44 Most Common Tourist Scams In Egypt

Safety at Cairo, Giza, Alexandria, Hurghada, Sharm El Sheikh, Luxor, Faiyum, Dahab, Aswan, Marsa Alam, El Gouna, Shubra Al Khaymah, Ismailia, Nabq Bay, Port Said, Safaga, Tanta, Nuweiba, Mersa Matruh, Mansoura, Marina, Al Fayyum, Ain Sukhna, Suez, Siwa, aba, Makadi Bay, Damietta, Zagazig, Asyut, Bawiti

Source credit: Mark Brodkin Photography Moment Getty Images

As one of the most fascinating countries in Africa, Egypt needs no introduction.

Known for its gorgeous sweeping deserts as well as some of the most iconic structures on earth, you can spend time here crawling inside tombs or ambling across the sands on a camel.

The country is also bisected by the majestic River Nile, and a river cruise that will take you to scenic Aswan and Luxor is the highlight of any trip.

However, Egypt has a rising crime rate and is particularly notorious for its scams.

These take many forms, to the point where some visitors find the constant scam artists and petty criminals extremely challenging.

Read on to learn how you can protect yourself in the land of the pharaohs!

Contents

 

A. TOURIST ATTRACTIONS / ACTIVITIES

1. Lousy quality guides / unlicensed touts

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The widespread and aggressive presence of touts is the number one problem in Egypt.

It comes in many forms, and one such is the posing as official guides. For instance, you can find them at the Pyramids of Giza, Citadel in Cairo, Karnak Temple, Luxor Temple and others.

These guides usually provide low quality information. Further, they will not bring you to all the places which they claim to at the start.

They may demand for more payment halfway, and if you do not pay, they will abandon you there.

Some may also offer simple but unsolicited help, like showing you the different shafts that lead into the pyramid chambers.

Once they have pointed these to you, they will ask for a tip which is known as ‘baksheesh’ in Arabic.

Another variation is to show you the best spots for taking photos. They will point to random spots and then demand baksheesh for guiding you or helping to take a photo.

Rule of thumb:

Do not be pressured into paying baksheesh if someone had not provided a service but simply given unsolicited advice.

Also, make it clear as soon as someone approaches you that you do not require any help or a tour.

 

2. Scammers posing as official tour guides at the Step Pyramid

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This scam happens at the Step Pyramid of Djoser and is difficult to avoid if you do not know of it.

You will need a ticket to enter the pyramid but once you get to the entrance, you might bump into a scammer who looks like an official staff.

The scammer will ask to check your ticket. Once they take your ticket, they will lead you around the pyramid and give you a tour.

Many tourists think that this is included in the ticket price but these are scammers rather than official tour guides.

At the end of the “tour”, you will be asked to pay an inflated price for it on top of the ticket price you initially paid.

Rule of thumb:

It can be difficult to refuse if someone asks to check your ticket and they may well be an official staff. The best thing to do is to comply.

However, make sure you hold onto it. Do not let the scammer walk off with it and lead you around on a tour.

If they insist on following you, ask if this tour is included in the ticket price.

Then, make it clear that you will not be paying them for their services.

 

3. Papyrus scroll museums

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Papyrus scroll museums are a dime a dozen around the Pyramids of Giza.

If you are on a tour / cab, there is a high likelihood of your driver bringing you to one of them (e.g. Egypt Papyrus Museum).

You might also find touts roaming around town, claiming to be an Egyptologist or head of some Papyrus institute.

Note that these are not actually real museums or institutes, but shops that peddle overpriced junk!

Inside, you will be offered a drink which will make it difficult to leave quickly (also a sales trick to spur reciprocity).

Next, the owners will demonstrate how they cut and process a real papyrus. They then show you some papyrus scrolls and try to convince you that they are extremely valuable antiques.

This however, is a scam. The papyrus is likely to be made of cheap materials such as banana leaf and not genuine.

They may also claim that there is a one day special offer, or that today is the last day to buy as they are shifting location soon.

Another variation is that the shop will promise you a free piece if you recommend their shop to others. They then ask for your name and which papyrus you like, and proceed to write your name on it.

You try to stop it, but to no avail. They then ask for your companion / family members’ names, and write them on new pieces of papyrus.

These you will be charged for.

Rule of thumb:

Insist on not heading to a papyrus scroll museum in the first place.

However, if you would like to have a look, stand your ground and firmly decline buying anything.

 

4. Camel handlers scam

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The camel handlers at the Pyramids of Giza are known for being scam artists.

If they see you taking photographs nearby, they will offer to pose for you with their camel.

They could also offer to take a picture of you with their camels. After the pictures have been taken, money will be demanded.

If you do not pay, they will get verbally aggressive.

There are even camel handlers who poke into your picture and then ask for money.

Rule of thumb:

If anyone offers to take pictures of you or for you, reject it, unless he or she is a fellow tourist.

Also, if you do not want to pay, do not take pictures even if you have their permission. You will be hounded.

 

5. Tours with hidden extras

A common scam involves tours that come with a range of hidden extras and these occur all over Egypt.

This can range from having to buy your own food and drinks to having to pay for your own transport on the way back from the tour.

All of which can increase the cost of your tour considerably.

Rule of thumb:

When you book a tour make sure that you do so through a reputable tour company. Check out as many reviews as possible.

Finally, ensure that you discuss what is included in the tour package thoroughly before it starts.

 

6. Valley of the Kings photography scam

You will find this scam at the Valley of the Kings in Luxor.

There, you are not allowed to take photographs inside the tombs as flash photography can damage the stone work.

However, some scammers will follow you inside and tell you that you can take photographs for a small fee.

Another variation is that of an official guard or scammer posing as an official encouraging you to take photos inside.

However, if you were to do so, your camera will be confiscated. A bribe is now required before you can get your camera back.

Rule of thumb:

It can be tempting but do not fall into the trap – it is impossible to get out of.

This is because they now have evidence of you flouting the regulations.

 

7. Show me your ticket scam

This happens at the pyramids in Giza.

Once you enter, you may find touts pretending to be officials or police officers demanding to see your ticket.

Should you pass them your ticket, they will scrutinize it and accuse you of using a fake ticket.

A bribe is then demanded before they will return the ticket.

Rule of thumb:

Firmly reject handing your ticket over. If you have managed to enter the compound, it means your ticket is legitimate.

 

8. Official diving and boating photography scam

This is a different photography scam than the one earlier but is still prevalent in Egypt, particularly in Sharm El Sheikh.

If you join a boat cruise or go diving, the tour operator will pressure you to have professional photographs taken either on the boat or underwater.

They claim that the pictures will be sent to your home country as they need some time to develop.

Often, they either never arrive or are fake. i.e. your picture will have been edited onto a false background.

Rule of thumb:

If the operator cannot guarantee evidence / delivery of the pictures before you leave Egypt, then do not engage.

 

9. Public beach scam

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This scam is prevalent in beach areas such as Sharm El Sheikh.

Touts operate on the public beaches in these areas and tell unsuspecting tourists that they are on a private beach.

As such they will need to pay a fee in order to use the area.

This is somewhat similar to a scam in Australia, where tour operators charged Chinese tourists $100 each just to walk on Bondi beach which is a public beach.

They do so by pointing to a random sign in English which they do not understand.

Rule of thumb:

In such situations, try to check with someone in authority such as a member of the tourist police.

However, that is probably difficult to do so as they may not be in the area.

In case of a dispute, firmly refuse to pay a fee and threaten to call the tourist police if they insist.

Else, just head off to somewhere else.

 

10. Unsolicited helpers / helpful stranger scam

In Cairo, a common scam is the sudden appearance of a helpful stranger when faced with a difficult situation.

A particular hotspot for this is outside the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, where the road in front of the main building is difficult to cross.

As you stand on the side of the road, a helper will suddenly appear and guide you across the street. Once they have done this they will engage you in conversation and will keep walking with you.

They will then take you to a shop which they claim to sell cheap products. Or it could be a shop owned by a relative whom they want you to meet.

Over there, you will be offered tea to make you feel more comfortable and then sold products that are far more expensive than in other parts of the city.

Once you are in the shop, it’s difficult to not buy as some sellers will get really pushy and aggressive.

There are all kinds of possible scenarios these scammers can exploit as a helpful stranger, and you might face these in other parts of Africa / Middle East as well such as in Turkey and Morocco.

Rule of thumb:

If someone starts to follow you on the street or offers help in a suspicious manner, reject firmly.

If you do accept help and are then accosted to go to a shop, reject firmly as well.

 

11. Inflated prices

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Not exactly a scam, but more of a tourist scam if you do not know what you are doing.

At the markets / souvenir shops in busy tourist areas (e.g. Giza Pyramids; Khan Khalili in Cairo, markets of Aswnan and Luxor etc), prices are way over-inflated.

This is because they expect you to bargain.

Rule of thumb:

Understand in advance that almost all prices at markets and stalls across Egypt are inflated and get ready to bargain.

To bargain effectively, you would have to do your research to understand the ballpark prices of certain items. Else, you could start with an offer that is around one tenth to one third of the stated price and negotiate from there.

Another trick is to simply walk off and prices will fall. Even if not, it is fine as you will usually be able to find the same item somewhere else.

If you do not want to bargain, you could shop at the licensed shops with reasonable fixed prices.

  • In Cairo, there are malls such as the Cairo Festival City Mall, City Stars Mall and Mall of Arabia Cairo.
  • There are also galleries such as the Qahira gallery, Oum El Dounia, Khan Misr Tulun gallery with positive reviews.
  • In Giza, you could check out the Topaz Bazaar. In Luxor, there are Caravanserai; Habiba and Fair Trade Luxor. In Hurghada, Cleopatra is the one to check out.

 

12. Friendship gifts

This scam is the African version of the friendship band in Europe (e.g. France, Italy).

It is prevalent on the streets of Cairo and Alexandria, especially in areas close to tourist attractions such as museums.

A friendly local will walk along and start talking to you. Once they have engaged you in conversation they will hand you a small ‘gift’ such as a bracelet.

They claim that this is ‘for friendship’ and is ‘free’.

Should you accept, they will keep following you and explain that it is good luck to bless the friendship with some money.

Rule of thumb:

Never take anything from anyone on the streets even if they tell you that it is ‘free’ or a ‘gift’.

However, the good news is that it is not something that is tied to your wrist and difficult to remove. So, do not be afraid to gently place it on the ground if they keep hounding you.

 

13. Luxor postcard scam

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This is a standard opening trick used in Luxor to get you to visit a shop.

The scammer will approach you on the streets and ask if you speak English. If you say yes, he will ask for your help in writing to a friend, family member or relative in England.

This person is usually someone in Manchester, Liverpool, London or the city of a famous football team.

Should you agree to help, you will be brought to “his place” to write the postcard. That is basically the shop where he gets commission from.

Rule of thumb:

Firmly reject and walk off.

 

14. Scarf photo scam

This is a slightly different twist to the vendors you see at tourist attractions.

First, a scammer will come up to offer apparel and souvenirs. Should you decline, he will give you a headscarf for free.

He will then help you put it on in the “Egyptian way”. Next, he asks if you would like a picture with it.

Once he takes a few pictures, money will be demanded for the headscarf and the photos and your camera will be held under ransom.

Another variation is that as the scammer helps you with the scarf, an accomplice comes along and steals from your bag.

Rule of thumb:

Nothing is free in this world.

To prevent yourself from becoming a pickpocket victim, consider using an anti-theft bag or a money belt / hidden pouch to conceal your valuables securely.

 

15. Pickpocket

Pickpocketing is a big problem in crowded tourist areas (e.g. Great Pyramids, Egyptian Museum and on the subway system in Cairo.

These thieves work in gangs, and will hang around to spot anyone carrying an expensive or neglected phone / jewelery / valuable / bag and where it is stored.

Once they mark a target, they will surround him or her and then work like this:

  • One will keep a lookout and block passer-bys from seeing the scene
  • Another will push or distract the target (e.g. ask you an innocent question / survey / drop something and ask you about it),
  • A third will steal your valuable / slash your bag and then passes it on
  • The last will hide the loot under a jacket / items and then escapes with it

Do watch out for child pickpockets as well.

Rule of thumb:

Stay alert and watch out for suspicious characters, though that is easier said than done in a crowded environment.

The best solution is still, to not make yourself look like a target. 

This is because once you are targeted, you will almost definitely lose your valuables in a split second.

Take care when you are in a crowded situation and stay vigilant if you feel someone brush up against you.

Also, consider getting a spare cheap wallet or a RFID blocking wallet to minimize any potential losses and also to block electronic thieves.

You should also definitely get a money belt / hidden pouch to conceal your valuables securely.

A sturdy anti-theft bag that is slash resistant, comes with a locking system and is difficult to unzip will be a huge help as well.

Also, make a photocopy of your personal particulars and carry that around instead of your original documents.

Finally, valuables should be left in your hotel safe, rather than be carried around. You can even bring the security of your accommodation up a notch with hotel safety tools.

 

16. You are walking the wrong way

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In the surrounding areas of tourist attractions, you may find touts stopping you.

They claim that you are headed in the wrong direction, or that you should take a detour as there is a protest upfront.

They then ask for a tip upfront, or offer to bring you to your destination for free.

Should you accept, they will bring you to a shop where they receive commission instead.

In other variations, they might suggest using a cab, camel ride or caleche ride (horse), and introduce you to their accomplice who will probably overcharge you in one way or another (check out the other scams).

Rule of thumb:

Use an offline map or Google Maps if you have mobile data.

Do not accept unsolicited advice from locals who appear overly friendly.

 

17. The place is closed

Similar to the earlier scam, there are scammers who will claim that a place is closed.

Besides touts you face on the streets, there are taxi drivers who pull this scam off as well.

They could use all sorts of reasons, such as now is the praying hour and the place will only reopen in an hour.

In the meantime, they will suggest bringing you to a nice restaurant or a government licensed souvenir shop to pass time.

These are usually places peddling low quality food / wares at inflated prices.

Rule of thumb:

Check out the opening hours of the places you are going.

Do not accept unsolicited advice from locals who appear overly friendly.

 

B. TRANSPORT

1. Valley of the kings ticket office

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When going to the Valley of the Kings, one common trick rogue taxi drivers use is to rephrase it as going to the ticket office.

They then bring you to the first ticket office along the route there.

However this ticket office sells tickets for other attractions in the area (e.g. Ramesseum, tombs of the workers and nobles), just not for the Valley of the Kings (and also Valley of the Queens, Temple of Hatshepsut, King Tut’s tomb), which is several kilometres away.

The driver will now claim that this is your destination. Should you want to venture further to the real ticket office, you have to pay another fare.

Rule of thumb:

Be super specific when referring to the Valley of the Kings ticket office.

Should you find yourself in a scam, do not be afraid to get out of the taxi.

There are many buses and taxis that pass by here which you can take as well.

At worst, you can walk back to Luxor, a 2-3 km walk away.

 

2. Camel rides / horse carriage drivers

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A camel ride is an interesting experience, but be prepared to get scammed if you were to take one.

First, camel ride operators will make false claims to entice you. For instance, they claim to be able to help you enter an attraction through a secret entrance and save on the entrance fee.

Another claim is that they can help you get closer to the Sphinx. Also, at the pyramids in Giza, they may claim that you cannot get a panorama view without a camel ride.

These are all nonsense.

Another scam to be wary of is if the camel handler request that you keep your valuables in the satchels on the camels.

Should you do so, your items will be held to ransom when they overcharge you at the end of the ride.

Towards the middle or end of the tour, the scammer will bring you far away from the pyramids. As you sit atop the camel (a wobbly 2m high perch), a higher price will be charged.

The scammer will threaten not to let you down unless you pay.

Rule of thumb:

Right at the start, make it clear what the ride entails. Else, you might only ride the camel over a short distance before being made to pay an inflated price.

And of course, do not make any payment at the start of the ride.

Also, keep your valuables securely with you instead of leaving it with your guide or in the satchels on the camels. Consider investing in a money belt or hidden pouch.

Finally, during the tour, identify the route back to the exit so that you will not be stranded if caught in the scam.

Once the scammer demands a higher payment, ask to get down before you start negotiating. Insist on this despite the scammer’s threat as he will not dare to injure you.

 

3. Luxor boat / felucca scam

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This is another scam similar to the camel ride scam.

As you take a chartered felucca across the Nile River, the felucca owner may stop you in the middle.

He then offers you to bring to other places of interest, such as Banana Island, or to do a sunset cruise and what have you.

Rule of thumb:

Firmly decline. The felucca owner will bring you back eventually.

Otherwise, he will be wasting his own time as well in the middle of nowhere.

 

4. Theft on microbuses

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Microbuses are a common way to move around Cairo. However, they are also known to be a haven for thieves.

When you place your luggage on the floor of a microbus, thieves may grab it and jump off before you even realize it.

There have also been reports of women being sexually assaulted or harassed on microbuses.

Rule of thumb:

Be vigilant when you are traveling on a microbus. Always have your belongings close to you.

If possible, avoid being the last passenger on a microbus late at night.

This is because there have been reports of drivers bringing victims to secluded areas and then robbing or assaulting them.

If you must take one, make sure you are using an anti-theft bag and a money belt or hidden pouch to conceal your valuables securely.

 

5. The car / taxi jumper

You may be surprised, but there have been cases of scammers jumping into your taxis while it is stationary at a junction.

These scammers are extremely persistent and will attempt aggressively to convince you to detour to a highly recommended shop.

In some cases, the scammer may simply be an accomplice of the driver.

Rule of thumb:

Stand your ground and insist on your destination firmly. They will not dare hurt you. Your driver should also help.

However, if he doesn’t and is most likely an accomplice, get out of the taxi and flag a new one.

 

6. Non-metered taxis / meter is broken / rigged meters

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For all white cabs, they are fitted with meters and drivers must use them. However, many do not want to turn them on.

Instead they tell you that the meter is broken or offer a flat rate that they claim to be cheaper.

You will definitely encounter this should you try to get to the pyramids in Giza from Cairo. This is because it is not worth the trip – drivers usually come back with an empty car from there.

However, note that for the older black and white taxis, they have meters but these meters don’t work.

Finally, you might not be “safe” even with a meter. Watch out for rigged meters which display abnormal changes in your fare throughout.

Rule of thumb:

Make sure that you deal with this issue before even getting into the taxi.

When you hail a taxi, ask the driver to switch on the meter. If the driver refuses then simply look for another taxi.

Also, it is a good idea to understand how much each route should cost roughly.

You could use the Uber app, an online taxi fare estimator or simply ask your hotel. This is because sometimes, a meter may really be broken or the flat rate offered is fair.

In those cases, you can go ahead and use those cabs with confidence.

 

7. Black market / fake taxis

Black market taxis operate all over Egypt and are usually cheaper than official taxis. They can however be extremely dangerous.

There have been reports of tourists being driven to remote areas where they are then mugged or sexually assaulted.

It is easy to spot these fake taxis. In Cairo for instance, they are usually in all white to resemble the licensed cabs.

However, they will carry a blue license plate (instead of an orange one) and there is no meter inside.

Rule of thumb:

Never get into an unmarked car in Egypt and only take official licensed taxis.

  • Taxis in Cairo are usually painted black and white or white with black band around the middle of the vehicle.
  • Taxis in Alexandria are yellow and black and are clearly marked.

 

8. Taxi tie-ups

There are different ways rogue taxi drivers can work with others to scam tourists.

The first variation is the classic, recommending certain shops or restaurants to you where they can get a commission.

The second variation is to work with other transport providers.

For instance, halfway during your trip to the pyramid or any place of attraction, they may stop and claim that cabs cannot enter the compound.

To continue, you will have to engage a camel ride or a horse carriage.

The third variation is to work with scammers posing as officials.

The driver can drop you at the wrong entrance and leave you surrounded with these other scammers. These scammers then offer to walk you to the real entrance, but for a tip.

Rule of thumb:

Firmly decline. There may be all sorts of innocuous sounding reasons used, but do not believe them.

Use an offline map with GPS if possible so that you would not get lost.

 

9. Long route taxi drivers

Taxi drivers in Egypt usually do not like to use the meter and will tell you that it doesn’t work.

If you do convince them to use the meter, then they may deliberately inflate the fare by driving you all over the city before dropping you off at your destination.

Rule of thumb:

Try to use an offline GPS system so that you can work out where you are going.

With it, you can also talk / discuss in a way with the driver which suggests you know the routes well.

And as earlier mentioned, it is a good idea to understand how much each route should cost roughly.

 

10. Airport taxi

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Airport taxi drivers are some of the best pros at squeezing money out of tourists.

One trick they use is to furnish an “official” price list and ask where you are headed.

They then point to a more expensive route, hoping to catch you unaware if you are unfamiliar with street names.

Another trick they use is to charge you for the airport toll (~10 Egyptian pounds).

However, you do not have to pay this! This should be paid by the cab company, not you.

Rule of thumb:

Read the price list carefully. Also, have a rough idea of how much your route should cost.

For instance, a trip from the airport to a destination around the pyramids in Giza should cost ~220 Egyptian pounds.

Also, avoid engaging the first driver or agent who approaches you. The more aggressive they are, the more likely they are to overcharge you.

 

11. Entry visa / e-visa scam

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This is a scam that has been reported at the airports in Luxor, Hurghada and Sharm el Sheikh.

At these airports, once you arrive, you will first see a row of travel agent kiosks (e.g. Thomas Cook, Red Sea, etc).

These kiosks sell entry visa at a higher price as compared to the bank kiosk or official kiosk if you had walked further down.

Rule of thumb:

Only buy from the bank kiosk or official kiosk. Or you can now apply for an entry visa from the official Egyptian government site online – https://visa2egypt.gov.eg.

It costs USD 25 for a single entry visa and USD 60 for a multiple entry visa.

However, prices may change anytime so please do your own checks.

Also, do take note that there are scam sites as well (e.g. Egyptvisa dot com). They sell entry visas at inflated prices and do not deliver them.

 

12. Airport VIP queue scam

Getting out of the Hurghada airport is a real test of patience, as only a few passport control booths are opened at any one time.

As such, there are scammers posing as officials who hold up VIP cards. They claim that by making a payment of £20, you can be fast tracked to a special passport control booth.

Also, due to the long wait, there have been reports of thefts as tourists tire and do not take care of their belongings.

Rule of thumb:

There is no such thing as a VIP queue.

Also, keep your luggage and valuables securely with you. Consider investing in a RFID blocking money belt or hidden pouch for additional security.

 

13. Rigged weighing scales at airports

There have been reports of rigged weighing scales at Hurghada airport, at the airport in Sharm El Sheikh and the airport in Luxor.

Tourists are then charged a fee for every kg which their luggage is over the weight limit by.

Sometimes it may not be a rigged weighing scale. It could simply be a scammer who presses his feet against the weighing scale causing the weight to be inflated.

Rule of thumb:

If you are sure that your luggage is not overweight, stand on the scale and test your weight.

If an inflated weight is reflected, refuse to pay.

However, if you have no choice but to pay, insist for a receipt. When you reach your destination, ask your carrier to recheck your luggage weight and put in a claim.

If you really want to be safe, consider getting a small digital scale to prove that your case is not over the weight limit.

 

14. Carjacking

 

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There have been reports in recent years of a rise in carjacking cases in Egypt. Areas where carjacking is prevalent include North Sinai, al-Arish and Rafah.

You should also take care when taking a four-wheel drive tour in remote desert areas particularly at night.

Thieves usually hold cars up at a bogus checkpoint or after pretending to have an emergency (e.g. a flat tire). They then rob the passengers, sometimes at gun point.

Rule of thumb:

If you are driving in remote areas especially at night, remain vigilant. Do not stop if someone tries to flag you down.

Also, should you wish to join a desert tour, grill the tour company on what security they offer guests.

 

C. MISCELLANEOUS

1. Tourist menus at food establishments

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Tourist menus are common in restaurants and cafes all over Egypt.

A scammer may approach you in the street and try to encourage you to eat at their restaurant.

They will show you a menu with Arabic pricing on it, so that you are unable to tell how much each dish and drink cost.

Once you get inside they will switch the menu with a tourist menu which is much more expensive (e.g. Biom Bom Café at the old market in Sharm El Sheikh).

Another variation is that they simply hand you a menu without prices.

If you were to eat there, you will probably be paying 5-10x of what locals do.

Rule of thumb:

If possible, it helps to learn just the simple Arabic numbers so that you can read prices on Egyptian menus.

If you think the menu has been deliberately switched or you feel the prices are too high, do not be pressured into ordering anything and leave the establishment immediately.

 

2. Notes / currency switching

There are two types of Egyptian currencies – pounds (1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100) and piastres (25, 50). A piastre is 1/100 of a pound.

What scammers (e.g. a shop owner, taxi or calleshe driver, food vendor, etc) love to try is to switch 50 Egyptian pounds (~USD 10) with 50 piastres (~USD 0.1) on unsuspecting tourists.

For instance, they pass you 50 piastres as change when they should have given you 50 Egyptian pounds instead.

Another variation is that when you hand 50 Egyptian pounds over, they swap it with a 50 piastres note and claim that you have given them the wrong note.

Rule of thumb:

When handing the notes over, say aloud what you are handing over. Ideally, try to give an exact amount without requiring change.

If someone still tries this scam on you, call them out and threaten to call the tourist police. The hotline is found at the end of this article.

 

3. Price for one

A common trick which scammers like to use is that after a service is provided, they claim that the initial price is for one person, not for the whole group.

This happens often for taxi rides, camel rides around the pyramids and caleche rides in Luxor.

Rule of thumb:

Agree on this before the service is rendered.

 

4. Paying in foreign currency / British pounds vs Egyptian pounds

Some scammers may try their luck and ask you to pay in USD, GBP or EUR. Should you do so, they will use an inflated exchange rate.

For instance, the duty free store at Hurghada Airport has been reported to be one such culprit.

They claim that the credit card terminal is down, and that they can only accept cash in certain currencies.

Another common trick is that after a service is rendered, a scammer will claim that the initially agreed upon price is in Pounds Sterling, not Egyptian pounds.

Rule of thumb:

Do not pay with foreign currency.

Also, agree that Egyptian pounds and not Pounds Sterling is being referenced before the service is rendered.

 

5. Fake products

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Jewellery, oils / perfume and cigarette shops you find around touristy areas are most likely peddling overpriced fakes.

Same goes for the shops where you are brought to by a unsolicited “helpful” local, guide or driver.

Examples of such shops include the Egyptian Perfume Palace in Giza (watered down perfume / oils), and traders near the Sheraton in Luxor (e.g. using Cubic Zirconium instead of diamonds).

Rule of thumb:

If you wish to buy, do some online research and buy only at reputable places.

 

6. Product swapping

One common scam you might face in Egypt is the product swap.

For instance, you might find an item you like and move to purchase it (e.g. scarf, jewelery, etc).

However, the merchant will claim to get you a new piece and then pass you a sealed, polythene bag.

The bag will most likely contain a knockoff version of the item, or certain parts may be missing.

Rule of thumb:

Always check the product / package before and after payment.

 

7. “Stealing” of change

There are scammers who claim that they do not have small change and so, do not return you any.

Some simply run off without returning your change.

Also, some shops may pay you less change than required hoping that you do not check.

Rule of thumb:

Ideally, pay in the exact amount.

Also, consider using a wallet with zippered compartments. This is so you can keep your largest notes hidden in one.

Should a scammer see your larger notes, he might try even harder to fleece you, or simply snatch and run.

 

8. Old newspapers

Source credit

If you are looking to buy the local newspapers, be careful  when buying from those on bikes.

They may show you a stack of newspapers with today’s on top.

However, should you buy, they will pass you a newspaper from the bottom. That is most likely a second hand newspaper in the past.

Rule of thumb:

Check before paying.

 

9. Saffron scam

You may encounter this in Luxor, where a local approaches you and claims to be a chef at a five star hotel, or a baker at your hotel.

He happens to be on the way to buy some high quality saffron and asks you to come along.

At the market, he will bring you around various stalls and encourage you to buy saffron or other spices.

Note that the saffron here is probably safflower (cheaper substitute), turmeric, or even pink colored noodles!

Rule of thumb:

Ignore touts on the streets and avoid buying saffron in Egypt, as these are usually not of good quality.

 

10. Snatch theft

Snatch theft has been common in some other countries (e.g. Malaysia, Cambodia) and is now a rising problem across Egypt.

There are endless variations. One such is thieves on motorbikes driving up to you and snatching your valuables from you.

This can be dangerous as you can also get dragged along the road at the same time.

Another variation is that of a simple snatch of your phone / jewelry from behind you, and then running into a getaway car to escape.

Restaurants seem to be a favourite place for these thieves, as victims are usually in a relaxed state.

A bag, wallet / purse or camera slung around the chair, or left on an adjacent seat are super easy pickings for thieves. The either steal it stealthily, or do a distract and grab.

Hotels are another as you will be carrying all your valuables out and are usually distracted while handling the registration process.

The seats beside a train’s doors are a great spot as well as the thief can time his escape perfectly just before the doors close.

A third variation could be a thief snatching your valuables through a car / bus window. It will be difficult to catch him, as your car / bus would not be able to reverse into oncoming traffic.

Rule of thumb:

Stay alert at crowded places, and even at seemingly safe places like at a restaurant or hotel.

Do not lay your valuables out on the table or expose them unnecessarily in public. Always keep your bags in your line of sight and as close as possible (e.g. on your lap when at a restaurant).

While walking alongside the road and at traffic junctions, watch out for motorcyclists who seem to tail you, especially if they have a pillion rider (accomplice).

Ideally, carry your valuables in a bag across your body with a cross body anti-theft bag, away from the road / windows of your car / bus.

Further, consider investing in a money belt or hidden pouch to conceal your valuables securely. Do not leave them on the table or exposed in public.

We also recommend using a cheap spare wallet that you would not mind losing. It may also deter thieves from targeting you.

Finally, do not carry items in your hands such as a mobile phone when walking by the road. Also, do not wear obvious jewelry which can be easily ripped off your body.

 

11. ATM Fraud

ATM fraud is a big problem across Egypt.

What happens here is that the machines are rigged to not release your card after you have put it in. There will also be a camera installed to capture your PIN.

When you leave the machine, the scammers will go back and extract the card from the machine.

Rule of thumb:

If your card is “swallowed”, either call your bank to cancel your card or call the number on the ATM.

To prevent your card from getting skimmed, check out these potential red flags of a rigged ATM.

Also, cover the keypad when typing your PIN to prevent a pinhole camera or someone behind from seeing it.

Finally, although not directly relevant, consider using a RFID blocking wallet. That will prevent your cards’ details from being skimmed by thieves with a mobile RFID reader / scanner.

 

12. Fake police

There are many variations of fake police around the world (e.g. Brazil, UK).

In Luxor, one such reported case is that of a tourist getting approached and invited by a local for tea.

On the way to the local’s house for tea, two fake police officers jump out, as they suspect that the tourist and the local are up to some illegal activities.

They beat the local up, and ask to search the tourist’s bags. As they do so, they steal any money or valuables they can find.

Rule of thumb:

Firmly reject any offer to go someone’s house for tea, or anywhere an overly friendly local may suggest.

When faced with fake police, demand to check the policeman’s identification and badge. Next, threaten to call the police hotline to verify his details (end of this article).

If the scammers still pester you, demand to go to a police station to settle the issue. However, do not allow them to take the lead in bringing you to a police station. Instead, check with a local passer-by.

Remember also to never give up your passport if asked. Instead, show only a photocopy of your passport.

In such cases, it is also useful to have a cheap spare wallet with little cash inside for daily transactions, while the rest of your valuables are hidden securely in your money belt or hidden pouch.

This way, the scammers might simply let you go since you do not seem to have much cash on you.

Even if not, you can simply give up that wallet or the cash in it with minimal loss to yourself and save a ton of trouble.

 

13. Hotel is flooded

You might encounter this scam in Sharm el Sheikh, where a local or your taxi driver claim that your hotel is flooded.

They then recommend another accommodation option, a place where they can get a large commission.

Rule of thumb:

Firmly decline.

 

D. GETTING HELP

1. Emergency numbers to call

Source credit

  • Police Emergency Hotline:  122
  • Ambulance Service: 123
  • Fire Brigade: 180
  • Tourist Police: 122, 126, 128

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