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Cairo Travel Information

The Basics

Time

Local time in Egypt is GMT +2.

Electricity

Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. European-style two-pin plugs are standard.

Language

Arabic is the official language although English and French are widely spoken, especially in the tourist areas.

Travel Health

A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required for entry into Egypt from travellers over one year of age coming from infected areas. No other vaccinations are required. Egypt has the highest incidence of hepatitis C in the world but the infection is only acquired through the sharing of contaminated needles and, less regularly, through unprotected sexual intercourse.

Travellers to Egypt should come prepared to beat the heat with a high factor sunblock and drink plenty of water to combat dehydration. Drinking water in the main cities and towns is normally chlorinated but it is advisable to drink only bottled water. Visitors should only eat thoroughly cooked food and fruits they have peeled themselves to prevent travellers' diarrhea. The waters of the Nile are contaminated and should not be consumed or bathed in. Medical treatment can be expensive and standards vary so insurance is strongly advised, including evacuation insurance. Medical facilities outside of Cairo can be very basic.

Tipping

Tipping is known as 'baksheesh' and some small change is expected for most services, though small change can be hard to come by. 'Baksheesh' can be a useful practice in order to gain entry to seemingly inaccessible places, or for extra services - a small tip can open doors, literally. A service charge is added to most restaurant and hotel bills but a 5 percent tip is normally given directly to the waiter. Taxi drivers are tipped about 10 percent.

Safety Information

Egypt is generally a safe country to visit, however there is still ongoing tension from the 2011 revolution and in September 2012 several embassies in Cairo, particularly the US Embassy, were targeted in violent protests. Demonstrations are common near foreign embassies and around Tahrir Square in Cairo, and in other cities, including Alexandria. There remains a high-level threat from terrorism in Egypt. In the past Red Sea resorts on the Sinai Peninsula have been targeted, and there are active threats against Christian Coptic churches where several bombings and shootings have occurred, as recently as 2010. In general, there are increased security measures at all tourist sites, and especially in resort areas on the Sinai Peninsula, but visitors should be alert and are advised to avoid political demonstrations and public gatherings. There have been kidnappings of foreigners in the Sinai region and tourists are advised to travel in big groups and to avoid dangerous areas. The British Foreign Office advises against all travel north of the Suez-Taba road in Sinai, and in February 2012 several foreign tourists were kidnapped between Dahab and St Catherine's. The Sinai region is currently considered unsafe outside of the prominent beach resorts.

Visitors to the cities and tourist sites will experience a fair amount of hassle from touts and are advised not to carry more money on them than needed at a time. Women should take extra caution when travelling alone as there are incidents of harassment, and sexual assault is not uncommon; women should be particularly alert when visiting spas and doing other tourist related activities, and should be careful to dress conservatively. There have been reports of sexual assaults on women during demonstrations. Racism towards black and Asian people is prevalent and considered acceptable. Egypt also has a poor train safety record with several fatal accidents each year.

Local Customs

Egypt is a conservative society and visitors should respect local customs and sensitivities. Homosexuality is solemnly frowned upon and homosexual acts are illegal. Religious customs should be recognised, particularly during the month of Ramadan when eating, drinking and smoking during daylight hours is forbidden in the Muslim culture. Travellers should be discreet or choose to partake in the custom themselves. Travellers to Egypt should dress modestly. Photography of military institutions is prohibited.

Business

Egyptians are friendly and approachable at work, and personal relationships are very important when conducting business. Business is usually conducted formally in Egypt; however, meetings may not take place in private and it is normal for them to be interrupted with other matters. Punctuality is important, though don't be surprised if your contact is late or postpones the meeting. Be patient. Dress should be formal and conservative; suits and ties are standard and women should dress modestly. Women may encounter some sexism in the business world. Most Egyptians are Muslim and therefore one should be mindful of Islamic customs. English is widely spoken and understood, although attempting to speak some basic Arabic will be highly appreciated. The normal working week runs from Sunday to Thursday. Business hours vary, but in the private sector it is usually 9am to 5pm and in the public sector is it usually 8am to 3pm. Avoid scheduling business trips during the month of Ramadan as working hours are minimised during the holiday period in August, as many key players will not be available.

Communications

The international access code for Egypt is +20. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0027 for South Africa). The city code for Cairo is (0)2. There are high surcharges on international calls from hotels; it is cheaper to phone long-distance from the 24-hour Post, Telephone and Telegraph (PTT) offices that are available in the major cities. For international directory phone enquiries dial 120. The local mobile phone operators use GSM 900 networks and have roaming agreements with all major operators. Internet cafes are available in the main tourist areas.

Duty Free

Travellers arriving in Egypt do not have to pay customs duty on 200 cigarettes or 25 cigars or 200g tobacco; alcoholic beverages up to 1 litre; perfume for personal use and 1 litre of eau de cologne; and goods for consumption to the value of LE 100. Prohibited items include narcotics and drugs.

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