Cairo, Egypt is a city with a great amount of history! Here’s what I learned, researched, and experienced from my trip there. I hope it helps you plan your trip.
Why Visit Cairo?
Cairo, the capital of Egypt, is a city of new and old. You’ll be amazed by the history at the Pyramids, in the Egyptian Museum, mosques, and in the neighborhoods. It’s also a bustling city where a New Cairo continues to build. The city is also the largest in Africa and the largest in the Middle East and Arab nations. All of this makes Cairo an important cultural place to explore!
Quick Tips for Cairo
- Water: Some say you can drink the tap water when you’re in Cairo center but not in the outskirts. We kept it safe and drank bottled water the entire time we were there.
- Currency: Egyptian Pound or LE. As of 2018, $1 USD is about 17 E£.
- Language: Arabic and there are a few dialects
- Tipping: If you see a service charge on your bill, this is for the restaurant. Usually tip 10% for wait staff. Keep small bills around for tips.
- Visas & Entry: For U.S. citizens, your passport must be valid for six months. When you arrive at the airport, you must get a visa from the bank window before going through immigration.
- Safety: As of 2018, Egypt has a travel advisory from the U.S. Department of State as “exercised increased caution” because of activities. Some may not feel comfortable traveling to Egypt because of this designation. See below my section about safety.
- Vaccinations: No special vaccinations needed.
- You’ll see a lot of pollution in Cairo.
- Religion: The majority of Egyptians are Muslim.
- Ramadan is celebrated in the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and the dates vary from year to year. During this time, Muslims fast from sunrise to sundown. Do not visit during this time or you may have trouble finding open restaurants. Also, drinking and eating in public while others are fasting could be seen as disrespectful.
- Women should bring their own sanitary products. Pads are expensive and tampons are hard to find.
- Book tours ahead of time. I’m glad we had several tours booked because they gave us a lot of knowledge and a peace of mind. We didn’t have to worry about transportation and we had a guide to help us navigate the city.
- Trust your instincts, be cautious, and stay safe!
Welcome to the desert! With lows in the 30s and highs in the 100s, Cairo’s climate is usually hot. June, July, and August are the hottest while December, January, and February will be the coolest. The best time to go is in September, October, or November. Remember, the desert doesn’t have a lot of shade, so expect plenty of sunshine.
You’ll fly to Cairo International Airport. It’s a fairly easy airport, especially if you’re flying domestically. The domestic terminals were eerily quiet when we were there. The food options are dismal.
Be sure to get to the airport early when you fly out internationally. We had to go through three different security lines before getting on our plane. There is even one at the gate, so don’t plan on buying bottled water to take on your flight.
Getting Around Cairo
Using Uber made life a lot easier while in Cairo. We didn’t have to worry about negotiating rates and communicating our destination. We also didn’t worry as much about safety by using rideshare. It was also affordable. We took rides 20-40 minutes and our rides ranged from $3-6 USD.
We took a few taxis from the airport and hotel. Make sure they have registration and are marked. Clearly negotiate your price before the taxi starts driving and be wary of re-negotiation during the ride.
What to Wear in Cairo
The attire in Cairo is conservative and it is respectful to follow Egyptian culture while you are there. Visitors will feel more comfortable having covered knees and shoulders. Women may want to have a scarf to cover their heads when visiting mosques. I wore long, light pants with a plain t-shirt every day, as did my fiancé. Closed-toe shoes may make you more comfortable since streets can be dirty and you’ll be doing a lot of walking. Be sure to wear sunglasses, sunscreen, and perhaps a hat to protect yourself from the sun.
Is Cairo Safe?
Yes, Cairo is safe. I was nervous before our trip because I read that groping and catcalling is commonly experienced by female visitors. I experienced none of this and never felt uncomfortable, though I was also traveling with my fiancé, who is a tall, white male.
We did find many people coming up to us to offer their services as guides around tourist sights, which can be annoying. We gave them a firm no, sometimes more than once, and they usually left us alone. Because of the economy, I think locals will ask to help you out of the desire to make money, but they will also respect your wishes because they don’t want to hinder tourism.
The most unsafe I felt was when we got into a car we thought was a taxi. We later figured out he was a tour guide and he took us to two locations, but we were lucky. Don’t give in to pushy people! Taxis, in general, were questionable to me, so Uber is the way to go!
Of course, also use your senses and be a safe traveler! See my safe travel tips here. Do the typical things like not wandering around by yourself at night.
Where to Stay in Cairo
We stayed in two hotels in Cairo. City View Hotel is next to Tahrir Square. It was about $40 a night and not luxurious at all, but the location was great to explore the neighborhood. We also stayed in Le Passage Cairo, which is next to the airport, because we were flying out the next morning. It’s a longer distance from sights but it had a free airport shuttle.
I would have loved to stay at the luxurious Mena House, but since it is located in Giza and we had limited time, it would have made it harder to explore Cairo.
I also looked at this Airbnb and these hotels that were centrally located and ranged from $100-130 a night:
Where to Eat/Drink in Cairo
See this post for the types of food and drink you’ll enjoy in Cairo. Remember Cairo is a majority Muslim city and pork is rarely eaten and served.
Here are some restaurants you should check out in Cairo and Giza:
- Abou Tarek – located behind Tahrir Square, this is a well-known place for koshary
- Abu Shakrah – in Giza near Sphinx
- Felfela – great restaurant with traditional dishes like lentil soup and falafel
- Sequoia – on the Nile
- Abu Haidar – shawarma
- Fasahet Somaya – one of our favorite dining experiences in Egypt
What to Do in Cairo
Check out this post for more details on activities and sights. You don’t want to miss the pyramids and I highly recommend the Bellies En-Route food tour.
We enjoyed Cairo but we quickly realized there was much more to see as we hopped to another city. More about those destinations coming soon!
If you have any recommendations for Cairo, share them below! If you have any questions as you plan your trip, feel free to send me a message.