Egypt is a muslim country so you are likely to hear the call to prayer from a local mosque. During the day its not a big deal but I am grateful I was warned of it because if I had not known that I would be woken at 4.30am by this it would have freaked me out to hear mysterious chanting.
I'm normally a very good sleeper but I was woken up by the 4.30am call to prayer more often than not, I was able to get back to sleep afterwards though. I didn't really see this as a warning or danger kind of tip because I'm in their country so I have to deal with it, but people should be aware of local customs when visiting a foreign country.
Our hotel was an all inclusive hotel in a slightly more residential area. If you choose to stay in a more tourist area (such as Naama bay maybe?) then you may not be woken by the call to prayer. All in all though, in hindsight it kind of added to my experience rather than ruined it.
While in Sharm one might experience some cultural shock related to interaction with locals. From one side, you will have extremely polite and well-mannered staff at the hotel, who will keep their distance and give you space. As soon as you leave your hotel, you will encounter the complete opposite style – from persistently honking taxi drivers to obnoxious salesmen who will do all possible to trick you into a conversation, then into their shops; who will follow you and tire you with the same questions: ‘where you from?’ ‘what’s your name?’ ‘would you like to see my shop for just a minute?’ etc. “the special attention” will be given if you a woman and not accompanied by men. Be prepared for a lot of attention and questions from “are you married?” to “would you like to see my place?” though with all fairness, I have to admit that things became much civilized at the Naama Bay compared to my previous visits in 2005 and 2007 – now at least half of salespeople will leave you alone, the interaction style at the Old Market is the same. so going there, don’t forget to bring along all your patience and sense of humor.
the territories around and in the hotels are extremely green and well kept. it is amazing what man hands do to keep it booming and thriving in the middle of the desert. while staying in Hilton, I observed a man trimming palm trees.
Baksheesh is small change in Eygptian pounds. It is very handy for tipping. You can get baksheesh from banks in Naama Bay - i personally prefer 'HSBC'. I'd change out 100LE, this should get you through two weeks whilst in Egypt. But only tip if you think you've had good service, too many people expect it.
You will need it especially, if you go to public toilets, room maids, airports or dining out.
Being a Muslim country, 5 times a day they will be called for prayer, the call to prayer is heard at dawn, at the midday, about the middle of the afternoon, just after sunset, and at night fall about two hours after sunset. You will see Muslims stop what they are doing to pray on the streets, in the Airports, shops so be polite and respectful to not disturb or walk past being loud and ignorrant. It is common courtesy to respect another persons religion.
There is one word that sums up tipping in Egypt "Baksheesh"!!! Don't leave your hotel without some small change to leave as a tip. If you use porters, parking attendants, the doorman hails you a taxi, use a public toilet you will want to have some small bills as tipping is customary in Egypt.
Tipping is at your discretion but the Ultimate Sharm Guide (available for sale at various locations for around 40LE) suggests the following tips:
Parking Attendant LE1-2
Bathroom Attendans LE1-2
The minimum tip if given is at least 1LE. Anything below that is a bit of an insult.
Remember tipping tour guides is at your discretion but if you have a good tour guide it is worth it to give a small tip!
One of the common questions I see is what should ladies wear in Sharm el Sheikh? Honestly, from the times I have been in Sharm el Sheikh I've seen all kinds of clothing frombarely-there miniskirts and tube tops to full burka.
The local population is fairly conservative but after many years of catering to tourists, I think they have gotten used to the fact that not everyone is sensitive to their way of life. Women who do dress provacatively do naturally get called out...and not just by the local men. There are plently of tourists who will get randy when they see a good looking girl dressed up to go out...and even more so after a couple drinks.
Unlike Cairo, women do not need to worry about covering their arms and legs but I would recommend dressing more conservatively than miniskirts unless you want to call attention to yourself. Basically, if you don't want to be hassled by guys, dress conservatively with resort casual clothing, shorts, and t-shirts. I normally run around in shorts, t-shirt, and sandals and the guys never bother me when I'm walking around other than to get me to their stores (another topic all-together!)
Out on the beach and dive boats, bikinis are fine. Topless bathing is not recommended and it's not just the local guys that will stare/drool. Even my European friends were whispering behind their hands about girls on another boat who were sans-tops (just like high school!) But to be respectful to the local culture, ladies please keep your tops on!
Bargaining is an artform alive and well in Egypt. Rarely will you find prices marked on items in a store, besides perhaps the supermarket :) Some of the shopkeepers could win Oscars for the stellar performances they give in groaning, moaning, and playacting as you bargain with them.
Normally the first price given in a lot of shops is astronomical compared to the correct "real" price of the item. Keep in mind that the prices can be inflated 30-500% depending on the shopowner. However with that said, you don't have to unmercilessly haggle a poor shopkeeper down to a ridiculously low price. When you show interest in an item, you should already have an idea of what price you want to pay.
One thing that you should never do is haggle a shopkeeper down to a price that you offered and then walk away. Don't engage in bargaining unless you are really intending to purchase an item!
But if a shopkeeper won't come down to the price you want and know is fair, walk away. Most times as you are hitting the door, the shopkeeper will call you back and playacting again grudgingly agree to your price probably mumbling about how you are going to bankrupt him ;) If you don't get called back, take your business elsewhere where they are willing to give you a fair deal...but if you are again refused your price, maybe your idea of the worth of the item needs to be adjusted.
Bargaining is meant to be enjoyable so you should never get angry. Keep a smile on your face and remember, this is fun!
When i was in Egypt i asked what the legal age was to drink over there. All the locals told me that there was not really a set legal age, just as long as you were not a child you could get alcohol at restaurants, hotels, nightclubs and bars.
I never had a problem getting a drink anywhere but let me warn you that in the airport at Sharm El Sheikh i wanted to buy some Smirnoff Vodka and some Egyptian Beer to take home and i never realised but you have to be 21 Years old to buy it in there. I showed them my passport and at the time i was only 20 so they refused to sell it to me. So i just apoligised and said thanks anyway. I thought i would let you know as there were no signs to say Identification was needed or what the age was to buy it.
Make sure you have got plenty of change for when you go to Sharm, tips are expected everywhere in Sharm also known as "BAKSHEESH" in Arabic.
The rule is only give a tip if you feel the service has been good and they are nice. I had a nasty lady when i used the toilet at a restaurant, she was like "Money, ching, ching" and snatched 1 Egyptian pound off me so i could go to the toilet, she didnt even give me any toilet tissue where as most public toilets expect a tip but they do at least give you a little bit of toilet paper! Another tip is take your own packets of tissue and hand sanitiser because some public toilets are unbelievable.
I always take plenty of Egyptian pound notes to tip waiters, room maids and those guys at the airport that grab your suitcases.
Although English, French, Spanish and German is widely spoken in Egypt it is still beneficial to learn some of the language. The language in Egypt is Arabic. I have got a couple of books on Egypt which have helped me with the pronunciation of the words... as they can be abit of a mouthful. I have got the Lonely Planet guide to Egypt & also the Eyewitness guide to Egypt. Both books have been fantastic.
Hello= As-salama alaykum
Hello (to respond)= Wa alaykum salam
Goodbye (person leaving)= Ma' al salama
Goodbye (person responding)= Alla salkmak (to a man), Alla ysalmich (to a lady), Alla ysalimkum (to a group of people)
Good morning= Sabah al-kheir
Good afternoon/evening= Masa' al-kheir
Good afternoon/evening (to respond)= Masa' an-nur
Goodnight= Tisbah ala'kheir (to a man), Tisbihin ala-kheir (to a lady)
Pleased to meet you= Fursa sa' ida
Please= Min fadlik (to a man) Min fadlich (to a lady)
How are you?= Kef Halak?
And one of my favourite Arabic words is "No Problem" which is "Mish Mushkila"
Everything in Egypt is Mish Mushkila even the language.... Its very easy to learn once you've learnt a few basic words.
Most people speak english in Sharm El Sheikh, you'd be suprised how quickly they can tell your english and speak the language if they want to sell you something.
However, not everyone speaks fluently and i think it is only fair that you get the grasp of some basic Arabic, especially 'La Shukran' which means 'No thank you'.
I purchased a book before i went to Egypt and it very easy to learn and has sections of what you might need to know when you are; ie general requirements, shopping, eating out etc. It is very colourful easy to read and translates English to Arabic and how to pronounce them.
The book is made by 'Berlitz' and i purchased it from Borders for £4.99
Definately worth it, especially if your planning to go to Cairo or Luxor where some people don't speak very good English.
One thing you must try is the Shisha Pipe or a Hookah as its traditionally known. Its a strange sensation because as you smoke it instead of getting a harsh taste like you would a cigarette you get ... a fruity taste!! when we were over there they had a dedicated Shisha man in our hotel happy to bring you one. they cost 12LE which works out about £1.20.
For you non smokers out there dont worry its a very smooth experience and one that made me buy one for myself & bring it home!! there was no worry with customs. these things over there are in everyshop!!
For a real traditional experience sit on the little cushions in the evening over looking the sunset
For many hotels, services and purchases you will find US dollars or Euros are preferred to the Egyptian pound.
Egyptian currency is easily obtained from ATMs and the rate is often better than purchasing them in UK before you travel.
Please dont be offended when the shop keepers pester you to look in there shops, this is just how they do business.
They will pay you compliments saying how lucky and how beautiful you are, and of course ask how many camels for your girlfriend/wife.
When walking round the shops they will all come out asking for a couple of minutes of your time or offer you a small gift to lure you into the shop, after a few days it becomes a bit annoying and i heard of a few people telling them to **** off, there is no need for this at all, this is how they do business. If you are not intrested just say no thank you and walk away.
Don't be another arogant tourist, enjoy your holiday and the culture that goes with it, show some respect towards the locals this is there country.