Hoard your small bills!
Egypt has a perpetual shortage of small bills and change: even banks are reluctant to break too many bills. Vendors will also perpetually say they don't have change. Hoard your small bills as much as you can, be prepared to make bank runs for change, and break your bills in the easiest situations such as large supermarkets.
The local currency is the Egyptian pound EGP, which is divided into 100 piastres. The currency is often written as LE, (short for French livre égyptienne or by using the pound sign £ with or without additional letters: E£ and £E. In Arabic, the pound is called genē [màSri] / geni [màSri] جنيه [مصرى], in turn derived from English "guinea", and piastres are known as ersh قرش.
Coins: You won't really need to know that piastre name as the smallest value in circulation as of 2013 is 25 piastres, and this is almost always called a "quarter pound" rob` genē ربع جنيه, and the 50 piastres, "half a pound" noSS genē نص جنيه. The quarter, the half and the pound, are all mostly found only as coins, as of 2013. Paper money: The highest value of paper money is EGP200. Other paper banknote denominations are EGP5, 10, 20, 50 and 100.
You won't really need to know that piastre name as the smallest value in circulation as of 2013 is 25 piastres, and this is almost always called a "quarter pound" rob` genē ربع جنيه, and the 50 piastres, "half a pound" noss genē نص جنيه. the quarter, the half and the pound, are all mostly found only as coins, as of 2013.
In Egypt, the pound sterling is called, genē esterlīni جنيه استرلينى.
The Egyptian pound has been devaluing gradually over the last several decades. In the 1950s and 1960s, the Egyptian pound was rated almost the same as the British pound sterling. Since 2011, the exchange rate has become relatively unstable and inflation sped up. As of 2013, the Egyptian pound is worth about 11 times less than at its peak.
As of mid 2014 the Central Bank has attempted to fix the value of the Egyptian Pound to the US dollar at a rate of EGP1:USD7.15. This has led to a shortage of foreign exchange and as of December 2014 a black market in foreign currency is emerging. The black market rate for USD is around 7.5 to 7.7. Dollars attract the greatest premium. Generally high street foreign exchange offices will offer the black market rate - the rates they publish are to a large extent fictional.
|for||ISO 4217 international currency code||you'd get about this number of Egyptian pounds EGP|
|1 US dollar||USD1||6.9|
|1 pound sterling||GBP1||11||Bank of England notes - Northern Ireland and Scots notes get less|
|1 Canadian dollar||CAD1||6.7|
|1 Swiss franc||CHF1||7.6|
|1 Chinese renminbi||CNY1||1.1|
|100 Japanese yen||JPY100||7|
Foreign currencies can be exchanged at exchange offices or banks, so there is no need to resort to the dodgy street money changers. Many higher-end hotels price in dollars or euros and will gladly accept them as payment, often at a premium rate over Egyptian pounds. ATMs are ubiquitous in the cities and probably the best option overall; they often offer the best rate and many foreign banks have branches in Egypt. These include Barclay's Bank, HSBC, CitiBank, NSGB, BNP Paribas, Piraeus Bank, CIB, and other local and Arab Banks. Bank hours are Sunday through Thursday, 08:30-14:00.
American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa are accepted, but only bigger hotels or restaurants in Cairo and restaurants in tourist areas will readily accept credit cards as payment. Travellers cheques can be exchanged in any bank, but it could take some time.
avoiding getting ripped off
A common scam that a handful of vendors, ticket sellers, taxi drivers etc. will try is to claim that you only gave him a 10LE note, when you actually gave him a 100LE note - this can lead to a heated argument - best to treat it as an 'honest mistake' so that the vendor does not lose face, then suggest that the police or tourist police can help. As a general rule whenever giving over large bills say out loud their value so both you and the vendor know the value of the notes.
Cotton goods and clothing
Can be bought at khan el khalili for around egp30-40. better quality egyptian cotton clothing can be bought at various chain stores including mobaco cottons and concrete which have many branches throughout the country. the clothes are expensive for egypt about egp180-200 for a shirt but cheap by western standards given the quality.
When shopping in markets or dealing with street vendors, remember to haggle. Because of the downturn in tourism since the 2011 revolution, tourism is very low and you'll find shopkeepers very open to haggling and prices lower than in the past - even in places like Luxor/Aswan and not just in Cairo.
You will also find many western brands all around. There are many malls in Egypt, the most common being Citystars Mall, which is the largest entertainment centre in the Middle East and Africa. You will find common western fast food restaurants such as Mcdonald's, KFC, Hardees, Pizza Hut, etc. and clothing brands such as Morgan, Calvin Klein, Levi's, Facconable, Givenchy, Esprit, and more.
In Egypt, prices are often increased for foreigners, so if you see a price on a price tag, it may be wise to learn the local Eastern Arabic numerals:
|Eastern Arabic numerals||٠||١||٢||٣||٤||٥||٦||٧||٨||٩|
They are written from left to right. For example, the number 15 would be written as ١٥.
Shopping in Egypt ranges goods and commodities that represent souvenirs of Egypt's ancient as well as modern things. These include items such as small pyramids, obelisks, and souvenir statues which can be bought at more touristic areas such as Khan El Khalili and Islamic Cairo.
You can also do general shopping in Cairo for clothing items and other goods such as in the modern shopping malls of City Stars, City Centre, or Nile City (all of which contain some of the most famous designer brands of the world, including Guess, Calvin Klein, Armani, Hugo Boss, etc.
Because of the economic situation of the country nowadays with an ever-expanding population and depletion of resources, this means that a lot of people may be unemployed a rate much higher than in more developed countries. Even those who are employed in the service or hospitality industry restaurants, hotels, bars, etc. are most likely to be on very low salaries. It is even more difficult for them to make a living with the problem of non-stop inflation, which means prices for everything even basic commodities like food and water keep rising steeply, while their wages remain the same and if they do rise, will not even rise to a fraction of the increase that prices have risen to.
This means that 90% of people who work in the service/hospitality industry try to make their main source of income from living off of tips. In fact, for these people, tips form a large majority of their income because without tips, their monthly wages/salaries would simply not be enough for them to survive in a place where prices rise steadily and salaries remain the same.
Bear in mind that these people quite often live hard lives, often responsible for feeding large families and may very well live in poverty simply because their income from work is not sufficient for them to live easy lives. Many of them are forced in these jobs because otherwise they would not find another job at all in a country with such high unemployment rates and overpopulation.
Thus, almost everyone at your hotel asks for a tip, even if all they did was a small thing. You don't have to pay huge tips as often smallest bills are appreciated. However, you do not have to tip if you feel that you haven't received any service or help at all or if you feel that the service was bad. Nobody will ever take offence or be disrespectful if you did not tip them.Note that the average Egyptian makes about 8500 EGP1100 USD/per month.
Some general guidelines:
If you ask a stranger for directions, tips are not necessary and may even be considered offensive. Officials in uniform, such as police officers, should not be tipped. Remember that bribery is technically illegal, but it is likely that nothing will happen to you. Last but not least, be aware that as a foreign tourist, you are seen by many as easy money and you should not let yourself be pressured into tipping for unnecessary or unrequested "services" like self-appointed tour guides latching on to you.