1. Cruise – Doing a four-night Nile Cruise from Luxor to Aswan on the Oberoi Philae has definitely changed my mind about cruises and is a must-do whilst in Egypt. It is a great way to see the country whilst tasting incredible food, relaxing by the pool on the top deck and soaking up the ever-changing scenery.
2. Pyramids – Make sure you spend at the very least half a day at the Pyramids. We were only there for just over an hour and a half which was definitely not enough. You need to take time exploring and I would definitely recommend doing a camel ride (like taxis negotiate first!) and going inside one of the pyramids. When else are you going to have the opportunity to have actually been inside something that was built over 4,000 years ago.
3. Small Change – When you first arrive it is a good idea to change some large notes into small Egyptian change. You will need this for tipping which is part of Egyptian culture. It is also good to have small money when buying touristy bits and pieces and so you aren’t pressured into spending larger sums. Interestingly, Egyptian locals also accept dollars and pounds (even coins) and so you can always use them until you can some smaller Egyptian currency.
4. Avoiding hassle – Getting hassle is inevitable but one good way to minimise it is by wearing a hat and sunglasses. As well as avoiding eye contact it is also important to not engage in conversation or give your name (especially if you have no interest in buying anything!). It might seem rude, but your best tactic is to politely say no in Arabic (la, shokran – no thank you) and just walk on.
5. Haggling in a must! Although westerners are sometimes uncertain of the rules and etiquette of haggling, in a country like Egypt it is very much part of their culture. It also can be fun! You just need to stay firm and make sure you don’t spend ridiculous amounts of money on tourist tat. You’ll find that pretty much everywhere will sell that exact same cat statue you’ve been eyeing up so hold out until you get a good price for it! Basic rules are things like never touch what you’re interested in first, if you can avoid it and never, ever agree to the price they first suggest. It will almost certainly be a good 50% more than you should pay, at the very least.
6. Guide – For somewhere like Egypt which has such a fascinating history it is imperative to have a good guide to take you to the sites. We were extremely lucky and had a guide called Tarek (you can email him on firstname.lastname@example.org) for the majority of our trip. He was extremely knowledgeable about all of the history, spoke excellent English and make the talks really engaging, which is really important when there is so much information to take in.
7. Cover up – Egypt is a Muslim country and although slightly less conservative than other places such as Jordan and Morocco, it is still important for women to dress modestly. When we were visiting the temples Antie mostly wore long comfortable floaty trousers and skirts and t-shirts covering my shoulders. Shorts seemed to be ok too. When you are on the boat or in the hotel it is completely fine to wear a bikini by the pool and dresses.
8. Egyptian food – Unfortunately we didn’t try as much traditional Egyptian food as we would have wanted. On the boat, however, we did have one really exceptional feast with the traditional dish of koshary and several other . Also, if you have the option, do try an Egyptian breakfast of foul (fool – don’t be put off, they’re really good) beans and falafel.
9. Go to Kom Ombo at night – It is definitely worth going to this temple at night for a really atmospheric experience. Visiting the temples at night really lends a whole different perspective and atmosphere to them. Some of them do light shows as well, which sadly we didn’t have time to do, but come highly recommended by fellow guests who’d been before.
10. Abide by the rules – At some of the temples they ask that you don’t take any photos. At The Valley of the Kings you aren’t allowed to take any photos anywhere and it is important that you adhere to these. Also, it is important to try not to touch the temples and art as this will help to speed up the fading process over time. You will find that some of the guards in the tombs and sites where you’re not supposed to take pictures will surreptitiously offer to let you take pictures for a small bribe. We’d advise against this, but of course it’s up to you really.