Conditions in the Middle East are unstable, and tourists should know about certain travel conditions, precautions and regional etiquette when planning for travel to Egypt. Travelers who are knowledgeable about the following 10 facts regarding the country at present will find that travel to Egypt today has the potential to be an unforgettable and humbling experience.
Since the 2011 resignation of President Hosni Mubarak, Egypt has found itself in the process of transitioning towards democracy. This exciting, albeit dangerous period in the country’s history is not something that travelers necessarily want to experience firsthand. However, travel to many Middle Eastern countries at this time comes with certain unique, time-sensitive advantages as a direct result of Egypt’s revolutionary climate.
Deep travel discounts are among such merits. Visiting Egypt despite the country’s rocky political climate can mean enjoying luxury accommodations and first-class service on a budget. Thanks to scarcity of tourism in the region, there are some great deals to be had right now. Hotels and accommodations have been upgraded and amended, and Egypt is eager to revive its tourist economy. The likelihood of dramatic discounts such as those available for travelers now is unlikely to recur.
Also, a lack of congestion in popular areas has made tourism more intimate and personal for many vacationers. Visitors to the country have reported that hospitality among Egyptians is unprecedented, making trips abroad memorable and pleasant.
Egypt’s rich history and relics are extraordinary and breathtaking, and the pyramid at Giza are counted among the Seven
Wonders of the World. New exhibits continue to be uncovered today, and other exhibits are being renovated and updated to ensure that visitor’s experiences are unparalleled. These 10 tips are sound travel tips to remember when paying a call to Egypt.
• Avoid demonstrations while traveling to Egypt now, at the insistence of the U.S. Department of State, and be respectful of the privacy of Egyptian citizens regarding photography. The American Embassy is located very near Tahrir Square in Cairo, the site of multiple protests and demonstrations that have occasionally culminated in violence from both citizens and militia. For this reason, the embassy can close with little or no notice. Keep in contact with the American Embassy to be kept abreast of the climate downtown (contact numbers are provided below).
Women, journalists, and easily identified tourists have all been targets of harassment and violence in Egypt over recent years. Travelers abroad face deportation, detention, verbal and even physical assault in some cases. When traveling to Egypt, err on the side of caution and avoid opportunities to become involved in or caught in the midst of public demonstrations or conflict.
• Visitors should be aware of cultural cues and etiquette. Egypt has been known for its repressed society and limited social liberties. Westerners are traditionally considered lax, casual, and some misconceptions paint Americans as unrestrained. Do not pander to stereotypes by dressing in provocative, tight, or flashy clothing. Egyptians have a good sense of humor, and do not offend easily. However, it is inadvisable to conduct oneself as anything but courteous when in a foreign country.
• Travel in a group if at all possible, and conduct oneself as a guest. Tourism is an important part of every economy, and many travelers in Egypt have had stellar interactions with locals despite conflict in the region. However, travelers should know that tensions have been high, and efforts should be made to respect the country’s sensitive political climate.
• Pay attention to, and inquire after, pricing on purchases. Make informed spending decisions. While some tourist sites advise haggling in Egypt, travelers should gauge for themselves how comfortable barter seems.
• Travelers to Egypt, as well as any tourists abroad, should know a few things about protecting property and information. Do not travel with credit cards, travel tickets, valuables, cash, or any unnecessary combination of the above. Travelers to Egypt will need passport to visit the Middle East, but should not carry this identification at a times, using acceptable personal I.D. instead.
As in America, avoid travel alone, at night, and in close quarters with strangers. Do not carry large sums of cash, and do not draw undue attention to oneself. Also, travelers to Egypt should know that personal belongings should never be left unattended in public places, and that these items are the responsibility of the traveler. Following these tips will help avoid further distress should visitors become stranded.
• Make use of the American Embassy. The embassy offers programs to keep in ready contact with tourists and those traveling abroad, such as the Smart Traveler Awareness Program. Extolling in STEP will aid the American Embassy in contacting Americans traveling in to Egypt of emergencies and other vital info should the need arise.
Traveling Americans should know that the Embassy is available to all American Citizens by appointment for everyday services, and available in emergency situations without an appointment. Tourists may call 2797-2301 for information regarding hours of Embassy operation. In case of emergencies or after normal hours of operation, an embassy representative may be reached via the switchboard at any time (including holidays) at 2797-3300.
• Remain alert and aware of evolving news, events and security developments in areas of travel. Itinerants to Egypt should also remain vigilant to surroundings, make known to oneself the locations of local emergency services such as hospitals and fire stations, carry person identification at all times, and be equipped with a working and fully charged cellular device. Keep others aware of movements when traveling, whether alone or in a group, and proceed with caution regardless of travel plans. Also, make available a copy of travel itinerary, passport, travel insurance and other vital identifying information to family and friends back home.
• Be cognizant of the weather. While much is said of the political climate in Egypt today, travelers should know that Egypt is a hot, dry desert climate. Visitors should dress appropriately in loose-fitting, light clothing. Wear hats and comfortable shoes if at all possible to ensure comfortable tours in foot and exposed to the sun. Above all, keep hydrated and adequately nourished in the Middle East.
• Acquaint oneself with the culture and customs in the area. For some quick tips, the Frommer’s website offers a relatively complete guide to travel etiquette in a range of foreign countries. U.S. Customs & Border Protection offers comprehensive information regarding what may and may not be suitable for import or export from Egypt. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade offer tips, downloads and pamphlets, also.
Travelers to Egypt are in a position to experience the world’s most lasting civilization in a way never before possible. Provided that travelers are aware of key customs, etiquette and precautionary measures––as well as remain informed about the preceding 10 travel tips––a trip to Egypt today has the potential to provide memories that will last a lifetime.
By Mariah Beckman