Things to remember in Egypt
Things to remember in Egypt Hurghada Reviews
Aug 03, 2007
Money - the Egyptian currency is the Egyptian Pound, and is written as LE. 100 plastres equals 1LE. At the moment ten Egyptian pounds is around the equivalent of 90 pence. Egyptian currency is notes only, and the notes can be very old and notoriously dirty - it is recommended that you take some disinfectant gel with you and clean your hands after handling money (it may seem a bit over-the-top, but it really is that bad). The notes are also quite badly designed, which can leave you open to a bit of trickery - the 50 plastre note (about 5p) looks very similar to the 50 pound note (about £5) and some people will exploit the tourists confusion by swapping notes over and saying that they've been given the wrong amount. Take extra time to check the money before you hand it over and check your change.
Taxis - in Hurghada recent laws meant that taxi drivers had to buy brand new cars to replace the dangerous old ones (so much money has been spent by the drivers that many have covered the seats in plastic film to protect from dirt). Elsewhere in Egypt the laws remain the same, so pick your cab carefully! To avoid overcharging, ask the driver how much the trip will cost before getting in the cab. See above for information about how notes get swapped around to exploit tourists - taxi drivers are especially known for this practice because of the cramped space and reduced light so get your money ready well in advance.
Security and Police - there are a suprising number of police officers in Hurghada and the big cities, and the system is split into different forces. The police that visitors need to keep in mind is the Tourism Police, who are specially trained to make sure that tourists are safe. Although having all these police around can seem intimidating, it is also reassuring in a country where there have been high-profile attacks on visitors in the past. Coach trips are planned in a way that tracks tourist buses across the highways (there are lots of checkpoints across the country) and often has large amounts of coaches travelling in convoys. The high number of police in Hurghada means that you're not really at risk from being robbed, but it's best not to take out more than you need because retrieving lost items is pretty much impossible as there's no proper procedure for it.
Regulated Businesses - there are a lot of services around Hurghada that if in Britain would require regulations and inspections, but there don't seem to be any regulations of that sort in Egypt. Dive centres have PADI logos on their shop windows, but you should check that they actually do qualify to do diving tours. Trip shops often boast about their cheap prices compared to services provided by tour operators, but you need to remember that you get what you pay for and there's no such thing as 'cheap and cheerful'! Every aspect of a trip should be checked with the tour planners, because you don't want to be put at risk by being provided with transport that's unsafe for tourists because it doesn't comply with security standards.
Food and Drink - Egypt is a primarily Muslim country, so pork is not available pretty much anywhere. Some establishments don't sell alcoholic beverages. In some areas the water from taps is safe to drink, but not very nice because of the heavy treatment so you'd be better off getting bottled water (which is cheap and readily available).
Health - In Hurghada a new hospital has just been built, but locals say it's just pretty on the outside and still has pretty bad treatment. Ambulances don't have paramedics on board and carry only basic equipment - if you need to get to a hospital you'd be better off in a taxi.
Local Sensibilities - Muslim dress codes are adopted by most local women, and hotels often remind female guests to respect the beliefs by covering up a bit when outside the complexes. However you're still pestered by the occasional group of local males if you're out in your holiday eveningwear. Some people believe that a woman walking around on her own makes her as low as a prostitute, so try to stick in groups to avoid trouble.
Shopping - Hurghada has way too many small shops for the amount of tourists that actually go there, so competition between them is fierce. Walking along the main road will result in constant pestering from shop owners, some of whom can be rude or overly intrusive. The best thing to do is avoid eye contact, don't get into the conversations they try to start with you ("where are you from?" etc) and just say no thank you whilst keeping moving. This does cause a big problem if you just want a browse, because a glance at a shop pretty much results in you being put under unpleasant amounts of pressure to buy things. Most of the shops sell cheap tourist rubbish and fake designer clothing/handbags - some stuff's ok, but unfortunately you have to browse to get the best items and that means going round all the shops! Most shops aren't fixed price and will barter for business.
Traffic - the Hurghada Village Road area has a wide, quiet one way street which is easy to cross and well lit. Go elsewhere and you will experience the true horror of the Egyptian roads - drivers licences are bought, not tested for, so drivers go at mad speeds and cut each other up. I spent a whole taxi journey with my eyes closed out of fear! Crossing roads in urban areas can be very dangerous, so take care.
Part of the Egypt 2007 travel blog
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