It is integral to Egyptian culture to be courteous to foreigners. A conversation, whether business-related or not, is usually accompanied by coffee, tea or juice. Social rules dictate what is appropriate for greeting people in business meetings. Close same-sex friends will sometimes greet with a kiss on each cheek, although a handshake will do. It is advisable not to drink or eat in public during Ramadan, although both food and beverages are easily found.
Men are expected to wear formal business attire for meetings, generally a suit and tie, while women should dress conservatively to avoid receiving excessive attention. In circumstances outside of the work environment, modest clothing applies. When visiting mosques or churches, women must cover their shoulders and wear shorts or skirts below the knee. It is acceptable, however, to wear more Western-style clothing at nightclubs, restaurants, hotels and bars, as well as in other tourist destinations.
Visitors are recommended to have health insurance, as well as vaccines for hepatitis A and B, typhoid and yellow fever. Drinking bottled water and taking precaution when choosing a place to eat are advisable. Some of Cairo’s international hospitals include Misr International Hospital, As Salam International Hospital and Dar Al Fouad Hospital.
Visas upon arrival are required for EU and US citizens. Visitors are able to purchase them at the airport for a fee of $25 and they are valid for a period of one month. However, they can be extended by three month intervals thereafter. Visitors from other countries should enquire at their local Egyptian embassy about travel requirements, as it may be necessary to obtain a visa prior to departure. That said, visa regulations frequently change so it is best to check the website of your embassy before departing.
There are currently three mobile operators: Mobinil, Vodafone and Etisalat Misr. A SIM card costs around LE25 ($3.5).
Arabic is the official language. The Egyptian dialect is understood across the Middle East. However, English is widely spoken in the business community. Furthermore, the upper segments of society have traditionally spoken either English or French. Newspapers, books and public information are published in Arabic, and increasingly, in English.
One Egyptian pound (LE) is composed of 100 piastres (PT). There are 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 pound bills and 25, 50 and 100 piastre coins. The official exchange rate has seen considerable changes of late, so it is best to check for the most recent numbers directly before departure.
Electricity sockets are designed for 220-V/50-Hz, two-pin round plugs. Adapters are needed for other plugs, although these can generally be obtained at most hotels.
A special service tax of 12% will be added to the bill by bars and restaurants, but patrons are expected to tip waiters on top of that. Most travellers will face requests for additional cash for a variety of services, a practice known as baksheesh that is widespread across the country.
The working week runs from Sunday to Thursday. Most private companies will run from 9am to 5pm, while the public sector traditionally operates from 8am to 2pm, but sometimes later. Stores generally open at 10am and close at 11pm.
Cairo’s roads are typically highly congested. Taxis are cheap and abundant, and can be a practical way to move around the city. There are yellow and white cabs, the latter being more modern and offering metered fares. If the taxi does not include a meter, fares must be negotiated before setting off. The most efficient way of travelling to southern Egypt, the Red Sea and the Sinai Peninsula is by air. Cairo has the first full-fledged metro system in Africa, with three operational lines. The third line is currently under expansion, with a fourth line planned.
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