Most of the guests who come on our trips have never been to Egypt before – hey, some of them have never left their country before! We want to make everyone comfortable and at ease, but we do always get the same questions in advance of a trip and after ten years, I thought this should be the first thing I address in my brand new blog!
1. How safe is it? Everyone ALWAYS wants to know this one. The answer is, it’s incredibly safe, and if you’re traveling in one of our groups, it’s even more so! Our groups are registered as VIPs when we enter the country, so we always have a special escort with us. If you’re traveling with another group, check with them to see what their procedures are.
The simple statistical fact is that Egypt is a much safer place than the US or any country in Western Europe. Personal crime rates are much lower than in the west, and violent crime directed at tourists is unheard of – Egypt thrives on tourism – I think it’s the 2nd largest national product these days – so they really don’t want anything happening to you. We ran some stats comparing death by violence in Egypt to those in Washington DC, and you are something like 75 times more likely to be killed while vacationing in our fair capitol.
By far the biggest threat you will face in Egypt is from clever friendly locals who are very adept at getting you to buy souvenirs.
2. What shots/medical preparation do I need? In a word? None. Surprisingly to most people, nothing is required, or even recommended, and after watching hundreds of people vacation there, I don’t think those who went to the doctor stateside fared any better once the trip began. The one thing you may come down with in Egypt is politely called “Pharoah’s Revenge”. The bad news? You probably won’t eat for a day. The good news? We were all eating like pigs prior to this, so perhaps it’s not so bad after all. The thing that knocks out Pharoah’s Revenge is a regionally produced antibiotic – Antinol – which is Egypt’s answer to Cipro, and is available at every pharmacy for $1 a box. DON’T drink local water, DO drink bottled water, avoid the skins of fresh vegetables, and you’ll be fine. We do recommend travel insurance, though, in case you get sick before you leave, or something comes up on the trip (even lost luggage). You can get great quotes through our friends at Squaremouth http://www.squaremouth.com/travel-insurance/index.pl?pid=20129
3. What should I wear? If you’re lucky enough to visit Egypt between November and February, pack a sweater. You’ll need it – the desert gets chilly at night. During the day, the temperature will be balmy and comfortable. Any other time, pack like you’re going to Phoenix or Vegas in August. It’s a dry heat 😉 When you travel with Spirit Quest, we make sure to schedule most activities in the morning or evening, so you can siesta by the pool in the afternoon. Plan to wear natural fabrics – cotton, silk, or linen are best bets. Yes, you can wear sport clothes designed to wick the sweat off, but breathable fabrics are always my suggestion. Bring sturdy walking shoes, ones you can get sand or dirt in, unless you plan to stay in your hotel the whole time. If you are lucky enough to take a Nile Cruise (we always include a 4 star cruise on our trips, because it’s a great way to see most of the country while only having to unpack once, and there’s nothing like sailing the Nile for relaxation) you can wear sporty, casual beach-style clothes. Really dressy resort wear is hardly appropriate anywhere, and besides, once you’re there a few days you will likely buy a floor length caftan (both men and women) called a galabeya. If you need something fancy, you can always put this on. For the ladies, bathing suits are normal if there’s a pool where you’re going, but leave the string bikini/thong at home – it is a Muslim country, after all. Last, if you are planning on visiting any mosques or certain parts of upper Egypt, ladies will need to plan on bringing something that comes at least to the elbow, and no shorts for men or women in those areas. A note on shopping – it’s wonderful there, especially many outdoor markets where you can bargain, and everything is very cheap. Many many of our guests end up bringing back an extra suitcase, and you can always pick one up for about $20 US.
4. What special things do I need to pack? One of my favorite things in the world to bring to Egypt is an Evian Mister, an atomizer with a fine mist of Evian water. You may be able to find it in your local drug store, or else click this link to buy it https://www.spiritquesttours.com/store.html
Spray a little on your face or head, and your body temp will feel like it’s dropped 10 or 15 degrees. Yes, you can use it with make-up, but trust me, if you go when it’s hot, you may want to leave your makeup at home, at least the foundation and mascara. I’ve seen more women travel up the Nile with raccoon eyes because they weren’t willing to adapt – just a suggestion
Other items include your camera (duh, but you would be surprised how many people forget theirs; power adaptors (you need the kind that work in England, no matter what anyone else tells you!); sunblock – the highest SPF you can find, and try a baby sunblock, which usually is the highest, as well as the gentlest; extra batteries (nothing like standing a the Colossus of Memnon bargaining for batteries you could have bought for $3 at home); and oh! Ladies, don’t forget tampons and pads – they’re available in the pharmacy, too – but only one kind of each, and that may or not be what you’re used to.
5. How do I communicate with home? Internet cafes are plentiful everywhere, especially Cairo, Luxor, and Alexandria. If you have international calling on your phone, you should be able to use it – AT&T and Sprint both work internationally for sure, but make sure you have the international coverage. A satellite phone is best if you are certain to need coverage in the middle of the country, like while cruising up the Nile, but for most people these days a cell phone is fine. But these days cell coverage is extensive. We’ve made calls from the peak of Mount Moses in the Sinai!
Each of the 4 star hotels Spirit Quest Tours stays in offers wireless in all the rooms and internet at the business center. Just remember there is a 7-10 hour time difference… and you’re on vacation!
6. Here’s a bonus, since you stuck it out to the end… the most important piece of advice I can give you is, learn a few words of Arabic before you go. Thank you = shokran (show-krahn’); Good morning = saba al khir (sah-bah’ al – khear’); Tea with milk = chai bi laban (shay’ bee la-bahn’) This means the world to the Egyptians, and they do love Americans. You will find that even saying “thank you” in Arabic will bring a smile to everyone’s face. It will make you more than just a traveler; it will allow you to be what you really are by traveling to this foreign country halfway around the world – an ambassador of peace.