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44 Most Common Tourist Scams in Egypt

Safety at Cairo, Alexandria, Port Said, Aswan, Luxor, Hurghada, Dahab, Sharm el-Sheikh
Note: If you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. World Nomads Travel Insurance, backed by Lonely Planet & National Geographic, is one we recommend. Check it out before your adventure.

 

Egypt pyramids

Pyramids in Egypt

 

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, with many visitors finding these a challenge to deal with.

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

 

 

A. TOURIST ACTIVITIES

1. Lousy quality guides / unlicensed touts

Image source: angieaway.com

 

How it works:

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

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

  • These guides usually provide low quality information and will not bring you to all the places which they claim to at the start.
  • Halfway, they may demand for more payment, or they will simply abandon you there.
  • Some may also offer simple but unsolicited help, like showing you the different shafts that lead into the pyramid chambers and then asking for a tip (“baksheesh” in Arabic).

Another variation is to show you the best spots for taking photos.

  • They simply point to random spots and then demand baksheesh for guiding you or helping you take a photo.

 

What to do:

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.

If you want a tour, engage a licensed, reputable tour operator which you can find via:

  • TourRadar: all the best multi-day tours by established names like Intrepid Travel, G Adventures, Trafalgar, etc can be found here with best price guarantee.
  • Viator: largest platform of day tours globally and in Egypt with low price guarantee.
  • Hotel / hostel affiliated tours: reliable but generally not the best or cheapest.

 

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

Image source: sharpphotography.co.uk/

 

How it works:

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 tour guide fee for it on top of the ticket price you initially paid.

 

What to do:

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 museum scam

Image source: Wikimedia user Lokal Profil

 

How it works:

Papyrus scroll museums (a.k.a. shops that peddle overpriced junk) are a dime a dozen around the Pyramids of Giza.

Tricks to bring you there:

  • 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).
  • Touts also roam around town, claiming to be an Egyptologist or head of some Papyrus institute and want to show you how papyrus is made.

Once you are in:

  • You will be offered a drink which will make it difficult to leave quickly (also a sales trick to spur reciprocity).
  • Owners will demonstrate how they cut and process a real papyrus.
  • They then show you some papyrus scrolls which they claim to be extremely valuable antiques, when they are likely made of cheap materials such as banana leaf.
  • Next, they claim that there is a special one day offer, or that today is the last day to buy as they are shifting location soon.

Another trick:

  • 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.
  • All these will be charged.

 

What to do:

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

 

How it works:

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.

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

 

What to do:

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

Image source: dailynewsegypt.com

 

How it works:

Advertising a cheap tour but with many hidden charges is a common scam in Egypt.

Hidden, additional charges can range from having to buy your own food and drinks to having to pay for your own transport.

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

 

What to do:

Engage a licensed, reputable tour operator which you can find via:

  • TourRadar: all the best multi-day tours by established names like Intrepid Travel, G Adventures, Trafalgar, etc can be found here with best price guarantee.
  • Viator: largest platform of day tours globally and in Egypt with low price guarantee.
  • Your hotel / hostel affiliated tour operator: reliable but generally not the best or cheapest.

If you prefer to engage a tour operator offline, ask these questions:

  • Is the operator licensed and has a professional website, physical office, business email and working telephone number?
  • Are there online reviews? Do they sound legitimate?
  • Is the price too low to be true? What does it cover (vehicles, guides, safety, insurance, hidden fees, etc)?

 

6. Valley of the Kings photography scam

Image source: annaeverywhere.com

 

How it works:

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 guard who encourages you to take photos inside.

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

 

What to do:

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

Image source: dcrainmaker.com

 

How it works:

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.

 

What to do:

Do not hand your ticket over. If you have managed to enter the compound, it means your ticket is legitimate.

 

8. Official diving and boating photography scam

Image source: packingmysuitcase.com

 

How it works:

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.

 

What to do:

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

 

9. Public beach scam

Image source: cheapflightslab.com

 

How it works:

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.

 

What to do:

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

Image source: Wikimedia – Bs0u10e01

 

How it works:

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.

 

What to do:

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

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

 

11. Pickpocket

 

How it works:

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 / jewelry / valuable / bag and where it is stored.

Once they mark a target, they surround you and then work like this:

  • One keeps a lookout and blocks passer-bys from seeing the scene.
  • Another blocks, pushes or distracts you (e.g. ask you an innocent question / survey / drop something and ask you about it).
  • A third steals your valuable / slashes your bag and then passes it on.
  • The last hides the loot under a jacket / coat / newspaper and then escapes.

 

What to do:

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

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

Make it impossible for thieves to steal from you with these methods:

  • Carry around a photocopy of your passport instead of the actual one.
  • Carry small amounts of cash in a cheap spare wallet that you wouldn’t mind losing. Do not leave it in your back pocket.
  • Conceal small valuables in a money belt / hidden pouch, large valuables in a slash-resistant and lockable anti-theft bag.
  • Leave most valuables in your hotel / hostel / apartment safe, secured with hotel safety tools.
  • Get a good travel insurance (e.g. World Nomads, trusted by Lonely Planet and National Geographic – check our review) to cover loss of valuables.

 

12. Inflated prices

Image source: osiristours.com

 

How it works:

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.

 

What to do:

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

If you have not done your research on what the fair prices are, 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 elsewhere.

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

  • Cairo malls: Cairo Festival City Mall, City Stars Mall, Mall of Arabia Cairo.
  • Cairo galleries: Qahira gallery, Oum El Dounia, Khan Misr Tulun gallery.
  • Giza: Topaz Bazaar.
  • Luxor: Caravanserai, Habiba, Fair Trade Luxor.
  • Hurghada: Cleopatra

If all these are too much of a hassle, other alternatives are to:

  • Use local connections: get a local to bring you around.
  • Shopping tour through Viator (largest day tour platform globally and in Egypt): get a professional guide to bring you around.

 

13. Friendship gifts

 

How it works:

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 for ‘free’.

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

 

What to do:

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 hound you.

 

14. Luxor postcard scam

Image source: aegeanair.com

 

How it works:

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.

 

What to do:

Firmly reject and walk off.

 

15. Scarf photo scam

 

How it works:

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.

 

What to do:

Nothing is free in Egypt.

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.

 

16. You are walking the wrong way scam

Image source: egyptianstreets.com

 

How it works:

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).

 

What to do:

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

Be skeptical about unsolicited advice from overly friendly locals.

 

17. The place is closed scam

 

How it works:

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.

 

What to do:

Check the opening hours of the places you are going.

Be skeptical about unsolicited advice from overly friendly locals.

 

B. TRANSPORT

1. Valley of the kings ticket office

Image source: overlandingafrica.wordpress.com

 

How it works:

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.

 

What to do:

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

Image source: trover.com

 

How it works:

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, such as:

  • Helping you enter an attraction through a secret entrance and saving on the entrance fee.
  • Can help you get closer to the Sphinx.
  • Or that you cannot get a panorama view without a camel ride at the Giza Pyramids.

Another scam 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.

Another situation you may find yourself in:

  • Halfway through the tour, the scammer brings you to a secluded place.
  • As you sit atop the camel (a wobbly 2m high perch), a higher price will be charged and the handler will threaten not to let you down unless you pay.

 

What to do:

Right at the start, make it clear what the ride entails and do not pay at the start.

Else, you might only ride the camel over a short distance before being made to pay an inflated / add-on fee.

Keep your valuables securely with you (money belt or hidden pouch or an anti-theft bag) instead of leaving it with your guide or in the satchels on the camels.

Also, 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 as he will not dare to injure you.

 

3. Luxor boat / felucca scam

Image source: memphistours.co.uk

 

How it works:

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

 

What to do:

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

Image source: cairodiariesoffive.blogspot.com

 

How it works:

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

When you place your bag 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.

 

What to do:

Be vigilant when travelling on a microbus. Also avoid being the last passenger late at night.

To make it impossible for thieves to steal your bags, here are some steps you can take:

  • Keep your bag on your lap / beside you instead of in the overhead compartment.
  • Should you wish to take a nap, make sure to use a TSA lock / cable lock / cable ties to lock your bag and to lock the bag to yourself / your seat.
  • Or simply get a lockable anti-theft bag that comes with a mechanism to lock to yourself / your seat.
  • Hide small valuables in a money belt / hidden pouch.
  • Finally, get a good travel insurance (e.g. World Nomads, trusted by Lonely Planet and National Geographic – check our review) to cover loss of bags / valuables within.

 

5. The car / taxi jumper

 

How it works:

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.

 

What to do:

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

Image source: egyptianstreets.com

 

How it works:

For all white cabs, they are fitted with meters and drivers must use them.

However, many do not want to turn them on:

  • They claim that the meter is broken or offer a flat rate that they claim to be cheaper.
  • You will definitely encounter this if you want to go 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.

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 jump too much or too fast.

 

What to do:

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.

You can estimate a fair price of any route by checking:

  • With your hotel / hostel staff.
  • An online taxi fare estimator / online travel forum.
  • Taxi booking apps like Uber.

This is so you don’t have to waste time waiting for a taxi willing to use the meter.

Also, take a photo of the car license plate and also of the driver’s license in case anything goes wrong.

If all these are too much effort, you can also consider:

  • Using a rental car from aggregator platforms like AutoEurope (over 60 years of operations, super reliable, best price guarantee).
  • Arranging private transport through your hotel / hostel.
  • Or through day tour platforms like Viator (largest globally and in Egypt).

 

7. Black market / fake taxis

 

How it works:

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.

 

What to do:

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

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

Also, use a cheap spare wallet with some cash inside to give up when faced with an armed robber, while you hide other valuables in a money belt / hidden pouch.

Finally, get travel insurance (e.g. World Nomads, trusted by Lonely Planet and National Geographic – check our review) for two key purposes:

  • Monetary compensation for any loss of valuables.
  • Medical coverage in case you are assaulted.

 

8. Taxi tie-ups

 

How it works:

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.

  • Halfway during your trip to 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.

 

What to do:

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

 

How it works:

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.

 

What to do:

In the cab, be very clear when communicating the destination you are heading to. More prominent landmarks around your destination can be mentioned.

During the ride, check your phone’s GPS to make sure you are headed in the correct direction.

Sometimes, drivers do take detours to avoid traffic jams, but that should not detract from the correct general direction.

 

10. Airport taxi

Image source: reflectionstravel.net

 

How it works:

Airport taxi drivers are some of the best pros at fleecing tourists.

One trick 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) which you do not have to pay! This should be paid by the cab company, not you.

 

What to do:

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.

If you wish to avoid all these hassle, consider other options like:

  • Arranging private transport through your hotel / hostel or through day tour platforms like Viator (largest globally and in Egypt)
  • Booking a rental car from AutoEurope (over 60 years of operations, super reliable, best price guarantee).
  • Using a taxi booking app like Uber.

 

11. Entry visa / e-visa scam

Image source: travelupdate.boardingarea.com

 

How it works:

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.

 

What to do:

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 check.

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

 

12. Airport VIP queue scam

Image source: YouTube user Iro

 

How it works:

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, 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.

 

What to do:

There is no such thing as a VIP queue.

Also, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, use a money belt or hidden pouch and an anti-theft bag to make it impossible to steal from you.

 

13. Rigged weighing scales at airports

 

How it works:

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.

 

What to do:

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

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 portable digital scale to prove that your case is not over the weight limit.

 

14. Carjacking

 

How it works:

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.

 

What to do:

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.

If you are driving, do not leave any valuables exposed in the car:

Finally, get travel insurance (e.g. World Nomads, trusted by Lonely Planet and National Geographic – check our review) for two key purposes:

  • Monetary compensation for any loss of valuables.
  • Medical coverage in case you are assaulted.

 

C. MISCELLANEOUS

1. Tourist menus at food establishments

Image source: scoopempire.com

 

How it works:

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.

 

What to do:

Do some online research or check with your hotel / hostel staff on recommended places locals go to eat at.

It will also be good if you know how to read simple Arabic numbers so that you can read prices on local menus.

If you think the menu has been deliberately switched or if the waiter claims that there is no menu, leave.

However, if you find all these too much of a hassle, you can also consider joining a fun local food tour!

  • Viator: largest platform of day tours globally and in Egypt
  • Your hotel / hostel affiliated tour operator: reliable but generally not the best or cheapest.

 

2. Notes / currency switching

 

How it works:

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.

 

What to do:

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 (hotline at end of this article).

 

3. Price for one scam

 

How it works:

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.

 

What to do:

Agree on this before the service is rendered.

 

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

Image source: YouTube – Iro

 

How it works:

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.

The duty free store at Hurghada Airport is reportedly one such culprit, claiming 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.

 

What to do:

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

Image source: dahabtours.blogspot.com

 

How it works:

Jewelry, oils / perfume and cigarette shops you find around touristy areas most likely peddle 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) amongst others.

 

What to do:

If you wish to buy, learn how to separate the wheat from the chaff, or only visit licensed, experienced dealers with a good reputation.

You can find these by doing some online research or by asking your hotel / hostel staff.

If you do not want to go through the hassle of researching, other options available include:

  • Using local connections: get a local to bring you around.
  • Shopping tour through Viator: largest platform of day tours globally and in Egypt.

 

6. Product swapping

 

How it works:

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, jewelry, 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.

 

What to do:

Always check the product / package before and after payment.

 

7. “Stealing” of change

 

How it works:

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.

 

What to do:

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

Image source: dailynewsegypt.com

 

How it works:

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

 

What to do:

Check before paying.

 

9. Saffron scam

Image source: reddit.com

 

How it works:

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 claims to be on the way to buy some high quality saffron and invites you 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!

 

What to do:

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

 

10. Snatch theft

 

How it works:

Generally, there are two versions of snatch thefts – strike and run, or distract and grab, in many possible contexts:

  • Bikes / mopeds riding past, with a pillion rider doing the snatch.
  • Snatching from behind you, then running into a getaway car to escape.
  • At restaurants, stealing unattended bags / valuables on the chair or table.
  • Hotels airports, where distracted / tired tourists carry all their valuables out.
  • The beach where tourists are relaxed, or when they head to the water.
  • Nightclubs, where “prostitutes” pretend to proposition tourists by grabbing them but are really trying to steal your valuables.
  • Seats beside a train’s doors where a thief gets out just before the doors close.
  • Stealing of bags on overnight trains / buses.
  • Valuables snatched through a car / bus window.
  • Thefts around ATMs.

 

What to do:

At crowded places, even seemingly safe places like at a restaurant or hotel:

While out walking / on transport:

  • Use a cross body anti-theft bag facing away from the road / windows of your vehicle.
  • Do not carry valuables in your hands when walking by the road or when beside a vehicle window / train door.
  • Avoid wearing obvious jewelry which can be easily ripped off.

Other protection measures:

  • Leave valuables in your hotel / hostel / apartment safe secured with hotel safety tools.
  • Get a good travel insurance (e.g. World Nomads, trusted by Lonely Planet and National Geographic – check our review) which covers loss valuables.

 

11. ATM Fraud

 

How it works:

Generally, ATMs can be rigged in two ways.

First, the card skimmer and pinhole camera / keypad overlay set up:

  • A card skimmer is installed over the card slot to capture your card details.
  • The pinhole camera / keypad overlay is used to capture your PIN.

Second, the card trap:

  • The card slot can be rigged with cheap tools to trap your card.
  • When your card is stuck, someone will come over and tell you that if you retype your PIN, your card will be unblocked.
  • Obviously, your card will still be stuck, but the scammer will now have seen your PIN.
  • Should you head into the bank / somewhere to seek help, the scammer will unblock your card and escape.

 

What to do:

Avoid using ATMs at dark, secluded areas. Use only at controlled environments such as in banks.

Scan the area for suspicious looking characters and cover your PIN when typing it in.

Also, 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

 

How it works:

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, you will be approached by two fake police officers, who suspect that the local and you are up to some illegal activities.

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

 

What to do:

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

If you have not obviously broken the law, be very skeptical when a “police officer” approaches you.

Three steps you can use to shake them off:

  • Verify badges and identification. Threaten to call the police hotline (end of this article).
  • Never give your passport if asked. Show only a photocopy of it.
  • If they want to fine you or check your bags, insist to only do so at a police station (use your GPS to find it or check with a local) with a lawyer or someone from your embassy.

Next, you should have hidden your valuables in a money belt or hidden pouch and use a cheap spare wallet with not much cash inside.

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

 

13. Hotel is flooded scam

 

How it works:

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.

 

What to do:

Do not / avoid taking recommendations from street touts / taxi drivers

Stick to your hotel / apartment or only book via legitimate sites such as: 

  • Booking.com: Frommer’s tests have found the site to offer the best selection and rates amongst competing sites most of the time! 
  • HomeStay: if you are up for getting genuine insights of Egypt by staying with a local host.

 

D. KEY SAFETY ISSUES

This is not a fear mongering exercise, as most visits are trouble free as long as you exercise some common sense.

However, it is always better to be safe than sorry.

Information below has been compiled from:

                                                     

1. Violent crime, hazards, hotspots, terrorism, civil unrest

Image source: smartraveller.gov.au

 

How it works:

A brief summary:

  • Violent crime: not a big issue, watch out more for petty crime and scams.
  • Hazards: some areas contain unexploded WW2 era landmines.
  • Hotspots: under military control.
  • Terrorism: Sinai Peninsula is a hotbed, though attacks can happen anwhere.
  • Civil unrest: protest, marches and demonstrations may occur, generally after Friday noon prayers.

 

What to do:

Stay alert, avoid secluded areas, travelling alone at night, hiking alone, and don’t look like an easy victim (e.g. looking like a tourist / flaunting valuables).

Monitor local media in case of any terrorist threats, and avoid the danger zones and demonstrations.

Areas to avoid include:

  • The Sinai Peninsula (exception of travelling to Sharm El-Sheikh by air).
  • Western desert, borders with Sudan and Libya, area west of the Nile Valley and Nile Delta regions.
  • Potential landmines areas in desert areas in the north west of Egypt near to Alamein, limited stretches of the Mediterranean coast near Marsa Matrouh, Red Sea coast south of Suez.

 

2. Medical care

Image source: medigo.com

 

How it works:

Medical care is adequate in Cairo, Luxor, Aswan and Sharm el-Sheik, but limited elsewhere.

Diseases to vaccinate against / watch out for include:

  • Insect borne diseases: chikungunya, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, leishmaniasis, lymphatic filariasis, malaria, Rift Valley fever, and West Nile virus.
  • Food and water borne diseases: travellers’ diarrhoea, hepatitis, schistosomiasis.
  • Animal borne disease: avian influenza, rabies.
  • Human borne disease: HIV.

 

What to do:

If you can’t afford travel insurance (e.g. World Nomads – our review), you can’t afford to travel, as:

  • Emergency health services can cost a bomb.
  • Insurance providers can make complex logistical arrangements to get you the best medical treatment fast.

Vaccinations to consider:

  • All travellers: measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, flu shot.
  • Most travellers: Hepatitis A, typhoid.
  • Some travellers: Hepatitis B, rabies (outdoor activities, or working around animals).

Prevent insect bites:

  • Protective clothing.
  • Insect repellents.
  • Insecticide treated bed / cot nets.
  • Plug-in insecticides.
  • Avoid wooded and bushy areas with high grass.

Food safety:

  • Practise safe hygiene such as washing hands with soap.
  • Only drink bottled water or water that has been boiled.
  • Avoid unpasteurized dairy products, ice cubes, uncooked and undercooked food.

Activities:

  • Avoid swimming in freshwater sources (lakes, rivers, ponds).

 

3. Natural disasters

 

How it works:

A brief summary:

  • Earthquakes: Egypt, with Cairo in particular, is located in an active seismic zone and does experience earthquakes.
  • Sand and dust storms: March to May.

 

What to do:

Effective preparation and prevention involves staying at the “right” place, travelling at the “right” time and getting travel insurance (e.g. World Nomadsour review) that covers natural disasters.

Check the latest media reportsweather forecasts and sources such as the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System.

Reacting to one:

  • Earthquakes: drop (to hands and knees), cover (head and neck with arms), hold on (to sturdy furniture; expect aftershocks.
  • Sand / dust storm:
    • On foot: wear a mask (or use shirt sleeve), cover eyes, seek shelter (building / landform / camel), high ground (if no lightning), don’t move through the storm.
    • In vehicle: if no visibility, pull off road, turn headlines, brake lights and turn signals off. If can’t pull off, keep lights on, move slowly and sound horn periodically.

 

4. Transport safety

 

How it works:

Egypt has one of the highest rates of road fatalities in the world. This is due to:

  • High volume, high velocity traffic.
  • Mazy streets.
  • Impatient speeding drivers, lack of adherence to traffic rules.
  • Weak enforcement of traffic rules.
  • Pedestrians and animals dodging in and out of traffic.
  • Unmarked roads, most traffic lights malfunction.
  • Vehicles without lights.
  • Sandstorm and fog.

As for public transportation (public buses, microbuses and the metro), it is unsafe as well.

 

What to do:

Make sure your travel insurance (e.g. World Nomadsour review) covers travel accidents.

Driving:

  • Only book via legitimate platforms (e.g. AutoEurope – over 60 years of operations, super reliable with best price guarantee).
  • Check latest media reports and weather forecast.
  • Stay alert, wear seatbelts, keep doors locked and windows up

Other transportation:

  • Avoid public transport. Instead, use a taxi or hired driver.

 

E. GETTING HELP

1. Emergency numbers to call

Image source: egyptianstreets.com

 

  • Police emergency hotline:  122
  • Ambulance service: 123
  • Fire brigade: 180
  • Tourist police: 122, 126, 128

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5 Comments

  1. vivian

    OMG
    I didn’t see this link on Egypt time before travelling to Egypt. I fell into a trap of a suppose nice local who swindled me out of my cash. He posed as a local tourist guide and the price he gave me was quite cheaper than my hotel. On the day of the tour, he brought a taxi that took me to Giza pyramid and sakkara desert. The local guy discussed with the people he said would give me entrance ticket, I never knew he discussed inflating the price. I ended up paying $120 instead of normal price of 120 Egpyt pounds for just Giza pyramid entrance fee with camel ride and quad bike ride at sakkara desert. After my experience in Egypt, I don’t think I can trust any Egyptians again. Thanks for this wonderful link as I have learnt a lot from it.

    Reply
    • Richard

      I still here in Egypt and unfortunately read this info too late.

      I’ve been scammed by shop owners and surprisingly, all be in indirectly, by guides who work for “reputable” tour companies.

      Each of the guides took me to a “special” store where a high pressure scam artist was ready to pressure me into overpaying for junk.

      Reply
  2. The Vegan Travelers

    Thank you for this really comprehensive list! I wish I knew how annoying and exhausting the street vendors are in Egypt (especially in Luxor) before traveling there. You really have to be prepared for that and also for the taxi scam. That’s why I wrote a post about Egypt’s dark sides ( https://www.the-vegan-travelers.com/en/africa/egypt/egypts-dark-side.html ) and also about what to look for before getting in a taxi ( https://www.the-vegan-travelers.com/en/general/15-common-rip-offs-by-taxi-drivers.html ).
    I hope it’s helpful or any of you who are planning a trip to Egypt! 🙂

    Greetings
    Chantel
    http://www.the-vegan-travelers.com

    Reply
  3. Richard

    I’m still in Egypt on my first visit and almost fell a few of these scams and did for a couple.

    I was approached by a helpful stranger who told me the museum wasn’t open for any other than tourist groups and I should visit the official government sanctioned gift shop.

    Neither of taxis I took had meters and one dropped me off in the middle of Old Cairo with a 5 minute walk to the destination I told in advance.

    Most surprising were the scams encountered with “legit” tour guides from Viator.com Each of my tours that they brokered came with stops to perfume, jewelry, pottery, carpet and papyrus shops with extremely aggressive high pressure sales pitches. Unfortunately, I didn’t stand my ground on the first 2 and paid way too much for low quality items.

    One of the EMO Tour guides encouraged me to purchase a single t-shirt for what converts to $50 USD!!!
    At this point, my guards went up and I now suspicious of all encounters here.

    Reply
  4. Jaki Azmi

    Hi, I was scammed today 3 December 2018 at Giza pyramid. The tour guide was booked by the hotel, and he behaved as a very nice helpful guy, and told how the locals scam the foreign tourists, and cautioned to stay away from the stray people at Giza. He asked my all details, particularly whether is this my first trip to Giza. Then, at Giza he straight took me to a horse stable which he claims to be authentic and approved by government!!! I ended up buying a horse/camel ride with entry to Giza for $60. After completion of the tour I realized (when I heard a tourist was bargaining price with another horsemen) that the ride would have cost $10 maximum and entry fees $10 total $20. Anyway, loosing $40 was not a big deal. After completing the tour when I returned I found two more tourists were being scammed by their con guide and stable owner!!! And after selling the package to them, the stable owner was sharing commission to their tour guide (without noticing my presence) 🙂 🙂

    Reply

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