6 People Reveal Their Experience While Visiting Egypt


From the moment I passed the border agent at around 1am there was people in the secured area trying to get me into their taxi, I don’t know how they were let into that area.  

I grabbed my bag and went straight to get a sim card, called an uber and had to pass off literally 20 or so guys coming up and trying to get me to ride with them.  It was intense, but I refused the rides because I knew they would charge me double than an Uber and some of my worst travel experiences in other countries have been with taxi drivers.  One guy yelled at me to come with him and cancel my Uber and when I angrily refused he said in a way conveying offense “you’re welcome”, in his mind he was doing me a favour.  

Walking around Cairo is very intense, it takes a few days just to get used to the pace and necessity of walking on the roads all the time to just get around.  I didn’t get hardly any harassment from vendors during my total of around 10 days spent there over two sections of my trip, I enjoyed walking through the markets after a few days as there was something kind of exciting about the chaos of the traffic, pedestrians, market people yelling.

Having said that after a few hours my energy was drained and I had to retreat back to my hostel/hotel.  There’s a lot to see around there though and I spent my last few days in Egypt staying right near the pyramids which I’d recommend.  A tip is to get to the Giza complex at 7am, you can get a ticket and walk into the place with having it all to yourself, even the guys with horses and camels are not allowed in until 8am.  If you head there with your driver or guide you’ll likely go when thousands of other people are in there and it just isn’t the same.  

My experience with the people of Egypt was overall negative unfortunately, there was a few key people I met on couchsurfing and one guy I met in Luxor who was genuinely good but the constant greed of people around the tourist areas from the taxi drivers, to policemen, to the guys hanging out in the tombs offering to take photos becomes infuriating after a while.

 The worst is when they pretend to be your friend and say “don’t worry about working out a price now my friend, you can pay me whatever you like at the end”.  I had this happen with two different drivers and there was another guy who took me to his village about twenty minutes from the Giza area, got me to smoke hash with him then after spending all this time telling me about how he was one of the good Egyptians he took me to his friends oil shop who tried to put the hard sell on me to buy oils that I later checked were at least 5-6 times too expensive.  

One driver in Cairo seemed cool on the day I met him, then when I got picked up by him the next day to take me to some pyramids and tombs and to return he flipped out when I didn’t want to pay him way too much.  I think he genuinely wanted to be good and friendly but his greed just kind of kicked into high gear at some point.  

Another driver in Luxor drove me around for two hours, stopping at one place to buy me tea and asking about my family and everything. He was basically just getting me to delay with him and spend more time so he could charge more later, he took me to the valley of the nobles and a guy at the gate convinced me I wouldn’t be able to find the tombs without his help.  This is after buying a ticket, I paid this guy $10 to walk me to the open tombs for an hour and the whole time he was trying to hawk his ‘grandfathers wares” supposedly unearthed items from different tombs, he went so low in the price eventually that I was certain they were not real.  

Each time I went to a tomb, a guy would come to unlock it and then point out obvious things inside then have his hand out expecting a tip.  This happened in about twenty different areas across Luxor and other places actually and these guys kind of ruin the experience of being inside the tombs, my advice would be to tell them when you first go in that you have no money, they won’t be motivated to try and be helpful if they think they aren’t getting anything from you.

 The driver that took me around got angry and demanded 400 egyptian pounds ($25) at the end which is over double what it should have been, it shocked me after him pretending to be so nice to me the whole time and made me put my wall up around everyone else for a while.

 

2. Egypt has always been a dream of mine. When I was young, it was the first place I remember I wanted to travel to. Well, 44 countries and 38 US states later and I still haven’t been. I found some cheap flights, booked my first stay, and off we went.

Itinerary:

-5 days in Hurghada at a very cheap($38 a night for 2) all inclusive resort

-3 days Aswan

-4 days Nile cruise

-3 days Luxor

-3 days Cairo

I read all these horror stories after my flights were booked when I was looking for tips. It made me worried a bit, but regardless some internet complaining wouldn’t stop me from going to one of my dream destinations. I found multiple tips from here that were quite useful, such as the shop keepers around the Egyptian museum in Cairo, or they papyrus and oil shops that tours sometimes go to.

The days in hurghada were quite nice. Yes the food was pretty shit and tasteless, but I’ve had worse. Yes the staff sometimes were pushy trying to sell us things, but after a polite no or 2 they went away. For $38 a night all inclusive, it was quite worth it, and everyone else at the resort(mostly Germans) seemed to be enjoying themselves.

Everywhere else was mostly similar. Taxi drivers flagging us down, street vendors chasing after us. Very dirty streets. But after getting used to it neither of us were bothered much by it. We did find it quite sad that they are so pushy to make a sale, but either ignoring them or a stern no worked 95% of the time.

The worst part were the slimy sales tactics by anyone offering a service. We wanted to ride camels at the pyramids, the guy tells us it’s 200egp a person. We ended up taking them twice as far as we both agreed on, and at the end ended up paying him 900egp total. He wanted much more but we refused. The original price was 400egp total, twice that would be 800egp and then a generous 100egp tip on top I think is still somewhat fair.

We also had a taxi driver who we agreed upon a price of 200egp for taking us around to multiple places. After being in the car for 10 minutes I asked again the price to confirm it. Now he says it’s 1000egp. After some quick screaming at him from my girlfriend, we decided to add 3 more stops to our original trip and pay an extra 100egp. He was quite pissed about it but after 3 minutes was friendly again since he realized he needs the money.

Both of those issues could be solved by only booking trips through our hotel. We didn’t plan on doing either at the time, so we winged it. Pro tip: minimize the “winging it” in tourist spots in Egypt or have some good negotiation skills and don’t be scared to say no.

Here’s my tips for those on the fence about Egypt:

  1. Go if you’re interested in Egyptian history, the temples, pyramids etc. It’s absolutely worth it. Maybe don’t go if you’re just looking for a 2 week vacation and haven’t been. If you’re just looking for a relaxing vacation this is NOT the place to go

  2. Have a price in mind before negotiating, google before hand or use common sense. I negotiated a $2.50 airport taxi in Luxor. Met a guy that paid $20. At one shop I was looking at miniature sphinxes for a gift. The shop keeper started at $30. I paid $1.

  3. Do tours through the hotel, or see places on your own. Whenever we did a group tour or just took an Uber somewhere, it was stress free. It’s a bit more expensive but worth it.

  4. Prepare that there will be locals harassing you for taxis or trying to sell you things. Ignoring them or a “no thanks” works well.

  5. Try to keep small bills on you for toilets or tips. They really love their tips.

  6. Don’t treat anyone like a friend. They’ll try their hardest to act like they’re a trusted friend. Don’t fall for it. They only want your money.

  7. Nefertiti hotel in Luxor and Bob Marley hostel in Aswan were great places to stay. Both had awesome staff and surprisingly great food.

  8. Google common scams in Egypt to prepare yourself.

The temples, ruins, and pyramids were absolutely amazing, and in my(and everyone I met in Egypt’s opinion besides 1 older mans opinion) 100% worth dealing with Egypt’s problems. I met loads of people in hotels and on tours, and only 1 person(an older, very racist Swedish man) hated the place. Some of the food was quite amazing, and hotels were all decent for the price.

 

3. Of the 29 countries I’ve been to, Egypt is my least favorite. Im used to hassles scams and touts, but there is something about the heat there that erodes your defenses more so than usual. They were so pervasive there, that fending them off was akin to swatting flies/mosquitos out of your face… and they just never stop coming. Constantly annoyed.

It had its positives too, but i actually cancelend the remaining half of my trip there because I was so exhausted/irritated. Joining tours and grouping up with people in your hostel will give you more mental peace, since the touts wont bother you quite as much if you are not wandering around on your own.

Of my favorite things were the food, and exploring cairo away from the main tourist streets. Local shopkeepers and food stalls were really happy to meet me because they hadnt seen any american tourists choose to venture into their small neighborhood like that before.

I remember someone from my hostel came back one day and asked the entire hostel “did anyone else have a negative experience dealing with an asshole, scam, etc today?” Every one in the hostel sighed “yeah…” and had a story to share.

If I could do egypt all over again, I would simplify the trip. I wouldnt go down the nile through luxor and aswan as i did before. I feel like this locations didnt provide me with much more an experience than having just stayed in cairo and having to do the train for so many hours wore me thin. I never got up to alexandria or sinai since I had had enough already and just wanted to leave the country before I got to these places. Though I have heard great things about sinai.

 

4. I’m a white woman. Visited Egypt a couple of years ago and had a friend with me. I didn’t think it was as bad as everyone says, possibly because I was EXPECTING it to be really bad.

We worked around the issues. Like before going anywhere, I’d read up on any typical scams and avoided them. I was conscious of the weakness of the currency and other issues and it made me more compassionate about the people hustling for money. I’d read that there can be a lot of harassment at the pyramids in Giza so to go there we booked a day tour so had a nice car with A/C, also went to Saqqara, and had an egyptologist guide.

We stayed in Airbnbs in Cairo and Luxor so had the benefit of local hosts that we could ask for advice. We booked our accommodation based on proximity to the main places we wanted to visit so we could walk a lot. We used uber to get other places because we could just put in the address and not worry about language.

I loved Egypt and can’t wait to go back again. It was chaotic like any absolutely huge city and the scariest thing for me was traffic and trying to cross the roads.

 

5. There is a lot of poverty in the country so inadvertently you’ll come across pushy people (especially at tourist spots) who would want to ask for money etc.

My strategy was, if the person is someone who is definitely selling something (camel ride, horse ride, etc.) I wouldn’t even answer. They keep going after but if you don’t respond, they’ll go away. Don’t promise “later” or anything, best not to say anything and pretend you can’t hear them. Others, who I ran into on the street, sometimes I gave some money and other times I just said that”I am hungry and running for food.” Remember, nobody does anything for free even though it might be claimed so.

 

6. Went to Cairo and Luxor for 4 days total and quite honestly it was enough for me. From the moment we landed to the moment we left-

Endless street harassment! For what it’s worth- we’re seasoned travelers who have been to over 20 countries, and coming from an even poorer country myself it was appalling the level of antagonizing we got while there!

To start of with the good- I have never seen anything as incredible as the pyramids, or the temples in Luxor. Like I couldn’t wrap my head around how something that beautiful and precise count have been made. Especially Hatshepsut temple. Definitely worthy of all the bad we endured. But holy hell, my partner and I were saying how, at the end of 4 days, we would never want to go back.

The usual camel hawkers and the knee selling junky items for 10x the price didn’t bother us. We got a tour guide which was fine but he went so fast. So we came back the next day on our own to try and slow down and enjoy. Well we were walking around and an official looking guy in a suit blew his whistle and was like “ticket”? To which already paid. He went on the whole spiel about how he’s a friend, waved us through , and then tried to push us through the”correct “ pathway. We followed and of course immediately cornered us and asked for money. Gave him $5 usd and he was like “give me more. I see another $5” to which we refused. To anyone who said we should have been smarter- there’s a ton of police around the pyramids, if someone blows a whistle at you, you stop and comply; you don’t expect it to be some scumbag.

The most egregious one was in the airport, we had to pass a tunnel to get to our terminal. It was really early so it as just my partner running around. An official airport security man asked for his passport (normal) where he was going , and at the end REFUSED TO GIVE THE PASSPORT BACK AND JUST HELD OUT HIS HAND EXPECTING MONEY. Said nothing, because he knew my partner was alone and would not make a fuss.gave him $1 usd bc he was holding the passport hostage and again he had the audacity to say, that’s it?

We had people follow us for several hundred feet to our car asking us to buy shit. That’s annoying as hell and out of sheer spite I refused to buy anything. The whole dropping you off at some crappy papyrus/essence/stone store at the end of the tour put a really bad taste in my mouth although I know we could say no. EVERYONE was all “my friend my friend” but no one treated us with genuine kindness when we needed help.

We ran out of cash but only had a credit card- no one at the bank would help. We desperately asked a restaurant- well they did, but at a 15% fee AND MORE TIP FOR THEIR ASSISTANCE on top of that. Knowing damn well the actual cash advance fee is 5% at most and they pocketed the rest.

Then they have their women and children monopolizing most toilets, handing you paper towels you didn’t ask for in one hand, hand out reached for tip in another. For effing paper towels that I can just get myself.

Unfortunately my pity for them is mixed with resentment and anger. Poverty is no reason to be dishonorable, that is an absolute insult to poor people everywhere.

But at the end I was getting terrified that we couldn’t leave, someone would extort us, and we’d be stuck in this country. At one point, we even drafted an email to the us embassy for help bc we were stranded without money (had lots of credit cards though)

 

Mariska Lee

Mariska is a recovering attorney who gave up her professional job to discover new perspectives of life while traveling in a 2009 Ford Transit. She has been living the van life for 3 years and has not looked back since.

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