In this article I explain exactly how you can obtain a 6-month visa for Egypt when you’re staying in South Sinai (Sharm El-Sheikh, Dahab, Nuweiba or Taba). I’ll cover the fees, the process, how to get to the visa office and everything in between. The explained process is the one for visa applications by citizens of most European Union countries as well as Canada and the US. It is a little bit more complex for Russians, Ukrainians and some Eastern European countries, I don’t exactly know the process for these nationalities, only that it includes an interview.
If you’re staying in one of the before mentioned cities, the visa office responsible for your case is in Nabq, a little bit outside of the city of Sharm El-Sheikh. The entire process takes two half days. Some people go to El Tur because it is possible to get your visa the same day over there, but there have been some issues with officials refusing to issue a visa when you’re residing closer to Sharm El-Sheikh, because the official office responsible for you is the one in Nabq. For this reason, I never went to El Tur and will only write about my experience with the visa application process in Nabq.
Please excuse the bad quality of my photos, I just took a few shots with my phone because I wasn’t sure I’m allowed to photograph the building. If you check out my other articles, you know I usually take prettier ones 😉
Important To Know
You can only apply for a 6-month visa if you bought the $25 visa sticker at the airport which is valid for a month (any airport, doesn’t matter if Cairo, Sharm or any other airport in Egypt). If you arrive at Sharm Airport, there is a “Sinai Only” Visa which allows you to stay in Sinai for 15 days free of charge (just write SINAI ONLY on the entry form you get on the airplane, at the airport or the border). If you entered Egypt via Taba on the border to Israel, note that you can’t get the $25 visa stamp there. In this case, you will have to go to Sharm El-Sheikh airport first, get the 30-day visa and head to the visa office to get it stamped there. That will allow you to travel anywhere in Egypt. Note that the visa office is closed on Fridays!
The 6-month visa is a single-entry visa. If you don’t work or own property in Sinai, it will be hard to get a multiple-entry visa, which is why I only talk about the 6-month single-entry visa. It is perfect for Digital Nomads e.g. or scuba divers who want to do their Dive Master or Instructor course in Sinai.
All in all, it’s fairly easy to get a visa for Egypt and you don’t have to do the typical visa runs you may know from Asia. I’ve done the whole process like 5 times now, because I never stay the full 6 months, I usually leave the country every 2-3 months to do some traveling. I’ve never had any issues or questioning so far.
A huge advantage of this stamp is that you have to pay much less than regular tourists in many places. The entry fee for Ras Mohammed e.g. was super cheap, same price like for Egyptians and the same goes for some hotels and camps. It will save you A LOT of money when you’re traveling around Egypt, always make sure to ask for resident prices at hotels and tourist attractions. Technically you could get discounts at local restaurants too, I think, but since small businesses are really struggling here I’d rather suggest you pay the regular prices if you’re not extremely short on cash.
Getting To The Visa Office In Nabq (Sharm El-Sheikh)
Since there is no real public transportation, you will have to take a taxi to the visa office. Luckily, gas is cheap in Egypt so it won’t cost you a fortune, but nevertheless, if you want to save money you can try to find 1-2 people who need to apply for their visa as well and share a car with them. Post in local Facebook groups like “Dahab – Sharm Car Pool” and most of the time you will find someone to join you. The price for a taxi going from Dahab to the visa office will cost about 400 LE and the driver will wait for you. Since the Egyptian Pound dropped in value, prices keep increasing so by the time you read this, it may be higher than 400 LE (March 2018, currently roughly 20€).
The Application Process At The Visa Office – Day 1
What you need to bring for your visa application is a photo, just like the photo in your passport, and two copies of your passport info page as well as of the $25 visa sticker with the latest entry stamp. Make sure you check at the airport that the immigration officer puts the right entry stamp (NOT the Sinai Only stamp!) on the sticker and not any other page. I had to pay a fine of 1,160 LE because I didn’t control the immigration officer’s work and he stamped the wrong page. If you forgot the copies, sometimes you can get lucky and the copy machine downstairs works, sometimes it doesn’t though. Better be prepared (bring a pen, too!)
When you get to the visa office, your taxi will park on the right side of it and you pass two minor controls. Hand the officers your bag and passport and let them do their job. Once you’re past the walls, turn right. The entry to the visa office is on the right hand side, not the front. Walk up the stairs, let the security check your bag again and head to one of the windows to ask for an application form.
Now, you might be a little overwhelmed because there doesn’t seem to be a logical system as to where to go for each one of the following steps. That’s because there isn’t. Welcome to Egypt. Just go to whoever is free and ask for the form. Fill it out, make sure you write down that you want a 6-month visa and your purpose of residency is tourism, and hand it back to one of the employees together with your passport and photo.
They will now hand you a piece of paper which you’re supposed to bring to the guy who is sitting in the back of the office, behind the security, and pay him 15 LE for the application, then he’ll give you the receipt and you give that one back to the employee who handed you the paper.
Sometimes they do this next step that I’m about to explain before the payment step. Either way, just follow their instructions. They will point/wave to your right, which means you’re supposed to go in to the chief’s office (I don’t actually know his exact job title) in the back. He usually just looks at you, signs something and you go back to the main waiting area. One time I didn’t have to go in to his office at all, which was weird because everyone else had to. Anyways.
At some point, they will call your name, hand over your passport with a note in it and tell you when you can come back to pick up your residency visa which is basically always the next day (for Western Europeans & North Americans). The whole process takes roughly 1-2 hours, depending on how full it is.
The Application Process At The Visa Office – Day 2
You can pick up your visa either right the next day or, if you don’t feel like going again right away, you can pick it up one of the next days. I suggest you don’t let more than a week pass because you never know if they’re in a bad mood and make you pay a fine or something. Once I picked it up three weeks later and nothing happened, but I wouldn’t risk anything again after they made me pay 1/4 of an average Egyptian salary (55€) to put another stamp on my visa sticker because the immigration officer didn’t do his job right.
You tell them you’re here to pick up your visa, hand them your passport and they will call you after a short while and hand you another paper with the amount of money you’re supposed to pay (555 LE for 6 months single-entry). You go back to the man in the back and pay, get your receipt, give it to the employee and wait until they tell you to go in to the chief’s office again. Same procedure as last time, he will look at you, sign something and then give you your passport with your brand new residency visa for Egypt. Congrats!
Note: Egypt just introduced E-Visas that you can apply for online before you arrive. I’ve heard that it’s possible to get a multiple entry visa that way, but I’ve never done it so don’t want to write anything about that, you can look it up on the official government websites.
While you’re in Sinai, you might want to check out my list of 77 Things To Do In Dahab, Egypt.