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How to Negotiate A Camel Ride to the Great Pyramids

Camel tour office

The austere office of the camel tour business.

The Great Pyramids of Giza are best experienced on a camel. End of story.

Arguing that it's better to approach the last of the 7 original wonders of the world in a minivan, or massive air-conditioned bus, will be an exercise in futility.

It may top the list of tourism cliches, however riding a camel in Giza turned out to not only be one of my favorite experiences from a lifetime of travel, it also resulted in some of my favorite photos as well.

But there's one catch before you can enjoy this epic, time-honored tradition.

You must bargain for your camel.  And let me tell you, it won't be easy.

My 11 days in Egypt quickly taught me that Egyptians are hardcore when it comes to bargaining. It reminded me of my time in India, where I also faced tough negotiators at every turn.

The good news is you can turn this potentially stressful situation into a game, and a fun one too.

Egyptian camel

Approaching my trusty Egyptian camel outside the office.

How to Negotiate A Camel Ride to the Great Pyramids

Note:  I arranged for a one day tour of the Great Pyramids and Giza through the same Cairo-based tour company with which I booked my Nile River cruise. These companies are a dime a dozen downtown.

These tips are based on the assumption that you are either prepared to hire your camel independently (ie. go straight to Giza on your own), or the tour you arrange leaves the camel negotiating up to you.

1.  Do Your Homework

There are tons of hotels in Egypt, and even the most budget-oriented ones have staff willing to warn you about the potential tricks and scams guides and tour companies play on tourists.  Take advantage of their insider advice so you can anticipate what's coming, and you should be able to maintain control of the experience, and your money.

Just be weary of booking your tours through the hotel itself, as that will increase the cost versus doing it on your own since they will get a commission for the sale.

2.  Treat It Like A Game

The game begins when you arrive in Giza, and walk into one of the little offices where the camel negotiating occurs.

You'll be warmly welcomed with smiles, laughter, a cup of tea, and possibly a bad joke like me. Don't get distracted by the transparent attempts to woo you, but be open to banter and rapport building as it will benefit you just as much as the other guy.

You'll be offered several options. The agent will try to upsell you on the more expensive option, and it's your job to get that experience for as little as possible. Don't worry about the agent's financial well being. He's not going to rent you a camel at a loss to him.

Whatever rate you ultimately agree on, he'll surely be making some profit from the transaction, though it might not be as much as the other suckers walking through his door who haven't read these tips!

3.  Be Dramatic

As you mull over the different options presented, ask a lot of questions. Hem, and haw. Consult your guidebook. Delay. Pretend you have all the time in the world, because in that moment, you do.

Meanwhile the agent is in a race to book book as many tours per day as possible. Time is money to him. Use this to your advantage.  Watch for signs that he's becoming impatient, because they'll mean you're in the driver's seat.

4.  Offer 50-75% Less Than the Initial Rate Quoted

One of the biggest mistakes tourists make when bargaining abroad is to think of the value in terms of their own currency, versus the local currency. If you're thinking in US Dollars while the seller is thinking in terms of Egyptian Pounds, that leave a wide margin for him, and inadvertently inflates expectations and prices for future tourists.

For example, I was quoted $80 for the 2-hour, “long” version of the camel ride around the Pyramids. After applying the techniques in this article, we ultimately settled on $40.  I'm positive a stronger negotiator than myself could've gotten it for even less.

On the plus side, I ended up enjoying an extra 30 minutes on the tour, much to the dismay of the manager, who scolded my camel guide upon our return.

5.  Don't Be Afraid To Walk Out The Door

In the stables on the outskirts of the Pyramids, there are plenty of camels hanging around. And plenty of agents willing to rent those camels to tourists. If you're not satisfied with the rates offered in the first office, don't be afraid to walk out the door and try another one.

If you booked the whole day through a larger tour company, then that company has an agreement with the first office they bring you too, and probably gets a commission for any sales they bring in. By showing that you're willing to go elsewhere, you're potentially removing a sale from both parties.

Be respectful, but firm. And if the guy doesn't try to stop you, or offer you his best deal as you head for the exit, then at least you have a better sense of the going rate for when you go to the next office.

Exploring the Great Pyramids by camel.

Exploring the Great Pyramids by camel.

Egypt is hot, dusty, and crowded. It's easy to get overwhelmed by it all, and throwing in the back and forth negotiating of camels can turn an otherwise fun experience into a stressful occasion. Remember to treat it like a game, and not take the whole thing too seriously.

Once you're riding through the desert, on your way to walk like an Egyptian in front of the Great Pyramids, you'll soon realize nothing else matters in those moments.

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This was a sponsored post, which enables me to continue bringing you entertaining travel stories and practical travel tips from around the world.

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Matthew

Tuesday 21st of March 2017

Good information. I can't believe how hard everybody wants to rip you off: it's the Hunger Games out here. We booked our pyramid your though the hotel, that is where the con starts. We were taken to a stable where we were asked to pay USD120 per carriage (2 pax). I totally refused but my colleagues gave in and paid USD 50 each, I ended up paying USD 10 to the same agent after I told him I would walk up the small hill. The games had just begun. A camel guy followed us all through. They ask you to pose next to the camel for photos and before you know it. you're on the camel moving round. They pretend they want to take pictures but keep your phone until you pay. Very funny and sad at the same time

Conor

Thursday 21st of April 2016

Good post! I'm going to do this

Nick Chapman

Monday 9th of September 2013

Be wary -- I was playing tourist for a day whilst serving in the Army and was offered a free picture on a camel (in front of the Great Pyramid -- my camera) and, even though I stressed that I wasn't interested, eventually caved...then, to my naive shock, was not allowed down. I was taken on a small trek and eventually told I owed money, which, of course, I refused. I was threatened with a police visit, which didn't bother me, and eventually a policeman/guard (presumably, who gets a cut at the end of the day) asked what the smallest denomination bill I had (a $5) and said just give it to them...

So I bought my freedom from a camel's back for $5.

Wish I would have offered $5 for the picture up front and maybe I wouldn't have spent 30 minutes up there (although that was kinda neat, plus i got a fun story, and would have paid more than $5 for that 30 mins had I wanted it).

Good read! I'll be more prepared if I ever get to visit again.

Dave

Monday 9th of September 2013

I wasn't aware of that scam, thanks for sharing.

chris

Friday 25th of November 2011

Good post about this. Many times bloggers dont tell exactly what they paid. I had a very similar experience when in Egypt in 2010.

Aj

Friday 1st of July 2011

Your article is very informative and something to remember.  Not sure how I'd get on with riding a camel.  I find it a bit scary.  Can ride a horse though, so if I go to Egypt.  I think along those line.  Nice article Dave!

Dave

Friday 1st of July 2011

AJ, you can also hire a horse to ride to the Pyramids, but I figure I can go horseback riding anywhere, but Egypt is the place for camel riding

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