Visas and entry

Egypt visaYou need a visa to enter Egypt. Normal Egypt visas cost US$15 – about LE90 – and are valid ONE MONTH from the time of arrival. They come as a floppy sticker you peel off and put in your passport – like the one to the right – and they’re available on arrival. If you’re flying into an Egyptian airport, they’re sold at the foreign exchange bank windows near the passport control points. It’s the same at every airport. If you’re entering the Sinai at Nuweiba – on the ferry from Jordan – they’ll be available on the boat/ in the port (ask staff for the latest info). BEWARE if you are entering by foot or boat at Taba: the default visas issued here are special SINAI ONLY visas, USELESS FOR TREKKING (Taba airport is OK, issuing full visas).

Beach, Dahab, Sinai the trekking guide_resultSINAI ONLY VISAS AT TABA These ‘Sinai only’ visas are simple passport stamps that are FREE and permit TWO WEEKS stay. They only permit travel along the coast between Sharm, Dahab, Nuweiba and Taba, with an excursion to the Monastery of St Katherine inland, so they’re not even full ‘Sinai’ visas. You can’t use them to trek in St Katherine and other trekking areas like Wadi Feiran will be completely off limits, as will El Tur, the Sinai’s west coast, plus the whole of mainland Egypt. Be aware that these visas CAN be given out at other entry points in the Sinai. Sometimes, at Sharm or Nuweiba; usually when you go to passport control without getting the proper visa in the way described above (the border guard will assume you don’t want one).

AVOIDING SINAI ONLY VISAS Some travellers say you can change a Sinai only visa at Sharm airport, but there’s no hard policy on that. To be 100% sure of getting a full Egypt visa you’d have to exit the Sinai, get a full visa at an Egyptian consulate, then re-enter again. Always plan ahead and get a full Egyptian visa before Taba. There are Egyptian consulates in Aqaba in Jordan and Eilat in Israel and visas take half a day to arrange. If you get to the Taba land border unaware of the situation, there is one last option. You’ll usually find people in the border hall who’ll write you a ‘letter of visa introduction’: you’ll pay upwards of US$40 for the letter, which you then give  to the border officials (along with the US$15 for the full visa). It feels like a racket – AND IT IS – but it’s an official one that’ll get you the full visa you really need.

Dahab, Sinai, Go tell it on the mountainRENEWING A VISA If your visa expires – ie if you go over the one month you’re allowed – you’ll get a fortnight’s leeway. But you should renew if you can: out-of-date visas are pain. They’ll raise eyebrows at checkpoints, invite questions and might see you turned back and told to get a new one. It’s easy to renew; you just have to go to the visa office in EL TUR, open daily 8am-3pm except Friday. One year extensions cost about LE90, with six months LE60 and shorter periods less. You’re supposed to take a copy of your passport ID page and one of your visa (ask in a local bank or post office if you don’t have one). Though we have had reports these copies are no longer requested: check when you’re there.

CUSTOMS & ENTRY You can enter Egypt with one litre of spirits and 200 cigarettes. If you need more supplies, another three litres and 600 cigarettes can be bought at duty free shops in Sharm or Nuweiba within 48 hours of arrival. Keep receipts if you’re travelling with alcohol in Egypt: there are reports of it being confiscated at the Suez Canal tunnel if you don’t have them recently.