The local currency is the Egyptian Pound (EGP), which is divided into 100 piasters. (The currency is often written in LE, (an abbreviation of the French Egyptian pound) or using the £ sign with or without additional letters: E£ and £E.
- Coins: The denominations are 25pt, 50pt and 1 pound. You don’t really need to know the name of the piaster, because the smallest denomination in circulation since 2014 is 25 piasters, and this one is almost always called “quarter pound” (rob` genē ربع جنيه), and the 50 piasters, “half pound” (noSS genē نص جنيه).
- Paper money: Banknote denominations are 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 pounds sterling.
In Egypt, the pound is called sterling, genē esterlīni (جنيه استرلينى).
The Egyptian pound has depreciated gradually over the last few decades. In the 1950s and 1960s, the Egyptian pound was almost as valuable as the British pound. Since 2011, the exchange rate has become relatively unstable and inflation has accelerated. In 2016, the Egyptian pound is worth about 11 times less than at its peak, and especially this year, inflation has become so high that the loss of U.S. dollar reserves is such that the exchange of Egyptian pounds for U.S. dollars or euros is hardly accepted by banks. The black market exchange rate has therefore increased and the purchase of one US dollar has reached almost 18 Egyptian pounds!
- Foreign exchange and banks
Please note that banks and exchange offices, or anyone who changes currencies, will easily charge you an extra fee for the official exchange rate. Foreign currency can be exchanged at exchange offices or banks, so there is no need to use street money changers. Many upscale hotels charge in US dollars or Euros and are happy to accept them as a means of payment, often at a higher rate than the Egyptian pound. ATMs are ubiquitous in cities and are probably the best option of all; they often offer the best rate, and many foreign banks have branches in Egypt. Banks are open from Sunday to Thursday from 8:30 am to 2:00 pm.
Counterfeit or expired bills are not really a problem, but it can be difficult to exchange books outside the country. American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard, and Visa are accepted, but only the major hotels and restaurants in Cairo and restaurants in tourist areas willingly accept credit cards as a means of payment. Traveller’s cheques can be exchanged at any bank, but this may take some time.
Before leaving Egypt, even if you are traveling to neighboring Middle Eastern countries, you must change your currency into U.S. dollars, euros or pounds sterling. Money changers in other countries will give you 30 to 50 percent more per Egyptian pound than the rate you get in Egypt if they accept Egyptian currency. When you exchange U.S. dollars, euros, or pounds sterling, the difference is relatively small, so you lose only a few percent.
Due to the country’s economic situation, with an ever-increasing population and depletion of resources, this means that many people may be unemployed (a much higher rate than in more developed countries). People working in the services and hospitality industry ( such as restaurants, hotels and bars) are probably also undervalued as their wages are unlikely to reflect the value of their work. It is even more difficult for them to live with the problem of relentless inflation, which means that the prices of everything, even basic commodities like food and water, rise sharply while their wages remain the same, and when they do rise, they do not increase even a fraction of the increase that the prices have led to.
This means that 90% of those working in the service/hospitality sector try to make their main source of income from tips. In fact, for these people, tips constitute a large part of their income because without them, their monthly salary would simply not be enough to survive in a country where prices are constantly increasing and salaries remain the same.
Keep in mind that these people often lead difficult lives, are often responsible for feeding large families and may very well live in poverty simply because their income from work is not enough to lead a simple life. Many of them are forced to take these jobs because otherwise they would not be able to find any other work in a country where unemployment and overpopulation are so high.
Thus, almost everyone in your hotel will ask you for a tip, even if they have only done a small thing. You don’t need to give a big tip, because often even the smallest tickets are appreciated. However, you are not required to tip if you feel that you received no service or assistance, or if you feel that the service was poor. No one will be angry or disrespectful to you if you did not tip.
Most public washrooms are staffed and visitors are expected to tip staff. Some washroom attendants, especially in tourist areas, distribute toilet paper according to the tip they receive. Foreigners are particularly sensitive to tipping, and although some residents request or demand a tip, it is often not warranted.
There is no rule as to what is considered a tip, so be prepared to pay an Egyptian pound or two in case you want to use the toilet, for example. For services such as tour guides or translators, a tip of 20% or more is generally expected. Cab drivers offer their services on the basis of agreed prices, not objective meters as in other countries. There is therefore no provision for tipping when using a cab, although it is of course accepted if offered. In restaurants, tipping is expected and can range from a few pounds to 15%.
If you ask a stranger for directions, advice is not necessary and may even be considered offensive. Uniformed officials, such as police officers, should not be tipped. Remember that bribery is technically illegal, but it is likely that nothing will happen to you. Last but not least, be aware that as a foreign tourist, you are considered by many to be easy money, and you should not be forced to tip for unnecessary or unsolicited “services”, such as self-proclaimed tour guides who cling to you.
Some general orientations
- Lifeguard: EGP3
- Cruises: 30 EGP/day, shared by all staff on board
- Guide: EGP40/day
- Groom: EGP10 for all bags
- Hotel porter: EGP10 for services rendered (such as calling cabs)
- Restaurants : In high-end restaurants, a service charge (10-12%) is added to the bill, but a 5-10% tip is usual. Tips are not necessary in fast food restaurants.
- Cab driver: not necessary, especially if you have agreed on the price in advance, no more than 10% of the measured price.
- On-site supervisors: EGP5 if they are doing something useful, otherwise not
- Driver: 10 EGP/day
Egypt is a paradise for shopping, particularly if you are looking for Egyptian-themed gifts and other kitsch things. However, there is also a range of quality products to buy, often at bargain prices. Some of the most popular purchases are:
- Alabaster bowls, figurines, etc. are common throughout Egypt.
- antiques (NB: no antiques whose trade is illegal in Egypt)
- Carpets and rugs
- Cotton products and clothing can be purchased in Khan El Khalili for approximately 30 to 40 EGP. Egyptian cotton clothes of better quality can be purchased at various chain shops, such as Mobaco Cottons and Concrete, both of which have numerous branches across the country. While clothes can be expensive by Egyptian standards , they are relatively cheap by Western standards, when you consider the quality.
- Inlaid products, such as backgammon boards
- Jewelry cartridges are an excellent souvenir. They are metal plates in the shape of an elongated oval on which your name is engraved in hieroglyphics.
- Cabbage powder Real eye makeup (eyeliner) based on Egyptian kohl can be purchased in many stores for a small fee. It is a black powder, about the size of a teaspoon, usually sold in a small package or carved wooden container. It is usually applied generously to the inner eyelids with a kind of large toothpick/thin stick, going around the eye. Very dramatic. But a little goes a long way! Cleopatra had her eyes made up by lying on the floor and asking someone to put a miniature spoonful of powder in each eye. When the eye cracked, the makeup spread well around the eyes and flowed down the sides, creating the classic look. Be aware, however, that most eye pencils contain lead sulfide, which is a health concern. Ask for a lead-free kajal.
- Lanterns (fanūs; pl. fawanīs) Lanterns made of cut and stamped metal, often with stained glass, stylishly hold a votive candle.
- Leather products
- Papyrus (barded) However, most of the papyrus you will see is actually made of another type of reed, not real “papyrus”, which is extremely rare. If the difference is important to you, know what you are buying and negotiate the price accordingly. If in doubt, assume that the papyrus you are offered to buy is not authentic.
- Perfume – You can buy perfume in almost every souvenir store. Be sure to ask the seller to prove to you that there is no alcohol mixed in the perfume. Standard rates should be in the range of 1 to 2 EGP per gram.
- Hooks (shīsha)
- Spices (tawābel) – can be purchased on the colorful stalls of most Egyptian markets. Dried herbs and spices are generally of better quality than those available in Western supermarkets and are up to 4 or 5 times cheaper, although the final price depends on negotiations and local conditions.
Note: When shopping in markets or dealing with street vendors, remember to bargain. This is part of the selling game that both parties must play.
There are also many western brands everywhere. You will find many shopping malls in Egypt, of which the most common is City Stars Mall, which is probably the largest centre for entertainment in all of Middle East and Africa.There you will find all the fast food you want such as Mcdonald’s, KFC, Hardees, Pizza Hut, etc. Clothing brands like Morgan, Calvin Klein, Levi’s, Facconable, Givenchy, Esprit, and many others.
Purchases in Egypt include goods and merchandise that represent souvenirs from ancient and modern Egypt. They include small pyramids, obelisks as well as souvenir statues, which are available for purchase at more tourist locations such as Khan el-Khalili and Muslim Cairo.
You can also make general purchases of clothing and other merchandise in Cairo, such as in the modern shopping malls City Stars, City Centre or Nile City (home to some of the world’s most famous designer brands, including Guess, Calvin Klein, Armani, Hugo Boss, etc.).