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If you are planning your first visit to Egypt, this guide is for you. Just remember that while Egypt is, indeed, a sophisticated and very modern country where almost anything you need can be purchased, there are a few important exceptions - items you will probably want to bring with you.
To the seasoned traveler the following list may seem almost too basic, but if you are making your first excursion to Egypt, it should come in handy.
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Hats and Other Covering
Shade is always at a premium, what with the hot Egyptian sun. Bring a wide-brimmed hat. For women, this is especially important, as you will be more accepted when touring old churches and mosques if you wear some type of head covering. You will also want to bring scarves or similar apparel, not only to protect from the sun, but for visiting religious sites where such attire is expected. When it's really hot, you can soak a plain cloth hat or scarf in water to help keep your head cool.
Sun burn is a major concern. It can wreck your trip. I have seen this too often to ignore. Many tourists' vacations are virtually ruined after only one day of sightseeing. You can buy sunscreen in Egypt, but to be sure, you probably should bring your own favorite brand and strength.
More than once, you will find yourself admiring a brilliantly glaring view of sand and desert. You will NEED a good pair of sunglasses with an ultra-high UV rating. Again, while these may be purchased in Egypt, you might be wise to bring your own . . . and a spare pair.
Canteen or Water Holder
Remember, much of Egypt is desert . . . real desert. Water is scarce. Because staying hydrated is critically important for your comfort, you will want be sure and carry a water with with you. Of course, bottled water is easily accessible, but hauling these around can be a bother, even a burden. You will find it is much better to bring along a canteen, or something similar, to allow you to carry your water on your waist or over your shoulder. Alternatively, a fanny pack, backpack, or shoulder-bag will make this equally convenient.
Here's a great tip: Before you leave for Egypt, go to the beach toy section of Target or Wal-Mart and find one of those water bottles that come with an attached battery-operated fan. You will be very glad you did!
Yes, it is fun to just roam and explore new areas, but when you travel to an extremely "foreign" environment such as Egypt, you run the risk of missing all the good stuff, like the classic antiquities and other aspects of the experience. So, I advise you strongly to pick up a good guidebook (or two). Two good ones are "The Rough Guide" and "The Lonely Planet." Even with guided tours, you'll find that such a book will give you time for orientation both before and after the actual tours. These too can be found in Egypt, but why not be sure, and save some time, by picking one up before you leave?
I'm sure I don't have to remind you to bring your camera. But there are a couple of things you should consider. For instance, if you intend to take photos inside tombs, you'll want to bring high-speed film. Most people use ASA 800 film, which they push to 1600. This is because many monuments require that you do not use a flash when taking pictures inside.
Also, do not under-estimate the mammoth size of many Egyptian monuments - they are truly monumental. Tourists are often disappointed with regular lenses. A good wide-angle lens will be an excellent accessory. Of course, a video camera will provide you with wonderful souvenir footage of your trip; however, again, keep in mind that filming inside many museums, monuments, and tombs is prohibited.
Comfortable Walking Shoes
This is probably one of the first things most people will tell you to bring to Egypt. Most tourists will be doing a considerable amount of walking, and shoes should not be just comfortable, but comfortable. Unlike leather shoes for mountain walks and such, it is also preferable that walking shoes to be able to "breathe", and perhaps made of a lightweight nylon or similar fabric. "Tennis shoes" or other sporting types of shoes are good for this. Also, keep in mind that there are a lot of steps in Egypt.
Egypt uses 220 volt plug-ins, and plugs are two-prong rounded. You'll need one of the two varieties of power adaptors. For electronic gear that has switches to allow you to change the power input type, a simple wall adapter is all you will need. However, for devices that don't feature such switches, you will need not only a wall adapter, but also a power converter.
Do NOT forget to bring your prescription medicine! It may be generally available in Egyptian drug stores, but it may be called by a different name. So, to avoid confusion and problems, I suggest you bring the drugs you will require with you. Fortunately, there is no problem bringing prescription medication into Egypt. It is also more convenient to bring your favorite non-prescription medications along. Though you can find eqivalent non-prescription medications, such as aspirin or heart burn medication, you might not find your favorite brands.
Special note: Don't forget your Imodium. Of course, no one wants to contract "Tut's Trot" or "Mummy's Tummy", but just in case, having some Imodium or other anti-diarrheic with you is a very good idea. Moreover, the most common brand of bottled water, Baraka, contains magnesium, and so may act as a mild laxative. Another water brand to try is Siwa.
While most hotels will happily give you a wake-up call, many don't. Particularly if you aren't travelling with a group, a travel alarm will come in very handy. I often use mine to make sure that I can catch a little sleep in airports, and still catch my flight.
Some of the larger hotels, as well as some of the better-equipped smaller hotels, might supply a sewing kit in your room, but don't count on it. Most Egyptian tours are relatively long, and it is not unusual to lose a button here or there as you clamber through pyramids and tombs.
It is generally unnecessary for you to haul your favorite libations along with you. You will find many very good beers and wines in Egypt, and they are easily affordable. In fact, I consider Egyptian beer to be excellent and wish I could buy it in Denmark. However, harder alcoholic beverages such as whiskies and bourbons can be quite hard to find, and very expensive if you do. You may bring up to two liters of liquor into the country, and you may buy additional liquor at a reasonable price at the tax-free shop prior to leaving the airport. Why would you want to do this? Well, it is not uncommon to pay as much as $13.00 or even more for a single shot of Jack Daniels.
Cigarettes are available and inexpensive, but only in very limited variety. For example, Marlboro Lights are readily available, but not Marlboro 100s. In fact, very few "long" cigarettes are available. While you can purchase "American" cigarettes almost anywhere (LE 8), usually what you will find are Egyptian-manufactured cigarettes, which are noticeably harsher then the ones you are used to. Remember, just because you are buying Marlboro does not mean it will be the same Marlboro that you would buy in the U.S. or Europe.
If you are the type who likes to bring home souvenirs, you should consider bringing an extra bag when you visit Egypt. Just stuff it inside another bag before you leave home, and then use it to carry back souvenirs. Alternatively, many business people or guests of Egyptians often bring presents into Egypt, and once emptied, the bag is used to bring souvenirs back. You can find plenty of bags to purchase in Egypt. They are cheap but not the best quality.
Get wheels for your luggage, and leave heavy items at home. Bring a camera. If you don't, you will be sorry. Sunglasses are a must, as the sun is very strong in Egypt. For more, please see above.
Finally, as with any expedition to a new and foreign environment, bring along your good humor and a positive attitude. For many, and even those who have done extensive traveling in the U.S. or Europe, Egypt will be very different. You will find that attitudes are more "laid-back," time is less important, and even that some Egyptians can be a bit annoying (especially when selling their wares or their services at tourism sites).