Travel guide to Egypt

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Egypt is a country brimming with historical wonders, from the unbelievable pyramids to the many unique excavated treasures. The country also provides beautiful areas for relaxation, sun and bathing, for those who wish for a more sedentary holday.

Facts

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Local name
Jumhuriyat Misr al-Arabiyah
Capital
Cairo (14,000,000)
Size
997.739 sq km
Principal Languages
Arabic. French and English are also spoken many places.
Principal Religion
Islam. Christianity is also represented in various forms.
Inhabitants
67.273.906 (2000)
Government
Republic
Geography
Except for a few green areas by the Mediterranean and the Nile, Egypt consists of desert. This means that the temperature inland sometimes reaches 50 degrees centigrade, and sometimes, in the winter, the desert gets quite cold (down to 8 degrees). The desert landscape also means that drastic changes of temperature can occur.

Travel preparation

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Best time to visit

Egypt can be visited all year around, but is less comfortable from June to August as the temperature can soar to 40 degrees centigrade. Spring and autumn are the best seasons to go there, as the sun warms just enough for you to have plenty of energy to visit the many historic and cultural sights.

Literature

Lonely Planet Egypt Fodor's Egypt

Local conditions

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Currency

Egyptian pounds (EGP)

Net cafes

Egypt only has a few Internet cafés, mainly in Cairo, Alexandria and Dahab.

In case of emergency

In case of an emergency in Egypt, dial the following numbers: Police (122) Ambulance (123) Fire department (125) It's a good idea to call the tourist police instead of the regular police, as they are often more helpful towards tourists. You can reach the tourist police's headquarters in Cairo on this number: 926028.

Tipping

Tipping is expected in Egypt. In hotels and restaurants 12 per cent are added to the bill, but it is customary to five per cent on top of that. Taxi drivers expect tips also, usually ten per cent. Many Egyptians need tips to supplement their income, so you should always carry change around with you.

Timezone

When it is 12.00 in England, it is 13.00 in Egypt.

Weight and Measures

The following units of measurement are used in Egypt: Weight: kilogram Length: metre

Photography

It is allowed to photograph everywhere in Egypt, but be aware of special rules in mosques and other holy places. You should always ask, before photographing people.

Drinking water

It is at present considered safe to drink tap water in Cairo, Luxor, Aswan and Alexandria. If you want to be sure not to get a stomach infection, buy bottled water instead, and always check if the top seal hasn't been broken. When going into the rural districts, you should always boil water before using it.

Electricity

The following current is used in Egypt: 220 volt, 50 Hz. Some rural districts still use 110-130 volt, 60 Hz.

Behaviour

Egypt is a Muslim country and you should dress decently. In the cities and in religious places, both men and women should wear clothes that cover shoulders and knees, especially women. In the major tourist resorts by the coast, though, you can wear bathing clothes as well.

Business Hours

The opening hours in Egypt vary according to the seasons. In the winter, shops are open 9.00 to 18.00 (Saturday to Thursday). In the summer, shops are open 9.00 to 12.30 and 17.00 to 20.00 (Saturday to Thursday). Some shops are open Friday Banks are open 8.30 to 14.00 (Saturday to Thursday). The usual opening hours and the public transport are changed during Muslim holidays and feasts. Restaurants are open closed between sunrise and sunset during the Ramadan, when the Muslims fast.

Food and drink

Egyptian food is a combination of Lebanese, Turkish, Greek and Syrian cuisine, with a varied assortment of fish dishes. Salt-water fish is served as samak, and the main places for this are near the coasts or in Aswan, where the fish are pulled from Nasser Lake. You should definitely try asiir, a fresh fruit and vegetable juice.

Disabled travellers

The facilities for the disabled are not very good in Egypt, but there is a widespread desire to support and help the disabled getting around. If you want to arrange your own trip as a disabled person, you should check the conditions before going, but if you are part of an organised trip you should not suffer any problems.

Holidays

New Year's Day, 1 January. The Liberation of Sinai, 25 April. Labour Day, 1 May. Evacuation Day, 18 June. Revolutionary Day, 23 June. National Day, 6 October. The National Day of Liberation, 24 October. Victory day, 23 December. Shifting holidays: The Ramadan, a month of fasting, the dates vary. The end of the Ramadan, the Eid al-Fitr, a three-day feast, the dates vary. Muslim New Year, the date varies. Mohammad the Prophet's Birthday, celebrated on different dates each year.

Accommodation / Hotel

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Camping

There aren't many possibilities for camping in Egypt, and those there are, are mainly around the major cities.

Hotels

There are plenty of hotels, and many of the large, international chains of hotels have sprung up by the tourist resorts. If you want something cheaper, there are also private hotels.

Bed og breakfast or guesthouse

Several of the small, private hotels also function as B&Bs. You get to eat with your hosts and get an opportunity of getting to know them.

Hostels

Hostels and youth hostels exist in most parts of the country. The quality varies a lot, but it is cheap form of accommodation.

Other Accommodation

The hotels inland are often quite humble compared to the modern hotels by the coasts. Running hot water is considered a luxury, but it is cheap.

Local transport

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Planes

There are daily domestic flights between the major cities and holiday resorts in Egypt, and the tickets are cheaper when bought in Egypt, rather then in your home country.

Bus

Buses are the most important means of transportation in Egypt, but many of them, especially in the cities, are in a horrible state - but cheap.

Trains

Both major and minor cities in Egypt are connected by railroad, and there are four different classes to pick from, when travelling by train.

Taxi

Taxi is a good way to get around in Egypt, but you should usually agree on the price with the driver before getting in.

Car rental

Many of the large, international car rental companies are represented in the major cities and in the holiday resorts.

Boat or Ferry

Nile-cruises are a popular way of seeing the country and there is a broad selection of ferries and boats sailing from Luxor to Cairo.

Special conditions

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There have been some attacks on tourists throughout the years, but the number of assaults has decreased in recent times. Egypt has become a major tourist destination in recent years - with the Egyptians have discovering that tourists equal money. In the tourist places Egyptians will try to sell anything from scarabs to camel's hair - and they often overwhelm you. If you want to get rid of them then show absolutely no interest at all in their goods.

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