The Egyptian Traveler's Survival Kit
Egypt is a sophisticated and modern country, and most anything that you need may be purchased in Egypt. But providing that you do not wish to purchase such things as shoes in Egypt, and that other items may be difficult to find, or very expensive, we have compiled a checklist of some of the more important items you may wish to carry with you. This list may seem rudimentary for the seasoned traveler, but for many making a first time trip to Egypt, it may prevent problems.
Contending with Sun and Heat
Hats and other covering:
Large brimmed hats that provide not only a head covering but also a certain amount of shade will come in very handy in the hot Egyptian sun. In addition, women will be more acceptable when touring old churches and mosques if they are wearing some sort of head covering. In addition, scarves or other apparel should be taken along to cover shoulders and arms, and again, or not only important for visiting religious sites, but also to keep the sun off during treks. In very hot weather, a cloth hat or scarf that can be soaked will also help keep your head cool.
"Squeeze Breeze": this is a water bottle with a sprayer and a battery-operated fan attached, which is available in such stores as Wal-Mart in the US. This item literally kept our Senior Editor, Mary Kay Radnich, from hitting the deck in the 104F heat on the West Bank, late one morning. If you can find something like this among the beach toys this summer, pick it up.
While sun blocks may be purchased in Egypt, you might prefer to bring your own favorite brand, but do bring it. We have often, and I wish to emphasis, very often, seen tourists with painful sunburns after a days worth of sightseeing. Sunglasses: Another item that may be purchased in Egypt are sunglasses, but again, many people will prefer to bring their own. There will be many times that tourists find themselves in a blaring, sand and desert landscape and there is nothing better than a good pair of sunglasses, with the highest UV rating you can find
Canteen or water holder:
Staying hydrated will mean the difference between a comfortable tour and one that might end with trouble. Most people quickly learn to carry a water bottle with them, and bottled water is easily accessible. However, lugging around a water bottle in your hand can be tiresome. It is much better to bring along either a canteen, or some other utensil that will allow you to carry the water bottle on your waist or around your shoulder. Fanny packs or backpacks with holders for water bottles, and for women, even a shoulder bag type of purse will make this more convenient.
Very good, comfortable walking shoes:
This is probably one of the first things most people will tell you to bring to Egypt. Most tourists will be doing a considerable amount of walking, and shoes should not be just comfortable, but comfortable to walk long distances. Unlike leather shoes for mountain walks and such, it is also preferable for walking shoes to be breathable and perhaps made of a lightweight nylon or similar fabric. "Tennis shoes" or other sporting type of shoes are good for this. Also, keep in mind that there are a lot of steps in Egypt.
Power Adapters come in two different varieties. Some electronic equipment have switches to allow you to change the power input type. For these, a simple wall adapter is all that is required. However, other electronic devices do not have such switches and in this case, you not only need a wall adapter, but also a power converter. Egypt uses 220 volt and plugs are two prong rounded.
Of course, bring your prescription medicine. It will usually be available in Egyptian drug stores, but it may be called a different name. There is no problem with bringing prescription medication into Egypt. However, it is also more convenient to bring your favorite non-prescription medications along. Though you may find such medication in Egypt, such as heart burn medication and pain capsules, you may have problems finding your favorite brands. In addition, many tourists who are a part of an organized tour will be staying in large hotels, which may lack a complete inventory of such medication, and trekking out to find a variety of over the counter medications may be inconvenient. Dont forget your Imodium. While no one wants to get Tuts Trot or Mummys Tummy, it may be handy to have some Imodium or other anti-diarrheic with you. The most common bottled water brand, Baraka, contains a little magnesium and therefore may act as a mild laxative. Another brand to try is Siwa bottled water.
Most people are not going to forget to bring their cameras on an Egyptian tour. However, a couple of things should be pointed out. First, while you may take pictures as you like from the outside of most monuments, many require that you do not use a flash when taking pictures inside. If you intend to take pictures inside tombs, for example, you will need to bring high-speed film. Most people use ASA 800 film, which they push to 1600. For the most part, this requires a good 35 mm SLR camera. In addition, monuments in Egypt are truly monumental, and tourists will often be disappointed with regular lenses. If possible, a good wide-angle lens will be nice to bring along. A video camera will also provide you with nice souvenir footage of your trip, however, keep in mind that filming inside many of the museums, monuments and tombs is prohibited.
Sure, most hotels will give you a wakeup call, but for many, don't count on it. A travel alarm is perhaps less important on an organized tour, as you will have people taking care of you. But particularly for the independent traveler, a travel alarm will come in very handy. It will help make sure that you wake up when you wish in Egypt. But I have often used mine to make sure that I could grab some sleep in airports along the way, and still catch my flight.
Do invest in an Egyptian Guide book, such as the "Lonely Planet" or "Rough Guide" or any number of other good guides. While you may be on a guided tour, such a book will give you time to orient yourself both before and after the actual tours to various locations. In addition, foreign printed guidebooks may be somewhat more expensive in Egypt, even though they are available. You may also wish to look around once in Egypt for other guidebooks.
An Extra Bag:
A bag, preferably soft, which can be crunched up and carried into Egypt in another bag will be handy for most people. The bag will then be used to carry back souvenirs. Alternatively, many business people or guests of Egyptians often bring presents into Egypt, and once emptied, the bag is used to bring souvenirs back. Again, bags may be easily purchased in Egypt, but are likely to be less expensive if you buy it at home and bring it to Egypt.
Some of the larger hotels, as well as some of the better-equipped smaller hotels (the Longchamps) may supply a sewing kit in your room. But don't count on this. Most Egyptian tours are relatively long, and it is not unusual to loose a button here or there climbing through tombs and pyramids.
There are good suitable beers and wines in Egypt that are highly affordable, and it is not necessary to bring in such items unless you have a very acute taste for a particular brand. In fact, I consider Egyptian beer excellent, and wish that I could buy it in the states. However, harder alcoholic beverages such as whiskies and bourbons are maybe extremely difficult to find, and extremely expensive when you do. You may bring in up to two litters of liquor, and you may buy additional liquor at a reasonable price at the tax-free shop prior to leaving the airport. To give you an indication of why you should do this, it is not uncommon to pay as much or more than $13.00 for a single shot of Jack Daniels, a well-known US bourbon.
Egyptians smoke, and cigarettes are not expensive in Egypt. However, you will find only a limited variety of cigarettes for the most part. For example, Marlboro Lights are readily available, but not 100s. In fact, not very many "long" cigarettes are. Further, while you can purchase "American" cigarettes for a price in some of the better hotels, usually you are getting an Egyptian manufactured cigarette that is somewhat harsher then the "American" variety. Just because you are buying Marlboro does not make it the same Marlboro that you would by in the US, for example.
Finally, bring along a humor and a good attitude. For many, and even those who have done extensive traveling in the US or Europe, Egypt will be very different. You will often find attitudes more "laid back", time less important and even some of the Egyptians selling their wares or their services at tourism sites annoying. Egypt is a place where you learn to let the smaller problems you might encounter roll off your shoulders, and simply enjoy this, the oldest of all civilizations.
Karen Phillips' Purse (From a discussion on our Message system) Karen Phillips is a travel consultant living in Egypt and, while most all of these items can be found in Egypt, she maintains that she carries, and regularly uses the following useful items:
Hand sanitizer gel
Small screwdriver & screws for fixing sunglasses
Map of Cairo
Last Updated: July 26th, 2011