11 travel tips to survive Egypt and Jordan

egypt

One of the coolest overland (and over sea) trips I’ve ever done was from Egypt to Jordan.

Stops included Cairo, Aswan, Luxor, Hurghada, Mount Sinai, and Dahab in Egypt and Aqaba, Wadi Rum, Petra, the Dead Sea, Mount Nebo, and Amman in Jordan. Here are 11 practical tips to help smooth your transition into these fascinating Arab countries.

1. Dress appropriately.

I admit that I didn’t dress right for that trip. Although baby tees and tank tops are hardly risqué in the Caribbean or Europe, they certainly didn’t help my case in the Middle East. I could have avoided unnecessary male attention and butt slaps from street kids in Cairo if I had just dressed appropriately: long, loose clothes and a headscarf. Bonus: wearing loose, light-colored cotton clothes is perfect for the arid desert heat.

2. Don’t be self-righteous.

As a leftie, I was shocked when I got to the Middle East and learned that eating with the south paw is a serious faux pas. In fact, the left hand is considered only suitable for “unclean” tasks like wiping your nether regions in the toilet. Despite this knowledge, I continued to eat with my left hand and didn’t care if I offended the locals. In retrospect, I realized that I had set a bad, bad precedent.

3. Pack motion sickness tablets.

Because we spent most of the trip traveling across bumpy deserts and urban landscapes on a huge yellow truck, I got car truck-sick a lot. Most of the time I spent sleeping on the “beach” above the driver’s compartment or sprawled across the passenger seats in the back. Anti-nausea tablets or natural alternatives like ginger tablets would have saved my queasy stomach.

4. Trust your instincts.

When traveling, don’t ever feel obliged to go to a restaurant just because a tout corners you. Even though we didn’t want to, my fellow travelers and I ended up sitting at a “steakhouse” in Hurghada. We weren’t surprised when we got a bad case of the runs afterward and had to get antibiotics from the local pharmacy to kill the stomach bug.

5. Carry something warm for cold desert nights.

Even though it felt like summer during the day, temperatures in the desert dropped dramatically at night. Carry a warm shawl, blanket, or sleeping bag if you plan on sleeping rough on the dunes in Wadi Rum, in the Sinai desert, or on the top of Mount Sinai.

6. Water up!

Desert heat and dehydration is no joke. Drink more than you usually do. Don’t drink tap water but stick to bottled water with unbroken caps and seals.

7. Learn to squat.

In this part of the world, squat toilets are the norm so learn how to balance on the pot without smearing your clothes and shoes. Also, get used to the smell of stale urine (and other stuff) that comes from the wads of used toilet paper in the toilet bin (sorry, no flushies!). Because there may not be running water in some places, always carry hand sanitizer and wet wipes to clean up afterward.

8. Never refuse tea.

If it’s one thing I’ll never forget about Egypt and Jordan is the tea. So minty, so sweet, so refreshing and served in cute little cups. You’ll be offered tea everywhere: at the hammam (Turkish bath), at the local souvenir store,  or at a restaurant so drink up! It’s another great way to hydrate.

9. Beware of baksheesh.

There are some unscrupulous locals who will “volunteer” their services without your consent and then demand a hefty baksheesh (tip) afterward. Always agree on a fair price before letting someone perform a task for you.

10. Head to the hammam.

Even though I showered twice a day, I had no idea how dirty I really was until I went to a hammam in Amman near the tail end of the trip. After sweating in a steam-filled room, I  was led to a tiled bench where I was scrubbed from head to toe, then rinsed with buckets of warm water. I felt like a new woman afterward.

11. Don’t let the Dead Sea in your eyes.

It was certainly an iconic travel moment when I floated on the Dead Sea. However, it was not at all what I expected. For one, the water felt really slimy because of the high salt concentration. Then, something really bad happened. I got the some of the saltwater in my eyes. It was as though someone had poured acid on my eyeballs. If this happens, rinse, rinse, rinse with bottled water until the scalding stops.

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tips from a local

 

 

12 thoughts on “11 travel tips to survive Egypt and Jordan

  1. These are great tips. it is from reading articles like this that I learnt how to dress for Thailand, I would not know otherwise. thanks for sharing your tips of Jordan and Egypt, I would be clueless otherwise

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Loved this! I have never been to Egypt (although i really want to) mainly to see the pyramids. Ive seen bits of Jordan a few years ago, and sadly couldnt visit the Dead Sea. Gives me all the more reason to take this trip.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great tips for first timer tourists in Egypt and Jordan. I was not knowing that Dead Sea water burns the eyes. I will remember the Giving Baksheesh act and never refusing tea for this trip.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. No way ! We didn’t come across toilets that you need to squat! Although this guide is great and gotta agree on many points! Tea must be one of our favorite thing when we were visiting these countries! You are making us want to go back!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It is really important to dress up appropriately while travelling in conservative countries, it not offend the sentiments of the locals but also avoids unwanted attention. Great tips for first travellers to Jordan and Egypt. Saving this for future reference, thanks for sharing the tips from your travel experience.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for so many useful tips. Liked the tea part. I love tea and would love to visit the place where everybody is offering tea. I haven’t been to Egypt but I think most of these will be applicable to India.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. These are really nice tips. Amazed to know about the leftie thing and those squat toilets, tips, dressing appropriately and having tea always, all of this sounds so like India. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Sounds like you had a great adventure. Some really good tips here. It always amazes me that people don’t think to dress appropriately when travelling. Just cause you’re on holidays doesn’t mean it’s spring break?

    Liked by 1 person

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