A traveller's guide to local etiquette in Egypt (2024)

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Behaviour Dress Dining Money FAQs

Egypt has so much to offer the keen traveller. It’s a little bit Africa, a little bit Middle East and a whole lot of amazing, but if you’re a first-time visitor, it’s important to be aware of local etiquette and customs.

Egypt follows much of the same traditional conventions as other countries where Islam is the official religion, but keeping the following advice in mind can also be helpful:


Egypt is conservative. Very conservative. You won’t find couples cuddling and kissing in public, as any type of public affection is a big no-no (even handholding isn’t really approved of). The reverse side is that Egyptian men can be very flirtatious with women travellers, such as following them, remarking on their beauty – even hissing – which can be confronting and annoying. In most cases, they’re harmless, as it’s frowned upon for a man to touch a woman he isn’t married to. Ignoring them is your best option. But if you find yourself in a situation where someone gets a bit ‘handsy’ or a persistent local makes you uncomfortable, raise your voice and assertively tell him no. Fearing he’ll draw attention to himself, he’ll most likely back away quickly.

While wandering around, keep in mind that pointing can also be considered rude, so gesture with your open hand if needed.


Conservative dress is essential for both sexes. Pack clothing that covers both shoulders and knees; women in particular should take care to cover cleavage and wear loose-fitting clothing, like long flowing skirts or maxi-dresses, rather than figure-hugging attire. It’s a good idea to pack a scarf/wrap or light cardigan to cover your shoulders (and hair if entering a mosque) without overheating.

Photo by Amanda Hamilton

Also on the must-pack list is comfortable walking shoes. While sandals are acceptable attire, the streets in Egypt, particularly in Cairo, aren’t spectacularly maintained (lots of uneven roads, holes, etc) and can be quite dirty. Rather than returning to your hotel with filthy feet and a rolled ankle, it’s better to bring some sturdy walking shoes. If you’re visiting a mosque or private home, you’ll probably be asked to remove your shoes.

Shorts/swimwear are only acceptable at beachside resorts.

Be respectful and don’t be the person who demands to wear what you want. Not adhering to a conservative dress code will almost always result in unwanted attention and disapproving looks from the locals.


It’s polite to leave a little bit of food on your plate when you’ve finished eating to indicate you’ve been well fed and aren’t still hungry. Another tip to keep in mind is that each hand has a purpose: the right is for most everyday tasks, while the left is reserved for ‘unclean tasks’ (like wiping yourself after using the bathroom, or putting on your shoes). If you’re a south paw, be mindful not to eat directly with your left hand. Using cutlery solves the issue, but passing food to another person or using your left hand to directly put food into your mouth is considered unhygienic.


Money is an interesting travel topic for Egypt as it’s a system based heavily on ‘baksheesh’ – essentially, tipping. Similar to the United States, it’s standard to tip taxi drivers and waiters; however you’ll also encounter people wanting baksheesh for helping you take your luggage to your room, and the luxury of toilet paper in public bathrooms. Bring a small pack of tissues when you venture out and carry small notes and coins, so you’ll always be prepared. A word of warning though – money is Egypt is extremely dirty (greasy and smelly), so you might want to carry some hand sanitiser with you as well.

When shopping, bring your best bargaining skills as just about everything is negotiable and haggling is expected.

Egypt also has a healthy population of scammers, and you’ll encounter them from the moment you get off the plane. Usually they’re locals enthusiastically offering to take you to their cousin’s shop or be your local tour guide, in exchange for baksheesh (of course!). As a rule, it’s usually better to simply say “la shukran” (or no, thank you) and keep walking. Excursions that are pushed onto tourists are often heavily overpriced, so travelling with a group eliminates much of this.

Generally speaking, Egypt is safe and Egyptians are friendly towards travellers. However, travelling on a group tour usually circumvents many of the hiccups that new or nervous travellers might encounter. Even for seasoned travellers, visiting Egypt in a group provides greater security and less opportunity for travel misfortunes or tourist scams. From a practical standpoint, it also means you’ll be travelling with experts so you can spend your precious travel time actually enjoying yourself, rather than working out your itinerary and negotiating with transport and tour providers.

Put your local etiquette knowledge to the test on an Intrepid adventure in Egypt!

Feature image C/O Shutterstock.

A traveller's guide to local etiquette in Egypt (2024)


A traveller's guide to local etiquette in Egypt? ›

If you're visiting a mosque, you're expected to be “modestly” dressed (men should be covered from below the shoulder to below the knee, women from wrist to ankle). It's also obligatory to remove shoes (or don overshoes). When invited to a home, it's normal to take your shoes off before entering the reception rooms.

What is the basic etiquette in Egypt? ›


Before any social interaction you must greet everyone present with a smile and good eye contact. In most cases, direct eye contact is acceptable. It is a sign of respect, sincerity and honesty. Sometimes, Egyptians will hold an intense stare, more than is typical in a western country.

What not to wear in Egypt as a tourist? ›

Pants, t-shirts, and long-sleeve shirts are acceptable as clothes to wear in Egypt. Avoid wearing shorts or sleeveless shirts to fit in with local customs. Men do not need a head-covering scarf to enter mosques.

Can I kiss my girlfriend in Egypt? ›

Couples kissing on the street, even a kiss on the cheek might be unacceptable in some areas in Egypt. Handholding and shaking hands is ok in general, but strict Muslims don't shake hands with people of the opposite sex to avoid any physical contact.

What is considered impolite in Egypt? ›

Basic Etiquette

It is considered impolite to point the toe, heel or any part of the foot toward another person. Showing the sole of one's shoe is also impolite. Modest dress and presentation is highly valued in Egyptian culture. Greetings often occur before any form of social interaction.

Is it rude not to tip in Egypt? ›

One of the most common tipping mistakes in Egypt is not tipping at all. In Egypt, tipping is expected, and failure to do so can be considered rude or disrespectful. Another mistake is tipping too little. While it may seem like a small amount to you, it can make a big difference to service providers.

How should American tourists dress in Egypt? ›

Light fabrics like linen, cotton and athletic gear made to take the heat are best. Just remember to cover up from your shoulders to below the knee. While women are expected to dress more conservatively than men, even the fellas should leave the short shorts and tight singlets at home.

Are mosquitoes bad in Egypt? ›

Although the mosquitoes in Egypt do not carry malaria, they can carry other nasty diseases and the bites alone can be hugely irritating, so best avoided at all costs. Mosquitoes are most prevalent at dawn and dusk, so ensure you wear long loose clothing and wear extra repellent at these times.

Can I stay in the same room as my boyfriend in Egypt? ›

There is a law that bans all none married couples from staying together in same hotel rooms. However, the unwritten part of the law says it applies only to Egyptians and Arabs. The Adab Police is not for that though.

How to avoid being hassled in Egypt? ›

It's easy to get fed up with being hassled and react with fury to any approach from strangers – even a sincere “Welcome to Egypt”. Try to keep your cool and respond politely; intoning la shukran (no thanks) with your hand on your heart, while briskly moving on, will dissuade most street peddlers.

What is the meaning of single lip kiss? ›

2. SINGLE LIP KISS. Twee and romantic, single lip kisses are the best way to tell your partner 'I love you'. Start by leaning closer and reaching out for one of their lips. Start sucking the lip gently in a romantic manner.

What is taboo in Egypt? ›

Among the very accepted taboos in ancient Egypt, the access to such ceremonial and ritualistic buildings, as tombs, temples and palaces, in the sense that individuals were prohibited unless they adhered to certain rules of purity, being circumcised and abstinence from sexual activity.

How do you say hello in Egypt? ›

Say "hello." One way to say "hello" is "is salām 'alaykum." The appropriate response is "wa 'alaykum is salām." You can also say "welcome," which is "ahlan wa sahlan." The response is "ahlan beek." An informal response is "ahlan." For "goodbye," you can say "ma'is salāma" or "bai."

What is forbidden in Egypt? ›

Even males are not allowed to go bare-chest. On closed days, people are not allowed to wander the streets. Drinking alcohol other than the licensed restaurant is not allowed. Use or trafficking of illegal drugs is a serious offence.

What is do's and don'ts in Egypt? ›

Do respect the monuments archaeological sites are human heritage don't touch scratch or sit on it. Do dress correctly whilst there is no specific dress code in the cities, women will feel more comfortable if they do not wear shorts or have their shoulders uncovered.

Do you have to cover up as a woman in Egypt? ›

It's a personal choice and not something that's legally required. Tourists aren't required to or expected to cover their heads.

How do Egyptians show respect? ›

It is required from an Egyptian person, despite one's social or educational class, to always respect one's elders. For example, if an Egyptian comes across an elderly person, they stand if sitting, greet them first, give up their seat on public transportation and carry the elder's bags while taking the stairs.

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