When you think of Egypt, you probably picture sand, camels, and pyramids. And while you wouldn't necessarily be wrong, there's much more to see here than the Sphinx and travelers on camelback.
From ancient monuments to hieroglyphs to antiques and more, there's a ton of culture to explore in and around Egypt. Here's your guide to the ten things you must plan your trip around when visiting Egypt.
Stop In To See The Pyramids (And Linger By The Nile)
Because Egypt is most famous for its desert landscape and the Sphinx and pyramids (both attractions are located in Giza, near Cairo), you can't miss these stops on a tour of Cairo. The Great Pyramids and Sphinx are located specifically in the Giza Necropolis. Nearby are the Pyramid of Djoser and the Salah El Din Al Ayouby Citadel, a medieval Islamic fortress.
Seeing the Nile River is also a must, as it's the center of the city and also one of its oldest landmarks.
Aim For An Autumnal Visit To Avoid Scorching Heat
Since it is mostly desert, Egypt does get hot—especially in the summer. Your best bet, says On the Go Tours, is to head there between September through April. Keep in mind you'll want to avoid the holiday months of December, early January, and around Easter, too, though. Skip those months, and you'll avoid crowds while also avoiding the intense heat of mid-July.
Head To Cairo For The Sights And Plan Day Trips From There
Cairo is home to those must-see destinations like the Egyptian Museum, the Sphinx, and Giza. It makes a great jumping-off point for visiting other places in Egypt, too. Cairo is the capital, right on the Nile River, and you can see the pyramids and sphinx without venturing far.
Stay At The Nile Ritz-Carlton Cairo For An Epic Experience
If you have the money to burn (around $200 per night), don't skip the Nile Ritz-Carlton in Cairo. It has a pool, spa, and tons of five-star reviews. Its glittering appeal means you'll be living in luxury (when you're not trekking around the sandy desert or history museums).
There are also more affordable options—like budget hostels—starting at around ten bucks USD per night. Places like Dahab Hostel or Tahrir Square Hostel include free Wi-Fi and are situated close to attractions like the Egyptian Museum.
Indulge In Egyptian Favorites Like Koshari
Have you ever tried hummus, falafel, shawarma, or baklava? Congrats, you've already sampled some Egyptian fare. Other traditional dishes to try, notes A Little Nomad, include ful medammes, which are fava beans that you'll find at every restaurant and street cart.
Koshari is another common dish that features chickpeas, rice, macaroni, lentils, and flavorful sauce. And one notable Egyptian dessert that you must try is sahlab, a sweet milk drink with toppings like vanilla, sugar, coconut, and nuts.
Plan On Using The Metro In And Around Cairo
While traveling the Nile River via the river bus or Nile Taxi is not to be missed, sometimes you just need to get around the city fast. In that case, taking the metro is a feasible option (just don't expect to get to the pyramids or the airport via the metro). The Travel Brief recommends dressing conservatively while traveling, and not expecting to see a whole lot of other tourists. The trip will cost you around 4LE, or just over a quarter in USD.
Definitely Visit The Egyptian Museum
Because Egypt is centered on culture and history, you can't skip visiting the Egyptian Museum. The museum houses 120,000 artifacts—and a 2020 upgrade aims to supersede the old property with the Grand Egyptian Musem at Giza—so stay tuned for that.
Near the museum, you'll find Cairo Tower, Egypt's tallest tower complete with a viewing deck. There's also the Abdeen Palace Museum (a historical place) plus the Museum of Islamic Art Cairo. All these spots are near the Nile, plus you can cross the Qasr al-Nil Bridge or 6th October Bridge to visit multiple parks and gardens on the opposite shore.
Make Sure You Understand The Exchange Rate
Egypt uses the Egyptian Pound, and $1 USD equals around 15.5 pounds. You'll find that because everyday expenses are so low (IE 4LE for the metro), you'll need to carry smaller notes when traveling. As far as tipping, it is very ingrained in the culture, says Ahlanmonica.com.
And it's not just tourists who need to pay up; locals are also expected to provide 'backsheesh' when receiving services. Tips only need to amount to a dollar or so, or up to 15 percent of the cost of the service you get from waitstaff or bellhops.
Travel To Egypt In Winter For The Best Flight Deals
According to Cheap Flights, traveling to Egypt is ideal between December and February. That said, if you're heading there from the US, you can expect to shell out more than $1,000 for a roundtrip ticket regardless of when you go. The good news is that Emirates flies to Egypt (and typically offers excellent service), so checking their rates is a smart choice.
Take Care When Visiting Egypt (No Matter Where You're From)
While the locals in Egypt can be welcoming and friendly, the U.S. Department of State tells citizens to "exercise increased caution" when visiting there. You should avoid the Sinai Peninsula and Western Desert due to terrorism, the travel advisory states, as well as Egyptian border areas due to military presence in such zones.
You should stay alert, avoid demonstrations and places where there are crowds, and make sure you have travel insurance to cover a hasty exit from the country if necessary. Oh, and you shouldn't climb the pyramids, like the owner of the feet pictured above, because you could wind up in jail (he did).
All that said, many travelers successfully—and safely—visit Egypt and live to tell the tale. And with adequate planning, you can be, too.