Since childhood I have shown a great interest in ancient egyptian history reading every book available at that time and never missing any episode about Pharaohs, mummification process and the reading of hieroglyphics played on Discovery channel. At the age of 8 I have already started to dream about traveling the world and there was no other place attracting me more than Egypt itself.
With the passing of time this dream started to fade away but never dissolved completely. My two previous attempts of visiting Egypt were canceled in the last minute due to safety concerns regarding bombings in different areas of the country which resulted in injuries caused to the tourists or even death. I started to believe that maybe is not meant to be, maybe God is warning me that I was never going to see my childhood dream with my own eyes. I listened to what my intuition had to tell me as I believe that no place and no wonder of the world is worth putting your life in danger.
Make sure you plan a safe trip, regarless of the cost
It wasn’t until years later, in April 2022 when I took a spontaneous decision of going to Giza for 3 days together with my mother. We booked a flight and few days later we were on our way to Cairo. I haven’t spend much time in Egypt but during this time I was able to create a personal opinion about the country and it was more than enough to determine me to change my flight to an earlier departure.
This being said I would like to share with you my experience and help you avoid few common mistakes when you travel to Egypt.
Book everything in advance
The best thing that you can do is book everything in advance: your hotel, tranfer from the airport and even your tours. In this way you will be able to check the prices, read reviews and choose the option that suits you the best.
Don’t forget to check which type of visa you need and apply for it in advance. For Romanian citizens, visa on arrival is required and must be purchased before going through imigration. The cost of visa is 25$ per person.
Due to the COVID situation a health insurance is mandatory and even though I knew that nobody is going to check I have purchased one before departure for just 15$.
I have booked my hotel and my transportation on Booking.com to avoid any stress at arrival.
The driver was waiting for us outside the airport holding a big sign with my name and we had no issues in finding him. Don’t rely on Uber or other transportation apps as the wifi in the airport won’t work unless you have a local number. Grabbing a taxi from the airport is the worst idea as the drivers will agree to a certain price and they will charge you much more once you reach the destination blaming it on the traffic.
Transportation cost from Cairo to Giza was 20 $ plus 5$ tips for the driver.
The hotel cost 100$ for 2 nights and it had somehow partial pyramids view, however you can always find something cheaper depending on your budged.
Don’t forget to buckle up
The traffic between Cairo and Giza is really crazy and the drivers won’t follow any driving rules. There is no speed limit, no marks between the lanes (on a street with 3 lanes you will see at least 4 cars next to each other) and the only traffic light I have seen was changing from red to green in just 1 second. This made me buckle up and pray until we reached Giza. I arrived in Cairo around 12Pm and the drive to the hotel lasted one hour. In the busy evenings can take even 2 hours while in the weekends just half an hour.
GIZA, the town of contrast
Once we entered Giza area we were greated by a stunning view of the pyramids and by not so pleasant smell of horse, camel and dog poop. Unfortunately the small town of Giza unlike other touristic areas of the world disappoints by its hygenic measures and I am pretty sure the gouverment could invest much more in the infrastructure of an area of such cultural importance.
In fact, egyptian gouverment did a great job in Dubai this year where the country was beautifully represented at Expo2020. I strongly believe that visiting Egypt pavilion was a decisive step for my unexpected trip to Egypt.
Pay attention to your bills
The biggest issue in the touristic areas of Egypt are a certain category of people who will try to fool you and get as much money as they can from you. I would recommend not to buy anything from the street (unless you like to bargain) and even at the restaurants double check your bill before you pay. Personally I rather buy from a gouverment accredited shop and pay 100 times more than having 5 people running after me and trying to sell me thier souvenirs.
Police cars are everywhere and this gives you somehow the feeling of safety, however they could work harder in making sure the tourists are not bothered by the annoying local vendors.
P.S Egyptian money have the most beautiful design I have ever seen.
Never engage in conversation with the waiters
Even though I have visited Egypt during the Rmadan, the muslim holy month, I was surprised to discover a restaurant which accepted to serve us food before Iftar. The restaurants don’t have many options in the menu and even if they do, nothing else is available except Pizza and Mix grill. If you are vegetarian I strongly suggest you to pack some snacks in your bag as vegan food is basically non existent.
The second restaurant that I have chose due to the view over the pyramids was dissapointing not only because the service was slow but also because they ridiculously increased the check. For example if the pizza in the menu was 5$ they would charge me 12$. I ended up paying 38$ for 2 dishes and 2 coffees, a dinner much more pricey than in Europe. I acted stupid, paied the bill without any complaints and even left them few dollars tips as I believe there is a reason why some people will always be poor while others will succeed in life and they are definitely part of the first category.
Travel with a man if possible
Another thing that really bothered me during my trip was the insistent staring of the men. If until 6:30 PM they could still be considered normal, after the Iftar time and the breaking of the fast they were transforming in different creatures, ones driven by the dark desires of their dicks. A 26 years old waiter even having the audacity of hitting on my mother saying he likes older woman as they are good in bed and ended up asking her whatsapp number. I am giving you all those embarrassing details to be mentally prepared for your trip and never be friendly with the waiters as they will interpret it in the wrong way.
Wear conservative clothes
Before traveling to Egypt I was advised to wear jeans and tshirt and to try to go unnoticed on the street. Well, as you can see I like to dress up for the occasion and even though I tried to wear clothes as decent as possible due to Ramadan I was still considered fancy, the locals calling me Shakira and Nefertiti. Don’t be surprise if they approach you in your own language as tourists all over the world are visiting Giza every single day of the year.
Check the timings, the prices and the temperature before your visit
For a full experience I recommend you book the light show during the evening, when the ancient history is beautifully explained and the iluminated pyramids will make you have goosbumps all over your body. The show starts at 8:30 PM and the ticket cost around 20$.
I was surprised to discover that the pyramids timing is very limited starting from 8-3 PM during Ramadan and 8-4 PM during normal times of the year. You can only see the sun settling down behind the pyramids from one of the sky teraces in Giza.
I was a bit worried to travel to a muslim country during Ramadan as I expected lot of restrictions, however I was pleases to observed that they were quite considerate towards the tourists, eating and drinking in public placed being allowed. I would recommend traveling during this time of the year as most of the tourists prefer to avoid it and this facilitates a lot your visit to the main areas of interest.
The entrance fee for the pyramids area is 200 egyptian pounds (10$) while the fee to enter inside the Cheops pyramid (the biggest pyramid and the only ancient world wonder that still exist) is 400 egyptian pounds. I chose to visit the second largest pyramid where the entrance was only 100 egyptian pounds and they are absolutely identical: nothing else than a tight tunel and a mortual room with an empty grave. The security personnel inside the pyramid was kind enough to allow me to enter the restricted area and take a picture on the grave itself…of course in exchange for a small tip. Being known as Nefertiti comes with its advantages and disadvantages as well.
Another thing that should be seriously taken into consideration is the temperature. Don’t forget you are in the desert were the temperatures can reach really high numbers. In the beginning of April when I have visited Egypt the temperature was between 35-40 degrees celsius while in the night was cool and pleasant.
My entire visit to Egypt cost me exactly 1000$ for 2 persons, 2 nights and 3 days, including tours, shopping and food and excluding taxi and flight tickets. Of course you can manage with much less than that, however I tend to over spend in holidays, especially in countries that I know I may never return.
Now at the end of my trip I truly believe that Egypt is way too expensive for tourism for the services and products offered and if I were to plan this trip all over again I would choose to fly to Cairo early in the morning, explore the Giza platou and return to the airport on the same night. Other travelers seems to share my negative experience when it comes to human interaction and their testimony can be found all over the internet.
I will leave you again a list of prices trying to better assist you in planning a perfect trip and don’t forget to reach through a comment if you have any other questions.
HOTEL-100$/2 nights with breakfast and pyrmaids view
Visa on arrival-50$/2 people
Taxi-25$ including tips
Tours-220$/2 persons for 2 days without entrance fees
Entrance fee to the pyramids-30$
Entrance fee for the Cairo museum of civilization-20$
Entrance fee for other sites-20$
Restaurant-120$ for 3 meals including tips
2 paintings of papyrus-150$
Nefertiti statue and 3 silver pendants-120$
Traditional clothes shopping-30$
Pyramids light show-40$ however I recommend the VIP option that cost 10$ extra per ticket.
Exchange rates-10$=200 egyptian pounds