Area: 1,001,450 km ²
Climate: desert; hot, dry summers and moderate winters
Population: 83,082,869 (est. July 2009)
Languages: Arabic (official), English and French widely understood by educated classes
Government Type: RepublicNational Holiday: July 23 GDP: $442.6 billion (est. 2008)
GDP – per capita (PPP): $ 5,400 (est. 2008)
Information for Foreign Students in Egypt
Obtaining a Visa
A temporary visa is issued upon your arrival at the Cairo airport and must be extended for a month. Universities assist international students in this procedure, which can last several weeks. It is recommended to register at the Embassy in Cairo before or just after your arrival.
One option is to live in a university dormitory. If residences are generally clean, they are relatively expensive and you can easily find a home just as comfortable at a much lower price. In addition, the majority of students who choose these residences are foreigners and the contact with the local population is often limited. An alternative is to seek a private accommodation in Cairo, such as an apartment. In general, foreigners are charged more than Egyptians and this applies also for the rent. The price varies depending on the neighborhood and the size of the apartment and it is better to bring an Egyptian friend with you in order to facilitate the negotiations to make sure everything is fair. Different means exist to find an accommodation. The easiest method is to go through a simsar, a real estate agent. There are simsars that are more or less formal. Another method is to tour the buildings and ask the doorman if there is an empty apartment. Finally, the best means is to know Egyptians who can help you. If you want to make a collocation, make sure that your landlord agrees. Many owners do not accept mixed collocations, and often the neighbors do not enjoy mixed collocations. Mixed collocations, which are legal for foreigners, are illegal if there is an Egyptian involved.
Cost of Living
The cost of living in Cairo is very low compared with Europe or the United States. Nevertheless, inflation is high and prices vary without warning. For rent, a foreigner pays between 800 and 1 400 Egyptian pounds (around 100 euros to 150 euros) for a large room in a flat or a small apartment. Homes are more expensive and cost between 300 and 400 U.S. dollars. As for the food, you can save a lot of money by going to the university dining hall or by eating traditional Egyptian food sold on the streets for less than one euro per meal. An amount of approximately 200 euros per month should be sufficient.
Check deposit slips and always count your money before leaving the bank counter. Differences in exchange rates are minimal and there is no commission. Cash distributors are numerous and accept Visa and MasterCard. Traveler's checks are very useful, but use hotel banks for change.
In all cities and villages, there are call centers open 24h/24, but there are often many people in the evening (25% less expensive between 20pm and 8am). Telecard or Marhaba can be used to call abroad from any fixed phone. The cards cost between 20 and 100 LE (2.50 to 12.50 euros). The access to the Internet is cheap and subsidized. In a few years, cybercafés have mushroomed. The rates vary from 2 to 10 LE per hour depending on the region, the material used and the rate of the line.
For vaccines, embassies publish lists summarizing the vaccines required to enter Egypt. The university also requires students to take a HIV test prior to their arrival. Concerning the hospitals, there is a difference in quality between private and public hospitals. Despite higher prices, you should at all costs choose a private hospital. The pharmacists are very familiar with their medication and are able to recommend one accordingly to the description of the disease. However, not all medications can be found in pharmacies. In particular with regard to contraception, you should take with you all the necessary. Contraceptive pills are available everywhere, but this is not the case for condoms or the morning-after pill.
The means of transportation are limited and there is often little alternative but to resort to a taxi. There are two metro lines in Cairo, a third is under construction. For a city of more than 15 million people, the network is largely inadequate and you should often have to take the subway as well as a taxi to arrive at your destination. The subway is cheap (1 LE, equivalent to less than 0.15 euros). There is a car for women which can't be used by men. The most comfortable (and most expensive) option is to take a taxi. It is usually very easy to find a taxi in Cairo and the driver normally knows the city well enough. You should always indicate the name of the district where you want to go in order to facilitate the orientation. As a foreigner, you will be charged more than a national. For example, a trip from Tahrir Square to Dokki costs about 6 LE, but prices can change quickly depending on oil prices and inflation. Regarding the bus, do not deprive yourself of this means of transport. It may be difficult to use at the beginning, when you do not know the names of the neighborhoods, but then it becomes very convenient. They are different types of bus: Microbus, Minibus, and Bus.