The fine art of dealing with Baksheesh – the gratuity culture in Egypt

“Baksheesh” or gratuities were an area we found a little confusing on visiting Egypt so here we lay out for you some of the rates that we paid on our trip in early 2019 to help you decide what may be appropriate, as well as scams and other ways Baksheesh may be requested at the most inopportune times.

Egypt tipping guide

You can read our full guide to Egypt here as well as a Nile cruise review and safety issues here.

Information correct as at January 2019. Please add to the comments below if you feel there are any inaccuracies or rates have changed so we can keep this an up to date resource for fellow family travellers. 

At the time of travel LE to USD was we rounded this to $1USD = 17.5LE

How does tipping in Egypt work?

A gratuity or “baksheesh” is a way of saying thank you for all types of services.  It is commonly stated it is NOT obligatory but it is absolutely expected everywhere you go.

We come from a background of not tipping and preferring to pay “all inclusive” but it’s simply not the way it’s done in Egypt, tipping is expected. Whilst “baksheesh” can commonly have a negative connotation as a bribe, we found it was used interchangeably in Egypt for both gratuities and small bribes.

When planning your trip to Egypt, you do need to factor tipping into your overall budget.  For this reason, it is wise to take a good supply of US $1 bills with you, as well as keep any small change Egyptian Pound notes you are given en route.

Don’t forget dining out you will also be hit with a service charge, 12% kept by the company and GST of 13% goes to the Government. In a restaurant, this should be separated out on the bill, and a further service tip of 10-15% is expected on top (ouch, yes, that menu no longer looks so cheap!)

Karnak Temple Baksheesh

Hello my friend, take photo? (And no he got no baksheesh from us!!)

Tipping Guide to Egypt

Based on many online forums we read before our trip and asking questions of our guides, we believe these to be some fairly sensible tipping guidelines.

  • The driver from the airport 10-20LE
  • Luggage Man 3-5LE per item
  • Housekeeping 5-10LE per night
  • Driver full day 50LE
  • Guide full day 80-100 LE
  • Waiter 5-10LE
  • Restrooms 1LE per person

When it came to travelling as a family group, it got a little more tricky. We tried to base it on whether the same service would have been given regardless of the numbers in our group, or if exponentially more was given due to the number of people in our family.

The best way of paying this tip over is folded in the palm of your hand in a parting handshake.


Tipping on cruise ships in Egypt

The one exception for tipping every time is when you are on board a cruise ship.  You can read our full review of the Nile Cruise ship experience here.

To prevent you needing to tip at every stage of the process onboard the ship, a gratuities box is left at reception.  There’s a strong expectation you will leave an envelope thanking the staff at the end of your trip – we were guided by other travellers that this is fairly set around $5 per person, per day.  Although we were booked as a group of 4, there were still 5 of us to be seated every day, so we rounded this to be $5 per day x 5 = $25 per day.

This is not your only expense during a cruise though.  If you still have daily buses, carts, tour guides, feluccas or boats, each of these additional services will still require a tip as you are going. And you can be sure as we were exiting the ship the porter still stood there expectantly until another tip was paid, as did housekeeping after they had made up the room.

Nile cruise boat with feluccas

There is a more defined process for tipping on Nile ships but don’t be surprised if more is expcted


Other forms of Baksheesh you are likely to encounter in Egypt

Now these all cover legitimate services that you receive in Egypt, i.e. where you have already paid a price for transport, a tour or meal and a “little something extra” is given for the service component.

There are plenty of other forms of Baksheesh you are likely to encounter in Egypt, of the far more dubious variety; we’ve also seen this described as “granting for favours” – or flat our scam or bribes.

Whether you pay these I guess comes down to the person’s persistence and your resolve.

  • Guards asking for money for photos. This can be simply having your photo taken by them, or with them, or them simply allowing you to take a photo where “no photo” signs are displayed or a camera pass has not been purchased. Any time anyone other than you takes a photo of someone in your own group, expect a hand to shoot out.
  • Kids asking for money to give you directions – to somewhere you no doubt already know where you’re going.
  • Locals start describing the site / building / landmark you are already looking at then proceed to follow you quoting random facts, or insist that they can show you to a “hidden site” in a place you have no doubt just explored with a legitimate guide.
  • Wrapping an item of clothing over you then insisting you’ve already tried it on you need to buy it.
  • Handing a child a toy or object then demanding payment for it.

What is more frustrating, is that these acts frequently occur right under the noses of the tourist police and nothing is done to stop them.  Whilst it might feel rude in your own culture to completely ignore someone, they will play on this.  Once a firm La, Shukran” – no thank you –  has been delivered, look straight ahead and walk on.  I found pretending we were not English helped – pick something obscure though as they know quite a few European languages too!!

A frustration and annoyance at times but just one of those facts visiting Egypt. Hopefully forewarned is forearmed.

Take sensible precautions, leave some easy to reach small change in your pocket and don’t display that you have rolls of money on you.


You can see our full guide on what to pack for an Egyptian family vacation here.

Return to our Egypt Family Travel Guide for more facts and information you need planning your vacation to Egypt


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A guide to tipping and dealing with baksheesh requests in Egypt, including recommended amounts and situations to avoid


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Researched and written by our editor Keri Hedrick, an avid traveller, writer and mum of 3 based in the UAE.   A reminder this is based on a personal family travelling experience as at January 2019.  If you are reading this at a later date expect higher, or if service was poor/exceptional moderate your tip.   This article is not sponsored or endorsed by any of the businesses mentioned but does contain affiliate links that may earn us a small commission. 

 

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