Cairo - advice for a lone female traveller

Mar 10th, 2005, 04:24 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 2
Cairo - advice for a lone female traveller

Hi all,

I wonder if you could give me some advice for my next mini adventure - an 8- day trip to Cairo starting sun 13th March 05! i am well travelled but this is my first trip to africa and my first and hopefully not last - trip alone! Does anyone have any handy tips on general costs of taxi etc or even whether its best if i take Egyptian Pound, american Dollars ( i don't do credit cards) or a bit of both? I'm from London and i'm 28 years old. I'm also half african so my skin tone might help me blend in a little - not that it should be this way but i won't stand out so much? Thanks all!
LouisaB is offline  
Mar 10th, 2005, 05:19 AM
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Louisa -
You can get some Egyptian Pounds on arrival at the airport at the exchange window, or an ATM. Rates are the same regardless where you obtain, as these are set by the government. These bills will be old and dirty, some torn and taped... but try to then exchange what you get into small denominations... good for tips and small purchases. Otherwise, USD, also in small denominations work well. How much in total to have available for spending, I cannot say, especially since you don't have credit cards as a backup. But if your hotel has been paid for, have at least $500 available for withdrawal of EP from ATMs, and another $500 in USD with you.

Relatively, what you wish to do/see in Cairo is inexpensive (compared to London, NYC, etc)... entrance fees, meals, taxis. You can arrange for a tour guide/driver thru your hotel, but set the rate before you depart, on any given day or for a number of days, so there are no disagreements when it comes time to pay.

You should have an idea of where you want to go, places to visit, and with a good current guidebook, what things cost, so your guide stays honest. In all likelihood, your guide will want to take you to a "cousin/uncle/brother" who has a shop to sell you something. This can be a ruse to get you to buy something you don't want, but it can also be an adventure... getting to meet locals, being invited for tea, even a meal - so don't discount, unless you are uneasy. Street crime is very unusual here, and should young men stop you on the street... it's more to chat and test their English language with you.

Be conservative in your dress... slacks/skirt with a shirt that has sleeves (no abbreviated clothing). Have a scarf for your head for entry into mosques. Out at the Pyramids, Sphinx, other desert areas, you can go with long (to knee) walking shorts. Cairo weather will be mild, evenings cool, so do have a jacket/sweater/shawl and definitely a good pair of shoes as streets can be uneven.

Below is a link for an ex-pat American - Debbie - who runs a tour operation in Cairo. You might want to contact her before departing, for suggestions and ideas for your time in Cairo.

You'll find Egypt a fascinating country with warm, welcoming and friendly people. I'm sure you'll want to return here and even consider other African destinations in the future.

Happy travels.
Mar 10th, 2005, 07:52 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 2
Wow! Thank you so much, i didnt expect such a full response! I will take what you say into consideration; making sure i book a guide ( something i hadnt thought of) beforehand. I am booked in for the first to nights to a good hotel so hopefully they will help me from there but i will definately take a look at your friends site...Thanks for your advice, its uplifting to know that there are still some people who care enough to give time like you did!
LouisaB is offline  
Mar 10th, 2005, 09:47 AM
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 867
Do learn a few words in egyptian arabic -- please, thank you, hello, etc. Although many Egyptians speak English, they'll be very pleased that you have taken the time to learn a little Arabic.

The bathrooms have attendants who give you toilet paper. It's expected that you tip them. I brought US one dollar bills for that in Cairo. British pound notes are overtipping. I'm sure you know this, but don't use coins. The Egptians can't exchange them at the bank.

It's my impression that British Pounds Sterling are just as acceptable as US Dollars. Since you don't have a credit card, you should bring travelers checks for emergencies. The big hotels all have banks that will change them.

Re: taxi fares. I took one of the black taxis that you hail on the street from a friend's house in Heliopolis where the airport is) to downtown for 20 Egyptian pounds. The friend was a rose cheeked Brit who spoke some Arabic, so we paid ex-pat fares, I would imagine.

Finally, if you feel uncomfortable, find local families or women or the Tourist Police. They will be glad to take you under their wing if, for example, there are drunken Saudis at the elevator bank.

Have fun!
sunshine007 is offline  
Mar 10th, 2005, 03:52 PM
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sunshine - A USD$1 tip for toilet paper. Very generous of you. Even 1EP is overpaying for toilet paper. Granted baksheesh (tipping) is a way of life in Egypt, many tourists overtip and then this becomes expected.

Louisa, you should bring packets of tissues for this purpose.
Mar 10th, 2005, 05:24 PM
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 867
I know it's very generous, but I figure I'd pay $100 US if the ladies weren't there.

Seriousy, it was so difficult keeping small egyptian bills that it was easier to give them the US dollars. And only in Cairo.

sunshine007 is offline  
Mar 10th, 2005, 09:22 PM
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 7
Dear Louisa,
I recently came back from a 2 week trip to Egypt, part of the time was with friends and part of the time alone. It was a great experience; the history and culture of Cairo are very interesting. I would caution you that, as a single female traveller, you might encounter a lot of harrassment from men. When I was by myself, it would occur several times a day; comments could range from the usual cheesy lines to invitations for dates to one waiter who asked me if I wanted to have sex with him.
I dressed conservatively, wearing pants and T shirts that covered my shoulders, but that did not prevent the weird remarks. Part of the reason for this may be that foreign women have a reputation for coming to Egypt and hooking up with random men, so they may assume that because you travelled alone, you are looking for sex. The comments came primarily from people who have a lot contact with tourists (waiters, shop owners).
Despite this, I enjoyed most of my trip to Egypt and do not regret it. It would have been nice, though, to be mentally prepared for this level of harrassment. Had I known this before, I would have been more cautious about things like who I asked for directions, etc. It's an interesting country, with lots of friendly people, but women are viewed differently there than they are in Europe or America. Have a great time, but just be careful about yourself.
mtschoe is offline  
Mar 11th, 2005, 03:27 PM
Join Date: Sep 2003
Posts: 59
This isn't help for Louisa, but I was reading what you all wrote and I have a question also of safety for women....My 12 year old daughter and I want to go to Egypt. Safe for cute, blonde 12 year old girls also?
treebw is offline  
Mar 12th, 2005, 05:14 AM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 669
treebw - what exactly are you implying?

Does anyone else find this question offensive?
alice13 is offline  
Mar 12th, 2005, 05:36 AM
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I don't find the message offensive, nor that the mom is implying anything. Just wonder whether treebw would allow a 12-year old out on the street alone anywhere. I hope not, especially in a strange country, even a new neighborhood in the country/city where she lives.

Your daughter is safe as long as she is with you - touring, shopping, eating, Nile cruise, temples, etc. And modest clothing applies to her as for an adult. She can keep her swimsuit and shorts for the pool at your hotel, and while on the cruise. Otherwise, pants/skirts and no halter or backless tops while on Cairo streets; Luxor or Aswan town streets.

Sure her blond hair will be noticed, but if she feels unconfortable she can put it up under a cap/hat - a good idea for everyone as the sun is brutal. Otherwise, she and you should enjoy your time in this fascinating country.
Mar 12th, 2005, 01:22 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 22,071
We went as a family to Egypt 4 years ago - and our family included an 11 year old very blond, blue-eyed girl. Although we went as a tour, I did some exploring on my own and also with her.

To my observation (and substantiated by thing I read), the issue is not one of safety as such but harrassment. It is all a lot of talk, much of it in Arabic and probaby better not understood. But I never felt unsafe, never felt like anyone would make physical advances towards us. Regular US-style street crime is rare in Egypt - so you may get comments, we could have sold our daughters for a herd of camels, and one waiter kept bringing her little treats from the kitchen - but it is at worst annoying and with the right attitude an amusing memory of Egypt.
gail is offline  
Mar 13th, 2005, 11:39 AM
Join Date: Sep 2003
Posts: 59
Thanks for the info. I did not mean to sound offensive, I've just had a lot of people tell me it wouldn't be safe to take her. I like the idea of taking her while she's still young enough to be excited to go with me anywhere! I can't wait to plan our trip!
treebw is offline  
Apr 26th, 2005, 08:11 PM
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 4
I was in Cairo in March 2005 with my 13-year-old daughter and we experienced some unexpected harrassment. We stayed with a local family in Giza. I was quite surprised by the unwanted attention but we never felt afraid or concerned that anyone would harm us - although a teenage boy did walk right up to us to within a few inches when we went out on a walk on our own. At the zoo in Giza, a group of teenage boys refused to stop trying to get into our photos. Our female host asked them to stop, but they refused. She had to get one of the zoo keepers to walk with us until her husband arrived. When we told him what happened, he was quite apologetic, but hardly surprised.
lenaohlena is offline  
Apr 29th, 2005, 11:17 PM
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 274
About 50% of Egyptian women don't cover, and they are flirted with, and harassed just as much as foreign women are! it's just an Egyptian thing!

I actually think of it as a slightly more aggressive version of typical Italian flirtation !

That's a known fact about Egyptian men in general, even within the middle east itself!

But If you go to an Arab city like Dubai, where locals only make up 19% of the population, no one would careless about you being blond! and you would never get harassed in any way!

Dubai is the future, but it's certainly not the country with 3000 years of history!

And for the single woman who was asked for sex, this could happen in some rare cases, but it's due to the fact that there are so many eastern European and Israeli prostitutes in Egypt, that some young Egyptian men might not be able to tell the difference between a respectable tourist, and someone on the job! it's usually just an honest immoral mistake, but it very rarely heppenes.

Egypt is amazing, happy travels!
mnss is offline  
May 17th, 2005, 01:38 AM
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 75
I just came back from Egypt on my honeymoon, and as a young, (am told attractive) woman with naturally red hair, I attracted a lot of attention when I went out alone. Generally it was respectful, because I dressed respectfully. When my husband was with me, there was less attention aimed directly at me, but more offers to my husband to buy me... the highest bid was 150 camels!

Egyptian code of morals, if you want to be treated respectfully, cover your shoulders at all times, with medium-to long sleeved shirts and cover your legs with pants or ankle length skirts. If you bare those parts of your body, you are dressed as a prostitute and you will be treated that way. I always dressed respectfully and was never approached in an indecent way. That's really the main peice of advice I'd give to a female traveller.
townclose is offline  

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