from a nearby vehicle but after you get used to it, you’ll be crossing the streets without any issue at all. Don’t bother yourself getting any assistance from the “Tourist Police” when crossing the roads because it is definitely not needed. It is best to wear comfortable shoes or walking sneakers when you are planning a trip to Egypt because you will be walking most often if you are planning to visit most of the touristic areas. Obviously the most comfortable footwear in the Middle East is wearing flip flops or sandals if they aren’t needed for anything formal, but also put into consideration that majority of the Egyptian streets can be filthy, therefore you don’t want to return back to your home or hotel with a pair of dirty feet as well.
One of the most efficient ways to get around the capital city of Cairo is actually using the Metro system.
Be cautious that it is not common that you will run into other foreigners on the metro due to the fact that it is one of the cheapest ways to get around the city so most expats wouldn’t consider risking their valuables or their health with any issues with common locals. Put into consideration that you can be seen as a minority among the fellow people riding the metro as well but also remind yourself that there is no better way to enjoy the local treatment and getting around the city than using one of their popular ways of public transportation. For more information about using the Metro system in Egypt, You can find a link to their website here.
Did you know?
Cairo Metro System is the first of one of the two built and completed metro systems in the entire continent of Africa and is growing in profits and expansions until this day.
The transportation service companies such as Careem and Uber operate in the capital city of Egypt, Cairo. While cabs are usually safe and easy to use, Careem and Uber is definitely your best option when it comes to looking to move around the city without any worries at all. Also keep in mind that you can use GPS location services to assist you getting around the city even if you don’t know the way, it’ll be better to use Careem or Uber, because most of the time the drivers will know the way and if they face the problem of not knowing the destination, GPS location services can definitely be useful then.
Did you know?
You can get your first ride free when you sign up for a new uber account. (Up to 70 EGP which is equivalent to 8 USD)
BEWARE OF HUSTLERS
Be careful of who you can trust in Egypt. Many people can seem genuine but they are really after your money and not concerned with anything else. It is quite easy to tell who is after your money or not from the first few conversations if you take in notice the details of the subjects. For example, if a person mentions a single thing about money it is best to simply move along. Personally, I have met some of the most genuine people in the country of Egypt but that is after meeting many of those of those who are not but it is always best to initiate conversation with common locals to understand their point of view in anything you might need. Not all of them will come up with the same response but at least you will have a good amount of knowledge to make your own decision to what you might want.
Always ask for prices of anything before you buy it or open it. If you are used to paying a lower price in other shops for your product of choice, you might be surprised to find that the price isn’t the same even though it is the same item. Get comfortable with bargaining with shop owners to get the price you want or at least the one that is normal among the market. Personally, I would suggest that you use the same tactics when it comes to riding a taxi to wherever you want to go, it is best that you would negotiate the price of the fare before the riding the cab, just so you can save yourself the hassle of further disagreements.
To have the best experience in Egypt, you will need to learn the art of bargaining. It is a skill that most Egyptians learn from a young age and that is to learn to get the best deal possible by negotiating under their own terms. Almost everything is negotiable in Egypt and it’s expected for you to question the prices of certain items so don’t be worried if you are thinking that you are offending anyone with offers. But of course don’t consider requesting the same offers in main stream stores because their prices are not negotiable most of the time but it is best to check other stores as well just in case of sales or price changes. From buying products at the nearest corner store to shopping for souvenirs, bargaining is a must.
When visiting or living in Egypt, especially in Cairo, you must learn to tip from time to time if the service that you have received was acceptable to your standards. That doesn’t mean that you must tip everything that you buy for but it means that you tip if you were happy with the services provided. It is common to tip around 5 – 20 EGP depending on the occasion. For example, if you are expecting a food delivery to your destination and the delivery person comes earlier than expected then it’s ethical to tip that person. On the other hand, if you ordered food and it came late for any reason or the food isn’t hot anymore then it is understood if you don’t tip the person so they can understand that you are dissatisfied with the service provided.
RESPECT THE DRESS CODE
If you are planning on traveling to Egypt soon, please do your best to research before you plan to leave because many foreigners arrive in Egypt and would be surprised that they don’t dress alike. This type of clothing or behavior can and will attract odd stares, undesired attention and perhaps even physical advances by wrongful men. In order to blend in among the crowd and avoid any disrespect from either party, my best advice is to choose your attire carefully.
If you are considering other destination tips of what to do and what not to do during your visit in Egypt then it would be better to view this video below for more information.
STAY COOL, CALM AND HYDRATED
Don’t even consider drinking tap water because nobody drinks it including most of the locals. During your visit or stay in Egypt, it is best to buy bottled water often because the weather doesn’t suite staying too long without hydrating yourself with any form of water. You’ll need it under any circumstance whether to cook something that needs water or even having to pour it over your head after having such a hot day. As a foreigner you can be charged anywhere from 5 – 15 EGP for a large bottle of water depending on where you purchase it as well as how well you bargain. Just be aware of what the local prices are for certain items and you won’t face any problems.
When going around the city, you better bring your own tissues. Not just for the common hot weather but when visiting local restrooms, you can be surprised to not find much tissues at hand. To avoid such situations you can simply stop by a nearby local shop and pick up tissues whenever needed and keep when needed. It’s a good idea to carry hand sanitizer as well because you will constantly be touching doors, hand rails and exchanging things among locals and it would be best to wash your hands often.
When walking around the streets of Cairo, you should always watch your step because most of the roads aren’t properly maintained so you must watch your step to avoid any trips or falls. Beware of the random pot holes because there are some areas where the pot holes aren’t closed well so you can have a problem with such a situation if you don’t take proper precautions with your movement.
FINDING THE NEIGHBORHOOD THAT SUITES YOU
Finding the right area to live in is the most important when it comes to moving to different country. Cairo contains a lot of places where there are only Egyptians living and where only a minority of the people speak English. In the case that you are moving to Cairo, there are only a couple of neighborhoods that meet the usual interests and requirements of most expats. If you want to live in safe and secure area, good health facilities, top notch education nearby, these following neighborhoods will be most fitting for you or even if you are bringing your family along as well. These neighborhoods will be in discussion and you will receive my best advice when it comes to choosing the apartment that suites you the most.
EXPAT NEIGHBORHOODS IN CAIRO
Maadi (Sarayat & Degla):
The destination of Maadi is located in the south of Cairo. The suburb is the home for approximately 90.000 people. Especially the areas close to the Nile, called Maadi Sarayat and Degla might be the most interesting places for you to live. The population in Sarayat and Degla exists out of well off Egyptians and expats. The streets are clean, calm and you will find here an easy-going nature and friendly environment. You will find that there is an obligation to maintain the gardens, that’s why you will find here a lot of green scenery. Especially in the summer, when it can be extremely hot, the trees provide fresh(er) air and shade. There are plenty of good schools, sport clubs, bars and restaurants. With Maadi Carrefour and the Grand Mall, there are two shopping malls very nearby. Besides that, you will find a lot of smaller supermarkets, tool shops, laundry service, etc. These parts of Maadi are the only neighborhoods in Cairo where you will find only villas lower build apartments and this is the main reason people prefer Maadi. The metro has three stations in Maadi and it has great access for cars or public transportation when needed.
Located in the middle of the Nile, Zamalek is considered one of the more affluent areas in the city. Although most Egyptians are not very fond of the football club, Zamalek is still a nice place to be. Good healthcare, shops, and other important facilities are nearby. Because it is in the heart of the city, there are lots of job opportunities and things to do. It is green, and it is home to many foreigners. However, for the last decade, Zamalek has become very crowded. In 2010, there were approximately 420,000 people living on the island. Furthermore, renting an apartment in Zamalek can be very expensive.
The literal meaning to Mohandessin is “The Engineers”. It was built in the early 1950s, containing lots of villas and luxury apartments. However, after the big urbanization in the 70s, the neighborhood became very crowded and full of apartments. Mohandessin is at the moment, the most expensive area in Cairo. Although it is not so green and very crowded, living in Mohandessin has some very nice advantages. The newest fashion, luxury shopping and big companies, are all located here. Furthermore, good healthcare and education are available here within a short distance.
In 1904 a Belgium Baron set foot in Cairo. He started to build the city of Heliopolis, 10 km from the center. The city differs from most other areas in Cairo, by its architecture. Trying to get a new architectural style, the whole city is built in a unique way. Although the architecture became world famous, the architecture is still well preserved.
In Heliopolis, the avenues are broadly designed. It is less crowded then more central areas in Cairo, and also greener. Moreover, you can find one of the most luxurious sport clubs of Egypt, and necessary facilities are nearby. Heliopolis is connected to the metro network, and therefore, most central areas in Cairo are within reach.
New Cairo, Sheikh Zayed City, 6th of October city:
This cities located at the far borders of greater Cairo, are different from ‘normal’ Cairo. Located more than 15 km from the center, you will find large compounds, broad avenues, some trees, and villas. The areas are widespread, and a house to the Egyptian middle and upper class. You will find large shopping malls, food malls, modern cafes, universities and sport facilities. The public transport is arranged by (micro) buses and taxes. Compared to Cairo, you will find that these areas are less crowded, cleaner, more modern and having their own societies. 6th of October city has a large industrial area.
Garden city is a calm residential district in the heart of Cairo. It has some historical places, and of course, Tahrir Medin, famous for its role that it played during the revolution. Garden city was built by private investors, aiming for a European vibe. Nowadays, there is a mixed population of foreigners and Egyptians, living a peaceful life. You won’t find a big sport club or shopping mall here, but there are plenty of smaller stores. The accessibility is good, since it’s close to the metro station and in the center of the city. Compared to most other areas in Cairo, the population is not so densely spread and it has some trees and broader streets.
A last neighborhood that I want to mention, is Downtown. Downtown is the Egyptian culture in one of its most extreme compositions. It must be one of the most crowded areas on Earth. People are selling stuff at every corner of the street, hanging clothes they sell on the fences of the street. The ground floor of every building contains only shop, so you won’t find a ground floor apartment in this area. In this area, almost everything is cheap. People on the street make fun all the time or will try to sell you something.
CHOOSING YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD
Choosing the right neighborhood is very important. Taking into account different factors like environment, facilities and crowded, the most important factor in Cairo is distance. The city of Cairo is larger than you would expect. According to Wikipedia it is the 15th city of the world, and a home for more than 20 million people. This results in a daily long traffic jam, and the metros very crowded. So when you are choosing your neighborhood, the most important thing is that you are living close to your job.
FINDING THE RIGHT APARTMENT:
When you have chosen your neighborhood, you need to start thinking about the right apartment. The easiest way is to rent a furnished apartment. When you want to stay for a longer period of time, you can also choose to furnish your residence by yourself. In the best areas, there are very cheap and very expensive apartments for rent, it really depends on your budget in the end. The cheap apartments are commonly very bad maintained. When you don’t have so much requirements for living, such an apartment can be an easy choice. These flats can be found easily on Facebook.
The better apartments, are easier found when contacting a real estate company in Maadi Cairo, Egypt.
When you are dealing with a real estate Agency, you need to know a few things. An owner from an apartment, can go to more than one brokerage office to ask him to find a tenant. The agent who connects a tenant to the owner, gets the commission. So real estate companies can be aggressive, trying to be faster than their competitors. Make sure this does not influence your decision. Second, make sure that you’ll find a proper company. Not all companies who are calling themselves real estate companies are professional. Take your time to check out the website. A professional company, will have the best apartments for rent in Maadi.
Connect with expats in your new city on forums:
An easy way to get in contact with other expats, is by connecting with them on expat forums. Here you can drop all your specific questions that you have. You can also find groups of expats who meet and do activities together, like sports and other types of meetings. One of the best forums that I can recommend is Internations. But you if you check Google, you will find some other options as well.
When you sign up for an expat forum, you will be contacted by some people with Arabic names, who are offering help. I can imagine that you are a very nice person, who is contacted by a lot of people. In this case, you can be sure that these people want to make some money. In a good or a bad way, if you are contacted by somebody, it would be best to ignore and stay away from such people or messages. It is good to know locals in Egypt and it is fun to have some Egyptian friends. However, in the beginning I’ll advise you to get your first help from expats and not from Egyptians. The unemployment rate in Egypt is very high at the moment, and the exchange rate of the Egyptian Pound is very bad. When you come as a foreigner to Egypt, these people will see you as a walking wallet.
Good healthcare in Egypt
Good education for your kids
Good places to relax in Cairo
Connect on expat forums etc
The advantages of Uber
An Egyptian number
Food in Egypt
Culture in Egypt
Nice destinations to travel to
Tips for travelers in Cairo
When you are travelling, I recommend using the app or website from hostel world. This application is one of my best friends during travelling. It has a map with all nearby hostels and its price. You can easily click on the, which will show you the internet page and contact information of the hostel immediately. Compared to Europe, it is in some areas hard to find a hostel. So I suggest that you check if there is a hostel available before you are travelling to your destination. When you are travelling through Cairo, I can recommend the dahab hostel. It is located in the very heart of the city, close to Tahrir square. Furthermore, it has a big roof terrace with a nice view over the city, friendly personal and it is not expensive.
Extending your visa
After that, you can go to the Mogamma in Cairo and extent your visa there, or pay the penalty (fine for overstay) when you leave the country. The Mogamma is an enormous governmental building where a lot of paperwork and registrations are done. Even if you are just travelling and have no need to extend your visa, it’s worth to take a look. It will give you a very a very good impression how the Egyptian bureaucracy works. You will find the Mogamma in the very heart of the city, located at Tahrir square.
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