Pyramids and the Nile 2 - Frequently Asked Questions
Egypt is two hours ahead of GMT (Greenwich Mean Time). Daylight saving time is observed from the last week of April to the last week of September. While we're traveling, Egypt will be 7 hours ahead of EST (Eastern Standard Time), so when it's noon in Egypt, it's 5am in New York and 2am in San Francisco.
NEW YORK CITY
There are many beautiful things to bring back with you from Egypt, so make sure you have space left in your suitcase. Since we'll be taking 3 domestic flights while in Egypt, we will need to adhere to their domestic flights luggage restrictions. Egypt Air allows 50 lbs. for checked-in luggage and 17lbs. for carry-on luggage. You will not need any formal clothing on this tour. Some people do dress up if they are visiting high-end restaurants and bars, but this is optional. Something to keep in mind is that the dress code for women in Egypt is more conservative than Western standards - having a light shawl or a scarf with you will be useful, especially when visiting mosques. A scarf will also be helpful in the desert to protect you from sand. You will need comfortable walking shoes on this tour. Since we will be changing hotels and traveling by air several times during the tour, your experience will be less stressful if your luggage is not too heavy and easily manageable.
Visitors to Egypt require a current passport, valid for at least 6 months from the date of entry and with a minimum of two blank visa pages. Most Western visitors to Egypt require a visa, which you will get on arrival in Egypt. The cost of the Egyptian visa is included in the tour cost. On arrival at the Cairo airport, you will be met by a Sights and Soul Travels' representative, who will handle the visa process for you. Before traveling abroad it's a good idea to make two photocopies of your passport, your driver's license and your credit cards. Leave one copy at home with a trusted person and another one in your suitcase.
ARRIVAL AND DEPARTURE INFORMATION
The tour starts in Cairo, Egypt at 7:00PM on Wednesday, November 29, 2023, so we ask that your flight arrives no later than 5:00PM on that day. You will probably be leaving North America on Tuesday, November 28, 2023. If you are prone to jet-lag or travel fatigue, we recommend arriving one day early. We have arranged for individual airport transfers on arrival, and you will be met by a chauffeur on your arrival in Cairo.
Unless you are continuing onto the Petra and the Jordan Highlights tour, this tour will end in Cairo after breakfast on Saturday, December 9, 2023, and we have arranged for individual airport transfers to Cairo airport in accordance with your departing flight.
If you need help with your flights to Egypt, please feel free to give us a call. Or you can contact Sights and Soul Travels' travel agent: Lisa Francois. You can contact Lisa through her travel portal: https://www.labelletravel.com/sights-and-soul by email: email@example.com or by phone: 252 289-1132.
To avoid jet lag (common when crossing more than five time zones) drink plenty of nonalcoholic fluids and eat light meals. Upon arrival, get exposure to natural sunlight, exercise and readjust your schedule (for meals, sleep and so on) as soon as possible.
SINGLE SUPPLEMENT AND ROOMMATES
To avoid paying the single supplement, we offer guaranteed roommate matching, and we will try to match you with a roommate of similar age. Otherwise, there are some single rooms available on this tour, but they tend to fill up early. Please keep in mind that all shared rooms are non-smoking.
THE TRAVEL GROUP
The Egypt group is limited to the maximum of 16 women + the Tour Director. The minimum group size is 10 women + the Tour Director. In addition to a professional Sights and Soul Travels' Tour Director, the travelers will be taken care of by private guides and drivers who will accompany the group throughout its stay in Egypt.
Public health standards are comparatively low in Egypt, but most issues are easily avoided by only drinking bottled water from a sealed bottle and avoiding the muddy banks of the Nile and other waterways. Fresh fruit juice from street-side juice shops are generally best avoided, as well as green salads, fruit that you have not peeled yourself, and eggs that have not been thoroughly cooked. You should use a good insect repellent, and wear closed-toe shoes to avoid poisonous insects and snakes. Other common sense rules also apply, so it's best not to go reaching into nooks and crannies in the desert. Air quality can be a problem in Cairo, so anyone with asthma or other respiratory problems should be aware of this. You should bring sunscreen and a sun hat, and it can also be helpful to have a way to replace electrolytes lost due to sweating, such as oral rehydration salts which are available over the counter at most Egyptian pharmacies.
Tap water in Egypt is not generally suitable for drinking, and it is best to drink only sealed bottled water. If the water was not unsealed in front of you and you're unsure of its quality, ask for another bottle. Tour participants will be receiving bottled water every day, and it is included in the tour cost.
Most establishments geared towards tourists will have Western-style toilets, and all hotels and the Nile cruise during our trip will be equipped with Western toilets as well. Expect to find squat toilets in areas away from the tourist spots, and these may be supplied with water rather than toilet paper, so it's a good idea to bring your own toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Please keep in mind that some public toilets may require payment, so you should always have some coins in the local currency with you to pay for them.
In terms of street crime and random violence, Egypt is a remarkably safe country. Exercise the same judgment you would when traveling anywhere else - avoid badly lit, deserted places after dark, carry only small amounts of money, keep your valuables hidden and hold your camera close. Independent travelers and groups alike can wander at will, exploring deserted temples and crowded tourist sites without worrying about anything other than being overcharged for souvenirs and taxi rides. The traffic is perhaps the greatest routine threat to personal safety in Egypt. Extreme care should be exercised in crossing the road, as there are no traffic lights on Egyptian streets. Law enforcement agencies will generally work hard to accommodate foreigners when they have a problem. Don't expect any actual police work in the event of a theft or accident, but they should be able to provide a friendly face, a glass of tea, and pro-forma services such as a police report for insurance purposes. In terms of threats from political instability and anti-Western sentiment, on the whole, individual Egyptians recognize the difference between government policies and the intentions of citizens, and it is unlikely that resentments will be visited on individual travelers. There are currently no travel advisories for Egypt issued by the US State Department, but if the situation changes then we would never run a tour to any destination we felt was unsafe. Egypt remains, unfortunately, a society in which racism and sexism is both prevalent and acceptable. Police will tend to be suspicious of independent travelers, and tourists may be subject to random document checks and searches. For the most part, however, foreign tourists are not singled out by the general public. Similarly, though anti-Semitism is widespread throughout Egypt, it is rare for individual Jewish people to suffer discrimination.
Encountering unwanted attention from Egyptian men is unfortunately a possibility for female travelers, especially women traveling alone. One of the best ways to discourage such attention is by dressing conservatively - Western women are often portrayed in Egyptian media as dressing and behaving more promiscuously, inviting harassment. Transparent blouses and low-cut tank-tops should be avoided, and loose pants are better than tight shorts. Of course this is at your discretion, and you may see other tourists dressed in revealing clothes, but the way you dress is also a measure of respect for Egyptian cultural norms. Avoiding eye contact with Egyptian men can also help to deter unwanted encounters, and allowing a strange man to put his hand on you will indicate that you are amenable to further advances. Don't accept food or drink from strangers when alone, and be aware of your surroundings when not traveling with the group.
During the Pyramids and the Nile tour, we will travel by a private bus, by plane, by riverboat and by foot. To be able to enjoy the tour and participate in scheduled activities, you need to be able to walk, at a leisurely pace, up to 4 miles throughout the day, including steps, and quite often on uneven surfaces and on sand. You need to be able to stand unassisted for up to 30 minutes, you need to be able to climb stairs, get in and out of vehicles without assistance and manage your own luggage without assistance. This trip is not strenuous, but you should be of at least average fitness to enjoy all scheduled activities. This tour is busy, and we will be moving a lot from one location to another. You must be prepared for some full days and early starts.
Throughout Egypt, days are commonly warm or hot, and nights are cool. Egypt has only two seasons: a mild winter from November to April and a very hot summer from May to October. The only differences between the seasons are variations in daytime temperatures and changes in prevailing winds. In the coastal regions, temperatures are an average minimum of 58°F. During winter, temperatures in the desert fluctuate less dramatically, but they can be as low as 32°F at night and as high as 65°F during the day. Egypt receives fewer than eighty millimeters of precipitation annually in most areas. Cairo receives a little more than one centimeter of precipitation each year, while the areas south of Cairo receive only traces of rainfall.
Internet and WiFi are becoming more and more popular throughout Egypt, especially in the major cities. Wi-Fi is available at both hotels where we'll be staying during the tour. There is also a growing number of local cafes and Internet cafes that offer high speed Internet. McDonald’s, Beanos and Cilantro chain restaurants normally have Wi-Fi access. To get a SIM card in Egypt, you'll need to visit a branch of a mobile provider, show a passport and address and then they will sell you a phone number. For a SIM card to work in your mobile phone you’ll need an unlocked GSM 900 compatible international phone. SIM card phone numbers can be purchased for around 10 LE ($1.68).
Electrical current is 220 volts in Egypt. Plugs are European-style, with two prongs. There are very few grounded circuits in Egypt. Adapters are readily available for two-pronged North American plugs.
There are a number of languages spoken in Egypt, but the national and most widely-used language is Modern Standard Arabic. English is widely understood around Cairo and in tourist hotels and restaurants throughout the country, but off the beaten track and in smaller towns it is relatively rare to find functional English speakers.
The official currency of Egypt is the Egyptian pound (E£ or LE), divided into 100 piastres (PT). Produce markets and other venues sometimes write prices in piastres: E£3.50 as 350pt, for example. American and Canadian dollars, pounds sterling, and Euros are all easily exchanged in Egypt, and readily accepted as payment. ATMs are common in large cities and tourist destinations. While they offer good rates of exchange, but some networks also charge hefty transaction fees. Check with your bank before leaving home. Most of the exchange offices (maktab sarafa) in Egypt offer competitive rates - hotels, however, offer bad rates of exchange and should be avoided except in emergencies. Most mid- and high-end tourist hotels will accept major credit cards, with Visa and MasterCard having the widest acceptance in Egypt. American Express is less commonly accepted but still useful in higher-end facilities. Most banks and many change offices will cash traveler's checks, albeit at a less advantageous rate than cash. Midrange and upper-range tourist hotels also generally provide facilities for cashing traveler's checks and make it possible to settle your bill with them. The majority of restaurants and shops remain cash-only.
All restaurants', drivers' and guides' gratuities are included in the tour's cost. Hotel porters are generally tipped around $2US per bag, the room cleaning maids receive $1-$2US per day and bathroom attendants receive LE1 ($0.13). It is customary to tip anyone who performs a service for you, such as showing you to your seat or offering directions, whether such assistance was requested or not.
Tourist services are generally taxed at about 26%, which is often referred to as the "plus plus" because it is made up of "plus" 14% tax and "plus" 12% service. The exact makeup of the "plus plus" varies between municipalities, and in some places is now "plus plus plus."
One of the most important travel lessons to learn before visiting Egypt is how to bargain - the fine art of negotiating prices is a common practice in the souks, or the local markets, and the larger bazaars. Among the best practices to use for bargaining in Egypt is that when you find an item that really interests you, especially if it's an expensive product, is to offer the seller half the price - obviously they won't accept this, but it will open the haggling process until you reach a mutually beneficial price. The most famous and the largest bazaar in Egypt is the Khan El Khalili Market in the Hussein District in Cairo, a 500-year old maze of streets, lanes, and stores that not only serves a tourist's souvenir needs but also includes small workshops producing jewelry, glass, copper and brassware from talented artisans. Many larger cities in Egypt like Cairo also have some large malls and shopping centers such as City Stars, Nile Hilton Mall, Nile Mall, and Geneina Mall in Cairo, San Stefano Mall, and Zahran Mall, where globally recognized brand names can be found in an elegant atmosphere for shopping. Some common souvenirs to bring back from Egypt include shisha (traditional Egyptian waterpipes), chess and backgammon sets, sandals, bags, shoes, handmade Bedouin products, copper and brass goods, Egyptian cotton-made products, and reproductions of Pharaonic gods and major sovereigns.
Meeting and greeting are important ceremonies in Egypt. Shake hands, introduce yourself, and take a moment to get to know people, even if you don't expect to see them ever again. Your left hand is left out of social occasions, for the most part, and once the introductions are out of the way and everyone is sitting down, be careful to keep your feet pointed at (or, better, firmly planted on) the floor. The soles of your shoes are unclean, and it is offensive to point them or even show them. Platonic same-sex friends often hold hands in the street, but it is quite daring for men and women to do so. Cheek-kissing and hugging are common displays of respect and warmth between men and women, but any kind of public displays of affection are highly inappropriate between couples.
There are few gestures that will cause offense by misinterpretation, but pointing at someone with your finger is disrespectful. Egyptians are easy-going and socially skillful, making genuine offense difficult to cause in the first place and easily worked through if it does happen. Religion can be a touchy subject but can be discussed as long as you keep in mind that Sunnis are as used to being members of the socially dominant religion and consequently make the same basic assumptions of universal superiority and correctness as many members of other religions do. Politics can also be discussed, but keep in mind that the Egyptian government doesn't look favorably on its citizens when they criticize the state, and you can inadvertently put people in an uncomfortable position when discussing internal matters. On the other hand, if you're talking international politics, expect a heated argument if you set out to defend positions contrary to the accepted wisdom.