Topics include Dining Scene, Egypt: For Foreign Visitors & more!
This inside page is meant as to give new visitors a heads up in order to be able to avoid the most common scams, tricks and rip-offs.
The biggest hassle in Luxor is from vendors, taxi drivers, caleche drivers etc., who can make getting around the city difficult. The lack of Tourist Police and reduced numbers of foreign tourists is currently making many of the locals more desperate and problematic. Knowing your nationality and language can give them a big advantage so keep them guessing. Sometimes it is better to not say a word, just give them a friendly smile and a shake of the head - whatever they say. If they persist (which they will) it is sometimes better to just totally ignore them and not alter your course or take any interest in what they are saying or selling. It may seem rude but this attitude can work. However, you may wish to converse with the locals, it just depends on your own tolerance and what you are happy with.
You will hear calls of "caleche!" and "taxi!" the moment you set foot outside the hotel and the moment you arrive at your destination. They will tell you Luxor Temple or elsewhere is closed. Don't listen. You can always find out whatever it is you are searching on your own. This will avoid scams and wasted time as well as the requirement for tipping. One way to reduce these hassles is to walk a block or two inward on streets running parallel to the main hotel street on the nile. It is amazing how the number of offers drop only fifty to a hundred yards away from the main road. Moreover, you can see more actual Egyptian street life.
Most visitors, if not all, experience minor scams, a fair amount of hassle and/or mildly unpleasant things when visiting Luxor. This inside page is not about more serious crimes which of course can happen in Luxor, but which are very rare. Should a serious assault occur, the police and possibly your foreign representation should be notified immediately. The most common scams listed below are taken from the Luxor forum discussion board and comes from regular users, seasoned Luxor travellers, not so seasoned Luxor-travellers, Destination Experts and all those in between.
This inside page does not deal with the "official" rip-offs concerning the higher cost of travelling to Egypt, drinks-prices on the rise, tipping etiquette etc. For the latter it is recommended reading other inside pages on the subject.
Caleche, felucca men or taxi drivers quoting a price, and by the end of the tour demanding that the price was for ONE person, not two. Pay the original, agreed fare and leave.
Caleche or taxi drivers offering a city-tour at a very low price, and then take you shopping instead and hassle you into buying something.
Caleche or taxi drivers insisting the "The Market is closed" and then taking you to a "much better market", where they of course get commission. The Market (Luxor Souk) is never closed, no matter what the caleche driver says. If you want to go to the Souk, ask to be taken to McD's / Snacktime/ Aboudy or another clearly named location close by and walk the short distance from there.
A common scam is to agree to a price, then demand it at the end in the equivalent of your own country's currency. for example, if 40 Egyptian pounds total is the agreed upon amount, at the end of the trip they will say the price was in dollars, English pounds, etc. Hand over the originally agreed upon price and walk away.
Best practice is always to agree on a price and make sure that the price covers everything, including the horse, the caleche driver's family, the felucca owner, petrol costs and whatever else the driver may come up with to extract more money. Always make sure that the agreed price is in Egyptian Pounds and not in Sterling or Nubian Pounds (which do not exist).
Also, it is wise to wait until the end of your trip before you pay your taxi driver, caleche driver or felucca man. With regards to a felluca trip, it is best to make sure it is a windy day. If it is at all calm, there is the possibility that you can come 'becalmed' in the middle of the Nile and will be expected to pay for the motor boat to tow you back to shore. It is also best not to pay 'per hour' for these trips.
When hiring a taxi for a day trip to the West Bank, make sure you negotiate up front the number of hours that you want for the day. If this is not clear, once you get to the VoKs, the taxi driver might want to renegotiate the fare by limiting the time that he will wait for you at each site.
There have been instances of caleche drivers becoming aggressive and nasty - so make sure that they are licensed before you get in and make a note of the caleche number. They should all have a plate on the back of the caleche with their licence number on (in Arabic and English).
There have been reports that a driver has followed customers demanding more money. This is a rare occurrence but should it happen walk into a shop, café or up to a group of people and ask for the Tourist police and for help. If the potential for aggression from a caleche driver worries you, your best option is a taxi.
If a trader doesn’t give you the goods you have seen and handled , but hands over a bag containing what appears to be the same, check it out before you hand over your cash as you may be receiving goods that are either of inferior quality or damaged etc.
The item might be described as "100% cotton" but feel it anyway - it might be a cotton/polyester blend or even 100% manmade fibre.
Carvings sold by street vendors as moonstone, granite, alabaster etc. invariably turn out to be made of resin and are generally only worth a few Egyptian pounds.
The same caution applies to buying papyrus especially if you are in a papyrus gallery or factory where you select your purchase by number from the paintings on display. You pay your money and then you are handed the papyrus neatly rolled in a taped cardboard cylinder which of course indicates that the sale is final. Please check what actually goes into the cardboard container as the painting may be damaged, not the quality that you chose or not even the painting chosen. Insist that the gallery staff open the container and show you the painting before you leave the counter. Most travellers would graciously take the cylinder and be appreciative of the "free" additional papyrus that they have been given, pack it in their suitcase and not open it until they arrived home which is then too late to correct any errors or omissions.
When buying an English paper from men/boys riding round the streets selling the paper from the day before, check you get the one you want. If you see the date on the paper and agree to a price, the trader may then pick a paper from the middle of his bundle for you whilst you are gathering your money together and when you receive your paper you may find it is a week old. It is better to take the paper you wish to purchase from the top of the seller's bundle and then hand over your money.
Traders near the Sheraton have been known to sell fake jewellery e.g. Cubic Zirconium instead of diamonds and plate instead of solid gold.
The "Waiter" Scam
Visitors are often approached by locals claiming that they are the visitor's waiter/house keeping/bar man/pool man/cook from the hotel and that they know and recognize the visitor from said establishment. The visitor will often react in a positive way (and why not?), happy to be recognized on the street in a foreign country.
The so-called waiter/house keeping/bar man/pool man/cook is nothing of the kind. He is most likely a tout, who invariably will invite the unsuspecting guest, who think they've met a "friend", to the shop or restaurant that he works for. Here the visitor will feel obliged, hopefully, to buy an array of overpriced goods, from which the tout will get a large commission.
Be aware that people working this scam can be very knowledgable about your hotel or even the flights to and from your home country, where they will claim to have a wife, girlfriend, or cousin. They also may ask to set up a caleche or boat ride at a fraction of normal tour costs. This of course entails a "deposit" to set things up. Never pay a deposit, no matter how convincing the story (sometimes complete with a picture of the wife in the home country).
More recently, the saffron scam has emerged. The young man will smile and tell you he works in your hotel kitchen and is going to buy spices for the chef. He then offers to sell you saffron at a very low price - you are sold the far cheaper safflower instead of genuine saffron.
This minor scam is closely related to the postcard-scam, where the unsuspecting visitor is asked to translate or write a postcard for some a local person, perhaps claiming that he "used to live in Liverpool" or "has a brother in Liverpool" (after he has established that the tourists are from Liverpool). Liverpool can be swapped with any town or city in the world, small or large, and those touts are very, very good at spotting where the visitor is from. When the visitor has agreed to write/translate the post card, he/she is lured into a shop, of course.
Travellers may also be approached by locals claiming that "they know you from last year" or similar. Even if the guests did indeed visit Luxor last year (and maybe even recognize the local), chances are that this is only to create contact, which in the end will have the same outcome as mentioned above: unwanted shopping.
Visitors travelling in charter groups, with their own guide or with a travel company representative, will often be told at their "welcome" meeting that it is dangerous to venture into Luxor on their own. Obviously this is not so. Whilst it can be annoying with the pushy vendors and the constant haggling over prices, Luxor is not dangerous at all.
The scam, although this may be the wrong word to use as it is a common business practice in Luxor, is if the guide/rep takes the traveller to a personally recommended restaurant and/or shop and the traveller makes a purchase or dines, the guide/rep subsequently earns a hefty commission afterwards from those establishments . This is particularly common for papyrus, perfume, jewellery and alabaster purchases. As a result, this makes the price the visitor is paying considerably higher than if they had walked in off the street and were confidently prepared to bargain.
The same scenario applies to a caleche "City Tour" which is a marvellous way to see Luxor in a blink of the eye. There is nothing wrong in going on a "City Tour" with the guide or the representative, but don't be led into believing that you cannot do it on your own or choose your own shops and restaurants.
On the subject of 'guides', if you are visiting the likes of Luxor Temple or Karnak Temple on your own, do not be tempted to go with the 'guide' who wants to lead you off the beaten track in an attempt to show you a 'good place to take a photo'. He only wants to take you to a place where you think you shouldn't be for backsheesh, and where he takes you will invariably not be a good place to take a photo in any case. Just ignore these requests to go with them and find your own places to take photos. Also, there can be the possibility of the 'guardian' offering to use your camera to take your photo and then not giving you your camera back until you hand over 'baksheesh'.
At the present time there is a camera ban in the Valley of the Kings and the taking of photographs is not allowed. Please do not be tempted to hand over baksheesh to anyone in order to sneak some photos. If you do, this person will inform the security guards of this and you will have to pay again in order to stop your camera being confiscated or your memory card from being confiscated/erased. Do not take the chance - just do not take any photos.
On departure from Luxor airport the bus driver may keep the passenger doors closed to delay a few seconds from collecting suitcases. Meanwhile the luggage compartment door opens and suitcases get grabbed and taken inside at great speed by porters!
At Luxor Airport someone may be pressing their foot on the scales to make your cases appear heavier than they actually are, therefore incurring an excess baggage charge. Just be aware when checking in your luggage to make sure this doesn't happen. Many people have bought small digital scales that you can use at the airport to prove that your cases are under the specified weight.
Make sure you are familiar with the local banknotes, as this can apply regarding not only to a note it is 'claimed' you gave in payment for something, but for notes that you will receive as change from a purchase. This is one of many reasons why you should always have smaller notes and coins with you, change always seems hard to come by.
You should always try to pay with as near to the price as you can, so you require the least amount of change (as it will often be claimed the vendor 'has no change') but also, if you pay for an item or service that costs 30 or 40LE, with a 100LE note, if you are not familiar enough with what the particular notes look like, it is a common trick to give you back a 50 piastre note, in place of a 50LE note in your change, as of course they both have the numeral '50' on them, but the 50 piastre note is only 100th the value of the 50LE note you should have been given.
There have been recent reports (September 2011) that forged 100LE notes are circulating and that local people are asking tourists to change these notes into smaller currency for them, so be very aware. It is best to only change your currency at recognised banks or with your hotel reception. Click on ' pictorial record ' to see what the currency looks like.
Money changing scam.
"Please can you change these Euros / pounds .." You will be shown an amount of money say £10 in change and will be offered a good exchange rate. If you accept the deal they will take the note you offer and tip a handful of change into your hand. Later you will find you have much less than you expected. There are, however, genuine people who have been tipped in coins and cannot change them at the bank, so if you do decide to help somebody you trust, check the coins are good, count carefully and agree an exchange rate.
With regards to tipping, be aware that there is a 'pecking order' for tipping, whether on the boats or in the hotels where tips are supposed to be gathered together and shared with all the staff. However, on tips being shared out, the staff at the top of the tree get more than those at the bottom (if in fact those at the very bottom rarely ever see any of it). It is best to always tip staff DISCREETLY at the end of each holiday (or as you go) so that they can keep it for themselves. However, if a waiter then comes back to you to say that they've had their tips taken off them and hinting that you should give them more, do not give then any more than you already have as it could well be that they are only trying to ‘double their money’.