How to Become a Master of Baksheesh in Egypt

“Hey, a little something, give me 1 Pound, eh eh eh eh, come on.”

This is the familiar choice of persuasive words, researched and practiced over years to perfection. This is the art known in Egypt as Baksheesh.

If you travel to Egypt, you will undoubtedly be introduced to baksheesh from the first day. It is part of the Egyptian culture and plays are major role in the tourism industry.

3 Forms of Baksheesh in Egypt:

  1. Begging – Someone out of nowhere just asks you for money, pleading “give me baksheesh”
  2. Tipping – Attempting to do something legit in an effort to get a tip
  3. Permission for Favors – The last form of baksheesh throughout Egypt is a tweak of tipping, favors are granted and under the table tips are given

For this article, I will focus on the latter two forms of Egyptian baksheesh.

I was walking to the museum in Luxor one evening, knowing exactly where I was going, and walking at a brisk pace to get there. A 13 year old boy nudged my side and said “Hey, where you going?

I didn’t respond, yet he continued walking with me and said “Hey, you turn left here.

I continued walking, starting to ignore the boy more and more when he recited his next verse, “Hey, give me 1 pound, I showed you where to go (at this point I hadn’t even said a word, except “hey, how are you?”).”

egyptian pounds
Egyptian Pounds

I almost choked on my tongue and then just grinned as I walked the 50 meters to the museum where I was already going.

The art of baksheesh in touristy areas of Egypt starts at an early age and is fine tuned throughout years of working with tourists who apparently have had unlimited supplies of cash for centuries.

Tips on How You Can Earn Some Baksheesh

  • Relate in a personal way to your victim and establish a connection or link
  • Offer a service or piece of advice (can be useful or useless)
  • Without asking permission, provoke someone to use your service
  • Use all rules and regulations to your advantage and discard rules that will hinder (flaky or real)
  • Initially give roundabout clues as to your motive of making a little money
  • If the first move doesn’t work, come right out without hesitation and demand a couple of pounds or even come right out and say “give me baksheesh
  • Make the target feel a bit guilty for not giving a tip
  • If the victim still isn’t playing, start to get a little more aggressive (not so much in a threatening way but in a conviction of the culprits wrongdoing)

A Few Common situations to Get Started Making Baksheesh:

baksheesh egypt
Photo: Mark Wiens

If you can pull any of these actions off, you will have leverage on your victims and be able to demand a small amount of baksheesh.

  • Go up to a tourist, take off his hat or Arab style headdress and re-wrap it
  • While wearing an Egyptian jellabiya, go up to tourists and try to have them take a photo with you
  • Always try to get in camera photos, even if you have to jump in front of people
  • Give directions to someone who already knows where he is going
  • Show someone a hidden site, that’s really just around the corner
  • Stand outside of a random bathroom (maybe not yours) and get a tip before anyone enters

Ways to Handle Baksheesh When Traveling in Egypt:

Baksheesh Egypt
Photo: Mark Wiens

Traveling through Egypt you will certainly be faced with multiple circumstances of baksheesh on a daily occurrence.

  • If you really need the service offered (bathroom, attraction, etc.) use your own discretion to determine what price it is worth and just think of it as the normal cost.
  • If the baksheesh is a complete bogus claim, refuse to make eye contact with the tout. Attempt to breeze past without speaking, playing stupid. If the solicitor gets more aggressive, don’t sweat it, they won’t hurt you or even chase you.

The art of baksheesh is ingrained into the minds and even ways of life revolving around the tourism industry in Egypt.

If you are prepared or equipped with a little forewarning, the art of baksheesh can be an amusing part of the Egyptian style. Though it sometimes drives people crazy, think of it with an open mind, and try not to get frustrated!

Note: Egyptians are some of the nicest and most hospitable people that I have encountered in the entire world. The art of baksheesh mostly pertains to people that work in the tourism industry day in and day out, searching for a little extra income.

Tours of Egypt

If you did not want to travel to Egypt as an independent traveler, G Adventures offer guided tours. We partner wtih G Adventures for their commitment to the supporting the environment and conserving local cultures.

Best selling tours of Egypt

 

More Resources for Egypt & North Africa

Ever been to Egypt? What did you think of the baksheesh strategies?

Mark Wiens graduated from university and decided to indefinitely travel around the world. He thrives on exploring the local side of cultural travel by observing people and dining on all forms of street food. Check out his world adventures at Migrationology.

24 thoughts on “How to Become a Master of Baksheesh in Egypt”

  1. The truth is you never know when and how you will be approached by a person who will ask you for baksheesh, so at least in the situations described by you, the tourists should know what to expect.

  2. When I was last in Egypt, the focus was less on small bribes for services, which I’ve always handled by shaking my head and negative body language, but trying to entice my son to get interested in toys, which could then be sold at an over-inflated price. I wandered around saying No a lot. The time before that, I was with a group of Israelis, so attracted sod-all attention.

  3. Very nice and funny post! People should remember this especially when going to the Giza Pyramids! But don’t worry… there is always a way to sneak out!

  4. great post! when i was in egypt i was with a group that included some blondes as well as some people of middle eastern descent. once, when egyptians were (yet again) taking pictures of a blonde friend, one of the middle eastern kids popped out and asked for baksheehs from the egyptians. the end result? lots of laughter and offers for shay.
    one other thing–do you speak arabic, or have you been to other middle eastern countries? i only ask because you wrote jellibeyeh instead of gallibeyeh. some of the tweaks of egyptian arabic are so particular, like the change of j to g.

  5. This is extremely informative and spot-on from what we experienced. In Luxor, I had a child walk alongside me asking for baksheesh while literally reaching into my back pocket where many men keep their wallets – he was disappointed. I found the guards at the sites to be the most insistant in asking for baksheesh. At one of the tombs in the Valley of the Kings (where there is only 1 entrance and 1 exit), I had a guard ask for baksheesh because he showed us the exit. I just laughed and then he just laughed. I think many folks ask for baksheesh just to see what they get away with. If you say no, it doesn’t seem to be an issue. However, if someone does provide a legitimate service or their service is exemplary, it does warrant baksheesh/tip.

    1. Many of the “guards” and/or “guides” at or around ancient Egyptian sites etc have no official function but are guys who just hang about providing “services” for baksheesh – you must always remember that 1 Egyptian pound is just a few pence/cents, but is a lifeline to many older (& younger) people in Egypt so don’t get angry if they try to rip you off with extravagant claims, give them what you may think appropriate to the service provided – a caleche (horse drawn carriage) driver in Luxor want E£100 for a 10 minute ride, I gave him 10 (& 5 for his horse) & he accepted it with a laugh – at the V of Ks, an old man showed me & explained some interesting things to photo, I gave him E£5 for his troubles & he was most grateful, shaking hand & wishing God speed. Remember that baksheesh is just part of life’s tapestry, annoying perhaps but part of the travelling adventure. Otherwise just stay at home!

  6. I’m Egyptian and I’m stating that this is revolting !! no Am just kidding, I like this blog and this post is actually interesting. I believe that this is the truth.. Matter fact, if I’m driving my car and i did something against the “traffic laws” i may get a fine but if my ex-pat/foreigner friend is driving the same car and he broke the law the same way i did, he will get a smile and hello !!! and that’s revolting:D … It’s a petty that some Egyptians respect foreigners more than they respect each other.

  7. I got so sick and tired of all the “baksheesh” requests in Luxor that I was literally stunned when I got to Jordan and nobody asked for it! Want directions from the nice Bedouin folks at Petra? They’ll happily give them to you without asking for anything in return. In Egypt? Fughettaboutit!

  8. i was there for working purposes and take few days off for visiting tourist place. it was terrible this culture even i dont’ want to start conversation with anybody i dont know. plus at the last gate before i departed in airport the police/gate keeper asking egyptian pound. i won ‘t come back there if i have no business there and for sure not for vacation. and there are more stories con man and even regular people take advantages to the tourist.example price of food written in arabic is much cheaper than written in english. what a bad experience i have. 🙁 sorry to say that

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