June 18, 2024
Cairo travel guide, tips and things to see

Whether you arrive at Cairo International Airport on a sunny morning or in the dark of night, prepare yourself for entering a city that assaults the senses all at once. Cairo is loud, crowded, polluted – and captivating. 

As one of the largest cities in Africa and the Middle East, this chaotic metropolis can seem overwhelming; taxi through heavy traffic, horns blaring, while sidewalks overflow with residents going about their daily business.

Transportation in Cairo

Public transportation options abound, from the Cairo metro and public buses to ride shares and Cairo airport taxi. While adventurous travellers pride themselves on mastering Cairo’s convoluted transit networks. 

Airport taxi in Cairo services provide the most efficient (and least stressful) method for reaching your hotel upon arrival. 

Expect to pay 23 to 27 EUR one way from the airport to downtown. Within the city itself, metered taxis offer a convenient way to travel moderate distances. Just be sure to negotiate the fare upfront and have small bills for payment, as drivers rarely make changes.

Things to see in Cairo

With over 5,000 years of history, Cairo brims with iconic attractions. Of course, the Great Pyramids of Giza remain the city’s uncontested main event. Other knockout sights include the monolithic Sphinx statue, the colossal Egyptian Museum, and medieval mosques and mausoleums. The chaotic Khan el-Khalili bazaar provides the quintessential Cairene experience, while a felucca ride on the Nile offers a welcome respite from the city streets.  Try to see the top sights within 3 to 5 days.

Safety Tips

Yes, Cairo has crime and its pollution aggravates many visitors. Avoid empty streets or poorly lit areas at night. Drink only bottled water and don’t eat vegetables or fruit that can’t be peeled. Follow typical safety precautions for crowded metros and markets. Also, beware of pushy vendors wanting baksheesh (tips) at tourist sites for unsolicited goods or services. Good rule of thumb: if you didn’t ask for it, don’t pay for it.

Where to Stay in Cairo

Downtown Cairo puts you closest to top attractions like the Egyptian Museum and Khan el Khalili Market, while Giza is best for Great Pyramids access. Zamalek offers refuge on a largely peaceful island in the Nile. Choose budget hostels for 20 to 60 EUR per night, moderately priced hotels for 60 to 160 EUR, or splurge over 160 EUR for luxury stays with Nile views and spas. Confirm if taxes and fees are included when comparing rates.

Day Trips from Cairo

Escape Cairo’s commotion by venturing off on exciting day trips. A full-day tour bus hits top attractions Giza, Memphis, Saqqara, and Dahshur, while a luxurious Nile cruise takes you farther south to the Temples of Luxor and Karnak. Alexandria makes a nice beachy getaway; hop a 2 to 3-hour train up the Mediterranean coast. For a religious experience, Mt. Sinai and St. Catherine’s Monastery provide desert spirituality. Sharm El Sheikh offers beaches and world-class diving. Prices vary widely for day trips – expect to budget at least 60 to 160 EUR or more per person after transportation and meals.

Dining in Cairo

Stacks of pita bread accompany mouthwatering mezze like baba ghanoush, falafel, kebabs and kafta tagines at Middle Eastern restaurants. Local cuisine also reflects Egypt’s diverse history with Greek, Turkish, and Lebanese influences. Sip strong, sweet tea wherever you go and try restaurants near your hotel till you find your favourites. 

If homesickness kicks in, American chains like Chili’s or TGIFridays provide comfort food. Restaurant prices range tremendously – budget 20 to 50 EUR per person or much higher at fancier venues. Tap water is unsafe, so plump for bottled water instead.

Whether dodging speeding traffic or choking on exhaust fumes, Cairo assaults the senses and rewards visitors with endless energy. Follow basic precautions, connect with helpful locals, and soon this jumbled city reveals its cultural heart.