Egypt Entry Requirements
Non-Egyptian visitors arriving in Egypt are required to be in possession of a valid passport. Entry visas may be obtained from Egyptian Diplomatic and Consular Missions Abroad or from the Entry Visa Department at the Travel Documents, Immigration and Nationality Administration (TDINA). It is, however, possible for most tourists and visitors to obtain an entry visa at any of the Major Ports of Entry. Please check with your nearest Egyptian Consular mission for more details concerning visa regulations applying to your citizenship.
Visitors entering Egypt at the overland border post to Taba to visit Gulf of Aqaba coast and St. Catherine can be exempted from visa and granted a free residence permit for fourteen days to visit the area.
Citizens of the following countries are required to be in possession of a pre-arrival visa: Afghanistan, Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Chechnya, Croatia, Georgia, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Kazakhstan, Kirghizia, Lebanon, Macau, Macedonia, Malaysia, Moldavia, Montenegro, Morocco, Pakistan, Palestine, The Philippines, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, Sri-Lanka, Tadzhikistan , Thailand, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and all African countries. Residents of the above countries may apply for a visa through their nearest Egyptian Consulate or Embassy.
Possession of a residence permit in Egypt are not required to obtain an entry visa if they leave the country and return to it within the validity of their residence permit or within six months, whichever period is less.
Tourist Visa: is usually valid for a period not exceeding three months and granted on either single or multiple entry basis. Entry Visa: is required for any foreigner arriving in Egypt for purposes other than tourism, e.g. work, study, etc. The possession of a valid Entry Visa is needed to complete the residence procedure in Egypt.
Foreigners arriving in Egypt on board of ships are granted a permission to visit the port of arrival for 24 hours and catch their ship at the same port. They can also be granted a permission to enter the country for a visit not exceeding a period of 3 days before catching their ship at the port of arrival or at any other port.
Air passengers transiting in Egyptian airports are allowed entry for a quick trip not exceeding the period of 24 hours. In the event of emergency landing, passengers are entitled to enter Egypt for a period of: 24 hours in case of poor weather conditions. 48 hours in case of technical faults to the aircraft.
It is wise to take travellers cheques for safety and these can be exchanged at any bank. Most of the large hotels have exchange machines which take cash or credit cards. Major credit cards can be used for cash advances in banks and exchanges and now for purchases in many large tourist hotels, stores and restaurants. It may be useful to know that Exchange ‘shops’ will often be open all day, whereas banks and travel agents may close for part of the afternoon. It is worth checking out banking hours to avoid disappointment! Alternatively you will get a better deal for cash in USD from Hotel staff and small shops, the unofficial market exchange rate is usually 15% higher than the official central bank rate. Be careful not to change large bills of money (more than 500$) in a single transaction. Generally most goods and services in Egypt seem to be very good value, but there is a system of bargaining for everything you need, from hotel accommodation to taxis and souvenirs. Some of the larger tourist shops have fixed prices, but in the local markets (bazaars or suqs) bargaining is a way of life – so leave plenty of time for shopping. Asking prices will be very high to begin with and drop rapidly depending on how much interest you show and walking away will often be the way to get prices reduced. It is great fun to bargain and I work on the assumption that I can usually get things for around one third or one quarter of the original asking price. It depends on how much something is worth to me. Remember that Egyptian tradesmen need to make a living too. Shopping often means having a cup of tea or cold drink in almost every stall in the market and half an hour of general conversation (or translating letters from foreign friends) before getting down to the business of prices. You are under no obligation to buy, so don’t feel guilty if you change your mind. If you do make a purchase it is a good idea to keep plenty of small notes as vendors in smaller shops often don’t have change and you may have to wait while they go in search of your change. Baksheesh or tipping is also a way of life – a kind of unofficial purchase tax on all goods and services and you will need to keep plenty of small notes on you at all times. The level of baksheesh is entirely up to the individual and how much you value the service you have had. As a general rule a tip of EGP 1 to EGP 5 is usually acceptable. This is a small amount to the tourist but is often a large portion of income to an Egyptian, whose monthly wage would not even cover our weekly food bill at home. They usually have large extended families to support on very little money. Hotel staff, taxi drivers, shopkeepers and guards or guides at the monuments would expect tips, but do not offer baksheesh to policemen (who are not officially allowed to accept money from tourists).
Egypt is a conservative country and visitors should respect this attitude. No topless or nude bathing is permitted. On the practical side, leave your synthetics at home as they will prove to be too hot in summer and not warm enough in winter – bring materials that breathe. It is advisable to wear cotton in summer as the heat can be like a furnace. In winter wear layers that can be taken off during the heat of the day and put back on for cool evenings. Wear loose and flowing garments, which are not only modest, but practical in a hot climate. Have you ever wondered why the Bedouin wear layers of flowing robes? Why they cover their heads and the back of their necks? Centuries of living in desert climates have taught them that loose garments keep one cooler and layered garments allow wind to enter and circulate, creating a natural ventilation system. Protecting the head and neck from loss of moisture prevents heat stroke. Bring comfortable shoes. You will be doing a lot of walking and temple floors are far from even. In summer, wear a hat to protect yourself from the heat of the Egyptian sun. Above all travel light. Get wheels for your luggage and leave heavy items at home. If you don’t bring a camera you will be sorry. Sunglasses are a must as the sun is very strong in Egypt.
The range of food in Egypt is very wide and cosmopolitan. Mostly you will find dishes are a cross between Middle-Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. Food is available in large restaurants or from street corner stalls and snack bars. The smaller snack-bars and cafes usually offer a good range of inexpensive lightly-spiced Egyptian food as well as sandwiches, pizzas and French fries. Falafel is a snack made from beans and is available freshly cooked on every street corner. Check out how clean the stall looks, as some of these places don’t have running water or refrigeration.
The traditional Egyptian breakfast is ‘ful’ which is a kind of bean stew and extremely filling, but larger hotels will offer a buffet breakfast with just about anything you could possibly imagine, including a wide range of breads and cakes. Smaller hotels tend to stick to a continental breakfast of croissants or bread rolls with jam or cheese, and sometimes eggs. Yoghurt is also popular.
Egyptian people often eat their main meal at lunchtime and this is usually chicken or beef with rice and vegetables and may be preceded by a soup. Pork is rarely seen in Egypt as it is considered unclean by Muslims. Bread accompanies every meal and there are many types of breads in different regions. The common ‘Aysh’ or Egyptian bread is an unleavened circle of coarse dough (and sand) a little like pitta bread, or larger loaves or rolls of risen white dough. Bakeries are abundant and the choice of pastries and very sweet cakes makes your mouth water.
A similar but smaller meal is eaten at sunset by Egyptians, but tourists tend to have their main meal in the evening, often quite late. A three course meal in a hotel will cost anything from around EGP 30 upwards, whereas you can get a three course meal in a local cafe for around EGP 10. In Cairo there are many Western-style fast food restaurants, including places like McDonalds and Pizza Hut and there is even a McDonalds in Luxor now. They are inexpensive compared to their branches in Europe.
Egypt is famous for its coffee shops, the traditional place where men go in the evening for a game of dominoes or backgammon. There will usually be a television blasting out a loud football game in Arabic. In these pavement cafes you can have a cup of coffee (Nescafe or Egyptian coffee), tea or a soft drink and watch the world go by. Western women are just about tolerated now in these places but you will rarely see Egyptian women here except maybe in Cairo.
Tea is a traditional drink in Egypt and you will probably drink gallons of it while there, whether you like it or not. It is made by boiling a powdery form of tea leaves in a kettle of water until it is stewed, and then a large quantity of sugar is added. It is served in small glasses without handles. Coffee, unless you ask for Nescafe, will be similar to Turkish coffee, served in tiny cups with a thick residue of coffee grains in the bottom. This will also be very sweet unless you ask for only a little or no sugar.
The more traditional Muslims do not drink alcohol although they are tolerant of visitors drinking in moderation. Alcoholic drinks are usually confined to the bars of larger hotels and restaurants and can be very expensive, but limited stocks are now available in some supermarkets. A local beer called Stella, a fairly weak lager, is available in many places as is Stella Export which is stronger and more expensive. Several types of reasonable Egyptian wines are also available, but expensive.
Naturally, bottled water and soft drinks are available everywhere. Try juice stalls on the street where you can get freshly squeezed fruit juices depending on the season for around EGP 6 per glass. Mango, guava, sugarcane, or strawberry are just a few of the many to tempt you on a hot day.
Few places on earth capture the imagination of both young and old the way Egypt does with its parched desert landscape dissected by its one eternal river. The Nile flows from beyond Egypt’s southern border some 1500km through high cliffs and plains before the river valley splits into the many tributaries of the Delta. To either side of the river are baked stretches of desert – the ‘Red Land’ or ‘deshret’ of the ancient Egyptians which formed a natural barrier against invasion for thousands of years. The ‘Black Land’ ‘kemet’ is the river valley itself, a life-giving ribbon of cultivated land which never extends more than a few kilometres from the river and was fertilised by each year’s inundation until the building of the Aswan High Dam in the 1960s. Because the Nile Valley was the most populated area in ancient times, this is where the bulk of remaining Egyptian monuments are situated and where most tourists visit. The popular way to get to Egypt is to fly into one of the main cities – Cairo, Luxor or Aswan, whose airports have recently been modernised and extended. For those who want a more leisurely holiday the Red Sea coast is becoming increasingly popular, a diver’s paradise with its coral reefs and wide sandy beaches in resorts such as Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada. There are package tours to suit every taste and every pocket. It has to be said that the Nile Valley is by no means the only monumental area and ‘specialist trips’ are now being organised to the Oases of the Western Desert as well as the Eastern Desert and Sinai.
Many visitors opt for a cruise. These flat-bottomed riverboats, ‘floating palaces’ which may be merely luxurious or blatantly ostentatious, ply the Nile from Luxor to Aswan and back weekly. The long cruise from Cairo to Aswan is no longer available at the present time for security reasons, but on the shorter cruises the visitor has the opportunity to pack about three weeks worth of holiday into a week. Cruises are usually accompanied by Egyptologists who will guide you around the sites in a whirlwind tour of knowledge and wit. While catching your breath between visiting monuments and eating huge meals there is time to just relax and watch the banks of the Nile, hardly changed since ancient times, silently float by. There are now also cruises available on Lake Nasser which take in the Nubian monuments. For those who prefer to travel alone or with friends, there are many small Egyptian-owned hotels at extremely reasonable prices as well as the large five star tourist hotels. Travel from one city to another is comfortable by either air, train or air-conditioned coach. Since the trouble with terrorism in the 1990s however, independent travel is not quite so easy for foreigners as it once was because security has been greatly increased to protect us and at present all tourist road travel has to be accompanied by armed police convoys.
The easiest and the quickest, though most expensive way to travel around Egypt is by domestic air travel. Egyptair offer a range of daily flights between the larger cities. From Cairo you can get an airport bus which makes several stops between the airport and the Pyramids Road in Giza. Alternatively there are always lots of taxis waiting at the airport to take visitors to their hotels and the same applies to Luxor, Aswan and other airports.
The whole of the Nile Valley from Alexandria to Aswan is covered by a rail service run by the Egyptian government, but when trying to book a ticket on these trains visitors are often told that they are only allowed to travel on the ‘tourist train’. This is a sleeper train which runs daily from Cairo to Aswan operated by a private company, Wagon Lits and is superbly comfortable even without a sleeper compartment. It is advisable to book tickets at least a day in advance. Otherwise, if you are prepared for an argument at the ticket office, you can travel on any of the frequent government trains which are less expensive and less comfortable.
Air-conditioned coaches operate throughout Egypt and are generally inexpensive with two coaches a day between Cairo and Aswan, but be prepared for a long journey. There are also local buses without air-conditioning between all Egyptian towns. Check the main bus terminals for details of times and costs. It often costs only a little more to travel in the more comfortable coaches.
There are two types of buses in Cairo. Large overcrowded buses travel routes throughout the city, often with a dozen children hanging on to the sides and you can get to most places on these routes. Smaller more comfortable buses which do not allow standing also operate the major routes. They are an inexpensive way to travel.
You can also hire bicycles inexpensively in Luxor and on the West Bank. A good way to get around as there are no hills. There is no charge for bicycles on the ferry.
There are donkeys, camels, horses, with boys touting for business wherever you go.