A Few Tips for Independent Travelers in Egypt

With all the scams and hassles which travelers must face in Egypt, it’s no surprise that most opt to go on organized tours. But even though the tour groups do often make for more comfortable experiences, they do not always translate into the most satisfying travel journeys.

Once the independent traveler has learned to get around in the country, the freedom with which he or she can explore the ancient sites of Egypt more than makes up for steep learning curve involved with do-it-yourself travel. Thus, after traveling around Egypt on my own for a few weeks, there were a few travel tips that would have made for an easier trip had I known them from the beginning.

First, while there are loads of tourist polices (dressed in white) all over the place, they cannot always be relied upon to resolve conflicts or offer directions as few of them understand English to any useful extent. Some are also cooperating with touts or are more interested in getting backshish (tips) from you. They can be helpful, just don’t expect too much from them.

Secondly, while visiting tourist centers such as Cairo and Luxor, you might want to avoid opening your guide book or map in plain sight. In downtown Cairo, everytime I opened the Lonely Planet guidebook some seemingly friendly strangers quickly appeared to provide ‘help’ and required some effort to shake off. They invariably led me into their shops or gave advice which benefited their interests. Granted, Cairo is not an easy city to find your way in and there is no escaping the touts anyway, but it helps to pretend like you know where you’re going.

Finally, even though there is no shortage of genuine friends to make in Egypt, keep in mind they exist amidst an incredible number of charming sweet-talkers who simply lie or resort to emotional blackmail to no end to get some money from the traveler. Take everything with a grain of salt and remember that while travel does not get any better than when friendships are made, these are not really possible under pressure nor can they really develop quickly.