Like Cuba, Egypt is a country to visit absolutely. However, in these two countries, the feeling of being an ATM on legs will not leave you for a second and you will have to put your hand in your pocket very regularly.
We will list below the most popular damage limitation scams in Egypt.
1. Egyptian coins that look strangely similar to Euros : Many tourists giveEuro coins as a tip. Egyptians cannot change them at the bank, which only accepts banknotes. It isn’t uncommon for them to hand you Euro coins, not to beg, but to exchange for a €5 bill or the equivalent in Egyptian pounds. There’s nothing wrong with that, but some clever people try to take advantage of the kindness even more by slipping coins of an Egyptian pound that looks like a 1€ coin. Certainly, this coin is beautiful (mask of Tutankhamun) but it is worthless (0.05€). So look at all the coins before making the change. Besides, when you think about it, you do them a favor anyway 🙂
2. The cab meter is broken: it is painful to have to negotiate the price of the cab. Being a tourist and not speaking Arabic, unfortunately you have to accept to pay more than the locals, the drivers will not want to put the meter on. At the same time, the locals do not earn a good living (crossing the whole city costs you 3€ on the meter), most tourists come on organized tours and cabs do not have many foreign customers to
scam. Negotiate firmly with them. Leave on 5 pounds/km (0,25€), that is to say twice as expensive as the meter already. If you want, leave a small tip, it’s nothing for you but they will be happy.
3. Tipping is never enough. At least, that’s what they try to make people believe. It happened to us many times that someone sulks our $1 tip and negotiates to get more. We answer that we don’t have a change and he was ready to change ahahha. It’s pure comedy, don’t pay attention to it. Whatever amount you give, they’ll try to scratch a little bit more.
But, if you only give 1$ to a guide who spent the whole day with you, that’s cheapness. Here are the tips I gave in 2018, as an indication:
- suitcase carrier at the hotel: 5LE to 10LE
- cleaning lady: 20LE/day (I leave money on the coffee table)
- private guide for one day: 200LE to 250LE for two (if he didn’t take us shopping)
- private driver for one day : 100LE to 150LE for two (if he didn’t take us shopping)
- tips for the crew and the boat guide: each tourist gives a minimum of 50$ (question to ask your agency)
- at the restaurant: 20LE minimum, otherwise 10% of the bill
- cab: round up, or 10LE if it was nice
- camel ride: 25LE/tourist
- temple/tomb guard: if he ever granted us access to a forbidden part or allowed us to take pictures without flash: 20LE. If he just follows us to show us things without interest: nada!
4. Endless shopping stops. Organized tours and especially cruises on big ships often include one or two shopping stops per day, which is a pain. The prices are astronomical and the products aren’t of good quality (you can buy fake papyrus at the so-called “Papyrus Museum”). To avoid them, you have to cruise on luxury boats (dahabiya, sandal)or backpacking, or hiring a private driver and paying more to avoid shopping stops (tours and/or guides are paid to bring tourists to shopping stops).
5. Lots of hidden costs on a cruise. I don’t know if they should be considered a scam. But cruise boats (big boats with 200 tourists on board) at very attractive prices include very few visits. You have to add this or that option, otherwise you stay on the boat. Besides, you can’t just get off the boat to take a cab. They moor far from the center of Luxor and as most tourists pass through the boat’s excursions, cabs do not park there. In addition, there are drinks, tips for the guide and crew, and extra tickets (e.g. a visit to the Cairo museum but you have to pay extra for the treasures of Tutankhamun).
Thus, a cruise supposedly “all included” at 1099€/person would actually cost 1600€/person all included (more info here)
For luxury cruises (dahabiya, sandal) in general there are no hidden fees except tips for the crew and guide (within 50€/tourist).
6. The dromedary “driver” who asks for his tip before letting you get off, he supposedly doesn’t want others to see him and to be forced to share with anyone. You are therefore obliged to tip him because he is the only one who can let his dromedary down. At the same time, tipping is the national sport in Egypt, it is expected everywhere. So prepare one dollar (or 20 pounds) each to give him.
7. There are countless elderly foreign women who are in love with a young Egyptian and who subsidize them. There are so many of them that even the Little Wise Man warned that these vacation loves have turned into a nightmare.
8. The “foot in the door” technique. Nothing is free in Egypt. If you are offered a gift “because you are nice”, don’t take it, even if it falls on the floor. Because the salesman will not take it back and will tell you the full price. When you get on the dromedary, don’t accept that someone puts a shawl on your head. When they hand you the postcards, don’t touch them until the price has been negotiated. When a “guide” or guard insists on showing you and accompanying you to a certain place, try to get rid of them as soon as possible. Nothing is free. It never is. It’s sad but that’s the way it is, nothing is done selflessly.
Once, a guard or policeman wanted to accompany me inside a small pyramid, he was ready to go down and I had to tell him clearly in English that he did not have to accompany me. If the same thing happens to you and he doesn’t move, leave the place and come back later without him.
If the guides are forbidden to enter the tombs and pyramids (the humidity linked to breathing degrades the place), it isn’t so that a guard can tell us anything just to get a tip…
9. You finish a cab ride and hand a200 bill to the driver and wait for change. The driver turns around, looking surprised and explaining that you gave him a 20 bill. Not necessarily comfortable with the bills, you will think you made a mistake when it was the cab that exchanged the bills. This scam rarely happens, but be careful, especially in the evening! When you pay, say aloud the amount you are giving.
10. Tickets are held hostage. The entrance ticket to the Pyramids complex must be kept for the duration of your visit. There are some smart people who will ask to see your ticket and do not give it back to you, in order to get a forced tip. Do not give it to anyone except the real guards in uniform in front of the pyramid entrance gate, inside the Solar Boat or in front of the temple in front of the Sphinx.
With JB, we thought it was a pity that such a beautiful and expensive country did not allow us to fully enjoy our vacations. You had to be on your guard all the time, and have a stock of small change to give left and right (when it’s difficult to get small denominations). As they have a unique “product” in the world, it’s true that they abuse a bit and the antique department doesn’t budge to make the experience more enjoyable.
However, the beauty of the place, the unique atmosphere in Egypt and the kindness of the Egyptians (those who don’t rip us off) are enough to make our trip extraordinary and unforgettable. Will we come back to Egypt? Yes yes and yes.
For a serene trip to Egypt, consult our ultimate guide: