As a child, maybe it was looking at images of The Great Pyramids of Giza and the wonders of the world through a Viewmaster or watching the Discovery Channel’s documentaries about King Tut and Valley of the Kings as a teenager. The ideas were planted in my mind and I used to say, “One day I’ll go to the valley of the Kings.” But as life happens, you get distracted along the way by school, career, friends, relationships and I completely lost sight of those things.
Fast forward to November 2016, I was taking toll of all my unused vacation days and contemplating where could I travel. So I stared at a world map for a while. I’m still not sure how I landed on Egypt as a destination, maybe it was destiny or recently watching Transformers (An “Our worlds have met before” moment) but all those Egyptian interests came back.
So I researched and started crunching numbers to see if it was even feasible. Being from Trinidad and Tobago, flight costs can get expensive pretty fast. I pulled together the list of things that I wanted to do and sent it off to a few Egyptian tour operators to see what private packages could be arranged.
I was pretty sure I would be taking this trip alone; no one’s schedules or interests would ever align at the point in time that I wanted to go. Aside from that, EVERYONE (even one immigration officer at an airport) thought that it was not a good idea even crazy to travel to Egypt given the political climate and proximity to war zones. I couldn’t decipher a single thing in Arabic and my list was pretty long, so I figured having a guide was a good way to go. Much to my surprise and my mother’s relief, my sister Leila decided to come along on the trip to Egypt.
Safety in Egypt – N.B. check government travel alerts and advisories regularly. Don’t join any protests. Practice vigilance, be aware of your surroundings and secure your valuables and you will be fine. Egyptians are pretty friendly, I had no issues outside of being hassled in the markets to purchase things.
Visa -You should be able to get the visa on arrival at the international airports for $25 USD but confirm with your consulate/embassy. There was a bit of back and forth for my Trinidad and Tobago passport, but in the end I was able to get the visa at the airport for 30 days.
Medication & Vaccines – Yellow fever is usually a requirement for my country, confirm with your embassy for your requirements. Also remember to check the legality of any medication that you intend to carry to Egypt.
Travel Insurance – It’s always a good idea, keep your certificate handy.
Currency – Egyptian Pounds, I got a small amount at the airport, but you can use ATMs to withdraw local currency once your bank supports it. You’ll need a lot of small bills for tipping. You’re pretty much expected to tip anyone who helps you.
If you’re using Egyptian guides or a tour operator, shop around and negotiate to ensure that you’re getting the best value for your hard earned dollars. We used a tour operator from the Australian Hostel. They arranged transport and Egyptologists for the selected tours. Egyptologists definitely give you more insight into the history behind the ancient cities.
Egypt Packing List
I’m from the Caribbean, I’m quite comfortable in temperatures between 24° C and 34°C. In February- March there should have been high temperatures of around 22°C, but it wasn’t. Got off the plane to highs of 13°C for the first few days of the trip.
Egypt is cold in the morning, warms up during the day and then it’s cold again when the sun sets. If you’re out all day, take the layers you need to be warm and to be comfortable.
Here are the items on my packing list that are worth mentioning
Sturdy walking shoes
You’re going to be on your feet in lots of dirt and sand. I got a pair of Ahnu Sugarpine Hiking Boots specifically for this trip. These are lightweight, breathable with good ankle support, so it was great for my itinerary which included a lot temple sites, a desert safari and Mt. Sinai. I also took one pair of sneakers and slippers for the times when the boot wasn’t necessary, like walking around downtown Cairo or the resort areas.
Camera and electronics
I used a compact travel camera, Sony Hx60 for my general photos. Don’t forget the batteries like me. I roamed the streets of Cairo to find a battery on my first day.
A GoPro Hero 3 specifically for the desert safari and water activities of the trip.
Unlocked mobile phone, you can get an Egyptian sim to stay connected.
Electrical adapter for E/F type sockets
Sunglasses (I love Maui Jims) and sunblock, you should have these for life, not just a trip. Also, if you burn easily take a brimmed hat.
As a woman travelling to Egypt, you’re not required to wear a head scarf except when in a mosque but it is a conservative country, so cover up and dress modestly if you don’t want extra attention. I’m a pants and shirt type of gal. So that’s what I pretty much packed, breathable shirts (mostly long sleeved), long pants, sweaters, scarves, camisoles (for layering purposes that annoying gap between shirt buttons) and jeans. The linen pants didn’t get much use given the temperatures on the trip. Also, for the red sea a swimsuit, cover up and a pair of shorts.
Don’t kid yourself, if you’re going home after the trip, you’ll want souvenirs. Egypt is well known for Egyptian cotton, perfumes, spices, alabaster and lots of crafts. You really have a lot of choices in the souvenir department.
Bathrooms usually have attendants who will give you a small amount of toilet paper and soap in exchange for tip. So be prepared with your own toilet paper, hand sanitizer and wipes.
What to do in Egypt?
Here’s my 17 day Itinerary. In a country rich in history, four sentences and a couple photos will not do justice to the places I saw and stories I heard. More posts on each to follow so stay tuned.
- Cairo and the Pyramids
- Black and White Desert Safari
- Luxor East and West Bank, Temples of Dendara and Abydos
- Nile cruise & temples on the Nile Banks
- Sharm El Sheikh
- Cairo -Islamic Cairo, Coptic Cairo and Khan el Khalili
Did I cover Egypt? Nope, I haven’t even scratched the surface. Would I go back? YES! In a heartbeat. Have you been to Egypt? Where do you recommend? What’s your favourite?