Egypt is an ideal travel destination for the intense budget backpacker or runaway. It is remarkably cheap, it is full of ancient wonders, and has a great hostel/backpacker scene. It’s people are friendly, when they aren’t yelling at each other, and the food is clean and delicious. Despite the recent revolution, Egypt is a relatively safe country and one in which the tourist and backpacker is always welcomed and appreciated. So, if you’ve ever wanted to see the Pyramids first hand or experience a truly different culture, Egypt is the place.
Getting to Egypt:
From North America, Egypt Air, and Iberia are two airlines that offer multiple flights a week at a decent price. However, the cheapest flights to Cairo can be found on low cost European carries such as, Air Berlin and Easy Jet. There are often one way tickets from London, Geneva, and Berlin to Cairo, Hurghada or Sharm El Sheik for between 50 and 100 Euro.
While there once was a ferry that ran between Greece and Egypt, that ferry has since been discontinued. However, as tourism in Egypt begins to grow again, there is a good chance that this line may come back into service.
Price Index 2012 (1 USD = 6 EGP)
Glass of Fresh Sugar Cane Juice: 0.17$ / 1 EGP
Bottle of Water: 0.40$ / 2.5 EGP
Cheap Meal: 1.65$ / 10 EGP
Pack of Cigarettes: Local: 1$ / 6 EGP Imported: 2$ / 12 EGP
Beer: 1.10 $ / 7 EGP
Eat Cheap in Egypt:
Eating cheap in Egypt is no hard task. Which ever local restaurant you go to, the food is sure to be cheap. Be sure to try Koshari, Foul, and Shwarma. However, the main thing you need to watch out for is tourist prices vs Egyptian prices. Some restaurants even have special menus just for tourists with prices that are double or even triple the local price. However, if you demand local prices they will generally give them to you. *Learning the Arabic numerals is vital.
Cheap Accommodation in Egypt:
Cairo is full of ultra cheap hostels and hotels. One of the cheapest hostel in Cairo is the Sultan Hostel. Since it is only 3$ a night, the bed bugs tend to be the happiest guests. Another hostel, which is also quite cheap but much cleaner and cooler is Dahab Hostel near Talaat Harb. Check out this article for a complete review, Coolest Hostel in Cairo.
Sleep on the Street in Egypt:
You can generally sleep wherever you want but be prepared to be hassled all night long. If you can afford it, I highly recommend bunking up at one of Egypt’s many cheap hotels. Even if you’re at the tain or bus station, which is relatively quite, it’s just not worth it. Check out this article for general information on sleeping on the street.
In Cairo: Cairo has many taxis that are relatively cheap. Just make sure they put on the meter! Another option is the Cairo metro. Although it is somewhat limited, it will take you anywhere for just 0.17$ making it a bargain. If you want to get the Pyramids, it will take you most of the way from downtown. The final option is to take the micro bus or van. The micro bus is cheap and goes all over the city but can get really cramped and hot.
Outside of Cairo: Egypt has a cheap railroad that extends down the length of the Nile. For all trips to the south including Luxor and Aswan, the night train is your best bet. However, if you want to save more, you can also take a very uncomfortable night bus that includes a few police checkpoints. To Sinai and the Oasis’s, the buss is the only option.
Although the concept of hitchhiking is not common, it is pretty easy to do in Egypt. However, most drivers are looking to make a little money off you. Therefore, let them know from the get go that you aren’t willing to pay an exorbitant amount. Check out this article for info on How to Hitchhike.
Train Jumping in Egypt:
Egypts trains are relatively easy to jump. You can either avoid the ticket agent and take a seat after he checks or sit on the ground at the end of the car with the other non paying customers. Check out this article for more info on jumping trains.
Drugs and Alcohol in Egypt:
While in the past alcohol could only be found in western hotels, today you can find it at liquor stores around the city. However, be sure not to drink in public as it is culturally insensitive and may get you in trouble with the police. In terms of drugs, hashish is the most common and can be bought from many street people. Just be careful not to fall for any of their scams. It is best to make friends with a local who can buy it for you. Another common drug that is legal and can be bought at the pharmacy is Valium.
Free Things to Do in Egypt:
1) Go protesting in Tahrir Square
2) Have a glass of water at the Pizza Hut with views of the Pyramids
3) Drink free tea and sample perfumes at one of the many perfume shops
4) Run around the back alleys of Cairo singing Aladdin songs.
5) Swim in the Red Sea off the coast of Dahab guide.
Essential Egyptian Survival Words
1) Emshi: Go Away!
2) Khalas: Finished / done / no more
3) Assalam wallykum: Peace be with you
4) Fin: Where?
5) La: No Aiwa: Yes
Let Me Know What You Think!
I’ve been pondering where I’d run away to first and so far, through all my research, Egypt has had the most appeal. I just need to learn enough of the language and culture to get by and prepare. Thanks for the article. It helped me make my final decision. :)
The Runaway Guide says
My pleasure. Don’t worry to much about the language, you can pick it up when you’re there. Good luck!
one more thing regarding drugs and alcohol, beside hashish you can find a lot of pain pills all around egypt tramadol and xanax is the number one drug for Egyptian pill nation, and its very cheap as you can get one pill from 2 to 5 EGP, half a dollar pill.. I love this city :P
The Runaway Guide says
Haha,Right! I don’t know how i left that out. I remember the valnile valium.
Aiwa, so that’s how you say yes in Arabic. Can’t say I’ve ever needed the word. La shukran, khalas and emshi, on the other hand, all get quite the workout. Though it can be frustrating at times, I love this country and never laugh so much anywhere else.
na3am or eee is how you say yes is Arabic, you could use aiwa too I guess but just not to women cause it’s kind of disrespectful – at least that’s how it is here in the khaleej idk about Egyptians :p