Travel to Egypt: The Ultimate Guide

Samuel Clennett

Egypt as a tourist destination hardly needs any introduction. Whether you’re looking to sail through history on a Nile cruise, or you want a beach break with stunning snorkelling and diving, you’ll find it.

There’s so much to do in Egypt, you’ll get the best from your time if you have a bit of a budget to play with. This guide will touch on the practicalities of a holiday in Egypt, and also look at how you can cut your currency costs - and have more spending money - with a Wise borderless account and linked Mastercard.

Do your research

Each trip to Egypt will be unique - and you’ll need to invest some time upfront in researching your options to get the right destinations, accommodation and activities for your personal preferences.

It’s worth noting that at the time of writing the Australian government advice is to reconsider your need to travel to Egypt, due to the current political tensions in the region. However, this situation is reviewed regularly. If you do decide to go to Egypt, make sure you listen to official advice when you’re there to minimise the risk of problems. For up to date safety information, check out the Egypt page on the Smart Traveller website¹.

When you’re planning your itinerary in Egypt, take a look at the official website of the Egyptian tourism authorities for some inspiration². You’ll need to check out specifics for your trip, too, such as the best way to get to your hotel from the airport, and the likely weather during your visit.

How to get the most for your money

More or less anywhere you go, you’ll be able to do more if you have a bit more money to spend. Here are a few smart ways to make your money go further when you travel.

Know your exchange rate

Whenever you change money you need to know the exchange rate for your currency pair, so you can make sure you’re getting a good deal.

Exchange rates change all the time, but you can keep up with an online currency converter or app, which will give you the mid-market exchange rate for your currency. Compare this with the rate you’re offered by a currency exchange service or bank. If it’s different, it’s probably because your provider has added a markup - an extra fee hidden in the rate they offer.

These markups are common but can mean you pay more than you expect for your travel money. Get currency exchange without any markup, and save money, with the Wise borderless account and card. More on that later.

Look for hidden costs

If you’re using your bank card abroad to pay for goods and services, or make ATM withdrawals, you’ll want to check your card terms and conditions to see if there’s a foreign transaction fee added when you use your card overseas. Both flat fees and percentage charges are common, and can come as a surprise when you get your statement after your trip. Read the fine print on your card to avoid getting a shock later.

Avoid Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC)

DCC is where you’re given a choice between paying in your home currency or the local one when you spend using your bank card, or withdraw money abroad. Using your home currency sounds like a smart idea because it’s familiar - but it’s also expensive.

Pay in the local currency wherever you are to get the best exchange rate and lowest fees.

Get a specialist account for your travels

Spending your own money as you travel shouldn’t be a headache - and it doesn’t have to be with a Wise borderless account.

This multi-currency account is the perfect solution, allowing you to hold, send and spend dozens of currencies. Day to day life is a little easier with the Wise borderless Mastercard, which lets you spend and make withdrawals with no foreign transaction fees. And because all currency conversion uses the mid-market exchange rate without any hidden fees, it could be significantly cheaper than using your regular bank card when you travel.

See if you can save with Wise when you travel to Egypt.

Things to be aware of

Egypt is a popular tourist destination - but it’s good to know that some laws, traditions and cultural norms are quite different to at home. Usually exercising some common sense, and taking a lead from the locals will be enough to avoid offence. Here are a few pointers to help you avoid issues when you travel to Egypt.

  • There are laws against criticising the government, including in social media. Be wary about what you say or write
  • Punishments are severe for drug offences, and can include the death penalty
  • You may be stopped at checkpoints when travelling. In some cases foreigners have been detained at these checks
  • Dress standards are conservative - wearing modest clothing is advised, especially for women

If you have an emergency overseas, the Australian consular service may be able to offer support. It’s worth noting, though, that the support that can be offered to dual nationals who hold Egyptian citizenship may be limited. Learn more about the consular service and how it may apply to you, on the Smart Traveller website³.

Get to know the Visa situation

The easiest way to get a visa for Egypt is by applying online for an e-visa⁴. This covers most tourist visits. You can set up an account online, pay and receive your visa by email. You’ll need to apply at least 7 days before you travel, and will have to print the visa to show the border authorities upon arrival.

Accommodation in Egypt⁵

Although Egypt welcomes huge volumes of visitors, you’ll probably find that there’s plenty of accommodation available if you’re headed to the tourist hotspots in Cairo, the Nile Valley or Sinai. If you’re planning a trip off the beaten path, you may need to look a little harder to find accommodation.

Hotel options range from high end luxury, to simple cheap options depending on your budget. Be wary of touts who may try to take you to hotels they earn commission from - these are unlikely to be the best accommodation options available and may mean you’re forced to buy extras such as tours as well. If you’re planning on staying in a hotel, you’ll probably get a better rate if you book online before you arrive in Egypt, anyway.

You can also find hostel options in many regions of the country, which are often segregated to mean men and women, and foreigners and locals must sleep separately.

Getting around in Egypt

The best ways to get around Egypt will depend a lot on your schedule and budget. Within cities you can take a bus, or one of the shared taxi options which ply regular routes, with a metro available in Cairo too. However, the buses are not easy to fathom and can be uncomfortable. Taking a taxi may be a more straightforward option, although this may mean a bit of haggling over the price. Driving for yourself is not usually recommended, and hiring a vehicle can be tricky for a foreigner anyway. Read more about the cities you’re visiting, online, to make sure you’re prepared before you arrive⁶.

To get between cities you may choose to fly if you have a busy itinerary, or take a bus. Flights are often reasonably priced, and obviously free up more time for sightseeing. Simply getting through city traffic in a bus can eat up a large chunk of your day. Trains are also available, but the system and rolling stock is dated and there have been accidents on the rails in recent years.

Sights to see

If you’re considering a trip to Egypt you’ll know already that there’s plenty to do there. You can craft the perfect itinerary taking in culture, history and relaxation with a bit of forward planning. Here are a few of the things to consider doing.

  • There are so many ways to immerse yourself in ancient history in Egypt, you can plan your personal tour of the sights which appeal most to you or join a tour if you’d rather leave the planning to someone else⁷
  • The Nile was key to Egypt’s development, and taking a cruise is a great way to see both the ancient influences of the river and modern life in the area. You can choose from a broad range of options and budgets
  • Whether you’re in your hotel, at a street side cafe or in one of the floating restaurants you’ll doubtless pass on your travels, there’s some fabulous food to try. Some Egyptian dishes will have a familiar ring to them - others less so. Try Ful Medames and Kushari for example⁸
  • Pick up a bargain in a traditional souk - or go for a modern alternative in any of the large malls in Egypt’s cities

Tips for a great trip

Before you run off to book your break, here are a few more tips to make sure you have a great time in Egypt.

  • Get a pre-paid SIM card before you leave the airport - Vodaphone is the usual choice for tourists, based on coverage and cost⁹
  • Check your travel and medical insurance is adequate and covers all your planned activities - you may need extra immunisations or anti-malarials depending on your itinerary
  • Make sure any provider you choose for adventure activities is legitimate. There have been accidents in recent years involving hot air balloons in Luxor, for example
  • Use the government’s Smart Traveller website for up to date travel information for Egypt, as well as a wide range of travel support and resources¹⁰

A trip to Egypt is one you’ll remember for a lifetime. Save money on your currency costs, so you can do more with your visit. Get a Wise borderless account and linked Mastercard before you leave, and manage your money cheaply and free of stress, while you travel.


  1. Smartraveller
  2. Travel Egypt
  3. Smartravel - Urgent Help
  4. Visa Info
  5. Accomodation
  6. Getting Around Egypt
  7. Ancient Egypt
  8. Egyptian Food
  9. Getting A Simcard
  10. Smartraveller

All sources accurate as of 20 Jan 2020

This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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