Published on March 29th, 2017 | by Passport & Plates
What it’s like to travel in Egypt right now (as an American)
Read time: a bit over 3 minutes
There aren’t many countries out there on everyone’s travel bucket lists. But a certain country brimming with mummies, camels and pyramids – yep, I’m talking Egypt – could be the exception. In fact, I have a hunch you’re reading this right now because you want to visit it too (but are perhaps just a bit unsure). Well, as a young, female, American traveler, I’m here to let you in on my experience in Egypt.
I visited Egypt when I was younger but hadn’t been back since 2009 – 2 years before the Arab Spring that shook the country to its core. Many of my friends and family have been back multiple times since then. It took a few years, but lately they’ve all been echoing the same thing: they all had great experiences in Egypt. So even though the media may speak differently, I decided to go see it for myself in February 2017 on Geckos Adventures’ Egypt & Jordan Highlights.
So what’s it really like to travel in Egypt right now as an American? For me: awesome! Seriously. Here’s the rundown on my experiences there.
1. I easily stayed within budget
Egypt floated its currency in 2016, resulting in a very favorable exchange rate against the dollar. Translation: 1 USD is about 18 Egyptian pounds (and yes, you can get a giant shawerma for less than that). Other things you can get for less than $1: a cool scarf, about 15 kilos worth of spices, several scarab bracelets, etc. Our group did a lot of shopping – it’s all about supporting the local economy, right?
2. The latest safety measures and why I wasn’t worried
Before I went to Egypt, I asked a bunch of people what was stopping them from going. The number answer? Safety. While this is a valid consideration when traveling anywhere, I never once questioned my safety when I was in Egypt. The Egyptian government has gone above and beyond in improving security, especially at tourist sites and high-traffic areas. All the entrances to the monuments had metal detectors, guards and security checkpoints. The train station even assigns guards to keep a special eye on tourist groups and travelers. Plus, having an amazing local guide to show me around was an added bonus.
3. I encountered virtually empty sites
Unfortunately for Egyptians, tourism has slumped in the last six years – virtually being nonexistent between 2011 and 2015. And even now, tourists are trickling in slowly. But it’s great for travelers because I got to see the Sphinx and Great Pyramids much faster and with far fewer people (and felt good about helping support a struggling tourism industry too, mind you). I also got to snap amazing photos without people in them. Win!
4. People asked me about American politics
I’ve traveled to four countries in 2017 so far and almost every single person I meet wants to know my opinion about our new president – and Egypt was no exception. But much to my surprise, there wasn’t a consistent opinion about American politics there, and I found that Egyptian people were both respectful and curious when it came to discussing with me.
5. People talked to me about Egyptian politics
If you’re like me, you’re just as curious about Egyptian politics as Egyptians are about American politics. Egyptians are incredibly polite, so they won’t bring up their opinion unless you ask. I love hearing different perspectives so I asked pretty much anyone I could about the politics there, and everyone had thoughts about it all (unsurprisingly, these opinions all varied wildly). It was really awesome to gain a perspective on what’s really going on in Egypt from locals rather than from the media.
6. I felt welcome
“Welcome!” “You are welcome!” “Where are you from, my friend?” I’ve lost count of the number of times we were welcomed to Egypt by passers-by and vendors alike. Everyone wanted to know where we were from, reminding us that we were welcome there. People were so happy to see tourists visiting again, they excitedly took selfies with us and would ask us to tell our friends to visit. Egyptians are known to be quite hospitable, so I definitely felt the love when I was out exploring.
7. I was asked to buy souvenirs (just like basically everywhere these days)
Like many countries, Egypt is not immune to storekeepers trying to get you to buy souvenirs from their shop. Some are pushier than others and negotiating prices is a big part of the culture. While negotiating can be a fun game for some, it can quickly get tiring for others. But if I wasn’t interested in buying anything, a firm “lah shorkan” (no thank you) went a long way.
Want to visit Egypt for yourself? Explore this awesome (and misunderstood) country on one of our Egypt small group tours.