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Ignore What Reddit Says About Traveling to Egypt

If you read r/travel and r/solotravel on Reddit, you’ll see that pretty much every post about Egypt is negative. It’s become a meme at this point. Every week there is a new post talking about how terrible Egypt is to travel and how nobody should go there. Most commonly, people complain about scams, harassment, and annoying locals. 

The complaints are mostly accurate. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go to Egypt. Actually, I think Egypt is one of the best travel destinations. It’s cheap. The history is incredible. The food is good. It’s got warm weather and beautiful beaches. It’s also got an exotic culture if you’re from the West. In addition, it’s relatively safe (other than the scams). Egypt has everything going for it as a travel destination. Ignore what Reddit says and go. 

I just returned from Egypt after spending a month traveling there. I traveled to almost all of the main touristy areas from Cairo to Aswan to Abu Simbel and the Sinai Peninsula. In this guide, I’ll explain why you should travel to Egypt, even though Reddit says you shouldn’t. I’ll also talk about how to avoid scams and annoyances.  

Zac at the Great Sphinx in Egypt
Honestly, the Great Sphinx was a little underwhelming. Way smaller than I thought
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My Itinerary

I flew into Cairo from Kampala. I spent 3 days exploring Cairo. During that time, I visited the Pyramids, the Egyptian Museum, Khan el-Khalili (a famous bazaar), and a couple of other sites.

Next, I took the night train to Luxor. I spent about 5 days exploring Luxor. During that time, I went to Luxor Temple, Karnak, the Valley of the Kings, the Temple of Hatshepsut, the Colossi of Memnon, and a couple of other sites I can’t remember. I also spent quite a bit of time walking around the city and along the Nile. 

From Luxor, I took the train to Aswan. I spent 4 days in Aswan. There, I visited the Philae Temple, the Unfinished Obelisk, and the Nubian Village. I also took a day trip to Abu Simbel.

A train in Egypt
The train from Luxor to Aswan

From Aswan, I took the train back to Luxor and then caught a flight to Sharm el Sheik on the Sinai Peninsula. I spent a few days relaxing at a resort on the Red Sea then took a taxi to Dahab. 

From Dahab, I took a tour to hike Mt. Sinai. I also spent about 4 days relaxing in Dahab. After that, I took a bus to Taba and crossed into Israel.  Mt. Sinai was the highlight of the whole trip for me. If you’re visiting the Sinai Peninsula, I recommend taking the tour and hiking to the top for sunrise. 

The only touristy city that I skipped was Alexandria. 

Zac on Mt. Sinai
On top of Mt. Sinai

Common Complaints About Egypt on Reddit

Most negative posts about Egypt complain about scams and annoying locals. They are correct. There are loads of scammers and pushy touts. Egyptians are the most pushy salespeople I have ever experienced in all of my travels. They are relentless.  

While you’re out and about sightseeing or just walking around, you will constantly be approached by people trying to run various scams, sell you junk, sell you a camel ride, etc. It’s annoying and exhausting.

Female travelers can also get harassed. Many of the complaints on Reddit come from solo female travelers. Women even get harassed when they’re traveling with their partner or a group. I’m a guy so I can’t really comment on this but I believe them. 

Of course, there are also complaints about issues that you would experience in any developing country such as filth and noise. They’re right about this too. Cairo is possibly the loudest city I have ever visited. In the market, people have speakers blaring sales pitches. Horns are honking. It’s intense.

From reading the comments, it seems like most people who visit on a guided tour love Egypt. People who travel independently don’t love it as much. I traveled independently but took some day tours here and there and really enjoyed the trip. 

It also seems like female travelers don’t enjoy Egypt as much in general because they get hassled more. Particularly solo female travelers. 

Of course, many Redditors also enjoy Egypt, like I did. There are plenty of positive reviews if you look around.

To read about some Redditor’s experiences in Egypt, check out these Reddit threads.   

The pyramids in Egypt

Some Common Scams to Look Out For

While walking around Cairo, guys will constantly approach you and try to strike up a conversation. They will tell you that they are an artist who works at the university or at the museum. These are scammers who are trying to lure you into their shop. When you’re there, they will try to guilt you into buying something. They might offer you some free tea. Their shops are full of cheap souvenirs.

For whatever reason, these guys kept telling me that I looked Egyptian. I must have had like 10 guys approach me with the same line. I don’t look Egyptian at all other than the fact that I have dark hair. If I did look Egyptian, they wouldn’t have approached me in the first place. It was weird.

While you’re walking around, someone may approach you and act like they know you. For example, they may claim that they work at the hotel where you’re staying. They’re trying to lure you to a market where they can sell you cheap souvenirs. While I was walking around Luxor, some guy approached and told me he was a cook on my cruise ship. He invited me to visit the spice market with him. I knew he was lying because I wasn’t taking a cruise.

You can even get scammed at major tourist sites, including the pyramids. Someone could overcharge you for your ticket. Someone could overcharge you for a camel ride, horseback ride, or a souvenir. Sometimes sales people will walk up and attempt to put a scarf on your head then overcharge you for it. Guides will approach you and tell you that it’s illegal to visit without a guide. It’s not. It’s easy to get ripped off if your’e not careful. To me, it’s surprising that the government allows this at their most important site.

Sometimes while you’re visiting a temple, someone will offer to take a photo for you or show you a room that they claim is closed to the public. Afterward, they demand a tip.

Price changing is another common scam. You may agree to a camel ride for 200 pounds. After the ride, the guy might tell you it costs 1000 pounds. Then you have to argue about the price. 

Overcharging is also common. Hotels, taxi drivers, and vendors will constantly try to overcharge you for everything. You have to negotiate or you’ll constantly get ripped off. Everyone will also ask for a tip for anything.

The people can also be incredibly annoying. You will be approached by scammers and salespeople while you’re walking around. If you even acknowledge the existence of these guys, they will follow you around. Sometimes for blocks.

For more info, check out my guide to some common travel scams.

How to Avoid Getting Ripped Off

Cairo, Egypt
It’s easy to get ripped off in Cairo. The sales people are extremely pushy. There are lots of scammers around.

Take an Organized Tour

The best way to avoid scammers and pushy touts is to take an organized tour. The Nile cruises are affordable and allow you to see all of the main sites without any stress. They include guides and transportation to and from the sites. 

If you don’t want to take a cruise, you can book day tours to all of the temples. If you’re concerned about getting scammed at the pyramids, you can book a day tour from Cairo. When you’re in Luxor, you can book a day tour to the Valley of the Kings and nearby temples. You can easily book through your hotel or online. 

The guide will keep the scammers away. If a scammer sees that you are with a group tour, they won’t bother you because they know the guide will just tell them off. The guide can also help you negotiate for camel rides, souvenirs, etc. to ensure that you don’t get ripped off too badly.

If you are not an experienced traveler, I recommend you book a tour. If you have traveled in the developing world before or if you’re more adventurous, you don’t need to take a tour. You will need to take some additional precautions to avoid getting ripped off. 

Ignore Anyone That Approaches You On the Street

While you’re out and about, ignore anyone who approaches you on the street. If someone approaches you, they are trying to scam you or sell you something. They aren’t just being friendly. Keep this in mind while you’re out and about. 

Usually, I would just ignore them completely as if they don’t exist and they would go away pretty quickly. It may feel rude but they are being rude by bothering you. If you start chatting with them, they won’t leave you alone. They’ll just follow you. Particularly in Cairo. In other places, it’s not as bad. 

When someone starts following you, it’s best to just ignore them. Sometimes, I would say something rude that I’m not going to write here. They can get very annoying.

While I was walking around Luxor, I wore my headphones most of the time. This made it easier to ignore scammers and sales people. I could just act like I couldn’t hear them.

Negotiate and Agree On a Price Before You Buy Anything

Before agreeing to buy something, take a taxi ride, or take a camel ride, make sure you agree on a price. If you don’t, you will get overcharged.

If someone tries to change the price, just pay the original pre-agreed upon price and leave. I had to do this with a rickshaw driver in Cairo. He tried to charge me more because he claimed my destination was further than he thought. I left the money and left while he screamed at me.

Play Dumb

It can also help to play dumb. Whenever someone tries to change the price or asks for bucksheesh (a tip), act like you don’t understand them. Oftentimes, they’ll get annoyed and give up.

Use Uber

When you’re traveling around use Uber instead of taxis. You’re less likely to get ripped off. You also won’t have to negotiate the price. This can reduce stress. 

Stay in a Decent Hotel

I also recommend you stay in decent hotels. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, going out sightseeing gets really exhausting because there are so many people hassling you. It’s nice to have a comfortable room to come back to where you can relax and recharge.

Hotel room theft can also be a problem in lower-end properties. You won’t have to worry as much about this if you stay in a decent hotel. 

I stayed in a nice all-inclusive resort in Sharm el Sheik because it was so cheap

Have Thick Skin

Don’t be afraid to ignore people who approach you, walk away from annoying salespeople, tell people to leave you alone, call out scammers, negotiate hard, or argue if you have to. You don’t have to be hostile but you can’t be a pushover or you’ll get ripped off. If you push back a little bit, they’ll see that it’s not going to be easy to scam you.

Personally, I find it kind of entertaining to play dumb or act like an a-hole if someone is bugging me.

Don’t Be Overly Paranoid

When you read through the Reddit threads, you’ll see people commenting that they want to go to Egypt but they are afraid because of the negative experiences of others. Some even consider canceling their trip. Most of the posts on Reddit are exaggerated.

Don’t be overly paranoid about visiting Egypt. Yes, there are hassles but it’s not nearly as bad as it’s made out to be. Egypt is also a relatively safe country to visit. The government does a good job of keeping the tourist sites safe. There are dangerous regions but the tourist trail is very secure. You don’t have to worry too much about violent crime. Most crimes will be either petty crime like theft or scams.

Chances are, you will get scammed or ripped off at some point during your trip to Egypt. The good news is that Egypt is a cheap country. Even if you get scammed, you’re probably not going to lose that much money. Maybe you pay $30 for a camel ride that should cost $10. So what? You lost 20 bucks. 

If you get scammed once or twice and you lose a few dollars, it’s not that big of a deal. It’s not worth missing out on some of the world’s most incredible ruins and historical sites because you’re worried about some annoying salespeople bothering you. 

Also, remember that Egypt is a poor North African country. The country has experienced periods of civil unrest in the not-to-distant past. Culturally, it’s probably pretty different from your home country. Egypt is a Muslim country. There will be some hiccups and annoyances to deal with. It’s not a developed country. If you go in with an open mind, you will have a great trip.

Most Travelers I Met Love Egypt

I talked to quite a few other travelers at hostels and hotels I stayed at and while on day tours to the Valley of the Kings, Abu Simbel, etc. Most travelers I met were enjoying their time in Egypt. I met a few that were on their second or third trip.

Everyone agreed that the people can be intense. Nobody that I spoke to had any really negative experiences. I met solo travelers, couples, and even a few families. 

I only met one guy who really hated it. He skipped most of the temples and stayed in the hostel most of the time because he didn’t like going out and dealing with the people hassling him. He booked a ticket to Turkey to get out of there. 

Everyone I met who traveled to the Sinai Peninsula loved it. I met a guy who had spent several months there every year for the past 20 years. I met a girl who had been there 6 times over the past two years.

It’s understandable why people like it. It’s cheap, beautiful, exotic, and relatively close to Europe. If mainland Egypt is too intense, consider flying to the Sinai. It’s a lot more laid back and there are fewer scammers. I loved the Sinai as well. I would definitely go back.

Zac at the pyramids in Egypt

My Experience

In terms of scams and annoyances, Cairo was by far the worst. In central Cairo, I literally couldn’t walk one block without some annoying guy approaching me and trying to bring me into his shop. After I left Cairo, things weren’t as bad. 

When I first arrived in Cairo, a scammer approached me and lured me into his shop. When I saw that he was taking me to a souvenir shop, I walked away. The guy followed me for blocks. I was annoyed at myself that I would fall for that. At least I didn’t lose any money. 

On another occasion, I bought a couple of small souvenirs. I later found out that I overpaid. I paid about $10 for something that should have cost around $2. Not too bad. 

When I was going to the pyramids, I met a guy at the Giza metro station. He was a middle-aged guy with a kid who was about 6. The guy claimed that he was going to the pyramids with his son and asked me if I wanted to share a taxi. I agreed. 

After we got in the taxi, the guy started talking about how we were going to enter the complex through a back gate and ride horses to the pyramids “like the Egyptians”. At this point, I knew it was a scam. He was trying to scam me into buying an expensive horseback tour. The kid was just there to make him look more legit. I realized the kid was part of the scam when he fell asleep in the taxi on the ride to the pyramids. He wasn’t interested at all. 

The taxi driver dropped us off at the side gate, about two blocks from the main entrance. I told the guy that I wanted to walk and that I didn’t want to do a horseback tour.

He tried to tell me that I’d have to walk 6 kilometers through the desert to get to the pyramids. This was absurd because I could see the pyramids from where I was standing. They were like 200 meters away.  

I walked to the main gate, bought my ticket, and walked around the complex by myself. At least I got a cheap taxi ride out of the deal. 

After I left Cairo, I didn’t have any problems with scammers for the remainder of the trip. I was approached dozens of times by people trying to sell tours, camel rides, souvenirs, etc. but I just ignored them. 

If you’ve never traveled to a developing country before, I think Egypt could be a difficult place to travel. For experienced travelers, you’re an experienced traveler, you won’t see anything in Egypt that you haven’t seen before. If you’ve been to India before, you’ll find that it’s similar in terms of the kinds of scams and annoyances you’ll encounter.

If you’re inexperienced and you’re concerned about scams, consider booking a tour. It’s relatively affordable and it will make the trip a lot smoother and easier. I didn’t take the Nile cruise because I was traveling alone but they are very popular.

Did you enjoy traveling in Egypt? Would you go back? Share your experience and tips in the comments below to help other travelers.

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