As a regular traveller, I’m often asked about managing money while overseas including ATM’s, traveller’s cheques and so on. So here is a brief summary of money in Egypt.
LOCAL CURRENCY – EGYPTIAN POUND
The Egyptian Pound is an easy currency to understand with a few coins to take into consideration. In 2006 the 50 piastre and 1 pound coins dated were introduced. The notes currently in use are £5, £10, £20, £50, £100 and £200.
All notes are in Arabic and English but are easily confused by visitors. If travelling to Egypt from UK, USA, Europe and Australia. you should bring with you your own local currency if as you get a good exchange rate. Don’t bring your own local coins as they won’t be accepted. Best to exchange at money exchangers and banks. Hotel receptions aren’t great.
Here is a tip about tipping – Please do not use your own local currency to tip at restaurants, markets, cafes, stores, guides and so on. The locals cannot change your coins back into their own currency. In other words, they are worth nothing. Tip in local currency only.
I was approached a couple of times by people wanting to exchange English Pounds and European Euros and American Dollars. My guide said they weren’t scammers or beggars but had acquired the money and wanted Egyptian Pounds and was hoping I was English, European or American and would want the dollars.
Foreign currency is difficult for locals to acquire and sometimes you may book a hotel that is quoted in say US $. It’s best to pay in that currency rather than Egyptian pounds as the conversation rate is better.
CREDIT CARDS – The top two Visa and Mastercard, are accepted in nearly all restaurants, hotels and stores however, as the credit card fees are high they would prefer to be paid in Egyptian pounds. If you do use your card, expect the charges to be added to the total. Although I did have a couple of places not charge me because they wanted my business so much.
ATM – They are everywhere and they often look old and clunky. But they work. They’ll ask what language you want – Arabic or English. You can find them in or outside most large hotels and shopping areas. I found one (pictured above) in a market that took a few tries to get what I was after but it worked. As always, a debit card is useful when travelling so you only spend what you have.
There is no need to bring Egyptian Pounds with you, just exchange a small amount at the airport (if you need it for a taxi etc.) and then make your way to a bank or use the hotel.
Forget it. They aren’t used here much anymore and you’ll get a very odd look from a money exchanger if you present them with a wad of traveller’s cheques.
Try them or not? NOT. Time and again I came across people who’d been ripped off. Yes, there were some people who got a better rate but frankly, for the few extra $’s you may make, it’s not worth the risk. I spoke to a fellow traveller who was scammed at the airport. Don’t do it.
When you depart Egypt you can easily exchange your pounds back to another currency.
Contact your bank at home so they know you’re travelling in case you do use your credit card. I was once cut off from funds in Vietnam because my bank was unaware of my travel plans. Doh!