Hurghada: Culture and Etiquette.
Updated: Mar 26, 2019
Dress code, Monies, Visa, Tipping, Duty Free, etc.,
Prior to landing at Hurghada Airport you will be given a Visa form to complete. You will need to detail your flight number (trip number), country you are arriving from, family name (surname, date of birth and country of birth. Hotel name and passport number. Complete this on the plane to save time.
When you leave the plane and walk into the terminal, at the top of the stairs you will reach an area with desks, look immediately to your right and you will see a bank. The current exchange rate means Visa's are £20 each, you can pay in English notes. You cannot pay by card. Ignore all the reps trying to divert you to the main desks, you will be charged more here. We got stung by this and ended up paying £25 each, lesson learnt! Once you have paid for your visa, you can now walk through to passport control.
The Visa is compulsory in Hurghada but for Sharm El Sheikh you only have to buy a Visa if you are going outside of the region, so it may be needed for some trips.
The child Visa is the same price.
Visas can be purchased online, however this is not the easiest process, so unless you are really unwilling to queue for 10 minutes at the bank we recommend getting your visa at the airport bank. More info can be found on the Egyptian Consulate UK page .
Hurghada is a Muslim country and respect for religion is high. Many of the Mosques will allow admission to the public and they are pretty amazing, however there are rules if you wish to enter. Women should wear a full length dress, cover your shoulders and a scarf or veil to cover your head. Think maxi dresses, long skirts, long sleeved tops and loose fitting clothes. This also applies in the Churches. Cover ups can sometimes be hired for a small charge.
For all it is essential to remove your shoes when entering.
Most areas of Hurghada are tourist orientated however if you venture into a small village area then be respectful for the residents.
At the hotel:
Naturally as a tourist resort the Egyptians understand that we visit for the sun and sea and that sunbathing is a big part of this however for women going topless or both sexes behaving inappropriately will not be accepted. Be respectful and you will have no issues.
During the daytime, when entering the Hotel reception, shops, restaurants etc., always wear a cover up over your swimwear. You don't need to be covered head to toe, but keep a cover up in your bag just in case you need to enter one of these areas. For men, wearing a t'shirt and not entering bare chested is a simple rule to follow. In the evenings, most hotels ask for guests to wear long trousers in the restaurants, many will allow knee length shorts as long as they are not swimwear.
On the beach, throw you litter in the bin, you should be aware by now of all the press about plastics entering the ocean and food chain, well you can make a difference just by throwing all you rubbish in the bins provided.
Don't walk on the coral. The coral reefs take thousands of years to grow, they are protected and are a truly beautiful sight, encouraging the many species of fish that you are searching for. Damage by tourists is high and being careless when snorkelling or diving is the main cause of the damage. When walking into the sea, the water is clear, you can easily spot Coral and side step it. Please be careful and try not to break the coral.
Wearing sand shoes on the beach and in the sea will ensure you feet are protected, there is sea urchin (Diadem setosum) native to this area which has black long spines, this is venomous and the spikes can pierce clothing. Whilst stings can be painful, the venom is minimal and does not pose a serious threat. Generally you'll spot them easily and can stay away from them. Please avoid and seek medical advice if you are spiked by one as mentioned above, they can be painful. It's best to warn children about these sea urchins if they are going to be swimming in the sea.
We found the best sand shoes at Decathlon but you can find cheaper versions on Amazon.
Learning a few words in Arabic will go a long way. We've added a section with some basics to help get you started. The staff at many of the hotels are more than happy to teach you what you want to know but a simple please and thank you, as in most countries will be favourable.
SMILE: You're on holiday, be pleasant and polite, don't moan about anything and everything, don't go looking for faults, don't go getting drunk and causing a scene, don't compare Hurghada to other places and tell the staff that your holiday in Barbados was so much better. Don't assume everyone you meet speaks perfect English, you're in a foreign country and whilst many Egyptians have mastered the English, German, Russian languages, don't take it as foregone conclusion they are going to understand everything you say.
Many people ask about currency, there are several options available to you. The first and my personal choice is to exchange money when you get to your hotel. Most hotels have an ATM machine near to reception and the exchange rate if better when you get to Hurghada than it is in the UK. When you use your bank card, remember to put in the amount you want in Egyptian money not English. For example if the exchange rate is 25LE to the GBP and you want to exchange £100 GBP into LE then type in 2500. You rarely see coins used now and if you are given any they are not worth much so stick to notes wherever you can. You can also purchase in US Dollars or Euros.
Note: Egyptian money is old and quite often dirty. Wash your hands after handling monies or use an alcohol gel to make sure your hands are clean.
If you are planning on taking any excursions, it is easier to pay in English money. Booking a few trips together as a package will save you money.
So you want good service? Of course you do and most hotel staff will go out of their way to help you but remember that wages are low and staff rely on guests tipping in order to boost their salaries. We always tip our room cleaner, he will then ensure that your fridge is topped up with the drinks that you like, he'll also provide any extras you ask for within reason ;)
In the restaurant, we tend to find an area where we can sit away from the main hustle and bustle near to the serveries. Most hotels operate in a way that the waiters remain in the same dining area therefore if you see the same waiter after day 1 you can pretty much guarantee he will be there for the rest of your stay. Again the waiters will try their best to ensure you have everything you need but the restaurants are very busy areas and they are trying to please everyone. A small tip equating to a pound or two a day will ensure that you have the waiters attention and by raising your hand you will find repeat drinks are brought to you quickly. Its a similar situation in the bars, if its high season and very busy, make sure you tip, quite often you wont have to go to the bar at all and repeat drinks will be brought to your table. Tip in notes wherever possible. Loose coins are hard for staff to change, so they prefer Egyptian LE or foreign notes if you have not exchanged your money.
You can buy duty free on the plane and at Hurghada airport. You can also buy from certain stores, there is one duty free shop at the Senzo Mall which we have visited. The prices were all marked up as USD but the staff will convert that into the currency you wish to pay in. If purchasing at the duty free shops you need to buy within 24 hours of landing and you will need to take your passport with you. The Spinneys store at the Senzo Mall is very competitive so its worth comparing prices.
Allowances are as follows:
How much you can bring depends on the type of drink. You can bring in:
beer - 16 litres
wine (not sparkling) - 4 litres
You can also bring in either:
spirits and other liquors over 22% alcohol - 1 litre
fortified wine (eg port, sherry), sparkling wine and alcoholic drinks up to 22% alcohol - 2 litres
You can split this last allowance, eg you could bring 1 litre of fortified wine and half a litre of spirits (both half of your allowance).
You may have to pay Excise Duty on alcohol you declare.
You can bring in one from the following:
You can split this allowance - so you could bring in 100 cigarettes and 25 cigars (both half of your allowance).
If you don't declare anything over these allowances, you are at risk of having the items confiscated!
Shopping in Egypt is like Marmite, you'll either love the whole bartering process or you'll hate it. In the local stores, you need to barter and can get yourself a good deal if you're prepared to spend some time haggling. If you don't like doing this then visit a fixed price shop where the prices are already marked up. The Senzo Mall has plenty of fixed price shops all in a modern environment. In Market areas there is no choice but to haggle, they will inflate the prices just to try their luck and sometimes they get away with it. If someone is asking too much for the item you want, even after haggling, just walk away, guaranteed you'll see the same product elsewhere. Sheraton Street is the main shopping area, with plenty of choice of small shops, bars and eateries.
Another area where you'll get ripped off if you're not holiday savvy. Firstly the hotels charge more if you book a taxi through them. Secondly when booking a taxi on the street, agree a price before you get in the car. There have been incidents where people have jumped in a taxi without agreeing on a price and been charged more than double. Find a taxi through one of the excursion providers and they will book it for you and you can pay them direct instead of the taxi driver. Thirdly, do your homework, decide on where you want to go and ask around how much it should cost. You can then haggle with the taxi driver to ensure you are not overpaying.
If you're prone to being bitten by the pesky little insects then sadly Hurghada has a multitude of them. There are many remedies and precautions recommended and really it's a case of what works best for you. Jungle Spray, widely available in the UK is a strong deterrent due to DEET which is an effective repellent, however it does not work for everyone. In Egyptian stores you can buy a product called OFF, which also comes recommended by many. More recently people have been recommending citronella sprays, Vitamin B tablets, and certain skincare products. Depending on your level of susceptibility to bites may help on your choice of product.
Compare prices for Jungle Spray at Amazon
Tip: Buy a RAID type room spray and spray your room when you go out for the evening to kill off any mosquitos that may have gotten in your room. Again these can be purchased quite cheaply in local stores. Some people manage well with plug ins or repellent bracelets/bands, which you can buy in the UK or onboard the plane.
Most hotels offer wifi, but don't be fooled, it is usually in the reception areas and trying to log into it is frustrating to say the least. You have two choices here, if yor phone is unlocked you can buy a sim from the shopping mall (usually Vodafone, costing under £20 for 20gb or you can hire a wifi unit from one of the excursion reps which you hand back at the end of your stay.
Check prices on Amazon for the Huawei wifi units, or an alternative product we have found good is the WorldSIM pocket wifi unit. Remember both of these units can be used in any country, just buy a sim card on arrival.
You will need a travel adaptor if you are taking phones or other electrical items. The sockets are two pin, round shape adaptors.
There are two different types of power outlets used in Egypt, types F and C with the primary power outlets being type F:
Plug Type C - The plug socket, technically known as a type C socket or Europlug, is recognised by two round adjacent holes next to each other.
Plug Type F - You can recognise the power outlet by two 4.8mm circular holes 19 mm adjacent to each other and metal grounding clips above and below.
More info can be found on our shopping page.
We've tried to include as much information as we can on this page, it will be updated if we are asked any other questions and please feel free to email us if you have anything you would like to ask.
For info on activities and places to visit, click here
Enjoy your holiday.