We recently returned from a trip to Hurghada, Egypt. Hurghada is located by the Red Sea with amazing underwater life and very sunny and hot ‘above-water’ life. We had a wonderful time! We didn’t visit the pyramids or other famous Egyptian landmarks, nevertheless it was clear we were in a different country. Here are some things I personally noticed (and not read in a brochure). As a reminder to myself, and/or as tips for the reader. So no sunset and underwater photos in this post, but travel tips.
- To get into Egypt, you will need a visa. That visa is just a sticker in your passport, that you buy at the airport and that seemingly anyone can get as long as you pay $25. Think of it as tourist tax. Only with a visa you can go through customs.
- When you exit the plane your travel agent puts you in a line where you can buy a visa for 28 euros (!) from him. OR, you can skip that line, find a ‘bank’ (i.e. a guy in a little booth with an A4 that says BANK printed in Arial) and pay him $25. So, we did that. And while the entire plane was still in line with the travel agent we were skipping that line (you can only pay with cash US dollars at the bank though).
- In Egypt, the US dollar is king. You can also pay in LE or Euros. But dollars rule.
- Do tip! No big numbers, 1 or 2 euro/dollar goes a long way. We tipped our room cleaning every other day. After the first time we promptly had a bigger TV the next day. I’m not sure if it is related, but hey I’m not complaining 😉
- Of course, people trying to make a sale will tell you ANYTHING. This goes without saying. And everyone in Egypt is selling you something all the time.
- Fresh fruit is remarkably expensive. This was also the only thing they charged for in our (all inclusive) hotel. My guess is that Egypt has to import fruit, because the climate is not suited for growing fruit.
- I couldn’t notice a distinctive Egyptian kitchen. It’s a bit of everything. Falafel, shwarma, pastas, salad, churros, pizza. Lots of olive oil in everything though.
- Apart from fruit, you’d be surprised how cheap things are. Most of the times you have to negotiate prices but some shops have fixed prices. And it’s there you find out how cheap some things are.
- Egyptian 3G internet is fast, reliable and cheap. Tip: get your own SIM card at a Vodafone shop. Don’t buy hotel WiFi. We had a 1,25GB card, which cost 27LE (2,86 euros). And for 100LE you can get a 7GB card!
- I actually ended up paying 150LE for a SIM card that only cost 27LE. Trough a guy, who was trying to hussle me (asking 100LE), thinking I was an uninformed tourist, but I enjoyed the story and effort he put in to it and the trouble he got into with his boss (because he was supposed to sell perfume) so I actually even decided to pay him 150LE. He was pretty surprised. (This whole ordeal might be a blog of its own).
- We used around 750 MB data (2 tethered phones, 1 week). If I had used my own Dutch SIM card I would have a bill of 6750 euros (9 EUR/MB). So, 150LE is fine!
- General safety precautions were…..different. No roadmarks, hardly any road signs, no ‘caution floor is wet’ signs (I slipped many times). Those kinds of things. We visited a brand new aqua park and things were just a bit ‘off’. They had people patrolling the kids’ slides, which gives the impression of safety awareness. But after being on these slides myself my understanding is that they aren’t so safe to begin with and they were still adjusting them. So patrolling looked more like compensating.
- There were no (local) women in service jobs. No cleaning maids, bar ladies, restaurant waitresses, lobby personnel, or other hotel functions performed by women. All men. (Exception is the animation team, but they are by definition not locals. They are hired to entertain guests in their own language).
- There were many times I tried a couple of arabic sentences/words (greeting, thank you etc.) but they didn’t seem to understand or really appreciate it. I asked my SIM card ‘friend’ about this and his theory was that they don’t expect people to speak arabic so they ignore it.
- Most people I spoke to were muslim. They would tell you when asked, but you can actually tell yourself by looking at their forehead. At least that is my theory. Some of the staff would have dark marks on their forehead, that would fade off with 20 minutes. My guess is that these are from praying and touching the ground with their forehead. (I managed to get a couple of photos of this phenomenon, but decided not to post them because the people in it probably wouldn’t appreciate it).
- I spoke with two Coptic Christians, separately. And I noticed that both had a similar small wrist tattoo of a cross. I need to find out if this a ‘thing’, or a coincidence. Edit: Oh, ok that is a thing.
Yeah, that’s about it. Visit Egypt, it is lovely. Now how to close this post. Let’s go old-school and end with a YouTube video. Bob Dylan (of course). The lyrics hold a tiny connection to this post.