I actually have two answers to that question: writing & traveling. It’s no wonder that when the hubs mentioned moving to the Caribbean, I was all for it.
He and I have been very fortunate to visit many places around the world, and our list of the places we still want to see is very, very long.
So, this week is going to be full of budget travel related posts. The holidays are coming up, and we’re flying home to Louisiana. Still, I’m dreaming of our next big destination. Today’s post is about a place I’ve never been but have always wanted to go ever since I did a project on it in grade school: Egypt.
The Concept of Baksheesh
As with any place you travel, it’s best to do your research about the safety and review the travel advisories before booking your ticket. It’s also important to learn a bit about the culture and places to stay before you go. In Egypt, one of the most important things you need to know for your budget is the concept of “baksheesh,” which is a word that means tipping. Baksheesh is almost a way of life in some poorer Middle Eastern countries. It can help turn the paltry amount of money earned by the hotel maid or the cleaner into something akin to a survival wage. That’s all well and good, but if you’re not too careful, it could cost you a tiny fortune (which could easily spoil the budget for your holiday).
The best thing to do is to prepare yourself for baksheesh ahead of time. Don’t carry any larger denomination bills without filling up a pocket or purse with small notes and change that you can use for baksheesh. That way, the tips will never amount to more than a dollar or two in total. No matter what time of the day or the night, baksheesh is expected or demanded. Having the small bills will potentially save you hundreds of dollars. I very much believe in being generous. The point is be prepared for it wherever you go, otherwise you’ll be taking more than the odd trip to a place like the HSBC bank in Egypt to get smaller bills.
Get The Best Foreign Exchange
As someone who exchanges US dollars into foreign currency every day, I know how important it is to get the best rate. Arriving in Egypt with a fistful of US dollars in hand and then changing them into the local currency will likely save you a bunch of cash, but only if you go to the right place. I recommend popping into the nearest bank, and you’ll get a much better rate of exchange, even better than converting your money back home prior to setting off. Your dollars (or British pounds or Euros) will certainly stretch much further as a result.
Much to the hubs’ dismay, I absolutely love to haggle. I consider it a really good time. Plus, we all love bargain-basement offers and a good sale. Markets, bazaars, souqs (call them what you may) can be found all over the Middle East. Many of them are still occupying the exact same spot that they’ve had for centuries. The best part is that haggling over the price of everything is expected. Just like baksheesh, it’s very much part and parcel of everyday life. So, there are bargains and savings to be had provided your haggling skills are up to par!
Tips For Places To Stay
Current wisdom says you should be able to live quite comfortably in the Middle East on about $10 to $15 dollars a day. That may or may not be true. Visiting Egypt or other countries in the region in the low-season will certainly save you a bundle and so will avoiding touristy-type hotels.
Regardless of your age, hostels are actually really great places to stay for the price. (Go here for information on hostels in Egypt.) However, not all are created equal. Make sure to check the reviews and the safety of a hostel before booking one blindly.
The one perk is that what you pay is typically what you get in Egypt. Cairo is a good example of this. Prices vary from hostel to hostel and on whether you stay in a single, double or dormitory-type room. However, I always believe the point of traveling is to see the world, so even if the place you are staying is spartan, you could still have a great time and a comfortable yet cozy stay. You can actually expect to pay a little above $6 to just over $8 per night! Many of them will also give you access to laundry facilities, the use of a kitchen, and maybe even internet access and air conditioning. Not too shabby, in my opinion.
So, now that you know a little bit more about traveling to Egypt, it’s your turn: What’s your favorite place you’ve ever been? I want to hear all about it! Bonus points if you have other budget travel tips!
[Note: Image from Flickr Creative Commons; Content partnered by HSBC Bank and BudgetBlonde.com]