- The best weather for relaxing in the resorts of the Red Sea is spring and autumn.
- The most delicious mango ripens from late summer to December.
- The best time for diving in Egypt is July, August and September.
Notes and coins
The currency in Egypt is the Egyptian pound (LE). There are 100 piastres in one Egyptian pound. Notes in common circulation are 200, 100, 50, 20, 10, 5 Egyptian pounds. Notes that used to be in common circulation, but seen more rarely now, are the 1 Egyptian pound and 50 and 25 piastres.
Paper money gets very old, tattered and torn, especially the smaller notes. Egyptians will often refuse to accept the notes in worst condition, especially torn ones. It may be best to refuse any that are torn or repaired with tape in case you get stuck with them.
There are some relatively new coins, the LE1 and the 50 piastres, which were introduced in 2006 and are gradually replacing the notes of the same value.
One pound coin
50 piastre coin
There are also 5, 10, 20 and 25 piastre coins. The LE1, 50 piastre and 25 piastre coins have their values written in ‘western’ as well as arabic characters, but the three smaller ones have their values in arabic only. The lower value coins are still legal tender but they are rarely used, and may even be refused. Even in shops, most bills are rounded to the nearest 25 piastres. In restaurants change is normally rounded to the nearest pound.
Shops never seem to have any change, so it is best to pay for low cost items, such as drinks and small purchases from the market with the right money. However, the smaller notes are hard to get hold of. We suggest you keep hold of LE1 notes and coins and LE5 notes for these minor purchases and for tipping.
When and where to get cash
You get a much better exchange rate in Egypt than you do if you change money before you go. You do not pay commission if you change your currency in Egypt. We prefer to come with some ‘home’ currency (all major ‘hard currencies’ are very acceptable and easily changed) and to get Egyptian cash on arrival. You can change money at the visa offices in the airport arrival hall, so there is no need to come with any at all, even to pay for porters, taxi to the hotel etc. There are also ATM machines in the arrival hall at the airport.
There are plenty of cash machines (ATMs) in Egypt. There are cash machines in several of the hotel lobbies, including the Jolie Ville, the Sonesta St George (three inside and one outside), the Sofitel Karnak, the Lotus and the Eatabe (previously El Luxor and before that the Mercure Hotel) near the museum. There are also several machines outside banks along the Corniche and along the main road around the hotels to the south of the town.
Most of the Visa and Mastercard ATMs will also take Link and other popular British debit and credit cards.
There are Bureaux de Change, and banks with exchange desks, in most parts of town, including along the Corniche and amongst the hotels.
When you change or draw money you may be given a receipt, which you are told to keep for inspection or in case you need to change Egyptian notes back into another currency. We have never had a receipt checked, but it is best to hold on to one or more to cover the amount of Egyptian cash you have, just in case.
Value of the Egyptian pound
The Egyptian Pound (LE) has been worth between about 8p and 14p in recent years. Throughout 2007 and for most of 2008 the exchange rate was around 10 or 11 Egyptian pounds to one English pound but in 2009 fell to less than 8 Egyptian pounds to one English pound before recovering. (These are local rates, the pound once fell to less than LE7 if you change currency in the UK). During and immediately after the uprising early in 2011 the Egyptian currency again fell briefly, but has recovered to about the middle of its long-term range.
For ease of calculation we usually work on the rough rule of thumb that LE10 is worth very approximately £1 sterling or LE1 is 10 pence (English), sometimes 2p more, sometimes 2p less, but it works as a quick rule of thumb for small-scale spending.
Some examples of currency exchange rates appear below. These are today’s commercial rates. You can expect to get very close to these rates if you draw or change money in Egypt. You will usually get quite a lot less if you buy Egyptian pounds in another country before you go. This list is up to date and fetches today’s currency rates from fbs.ae.
Credit cards, prepayment cards and travellers cheques
Credit cards are widely accepted, but not all hotels or cruise boats will accept them for settling final bills. Travellers cheques are becoming increasingly difficult to change. We avoid them. Many places do not yet accept (perhaps because they do not yet fully understand) prepayment cards.
It is best to bring your native currency (UK pounds and Euros are fine – don’t bother changing them into dollars before you come – you will be paying commission unnecessarily). Hard currencies are easy to change at the airport and in town. Also bring a debit card if you don’t want to bring enough hard cash to see you through.