Hello blogosphere. I’ve just returned from a short holiday in Cairo, Egypt with friend and founder of My Spontaneous Travel Diary. Egypt is a beautiful country, rich with old culture and peppered with new outlooks on the world. We took a 3 hour camel ride around the Giza Pyramids, toured some of the oldest mosques in the world, visited the remains of King Tut’s tomb in the Cairo Museum, and got up close and personal with the locals at the legendary Khan el-Khalili bazaar.
Itinerary + what to do in Egypt:
- Nile dinner cruise with belly dancing and Tanoura show
- Giza Pyramids, City of the Dead and the Great Sphinx via camel ride
- The Citadel
- Mosque of Ahmad Ibn Tulun
- The Coptic Museum with King Tut’s exhibit
- Khan el-Khalili bazaar
I could spend a lifetime describing each place from the sights and smells to the feel of the ancient stones beneath my fingertips. But before I get lost in the vast space of my own recollected imagination, let’s talk about what you need to know about traveling to Egypt and 10 things you definitely won’t want to forget to pack for your journey.
- Your passport and travel visa: Note that as long as you take your passport with you, you’ll be fine. I’d advise you not to mail in your passport to get a pre-approved Egyptian travel visa. We got ours at the airport for just $25USD, without a line.
- Modest clothing: Egypt is is primarily a Muslim country. And, as one of the most modestly clothed cultures in the world, you’ll do well to mind their standards. It’s not safe to travel Egypt in European fashion, and you may get stopped by city officials or receive nasty remarks if inappropriately dressed. The standard: pack full-length, loose pants or skirts and short sleeve shirts at the minimum. No tank tops, no shorts, nothing low-neck. The weather is hot, so look for pieces made of lightweight materials and avoid dark colors.
- Lightweight scarves: If you’re wearing very short sleeves, you may also want to wear a lightweight scarf to further cover your arms and shoulders. Especially while visiting the local mosques, you’ll be required to cover up to enter.
- Comfortable sandals and walking sneakers: Your footwear should be practical. Sorry ladies, no pumps. The roads are dusty and can be uneven. Bring a couple pairs of comfortable sandals and walking sneakers for your outdoor adventures.
- A small backpack: Much of Egypt’s sights require a lot of walking, and there may be little or no facilities nearby. Pack a small backpack to carry along bottled water, snacks, toilet paper (see below), cash (also see below) sunglasses, and your other essentials. I brought this mini backpack by Hunting World New York. Perfect for the journey, it has a small side zipper that opens to the central part of the bag, giving you quick access when you need it, and plenty of pockets for keeping my travel things organized. The material is also pretty resilient to water, sand and wind – an essential for this type of outdoor travel!
- A quality camera with zoom and video: Egypt is truly a mind-blowing sight to behold. You’re going to want to bring a camera. And with such large-scale attractions, a quality zoom is a must. You may want to also consider a camera with video capabilities to capture some of the local entertainment like Tanoura shows and belly dancing. I used a cell phone for some quicky shots, but you’re definitely going to want something higher quality for your lifetime keepsake photos.
- Plenty of cash and a debit card: Many places in Egypt don’t accept credit cards, and you’re going to be expected to tip… a lot. While westerners are pretty used to tipping their waitress and the cab driver, Egypt takes tipping to the extreme. If someone looks at you, they’re probably going to expect a tip. Be prepared and bring plenty of cash (many places accepted USD) and a debit card from which you can get the local Egyptian pounds. Note that most ATMs require a pin, so a credit card won’t due. I recommend reading Trip Advisor’s guide to suggested tipping in Egypt prior to going. The locals will try to take you for a ride if your too gullible to question prices. And the markup is INSANE. The average tip depending on the service should only be around 3-50LE ($0.17-2.76USD), and we had some people demand $50USD (at a percent even high for US standards!). The prior may seem like to little, but it’s important to remember their economy far differs from the western world, and that little bit goes a longer way for locals. We tended to tip on the much-more generous side to avoid some awkward situations – plus it’s not often you can make someone’s day for a few extra dollars. #giveback
- Your own soap, shampoo and toiletries: We stayed in a pretty nice, 4-star hotel. They were still missing some basic amenities like hair conditioner, lotion and hand soap. If you have traveled internationally, you may already be used to this one. The best practice – always bring your essentials.
- Toilet paper: Yup. Eastern toilets suck. Enough said. Don’t leave the hotel without your own toilet paper, or you might not find any. Be prepared to stand and shit.
- International cell phone plan: Whaaaat did you know you could even do this month-by-month? I didn’t. But Verizon was happy to add international calls, texts and data for a small additional monthly fee. This was a lifesaver for calling our driver during our tours, locating our must-see sights and of course sharing each moment by stories. The bad news, I went way over my date. Darn Instagram.
Those are the essentials! Egypt was an incredible experience, and you’ll be able to enjoy it to the fullest if you travel prepared. More stories from our magic carpet ride coming soon! Here are some bonus shopping tips for what to buy in Egypt. Salām.
What to buy in Egypt:
- Babouche slippers: The trend is real from Morocco to India, Asia and Parts of Africa, now making their way to the posh wardrobes of European and American fashion enthusiasts. I got my minimalist, close-toe slides for just $6USD at the Khan el-Khalili bazaar.
- An engraved hookah: If you’re into the smokey trend of shisha, pick up an engraved hookah in Egypt. The quality is incredible, and you won’t beat the price anywhere in the US.
- Perfume: Egypt is known for it’s decadent, pure oil based perfumes. They make a great gift or keepsake of your journey. Avoid purchasing them at tourist locations (like the Pyramids). You’ll get them for a fraction of the cost in the markets or local shops near the museum.
- Local snacks and sweets: The written Arabic language of Egypt is beautiful. Consider some of the delicious local sweets and package snacks with Arabic packaging for souvenirs that won’t collect dust on your cousin’s shelf.
In accordance with the FTC regulations for Influencers, this is a sponsored post in collaboration with Hunting World NYC. All thoughts, comments and musings are made of my own opinion and honest, personal experience with the products reviewed or mentioned. I hope you’ve found this post informational and inspiring!