practical travel information - egypt

Practical Information about travelling to SEKEM and Egypt includes tips about the climate, appropriate dress code and behaviour, visa requirements, money, health and safety

The following information provided by SEKEM Reisen is only a guide and should not be considered as final and absolute. You are strongly encouraged to stay informed by visiting the official website of your government's Foreign Ministry and/or embassy to Egypt, which should provide up-to-date travel advice, particularly since travel situations to a country can change rapidly. Additional research on a country is also always advisable, and actually part of the fun before you embark on a journey!

Please remember to also conduct more of your own research about travelling to Egypt, from general travel advice, visa information, health and safety, climate, to cultural and traditions. Official government sources are always reliable, as are many travel information websites out there. SEKEM Reisen is also always available to help you prior to making a booking and post.

Climate in Egypt

Egypt is generally a dry and warm to hot country. Of course the climate depends on when and where exactly you visit, as it can also be more fresh and fertile, such as around the Mediterranean coast, along the Nile/Delta region, as well as at Red Sea resort areas.

In general, the best time to travel to SEKEM and Egypt tends to be October through May. This is when the temperature is less hot. Nights are cooler, but days are still sunny and warm. March until May is more sunny. From time to time, there can be sand storms. Summer in Egypt is generally hot - but this is also the more affordable period.

*Graph represents average temperatures for the Red Sea resort of El Gouna (and similar to other Read Sea areas)

Dress code & behaviour at SEKEM & in Egypt

What to wear when travelling to Egypt

When travelling to any country, it is always best to familiarise yourself with local customs and behaviours. This would help attract less negative or unwanted attention, and allow you to truly experience the local ways in good spirit.

Similarly in Egypt, your dress code should consider such local customs and culture, as well as the climate. Loose, light clothing from natural material such as cotton is highly recommended, especially if travelling during summer. Such clothes can easily be found in many local shops and bazaars, or more than likely also in your home country. Comfortable shoes are always best when travelling, as you tend to do a lot of walking, perhaps even on more rough terrain, meanwhile a hat and sunglasses for protection against the sun. Eye drops are always good to carry just in case of dust storms, and it is advisable to always carry a water bottle.

Egypt is predominantly a Muslim country. In order to not create unwanted attention and offend, travellers should dress conservatively when out and about on the street or at tourist sites. This is especially important when visiting holy sites, where both men and women should cover their legs (so no shorts or skirts), and women should not wear short sleeves. Blouses and shirts should not be made of transparent material or be half-sleeved. Long-sleeved is always better. In general, revealing bare skin in such open public spaces is not accepted, not even for men.

Travelling behaviour during your visit to SEKEM & Egypt

Again, general behaviour while in Egypt should consider local customs and culture. SEKEM in particular is very much inspired by local faith and traditions. As such, respect with conservative behaviour is a must. Smoking only in designated areas, away from children and public, and alcohol and drugs are strictly prohibited.

The same holds true for general public areas throughout Egypt. Although much of Egypt is secular, with people smoking in the streets, and at resorts behaving more or less like you would in Western countries.

It is also always great to learn a few local phrases when travelling. This goes a long way in being welcomed and appreciated. In Egypt, like other Islamic countries, the common greeting is "as-salām 'alaykum"; thank you is "shukran". See a good source for other common phrases in Arabic.

When near major tourist sites, there will likely be lots of locals trying to sell goods or services, i.e. clothing, hats, sunglasses, souvenirs, camel rides, taxi rides etc. Generally, when you approach them to buy something, some others will follow. Of course you are welcomed to purchase, as this also helps the local economy (very much driven by the black market), but always keep in mind that in Egypt, bartering is common practice, so you can get them to drop the price significantly, or for some added value! If you are not interested, be firm, say no thanks and walk away.

It is also worth noting local holidays and special occasions, and being aware of what usually goes on. For instance, Friday is the standard weekly day off in Egypt (and wider Middle East & North African region), equivalent of a Western country's Sunday. Nevertheless, most shops and tourist sites are still open and public life functions as usual.

Other major occasions in Egypt are Ramadan, based on the lunar calendar. During Ramadan almost all practicing Muslims will not eat or drink during the day light; only after sunset. Although this should not overly impact day-to-day activates, communication and services (especially in tourist areas), pace of life can become slower. It is also respectful to be aware of the common practices, do's and don'ts. At the end of Ramadan there is the big feast of ending the fast, known as Eid al Fitr.

Travel Visa to Egypt

Visitors to Egypt must hold passports that are valid for at least 6 months from the date of departure from Egypt (always better to be ensured!). Officially it is stated that to enter Egypt, a passport valid for at least six months from the date of issue of the visa is required, but border officials might interpret this differently. Tourist visas are available at Egyptian embassies and consulates around the world, but also at the airport on arrival for many nationalities, such as the USA, as well as for all members of the European Union (EU), including: Germany, Switzerland, Austria, the Netherlands, the UK, France, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. Visa on arrival can be obtained at the airports in Cairo, Luxor, Aswan, Marsa Alam, and Alexandria. It is valid 1 month and cost 25 USD or 22 Euro.

A single-entry visa is valid for 3 months from when you acquire it, and allows you a 1 month stay in the country. If you are planning to pop in to any neighbouring countries while in Egypt, it is recommended to apply for a multiple-entry visa. For visa fees to Egypt, you can check with you nearest Egyptian embassy or consulate.

More information on the visa policy of Egypt.

Money while in Egypt

Currency

The official currency of Egypt is the Egyptian Pound (guinay in Arabic) Livre Égyptienne (LE). 100 piastres (girsh in Arabic) make 1 pound. For current exchange rates see this currency converter.

Cash machines are common in all major cities, and especially in the main tourist areas and hotels. Take care and be aware of your surroundings if you are taking out large amounts of money, especially in deserted areas or at night. Travellers' cheques are not so easily cashed. Major hotels will usually accept payment by credit card. However, smaller hotels may expect payment in cash and in hard currency. Medical facilities will usually accept payment by credit card or cash.

If you plan to venture out and travel 'off the beaten track', always make sure you have enough local currency with you. The same holds true at many tourists sites and bazaars, where only cash might be accepted, or to help with bartering when shopping from people on the street. Hold on to smaller notes, such as one and five pound notes, as they come in handy for tipping, which you might be doing a lot of. 'Baksheesh' (tip) is a phrase you will come to know well.

Foreign currency - some tour operators and hotels insist on US dollars or euros, even though this is technically illegal. Most in Egypt will also accept these currencies, as generally they would get more value from it. You are allowed to bring along as much foreign currency as you wish to, but with EGP, restricted to 10,000.

Health and Safety in Egypt

In general, Egypt has always been a safe destination and with very hospitable people. Crime rates in Egypt are low and violent crime against visitors is rare. However, the country has also been victim to negative publicity in recent times, casting doubts for would-be travellers. Political changes and related incidents such as protests, marches and demonstrations can occur, whilst other incidents have also now made some parts of Egypt not so travel friendly (such as North Sinai). Thus, it very much depends on where in Egypt you travel. Many areas are fine and do not experience any violent protests, or other areas are protected by enhanced security measures. Like when travelling to any country, it is always advisable to check in advance your government's official travel information, and of course always sensible to take care and avoid any commotions or areas at risk when abroad.

Health and medicine: Bring along any personally medication needed, even anti mosquito spray. The drugs of SEKEM Medical Care are needed for the 35,000 patients from the surrounding villages. Vaccination is not necessary. A good medicine against diarrhoea is SMECTA, which is readily available in local pharmacies.

Some other good resources for more general travel advice to Egypt include: