So you’re off to see the pyramids and ride camels? Before you whisk off to experience Egyptian culture, you may want to read this handy Egypt travel guide first so that your stay goes off without a hitch. It’s a different country than where you came from, and you’re better off if you know certain things beforehand:

Tips are brought to you by world traveler Scott M. of www.freshcoatpaintinghawaii.com

1. You’ll need a visa if you’re going to visit. The Egyptian embassy people recommend that you get one in advance to get rid of the hassle. However, if you’re an American then it’s possible to buy a 30-day visa in the airport for about USD $25.

2. Don’t drink the tap water. You’ll get diarrhea if you do. Here the tap water is so suspect even the locals avoid it. Use bottled water, even when you brush your teeth. 

3. Learn the proper prices and know how to haggle. When you buy bottled water, the seller may raise the price 4 or 4,5 EGP, when it normally only costs 2 or 2.5 EGP per bottle.

4. Learn to dress properly and avoid certain types of immodest attire. Men should avoid wearing gym attire like tank tops and sleeveless shirts. Exploring while wearing shorts is okay, but you’ll need trousers if you wish to visit someone’s home. For women, the rule is to cover the shoulders and knees all the time. if you’re entering a religious place, you need to cover your hair with a scarf and your legs from the knee down.

5. If you’re setting up a meeting with an Egyptian, understand that their concept of time is different. In “Egyptian time”, meeting at 4PM most likely means sometime between 7PM to 9PM. If they say they may see you tomorrow, then it can also mean the day after tomorrow. When they say they’ll meet with you “Insha’Allah”, they mean they’ll try, which is code for not really showing up.

6. Bring toilet paper and hand sanitizer with you at all times. That’s because you won’t find these things at most public bathrooms. If you’re “lucky”, you’ll find a bar of soap that everyone has handled before you.

7. Be very careful about the traffic. The traffic situation here is insane by Western standards, since there aren’t any traffic lights in most areas and there’s no real speed limit. People like to blow their horns incessantly as well. Crossing the road can be a real adventure, like Indiana Jones avoiding deadly traps.

8. Bug spray is also highly recommended. The climate here is very friendly for mosquitos.

9. Don’t expect Western hotel standards. A 3-star hotel in Egypt is not quite the same as the US or European version. Common problems here include no working electricity, broken air conditioners, and perhaps even the lack of shower heads. You may find insects (such as ants) in your room as well.

10. Men aren’t supposed to touch women physically aside from a handshake. You will also need to prove that you’re a married couple before you can share a room with your spouse. So, you need a copy of your birth certificate.

After all is said and done, however, a visit to Egypt can be a fascinating experience. Just be polite and be sensitive to the cultural norms, and you’ll do fine.