The local currency is the Egyptian Pound (EGP), which is divided into 100 piastres. The currency is often written as LE (short for French livre égyptienne) or by using the pound sign £. In Arabic, the pound is called gunaih (جنيه), in turn derived from English "guinea", and piastres are known as qirsh or "'irsh" (قرش).
The Egyptian pound has been devaluating gradually over the last several decades. In the 1950s and 1960s, the Egyptian pound was rated almost the same as the British pound. As of April 2011, the Egyptian pound is worth about 10 times less. Other currencies value as follows: $1 = LE 6.0 / €1 = LE 8.0 / A$1 = LE 6.3.
Foreign currencies can be exchanged at exchange offices or banks, so there is no need to resort to the dodgy street moneychangers. Many higher-end hotels price in dollars or euros and will gladly accept them as payment, often at a premium rate over Egyptian pounds. ATMs are ubiquitous in the cities and probably the best option overall; they often offer the best rate and many foreign banks have branches in Egypt. These include Barclay's Bank, HSBC, CitiBank, NSGB, BNP Paribas, Piraeus Bank, CIB, and other local and Arab Banks. Bank hours are Sunday through Thursday, 8:30AM until 2PM.
Banknotes are available in all denominations ranging from 200 pounds to the thoroughly useless 5 piastres, while coins were rather rare until new 50-piastre and 1-pound coins were introduced in the summer of 2006. Counterfeit or obsolete notes are not a major problem, but exchanging pounds outside the country can be difficult. American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa are accepted, but only bigger hotels or restaurants in Cairo and restaurants in tourist areas will readily accept credit cards as payment. Traveler's checks can be exchanged in any bank, but it could take some time.
Because of the economic situation of the country nowadays with an ever-expanding population and depletion of resources, this means that a lot of people may be unemployed (a rate much higher than in more developed countries). Even those who are employed in the service or hospitality industry (restaurants, hotels, bars, etc.) are most likely underpaid as their wages do not really reflect the value of the work they do. It is even more difficult for them to make a living with the problem of nonstop inflation, which means prices for everything even basic commodities like food and water keep rising steeply, while their wages remain the same and if they do rise, will not even rise to a fraction of the increase that prices have risen to.
This means that 90% of people who work in the service/hospitality industry try to make their main source of income from living off of tips. In fact, for these people, tips form a large majority of their income because without tips, their monthly wages/salaries would simply not be enough for them to survive in a place where prices rise steadily and salaries remain the same.
Bear in mind that these people quite often live hard lives, often responsible for feeding large families and may very well live in poverty simply because their income from work is not sufficient for them to live easy lives. Many of them are forced in these jobs because otherwise they would not find another job at all in a country with such high unemployemnt rates and overpopulation.
Thus, almost everyone at your hotel asks for a tip, even if all they did was a small thing. You don't have to pay huge tips as often smallest bills are appreciated. However, you do not have to tip if you feel that you haven't received any service or help at all or if you feel that the service was bad. Nobody will ever take offense or be disrespectful if you did not tip them.
Some general guidelines:
If you ask a stranger for directions, tips are not necessary and may even be considered offensive. Officials in uniform, 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 seen by many as easy money and you should not let yourself be pressured into tipping for unnecessary or unrequested "services" like self-appointed tour guides latching on to you.
Egypt is a shopper's paradise, especially if you're interested in Egyptian-themed souvenirs and kitsch. However, there are also a number of high quality goods for sale, often at bargain prices. Some of the most popular purchases include:
When shopping in markets or dealing with street vendors, remember to haggle.
You will also find many western brands all around. There are many malls in Egypt, the most common being Citystars Mall, which is the largest entertainment center in the Middle East and Africa. You will find all the fast food restaurants you want such as Mcdonald's, KFC, Hardees, Pizza Hut, etc. Clothing brands such as Morgan, Calvin Klein, Levi's, Facconable, Givenchy, Esprit, and more.
In Egypt, prices are often increased for foreigners, so if you see a price on a price tag, it may be wise to learn the local Eastern Arabic numerals:
|Eastern Arabic numerals||٠||١||٢||٣||٤||٥||٦||٧||٨||٩|
They are written from left to right. For example, the number 15 would be written as ١٥.
Shopping in Egypt ranges goods and commodities that represent souveniers of Egypt's ancient as well as modern things. These include items such as small pyramids, obelisks, and souvenir statues which can be bought at more touristic areas such as Khan El Khalili and Islamic Cairo.
You can also do general shopping in Cairo for clothing items and other goods such as in the modern shopping malls of City Stars, City Center, Media:Example.ogg or Nile City (all of which contain some of the most famous designer brands of the world, including Guess, Calvin Klein, Armani, Hugo Boss, etc.
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