Cheaper than the Middle East and more expensive than Africa, the cost of living in Egypt is still low, particularly when compared to an English teacher’s salary. Accommodation is very cheap especially if you’re looking at shared accommodation in Cairo where a typical flat share costs only £80 a month.
It’s worth mentioning that about half of all TEFL employers will provide you with accommodation as part of your contract. If you choose not to take this option then you may be able to secure an equivalent housing allowance – £200/$300 is typical.
Nights out are cheap in Egypt too, with mezze in a restaurant costing just £2.50/$4.20 and a glass of wine for £2/$3. Be aware that as Egypt is a Muslim country, Egyptians don’t drink. As such, whilst you can buy alcoholic beverages from the bars in Cairo and Alexandria for the prices above, the international chained hotels will be selling the same drinks at more expensive rates.
Egypt’s national dish is considered to be Kushari, which is a pasta dish with ingredients including tomato sauce, lentils, garlic and chick peas, and it’s enjoyed by the Egyptians at lunch. Whilst the origins of this dish are actually in Britain, Italy (the pasta) and Latin America, the idea of mixing all the ingredients was conceived in Egypt, technically making it an Egyptian dish.
Another popular Egyptian dish to try is Baba Ghanoush, which is mashed aubergine mixed with lemon juice, salt, pepper, spices and oil, resulting in a smoky flavour. This is served with Aish, which is basically the Egyptian version of pitta bread.
As a Muslim country, there is not a huge variety of alcohol available; but the most common beverage you’re likely to find is the locally-produced lager of Stella (NOT Stella Artois!); and there are actually 27 Stella bars located across Egypt – something for you to discover and enjoy!
Situated in the Sahara, Cairo enjoys a desert climate, with long, hot summers at around 35 degrees Celsius, and mild winters of around 20 degrees. Cairo only receives 1cm of rain a year, so it’s very dry and there’s no worry of frizzy hair! The weather is very similar in Alexandria and Luxor too, except Luxor’s temperatures regularly reach up to 45 degrees Celsius in the summer months, which can get pretty unbearable.
The standard of accommodation in Egypt can be basic, even in the suburbs of Cairo. Like most of the North African countries, older Egyptian houses are prone to power cuts. For this reason, it’s probably worth paying a little more for a new-build apartment to avoid these problems; plus it’ll come complete with air-conditioning.
The majority of jobs teaching English in Egypt are in Cairo and Alexandria. Both of Egypt’s largest language school employers, Berlitz and The British Council are located here.
If you like the buzz of a big city, then Cairo is the ideal place for you to TEFL, with plenty of museums and café’s to keep you occupied. Also home to the best nightlife in all of Egypt; despite being a Muslim country, the capital has a selection of bars, although you’re likely to find yourself surrounded by other expats and tourists! To try an authentic Egyptian night out, spend the evening surrounded by friends in a late-night coffee shop.
If being by a beach sounds perfect to you, then teaching English in Alexandria is the best choice, with Egypt’s second largest city enjoying a picturesque position on the Mediterranean Sea. Spend your weekends on Marmoura Beach – winter is the best time to visit, when the tourists have disappeared and the beach is empty.
Once the capital of Ancient Egypt, Luxor is also a nice place to TEFL, the perfect city for history buffs, home to the tomb of Tutankhamen, and an abundance of beautiful temples and palaces lining the edge of the Nile. However, be aware that Luxor is dangerous at night – avoid walking the streets on your own, and always be aware of your surroundings.
In Cairo, there are both buses and micro-buses, but these are best avoided if you’re commuting to your TEFL job, as they’re often unreliable and late. The best way to get around is by taking the subway – it’s very cheap, with a one-way ticket starting at 13p/$0.21, and generally runs on time, connecting the centre to the suburbs, should you decide to live on the edge of the city to save money on rent.
If you decide to take a taxi, once you have told the driver your destination, agree on a price then, otherwise the driver will not stop haggling during the journey. Don’t be afraid to bargain – drivers will often give an inflated rate (especially if you’re a female foreigner), and if they continue to haggle at the end of the journey, you can threaten to report them to the police, and they’ll usually back down. If you’re travelling late at night, it’s safer to call and book a taxi rather than hailing one down in the street.
The train is the preferred mode of transport amongst the locals; taking you from Cairo to Alexandra in just under 3 hours for just £6/$9 one way.
Egyptair offers regular flights from Cairo and Alexandria to the beach resort of Sharm el Sheikh – return tickets start at £130/$215, and with flight times just an hour, it’s the perfect opportunity for a relaxing escape.
The divide of the sexes is common in Egypt, and this translates to the TEFL classroom. Male teachers can only teach male students, and female teachers can only teach female students.
If you’re planning on visiting the pyramids (which no stay in Egypt is complete without!), be sure to visit the Red Pyramid – it has the second largest base of all the pyramids, and there are hardly ever any crowds, so you don’t have to queue to go inside!
It’s common practice in Egyptian schools for students to stand up when a teacher enters the room; usually addressing the teacher by their title and first name e.g. Mr James.
If you’re keen to find out more about teaching in Egypt then you’ll want to check out the i-to-i TEFL free guide. You’ll find out loads more useful information on finding your first job, where you can teach and how to negotiate the best salary package.
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