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 the appropriate way to greet people in business meetings. Close friends of the same sex will sometimes greet with a kiss on each cheek, although a handshake is also typical. While it is inadvisable to drink or eat in public during Ramadan, both food and beverages are readily available.
Men are expected to wear formal business attire, such as a suit and tie, for meetings, while women should dress conservatively to avoid receiving excessive attention. In circumstances outside of the workplace, 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 places such as nightclubs, restaurants, hotels and bars, as well as at other tourist destinations.
Tipping & Value-Added Tax
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 widespread practice known as baksheesh. Value-added tax is 14%, and this percentage is only sometimes included in listed prices.
One Egyptian pound comprises 100 piastres. Bills are in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 pounds, and coins are 25, 50 or 100 piastres. The currency was floated in November 2016 and is subject to changes in value, so it is best to check the most recent exchange rates before departure.
Arabic is the official language of Egypt, and the Egyptian dialect is widely understood throughout the Middle East. People from more socio-economically advantaged segments of society often speak either English or French, and this tendency has been spreading. Newspapers, books and public information are published in Arabic, and increasingly in English.
Visas are available upon arrival for US and EU citizens, and are required. E-visas are also available for a number of countries and the most current list is available online. Visitors may purchase visas at the airport for $25 (often required in cash in a foreign currency) and they are valid for one month. They can then be extended for up to three months. However, visa regulations are subject to frequent changes, so it is best to check your embassy website before departing.
The work week runs from Sunday to Thursday. Most private companies are open from 9.00am to 5.00pm, while the public sector traditionally operates from 8.00am to 2.00pm, but sometimes later. Stores usually open at 10.00am and close at 11.00pm.
Visitors are recommended to have health insurance before arriving, as well as vaccines for hepatitis A and B, typhoid and yellow fever. It is advisable to drink bottled water and exercise caution when choosing a place to eat. Cairo’s international hospitals include Misr International Hospital, As Salam International Hospital and Dar Al Fouad Hospital.
There are four mobile operators: Orange, Vodafone, Etisalat Misr and Telecom Egypt. A SIM card costs around LE25 ($1.55).
The country’s electricity sockets are designed for 220-V (or 50-Hz), two-pin round plugs. Adaptors are needed for other plugs and these can be obtained at most hotels.
Cairo’s roads are often highly congested.
Taxis are cheap and abundant, and can be a practical way to move around the city. There are white cabs, which should offer metered fares. If the taxi does not have a meter, fares should be negotiated before setting off. Ride-hailing apps Uber and Careem are also readily available in Cairo and most other large urban centres. The most efficient way of travelling to southern Egypt, the Red Sea and the Sinai Peninsula is by air. Cairo is home to the first fully fledged metro system in Africa, with three operational lines and three more planned.
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