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This year or next might be the perfect time to visit Egypt: A reopening guide

Sept. 12, 2020
6 min read
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As the travel industry reopens following COVID-19 shutdowns, TPG suggests that you talk to your doctor, follow health officials’ guidance and research local travel restrictions before booking that next trip. We will be here to help you prepare, whether it is next month or next year.

Egypt has been a mythical destination for millennia. Prominently featured in some of history's earliest stories, this mighty nation lives on today in modern culture as one of the most exciting countries to explore worldwide

Related: It could be time to add Egypt back to the bucket list

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TPG former staffer Carissa Rawson once spent an entire semester abroad living in a Hilton hotel in Cairo, and TPG founder Brian Kelly has fond memories of exploring Egypt and Jordan together with his dad, the original Points Guy.

(Photo courtesy Brian Kelly/The Points Guy)

Unfortunately, most U.S. travelers haven't been able to replicate Brian's epic father/son trip or Carissa's amazing hotel redemption for most of this year, since the country closed its borders to international tourists in March. The situation has hurt the country too: Tourism accounts for five to 15 percent of the country's GDP between indirect and direct business.

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Fortunately, Egypt reopened on July 1, including to U.S. travelers. Here's what you should know before you visit.

Related: Dreaming of visiting Egypt

Before Departure

First things first: Egypt is currently under a Level 4: Do Not Travel advisory from the U.S. State Department, and a Level 3 Travel Health Notice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As of Sept. 8, there have been just over 100,000 cases of COVID-19 throughout Egypt, with 5,500 deaths. (For context, the U.S. has had 6.3 million cases and more than 191,000 deaths.)

Related: Guide to world landmarks reopening

That being said, the country of 98 million people has been very cautious about arrival protocols for incoming tourists. Before you arrive, you'll need to take note of the following requirements.

U.S. travelers need tourist visas to enter Egypt. Single-entry tourist visas for 30 days can be obtained upon arrival at Egyptian airports for $25, unless you are arriving from the Taba point on the Israel border. A multiple-entry visa is available for $60. E-visas are available online through this link.

There is no mandatory quarantine upon arrival, but all arriving international travelers, including Egyptian citizens, must present a negative COVID-19 PCR test dated within 72 hours of arrival time. (Another website states that the tests must be dated within 48 hours of arrival time, which pretty much requires an overnight test result.) PCR test certificates must be presented in physical form; digital copies will not be accepted. Results must be either in English or Arabic.

If you can't get a PCR test in time before departure, tests are available upon arrival for $30 at the Hurghada (HRG), Sharm El Sheikh (SSH), Marsa Alam (RMF) and Taba (TCP) airports.

Related: Reader hall of fame: Qsuites and Cairo

Travelers also need to show proof of travel insurance covering COVID, as well as proof of health insurance.

Once you arrive

All tourist sites and locations, such as the Nile Valley, Cairo, the Red Sea and South Sinai are open. The government has also halved entrance fees for all museums and archeological sites.

The U.S. Embassy website for Egypt states that restaurants, cafes, sports clubs and movie theaters currently operate at 50 percent capacity. Restaurants and cafes must close by midnight, while other businesses, including grocery stores, are required to close by 10 p.m.

Public parks and beaches remain closed, although resorts with private beaches are allowed to open them to visitors at their own discretion. Face masks are required in all public settings, including on public transportation.

Flights and hotels

Flights into Cairo are reasonably plentiful on multiple airlines.

You can fly from Los Angeles to Cairo this fall for around $700 round trip on all three major airline alliances: $669 on Turkish Airlines, $753 on Delta/Alitalia in October, or $727 on Royal Air Maroc in November.

For award flights, economy routes are 94,000 miles and $89 on United, 75,000 miles and $153 on Delta or 80,000 miles and $137 on American Airlines.

Hotels are equally accessible, with more than 450 properties available in October on Hotels.com.

Cairo offers some of the world's best values for cash rates and award redemptions alike, with king bedrooms at the newly-open St. Regis in Cairo available for just 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy points or just $215 per night in February. (Just in case one St. Regis isn't enough for you, you'll be able to pick between two come January 2021 when the St. Regis Almasa Hotel opens.)

Rates are similarly competitive at Hilton properties ranging from 20,000 at a number of properties, up to the Conrad Hilton, which goes for 24,000 Hilton Honors points per night. Is this a good deal, you ask? For context, a Hilton property in small-town College Station, Texas, costs 19,000 points on a weeknight.

Hyatt fans will be sad to see that the Hyatt Regency Cairo West is closed until January 2021. But rates are great in February when the property reopens, with prices beginning at $94 per night.

Bottom line

2020 and its accompanying disruption may not be how you anticipated seeing the Great Pyramids or exploring the ancient historical sites of Egypt. But current price points and the country's eagerness to attract new tourists may be just the nudge you need to take the plunge this year. After all, the visa requirements will always be a factor to contend with — but you might never get to visit with so few fellow tourists again.

Featured image by Getty Images

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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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1 - 3X points
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Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
Best starter travel card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

    Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points
    60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $95
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent, Good

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases