When clearing customs on our arrival to Egypt, I feel like, unbeknownst to me, someone stuck a sign on me that said “Do your best to take advantage of me”. Here are just some plain annoying things and scams in Egypt you might come across.
I have never been anywhere else (Egypt was my 31st country) where I felt like almost every person with whom I interacted was trying to take advantage of me. I didn’t feel physically threatened, just that people were viewing me like their personal ATM.
In the touristy areas there are signs for the public bathrooms. It’s pretty obvious. Yet there always were people outside pointing you to the door…with their hand out. Sometimes they would follow me in and wait while I stood at the urinal. Then they would point to the sink…like I couldn’t find the sink on my own. You just want them to leave you alone, but after all this they are holding their hand out asking for a tip.
Camels and Horses
At Giza be prepared to be hassled by people trying get you to ride their camel or horse. It’s pretty constant and they can be very persistent, and many will tell you that you are required to visit the Giza Plateau on an official camel or horse.
And no, it is not a requirement to tour the Giza Plateau on a camel or horse. You are perfectly free to walk around on your own.
Count your change
Two of us wanted to go to the Luxor Temple. Tickets are 140 Egyptian pounds; 280 for two people. We handed the guy at the official ticket window two 200 pound notes. We were handed back two notes, one of them a 20 on top. We assumed the one below was a 100 pound note however we noticed that the other note was a 10. I am highly doubtful it was an honest mistake. Count your change immediately any time you get it.
Someone will strike up a conversation with you. Eventually they ask where you are from. By this time you want them to leave you alone, but you try to be polite so answer.
“I love America” and then they offer you a free gift because they love America so much. Their cousin coincidentally lives in the same city you do. You politely decline. But they persist, eventually trying to stick their gift in your pocket or something. If you start to walk away, they make you feel like a criminal telling you they have a family to feed. Sometimes I just had to drop it on the ground and walk away.
You are walking through a temple when you here “Come” and a guy points you to a spot on a statue that has been rubbed many times and says “Good luck” while making a rubbing motion.
If you do touch it, he says, “I give you luck. You tip me.”
I didn’t fall for this as I feel it is wrong to be defacing relics; however I did see it happen to someone near me.
This is pretty much the same as the previous one, except this time the person points out a picture spot (nothing you can’t see on your own, of course). If you take a picture, they bother you for a tip.
Here is an example. We were at what they call The Panorama.
A girl was trying to take a picture and a guy came up to her pointing to the pyramids and telling her things about taking a picture. She was definitely trying to avoid him, but he persisted. I stopped paying attention to take my own pictures. Then off to the side I hear someone yell “I help you; you pay me money!” and I see it is the same guy still hassling that same girl.
Illegal to tour without a guide?
NO! It is not illegal to tour the Giza complex without a guide. Don’t be fooled.
And don’t give someone claiming to be a government employee your entrance ticket. You may not get it back.
If you plan to walk along the Luxor waterfront, be prepared for the constant hassle. Someone will walk with you for a long time, for example telling you they will drive you so you don’t have to walk. They will be persistent.
A few times, someone approached us saying something like, “Hey remember me? I work in the kitchen at your hotel” (of course they couldn’t tell you which hotel that was). Finally they will give up, and as soon as they do, someone else will come up to you and walk with you longer than you want. It’s not really a scam, just super annoying.
At the Giza entrance, I handed the guy a 200 pound note (admission is 160). The guy said he didn’t have any change (at a major tourist attraction I find it hard to believe they don’t keep any change); I felt like he was hoping I would just pay the 200 and not take any change. Fortunately I did have the correct change and paid the 160.
Try to keep as many small bills on you as possible so you can pay exact change any chance you get.
Papyrus, Perfume, and Pottery
If you are on a tour, or even just with a driver, be careful of these free tours. On our Giza tour, we were told we would get a bonus free tour of a papyrus factory. We got about a one minute demonstration and then a hard sell on buying overpriced papyrus artwork. When he invited us into the back room to see a special papyrus, we got out of there as fast as we could.
When we pulled into the perfume and pottery places for another free tour, we told them to keep driving and refused to get out of the car.
You see a security guard with an uzi and feel somewhat safe knowing he is watching the temple. That is until he sees you go alone into a secluded part of the temple. He follows you, corners you and then asks you for money. Do you give him money since he is holding the uzi? I just put my head down and quickly pushed past him.
After the first time, I was always aware where the security guards were and made sure I didn’t go anywhere myself when they were near.
At the Luxor airport, I went out to the taxi stand and saw a big sign saying 60 pounds to the city center. As I went to get in, the driver said 120 pounds. I pointed at the sign and said “60 pounds”. He said, “Old sign. 120 pounds.” I didn’t believe him – if it was an old sign take it down or put tape over it and write the new price. However, we had no other way to the city center, so we had to go with it.
The next day I negotiated a price with a driver – 300 pounds. I told him where I wanted to go – Valley of the Kings, Hatshepsut Temple and drop us at Karnak. He replied, “wherever you want to go”.
At the end of the day he says since he was with us for the entire day, the cost is 500 pounds because Valley of the Kings and Hatshepsut Temple were 300 pounds and Karnak was extra.
Be sure to be very clear on your negotiations with any driver you hire. And pay at the end, not the beginning.
If you walk anywhere in Luxor, especially along the waterfront, expect a taxi driver to relentlessly pursue you.
Basically everyone who does anything expects a tip even if they don’t do anything for you.
There was a tram to take you to the Temple of Hatshepsut. I got on. A guy came up to me asking me for two pounds to take the tram. I didn’t see any signs saying it cost any money, so I was wondering if this was yet another shakedown. He persisted. I didn’t have two pounds, so I handed him a five pound note. He said something like, “this is good”, and just walked away without giving me change.
I am very aware that this is not a lot of money, but it’s more the principle of it. I still don’t know if there is a fee to ride the tram.
You can’t go there
At Valley of the Kings, I walked down a pathway (it wasn’t blocked off like other areas where you weren’t supposed to go). It was deserted and I was alone. Then I hear a guy yelling at me. So I turn around and start walking back out. He approached me and told me the area was closed and I needed to pay a fee to be there. I just kept walking.
Summary – Scams in Egypt
I didn’t feel crime was a problem, however I did feel like many people were trying to take advantage of us.
Be aware of these things and pay attention. Most of them were when I was isolated, so try to stay near other people.
Keep lots of small bills and use correct change whenever you can.
I really enjoyed many parts of our trip to Egypt, but the things noted in this post were very annoying and began to wear on us after a while.