MONEY - ISSUES AND SUGGESTIONS
Egyptian currency is decimal and based on Egyptian pounds
and piastres (100 piastres to the pound (pound = guinay
in Arabic)). All Egyptian notes have their value printed
in English on their reverse (back) side.
Keep track of currency fluctuations at the website:
a rough estimate you will need about AUD$80-90 per day while
in Egypt. Some days will be a LOT less, some more [and of
course leave room for some spending in the markets (souks)].
is an excellent idea to keep track of spending by having
a 'daily expenses' section in a travel diary. Receipts are
not usually given in Egypt and such a diary could be useful
from a tax perspective as well as being a good way to keep
track of your daily costs.
We usually take several hundred dollars in Australian cash
into Egypt. While cash must be carefully guarded from loss/theft,
it can help speed up the process of money changing on entry
to Egypt and at banks (especially if electronic systems
are 'down', as is often the case).
will NOT need to take Egyptian currency into Egypt with
you - there are money changing facilities at the airport.
Be prepared to change $100 - $200 Australian/USA dollars
(50 - 100 UK pounds)- having bank notes helps speed up the
changeover. (See also the note below on the need for small
denominations in your change).
It is very hard for visitors to get coinage (other than
the new LE£1 coin), and in most cases note denominations
over LE£20 are useless for exchange for everyday items.
In many cases the local will claim "no change"
and you either try to 'sit them out' (not recommended) or
lose the purchase. The fact is that Egypt seems to run on
many, very small payments and tips - it is a developing
country after all. This is one of the main reasons that
we make use of the Baksheesh Book (as explained in another
information sheet) - so that we can make a 'group tip' etc
without troubling you by 'passing a hat around' to collect
small, on-the-spot-payments for group goods or services.
However there will be many times when you are not with the
group and it is therefore VITAL that you have a good stock
of small notes (£5, £1 and smaller) in your
pocket. However this can be hard to come by as in banks
they usually give you large notes (they are easier to count!).
INSIST on lots of small change/denominations when you are
changing money. You can expect to carry huge rolls of money
(maybe of only AUD$20-30 worth) and it is a good idea to
have them secured by rubber bands as these help stop the
roll from moving from your pocket. Always check the quality
of notes you are given by banks and shops - for denominations
of LE£10 and over DO NOT accept notes which are badly
torn or damaged.
and USA dollars, and UK pound notes can easily be exchanged
in Egypt, but coinage cannot be exchanged (in or out - but
Egyptian coins can make good souvenirs if you can get your
hands on them!).
change - in addition to the LE£1 note, paper notes
are also used for 50, 25 and 10 piastres. Coins of 10 and
5 piastres are also used (though rarely given to Westerners
Care! Don't confuse the 10 Pound note and the 50 Pound note.
They are similar in colour and size, and when in a rush
or at night they are often mistaken! Read the numbers (in
English on the back) carefully!
ALWAYS REMEMBER that access to funds is your LIFELINE overseas!
DON'T keep all your eggs in one basket! Spread your access
to funds around (eg. cash, traveller's cheques, credit cards)
and make sure that you have details such as card numbers
and hotlines to ring for international help in the event
of loss/theft. It is also a great idea to have a backup
system in place. Have someone in Australia who can send
you funds electronically if you need them (around $500+
as a back-up/emergency fund would be good). CHECK that you
can access these funds in Egypt in an emergency BEFORE you
leave! Western Union has been suggested to us as a sound
transfer system, but we have not tried them.
is generally the case that you are unlikely to be robbed
while in Egypt. Nevertheless precautions are needed. Always
ensure that your bags are locked while in hotel rooms (people
without bag locks might have to invest in small padlocks).
Using hotel safes, when available, is a sound idea. Carry
small change in your 'bum-bag' and larger notes/cheques/credit
cards in a secondary money belt under your jeans/skirt especially
while travelling. NEVER leave cash and valuables in a bag
that can be easily snatched (eg. a handbag or daypack).
While 'snatch and run' and pick-pocketing is not the norm
in Egypt, you need to ensure that you can 'survive' if it
happens to you. When seated in a busy place, like a cafe,
it is a good idea to place a strap of your bag under your
chair-leg as an added precaution.
In most situations Egypt works on a two-price system - one
for visitors, one for Egyptians. This can be very frustrating
at times but remember that we earn many times the rate of
pay that most Egyptians receive. Unless it is written or
otherwise stated all prices for visitors are 'by negotiation'
in Egypt. i.e. NEVER be tempted to change money outside
a proper bank (eg on the black-market) no matter how good
the rate may seem. Keep safe ALL 'changed money' receipts
(check that any stamps etc are legible) and auto-teller
dockets as these may be needed to prove that you have changed
sufficient funds while in Egypt and not used the black market.
Such receipts should be packed in a place where they can
be easily reached when leaving Egypt, should customs require
NEVER be embarrassed or unsure about spending money on things
you want in front of fellow travellers - YOU are the only
person responsible for your expenses, so DO NOT feel embarrassed
if you spend when they don't.
have found both Visa and Mastercard to be very useful -
all the major banks in Egypt will give you cash advances
and you can use your card for purchases in many stores.
It is important to remember that in Egypt only the more
expensive stores tend to take credit cards. However you
can agree on a price and then withdraw the cash from a bank
to pay for large purchases in other stores. American Express
can be useful in expensive stores (eg. Hilton stores) but
is generally not accepted in smaller stores. However Amex
does offer some useful services, such as acting as a mailing
address and cashing personal cheques. Traveller's cheques
are very good and offer added security if lost (make sure
that you note all cheque numbers, denominations and a help
line number if you are using them). Amex and Thomas Cook
cheques are widely accepted at banks. Smaller stores/shops
tend NOT to take them, however, and you pay lots in fees
etc. They can be very useful for larger amounts to cash
at a bank (it is best to make them for US$ for use in Egypt,
although AUD$ are okay).
Tipping ('bak-sheesh') is an Egyptian way of life.
Many people depend on tips for their income (the job itself
being non- or low-paying). When in a group we will try to
arrange appropriate tips and let you know your share (amount
divided by the number of people). Sometimes you will be
'on your own' when tips are expected (eg. a local opening
a door for you, carrying your luggage, bringing you your
washing, handing you toilet paper or soap). In such cases
you must judge yourself whether the service warranted a
tip (remembering that MOST such acts warrant a tip in Egypt!)
and pay a small sum (eg. LE£5). Don't tip for services
that you feel are not warranted (eg. a local pushes you
out of the way to open a door that you had started to open,
pulls your bags away from you when you are about to carry
NEVER tip Egyptians using non-Egyptian coins. Unlike most
banknotes, foreign coins cannot be changed into Egyptian
cash. It is awful that people in Egypt holding handfuls
of Euros or the like have to ask or beg tourists to change
such coins into Egyptian pounds. They and their families
are probably desperate to buy food and have money to do
so, but in a form they cannot access. Why give a thirsty
man a bottle of sea water? If approached by an Egyptian
asking for help to change coins, please consider doing so
if they are used in your country. Use current rates to calculate
how much Egyptian money you should exchange.
ALL COSTS avoid showing large denominations/lots of money
in public as this is a beacon for thieves and con-men! Also
do not try to change money in the streets (for example if
approached by a man or youth to change his large note for
smaller ones, or vice versa). This is often used to try
and trick visitors into believing that they have given incorrect
change. For example your 20 pound note can disappear to
re-emerge as a 25 piastre note, which is then claimed to
have been given over by you and the 'correct' amount is
Australian/USA dollars & UK pounds are freely exchanged
in Egypt, Singapore dollars are NOT so do not plan to use
SING$ in Egypt.
Egyptian pounds are usually written as LE£, or sometimes
EGP£. When prices are written in shops in Egypt it
is usually just £ and the price, and it is usually
safe to assume that this means Egyptian pounds. We have,
however, noticed recently in Luxor that some establishments
(especially five star hotels) have started advertising day
excursions, Nile cruises, hot-air balloon rides etc for
incredibly cheap prices. It is only when you go to sign
up for these that you discover the £ on the price
meant UK£ and not LE£! Do double check and be
prepared to just walk away from such deals. Some locals
have tried this too, quoting a pound for a newspaper and
then wanting an English pound. It is reasonable to expect
that prices given in Egypt in pounds are for LE£,
so outside of five star hotels (where you might care to
check this), assume LE£ and do not be held to any
deal you might have made in a shop or for a newspaper etc
if the £ suddenly becomes UK£ when the time
comes to pay. Just walk away as the person involved has
been dishonest with you.
We had a real problem in Aswan in 2002 when the magnetic
strip on our main credit card got damaged. Now we all know
that a bank can still process a cash advance either by putting
the numbers in manually on the swipe-machine or by using
an old-fashioned imprinting machine onto a docket. We spent
2 hours in a bank trying to get the tellers to do so, but
they simply replied that 'it cannot be done'! Even the manager
refused to try for us! Moral of the story - if you can,
take a back-up credit card, just in case!
In 2009 we - and some members of our groups - had problems
trying to use credit cards. It turned out our banks back
home had noted transactions in Singapore and Cairo and 'frozen'
the cards in case these were fraudulent! Let your bank know
your travel plans!
In 2009 some of our participants experienced problems trying
to use credit cards with a rounded corner in ATM machines.
The machines in Egypt seemed to refuse to read these types
of credit cards and 'spat them out' on all attempts.
These suggestions are intended
as a general guide only and you are, of course, responsible
for your own personal finances and security while on the