Language & communication:
Arabic is the official language. Most people, though, also understand English. It is easy to get by with English, but it is recommended to learn a few Arabic words. It acts as an ice-breaker & does elicit a smile from most Egyptians. This is not to say that Egyptians are unfriendly otherwise…..they are extremely friendly. Chat with everybody, from drivers, to hotel staff, to guides…….it gives you a lot of insight into Egyptian life & lifestyle. Arabic is also useful in small restaurants & while travelling off the tourist path, for buying essentials. If nothing works, try sign language or sketching on a piece of paper…..works!
Learning to recognize Arabic numbers is another life saver. All hotels prepare bills in English. Almost all restaurants too, have English menus. But, again, off the beaten path, it’s in Arabic. Knowing the numbers will help you to read prices. Also, while shopping in supermarkets, buying essentials or buying munchies, it helps tremendously. Prices are marked up considerably for tourists & if you can read the Arabic price on the packing, it helps you to know how much they are over-charging you. More on this in ‘Food’ tips………..
You can carry very little cash. It is sufficient to carry some Dollars/ Euros / Pounds to use at the airports during your flight to Egypt. Keep some more of these currencies as an emergency, to use when ATMs are not working. Also, try & get as much Egyptian Pounds (LE) as you can before you leave for Egypt. This can help you tide over the first couple of days. Many hotels charge for the room in Dollars or Euros. For this, you could carry the exact amounts in those currencies, which can be used to pay the hotel.
Inform you bank that you are travelling to Egypt & will be using your debit & credit cards. Some people may face problems while in Egypt, as their banks view this sudden use of cards in a foreign country as possible fraud, & block further card usage. This can lead you to being stuck without money, till the matter is resolved. Also, informing your bank will make them alert to any misuse of your card back home. When you make a withdrawal at an ATM, make large withdrawals rather than many small withdrawals. Most banks levy a standard processing charge for overseas withdrawal, irrespective of the amount withdrawn. This can add up to quite a bit.