Travel insurance is highly recommended, particularly coverage with emergency evacuation services, as road accidents and the like are quite common. Also see your doctor and dentist before travelling. Consider registering with the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers (www.iamat.org) for a list of reputable doctors.
The best healthcare in Egypt is private and you may be asked if you have insurance before being admitted for treatment.
No vaccines are required for Egypt, but check the status of standard injections (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, measles, mumps and rubella), as boosters in adulthood are now recommended for many. In addition, consider the following:
Hepatitis A and B Administered together or separately, at least two weeks before travel.
Rabies Only if you’ll be in remote areas near animals.
Typhoid At least two weeks before travel.
Yellow fever Required if you’re coming from or travelling to certain countries in southern Africa, including Sudan.
Check these government sites before your trip for advice and news of possible outbreaks or seasonal concerns.
Hygiene standards are low. Always wash your hands thoroughly before and after eating, and choose restaurants with a high turnover.
Private and university hospitals have excellent standards, but it's patchier elsewhere. Dental care is variable. Be prepared to pay upfront for all medical and dental treatment.
You may need to provide medicine and sterile dressings from a pharmacy. Nursing care may be rudimentary, as this is something families and friends are expected to provide.
For minor illnesses, consult a pharmacist first. They are well trained, speak English and can dispense all kinds of medication.
Heat exhaustion This is common, given the shadeless settings of most archaeological sites, as well as a lack of sanitary restrooms, which might lead you to drink less water than is required. Symptoms include headache, dizziness and tiredness and can progress to vomiting if untreated. Drink liquids (ideally sports drinks or water with rehydrating salts) before you’re thirsty and wear a hat to keep off the sun. Treat yourself to an air-con hotel if necessary.
Heatstroke A much more serious condition, caused by a breakdown in the body’s heat-regulating mechanism, that can cause death if untreated. This leads to irrational behaviour, a cessation of sweating and loss of consciousness. Rapid cooling with ice and water, plus intravenous fluid replacement, is required.
Insect bites and stings More annoying than toxic, but look out for sandflies on Mediterranean beaches, and mosquitoes. All bites are at risk of infection, so it’s better to avoid them in the first place, with a DEET-based repellent.
Rift Valley fever A rare haemorrhagic fever spread through blood, including from infected animals. It causes a flulike illness with fever, joint pains and occasionally more serious complications. Complete recovery is possible.
Schistosomiasis (bilharzia) An infection of the bowel and bladder caused by a freshwater fluke. It can be contracted through the skin. Avoid all stagnant water, canals and slow-running rivers. Symptoms include a transient fever and rash and, in advanced cases, blood in the stool or in the urine. A blood test can detect antibodies if you have been exposed, and treatment is quick and easy.
Travellers’ diarrhoea This and other mild food poisoning are virtually unavoidable, as food hygiene standards are not high. The best cure is rest, fluids (best with oral rehydration salts, sold as Rehydran in Egypt) and a cool environment. Antinal pills, a widely available stomach disinfectant, can also help. If symptoms persist more than 72 hours or are accompanied by fever, see a doctor as you might have dysentery.
Tuberculosis TB is common in Egypt, though nowhere near as rampant as in sub-Saharan Africa. The respiratory infection is spread through close contact and occasionally through milk or milk products. Risk is high only for people in teaching positions or health care.
Typhoid Spread through contaminated food or water and marked by fever or a pink rash on the abdomen.
Yellow fever Mosquito-borne and extremely rare in Egypt. If you need a vaccination for onward travel to Sudan, you can obtain it at the medical clinic in Terminal 1 of Cairo airport, or at the Giza governorate building (next to the Giza Court by the train station). It costs approximately LE100.
In Cairo tap water is heavily chlorinated and relatively drinkable, but elsewhere it is generally unsafe to drink. Bottled water is cheap and readily available in even the smallest towns, but consider using iodine or a Steripen to reduce the use of plastic bottles, especially if you're on a longer trip.