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11 Rookie Mistakes Foreigners Make in Egypt

A majority of foreigners who come to Egypt are tourists lured by the excitement of visiting an ancient magical land. However, what they find when they arrive is not necessarily what they expected...

Drinking the Tap Water

The government will tell you its fine to drink the tap water. Even the Lonely Planet travel guide suggests that is safe, however if Egyptians can afford it, they will tell you it is not worth the risk.

Forgetting to Extend Your Tourist Visa

Remember how convenient it was when you arrived and found them selling visa at the Cairo airport? Although convenient the visa only lasts a month, so if you are planning on staying longer than you need to get an extension. If you go to the mogamma3 you can extend it to six-months for just over 50 EGP. If that is the plan, we recommend taking someone with you as mogamma3 can be your worst nightmare if you can’t speak any Arabic. Worst case scenario, they will flag you at the airport, but relax, customs will direct you to an office filled with officers, who will stamp your visa for a fee of about 150EGP.

Overpaying for Everything

This is true for tourist all around the world. If someone thinks you aren’t from around these parts they may try to squeeze as much out of you. To avoid this, ask Egyptians what is a fair price, but remember you are guest here and chances are your skin colour will come as a tax you can’t avoid but can totally afford.

Trusting a Police Officer

Photo By Ellis van der Hoeven

You should be able to trust an officer, but often the language gap is too vast and if an officer perceives you as a threat then chances are they won’t ask questions and will let the ‘system’ figure it out. Recently three youths were arrested speaking English on a metro. It wasn’t that they were speaking English, but rather they were overheard saying something about January 25th. Fearing foreign intervention into internal matters, avoid using words like bomb, kill, June 30th , Brotherhood, revolution, and January 25th . To be safe just avoid talking about politics in public.

Thinking that Egypt is only a desert

Yes, it is true a majority is, but Cairo is not. We now have malls that seem to spread as vast as some of our deserts. We also have an Ikea; how many deserts do you know have an Ikea? Enough Said.

Street food is safe

Photo by Abanoub Ramsis

Although street food can be delicious it requires strong Egyptian stomach to handle it. Obviously everyone is different, so if you choose to go with the street food prepare to meet your new best friend, Antinal. The safest way to engage in street eats is to jump on the ‘balady chic’ trend. Made of classic cultural dishes the only difference you will notice is that it will cost more but you will end up saving on time spent in the bathroom.

Hooking up with Egyptians too quickly

From the moment you land, there will be plenty of men looking for your hand in marriage. Part of it is the fact that sex before marriage is frowned upon, and chances of getting laid by foreigners seems more probably especially since all the porn they watch is often not made in Egypt. At the same time some men are just looking for a way out of the country, so make sure they are looking for love and not a visa. As for women looking for someone exotic to hook up with, we advise you to take your time. Egypt’s population is massive so take the time to find the right guy.

Fakkar is not what you think

Some words can come off sounding like swears when in Arabic they mean something different. If you hear someone say 'fuck her' they are asking you to think not fuck.

Thinking that 5 minutes is actually 5 minutes

When Egyptians tell you that they will be there in five minutes, they ultimately mean to say they will be there sometime today. Whether that ends up being 10 minutes, an hour, or 10 hours is anyone’s guess. Why does this happen? Part of the problem is traffic and the other part of it is laziness.

Running Across the Street

Video From Funnyordie.com

With crosswalks almost non-existent, the streets of Cairo may seem like a nightmare to cross. The only advice we can give is to keep a steady pace and to attempt to make eye contact with on-coming vehicle as you cross the street at a leisurely pace. Run and you can find yourself causing a massive pile-up or worse... dead.

Taxi Etiquette

If you are a girl, sit in the backseat. But if you are a guy, then it is expected that you sit in the front seat, even if it is empty. If you really want to get on their good side offer a cigarette. 


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