Travelling in Egypt is easy. Egyptians are easy to approach and helpful towards guests. English is widely spoken, especially in tourism hubs like Hurghada, and also in other towns like Cairo, Luxor and Aswan, and it's safe to walk around most towns at any time of day or night. Key practicalities are sketched out for visitors below.
Entry & visas
Phone & internet
Most visitors to Egypt need a visa. You can buy these on arrival at Cairo, Hurghada and other Egyptian airports. They are sold at foreign exchange bank windows, always located near the passport control points. Visas cost USD25 and payment must be in a foreign currency, like USD, GBP or EUROS. Your passport must also be valid a minimum of six months at the time of entry. Visas are valid 30 days and can be renewed for 3+ months at Hurghada's visa office in Dahar. If you are entering Egypt via Taba in South Sinai Egyptian visas are not available on arrival and should be fixed in advance at an Egyptian consulate or purchased online. As of 2018 all visitors to Egypt can now buy a e-visa before arrival.
Money & payment
Getting online and having a phone connection makes travelling more easy. Egyptian SIM cards can be purchased from Vodafone, Orange and Etisalat. Each company has stalls in the arrival halls of Hurghada and Cairo airports, meaning you can buy SIMs on arrival. Otherwise, official shops are found in Dahar and Sigaala. Vodafone has the best connectivity on the Red Sea Mountain Trail, followed by Orange. Etisalat's coverage is not as wide. When purchasing an Egyptian SIM your passport and visa must be shown. Your line will deactivate when your visa expires. Pay-as-you-go credit is best for short term phone usage. 4GB of internet data costs around LE120 and can be recharged on expiry.
Wait until you arrive to exchange money. Exchange rates are better. Foreign exchange counters operate 24/7 in Egyptian airports. ATMs are widespread in major towns but many restrict travellers to a daily withdrawal limit of LE2000. Egypt is mostly a cash economy and it's rare to use cards for transactions. Expensive hotels and restaurants allow card payments but it's mostly cash-only. There is a shortage of small change in Egypt so hoard small-denomination notes and coins. Tips or baksheesh are generally expected in Egypt if you're happy with a service and should be 10-15%. Haggling is common, especially for higher value purchases or in markets where prices are not marked.
Pharmacies are widespread and dispense medication for colds, flu, stomach upsets and other minor ailments. Good doctors can be found in Hurghada, and are available for consultations through one of the town's many hospitals. The Nile Hospital (065-355-0974, www.nilehospital.com) and Red Sea Hospital (0101-503-2445, firstname.lastname@example.org) are both highly regarded. The Aseel Medical Care Hospital (0111-110-7433, www.amc-redsea.com) also has a good reputation. Al Salam has a good eye care centre (email@example.com). Along with doctors, dentists are also available through the hospitals above. Serious medical emergencies can be handled by any of the hospitals above.
Safety & security
Some parts of Egypt have seen serious unrest since 2011. Tourism has crashed, especially in the Sinai. It's hard to give a definitive answer about how safe Egypt is. Everything can change quickly, as they can in London, Paris, Boston and other parts of the world. With evidence, we can say unrest in Egypt today is largely confined to small pockets of North Sinai. Other parts of Egypt, including South Sinai and towns like Hurghada, on the other side of Egypt entirely, have remained largely safe and trouble-free. The rugged, interior parts of the Red Sea Mountains have never seen a terrorist attack. Bedouin tribes control their lands closely and play a leading role in keeping them safe. Anybody travelling with the Bedouin enjoys considerable protection. Nevertehless, we suggest prospective hikers research Egypt independently, checking a wide range of sources before making any decision about whether to come. Government travel advice and newspapers should be consulted. We also suggest reaching out to recently-returned travellers or foreign residents in Egypt. At the Red Sea Mountain Trail we can connect you to former hikers and Bedouin guides, who will be able to give you their views from the ground. Canvassing a wide range of opinion will help you make the best, most confident and well-informed decision about whether or not to visit.
Women travellers face extra pressures in Egypt, as in many parts of the Middle East. Sexual harassment is not uncommon and can come in many forms, from comments to catcalls and physical contact. Generally it's best to dress conservatively, covering arms to the wrists and legs to the ankles. Some women say wearing a headscarf helps, but others report harassment whatever they are wearing. Women on the Red Sea Mountain Trail should not have any concerns. Bedouin in these regions are generally respectful - much more than townfolk - and will always be held to account in any incident. Only the best, most trusted and respectful Bedouin guides are employed to work on the trail with hikers.
As with any country, Egypt has norms and customs. Misunderstandings are tolerated, but it's always good to be aware of important points. Religion is a sensitive spot and should not be joked about. Only talk about it in the most respectful way. Women should cover hair in a mosque and everybody must remove shoes. When entering a home or a tent remove shoes and stand up and shake hands to greet people. Men and women should exchange verbal greetings. Interactions between opposite sexes are always restricted in Bedouin society. When eating use your right hand; the left is considered unclean. When sitting, never allow the soles of your shoes to face someone. Kneel or sit cross legged.