by Gus Gleiter, EgyptAdventuresTravel.com
“Do you need a tour guide in Egypt?”, and “Can you travel to Egypt without a private guide or tour?” are common questions travelers ask when researching the many private tours to Egypt, tour operators, and guides. From a Cairo day tour for the Pyramids and Sphinx, to a two-week long bucket-list trip, hiring a private guide in Egypt is a great idea for most travelers–here is why.
Do you need a tour guide in Egypt?
Technically, travelers can go to Egypt without a private guide–there is no requirement to travel with a tour operator, guide, or travel company. However, having a tour guide in Egypt will help travelers have a much better experience than going solo.
An Egypt tour guide helps travelers avoid pitfalls.
Egypt can be a difficult place to travel for foreigners. The language and alphabet are completely different from English, the customs and norms are unique from those in the United States, Europe, or Canada, and there are a lot of people in Egypt who try to take advantage of tourists’ time and money through scams, cons, and time-wasting attempts to sell souvenirs (see the video below on scams at the Giza Pyramids, for example).
Having a vetted and trusted tour guide can help mitigate all of these potential pitfalls–Egypt tour guides will be able to steer their guests away from the time and money-wasting vendors, communicate in an Arabic-speaking country, and help travelers respect the local culture.
There are many horror stories of travelers who did not have a private guide in Egypt, and ended up having a negative experience overall. They had no one to help them navigate the chaos of Cairo, cross the street safely, and know whom to trust when interacting with vendors in restaurants, shops, and tourist attractions.
The right tour operator will ensure their guests experience all of the wonders Egypt has to offer, while side-stepping the potential bad side of traveling in Egypt.
Cairo (and Egypt) are difficult to navigate.
GPS is still a fairly new phenomenon in Egypt, and it can be tough to find landmarks, restaurants, or museums using Google Maps alone. Often when looking for a particular place it is essential to get directions or help from someone on the street, something very difficult for non-Arabic speakers.
And just finding a place is sometimes not enough–for example, the Giza Plateau, while easy to get to, has several different entrances, including one that falsely leads travelers to an area where they will be convinced to hire a horse or camel tour in order to enter. Once inside the Giza Plateau, only certain pyramids are open to visitors (and which ones are open always changes), certain roads need to be taken to see all of the monuments there, and the best vantage points for panoramic photos are unmarked.
Speaking of things being unmarked, it is extremely difficult to spot street names, building numbers, and sometimes even the way out of a particular tourist site. Hiring a tour guide will ensure that none of these navigation challenges vex travelers–a tour guide will help everyone get to all of their destinations in the quickest, safest, and most efficient way possible.
Guides provide excellent explanations at Egypt’s tourist sites.
In order to be a licensed tour guide in Egypt, one must study at a 4-year university, pass extensive exams on all ancient and modern tourist attractions in Egypt, and maintain good standing with the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.
Tour operators in Egypt really know their stuff–it does not matter if it is an ancient temple, an 8th century Coptic Christian church, or a museum full of artifacts–they will be able to explain all of the important information about each place, and answer any questions.
All of the different pharaohs, dates, religions, and languages can get overwhelming, and just using a guidebook or the internet to understand the significance of a tourist site does not hold a candle to the experience of having a private tour guide.
A guide gives tourists a connection to authentic Egypt
There are many places and experiences in Egypt that cannot be found in a guidebook or a YouTube video, like small, hole-in-the-wall street food vendors, local markets, and cozy neighborhood cafes. Plus, opening days and times can vary widely (guidebooks or the internet often do not have up-to-date information), and there are always new places that guides will know about before any article is written or YouTube video is made.
Using a tour guide means getting a local perspective that is invaluable, allowing travelers to not only visit the museums and see the ancient history Egypt has to offer, but also meet the owner of a restaurant, haggle better with a shopkeeper, discover a hidden gem in an off-the-beaten-path area, and find the best street food.
Tour guides are always Egyptian, and this gives travelers an authentic and meaningful connection to what life is like for everyday people in Egypt. Guides love answering questions about Egyptian culture, customs, religious beliefs, family life, and more.
It is even commonplace for some guides to bring travelers into their home for a meal, or to their favorite local hangouts. The only thing tour guides in Egypt love more than showing travelers the history of their country is to talk about and share the modern wonders of Egypt, too.
How travel hacking works with hiring a tour guide
Savvy travelers who are able to hack their trip to Egypt can easily hire a private tour guide with all the money saved on flights and hotels, since these are usually the largest expenses of any trip to Egypt. A quality, trustworthy guide and driver with a private vehicle can cost as little as $150 per day, so taking all of the savings earned from booking hotels and flights using points, a tourist (or small group) can put a portion of those savings toward hiring a guide in Egypt in order to have the best experience.
For travelers going solo
Maybe after reading, a traveler still does not want a guide, due to budget constraints, or a strong desire to “DIY” their trip and explore on their own. While having a guide in Egypt is the best way to experience the country, travelers going to Egypt without a tour can do the following to help have the safest and most enjoyable experience:
- Get a good guidebook. Lonely Planet Egypt is my favorite guidebook out there, but there are several other options. Having a good guidebook is essential for travelers flying solo.
- Consider a guide for a portion of the trip. There are certain places in Egypt, like the Giza Plateau, where having a guide helps immensely, and other places, like the museums, where it is easier to sightsee solo. Consider planning some days using a guide, and other days independently, to minimize the hassle of certain hard-to-navigate attractions.
- Do your research. Before the trip, scour the internet for how to best plan and execute a trip to Egypt. There are lots of YouTube videos, blogs, and articles dedicated to the topic.
- Have a plan. Making an itinerary is a must in order to maximize a tourist’s time in Egypt. Travelers should have an idea of what cities they want to visit, and what sites they will visit each day. There are lots of itineraries available online, but it is important to make sure a particular itinerary is realistic–often travelers will try to cram way too much into each day.
What do you think?
Have you traveled to Egypt before and used a tour guide? If so, what was your experience like?
After reading, would you consider hiring a private tour guide for your trip to Egypt? What is your top reason for choosing to work with a guide? Leave a comment and let us know!
For those reading ready to book a guide for their trip to Egypt, fill out this form and you will get connected with a vetted and trusted tour guide–Travel Hacking 101 readers get 20% off all custom itinerary and private guide packages booked with Egypt Adventures Travel!
Gus Gleiter started Egypt Adventures Travel in 2020 as a way to show his second home to as many travelers as possible. His mission is to create curated travel experiences for adventurers who want to explore authentic Egypt. Gus first went to Egypt in 2012 as a study-abroad student at the American University in Cairo. Over the last decade he has spent several years living in Egypt, becoming fluent in Egyptian Arabic, and traveling throughout the country. He is now based in the USA, but still spends time every year traveling and leading tours in Egypt.