No place has the magic, mystery and pleasures of Egypt.
Egypt is a place where relaxation is effortless, a retreat where one can reach a serene state of mind. This favored destination offers a variety of adventures which will spell-bind you; whether it is diving from the coasts of Egypt where underwater treasures constantly unravel an abundance of undersea life, or being astonished at the stunning, colossal monuments of Ancient Egypt, you can be assured that your cherished memories will have a backdrop of 5000 years of history.
Experience the rich mix of contrasting natural wonders in Egypt, described as a captivating blend of European refinement and exotic Middle Eastern culture.
Discover the unexpected; the heat, sight and the light of the desert invigorate. The cool, turquoise waters rejuvenate. A luxury cruise along the world’s longest river dazzles the senses. A first class getaway resort in the Red Sea Riviera is pure escapism. Travel to Egypt to discover a world of wonder.
Egyptian Pound (EGP)
Daylight Savings Time
Drives on the
When to go
The best time to visit Egypt depends on the weather and the religious public holidays.
Weatherwise, these are the options:
- December to February (winter) is the tourist high season and from June to August (summer) is the low season in all parts of the country except on the coasts, and to a lesser degree in Cairo. June to August is unbearable almost anywhere south of Cairo, especially around Luxor and Aswan.
- The happiest compromise for an all-Egypt trip is to visit in spring (March to May) or autumn (September to November).
- The best time to go on a Nile cruise is between October and April. The Nile also has a series of locks that take effect in April and June, and may affect your chances of approaching Esna by boat.
- The best time to enjoy a beach holiday along Egypt’s Red Seacoast is June and September. You avoid the crowds, the water is warm, and the breeze will keep you cool.
- The best time to visit Egypt’s Western desert is October – February, but nights will be very cold.
- During March and April a hot wind, known locally as khamsin makes its way across the Western Desert making temperatures rise suddenly, causing mayhem with the sand that blows in with it. You may experience these sandstorms as far east as Cairo.
Religious and public holidays
Most of Egypt’s religious and state holidays last only one or two days at most and should not seriously disrupt any travel plans. Buses, however, may be fully booked around the two eids (Islamic feasts) and on Sham an-Nessim. Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, can be seriously disruptive to your best-laid travel plans. During daylight hours many cafés and restaurants are closed, while bars cease business completely for the duration. Offices also operate at reduced and very erratic hours.
The main thing to watch on the north coast is the Egyptian school schedules. Once the Egyptian schools and universities let out, cities and beaches on the Mediterranean become very noisy and crowded, and Western tourists, women in particular, will find themselves subject to substantial unwelcome attention. For this reason it is advised to visit Alexandria in March and April or October and November.
It is suggested to stay at the margins of the high season and visit around the first 2 weeks of November or June. The same goes for Cairo, the Red Seacoast, and the Sinai.
Note when visiting ancient sights that they are mostly located in desert areas, despite being along the banks of the Nile River. Climbing into a hot tomb on a 100F degree day is not pleasant. Many of Egypt’s top attractions are located in southern Egypt, where it is even hotter than in Cairo.
Major attractions in Egypt
The Pyramids of Giza
Oldest and largest of the three pyramids in the Giza Necropolis
A warren of streets just bustling with life
The most magnificent monuments in the world
Temples of Karnak
Ruined temples, chapels, pylons, and other buildings
Desert sand town with more than 200 hotels, booming shopping promenades and vibrant nightlife.
Temple of Luxor
A large Ancient Egyptian temple founded in 1400 BCE.
Egyptian Museum of Antiquities in Cairo
An extensive collection of more than 120 000 ancient Egyptian antiquities.
Situated in Cairo, Egypt, this 30-hectare area is considered as one of the most important tourist destinations in this part of Africa. Read More
City of the Dead
The City of the Dead gets its name due to the huge number of ancient mausoleums and tombs found within its vicinity. Read More
Mosque of Ibn Tulun
Standing majestically on a hill called Gebel Yashkur, the mosque is believed to have been the resting place of the Biblical ark of Noah. Read More
Horseback Riding in Cairo
The activity has become a trademark in Cairo that Egyptian tour guides are more than likely to advise their tourists to try riding a horse through. Read More
Sound & Light Shows
A dazzling spectacle of music and lights right in front of your eyes as voice overs and songs are played in order to narrate a story. Read More
Whirling Dervishes Show
Also referred to as the “darvesh”, they are Muslims who have pledged to abandon all things that give pleasure for the sake of their own spirituality. Read More
Money and Costs
Egypt is a fairly cheap country to visit, although admission fees are quite expensive. Tourist sites’ admission fees such as a complete visit to the Giza Pyramids will costs you more than US$50. The unit of currency is the Egyptian pound (LE), which is divided up into 100 piastres(pt).
Getting around the country is cheap: the 10-hour train ride between Cairo and Luxor can cost as little as US$6 in 2nd class, and even domestic flights on EgyptAir can cost as little as US$35. However, private taxis in convoys between tourist destinations can get pricey, though these are often the safest and most comfortable way to travel.
The major expense is going to be the entry fees to tourist sites. Foreigners are seen as dollars on legs, so places where they flock tend to be pricey.
A service charge of between 10% and 15% is applied in most upmarket restaurants and hotels, to which value-added tax (VAT) and municipal taxes are also added. In other words, the price that you are quoted at a hotel or read on a menu could be almost 25% higher when it comes to paying the bill.
Most hard currencies can be changed in Egypt, though US dollars and euros are the easiest to switch out. As a rule of thumb, always look at the money you’re given when exchanging, and don’t accept any badly defaced, shabby or torn notes (there are plenty of them around) because you’ll have great difficulty off-loading them later. The same goes for transactions in shops, taxis etc.
As a good rule of thumb in Egypt, make sure you hoard small change wherever possible as there is a shortage of it in Egypt. Also, be sure to cash out large bills in upscale establishments, even if they initially appear unwilling. These two simple practices will save you an indescribable amount of frustration.
Although technically illegal but never enforced, it is also becoming increasingly common for upscale hotels to demand payment in US dollars, though more times than not you can charge your room on a credit card. To be on the safe side, it’s a good idea to travel around Egypt with a modest supply of dollars.
It’s possible to travel in Egypt relying solely on plastic as ATMs are becoming more and more widespread. Tourist-friendly cities such as Cairo, Alexandria, Luxor, Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada have many ATMs, and you’ll also find them in Dahab, Nuweiba and Aswan. There are almost no ATMs between Cairo and Luxor (the towns of Minya and Asyut have just the occasional one) and out in the oases (there’s just one each in Siwa and Kharga).
Of the numerous types of ATM in Egypt, the vast majority are compatible with Visa, MasterCard and any Cirrus or Plus cards. ATMs at Banque Misr, CIB, Egyptian American Bank (EAB), National Bank of Egypt and HSBC are particularly reliable.
Amex, Visa, MasterCard and Diners Club credit cards are becoming ever more useful in Egypt. Generally speaking, they are accepted quite widely in foreign-friendly hotels, shops and restaurants, though away from tourist establishments, they are far less common, and in remote areas they remain useless. In many places you will be charged a percentage of the sale (anywhere between 3% and 10%) to use them.
To report lost cards in Egypt, call Amex (02-870 3152); MasterCard (02-797 1179, 796 2844); Visa (02-796 2877, 797 1149); or Diners Club (02-578 3355).
Visa and MasterCard can be used for cash advances at Banque Misr and the National Bank of Egypt, as well as at Thomas Cook offices.
Health & Safety
Due to the significant increase in criminal activity in the North Sinai area, it is advised against all travel to the Governorate of North Sinai.
The security situation outside of the resort areas in the Governorate of South Sinai has also deteriorated since early 2012 and there have been a number of hijacks and kidnaps in the interior of the Governorate, although major tourist resorts remain stable and calm.
For this reason, it is advised against all but essential travel to the Governorate of South Sinai, with the exception of (i) the Red Sea Resorts including those in the entire region of Sharm el Sheikh, Taba, Nuweiba and Dahab; (ii) road travel between these resorts; and iii) transfers between the resorts and the airports of Taba and Sharm el Sheikh.
As St Catherine’s monastery falls within the area of South Sinai to which it is advised against all but essential travel, we also advise against all tourist and other non-essential travel to this site.
Demonstrations happen regularly across Egypt. Demonstrations are often on Fridays, but can take place at other times. You should avoid all political demonstrations and large gatherings, especially those in Tahrir Square. If you become aware of any nearby protests you should leave the area immediately. You should keep yourself informed of developments.