One question I’m often asked is where you’re allowed to take photographs in Egypt, and how much you have to pay to do so, so I thought it might be of interest to summarise the situation as it was on my last trip in January 2019.
At “above-ground” sites such as Luxor and Karnak temples, Deir el-Bahri (the temple of Queen Hatshepsut), the Ramesseum, Medinet Habu, etc, photography is freely permitted for no charge in addition to that of the entrance ticket. Some of these sites have a small additional charge for using a tripod (eg Luxor temple does), and others don’t. If you do want to use a tripod, this is worth checking at the ticket office, because it can change arbitrarily from one week to the next.
The one notable exception to the rule that photographs can freely be taken inside temples is Abu Simbel. If you do take an excursion to Abu Simbel from Aswan (and I’d strongly recommend that you do), you can take photographs outside the two temples there, but if you want to take pictures inside, you need to buy a photography ticket for LE300 (£14, or US$18, at the current exchange rate). Don’t try to take picture without a permit; there are plain-clothed guards among the tourists and if they see you taking photographs they will ask for your ticket. If you don’t have one they’ll commonly make you erase all the pictures on your camera, or pay a heavy fine!
For many years it was the rule that no photography at all was permitted inside tombs, but thankfully the authorities have realised that keen photographers are willing to pay to do so, and so photography tickets are now sold at most such sites, again for LE300 (note that the photography ticket is required in addition to the usual entrance ticket). The same photography ticket is sold at all sites, so you don’t have to buy a ticket for a specific site. I tend to buy half a dozen photography tickets at the start of my trip and use them as needed, because very often the guard at a less-visited tomb will be willing to accept “baksheesh” (ie a bribe) to allow you to take pictures at considerably less than the price of the official photography ticket. Baksheesh is a way of life in Egypt, so don’t be reluctant to try and offer it – nobody will take offence. I generally offer LE50, with the expectation of paying LE100 if necessary. This doesn’t work at the popular sites – the guards there worry about an inspector being around.
Your LE300 ticket will allow you to take pictures in several tombs. In the Valley of the Kings, for example, the ticket allows photography in three tombs; the guard in each tomb will punch a hole in your ticket to show how many times it’s been used. At other locations, such as Deir el-Medina (the village of the workers who constructed the royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings), your ticket allows you to take pictures in all the open tombs there, and similarly for the Nobles’ tombs – a single photography ticket applies to the whole group of tombs (generally three) that the entrance ticket allows you to visit. At Saqqara, the LE300 ticket applies to the entire site, which is excellent value for money.
There are still a few locations where no photography is permitted, most notably inside the Giza pyramids (taking pictures outside is fine), the tomb of Seti I in the Valley of the Kings, and the tomb of Nefertari in the Valley of the Queens. Taking pictures in these locations requires a commercial photography permit which is extremely expensive and needs to be arranged in advance through the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities.
Finally, there are museums. Again, for many years, no photography was permitted inside any museum in Egypt, but once again this rule has now been relaxed. The good news is that a photography ticket for a museum costs only LE50 (a little over £2, or a little under $3). To the best of my knowledge, this ticket is available at every museum in Egypt. The exception is the “Imhotep” museum at Saqqara. Photography there is included in the LE300 site photography ticket; there’s no separate museum ticket.
Note finally that flash photography is not permitted at any site. I’ll have more to say on the subject of lighting in future posts.
As always, rules about what is and is not permitted can change at any time. Please do let know if anything on your trip differs from the situation as I’ve described it above!
I hope that’s useful. If you have any questions about specific sites, ask in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer.