Egypt, a land steeped in history and rich culture, offers more than just ancient wonders. Its currency, a reflection of its economic story, is a fascinating topic waiting to be explored. In this concise guide, we'll delve into the world of Egyptian money, covering its history, denominations, and security features.
Whether you plan to visit Egypt, engage in business, or simply seek to understand its monetary landscape, this guide will provide essential insights into this country's currency system.
The official currency of Egypt is the Egyptian Pound, often denoted by the symbol "EGP" or the abbreviation "LE" (which stands for "livre égyptienne," a former term for the Egyptian Pound). The currency is issued and regulated by the Central Bank of Egypt. Banknotes and coins are used for everyday transactions, with various denominations available.
The Egyptian Pound is split into 100 piastres, which are sometimes called "ersh." You can also break it down further into 1,000 milliemes. The five Egyptian pound note is a favorite among many and is useful for giving small tips, easily recognizable by its green color.
Egypt had a range of banknotes and coins in circulation, each with varying denominations. Here are the current denominations of Egyptian banknotes and coins.
In 1834, Egypt adopted a new currency system based on gold and silver, with the Maria Theresa thaler as a reference coin. They introduced the Egyptian Pound, replacing the old piastre as the primary currency. The piastre continued to exist as a smaller fraction of the Pound, divided into 40 para.
In 1885, the para stopped being used, and the piastre was divided into tenths, known as milliemes in 1916. Egypt then set fixed exchange rates for major foreign currencies used in domestic transactions, effectively creating a gold standard between 1885 and 1914, where 1 Egyptian pound was equivalent to 7.4375 grams of pure gold. During World War I, the Egyptian Pound was pegged to the British Pound at the rate of one Egyptian Pound to one Pound and sixpence sterling.
Egypt remained linked to the British Pound until 1962, when they devalued slightly and pegged their currency to the U.S. dollar at a rate of 1 Egyptian pound to $2.3. In 1973, they adjusted the peg to 1 Egyptian pound to $2.55555 following a U.S. dollar devaluation. Egypt's currency floated in 1989, but until 2001, the Central Bank tightly managed the exchange rate.
In 2016, Egypt switched to a fully floating exchange rate and removed foreign exchange controls. As a result, the official exchange rate decreased significantly.
The Egyptian Pound was also used in other regions like Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, Cyrenaica, and Mandatory Palestine during various periods. The National Bank of Egypt issued its first banknotes in 1899, and in 1961, the Central Bank and the National Bank of Egypt merged into the Central Bank of Egypt.
In 1899, the National Bank of Egypt started issuing paper money in various denominations, including 50 PT (piastre), £1, £5, £10, £50, and £100. In 1916-1917, 25 PT notes were introduced, along with government-issued 5 PT and 10 PT notes. In 1961, the Central Bank of Egypt took over and introduced new notes in 25 and 50 piastres, and £1, £5, £10, and £20 denominations in 1976.
Later, they added £100 in 1978, £50 in 1993, and £200 in 2007. All Egyptian banknotes are bilingual, with Arabic on one side and English on the other. They often feature Islamic and Ancient Egyptian designs. In 2011, smaller notes like 25 PT, 50 PT, and £1 were phased out in favor of coins, but in 2016, they reintroduced the £1 note due to a shortage of small change.
In 2021, the Central Bank of Egypt announced plans to issue polymer banknotes. In November 2021, new £10 and £20 notes were introduced. These new notes have rainbow holograms to prevent counterfeiting. The older paper banknotes will still be accepted as legal tender alongside the new polymer notes.
Here are the current exchange rates (as of November 2023) for some major currencies against the Egyptian Pound (EGP):
Please note that currency rates tend to fluctuate, so at the time of reading this, the exchange rate might be slightly different.
While exploring the bustling markets of Egypt or seeking to convert your currency, you might encounter some common challenges. Foreign exchange offices in Egypt might not always offer the best rates, and black market currency exchange comes with inherent risks. It's crucial to be cautious when dealing with unofficial currency traders to avoid counterfeit bills or scams.
Now, let's equip you with practical tips for exchanging and managing your money in Egypt. Many tourists prefer to use their home currency in Egypt because they are afraid of mixing up unfamiliar banknotes and coins. When you change your home currency to the Egyptian Pound, there is a risk of making mistakes or miscalculations.
However, if you use your own currency, like the dollar or the euro, in shops or souvenir bazaars, you are likely to lose money. Most tourist sites that accept payments in U.S. dollars have poor exchange rates compared to banks. So, every time you pay with dollars or euros, you effectively incur a hidden commission, and it can add up over time.
When it comes to changing money, it's straightforward in Egypt. You can do it at banks, both local and international, or use ATMs. Ensure you have your passport if you change money at a bank.
To make handling money easier, divide your notes into different pockets or wallets. Keep larger denominations separate from smaller ones to avoid complications during transactions. Dividing your money also provides a safety net in case your wallet is lost or stolen.
Remember to inspect the bills you receive to avoid defaced, shabby, or torn notes. In highly touristy areas, you can also find official exchange places, but be cautious about high commissions and inspecting the notes you receive.
ATMs are convenient and don't typically require documentation. Major cities like Cairo and Alexandria have readily available ATMs. However, if you plan to visit more remote areas, it's wise to withdraw sufficient cash beforehand, as ATMs may be scarce. Stick to using ATMs in reputable areas, and be cautious of anyone offering assistance.
Many ATMs charge a small fee when using a foreign card, so it's a good idea to minimize costs by withdrawing large amounts. Some ATMs have a limit of EGP 2,000, so look for a Banque du Caire machine if you need to withdraw more.
Debit and credit cards from major foreign banks, such as Visa and Mastercard, are generally accepted throughout Egypt. Before your journey, contact your bank to ensure your card will work, inquire about any withdrawal fees, and notify them of your travel dates. Consider having a backup card and keeping your bank's overseas helpline number handy in case of emergencies.
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