It is integral to Egyptian culture to be courteous to foreigners. A conversation, whether business-related or not, is usually accompanied by coffee, tea or juice. Social rules dictate what is appropriate for greeting people in business meetings. Close same-sex friends will sometimes greet with a kiss on each cheek, although a handshake will do. It is advisable not to drink or eat in public during Ramadan, although both food and beverages are easily found.
Tipping & Vat
A special service tax of 12% will be added to the bill by bars and restaurants, but patrons are expected to tip waiters on top of that. Most travellers will face requests for additional cash for a variety of services, a practice known as baksheesh that is widespread in the country. A value-added tax of 13% has also been implemented from the end of 2016. This percentage is only sometimes included in the listed price.
Visitors are recommended to have health insurance cover, as well as vaccines for hepatitis A and B, typhoid and yellow fever. It is advisable to drink bottled water and exercise caution when choosing a place to eat. Some of Cairo’s international hospitals include Misr International Hospital, As Salam International Hospital and Dar Al Fouad Hospital.
There are currently four mobile operators: Orange, Vodafone, Etisalat Misr and Telecom Egypt. A SIM card costs around LE25 (equivalent to $1.33 as of December 2016).
Electricity sockets are designed for 220-V (or 50-Hz), two-pin round plugs. Adaptors are needed for other plugs, although these can generally be obtained at most hotels.
Men are expected to wear formal business attire for meetings, generally a suit and tie, while women should dress conservatively to avoid receiving excessive attention. In circumstances outside of the work environment, modest clothing applies. When visiting mosques or churches, women must cover their shoulders and wear shorts or skirts below the knee. It is acceptable, however, to wear more Western-style clothing at nightclubs, restaurants, hotels and bars, as well as in other tourist destinations.
One Egyptian pound (LE) is composed of 100 piastres (PT). Bills are in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 pounds and coins are 25, 50 or 100 piastres. The currency was floated in November 2016 and has seen considerable changes of late, so it is best to check the most recent numbers before departure.
Visas are available upon arrival for US and EU citizens and are required. Visitors may purchase visas at the airport for $25 (often required in cash in a foreign currency) and they are valid for one month. They can then be extended for up to three months, although visa regulations are subject to frequent changes, so it is best to check your embassy website before departing.
Arabic is the official language of Egypt, and the Egyptian dialect is widely understood and spoken throughout the Middle East. People in more socio-economically advantaged segments of society have traditionally often spoken either English or French, and this tendency has been spreading. Newspapers, books and public information are published in Arabic, and increasingly, in English as well.
The working week runs from Sunday to Thursday. Most private companies operate from 9.00am to 5.00pm, while the public sector traditionally runs from 8.00am to 2.00pm, but sometimes later. Stores generally open at 10.00am and close at 11.00pm.
Cairo’s roads are typically highly congested. Taxis are cheap and abundant, and can be a practical way to move around the city. There are yellow and white cabs, the latter being more modern and offering metered fares. If the taxi does not include a meter, fares should be negotiated before setting off. The most efficient way of travelling to southern Egypt, the Red Sea and the Sinai Peninsula is by air. Cairo is home to the first fully fledged metro system in Africa, with three operational lines, and a fourth line planned.