Looking back on my first Egypt visit 18 years ago I was excited, delighted and shocked all at the same time. The wonders of Egypt, over 5000 years of continuous history, the grandeur of the Pyramids of Giza, the world-famous Valley of the Kings and exquisite temples such as Abu Simbel and the fabulous memories of sailing down the Nile watching the sunset. Never before have I experienced such a feeling on holiday.
However, the first few days will take a little getting used to, the minute you step outside your hotel you’ll face a barrage of calesh drivers, taxi drivers and shopkeepers all be touting for your trade. It can be very distressing at first but as long as you know how to deal with it, it all becomes part and parcel of the adventures of Egypt and I can assure you by the end of the first week you’ll be laughing and chatting with everyone. I have to say the first time it happened to me I just wanted to run back inside to the safe haven of our hotel, but now after many return trips to Egypt talking with the locals and taking little gifts for the children is one of my favourite parts of the holiday.
Do remember this is a very poor country and they are just trying to earn a living so please be patient, polite and treat them with respect. It helps to have a sense of humour! It helps to be prepared so I have gathered information which may help the ‘first time’ Egypt tourist. Egypt facts, Egypt tips, call it what you like but do take a few minutes before your holiday to read what I hope will help generally assist you in enjoying what will be a holiday of a lifetime. Firstly, if you have a British Passport getting an Egyptian visa is quick and easy, you simply complete a short form on arrival at Luxor airport and pay the fee of approximately £10. Wait until you get to Egypt to exchange your money, on average each time I’ve visited the favourable rates in Egypt have increased my spending money by nearly 10%.
If you need the odd tip before you change your money the English pound is gratefully accepted. I’m sure you’ll be tempted to bring some medication with you just in case you get an upset tummy. However, from past experience I can advise the best thing you can take for an Egyptian tummy bug is Antinal. You can get it from one of the many pharmacies around Luxor without prescription (for about 10LE, just over £1). The remedies you bring from home are not suitable for killing off the Egyptian bugs. Two Antinal will usually clear the problem within a couple of hours. However, if you have any doubts contact your hotel reception they will be used to dealing with this type of problem and they will normally assist and/or call a doctor if required.
As previously mentioned you will get a lot of hassle from the taxi and calech drivers, if you want to walk just give a firm but polite no thank you and walk on. The most common trick they have (which I fell for the first time) is to tell you that ‘the market is on today, it’s only on 1 day a week’. The market is on every day so don’t be fooled, go when it suits you. If you do take a ride in a taxi or one of the caleches always agree on a fixed price before you get in and differentiate whether they asking for English or Egyptian pounds (it can make quite a difference) and you don’t want to spoil your holiday by feeling you’ve been duped.
Don’t be rushed into booking you trips with your holiday rep. You may feel after your first brush with the hassle on the streets that it’s the best option but take a day or two to get used to your surroundings, you may then feel confident enough to book with the tour operators where you could save up to 50% on the cost. Do look up the reviews for the local Luxor restaurants, it can be fairly expensive to eat in the hotels, and there are some splendid restaurants in Luxor central. It is personal choice, of course, but having returned from my latest trip only last week I can thoroughly recommend Jewel of the Nile, 7 Days 7 Ways, Maxim’s, Jems, Oasis, Tutti Fruiti Tearooms, Snobs and the Taste of India if you fancy a delicious curry. These restaurants all have excellent food and service with extremely reasonable prices. A meal for two with drinks on average between a very modest £10-£15. Lighter meals and snacks available from £2-£3.
Bartering – Never pay the first price asked, you can usually get things for a quarter of the original amount requested. However, please remember the shopkeepers have to make a living so don’t be too greedy. One thing that worried me and my two girls, when visiting Luxor for the first time, as soon as you walk into a shop they quickly shut the door behind you. Don’t worry you’re not going to be kidnapped it’s just that the air conditioning doesn’t work effectively with the door open. Shopkeepers are very friendly, some will ask you to sit down and have a drink with them before looking round the shop. You won’t be charged and you are not obligated to purchase anything.
Well these are my Egypt tips, I hope you’ll find them useful and you will all thoroughly enjoy your holidays in Luxor. Please feel free to contact me for any information about Egypt, if I don’t know the answer I’ll try and find out for you. One last thing, we paid £100 for two weeks internet connection at our hotel but many of the bars and cafes have free internet connection, so save your money. I’ll try and get a list together of the places with free internet connection as soon as I have time.