Safety in Luxor
Stay Alert Luxor is known as the hassle capital of Egypt (and therefore a good candidate for the world). For those not on fully organised tours, please be aware that touts can make sight seeing very frustrating. (Although they tend not to stray into the actual temples.) However within temples, one must contend with the government tour guides. The guides are legitimate government workers, but also extremely aggressive about "guiding you" and then demanding a tip. Rule of thumb: If anyone shows you anything, for any amount of time, they will want a tip. It may be worthwhile to give a small tip upfront while asking to "self tour".
It is wise to pre-book accommodation to save yourself the trouble of having to deal with the touts at the stations.
As tourism is the main source of income in Luxor, and has been for centuries, many people have made scamming into an art form. Some of the older tricks in the book:
- The "I need a letter translated" opener, used to draw you into a shop
- The "I need a letter writing to my friend in your country" opener (they show you an address that's in your country), again used to draw you into a shop
- The alabaster factory. A large percentage of alabaster is imported, and is hardly made on site. The vast majority of other stones such as jade are imported from China and India.
- "The temple is closed"- Check opening times before you arrive.
- Papyrus Museum- It's just a papyrus shop, some are good, some use cheap imitations.
- Scarf seller - person selling usually just one scarf will attempt to use it to hide their hand movements while they pick pocket you. Reported two attempts in two days.
Find out on your own whether something is open or closed, whether you're walking the right way or not. Ask a local, not taxi or caleche driver.
Women travelling without company should exercise extreme caution whilst seeking budget accommodation in Luxor. Several reports have been made of sexual assault after women were given spiked drinks by hotel touts and staff.
Merchants in Luxor are notoriously aggressive and manipulative. If you don't want to be talked into buying anything, it's wise to completely ignore any attempt by a local to strike up conversation, no matter how benign it may seem. In shops and the market, the phrase "No Hassle" can often be used to avoid unwanted attention. If you would like to be polite, it is also appropriate to say "Laa Shukran", meaning No Thanks in Arabic. Being polite will make your life easier, as people will remember you if you were rude and may hassle more later. If problems persist, threaten to call the tourist police with the phrase "You're a hustler!"
On the streets, you may find it easier to feign ignorance of English: "Non Speakee Engleezee" and/or "Non Parlee Arabee" seems to be the most reliable way to show you are not interested in their offers. This technique can however backfire quite spectacularly as most Egyptians speak several languages, so if pressed claim to speak something obscure like Azerbaijani or Ossetic. If you do speak an uncommon language like Persian or Albanian or an Eastern European language, make sure you start talking to them in that language. If you don't, practice faking it and do so in their presence. This is the fastest and easiest way to get rid of the touts.
Depending upon the perception your profile creates, you may be asked, sometimes within minutes of exiting your hotel, if you would like to purchase drugs or sex. Remember, prostitution and drug use are not taken lightly by government authorities. For Gay travelers, extreme care should be taken when propositioned by a sex worker. Egypt has a well documented record of Gay men getting caught up in entrapment schemes.