Fulfilling your dream of visiting Cairo will require more than daydreaming about the city. Beyond the Pyramids and the museums, there is information to cover to have the safest and most enjoyable trip possible.
As with being a newcomer in any foreign country, you will endure culture shock and navigation confusion until you start to understand the lay of the land. Thankfully, I have narrowed down the most essential tips to make your time in Cairo memorable. Here are my top tips for exploring Cairo.
How to Dress and Stay Hydrated in the Heat
If you are adjusted to the rhythm of the seasons or live in a cooler climate, be prepared for Cairo’s intense heat. A significant part of your preparation should be focused on staying hydrated. It might seem obvious to prioritize your water consumption, after all you are traveling to the desert.
However, if you are not familiar with this level of heat, you are a vulnerable target for dehydration and heat exhaustion – two issues that are pretty common in Northern Egypt. Additionally, if you are a woman, you will want to find a way to balance staying cool while still dressing in covered clothing.
The predominant religion in Egypt is Islam, which means that on a cultural and religious level dressing with exposed arms, legs, chest and hair is looked down upon. While you might disagree with covering up, you will want to consider putting this aside for the sake of avoiding harassment.
Since covering up is part of the deal, be sure to wear breathable fabrics such as linen, so that you can stay as comfortable as possible. If you are a man, you won’t bring attention to yourself by wearing shorts or t-shirts.
Another tip, buy bottled water. The tap water in Egypt tastes unpleasant and can make you sick. You can carry a refillable water bottle with you and add in electrolyte tablets to replenish anything you lose in sweat.
Travel and Transport Options in Cairo
Before you go, you will need to obtain an Egypt visa (or renew your current one) well in advance. There is a six-month visa validity requirement you must meet to travel legally in Egypt, or you will be denied travel access.
Make sure that your passport is valid for at least six months prior to your date of entry. For the fastest way to manage your visa, go with the eVisa method for a quick printout once it’s approved. Once your paperwork is done, you will want to plan for safe, cheap and reliable transport.
If you are a woman traveling alone or with other women, know that in some parts of Cairo you can find metro and tram options for women only. This arrangement is something to consider in order to avoid attention.
Female travelers in Egypt frequently experience (and report) harassment on public transportation. Always put your safety first and choose the best options. If you cannot find opportunities like this, opt to sit with a female passenger on the standard public transit. Wearing your wedding ring will also earn you respect from locals, which may also prevent unwanted issues.
Anyone looking for alternative transport methods can consider using taxis. Know that taxi services require hard bargaining and as a rule of thumb, agree on a price with the driver before starting your ride to avoid confusion.
There are three kinds of taxis in Cairo: white, yellow and black. Black taxis are the least modern, often lacking a meter and air-conditioning. Yellow taxis may or may not have these things, but they are run professionally and can be booked ahead of time. Ideally, go for white taxis as they are modern and utilize the same bargaining power as black taxis.
Navigating Cairo International Airport
When you arrive at the airport, be prepared for a different experience than you are used to. There will be three security checks, each with separate purposes for flagging illegal objects, checking identity and luggage.
The first is at the airport entrance, the second is at customs and the third is at the gate. Keep in mind that the airport staff can be selective when they help you. The exit guards may dismiss you and attend to others first.
The airport is very busy, so be prepared to have some patience and endure the prolonged wait time. One way to avoid issues with airport staff as a foreign traveler is to book your trip as a group trip, organized by a company and escort that the airport staff will more than likely be familiar with.
How to Book your Hotel Accommodation
As for hotel accommodation in Cairo, you will find a reduction in overall hotel prices for stays in Egypt during Spring. The high season extends from December to February, giving you a discount on hotel prices while gaining the added benefit of visiting major attractions without as many crowds.
The cheapest hotel prices fall between June and August, but it’s hot during these months. So it’s best to wait until a more pleasant time for traveling. Prepare your accommodations ahead of time and remember to avoid rooming with any Egyptian person of the opposite sex that you are not married to. These arrangements are illegal and can wind you up in prison.
The Bottom Line for Visiting Cairo
There is a lot to keep in mind when traveling in Cairo, but you can avoid being overwhelmed by following the guidelines mentioned in this article. It will naturally take some time to find your footing in a foreign place, so be be patient with yourself and the process so you can enjoy the journey.
There are so many miraculous sites to see and places to explore in Cairo. If you prepare for the trip of a lifetime, you will get more than what you planned for! Visit natvisa.com for up to date travel restrictions.