Egypt Travel Tips | Visiting Egypt? A friendly caution to think twice, based on firsthand experience.
My husband and I just returned from our “once in a lifetime” trip to Egypt and — hot damn, we need to vent.
All told, we spent two weeks visiting Egypt and by the end of the trip we couldn’t get out fast enough.
But let’s take a step back because a charged statement like that deserves some explanation.
First things first — as a professional travel blogger it’s in my interest to encourage people to travel the world, discomfort be damned. But as a human being, I can’t recommend visiting Egypt with a clear conscience.
This is based solely on a handful of concerning things we experienced firsthand during our first trip to Egypt.
We visited Egypt with an open mind but came away sorely disappointed. If you’re stubborn (*raises hand) and plan on visiting Egypt regardless, I hope this assessment will prepare you for the trip.
As you read this, give yourself a moment of pause and make a bullet-proof game plan. It’s easy to assume that the things we experienced won’t happen to you, but clearly our experience wasn’t unique. Several readers have reached out (in the comments below) to let me know they had a similar experience.
My goal with this honest assessment on visiting Egypt is to encourage folks to think twice about traveling to Egypt at this time. Heck, I’d go so far as to encourage you to cancel the trip altogether.
Am I qualified to talk about visiting Egypt?
Who the hell knows. Is anyone qualified? I mean, I visited the country for two full weeks and am happy to share my personal experience. I strive to be honest and am not a fan of sugarcoating the important stuff. The reasons I provide below are sincere, and justify why I didn’t enjoy visiting Egypt.
In terms of qualifications, I’m an American traveler that spends six months of the year traveling with my husband, Will. We’re strong advocates for slow travel and typically book month-long stays in international cities. We enjoy getting to know the culture of a place rather than checking items off a list.
Egypt was the 16th country we visited together, and we chose to spend two full weeks exploring the three most popular cities (Cairo, Aswan and Luxor).
Nothing prepared us for visiting Egypt. Largely thanks to the gut-wrenching corruption and desperation evoked by extreme oppression and poverty.
It all started with an uneasy feeling
As with most things in life, you need to trust your gut.
I’m all for adventure and “saying yes” to new things, but within two days of visiting Egypt, something didn’t feel right. I woke up with a pit in my stomach that alerted me to the uneasiness that accompanies anxiety.
The first two days in Egypt went by just fine. We Ubered over to a mosque and were greeted by a man claiming to be an Egyptologist who gave us a tour of the mosque. We had a fine day learning about the culture and way of life for Egyptians, it was fun but eye-opening.
He took us to various historic sites and two local restaurants. We got to experience “real” Cairo by walking the streets and mingling with locals because we were with a guide that spoke the language. While walking around the city, we found ourselves surprised.
First, we hardly saw any other tourists in the city. Apart from the massive tour vans at the two most popular mosques, we pretty much only saw locals on the city streets.
As such, we stood out like a sore thumb while exploring Cairo since most tourists don’t actually go into the city.
Secondly, the extreme poverty was jarring. We saw animal carcasses in the street, folks swatting flies that landed on plates of food and overall very unsanitary food conditions.
None of the blogs I read beforehand touched on the country I was actually experiencing in real time. By day three, I found myself frustrated by the false narrative being sold by bloggers and travel guides.
So when I woke up on the third day of our trip, I couldn’t shake the uneasy feeling in my stomach. Something didn’t feel right. I asked my husband for his perspective and he agreed.
So we did what any millennial does — we turned to the internet.
We spent hours scouring forums for honest insights into visiting Egypt and found ourselves engrossed by real stories.
What we found was shocking: thousands of accounts of tourists anxiously awaiting to leave the country as soon as possible and vowing never to return.
I wish I would have found the information sooner, but — let’s get real — I’m stubborn and would have chalked it up to inexperience on the traveler’s end. Amateur move on my end.
It’s hard to decipher between exaggeration and fact, but while reading the various accounts, I was surprised by the relatable stories and quickly realized that visiting Egypt doesn’t end up being what most people expect.
So I wanted to contribute to the conversation by sharing the experience of one (pretty average) American.
Here’s the 10 Reasons I Don’t Recommend Visiting Egypt
At the end of the day, we spent two weeks visiting Egypt and then paid $1,000 to leave 2 days early (we couldn’t get out fast enough). Sounds dramatic, I know, but I’m just being honest. Here’s 10 reasons I don’t recommend visiting Egypt, based on firsthand experience.
#1. Egypt is falsely glorified
Prior to our trip, we spent hours reading books, guides, blogs and watching videos in preparation for Egypt. I found a lot of folks eager to provide helpful Egypt Travel Tips, yet very few (almost none) talked about the disadvantages in a genuine way.
The few disadvantages I did come across were so heavily sugarcoated I felt at risk for diabetes. Many downsides were shared alongside a “positive spin” that downplayed the realness of the dangers and frustrations of visiting Egypt.
A part of me can understand this. Since childhood, we’ve been regaled with epic stories of the undeniable splendor of Egypt (those pyramids!).
Breathtaking and riveting stories of hallowed ancient sites that spoke to a great civilization beyond comprehension.
We learned that everyone should strive to visit Egypt to see the glory firsthand. As such, most of us never question the tourism industry in Egypt. And why would we? It’s a must-see for any serious world traveler.
What a mistake that turned out to be for us. Let’s start by covering the tourism industry in Egypt.
Let me be clear (and blunt — because no one else seems to be): I found visiting Egypt to be a hostile (and unfriendly) experience.
Quick Stats on Visiting Egypt (Let’s Talk Tourism)
Tourism is the largest source of revenue in Egypt (which makes my spiel about not visiting Egypt all the more gut-wrenching, but bear with me).
The tourism industry employs 12% of Egyptians, as such, it’s one of the top lifelines of Egypt’s economy.
The best year for tourism in Egypt was 2010 (before the Arab Spring uprising). That year, the country received 14.7 million visitors and generated an estimated $12.5 billion in revenue. For perspective, this accounted for more than 11% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
After the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, Egypt’s economy collapsed. The violence, devastation and uncertainty were too great a risk for travelers and tourist stopped visiting Egypt en masse.
As things settled down, tourism slowly increased but has yet to hit the peak numbers from 2010. What’s worse, when COVID struck the travel industry shut down completely.
Egypt’s tourism industry dropped by 70% in 2020. And since so many Egyptians are reliant on tourism, the nation was greeted with a gut-wrenching poverty few Westerners can fathom. I think of it this way: When your kid is hungry, you’ll do anything in your power to feed them – desperation and ego be damned.
To that end, since the Arab Spring uprising folks have been very hesitant to visit Egypt and COVID only made matters worse. This in turn has caused many Egyptians to resort to drastic measures (oftentimes aggressive) to survive in a country with a staggering unemployment rate.
Worth knowing before visiting Egypt: A 24-year old tourist from Lebanon was arrested at the airport in 2018 and sentenced to 8 years in prison because she posted at 10-minute video talking about her poor experience visiting Egypt. The Egyptian government accused her of spreading propaganda and imprisoned her.
#2. Tourist exploitation is next level
My biggest beef with visiting Egypt is that I assumed it was a tourist destination. I assumed that tourists wouldn’t be treated with hostility or made to feel embarrassed by constant gouging and unfair pricing.
I truly believed that Egypt was a well-known tourist destination (everyone knows to visit the pyramids!) but that wasn’t my experience.
To put it bluntly, I felt like a walking ATM while visiting Egypt. It seemed to me that, as a tourist, the objective was to get as much money from me as possible. The level of tourist exploitation is absolutely next level. Turns out I’m not the only one that thinks so. Several readers reached out to say they felt the same way while visiting Egypt.
For example, we had dinner at a famous spot where they only serve one dish (koshary). We read online that the price for the dish is 20 Egyptian pounds per person, but we weren’t handed a menu and the waiter told us the total is 100 Egyptian pounds for two.
By western standards, this sum isn’t much, but we felt embarrassed that we were being so blatantly up-charged. It made us feel foolish because we couldn’t say or do anything without feeling like there’d be some retaliation.
So we forked over the amount, knowing full well we were charged more than double what the couple next to us paid (because we watched them each pay 20 Egyptian pounds).
Again, it’s not about the money — it’s about being made to feel foolish and being taken advantage of. It got old very fast because it was happening in (almost) every interaction we had.
Story: The sneaky taxi driver
Another case in point: We requested our hotel’s assistance calling a taxi on our behalf. We asked about the pricing (since we were so frustrated by being ripped off so often) from the hotel to the train station, which was a 10 minute ride. The hotel said “no more than 50 Egyptian pounds total.”
When we checked out, we verified with the hotel on a fair price and they (confidently) confirmed “50 pounds tops.” So we knew to pay 50 Egyptian pounds. When we reached the train station, we handed the driver 100 pounds to show our appreciation.
But — get this — the taxi driver demanded 200 Egyptian pounds (again, for a 10 minute ride) and started to get aggressive, refusing to let us go until we paid up.
He claimed the price was 100 Egyptian pounds per person, which is 4x greater than the price we were quoted by two different people at the hotel.
For perspective, the average daily salary in Awsan for a taxi driver is 90-100 EGP, he was trying to get two days worth of wages for a 10 minute ride! Being (blatantly) exploited on an hourly basis while visiting Egypt really started to wear on us.
Also, as I was getting out of the taxi, I noticed the driver was giving our luggage to a young man who put them on a trolley without our consent. As my husband was negotiating the exorbitant taxi fees, I went over to remove our luggage from the trolley and the young man demanded a tip before letting me take the bags.
The whole situation left such a bad taste in my mouth, we were constantly being exploited! And before the hate mail gets stamped, allow me to share that we were very generous with our tips. The dollar goes far in Egypt and we did our part to support locals (tour guides, hotel staff, etc) while visiting Egypt..
The constant “in your face” deceit was one of the worst parts about visiting Egypt. These daily demands for as much money as possible started to get to us because it happened no less than 10 times a day. Eventually we just stopped leaving the hotel.
#3. Visiting Egypt for the epic sites? A word.
There’s no denying that nothing comes close to seeing the ruins of Ancient Egypt for yourself. And hell, I’d put up with a lot to see the epic sites firsthand, which is why the next statement is particularly heartbreaking.
To be frank, the history of Ancient Egypt isn’t valued by those managing the country. I was shocked to find that everything at the Egyptian Museum was out in the open and folks were allowed to touch whatever they pleased.
But that wasn’t the worst of it. No, what surprised me most was the blatant and unabashed corruption at the sacred ancient sites folks travel thousands of miles to see.
I can’t tell you how many times I watched “guards” pop into thousand-year coffins for measly tips. I cringed while watching a guard dip into a roped-off thousand year-old sarcophagus for photos and a $2 tip.
We toured several temples with private guides (booked through our hotels) who mentioned a handful of times that they weren’t allowed to accompany us inside certain rooms because they were holy or sacred.
Not a big deal, or so we thought.
Imagine our surprise when we arrived inside these “sacred” rooms to find guards offering to open doors and expose rooms for tips. We’d constantly be told that photos weren’t allowed, only to be met with a hand motioning for money.
Another thing that caught me by surprise was one of the professional tours we took to the Tombs of Nobles. When we arrived to the destination, our (professional) tour guide told us that we needed to bribe the guards at the door so they’d let him inside with us.
Perplexed, we weren’t sure why a “guided tour of the Tombs of the Nobles” was included in the package if the guide wasn’t allowed inside without us bribing the guides.
Wouldn’t the bribe be included in the exorbitant price of the tour? It was so bizarre, something smelled fishy about it but we obliged (what else could we do?).
Bonus: Here’s something no one tells you about visiting Egypt: Cairo looks like this. None of the ads urging tourism seem to feature this reality.
We spent two days exploring Islamic Cairo (popping into mosques) and were so surprised to learn that Cairo actually looks like a city in shambles. Why the heck isn’t anyone talking about this?
We saw families squatting on the ground and eating beans out of fly-infested bowls. We saw half-dead animals laying on the ground next to restaurants, etc. This is the real Cairo (the city you’ll explore if you ever leave your hotel) and yet no one wants to share the photos outside of the famous street market and mosques, go figure.
#4. The police are corrupt and demand bribes
I’m just going to be real here: The biggest reason I never plan on visiting Egypt again is because I felt unsafe. We were approached by official police officers that threatened us for bribes.
Even as I write this I feel so frustrated because almost all the blogs I came across claimed that visiting Egypt was safe. I’m calling BS.
The ONLY way visiting Egypt will feel safe is if you have a hired tour guide and driver with you at all times.
Having a guide with you at all times will provide a sense of safety, for sure, but it’s the most “sanitized” way to visit a place. You’ll never experience the way people in the city live.
If you don’t feel safe walking the streets in broad daylight (which I didn’t) then the city isn’t safe. And I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t feel safe visiting Egypt (even though I was traveling with my husband) and can’t imagine what it would be like to travel as a solo female.
The scariest situation we encountered while visiting Egypt involved an aggressive police officer that demanded a bribe by placing a hand on his gun.
We took the train from Aswan to Luxor (never again) and arrived at the train station by 3pm. As soon as we stepped onto the platform, we were swarmed my various men trying to grab our bags (for a tip) or offer some service we didn’t need.
We kept our heads down, avoided eye contact and made a beeline for the exit, even as folks were shouting questions our direction (like “where are you from?”).
We heard one person loudly shout “where are you going” but we didn’t make eye contact and keep moving at a quick clip.
His voice got louder and louder before we realized he was chasing after us, but we kept booking it toward the exit because we didn’t need anything and didn’t do anything. As we approached the exit my husband felt a man reach for his shoulder, forcing him to stop abruptly.
Surprised (again, we didn’t do anything wrong), we stopped. He angrily shouted at my husband and said “I am a police officer, why didn’t you stop when I told you?” and then motioned for money while putting his free hand on his gun.
Stunned, we didn’t know what to do. I shouted in Will’s direction and said “our taxi is waiting for us, we need to go!” And we booked it.
The police officer followed us out of the train station but our driver was waiting for us, so we jumped in the car as quickly as we could. I looked back and saw the officer, angry as can be, looking our direction.
It was (honestly) the most terrifying travel experience we have EVER had in our lives.
After our experience with the corrupt officer, we were constantly looking over our shoulders while visiting Egypt. We knew that if something happened to us, we couldn’t rely on the police for help and that was a terrifying feeling we have never experienced before.
At a certain point I was convinced I was being paranoid, but we ran into a handful of other tourists that had very similar experiences. Guards cornering them in famous temples demanding tips, putting a hand on their gun to evoke fear, etc.
We spent an hour chatting with a young couple from England and found that their stories perfectly matched our own, which is when I reached my boiling point (thankfully we were leaving Egypt that day).
I kept asking myself “why the hell did I spend money to come here? I can’t believe I’m paying money to be treated like this.”
Heck, even the police running airport security asked me for money while I was going through the metal detector.
Yeah, don’t really know how to explain this one away. Our flight out of Egypt was scheduled at 5am, so we got to the airport at 3am.
Shortly after going through the metal detector the police officer working security tried to grab my bag to put it on the belt and asked me for a tip. I couldn’t fathom why I wouldn’t just put the bag on the belt myself (I mean, I was standing right next to it?).
I was so fed up at that point (visiting Egypt has a way of doing that to you) so I just walked past him without saying a word. But my bags were promptly searched, mind, and I was frisked twice.
His pals at security demanded to know what my foam roller was for (spoiler alert: my leg). The situation served to strengthen my resolve and confirmed that I will never be visiting Egypt again.
#5. There was nothing I could do to stave off unwanted male attention
Well aware of the narrative I’ve been fed about Muslim culture, I wanted to be proven wrong and had a sole objective in mind: observe the culture without judgement. I approached visiting Egypt with an open mind (not visiting to change things, visiting to learn).
Well, hot damn. I was not prepared for the constant discomfort of being stared at during my entire time visiting Egypt. Prior to my trip, I read that 95% of Egyptians are Muslim and women cover themselves completely.
As such, I made sure to wear loose fitting clothing and did my best not to expose skin (even with temperatures breaching 100 every day of the trip).
I covered my hair while exploring the city yet still (somehow) found myself shifting uncomfortably from wandering eyes. Was I the problem? Should I have covered up more? Is an exposed ankle provocative?
By the end of the my trip it became clear to me that there’s nothing I could have done to stave off unwanted male attention. It’s ingrained in the culture and I got used to men looking at me with hatred in their eyes.
#6. The harassment was nonstop
Egypt is an impoverished country, there’s no two ways about it. As such, people will do anything in their power to earn something, anything, and will offer things or services you probably don’t need.
One of the biggest problems with visiting Egypt, for the average tourist, is that no doesn’t mean no. Rather, no is a form of engagement, which means all bets are off.
The aggression with which folks tried to sell stuff and demand payment was next level. For example, we were touring a temple and one man approached us and motioned at a wall we were currently looking at and then demanded a tip. He didn’t say a single word, simply pointed from his eyes to the wall and made the motion for money.
We said no and kept walking and thankfully he didn’t follow us. Although he came back later with a vengeance and demanded a tip because we were using our tripod (which was allowed). Again, we said no and left the temple altogether, half expecting him to demand a tip for departing too.
The harassment we faced while visiting Egypt was nonstop, it’s hard to describe in words. From the second we left the car until we returned to the hotel, we were stopped every five seconds by someone selling something.
It doesn’t matter who — taxi drivers, camel riders, folks offering tours, kids selling trinkets, bathroom attendant, etc.
It was unrelenting and we couldn’t even take in the sites, for fear of making eye contact with someone, which we learned was a mistake early on.
Indeed, eye contact and speech (“no, thank you”) was perceived as engagement and we’d be followed several feet, with the demands getting more aggressive with each step. It was a lot to handle and we found ourselves mostly hotel-bound by the third day of our trip.
Take note: If you’re using a public restroom (near popular sites) expect to tip for toilet paper. Most bathrooms don’t stock toilet paper, so you’ll need to tip the attendant and she’ll probably give you three sheets at best. Better yet, carry your own toilet paper while visiting Egypt.
#7. The taxi situation was a nightmare
We were so grateful for Uber while visiting Cairo, but unfortunately the other cities don’t have Uber. Both Luxor and Aswan have a service called Careem (which is owned by Uber) but after one experience with the app, we refused to use them.
If you’re visiting Egypt, you’ll want to set up car services through your hotel because taxis don’t have set rates. If you use a taxi while visiting Egypt then you will be at the mercy of the taxi driver, who will try to get as much money from you as possible.
Our experience using taxis while visiting Egypt
We flew from Cairo to Aswan and arrived at the airport ready to explore a new city, hopeful that Aswan would be different from Cairo. We opened the Careem app but for some reason a driver wasn’t able to be found. No problem, we’d ask for a ride from the taxi drivers, or so we thought.
The Careem app showed a fare of 130 Egyptian pounds to get from the airport to our hotel. Armed with that knowledge, we requested a quote from the taxi driver and he responded with “450 Egyptian pounds.” We said, no thanks and walked away.
But recall that no doesn’t mean no. So he started following us — not only him but six other taxi drivers. They were all shouting different numbers at us but the lowest one was 350 Egyptian pounds. We said that a fair rate is 130 but we’d pay 150 and they told us that no one would drive to the hotel for that rate.
We said okay and started walking back to the waiting platform. We wanted to re-group and call the hotel for options. The problem? The men followed and encircled us while we started dialing. They demanded to take us but when we kept firmly saying no, one guy aggressively shouted “fine, I’ll take you for 150.”
But I had a gut feeling that he wasn’t going to take us to the hotel without exploiting us for more money before arrival (a tactic we learned about from previous travelers). I was starting to get angry (and nervous) so I firmly said “no, and you need to get away from us” and he got visibly angry before looking at my husband for a decision. I think he HATED the fact that a woman said “no” to him, let alone exists.
My husband said “my wife is talking to you” and that was enough for the guy to finally leave us alone (after 10 minutes). We were later approached by one calmer man who said he would take us for 250, we agreed because the hotel couldn’t get someone to us in time. It was such an intense situation and I had a pit in my stomach the entire ride to the hotel.
Our experience using Careem while visiting Egypt
We requested a ride using Careem from the Luxor train station to our hotel. The price was 30 Egyptian pounds and a driver accepted the ride. However, as soon as we got into the car he said he’d rather be paid cash and will cancel the ride so that our card doesn’t get charged.
We were being chased by a corrupt police officer (story I mentioned early), so we agreed. However, within seconds he said “oh, you’re going to THAT Hilton hotel? (Spoiler alert: there’s only one.) That’s further than I thought so the price is double. Do you agree or do you want to get out of the car?”
So there’s that.
#8. Even professional tour guides will try to get you to buy overpriced trinkets
During our first few days of visiting Egypt we realized the importance of a professional guide. It’s worth mentioning that we’ve NEVER hired professional guides during our travels before, but Egypt was a wild card. We were swindled by an “Egyptologist” that approached us on the street near the famous market and started offering his services for free.
This was our first day in Egypt so we didn’t know better (haven’t been burned). At first we enjoyed his knowledge and signed up for the full day tour. We had a great time and hired him for a second day as well and then things started to get weird.
He showed us two cool mosques in the morning and then we hopped in a taxi that took us 40 minutes out of the city center to some chain restaurant (that was also located two blocks from our apartment).
We started to get a weird vibe about the whole situation and requested to return to our hotel after the meal. He got really weird about it and didn’t want to let us go, asking to take us shopping for souvenirs instead. We declined the offer and demanded to be taken back to the hotel.
Needless to say, we learned our lesson and only booked tours through hotels from that point forward. The problem? Every single one of the guides we booked took us to some souvenir shop to show us how “real alabaster” or “real maps” or “real papyrus” was made. It’s a whole production! The shop keep spends 20 minutes pulling out all the stops, which makes leaving empty-handed super awkward and uncomfortable.
We were really surprised by the hard sells, especially from professional tour guides. All told, we felt disappointed by our experience with the tour guides, but at least we got to see some epic temples without being approached by touts.
The biggest advantage of having a guide in Egypt is that other people don’t try to approach you and sell stuff to you. We got to a point where we gladly paid $100 each for half-day tours just to have a driver and guide that would serve as a buffer between us and everyone else. The hassling is so bad in Egypt, we couldn’t travel without guides.
#9. We couldn’t leave the pyramids fast enough
Don’t get me wrong, the Pyramids of Giza are downright epic. A true world wonder, this was the highlight of our trip — or at least we hoped it would be.
What we didn’t realize was the headache that came with the experience. First, we had to purchase the tickets at the booth and then found ourselves demanding proper change (they claimed not to take cards, even though the pricing sheet said cards were accepted).
After that debacle was settled we went into the Giza complex to take in the beauty of the pyramids from the overview. Within seconds we were approached by touts trying to sell tours — offers we firmly declined. We set up our camera to take a few photos (completely allowed) but were soon approached by a man in civilian clothing claiming to be an official.
He said “I believe you are taking videos and I need to see your camera.” We explained that we are taking photos using a timer and handed our camera over for review. He saw that we just had photos and allowed us to go. I found it very strange that the man claimed filming wasn’t allowed at the Pyramids since none of the posted signage alluded to that.
From there, a man approached us and tried to tell us that our photo can be improved if we move our tripod a few inches to one side. We thanked him for the tip and moved along but he started to follow us, offering his touring service. We kept walking as he followed us closely and started talking faster.
However, when we approached the entrance to the base of the pyramids, he became extremely aggressive and clearly agitated.
We declined his services and told him that we needed to get away from the harsh sun. He got very angry with my answer and demanded to know “why I was talking to him like that.” Surprised, I walked away. My husband ran up to me a minute later and said the man dropped his tour price from 800 Egyptian pounds to 200 because I walked off and would wait for us outside.
I said there’s no way in hell I’m doing a tour with that aggressive man and kept walking. What we didn’t realize until later is that the guide wasn’t allowed past the entrance area. He was getting super aggressive and angry with us because we were about to pass the “threshold” that he couldn’t go through.
The encounter shook me up, but we kept walking to see the pyramids. My husband mentioned that he wanted to see the cool vantage point where all 9 pyramids are seen side-by-side but the only way to see that overlook is by taking a camel or horse ride (something neither of us were stoked about, honestly).
We were torn, we didn’t want to ride a camel or a horse, but we were visiting Egypt to see the Pyramids and if that’s the only way to see all 9 pyramids, what choice did we have?
Well, turns out we didn’t have long to think about our decision. Within seconds of passing through the gateway we were approached for camel rides. Ah, yes — now that’s a whole other story.
#10. The camel rides at the Pyramid are downright heartbreaking
Visiting Egypt without riding a camel is practically unheard of. Our childhoods are peppered with photos of the pyramids while colorfully decked out camels grace the foreground.
We weren’t digging riding camels because we weren’t sure how they were treated. However, at the end of the day we relented — when in Rome, right?
Wrong. Things went south pretty fast.
As soon as we got on the camels, instant regret washed over us. I couldn’t believe the condition of the camels (they had random designs carved into their necks).
Secondly, we agreed to a price of 200 Egyptian pounds per person for a 1-hour trip to the viewpoint but when we got back to the pyramids they demanded 3x more than we agreed on and wouldn’t let us go until we forked over the cash.
It’s easy to say that we should have just walked away, but the men became extremely aggressive and refused to let us go. We said we would pay them 600 Egyptian pounds total (200 for the ride + 100 tip per person) and they demanded more.
They claimed they took the long route (which they didn’t, the returned to the pyramids in less than an hour) and said 300 Egyptian pounds per person was “nothing.”
I was so frustrated by the blatant rip off and deceit but my husband just wanted to leave. My husband and I had a brief argument over the sum and he said he just wanted to break free of the scammers. I had to walk away because I was so heated, but within seconds I was swarmed by two other men trying to sell me stuff.
At this point, we’ve been exploring the pyramids for 1.5 hours (we were visiting Egypt because of them!) and made the hard decision to just leave. While departing we were approached by two large groups of children and within minutes we noticed a bunch of adults as well.
They wanted photos with us (and we gladly obliged) only to realize they actually wanted money. As we left, they started running after us trying to sell necklaces and trinkets. We were so over it, we called the Uber and counted down the seconds until we were in our hotel.
#11. Stomach issues are common while visiting Egypt
Finally, let’s discuss the last reason I won’t be visiting Egypt again. Granted, this is the most inconsequential reason.
First, Egyptian food leaves much to be desired. Folks love to make it seem like Egyptian food is “exotic” and “mind blowing” but in reality, the unofficial national dish of Egypt is Koshary (various noodles topped with a tomato sauce and fried onion).
Koshary is delicious, by the way. We order it whenever we see it on a menu. But it’s definitely not an earth-shattering foodie moment by any stretch of the imagination. Regardless, let’s talk about the common stomach issues that travelers develop while visiting Egypt.
A few days into our trip we were both waking up with odd stomach pains, even though we were super vigilant about what we ate. We stuck to beers and hotel food because the conditions of street food were questionable at best.
We had two meals in Cairo and found ourselves swatting flies while stray dogs walking about. After we started waking up with stomach issues we found ourselves on guard and cut back to two light hotel meals a day.
Take note while visiting Egypt: levels of cleanliness are low compared to Western standards. It doesn’t seem that proper cleaning protocols are followed. Heck, I used a restroom in one restaurant and it didn’t have toilet paper at all.
The worst part? The bar of soap was tiny (down to half an inch) and obviously old. The thought of the servers using the bathroom throughout the day made me nauseous.
Is visiting Egypt safe in 2022? Let’s discuss the biggest events.
Located in Africa, bordering the Middle East, visiting Egypt is often labeled “moderate to unsafe.” The country shoulders the weight of the “conflict zone,” and terrorist incidents occur with greater frequency than most Western world countries.
I’m not trying to be unkind. I’m trying to be honest to set folks up for success if they’re planning on visiting Egypt.
We had an interesting conversation with one of our tour guides because she kept thanking us profusely for visiting Egypt. Perplexed, I asked her about the tourism industry and she explained the numbers were discouraging.
Then she said something that stuck with me. She said, “I could understand it, no one wants to die on vacation.”
Again, I don’t mean to alarm you if you’re planning on visiting Egypt, but this are things I wish I knew before going to Egypt for the first time. So I’m sharing my experience.
If helpful, here’s a roundup of the most current terrorist attacks targeted specifically at tourists in Egypt. Why the hell this doesn’t show up on most “List of Tips for Visiting Egypt” is beyond me. This is information you should know, so be informed.
As you can see, the tourist attacks are far and few between, but still, I can honestly tell you that I personally did not feel safe while visiting Egypt. I was constantly looking over my shoulder, waiting for something to happen.
It’s hard to explain the feeling but it’s similar to the feeling you get when you’re anticipating bad news. In times like this, it’s critical to trust your intuition. If something feels wrong, get out quickly.
While visiting Egypt it didn’t take long to realize the country is falsely glorified. Having the opportunity to experience the incredible sites will put you through the ringer many times over. But again, I understand and appreciate that the people are hurting and are merely doing anything they can to survive.
Why I didn’t like visiting Egypt (Resources) | Egypt Travel Tips
Here’s the forum I wish I would have found before visiting Egypt because I would have reconsidered the whole trip.
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I hope this helps,
Emily Go says
Everyone will scam you. From the moment you land until the moment you leave. We were holding our breath trying to enjoy what we can but were so glad to finally leave. You book a tour from a ‘reputable’ tour company and you pay extra for security but they are absolutely all scammers. I watched them fool us. I let it happen because frankly I could afford it and I wanted to see just how far they would go. It was sad. I will never ever go back to Egypt. And I will never recommend it to anyone either.
Great read Antonina. Thanks for your honesty. We are a family of 5 and have just spent 5 days in Cairo. Was such an education for the children – one they can’t get in a text book. I found knowing a little of the language helped immensely. Telling them ‘no’ and ‘enough’ in Arabic worked for me. The Egyptian women are beautiful and would always smile at me (I am female) if I smiled and said hello to them. They are often overlooked. We were fortunate and only had one incident on our last day. Keep up the great writing. Anthea
Jim McDonald says
Antonio, so very great full for critical review of Egypt. 83 year old Veteran was planning last overseas trip from Silverton Oregon . Saved me from big mistake
Rethink it and use a good company. I don’t want to be accused of owning stock and pushing one company forward but we used a company based in Canada and they were amazing. They took great care of us.
Just got back from Egypt. My suggestion, go with a large reputable tour company and stay with it. We added a two days before our tour and one day after to try and do some adventuring in our own and I 100 percent agree with this article’s assignment. We also twice tried doing a local tour guide in our free time and came back feeling nothing but annoyed and ripped off.
Why do you think the people are that way though? You have to understand travelling before you actually do it. Traveling isn’t always going to be pleasurable in your “western” and traditional way. People in egypt have lived in poverty for all the years that they have seen. They have lived under cruel rulers and have had to deal with imprisonment if they opposed any of these rulers’ views. Some of these views and issues include low wages/ unemployment due to status so guess how people have to live? they learn to steal, to scam at a young age. Reading this immensely judgemental post was very sad to see. Because you have lived a good life, and in fact have the funds to travel and live comfortably, you carry yourself a particular way. That’s how it is everywhere. In the US, POC are usually the majority of poverty populations and end up violent/ getting around the system in more or less illegal ways because they were not given proper resources to set them up for a bright future.
Don’t visit a country before you learn about their spiciness and especially their POVERTY rates because I will guarantee you that with poverty you will see people trying to SURVIVE in any way.
Antonina Pattiz says
Mar, I agree with your comment. I think other readers will find it helpful as well. You are right, I should have been more educated on the poverty in Egypt, but the challenge is that most resources aren’t talking about it. Most websites/books highlight only the historic aspect of Egypt, not everyday life and what a tourist may experience. As such, I would make the argument that it’s hard to be properly educated on visiting Egypt because people don’t talk about it truthfully (which is why I posted this).
The survival aspect of your comment is especially true. All this is a catch-22, isn’t it? The country is dependent on tourism, yet I would argue most tourists don’t plan to return (outside of the resort towns). To that end, I should have been more educated, but how if no one is talking about this?
Great read Antonia. Thanks for your honesty. We are a family of 5 and have just spent 5 days in Cairo. Was such an education for the children – one they can’t get in a text book. I found knowing a little of the language helped immensely.
Telling them ‘no’ and ‘enough’ in Arabic worked for me. The Egyptian women are beautiful and would always smile at me (I am female) if I smiled and said hello to them. They are often overlooked. We were fortunate and only had one incident on our last day. Keep up the great writing. Anthea
Mar, I totally agree with you.
I understand where you are coming from. I worked as a tour guide in Puerto Rico and people expected Puerto Rico to be cheap like Mexico but its an island on the US dollar. During one of the times of greatest inflation in my life (2022) I had American college students spending $500 a night on their hotels complaining about everything in the tours.
They did not understand that gas was in liters not gallons and would often be so low as to say they could have taken an uber and done the tour themselves despite the fact ubers do not leave the city and there is virtually no public transportation at all, you must rent a car to see what you want. HOWEVER THE EGYPTIAN PYRAMIDS ARE ONE OF THE SEVEN WONDERS OF THE WORLD.
When I visited Machu Pichu there were protests everywhere about the gas prices in 2008 but the travel sector ensured that this problem was not to bother the tourists who were there for Machu Pichu, and even the other lesser known sites (not a wonder of the world) were so well kept and I was often ripped off and one tuktuk driver said I looked like money, (after 2 weeks in the rain forest and no shower HAHA) but it was not obnoxious.
I also went to the pyramid in Mexico (where money problems are a huge issue) and Chichin Itza (another seventh wonder of the world) was very well kept and ensured that it was not destroyed because the Mayan people are very respectful of what their ancestors created. Even in Guatemala at Tikal, which is a giant Mayan city in the Jungle, there is the utmost respect for tourists because tourism has helped to bring Guatemala up economically. I do understand the feeling of being so annoyed by constantly being sold something that you just want to leave, but it was not nearly as bad as Egypt. In Jamaica people on the beach constantly try to sell things.
I am not a person who brings back souveniers or gifts because I travel often and bring as little luggage as possible. One woman put her necklace she was selling around my neck- and said you have it, I tried to give it back, and she insisted on putting it on me. I did not have any cash. I tried to give it back and she would not take it. She left then came back to my hotel room and I had to get the hotel staff to give back the necklace. They said she was under the impression I wanted it but needed to get money from the room- that was not the case. So the hotel staff asked why I did not just buy it, it was the point I did not want it and was really annoyed by now.
Its at this point that tourists begin to seem rude because it seems when you interact with someone they think you want to buy something. I had never been so rude on a trip in my life. BUT ITS THE POINT THAT IF YOU HAVE A WONDER OF THE WORLD chasing away tourists wont help you
Still doesn’t change the fact that it is going to be a rather nasty experience than an enjoyable one, whether or not you understand where the behaviours of the locals are coming from. The author’s experience, her being judgemental or not, would be a good warning to those who intend to visit Egypt.
Mar, your comment seems a little preachy. There’s no way someone who is not from there can ever educate themselves enough prior to experiencing a place. And quite frankly, why spend hard earned money to experience what you call “spiciness” which in this case I call abuse from people who see you as “mierda con $”?
Mar, we can talk about the socioeconomic reasons for Egypt being the way it is. We can also discuss our ‘Western Privilege’, but Egypt is a challenging country to visit. Some may be less bothered by the scams, aggressive touts, poverty, dirtiness and harassment, sexual and otherwise and even enjoy the challenge, but many will not and there’s nothing wrong with highlighting these challenges for them.
I have spent time in Egypt for work, and the Egyptians I interacted with in that setting were kind and thoughtful, and they willingly and unprompted discussed the challenges and hardships of their lives. I can absolutely sympathize. But I also stayed a couple of days to sightsee in Cairo and Giza and the hassles mentioned above are very real.
Do I regret staying longer to sightsee? Definitely not. I even enjoyed the challenge for the short time I stayed, but it is exhausting being on your guard all the time. It is exhausting having to be constantly assertive and even rude to stop being hassled. It is exhausting not really being able to see the sights because of being constantly approached. I like to think that I am for the most part a kind person who treats others with respect.
I also understand baksheesh, and I am happy to tip for situations there that I wouldn’t back in North America. I’m also happy to give to crippled women begging outside the metro station. But I would like to get some respect in return, and it wears thin not being seen as a human being, but rather as a walking ATM. It wears thin seeing faces go from faux friendliness to indifference or hostility the moment they realize they can’t get any more money from you.
That’s the way it is, but would I spend money flying my family from North America on a holiday there? Not a chance.
We wish we read your blog before we came currently in transit on our way home and tried to get out earlier but couldn’t like you we have felt paralysed by the lies, thrives and scammers of Egypt – worst part for us is we were with an Australian tour guide and a local guide she uses and it was so bad on our tour that we left early and lost a lot of money just to escape them – we found the corruption and rude leading and harassment just so distasteful- the worst offenders were officials particularly in the airport just foul – a place I will never return to and unfortunately will have tainted memories of. Too many negatives to mention here.
I just returned from Egypt as well. We went in September 2022. Some of what she wrote is true. The vendors are everywhere at all the sites and they want money. EVERYONE wants money from you. One worker told me that Egypt was hit HARD by tourism as she mentioned in the numbers so people are desperate. I learned early on to ignore everyone. People were waiting outside the bathroom for money and you learn to just smile and say no thanks. Not sure why she wasn’t a little more assertive.
That being said the author needs to be a little more checked in. There are certain countries you can travel alone and without a guide and others you cannot.
When I went to China I went with a tour group. I would happily return alone as China is SO safe.
Same to be said for certain countries in Central America. Guatemala and El Salvador are very safe and the people are lovely.
Egypt is not such a place. Our tour group kept us safe and sound and our guide was the exact opposite of what was mentioned. He would tell us not to shop here or here, what to pay, what to avoid and was wonderful.
I am so glad I went to Egypt but Cairo is a very dirty dirty place and I was amazed at all these Westernized people who probably love and support animals in their countries yet hop on these camels and donkeys/horses. I declined to ride both because of their treatment. They look run down, bones showing and it was very sad.
Use a reputable company and go see the sites. They are amazing. The rest of it? It’s called traveling to a country that has much less than the Industrialized world. The people are not being cared for and honestly it made me realize how lucky and privileged I am. Shukran!
Can you recommend a tour company?
Jenny - DearVoyageurs says
I feel the same…I just came back from two weeks in Egypt – we went from Cairo to Abu Simbel, North to South. It was the worst trip of my life. I even cried because I dreamt about going there for my whole life, I started studying History because of my love for Egypt. But when on the second day there, near by the Pyramids site, someone spat a me, well I knew I was done. I mean it was so hot there and I was wearing long skirt, long shirt and covering as much as I could to be respectful but well…I also spent a lot of time in my hotel rooms and I was happy to leave….I have so many stories to tell about this trip…It’s heartbreaking to spend so much money, to save so much money to go to a place where you are not welcomed…
please make a video and share all your experience in Egypt to warn any body
I wish I’d seen this. I’m still in Egypt for another week. I’m a scuba diver and will go to the Red Sea again but none of the rest of it. I’m a kind hearted midwesterner who now lives in Honduras (so pretty good at everyone being late and going with the flow) but this country has broken my heart. I don’t enjoy moving around with permanent RBF to be left alone, but have gotten good enough to get twenty minutes of a walk in without anyone talking to me. Also people should not the sexual harassment is a real thing. The lack of care in this country is absurd.
I appreciate this. I had heard so much about the beautiful mystic India but in reality it’s an unsafe, misogynistic, dirty foul country that gave a handful of iconic scenery but aside from that is FUBAR. I couldn’t get away fast enough.
Sadly, every word is true. I visited in 2008, pre Arab Spring, and everything was just as you describe. Rude, desperate, grasping people tugging at your sleeve wherever you go. After yet another jarring taxi ride where we paid a fortune for a super-short trip, my significant other ended up [totally out of character] yelling at me in the street, saying she was [deservedly] “sick and tired” of all this nonsense and of being hunted like an animal every step she took in public.
By contrast, business trips and even official visits to government ministries were pleasant, convivial and very hospitable. You literally couldn’t see the conference table, so covered it was with delicious treats. Many local companies have offices in Heliopolis, which is a slice of Belle Epoque; incredible.
But as for tourism: NO. Never again. Countries like Jordan are only marginally wealthier, yet people there are generally patient and good-natured; “one dinar” for a taxi ride is always one dinar; and many speak some English. Egypt tourism, unfortunately, is a nightmarish and traumatizing experience.
I’m so glad I read this. It has been a dream to see the pyramids. But thanks to all this information I am just going to avoid Egypt all together. I agree with you all thank you
Correct. We cannot compare how the Western world is, especially, since the Pandemic. In the Western countries, poor people are well-fed through welfare services and charity agencies. Not much of that is happening in other countries, which are considered poor countries.
It might have been extremely annoying to deal with aggressive vendors/salesmen, but you have to give them credit for working hard on their craft, to make their Living. Unlike the poor in our Western world where they are being sustained by our government social services, without a drop of sweat.
When I encounter a Beggar, I don’t give money because he is begging. I give money for his ability to humble himself to ask for help. When I travel outside the USA, I always prepare envelopes for passing on blessings. I buy locally-made handcraft, even though I have no use for them, just because I understand that a Sale means food in a family’s table.
This is part of my travel itinerary. Egypt is still on my travel list. Maybe, when the Pandemic phase out and Normal is restored, I will have a better experience.
You meant to say that in the west, poor people are SOMETIMES taken care of by social services. Poverty still very much exists in the western world. It just doesn’t get a lot of attention because we’re seen as rich nations. But we definitely have some people living in extreme poverty. Go to any urban center and you’ll see plenty of people with no shoes sleeping on the sidewalk using a trash bag as a blanket. People stand around on street corners with cardboard signs begging for money to eat, etc. You don’t see it in the nicer areas (the police remove them) but in places that are under-served and underfunded, you will see some horrible conditions.
When I retired, the pyramids were the first thing on my “to Do” list. Not anymore. As a senior person I do not want to waste my time and pay to be uncomfortable. Sounds like I could do a Webinar with a travel guide and Google Earth and enjoy myself!
Just got back from Luxor and Hurghada and had a great time. It was nowhere near as bad as I’d feared. The hotel was fine and excellent value (like $40 a night all in, great beach). Luxor was fantastic in December. Sure, you get harassed a bit, but just carry lots of loose change (don’t get out your wallet) and you’ll be fine (Rome the other week was worse). Not sure I’d take the kids yet though, it is, of course, very poor and the dogs (and cops and guns) are a bit disconcerting.
Oof. This is a really sad and disappointing review about a wonderful country.
I have been twice, in 2017 and 2018. My aunt and uncle also lived there as expats for about a decade (including during the revolution).
First and foremost- going to egypt isn’t going to be the same trip as going to say, Italy. You absolutely must have a tour guide and a driver. The ENTIRE TIME. They will ward off those asking for money, negotiate a price and make the trip so much more comfortable. Second, I want to make it absolutely clear that 100 Egyptian pounds is the equivalent of FOUR US DOLLARS. Are you being unfairly charged, sure. Is it going to financially cripple you while helping out a poor economy or restaurant owner? Unlikely.
Next- you absolutely HAVE to be firm. You have to say NO or no in Arabic. Negotiations and haggling are are part of the Egyptian culture. Embrace it. You don’t have to like it, but that doesn’t make it wrong. I walked around in massive sunglasses and a massive hat and just pretended not to hear or see anything and was absolutely fine. Does it get exhausting to be pestered all the time? Sure- but it’s again, a part of the culture. An attitude and perspective change works great- Egypt gets a lot of tourists from Russia, so when I went they assumed white tourists were Russian. My catcalls usually were usually “WANT SOME VODKA?!?” Instead of getting upset by it, I smiled and moved on with my life.
In regards to the impoverished or run down areas, I’m curious as to what you expected? A booming rich metropolis? My driver took me on our tour of Garbage City- exactly as it sounds, and it was such an incredible experience. To you, it may have just been a city of people living with and among trash. But to those with an open mind, it’s an extremely resourceful recycling operation- every single component of recycled goods are reused and repurposed. It was absolutely fascinating and incredible to experience.
I’m sorry you didn’t have a good time, but I also did extensive research before traveling and found my experiences to be wonderful. I really hope this post doesn’t sway other visitors. I actually cried when my aunt moved back to the US, I would LOVE to visit Egypt again.
chris medlin says
I couldn’t agree more. As I write this I’m in a hotel in Luxor thanking my lucky stars I’m leaving for jordan tomorrow morning.
It’s very disconcerting being in a country where the only reason people will be overtly nice or hospitable with you is because they want money. I’ve had organised tours one on one with a guide and they couldn’t be less personable.
I’ve even had my luxor tour guide tell me today that I should “look after” the guy picking me up to take me to the airport tomorrow because he’s a nice man! I abruptly said back I’ve looked after everyone on my trip and over tipped every one I’ve met.
I was short of Egyptian pounds so we went to a bank teller before we went on a tour today so I would have money to tip the driver and guide. As the money is coming out of the ATM he says to me, I love that sound! I said I’m sure you do.
This sums up my experience with Egyptian people, all they care about is money. You can spend 3 days in a row with the same tour guide and they make little or no effort to get to know you or create any type of relationship at.
All you are to them is money no more no less.
Evlin Asatoorian says
I wish I would have read your story and other people’s comments about Egypt sooner, so that I would not have returned to America with such a broken heart and the expense of traveling to Egypt. A dirty city with deceitful people who cannot be judged because poverty causes the worst sins and crimes. Of course, my bitter experience with a Coptic man is that the poorer the economy, the stronger the religion and the culture that does not want to grow.
The statement that “poverty causes the worst sins and crimes” and generalizing an entire country’s people as being deceitful is harmful. Perhaps you have never heard of the wealthy who run corporations that knowingly harm and kill people for money (such as the Sackler family who own Purdue Pharma and instigated an opioid crisis that killed hundreds of thousands of people). But if a poor person who tries to get money from you, a much wealthier person, constitutes the worst sin and crime, then you should reevaluate how you judge people, whether rich or poor.
Mar I do agree with your comment but If a country doesn’t realize it’s got a problem by bad press, how will its issues ever get fixed. I just got back from Egypt In Dec. I had a cabbie complain to me for 5 min that Uber was ruining his business.
I really wanted to have a conversation with this guy that you can’t run a cab without a meter for tourists but my wife and kids were there. Tourists are willing to pay fair market value for things but don’t want to negotiate on a trip that we have very little clue how much it should cost.
Every negative post about the country could cost the country $100,000 and lost jobs. I too have been to poor countries but Egypt was way over the top for corruption. Tourists would rather pay $5 more and employ these guys at the sites then constantly feel obligated to tip everyone every 2 seconds.
I absolutely love your take on this article – I read this and wondered what exactly the author considered an ‘open mind’. Half of the issues discussed here could have been avoided by reading a couple of the million ‘must know before traveling to Egypt’ articles out there. This article did not dissuade me from my upcoming trip; if nothing it else made me feel sad for those who visit third world countries and expect Disneyland.
Nobody expects Disneyland – don’t be rude with us.
You can read as much as you like about they way the Egyptians are managing the tourist attractions and their businesses and still you will have no idea about how you’d feel or react in all these scenarios.
Please enjoy your trip and let us know your thoughts after you come back.
I was there in December. I experienced many of what you wrote about and almost to the exact detail. I read the comments as well. I see and appreciate many different points of view about travelling in general and travelling in Egypt. If I haven’t been myself, I might have shrugged it off and said I’m sure I’ll figure it out. But nope. Been there, done that, and never did I figure it out.
How can you go to Egypt and not know the history. Of course tourism dropped by 70% in 2020. Global tourism suffered its worst year on record in 2020, with international arrivals dropping by 74% according to the latest data from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). But those that haven’t done their homework before going to Egypt this blog would be very helpful.
If the graft, greed, and grabbing in Egypt bother you, then avoid India, Pakistan, and etc. Stick to Euro world, Canada, Japan and Korea.
A guy in Vietnam threatened threatened to kill me because I wouldn’t buy a poorly photocopied book he was trying to trick foreigners into buying. Also avoid pretty much all of the middle east and sub Saharan Africa as the complaints voiced in the article are the same across Africa, Middle East, and Asia. Similar issues found in Central/South America.
The author’s constant shock at the real world quickly bored me. For someone who allegedly travel for months, your “shock” is excessive. More like read and join my whines in the complaint session.
I’ve been to 137 countries and have spent years out of the states in order to overland and stay longterm. When you accept the fact that you are a walking atm, you are ridiculously wealthy when compared to locals, and people are the same world wide, then articles like the above will be just as boring to you as they are to me.
Citizen of the World says
Thank you for sharing your impressions. Agree with several replies that as travelers we should not overlay our western values and standards onto other nations and cultures. The point of travel is not just to visit tourist sites, but to open our minds and gain an at least an understanding (not necessarily agreement) with other world views. Sounds like you have been fortunate to visit pasteurized places. The rest of the the world is not like that.
In many countries, people in the rest room who “sell” you toilet paper is an actual job. While always smart to carry your own, by not tipping, you are depriving these individuals of their only economic livelihood. What else would you have them do? (Get an air-conditioned office job?) This is very common throughout Latin America where I grew up. (Heck, they had tip jars in the Charlotte, NC airport until a couple years ago for the custodial ladies.)
The degree of haggling you experienced is an unfortunate reality in many desperate countries and result of the exact turmoil you outlined at the top. The world is not Euro-Disney, nor should it be.
As a solo female traveler whose been to 87 countries, not very place is conducive to solo travel. I’ve learned a lot more about local culture from local guides than any history or travel blog could ever impart.
Being expected to buy souvenirs is common, too. I have an entire curio cabinet of “crap” I do not need. This was the case throughout Russia, pretty much every where these days. (have you seen the kitsch in the London shop windows?) I just carry lots of small bills tucked away in way too many pockets in my clothes to avoid carrying a purse of having to take out my wallet.
I volunteer at an animal shelter here in the US. It crushes me to see how animals are treated in other parts of the world (and yes, sadly even here in California). But, like it or not, that is the reality of our world.
Instead of “Don’t go”, perhaps your articles could be “Travel SMARTER — with your mind, eyes and value system wide open”. Yours could be an educational tale to help other less-traveled people become more informed. Travel smarter .vs “Don’t Go”.
While some may look at organized tours with disdain, they are extremely valuable in some parts of the world. Consider the big (or small) bus tour as an “Amuse Bouche” to first sample a country where you don’t speak the language and don’t know the culture, then once you are more aware, you can decide if it’s worth revisiting in future (or not), rather than striking it off the list entirely.
I don’t know how you expect Egyptians to make any money without bringing in tourists. They are desperate, which as you’ve now seen, does not bring out the best in people.
This post reminds me of the Peace Corps students who would visit us in Central and Latin America for a few weeks who were shocked at the dirt floors, bamboo roofs, newspaper/mud walls and malnutrition in the small villages, but only judged and had no suggestions for how to help improve their lot. So, go ahead and deprive these people of their only chance of any income. Sorry/not sorry.
If the police of the country are corrupt and not in support of the tourists, steer off that country. Your life will be at risk all the time there. Like the guide said, “no one wish to die on their vacation.”
Most travelers do not make an in-depth study of the social conditions of the areas they visit. Respect, courtesy & fairness are qualities that are universal…also the saying that we treat people the way we want to be treated isn’t asking too much from people we come in contact with while traveling. The travel blogger was merely giving her account of her experiences in Egypt and I appreciate that.
First of all, I am very sorry that you didn’t enjoy your visit and that it was clearly an upsetting experience for you. However, this negative, judgmental post makes me very sad. I have been living in Egypt for over 20 years, have also lived in China for 5 years, and have traveled to many places.
While there is no denying that these things happen, I’m disappointed by the harsh tone and encouragement for people to avoid visiting Egypt.
I question how well – traveled you are and how much research you did before visiting. These issues are well known.
I think it’s very strange for tourists to expect sanitized places and experiences when they travel to different countries.
It’s not nice to feel like you’re being ripped off. But, there are many things to consider about this. The Egyptian currency recently had a huge devaluation and inflation rates are very high. When you complain about paying 100 LE for your meal you are complaining about paying $3 vs 66 cents. You were obviously in a very cheap restaurant. And again, I know it doesn’t feel good to be charged more than someone else, but when you compare the average monthly salary for Egypt 9200 LE (approximately $300) maybe you can understand why people try to charge more for tourists.
Anther aspect of this is that bartering is part of the culture. Not something that only happens with tourists. Even though I live here if I go to touristy areas I will be hassled and people will try to sell me things. You just have to say no and keep waking. And if I do want to buy something, I know I’ll have to bargain. Or be okay with paying more. Same with taxis. It’s literally the same for everyone locals included. Which is why apps like Uber and Careem are now preferred.
Unfortunately, as well it is a tipping culture. Again, for everyone – locals included. If an Egyptian who looks like they have money travels they too will be asked for tips at the airport and have to barter for their taxi fare.
Regarding feeling safe, I can say Egypt is extremely safe. I understand how seeing the large guns police and army carry in the open can be disconcerting. But I find your fear laughable especially coming from the United States where gun violence is so common and now the leading cause of death for children according to the New England Journal of Medicine. There us no such violence here. And the crime rate is very low. And as you already pointed out, terrorism is also rare.
And yes, Cairo is dirty, dusty and old. There are very poor run down areas A’s well as very posh, luxurious places. Again, any basic research and you would see what Cairo looks like. Of course tourism ads and people’s vacation photos highlight the most beautiful places. I think that’s true of anywhere. I don’t see ads for LA featuring Skid Row.
It seems you disparaged the entire cuisine based on one dish (koshary) – which is by the way delicious! I’m sorry you don’t like it, but it really doesn’t sound like you tried a lot or visited really great restaurants.
The camel ride scam and the tour guide taking you to the papyrus and alabaster shops because they get a commission- again all very well known and discoverable if you did some research. As well as “mummy tummy”. It just seems like you did very little to no research.
I do acknowledge the problems here. There is corruption and poverty. Education is poor. Of course everyone that loves Egypt, knows its flaws and wants improvement. But this will take decades.
Egypt is not the US or Europe. It is a loud, colorful, chaotic assault on the senses. It is a beautiful place filled with friendly, funny, and resourceful people. I’m sorry you were pushed outside your comfort zone and couldn’t embrace experiencing something different and couldn’t look beyond your annoyance to discover more.
It’s a shame you’re not telling people about your experience to make their visit easier, rather than telling people not to come. If you couldn’t navigate the cultural differences here, then you won’t enjoy many places in the world. Travel is such a privilege and a gift. We learn about other people and places and also to learn about ourselves. We should go into it open-hearted expecting chalenges and différence. It sounds like you expected a resort experience, which is fine if that’s what you want. Stick to that. But don’t discourage other curious, adventurous, and resilient people from coming to such a rich and dynamic place as Egypt.
Fascinated with Egyptian history and culture since my childhood but I have read countless articles and horror stories that tourists go through when they land there. In 2010, I met an Egyptian barber in Jersey City and when I told him I wished to visit Egypt some day, he told me very seriously to never set foot in Egypt as a tourist if I wanted to be safe.
It’s 2023 and his words are still true when I read your blog and reinforces my firm stance that probably the number one place on my bucket list will remain the number one place I will never visit ever.
Wow. I was considering a trip to Egypt later this year! Thank you for so much detailed and insightful information!
Laura Inman says
Egypt has really changed for the worse. I spent a summer there in the Jimmy Carter/Anwar Sadat era, and the role of the police was to protect tourists from being hassled. Also at that time, although Egypt has of course always been Islamic, covered women were rare. Even the traditional women, those who had moved into the Cairo from the country, did not cover up like the women did in the Gulf states, and there were large segments of women who veered toward a European look. I was a young woman studying at the American University, and I ,and all my classmates, just wore Western clothes. Yes, men could be nosy and invade one’s privacy, but Italy used to be like that for women too. Well, having read your account, I don’t need to think about ever going back.
Just got back from Egypt today. Egypt was the 34th country I’ve visited, and it has been the most shocking and horrible travel experience I’ve ever had (for perspective, I’ve visited every country in central America and even lived in one of them for a few years). I will never go back to Egypt. If you absolutely have your heart set on going, then go for one day, see the pyramids, and get out. I think one thing the article maybe forgot to mention was just how unsafe the driving conditions are – it’s really hard to explain besides saying that the driving is completely lawless. Lines are decorations for tourists (according to one taxi driver). The scariest part was that we travelled with a one-year-old because we weren’t at all prepared for what we were about to experience. Fortunately we found a driver with a carseat who we trusted as much as one could trust anybody in that country. Please do yourself a favor and avoid Egypt.
I totally agree with your observations . I went on a ten day trip to Luxor and Cairo. I’ve traveled to over 50 countries. This time as solo female traveler. I stayed at the most expensive hotels for safety reasons. To everyone I encountered in Egypt, I was an ATM machine. Even the hotel’s tour company was doubling or tripling the prices of each tour depending on who was working at the tour desk that day. The family of one of the tour guides invited me to dinner, after taking over $250 in gifts and handed the guide an envelope with $300 cash to thank them, they tried to convince me to marry their son and take him to the US and still contact me asking for money.
Catherine Mcguigan says
. . I am just back from Egypt last week where I brought my non travelled and middle aged 8 brothers and sisters. I back packed there in 1992 and brought my children in 2006 and it is one of my favourite countries and I have visted 40+countries of the world. Yes there is poverty, yes they will try to get tips from you or charge you more because they are poor and this will happen in every developing country in the world. A firm no or have a bit of fun haggling which they quite enjoy. Get yourself a good tour guide before you go and enjoy the experience.In my experience Egyptians are one of the friendliest people in the world so go, open your mind, breathe in the culture and you will have a brilliant time.
Jennifer Pawley says
Egypt is very much a third world country and poverty is very prevalent here. That’s something you have to keep in mind when visiting places like this. Also, Egypt clean isn’t America clean. I remind myself of this all the time. I visited Egypt 3 times from 2019-2021, for a total of 8 weeks. I moved to Cairo this past summer. I love it here. I haven’t had any bad experiences here, but maybe that’s because I’ve usually been with my Egyptian friends or family. I’ve never been scared to go anywhere by myself. The conditions of the buildings and trash everywhere is heartbreaking. It’s like no one cares, and that’s sad. I do hate all the freaking dogs everywhere. They get on my nerves, and my youngest Egyptian sister in law is scared of them. I guess I wrote all this to say, everyone’s visit to Egypt is different. Doing research and being aware of what could happen will help things go better.
I can sympathize with some of this – Egypt IS a tough place to travel, and the men are as a whole aggressive and disrespectful. But so much of this reads like you just weren’t prepared, haven’t traveled much in the developing world, and don’t have the experience or street smarts to deal with the relentless touts and scammers.
Also, complaining about getting charged tourist prices when it’s the difference of a meal costing $1.60 vs. $0.65 for locals is a bit ridiculous. I understand it’s annoying to be overcharged but when the difference is a dollar or less… really?
I also don’t know where you got your information before your trip or what kind of research you did, but I have never seen Egypt painted as this safe, idyllic, comfortable tourist destination that you seemed to think it was. I think most of the information online is clear about the aggressive men, relentless touts and scammers, impoverished conditions, etc.
Again, I completely agree that Egypt is a ridiculous and frustrating place to travel, but even encountering all the same things you did, a more experienced traveler with thicker skin and an easier time refusing the touts and avoiding scams will have a different impression of the country.
Antonina Pattiz says
Thanks for chipping in with your experience/thoughts! I just did a preliminary (quick) google search for tips of visiting Egypt and 95% of the content paints a rosy picture. Based on many of the comments on this article, I don’t feel I’m the only one that was blindsided by my experience visiting Egypt.
I have visited other countries in the developing world since my visit to Egypt, and Egypt is — by far — my least favorite travel experience to date. I was stressed out and on edge most of the time (especially after the incident with the cop demanding bribe money and putting a hand on his gun). I’ve traveled many places (spent 10 months last year living out of a suitcase) and that has never happened to me before or since.
The journey to Egypt is something fantastic. The hotels are beautiful and the people are welcoming.
Thank you so much for this detailed review of your travel experience to Egypt. My wife refuses to travel to any foreign country where the people treat animals poorly – she believes this reflects much more about a culture. I was in planning stages of a trip with my 16 year old son to see the pyramids, but after this splash of cold water to the face, this trip is shelfed indefinitely. The corruption of law enforcement and outright extortion when the prices of goods or services are agreed upon and then changed by the provider – and you cannot leave until you pay up? Forget it.
Antonina Pattiz says
Sam, I completely agree. For us, it was a frustrating (and sometimes scary) experience. I wouldn’t want my own family/friends going there, which is why I felt compelled to write an honest review of our time.
I appreciate that you acknowledge that you should have taken steps to be better prepared. I wouldn’t wish for anybody to travel and be so disheartened by their experience in a country. That being said you didn’t really employ common sense. The challenges that Egypt faces is common knowledge. That there is poverty and that it isn’t a vaguely exotic reflection of wherever in the West you’re from, should not have surprised you.
As a tourist, you have to travel in the most appropriate way for the country. In places which have issues relating to safety, tourist areas are tourist areas for a reason, you are tourist and don’t need to be outside of these areas. You certainly did not need to be traveling around Cairo via Uber…
I had a lovely time in Egypt because I did the sensible thing and hired a driver and a guide. Prices were agreed up front and they were extremely professional. When I had attempted to give them tips at the end of the trip, they wouldn’t let me.
I was taken to specific shops and restaurants they had links to but that was just part of the experience, you just have to accept they’re trying to hustle. They are not doing anything wrong by doing this, it’s just a different culture. You’re not obligated to buy anything and saying no or keeping purchases to a minimum is really not hard. A smile and “no thank you” worked for me. I personally don’t mind paying more as a tourist. If locals had to pay the same prices most might not be able to afford to enjoy their own country and if as tourists we paid less then vendors may be unable to support themselves. If you don’t want to pay more embrace the haggling.
I’m really sorry to hear that as a woman you were made to feel uncomfortable. That sucks. I was a solo female traveler and just stuck to conservative maxi dresses and was fine. I never had to cover my hair and wasn’t asked to.
The only person I had a problem with was one of the airport staff attempting to extract an outrageous tip. Luckily everyone else I had contact with both men and women were lovely. Again this may have been because I had a guide.
It’s really sad that this will put people off when in reality with some planning realistic expectations Egypt is a great time.
Hello omg this made me change my mind what bothers me more is that liberty travel never told me the level 4 then I ready your story and made a decision not to go. Can’t thank you enough. This is some scary S ..,
Thanks for being honest 👍
hi Antonina.i work in tourism for 18 years and i’m so agree that the a country that treats both locals and tourists with disdain doesn’t deserve tourism. and thank you so much that you share this information’s to warn every one come to this country.and i wish that every one share his experience in Egypt to teach other tourists how not to be scammed.
what you have gone through in Egypt have no relation with poverty at all.its because of corruption.in Egypt you will make a lot of money from scamming tourists better than working honestly and nothing will happened to the scammers because the corruption of the authority. maybe because the officers take bribes or simply because they don’t want to work.i have some tips maybe will help other people
in Egypt don’t ever take taxi without agree about the price before you get in the car and pay the money only when you arrive.and if you find that the driver tray to make you just get in the taxi without dealing about the price .be sure that he will scam you.and if he start to tell you sympathetic stories about how hard he work or about his 500 children or his blind mother that he feed and all this stupid stuff .he tray to make you pay more so pretend that you don’t understand English .
don’t ever be generous with the tips in Egypt more than it deserve because in hotels for examples they will think that you are very rich or very stupid and they will tray to do favors for you every 5 minuets .and remember that the average salary in Egypt is 100 to 150 dollars in month so if any body ask for 10 dollars as a tip for 100 % he scam you.
in general any body will offer any kind of service you don’t need or ask for like the man in the temple who motioned at a wall or the man who put your luggage on the metal detector or the guy who ask you to move to improve your photo they will ask for tips for 100%. so don’t ever be shy or embarrassed to ignore them or to give them zero attention or to give them your back if they keep talking to you or change your direction or telling them to go away if they following you,in Egypt some rudeness will help you a lot.
the tour guide was honest that its not allowed to explain inside certain parts of temples because the humidity from the breathing will affect the tomb and to make the visit inside tombs very short.so usually all guides explain every thing outside and let you go inside by your self.but he wasn’t honest when he ask you to give the guard a bribe to let him explain to you inside.and by the way there is no way a normal guide will stay at the street near the famous market to offer his services for free.only the worst guide or scammers who do this
in temples there is nothing named closed because its holy .some rooms are closed maybe its not very safe to go inside or for what ever reason.but when guides do this its just because they will ask you to give bribe to the guard to open the room for you then he will take his commission from the guard.
the biggest scam ever is the real papyrus or alabaster or government souvenir shop. because all this products is imported from china and there is nothing called government souvenir shop except the duty free shop.and if you went to alabaster shop and find the workers working so hard .its just a show for 5 minutes until you leave.
and the most important that if you bought stuff from this shops the guide or the tour operator take from 50 to 65 percent as a commission.that’s mean if you pay 100 dollars they take 65 dollars as a Commission.that’s why you will find every body will offer you to go to shops.so if you go with any guide individually tell him very clear that you don’t need any shops .and if you was with groups don’t get any thing from this shops.
but still the best way to visit temples or pyramids is with tour guide and if you need to know the prices i can tell you the average then you know how much to pay.
in any airport in Egypt be careful so much from the scammers who tray to push your bags or your trolleys.you will find them every where even they will mention your tour operator name so you think that they work with them .they will push your bags for 20 meters then asking for 10 dollars and if you stupid enough to pay 10 dollars for 20 meters pushing they will leave you immediately as they get the money and handle you to the second one who will do the same.if you didn’t pay they will leave you any way.remember that the average salary in Egypt for 90% of Egyptian is from 100 to 150 dollars in month .that’s mean from 4 to 7 dollars in 8 or 10 hours working daily.so they not just scam you but they tear you up.some times if you have a lot of stuff they will push your stuff to some point not covered by security cameras and steal what ever they can steal it.
in the end i wish that
in the end Antonina i wish that you make a you tube video about your experience in Egypt .it will spread much more and warn much more tourists and if you need more details that no body explain it or talk about before like you did i will be very happy to share it with you or with your followers.
Gerson Miranda says
There are pros and cons of every country. If you do not do your research to full expend then you will fail to prepare for the trip. I don’t understand why I feel that people specially from the western country they feel entitled to a specific way of living. This a third world country. However, I can say the same negative things about Paris, San Francisco for examples homeless. It is insane. The Walmart or target products are all in cage because of the high theft. You talk about like you come from a perfect world??
If you knew more about Egypt. Egypt is more safer when it come stealing. One thing is scammer and another is stealing. I travel to Egypt twice. And yes there are some things I can agree, but come on you need to be more humble and appreciate of what we have. I see things from a different perspective appreciate that I do not have to live the lives they have to live to in Egypt. There is enough research online to tell you that for 90% of the traveler it is a culture shock to go to egypt. I recommend Egypt to everyone. Just do you research and prepare. Otherwise you will be just have the experience of the what the writer had.
Antonina Pattiz says
I’ve visited many countries around the world (and the cities you mention, Paris + San Francisco) and have never been chased down by a police officer demanding bribe money while placing a hand on his gun. That’s not normal and that’s not safe. People need to know about that before visiting Egypt.
OMG your post was so full of complaints …. you didn;t encounter real Egypt at all.
Charged 100LE for koshary for two?? Thats like about USD $3.
Its nothing for westerners …..
I was born near Egypt and have lived in the country 10 years.
I do music and history tours for Westerners. Yes it helps to know people who live here and actually
know the Egyptians well … the hassle here is like India and some other places … it is very full on and it is part of the street life but not expressive of Egyptians who can be very hospitable generous and kind and have a lot of time to talk and laugh. You need to come with someone who knows how to navigate if you are so ‘fragile and sensitive.’ I came alone after arab spring and have travelled alone as a white woman and always feel very safe .. there is less aggression here than in the US. The hard thing for me at the moment living here is dealing with westerners coming in who are so privileged and complain so much …I try to shield my guests from the hassle and show them the best of Egypt … you should of booked someone to show you around if you are so fragile and impressionable …Egypt tends to show you and mirror what you come in with .. thats my 10 year experience. It is a powerful magical place.. but it presents you with what you are carrying inside. Seems like you really missed out which is a shame.
Kristin Royal says
I just returned today and have ptsd from this country. I had no idea what I was getting into. It looks like an apocalypse has happened. It’s an absolute, scary, dumpster fire of a country and I would never return. I’ve traveled extensively and this one was a shock for me. Everything you said is exactly true. I actually cried several times at the condition of animals. I saw a carriage horse down in the street in Aswan and locals were kicking it trying to see if it was still alive. I also noticed all the camels at the pyramids with the branding. Atrocious place for both people and animals.