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Egypt Basic Travel Information And Tips
By Palace Travel
Egypt Basic Travel Information:

Time: Local time is GMT +2 (GMT +3 from last Friday in April to last Friday in September).

Electricity: Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. European-style two-pin plugs are standard.

Language: Arabic is the official language although English and French are widely spoken, especially in the tourist areas.

Health: There are a number of health risks associated with travel to Egypt and travellers. Come prepared to beat the heat with a high factor sunblock, and drink plenty of water to combat dehydration. Drinking water in the main cities and towns is normally chlorinated but it is advisable to only drink bottled water. Traveller's diarrhoea is the most common form of illness for travellers; visitors should only eat thoroughly cooked food and fruits they have peeled themselves. The waters of the Nile are not 100% clean and should not be consumed or bathed in. A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required from travellers over one year of age coming from infected areas. Medical treatment can be expensive and standards vary so insurance is strongly advised, including evacuation. Medical facilities outside of Cairo can be very basic. Cases of bird flu have been reported, and human fatalities have resulted, and although the risk is low for travellers, all close contact with caged, domestic and wild birds should be avoided, and all poultry and egg dishes well cooked as a precaution.

Tipping: Tipping is known as 'baksheesh' and some small change is expected for most services, though small change can be hard to come by. 'Baksheesh' can be a useful practice in order to gain entry to seemingly inaccessible places, or for extra services- a small tip can open doors, literally. A service charge is added to most restaurant and hotel bills but a 5% tip is normally given directly to the waiter. Taxi drivers are tipped about 10%.

Safety: There is a significant threat from terrorism in Egypt. Red Sea resorts on the Sinai Peninsula in particular have been targeted, most recently in April 2006, when a series of bomb explosions tore through the popular resort of Dahab. Other resorts and dive centres have suffered similar bomb attacks in the last two years, and over 100 people have been killed and hundreds more seriously injured, many of them foreigners.

Security forces persist with their counter-terrorist operations on the Sinai Peninsula, and police continue to provide armed escorts for travellers in certain areas. On 7 April 2005 an explosion in central Cairo caused four deaths and 19 injuries, and on 30 April 2006 an attack on a tourist bus and one near the Egyptian Museum injured seven people; the three incidents specifically targeted tourists and Egyptian authorities believe they are linked to the same perpetrators and warn that further incidents in Cairo are possible. In general, there are increased security measures at all tourist sites, and especially in resort areas on the Sinai Peninsula, but visitors should be alert and are advised to avoid political demonstrations and public gatherings. Developments in the region, including the conflict in Iraq and the tension between Israel and the Palestinians, continue to trigger demonstrations of public anger, and visitors are warned to be especially vigilant in public places; the mood at present is extremely anti-US, anti-Israel and anti-UN. Visitors to the cities and tourist sites will experience a fair amount of hassle and are advised not to carry more money on them than needed at a time. Women should take extra caution when travelling alone as there have been isolated incidents of harassment. The sinking of the passenger ferry travelling across the Red Sea from Saudi Arabia to Egypt on 3 February 2006 has left over 1,000 dead and was one of the worst maritime disasters in recent years. Egypt also has a poor train safety record with several fatal accidents each year.

Customs: Egypt is a conservative society and visitors should respect local customs and sensitivities and dress modestly. For women especially, the wearing of long skirts or loose fitting trousers and covering the shoulders discourages physical and verbal attention. Religious customs should be respected, particularly during the month of Ramadan when eating, drinking and smoking during daylight hours should be discreet as it is forbidden by the Muslim culture.

Business: Egyptians are friendly and approachable at work and in the home, and personal relationships are very important when conducting business. Business is usually conducted formally in Egypt, but meetings may not take place in private and it is normal for them to be interrupted with other matters. Punctuality is important, though don't be surprised if your contact is late or postpones the meeting. In Cairo the traffic will be blamed but Egyptians but sometime other commitments simply take priority. Be patient. Dress should be formal and conservative (suits and ties are standard and women, in particular, should dress modestly). Women may encounter some sexism in the business world. Most Egyptians are Muslim and therefore one should be mindful of Islamic customs. Affection between opposite sexes is not shown in public. English is widely spoken and understood, although attempting to speak some basic Arabic will be appreciated. The normal working week runs from Saturday to Wednesday, but some government offices close on Thursday and Friday, and others on Friday and Saturday. Business hours vary, but are usually 8.30am to 2pm with some businesses also opening from 5pm to 8pm.

Communications: The international access code for Egypt is +20. The outgoing code is 00 followed but the relevant country code (e.g. 0027 for South Africa). The city code for Cairo is (0)2. There are high surcharges on international calls from hotels; it is cheaper to phone long-distance from the 24-hour Post, Telephone and Telegraph (PTT) offices that are available in the major cities. For international directory phone enquiries dial 120. The local mobile phone operators use GSM 900 networks and have roaming agreements with all major operators. Internet cafes are available in the main tourist areas.

Duty Free: Travellers arriving in Egypt do not have to pay customs duty on 200 cigarettes or 25 cigars or 200g tobacco; alcoholic beverages up to 1 litre; perfume for personal use and 1 litre of eau de cologne; and goods for consumption to the value of LE 100. Prohibited items include narcotics and drugs.
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