Cairo Travel Information
Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. European-style two-pin plugs are standard.
Arabic is the official language although English and French are widely spoken, especially in the tourist areas.
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 but vaccinations are commonly recommended for hepatitis A, hepatitis B and typhoid. Travellers to Egypt should come prepared to beat the heat with a high factor sunblock and drink plenty of water to combat dehydration. Tap water in the main cities and towns is normally chlorinated but it is still advisable to drink only bottled water or tap water that has been boiled or filtered. Visitors should only eat thoroughly cooked food and fruits they have peeled themselves to prevent travellers' diarrhoea. The waters of the Nile are contaminated and should not be consumed.
Medical treatment can be expensive and standards vary so comprehensive travel health insurance is strongly advised, including evacuation insurance. Medical facilities are generally adequate for routine ailments in the big cities and main tourist areas but outside of the main centres medical facilities can be very basic in Egypt.
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 tip of about five percent is normally given directly to the waiter. Taxi drivers are tipped about 10 percent.
The US Department of State and the British Foreign Office advise caution when travelling to Egypt, as there is a high treat from terrorism. All travel is advised against in North Sinai. All but essential travel is advised against in South Sinai; however the area within the Sharm el Sheikh perimeter barrier (including the airport, Sharm el Maya, Hadaba, Naama Bay, Sharks Bay and Nabq) is protected by enhanced security measures and has experienced little violence. The resort areas in Hurghada have similar measures in place, although isolated incidents in non-tourist areas have been reported. Other areas under travel advisories include the border with Libya and swathes of Egypt's western desert (west of Cairo and the Nile Valley). Travellers should stay up to date on travel warnings and advisories.
Terrorist attacks have been ongoing, with several bombings taking place in Cairo and other regions in the last few years. Attacks against tourists have been reported.
Demonstrations are common near foreign embassies and around Tahrir Square in Cairo, and in other cities, including Alexandria. There have been incidents of foreigners, including British Nationals, being targeted and attacked during protests. There have also been reports of sexual assaults on women during demonstrations. Tourists are advised to avoid all street protests and gatherings and not to attempt to cross road blocks.
Visitors to markets and major tourist sites will experience a fair amount of hassle from touts and are advised not to carry more money on them than needed as petty crime is a concern. Women should be extra cautious when travelling alone as incidents of harassment and sexual assault are not uncommon; women should be particularly alert when visiting spas and doing other tourist related activities, and should be careful to dress conservatively. 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.
Egypt is a conservative society and visitors should respect local customs and sensitivities. Homosexuality is solemnly frowned upon and homosexual acts are illegal. Public displays of affection are frowned upon. Religious customs should be recognised, particularly during the month of Ramadan when eating, drinking and smoking during daylight hours is forbidden by Islam; during Ramadan travellers should be discreet in public places or choose to partake in the custom themselves. Travellers to Egypt should dress modestly (women's clothes should cover the legs and upper arms). Photography of military institutions is prohibited and the Suez Canal counts as a military institution; Egyptians can be sensitive about any photography of infrastructure and it is best to ask for permission if in any doubt.
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 for visitors doing business, 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 8am to 3pm. Avoid scheduling business trips during the month of Ramadan as working hours are minimised during the holiday period and many key players will not be available.
The international access code for Egypt is +20. 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.
Travellers over 18 arriving in Egypt do not have to pay customs duty on 200 cigarettes or 25 cigars or 200g tobacco; alcoholic beverages up to 2 litres; and perfume for personal use. The import and export of local currency is limited to EGP 5,000. Banned items include firearms, cotton and drugs.
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