Business Hours -- Weekends start on Friday; Sunday is not considered part of the weekend -- but it is considered the traditional day off, and some businesses are closed on Sunday. Most stores and currency exchanges are open 7 days a week, however. The following are general open hours; specific establishments may vary. Businesses: Sunday to Thursday 9am to 4pm. Banks are open 9am to 2pm Sunday to Thursday. Most banks and other outlets offer 24-hour access to automated teller machines (ATMs). Stores/Shops: Monday to Thursday 9am to 10pm and some Friday mornings.

Electricity -- Cairo uses 110 volts AC (60 cycles). North Americans will need to bring a converter and plug adaptor.

Emergencies -- Call tel. 122 for emergencies.

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How to Make International Calls -- Regular phone boxes really only serve for local calls, which cost 10pt. Phonecard booths (Menatel, Ringo or Egypt Telecom) are increasingly common; shops that sell the cards usually display the companies' signs. The main company, Menatel www.menatel.com.eg), charges £E4.20 and £E1.30 for calls to North America, £E4.80 and £E1.50 to the British Isles and Europe, and £E6.20 and £E2 to Australia and New Zealand.

Or you can go to a telephone office where calls are booked and paid for in advance; the calls can be directed to an outside number such as a hotel, or you can take them onsite in a booth. A call to the British Isles, Canada or Europe costs £E4.37 a minute during peak hours (8am-8pm local time); to the USA it's less at £E3.75, to Australia or New Zealand more at £E5.62.

If you have a phone charge card from your phone company back home, you may be able to use it from any international public telephone, and the call will be charged to your account. The benefit of calling cards is mainly one of convenience. Check that the issuing company's charge card works from Egypt.

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Or course, direct international lines are available at all major hotels, but ask about the rates before you dial: Calling direct from your hotel can be incredibly expensive.

Direct dialing abroad from Egypt: Dial 00 for an international line + the country code + the area code (leaving out the initial zero in calls to most countries outside North America), + he personal phone number. For example:

Australia 00-61+ area code (without initial zero) + number

Canada 001+ area code + number

Ireland 00-353 + area code (without initial zero) + number

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New Zealand 00-64 + area code (without initial zero) + number

UK 00-44 + area code (without initial zero) + number

US 001+ area code + number

Directory & operator Information: Egypt has no toll-free directory information service. You can get directory assistance by dialing tel. 140, but in most cases you will need to speak fluent Arabic to communicate.

Cellphones: Check with your provider in advance to see if your cellphone works in Egypt. A convenient and economical choice is to buy a local prepaid SIM card for your cellphone. Or you can rent a cellphone, sometimes even from your hotel, for a reasonable price.

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Internet Access -- Internet access is available in almost all the main tourist destinations, with Internet cafes sprouting up everywhere and hotels providing computers for guests to use. The charge for access at Internet cafes is usually £E5-10 an hour; hotels may charge up to £E50 an hour.

Liquor Laws -- Egypt is a predominately Muslim nation, and alcoholic drinks are forbidden for strictly observant Muslims. But Egyptians tend to adopt a relaxed and tolerant view towards alcohol for non-Muslims and foreigners -- and often themselves. Alcoholic beverages are readily available in Cairo, at restaurants, bars, cafes, and liquor stores. Note, however, that public drunkenness is considered inappropriate and even offensive.

Egyptian laws towards alcohol are quite liberal compared with that of most Islamic countries, except for the month of Ramadan when alcohol is strictly forbidden and only holders of foreign passports are allowed to buy alcohol.

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The legal drinking age in Egypt is 21.

Mail -- The larger post offices in Cairo -- Muhammad Farid (Downtown), Ataba Square (next to the Postal Museum), and the Maadi offices -- are open Saturday to Thursday from 7am to 7 PM and Friday from 7am to noon. All post offices are closed on public holidays and the first days of the Eid al-Fitr and the Eid al-Adha feasts.

Postcards to countries outside the Middle East cost £E1.25. An express-mail letter mailed anywhere outside the Arab world costs £e45.

Newspapers & Magazines -- The English-language Egyptian Gazette (on Saturday, the Egyptian Mail) carries agency reports, articles on Middle Eastern affairs and tourist features. The English weekly edition of Al-Ahram (see below) features opinion pieces on politics, sociology and international affairs.

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Of the Arabic press, Egypt's oldest newspaper, Al-Ahram ("The Pyramids"), founded in 1875, reflects official thinking, as do Al-Akhbar and Al-Gomhouriya.

Police -- Call tel. 122. The tourist police headquarters is at 5 Adli St.

Safety -- The incidence of violent crime in Egypt is low, and the country overall is very safe -- but horrific terrorist attacks on foreigners and government officials by radical extremists in the last 10 years continue to reverberate for visitors. The Egyptian government has responded by placing armed police at all tourist sites, stations, and checkpoints, scanners in hotels, and plainclothes agents in bars and bazaars.

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Otherwise, safety concerns are minor. Pickpockets are somewhat of a nuisance in heavily touristed areas like bazaars. ATMs are safe to use at virtually any hour of the day or night many banks have 24-hour guards posted. Women can avoid petty harassment by dressing conservatively.

Smoking -- Most Egyptian men smoke, and offering cigarettes around is common practice. Respectable women don't generally smoke, and certainly not in public, though nowadays wealthier young women may be seen smoking sheesha in Cairo's posher establishments.

Taxes -- Egypt has no value-added tax. Meal taxes in Cairo can be as high as 26%. Hotel taxes in Cairo are 19%.

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Time Zone -- Cairo observes Eastern European Time (GMT +2), which makes it 2 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (and thus London), and 7 hours ahead of New York.

Tipping -- Tipping is not only acceptable in Egypt, it's expected. It's customary to leave a 10% tip (before taxes) at a restaurant. (The bill already has a 12% service charge, a 5% government tax, and a 2% city tax included in the total.) A similar tip is expected for bartenders.

For taxi drivers, the tip is usually covered in the fare. In five-star hotels, porters should be given a £e10 tip and about half that for porters in lower-scale hotels. Chambermaids get about £e5 for each visit.

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Water -- It's recommended that visitors to Cairo stick to bottled water or water that has been boiled and filtered. Avoid drinks with ice.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.