Getting There and Away
Being a massive city surrounded by Africa, the Middle East, and Europe, Cairo is a large transportation hub.
Cairo International Airport (CAI) is a bustling, modern airport.
To get from the airport to the center of Cairo it's possible to either take an official taxi, or to take the free shuttle to the bus station and then catch a local Egyptian bus straight into Ramses station (Cairo center).
It can be slightly confusing as most of the bus information is written only in Arabic, but many Egyptians are extremely friendly and willing to assist you if you just ask.
Many of the buses from outside of Cairo begin and end around the Ramses station of central Cairo.
This busy area of town is where you can catch all forms of transportation and get to all parts of Cairo and Egypt.
One of the most convenient, easiest, and safest methods to travel around Egypt is by train.
There are a number of train lines but the most popular routes go to either Alexandria in the north, or down to Aswan in the south.
Ramses Station is Cairo's main terminal, and all incoming or outgoing trains can be caught here.
Unfortunately, it can be a bit confusing to figure out the times and routes of trains, but in my experience I just showed up when I wanted to leave, caught the next train, and wasn't picky about my seat.
Having flexibility is key when traveling in Egypt.
Getting Around Cairo
There are two main types of taxis in Cairo: the black painted cars, and the white ones.
My first day in Cairo I made the mistake of getting into a black taxi (unmetered), and had my first taste of the haggling culture of Egypt.
From then on, locals told me to always take a white, metered taxi if I was by myself.
So if you don't speak any Arabic, and don't have a clue what you are doing, be sure to jump in a white metered taxi so you know how much you will be charged.
One of the easiest ways to get around central Cairo is by the Metro city train.
Though it can be scorchingly hot and outrageously packed, the 1 LE ($0.17) per ride fee is extremely affordable.
The bulky and old blue, red and white buses go to all parts of Cairo for cheap (1 – 2 LE: $0.17 – $0.34).
Most signs are written in Arabic, so unless you know the number and know the city of Cairo somewhat well, it can be challenging.
Nevertheless, taking a public bus in Cairo is fun and always entertaining.
Where to Stay
There are cheap accommodation options throughout the city of Cairo, though prices are not as cheap as smaller cities in the country.
You may be looking at $5 – $10 for a dorm bed, and $10 – $20 for a private room.
- Travelers House – 43 Sherief Street, 4th floor, Cairo, Egypt. Nice cosy guest house located in a good location. Prices are around $10 per person for a dorm bed and $20 for a double room.
- Egyptian Night – 13 Merit Basha Street, Cairo, Egypt. Right across the street from the Egyptian Museum, in the heart of Cairo, this is a great place to stay. Dorm beds are less than $5 per night and private rooms go for around $10 per person.
- Hola Cairo – 19 ( 26 July St. ) 4th Floor, Cairo, Egypt. Hola Cairo is known for their friendly staff and great guest house environment. Rates begin at about $8 for a dorm bed and $10 per person for a private en-suite room.
There's a friendly and outgoing couchsurfing community in Cairo.
Due to family living and cultural customs, it can be difficult to find a place to stay with local Egyptians, but there are some that can host. Egyptians are some of the most hospitable people in the world!
You may also have the chance to couchsurf with an expat. While they may not be Egyptian, they'll know the city and can be good sources of advice.
Things to Do and See
- Pyramids of Giza – One of the most significant and well known historical monuments in the world are the great Pyramids of Giza, located right on the edges of Cairo. Entrance fee is 60 LE (around $10) but if you have a valid student card, you can get 1/2 price for most historical attractions throughout Egypt.
- Egyptian Museum of Antiquities – From mummies to statues, the Egyptian Museum is absolutely packed with amazing items of antiquity from the history of Egypt. The entrance fee is 50 LE ($8.38) per person, but there are further charges to visit certain important rooms within the museum.
- Coptic Cairo – One of the oldest area of Cairo is the Coptic area. It's a great area of town to walk around, visit the many cathedrals and see a number of ancient churches.
- Old Islamic Cairo – With its narrow streets and ancient structures, Islamic Cairo presents a fascinating glimpse into the daily life of Cairo. The Citadel, Mosque of Mohamed Ali Pasha, Ibn Tulun, and Al-Azhar Mosque are all located within the maze of Islamic Cairo.
- Khan El Khalily – If tourist shopping is what you are interested in while in Cairo, one of the best places to do that is at the Khan El Khalily souk bazaar. From handicrafts to sheesha pipes, spices, and gold, you'll have a wealth of things to choose from.
Food and Drink
- Felfela – 15 Sharia Hoda Shaarawi Street, Cairo, Egypt. A popular midscale restaurant serving some of the most famous Egyptian foods.
- Koshari al-Tahrir – Sharia Abd el-Khalik Sarwat, Cairo, Egypt. Perhaps the most famous restaurant in Cairo that rapidly serves Egypt's starch filled dish known as Koshari.
Cairo offers a wide variety and endless selection of delicious Egyptian street food that will have you entertained for days.
- Ful Carts – Egyptian style ful medames is a nutritious staple made of mashed fave beans. The dish is often eaten along with Arabic bread on the streets of Cairo.
- Bread – I was truly impressed by the wonderful selection of bread that Egypt had to offer. Bakeries line the streets of Cairo and you can get an entire bag of treats for just a few Egyptian Pounds.
- Fruit Juice Stalls – I also really enjoyed the freshly squeezed fruit juices on the corners of Cairo. From mango to pomegranate or sugar cane, you can grab a refreshing juice on a hot day.
There are a number of nightclubs and bars located throughout Cairo, but being a Middle Eastern nation, there are also other things to do at night besides dancing and partying.
- Coffeehouses – Coffeehouses are open until the wee hours of the night and you can order up rounds of coffee or tea and puff on Egyptian sheesha.
- Shows – From the Pyramid light show to cultural night dances at Makan, there are plenty of performances to see at night.
Many of the nightclubs and bars are located in the Zamalek district of Cairo.
- After Eight – 6 Kasr El Nil St. A popular night hotspot in Cairo that also offers live music and is busy almost every night of the week.
- Hard Rock Cafe – Grand Hyatt Building, Corniche El Nile, Garden City. Offers a popular dance floor in Cairo.
- Cairo Jazz Club – 197 26th July St. Though Jazz is in its name, this popular nightlife spot plays a variety of different music.