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Cairo: 7 Things Travelers Need To Know Before Visiting

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Cairo and the region surrounding it are on many bucket lists because of its rich culture, monumental sites, and ancient history.

While the city itself is hectic, hot, and an assault on the senses, there are incredible things to discover around every corner.

The food, religious sites, and ancient streets draw a constant stream of visitors from around the world.

Pyramids overlook Cairo Egypt

But before setting off to Cairo, there are a few things you need to keep in mind. In this post, we'll cover everything you need to know about traveling to Cairo, including:

  • What are the costs for travelers?
  • Things to know about culture and etiquette
  • What are the top attractions?
  • How safe is it?
  • Local food and drinks
  • How good is the WiFi?
  • How long can you stay?

Ready? Here are the top 7 things you need to know before visiting Cairo:

Egyptian artefacts will be in the new Grand Egyptian Museum

Did you know… Later this year the Grand Egyptian Museum is due to open and when it does it is expected to be one of the largest museums in the world.
At over 5 million square feet, the museum will house an estimated 100,000 artifacts including many of King Tutankhamun’s treasures.
If you are traveling to Egypt soon, the museum is reportedly offering limited tours of the new space before the official opening.

1) Cairo Affordability

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The currency in Egypt is the Egyptian Pound or EGP. The current exchange rate is £10 EGP = $0.32 USD or $10 USD = £309 EGP.

Here are the average costs for travelers in USD:

Accommodation

  • Average hotel price: One night at a 3-star hotel typically costs around $65/night, while a room at a 4-star hotel averages $120.
  • Luxury 5-star hotels: Luxury 5-star hotels average $250 a night, although there are more expensive options. For example, St. Regis Cairo has basic rooms starting at $450 per night, or you can live like a Queen in the Royal Suite for a cool $19,400 per night.
  • If you're on a budget: Cairo has plenty of affordable hostels to choose from. A bed at a well-rated hostel in a good area will cost between $5- $8 per night in a shared dorm or $15 – $20 for a private ensuite room.  

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people sit outside cafes to eat and smoke in Cairo Egypt

Food

Visitors to Cairo will find incredible food at really affordable prices.

  • A 3-course meal at a mid-range restaurant for two costs less than $20.
  • For a cheap meal at an inexpensive restaurant, expect to pay around $3.50
  • A beer costs between $1 – $2, while a cappuccino is usually less than $2.

Transportation

  • Getting around Cairo is easiest and cheapest on public transportation. The city has a clean and efficient underground metro system and an extensive bus network. The price of metro tickets is based on the distance traveled but ranges between $0.16 – $0.32 per trip.
  • There are plenty of Taxis in Cairo, and they are the most convenient way to get anywhere the Metro doesn’t travel to. There are two types of taxis to choose from – black and white taxis are older and unmetered (and often have no air conditioning). Yellow or white taxis are metered and fares start at $0.33 and cost an additional $0.20 per mile traveled.
  • Uber is available in Cairo and rates are comparable to Taxis, and come with the added benefit of not needing to negotiate with the driver.
  • Many travelers who don’t mind spending extra on transportation choose to get around by tour bus. Several companies offer transport from hotels directly to the top attractions and include the price of admission. Packages typically cost around $100 per person.
  • Tourists looking to explore the Nile can enjoy a ride on a small wooden sailboat called a felucca. The cost is typically around $5 per hour.
two boats sail on the nile river with Cairo in the background

2) Culture And Etiquette In Cairo

Check this list before your trip! Here are some of the major Dos and Don’ts in Cairo.

  • DO dress appropriately: Women especially should dress modestly and carry a scarf to cover shoulders and knees if needed. Men should avoid wearing tank tops.
  • DON’T smooch in public: any PDA above holding hands is frowned upon, so save the public smooching for another city.
  • DO carry cash: Many businesses in Cairo still operate entirely on cash, so avoid having to walk away from a desired souvenir or plate of street food empty-handed and carry some cash and coins.
  • DON’T forget to tip: Another great reason to carry cash is for tips. Tipping is commonplace in Cairo so plan to tip a small amount for any services.
  • DO plan to haggle: Negotiating the price is expected in markets, souvenir shops, and in taxis.  
  • DON’T visit mosques during prayer times: Muslims typically pray five times a day and the specific times are posted outside each mosque
The great Mosque of Muhammad Ali Pasha in Cairo Egypt

3) Top Attractions in Cairo

Cairo has loads of interesting historic and cultural sites to explore. Here are a few of the top things to see and do while exploring Cairo:

  • The Pyramids of Giza – No trip to Cairo is complete without a visit to the Pyramids of Giza, a mighty sight that has remained largely intact for 4,500 years and is still regarded as one of the 7 (original) wonders of the world.
  • Museum of Egyptian Antiquities – Visitors can find a plethora of ancient art and artifacts at the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities. However, some recent visitors have noted that some of the displays have already been removed to be prepared for the Grand Egyptian Museum.
  • Coptic Cairo – The oldest neighborhood in the city is a maze of alleyways, ancient religious buildings, historic sites, and plenty of delicious street food.
Happy-Tourist-man-with-hat-riding-on-camel-background-pyramid-of-Egyptian-Giza-sun-light-Cairo-Egypt

4) How Safe Is It For Tourists?

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Cairo is a generally safe place for tourists, and many tourist areas benefit from additional security protection. However, there are still some things that travelers should keep in mind to stay safe during their visit:

  • Beware of pickpockets: Be especially vigilant in tourist sites and in crowds, as pickpocketing and bag snatching is the most common crime against tourists in Cairo.
  • Watch out for scammers: Scammers are plentiful in Cairo, especially in tourist areas. Book tours ahead of time to avoid having to judge whether an offer of a tour is legitimate or not. If you plan on buying gold, do research on the current price so that you do not get taken advantage of.
  • Keep an eye on travel warnings: Terrorism and civil unrest are uncommon in Egypt, so check for government travel warnings before you go. Avoid joining any protests or demonstrations as they have become violent in the past.
  • Know what to do in an emergency: Earthquakes and tremors are common in Cairo, so know the proper safety protocols and have an emergency plan. Dial 112 for emergency services.
  • Women be aware: Sexual harassment is common throughout Cairo, so be prepared to ward off any unwanted attention. The metro has women-only cars, and it is recommended to use them, especially if you are traveling alone.
  • DO get travel insurance: Travel insurance can help in health emergencies as well as with covering the costs of any travel mishaps during your Cairo trip. For 5 great options, read more here.
a market in Cairo Egypt

5) Local Eats And Drinks

One of the best parts of travel is checking out the local cuisine, and Cairo is a fantastic place to try new foods. Traditional Egyptian food dates back to ancient times and is a must-try. Vegans and vegetarians will have plenty of options throughout the city. Don't let yourself leave without trying at least one of the following:

Food

  • Ful medames – One of Egypt’s national dishes is this creamy fava bean stew flavored with olive oil, spices, and lemon.
  • Aish Baladi – Egyptian flatbread similar to pita, made from whole wheat flour and baked fresh all day. The bread is often used to scoop up other components of a meal.
  • Koshari – a popular street food consisting of lentils, rice, chickpeas, and macaroni that is topped with tomato sauce and fried onions
  • Molokhia – a comforting soup made of jute leaves cooked in chicken broth
  • Falafel – deep-fried balls of ground fava beans seasoned with fresh herbs
a red cup of hibiscus tea sits overlooking the city of Cairo Egypt

Drinks

  • Karkadeh – a sweet hibiscus tea served hot or cold
  • Sahlab – a comforting beverage made from the ground bulb of an orchid and mixed with rosewater, milk, and sugar and topped with pistachios and cinnamon
  • Qamar Al-Din – slices of dried apricots are used to make this tea which is served cold and sweetened, popular during Ramadan

6) How's the WiFi?

Using Ookla, an internet speed testing service, the average internet speeds in Cairo for March 2023 were 21.71mbps download and 6.55mbps upload.

Marriott Mena House, Cairo, Egypt

7) How Long Can I Stay?

U.S. Citizens need a visa to visit Egypt, and it can be obtained upon arrival at the airport for $25. Visas are good for 30 days and are renewable. It is also possible to apply for an e-visa through the Egyptian Government’s website – no other website is authorized to sell e-visas, and there are several scam websites set up. Upon entry, passports must have six months of validity and at least one blank page.

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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com

Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.


Not White

Tuesday 16th of May 2023

Why do you feel the need to haggle/negotiate prices when the price they are asking you for is still cheaper than what you would pay at home? These posts are giving off white privilege vibes.

Reislust

Thursday 7th of December 2023

@Not White,

Haggling is part of the culture in many countries. It is you who is exhibiting privilege.