Egypt is considered to be the oldest tourist destination in the world. It has been popular to visit Egypt since the days of the Greeks and Romans, and with its rich history and iconic landmarks, it is still one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. It is best known for the relics of its ancient era: the pyramids, temples, hieroglyphs, and mummies, though this only represents one aspect of what the country has to offer. There are countless things to do as this Egypt guide will explore...
Where is Egypt? It is situated in north-eastern Africa, the Middle East, and Asia (as it holds the Sinai Peninsula) and is bordered by Israel and the Gaza Strip, Sudan and Libya. Although it has had its fair share of turmoil over recent years, it remains a welcoming place to visit.
The Mediterranean lies to the north of Egypt and the Red Sea to the East, though the country itself is dominated by the River Nile, the source of the country's fertility. What is the population of Egypt? Approximately 93 million, with around 9.5 million inhabiting Cairo, its capital.
Things to see in Egypt
There are two main, and distinctly different, sides to tourism in Egypt. One is the more modern Egypt of the Red Sea. Situated on the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula, Sharm el Sheikh is the most popular destination in this region. It is known for its long, sandy beaches, high-end hotels, and range of watersport activities. Scuba diving in Egypt is very popular, as is snorkeling It boasts 250 coral reefs and 1000 different species of fish, making it a world-class destination.
Then there is the Egypt of Cairo and the Nile where you can discover ancient Egypt, which includes some of the most famous landmarks in Egypt from the times of the Pharaohs. These include the Pyramids of Giza (the only one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World which is still standing) and many other popular tourist attractions in Egypt.
You can visit the Valley of Kings in Luxor, the place where Tutankhamun's tomb was unearthed, and see the treasures that have been found in the Egyptian Museum. These sites allow tourists to witness and marvel at one of the most fabled periods in world history. For the more adventurous, there is also the opportunity to explore the vast deserts.
An aspect of its culture and history which is less well-known is its medieval heritage. Coptic Christianity and Islam have both played a fundamental role in shaping the country. Churches, monasteries, and mosques are all common sights when you visit Egypt.
Egypt Basic Information
- Time Zone:
When to Go
When is the best time to visit Egypt? It depends on what you are after. The weather in Egypt is normally the main consideration as it can be unbearably hot for much of the year.
- High season (October to February). This is the most popular time to visit Egypt as it is generally sunny and warm, though there is occasional rain. At night it can get chilly so be prepared for this as not all accommodation is heated.
- Shoulder season (March to May and September to October). These can be some of the best months to visit Egypt as there are fewer tourists and the heat is still tolerable. However, spring can bring dust storms which can disrupt flights and other activities, and there can be some very hot days. These are good times to visit the Mediterranean spots as the beaches are less crowded and the sea is warm.
- Low season (June to August). Scorching heat makes visiting Egypt difficult throughout the summer. If you want to explore the deserts this is the worst time to go to Egypt. On the Mediterranean coast, it is much busier at this time of year than the rest of Egypt.
Egypt is a good destination for:
Egypt Entry Requirements
On arrival, all visitors should have a passport with a minimum of six months validity from the date of entry and it is usually necessary to obtain a visa before you visit Egypt, or when you arrive.
For visits up to 30 days, it is possible to get a visa on arrival at approved kiosks which are located at the airport. The cost is around US$25 and you need one to get through the immigration counters. You can also purchase one from an Egyptian consulate or embassy before you travel.
Depending on the country of origin it is possible to get a free-entry stamp, for trips of up to 15 days, when traveling to Sharm el-Sheikh, Dahab, Nuweiba and Taba. For longer trips, or for extensions, it is necessary to obtain a visa.
It may be difficult to leave Egypt with an out-of-date visa, and you may need to pay a fine if your visa has expired by more than 14 days.
Egypt Country Atractions
Egypt is full of popular tourist destinations. The relics and ruins of the ancient era are particularly popular but there is also the more modern side of tourism in Egypt…
Things to see and do in Egypt
- Pyramids of Giza: They are both the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and the only to be still standing. They are believed to be the tallest standing structures built over a period of 3,800 years. How were the pyramids built? There is still much debate over how this was achieved and this only adds to the sense of wonder. This remains one of the most popular things do for people who visit Egypt.
- Valley of the Kings: For a period of 500 years (16th -11th century BC), this was the burial site of the pharaohs, rock tombs were cut for each. It contains 63 known tombs and stands on the west bank of the Nile.
- Ras Mohamed National Park: Situated west of Sharm el-Sheikh, the park covers 480 sq km. Its surrounding waters are considered to be the jewel of the Red Sea. 1000 species of marine life can be spotted at the park’s spectacular coral reefs.
- The Great Sphinx of Giza: This really is a sight to be seen. It is the oldest known monumental sculpture in Egypt and is 20m high, 73m long and 19m long. There are different theories as to why this mysterious monument of a sphinx, a human head on a lion’s body, was built.
- Scuba diving and snorkeling: Scuba diving in Egypt continues to draw visitors. The Red Sea is home to some of the world’s most spectacular coral-reef ecosystems which support an abundance of marine life. This is what makes Egypt a truly world-class destination for scuba diving and snorkeling and there is a whole host of different courses, tours, and packages on offer.
- Churches and mosques: There are fascinating medieval mosques and churches which you can visit in most parts of Egypt. Both Islam and Christianity played an important role in shaping the country throughout the middle ages. Catch a glimpse of some of the most stunning examples of architecture in Egypt while learning about the culture.
- Although Arabic is the official language of Egypt, most people understand English and almost all restaurant menus are in English. It is still a good idea to learn basic Egyptian phrases before you go and it’s also important to be able to recognize the numbers. Prices are often marked up for tourists so if you can understand the prices you are less likely to be ripped off.
- Getting across Egypt can be difficult without proper planning as distances by road are long. When traveling in the desert you have to be particularly careful as there are no shops or hotels, four-wheel drive is absolutely essential if you’re considering driving in Egypt.
- Inform your bank before you go so they don’t block your credit or debit card when you use ATMs in Egypt. You can use dollars, pounds, and euros in many places though it is still recommended to change up some money before you go. This allows for a smooth first few days. What is the exchange rate for Egyptian pounds? Although it varies, one US dollar is approximately 18 Egyptian pounds.
- What should I wear in Egypt? Dress on the conservative side and don’t show too much skin as this may invite unwanted attention. At beaches and resorts you can dress as you like but when you’re visiting mosques or other culturally sensitive places, you should dress respectfully.
- Drink bottled water and avoid raw food. Food in Egypt is diverse and delicious but you need to take care. To be extra careful, only eat food which has been heated up sufficiently, this will help you avoid a case of ‘mummy tummy’ when you visit Egypt!
- Is it safe to travel to Egypt? In general yes, though you should check with your embassy before going.