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Currency and Cost of Living

Egypt - Currency and Cost of Living


There are one hundred piasters in one guineeh (commonly referred to as the Egyptian Pound or LE). Notes come in increments of .25, .50 piasters, 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100. Over the last few years, exchange rates have risen from a low of 3.6 to one U.S. Dollar to a high of nearly 8 which makes living and working in Egypt far more affordable than Europe or the U.S.

Dollars are the most commonly acceptable alternative currency.

Payment for nearly every service or purchase requires cash. In hotels, some grocery stores, restaurants, and shops, one can use a credit card, but the cost of the convenience often includes the credit card fee charged to the merchant by the service company. It is extremely rare for one to pay by a foreign or local check.

While there are pockets of wealth and a middle class, the average Egyptian lives just above or below Western poverty levels. Rising unemployment (even for those with college and advanced degrees), low salaries and inflation continue to make it difficult for Egyptians to make ends meet. As an expat, even though you or your company may pay Egyptian taxes, you are expected to pay more than a native for just about anything, but less than a tourist.

It is helpful to arrive with the understanding that the average Egyptian struggles (and often works 2 or 3 jobs) to make a living that can't possibly feed and clothe their family. An engineer may make only 300 LE per month and the young police officers you see on many street corners are paid 50-75 LE per month. By their standards you are rich and can afford to part with your 'extra' money. What an Egyptian may not understand is that everyone else wants a part of your income as well.

The country survives on baksheesh (a tip or bribe). It is expected that you will pay extra anytime anyone performs a service, no matter how small.

It is appropriate to give .50 piasters or 1 LE to the florist who wraps your flowers, to the man who weighs and wraps your meat, to the person who waits on you in a shop, to the police officer or 'helper' who says they 'watched' your parked car, and a bit more to someone who makes a delivery to your home.


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