One day in Cairo - how to

Old Jan 12, 17, 9:32 am
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Post One day in Cairo - how to

Some of you might have had the chance to catch one of the "nicer" deals when it comes to premium cabins on long-haul routes. The crashing currency and the overall weak economic situation lead to attractive C and F fares mainly to Asia departing from cairo.

Even though you might only want to transfer in cairo, you might soon face that lots of feeder flights from Europe have a cruel schedule forcing you to stay a little longer in Cairo. As some friend of mine and myself have done this several times now, we oft get asked the same questions that I would like to summarize for you.

The basic statements going through this "guide" are:
- Economy is very weak
- no one likes the egyptian pound, foreign currencies are great
- cousins are important for every day life

The word "cousin" might be a nice way to avoid the words bribery and nepotism, deeply ingrained in the Cairo culture when it comes to dealing with tourists according to our experiences.

1. VISA
A visa on arrival is available for a lot of countries you might come from. They have to be purchased upon arrival right before immigration at some bank / travel agency booths. They have to be paid in USD or EUR and change will be given in EGP. There might be (!) a bank booth to exchange money from other "good" currencies into USD but better don't rely on that. The stamp will be added to your passport and you queue up. There are also multi-entry visas available, your passport is sent to an embassy or consulate and a visa will be added. The fees are i.e. 57 EUR in Germany and it is valid for 6 months and several entry processes. If you have arranged a hotel pickup service, your assistant will greet you here and whisk you through the whole process, quite nice. Cousins stick together, you know?

2. Immigration
Depending on your terminal and the time of the day, this might take a little longer. Some terminals have a priorority queue for elite members, crew and business/first class passengers. And cousins of course, if you need to speed it up. Right after immigration, your passport will be checked again. Cousins, you remember? A hotel pickup assistant will be helpful like having a cousin with you.

3. Baggage claim / Baggage handling
It takes long. Priority baggages don't really matter. Customs might approach you and ask you about items to declare, some passengers get searched (according to my experience mostly asian people). The handling of baggage issues depends on your airline. If it's not Egyptair you arrive with, you might have to wait a long time or not even find someone being in charge for taking care of you.


4. Arrivals hall
Depending on the terminal in which you arrive, you will be faced by a huge lot of people offering you transportation in a quite progressive way. Never look in their eyes or stop to avoid being torn out of the building and drawn in one or their "cars".

5. Transportation from the airport
I recommend using Uber (may be hard to find the driver, you will need a roaming package with data roaming to communicate and find your driver) or pre-arranging a pickup. Limousine services (this does not refer to the quality of the car they use) usually charge 150-250 EGP to the city and love to be paid in foreign currencies (bills only). A uber will be cheaper.

Don't expect great cars. Don't expect safe driving. Don't expect extended skills in foreign languages. You are in Africa. I've had several near-misses and one rear-impact crash due to distracted driving, (extreme) speeding and a general reckless way of driving.

The transfer to downtown cairo depends on the traffic situation and can take 30-90 minutes.


6. Accommodation
And again: You are in Africa. Even bigger chains generally offer a very sub-par experience: Very run-down guestrooms, partly mediocre food, bad wifi and very mixed-attentive staff is not what you might expect from a Hilton, Conrad or InterContinental property. Prices are very steep compared for the value provided and points (or points & cash) might be a consideration.

If you are not so into getting into the city, you might think about staying right at the Le Meridien at the airport. It is just a short walk from one of the terminal buildings, offers a proper product but is quite pricey. Booking the property on SPG points might be considerable.

7. Pyramids
When in Egypt, see the pyramids they said. Ok, let's go.

From downtown cairo, it will take 30-60 minutes to the giza pyramids. I've tried several ways to get there:

a) Hotel ordered Limo
b) Limo provider:
c) Uber

be there before 4 p.m. as this will be the last admission of the day.


Your driver will generally drive you to the entrance to the pyramids (http://tinyurl.com/zz9cyol) where you will have to buy tickets for yourself (50-100 EGP p.P., bring local currency). He will then enter the parking and you will pass a security control (not really looking for something, but cousins, you know?). There he will park the car and you can walk around the pyramids. He will then drive you to a panoramic view point (around this location http://tinyurl.com/hgdahux) where you can have a look over the pyramids and the city of cairo. Then he will drive you down to sphinx (http://tinyurl.com/gqgb6p3) and let you walk around there before you go back to your hotel.

This is the optimum way of giza sightseeing.

What you might be experience and what my colleagues and I experienced was:

When it comes to transportation:
- being driven to a place far away from the pyramids to visit souvenir shops or for hiring a guide (limo provider)
- being handed over to cousins waiting around the car to force you to accept their guide services having been provided with your names from your driver (limo provider and Conrad limousine service)
- frequent questions about visiting papyrus or souvenir shops and exchanging money on your way to and from the pyramids (limo provider and conrad limousine service)

Only the uber driver was perfect and simply got us where we wanted without offending us with any other offers. The cousins did not seem to like his business approach which led to the fact that other cousins did not want to let him pass a military checkpoint (police then helped out to let him drive though). Furthermore he was not allowed to enter the pyramids parking lot and had to wait outside, thanks to the cousins.

I would however always again opt for an UBER driver. Make sure they wait for you and tip them properly as taking an uber is extremely cheap (less than $ 10 for a trip there with about 1 hour waiting for you).


When you are there:
- quite aggressive approaches of locals to sell you shabby souvenirs, offering donkey-coach transportation ("Ohhhh sir, sphinx so far away, can not walk!" while it's just a 600m walk away), camel rides or guides ("Sir look here, I am official guide, it is free of charge" pointing out his self-printed guide-badge)

My suggestion: Don't talk to anyone. Don't look at them. Walk on. Don't accept any additional services. Saying "Shukran" might be helpful (http://wikitravel.org/en/Cairo/Giza).




8. Getting back to the airport
A nice way to get rid of EGP is using it to (partly) pay your hotel bill! Keep a receipt of the ATM where you changed the money as the hotel may ask for it (still a relict of the time where the black market exchange rates differed from the official exchange rates).

Getting back to the airport can be done via UBER, a limousine service of the hotel limousine. Traffic varies massively and a ride will take 30-90 minutes, plan plenty of extra time.

As Ubers are not considered being cousins, you might expect to be held up at a security checkpoint on your way to the airport leading to some delay.


9. Airport-procedures
If you are departing from T1 (currently most QR and EK flights), you will have to pass a security check when entering the building (cousins will whisk you through), when entering the checkin area ("You have money?" asked by a security officer) and before entering the boarding gate. Long queues can occur sometimes. The emigration process involves two people handling your passport (cousins) while some people (not staff) simply pass the emigration process on a lane next to the emigration booths (cousins I suggest).

Airside smoking is allowed. The lounge offers extremely weak wifi and a sub-par f&b experience.

QR and EK often use busses to board and priority boarding sometimes means boarding with the last bus.




Summary
Cairo is an interesting experience. Expect the worst and you might be surprised positively. Always keep in mind that the people there often suffer under the political and economic situation and have to do what they are doing to get a living. I am always looking forward to getting there but on the other hand, I am always even more looking forward to getting out of Cairo when being there.
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Old Jan 12, 17, 1:48 pm
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Thanks you for this
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Old Jan 13, 17, 11:15 am
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Here is a full video guide that shows you most of the must-see places. But for those of you guys stopping in Cairo, skipped the first 38 minutes right to the last portion featuring Pyramid, the famous Bazaar Market, Old Cairo, etc.

Hope you guys find it interesting...

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Old Jan 14, 17, 3:40 pm
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This is a great post, thank you! I have a trip coming up with a ~27hr transfer (MS-->SV on separate tickets, so didn't want to risk doing a ~3hr transfer). I'll be staying at the airport LM on a C&P rate with Your24 approved (8pm-8pm) -- excellent deal IMO.

Based on what I read, a daytrip to the Pyramids should be feasible from the LM from, say, 8am-8pm?
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Old Jan 23, 17, 9:18 am
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We are passing through, arriving on a Monday afternoon and leaving Wednesday morning. I'm trying to decide between staying at the airport (nice hotel, no need to worry about traffic on Wednesday), and staying out near the Pyramids. I don't think we want to stay in town, even though the hotels look great, because of traffic and crowds. Is it worth it to stay near the Pyramids and get up early? Our flight is at 9:30 am, how bad is traffic at 7:00 am?
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Old Jan 30, 17, 8:33 am
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Originally Posted by jpdx View Post

Based on what I read, a daytrip to the Pyramids should be feasible from the LM from, say, 8am-8pm?
Definitely feasible.
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Old Feb 15, 17, 10:18 am
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I'm going to be in Cairo next week. I have a couple quesitons.


Where do Uber drivers generally pick pax up from in the airport? The arrival area or the carpark? I had read somewhere that they pick pax up from the carpark so I wanted to verify.

I'm the type to wander and explore. Is it possible to walk from Pyramid ticketing office through security check point and just explore everything myself on foot? If it's a hassle for uber drivers then I'm quite happy to get dropped off, buy tickets and be on my merry way?
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Old Feb 15, 17, 12:14 pm
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The drivers usually pick you up at one of the carparks, as there is no Wifi outside the buildings, a data plan for communication is recommended.

Letting your driver wait at the pyramids is a good suggestion. He will be paid by uber (extremely cheap), and you should tip him for his efforts.
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Old Feb 15, 17, 3:26 pm
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Originally Posted by kexbox View Post
The drivers usually pick you up at one of the carparks, as there is no Wifi outside the buildings, a data plan for communication is recommended.

Letting your driver wait at the pyramids is a good suggestion. He will be paid by uber (extremely cheap), and you should tip him for his efforts.
Okay sweet. I was hoping to be at the pyramids by opening 8AM and spend a solid 5-6 hours there. I want to take my time photographing things. Is it not possible to head back to the entrance to catch another uber back or is it that difficult?
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Old Feb 15, 17, 6:50 pm
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For the many touts everywhere, I stare ahead and firmly say "la, shukran" (no, thank you) and push on. "Lah, shoe-KRAHN" if reading English. If you can roll the r, so much the better, because you'll sound like you might have been here before.
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Old Feb 16, 17, 7:30 pm
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Last year, I did 2 x 24hr connections in Egypt. I really have no negative experiences.

Yes there are touts (everywhere - airport, pyramids, museum, CBD), but it must be remembered that they are only trying to carve out a living in a very low socioeconomic environment. On the other hand, if you are silly enough to pay over the odds, fall for a simple trick, they will show no mercy and grab any offered money with both hands.

On our first connection, we did stay at a Pyramid hotel, with stunning views of the Pyramids from our bedroom window. We caught a taxi from the airport to the hotel. That afternoon we did a private Pyramid visit via horse and cart - spectacular. In the evening we watched (and listened) the Pyramid light show from our hotel rooftop, whilst enjoying dinner. Next morning we visited the Egypt Museum (booked a hotel driver) at opening time, luggage remained in the car with the driver who picked us up at the prearranged time and took us to the airport.

The other visit had us flying out of Alexandria.
We caught a taxi from the CAI airport to Cairo railway station. I had a prebooked rail internet ticket for the journey to Alex - very comfortable and scenic trip up the Nile. From Alex train station, a taxi to our hotel. Next day we were not flying out of HBE until 6pm, so I organized a private "highlights tour" (with luggage in the trunk) of Alexandria with the day ending at HBE airport.

I felt neither ripped off or threatened on both visits. Actually, we met some very nice Egyptians who went out off there way to help us (and they were not expecting or looking for a tip).

So here would be my advice :
Do your homework. Have some understanding of where infrastructure (airports, hotels, scenic sights) is located. Read current posts on here and TA - a lot of posters provide the cost of of services that they experienced. But, caution with this - their can be a element of blagging, and knocking the cost of services down to basement prices does not normally provide a quality service.
When you are touring, it's quite likely that you are far more wealthy that people you meet (including touts) in the service industry. In a dignified and unobtrusive manner try and spread a little joy, without making yourself look like a rich dumb target.

I never let a tout choose me (as a example, by ripping a bag out of me hand) - I choose the tout (ie service provider) and pay him/her a modest fee related to their quality of service.

We saw wonderful things in Egypt - recommended.
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Old Apr 17, 17, 9:01 am
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We just got back from a whirlwind tour to Cairo, we were there for 2 nights, which was really one full day of touristing plus an evening. We ended up hiring a tour guide (Memphis Tours) and had an easy and wonderful experience. They met us at the airport and took us to the hotel, we did a felucca ride (not that great, actually, we just sat out in the middle of the Nile for an hour looking at traffic), and then the next day did the Pyramids, camel ride, Sphinx, papyrus shop, lunch, Egyptian Museum, and a 30 minute souvenir shop. The next morning they took us back to the airport. All fees were included, including tips for the camel drivers, and we were never once approached by anyone trying to sell us anything else. The driver was a charming, passionate, knowledgeable Egyptologist who made the whole day like a really interesting documentary on Egyptian history.

We stayed at the Conrad, it was nice, clean and quiet. The Executive Lounge runs through a daily program of food and drinks, although we were only there for breakfast and happy hour.

Our only regret is that we were there for just one day and it was incredibly rushed. I wish we had had a second day to be able to spend more time exploring the city.
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Old Apr 27, 17, 3:17 am
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I can't stress enough how great using Uber in Cairo is. One of the highlights was going from the Radisson Heliopolis to T3 for a whopping 62 egp in a 2014 BMW 3 series.

^

Last edited by GuyverII; Apr 27, 17 at 4:04 am
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Old Apr 30, 17, 6:31 am
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Originally Posted by JGMagee View Post
For the many touts everywhere, I stare ahead and firmly say "la, shukran" (no, thank you) and push on. "Lah, shoe-KRAHN" if reading English. If you can roll the r, so much the better, because you'll sound like you might have been here before.
Attitude of touts is very different if you been beforecand are confident.

Please tip well in Egypt. Some need it.

If in Luxor, donate to Animal Care Egypt or take needed items to them.

I loved Egypt and the people.
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Old May 5, 17, 8:47 am
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Do you know if going from Star Alliance terminal to Novotel airport in Cairo, visa is required?
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