Shopping In Luxor

For many, the endless stream of merchants trying to sell you some dubious souvenir can be wearing to say the least, but maybe it is worth remembering that for the majority of these hawkers this might be all they get to feed their family for that day. The drop in tourism since the revolution of 2011, although now on the rise, has been devastating for many of these merchants. If you don’t want to engage, then walk past with a dismissive wave of the hand, or a quick “laa shukran” (no thank you). The moment you answer the standard “Welcome in Luxor, where from?” greeting, you are considered a fair target. It is a game, and by answering you have accepted the opening move.

If you see something that you want, first decide what you would be happy paying for it, then ask the vendor for his price. Do not be fooled into telling them what you think it is worth. Offer half of what you would be happy paying and take it from there. Remember you can always walk away. Saying you need to think about it can often help negotiations. Keep smiling, it will get you a better price.

Some of the sites on the west bank have their own gauntlet of shops selling tourist items from plastic sphinxes to local clothing and innumerable scarabs, pharaoh busts and papyri as well as postcards. These stall holders can be quite insistent, but a little tolerance and a sense of humour will see you through. There is no point in getting angry – the only person who loses out is you. Better a laugh and a Laa, laa, laa.

On the west bank there are also several alabaster factories, again, some better than others. Speak to your guide or tour leader.

The souk, opposite Luxor Temple, is worth a visit, but be prepared to bargain. Most shopkeepers will tell you a vastly inflated price, sometimes up to ten times the real price, so your turn is to offer way below that. Eventually you will reach a middle ground. If the price is still too high for you then go and look elsewhere. Many of the shops at the tourist end of the market stock very similar items, some better quality than others. Have a good look around and do not be taken in by the tales of hardship from the shopkeepers, they will never sell you something at a loss. If you are happy with the price then all well and good, but do shop around.

Do not under any circumstances buy any antiquities. Laa shukrun.

Money

The currency in Egypt is the Egyptian pound (LE). There are 100 piastres in one Egyptian pound. Notes in common circulation are 200, 100, 50, 20, 10, 5 Egyptian pounds.

Paper money gets very old, tattered and torn, especially the smaller notes. Egyptians will often refuse to accept notes that are in bad condition, especially torn ones. It may be best to refuse any that are torn or repaired with tape in case you get stuck with them.

Notes are printed with one side in Arabic and the other in English

Lower value coins are still legal tender but they are rarely used, and may even be refused.

In restaurants change is normally rounded to the nearest pound.

Shops never seem to have any change, so it is best to pay for low cost items, such as drinks and small purchases from the souk with the right money. Keep hold of LE1 notes and coins and LE5 notes for small purchases and of course, for tipping.

You should get a much better exchange rate in Egypt than if you exchange money before you arrive. You do not pay commission if you change your money in Egypt. It is best to arrive with some dollars or euros (all major ‘hard currencies’ are very acceptable and easily changed) and to get Egyptian cash on arrival. In fact some countries do not deal in Egyptian forex. You can change money at the visa offices in the airport arrival hall, so there is no need to come with any at all, even to pay for porters, taxi to the hotel etc. There are also ATM machines in the arrival hall at the airport.

There are several ATMs on the East Bank in Luxor, notably behind the Luxor Museum, by Luxor Temple and outside the Winter Palace. 

The Current Exchange rate is LE 100 equals less than $6 (approx)

 

Medication

Visitors to Egypt are advised to bring an adequate supply of their own medication. Only bring what you need for yourself to see you through until the end of your stay. Be warned, some local medications/drugs are not allowed in Egypt, so to be on the safe side, bring a letter from your GP or other proof that you need the medication. Do not bring medication for other people.

A stomach upset followed by diarrhea is the most common form of illness for travelers to Luxor. To avoid the problem, the usual recommendation is to eat only thoroughly cooked food and fruit you have peeled yourself. In practice, stomach problems are not necessarily caused by food, in fact one of the biggest potential hazards is money, which changes hands all the time.

There is also a degree of understanding that the change in climate can also affect your stomach, especially if, after a hot day trekking over the hillsides, you immediately sink something ice-cold. It is better to let yourself acclimatize a little first. You are advised to bring your own hand sanitizer or wipes. There are plenty of well stocked pharmacies in Luxor.
Only drink sealed, bottled water, and try and avoid ice cubes.

What To Wear In Luxor

Egypt is a Muslim country. The culture and dress code are not as strict in Egypt as they are in some other Muslim countries, but it is still best to be modest, especially for ladies. There are many who will say they have been to Luxor and have worn exactly what they want, where they want, and nobody cared. The truth is that many people probably cared a great deal but were too polite to say anything. It is far better to be sensitive to local culture and to dress in a way that will avoid offence. It should also be remembered that most of the places you are visiting were, and possibly still are, sacred sites and it is preferable to show a degree of respect.

The other reason for dressing on the more conservative side, is the sun. Be under no illusion, Egypt is hot, especially further south, like Luxor or Aswan. It is crucial that you wear a hat, and we would suggest something with a wide brim, that offers some protection to, not only your face, but also the back of your neck. 

Guys, normal pants, jeans or chinos, nothing too tight, and shirts, t-shirts or golf shirts are fine. Make sure they are lightweight and natural fibres – cotton is best. Polyester or any similar artificial fabric will become uncomfortable very quickly. Shorts seem to be accepted in the hot season, more so on the West Bank. Remember, Luxor is a working ancient city, not a beach resort.

Girls, sorry, but for you it is a little more. Apart from the need to respect local custom and religion there are two other benefits from modest clothing. First, it will protect you from the sun. The sun is fierce most of the time and will soon damage exposed, unprotected skin. Second, the more modest you are the less attention you will attract. A basic wardrobe would be loose cotton or linen trousers and/or a longish skirt and cotton tops with sleeves that are at least half-length. No-one expects you to cover your face. Nor do you have to cover your head. However, in the street you should not expose too much skin, and preferably also cover knees and elbows. Clothing, especially blouses and skirts, should not be transparent or tight-fitting. Above the waist, baggy is best.

Shoes: we would suggest anything that you are comfortable walking in, the pavements in Luxor are not the best, and the terrain on the West Bank can be quite uneven. Many of the tombs have wooden floors laid to make it easier, but sometimes there are gaps between the planking, so heels are a no-no. Also, due to the sand and dust, any kind of open shoe is going to quickly become uncomfortable. Sneakers, walking shoes or desert boots are all good. It is not a good idea to rush out and buy something new, as shoes usually take some time to wear in.

This may all sound a little over the top, but we want you to enjoy your time in Egypt, and to protect you from the sun.

This is not a fashion show, and comfort should be your priority.

Is Egypt Safe?

Our experience of Egypt is, yes, Egypt is safe.

Like anywhere in the world it depends on where you want to go and what you want to do.

If you want to go back-packing across Northern Sinai, then perhaps no – it is not safe. If you want to wander around late at night on your own in Cairo, we would advise against it. We would advise against you wandering around any city late at night on your own.

If you want to enjoy the historical sites of Cairo, Luxor, Aswan, Abu Simbel and Alexandria and all points in between, then yes, Egypt is safe.

Tourism 

Tourism plays a large role in the GDP of Egypt, and although it suffered greatly immediately after the revolution of 2011, it is slowly, very slowly, recovering, thanks not only to the great work that is being done by the Minister of Tourism, Rania al-Mashat, and the Ministry of Antiquities, under the auspices of Khaled el-Anani, but also the tourists who have gone back home and loudly proclaimed what a fantastic time they have had.

Economy

Most Egyptians are very aware of the economic value that tourism brings to their economy and will treat you accordingly. Egyptians are friendly people and will do anything to help you. Sadly, their economy has been suffering and so many people are desperate, and usually such help comes at a price. For most tourists that price means very little to them financially.

Government

The Egyptian government are also aware of the importance of tourists and have noticeably increased the presence of police at most major sites, as well as increased the various security procedures around entering such places. The tourist police are also usually not far away. The stricter controls over where you can go in any given area are also there for your added protection.

Respect

When travelling in a foreign country you will have a far better experience by integrating with the locals than if you try and distance yourself. For a lot of travellers, Egypt might be their first foray into a Muslim country, and the different traditions and societal behaviours that go with that can be somewhat of an adjustment, but that is all it is, an adjustment. You are a visitor in their country, so you need to do the adjusting. To that end it is our advice that you always dress on the more conservative side, so as to not attract any unwelcome attention. If you are visiting tombs and temples, it is better to show a degree of respect for the sites that you are in.

Haggling

Haggling from street traders and shop keepers is a part of life, as is the constant demand to visit someone’s shop, take their horse-drawn cab, or spend an hour on their boat. It is a game, and if you approach it as so, you will not be disappointed. Better to not say anything than get drawn in to conversation. Once you say something, then you are deemed to have begun the game. A dismissive wave, or if you must say something a quick “Laa Shukran” (Arabic for “No, thank you”) will suffice.

Single Travellers

Egypt is perfectly safe providing you are aware of where you are and what you are doing. It is sometimes easier being in a group, rather than on your own, as single travellers look like easier targets. If you are a single traveller, usually you can tag on to one of the tour groups doing the rounds.     

 

Is Egypt safe?

 

In our opinion, absolutely.