My time in Cairo is probably one of my worst travel experience thus far. Sure the Pyramids of Giza is amazing and is one of my top three favourite in Egypt. I also enjoyed exploring the Egyptian Museum. However, the following irritants in Cairo really bothered me and made me feel trapped and incapable of enjoying my time there:
The sheer amount of scams in the city is ridiculous that you will definitely have trust issues after leaving Egypt.
In the airport, an agent tried lying to us about the price of the taxi to our hotel. The agent showed us a “set taxi price” sheet but purposely pointed at the higher price towards another region where our hotel was NOT located. Luckily, my sister caught him in the act and he pretended it was a mistake. He was unhappy that he was caught red handed and charged us an additional amount to pay for an “airport exit fee”. Because we were tired, we gave up and paid the damn fee so we can get to our hotel and get some badly needed sleep. Talk about a bad first impression of the country.
Two days later, we wanted to find a taxi that will take us to the Pyramids. Our hotel tried to charge us 220 Egyptian Pounds ($37) for a five minute drive to the Pyramids. We then contacted Uber instead which only charged us 22 Egyptian Pounds ($6.67). When our hotel found out we contacted Uber, they tried dropping the price to 50 Egyptian Pounds. Nice try Le Meridien Pyramids (our hotel in Egypt that I booked using hotel points) but you’ve already broken rapport after your price gouge attempt.
Lying Sales People
Upon arriving at the Pyramids, an individual said he will take our pictures for free. After taking a couple of pictures, he tried charging us $1 USD per picture he took. We got angry but my sister decided to pay him some money anyways. His behaviour should not be rewarded and I wish my sister did not pay him.
Karen and my sisters also attempted to wander the streets to buy food. An individual approached them and pretended to work in the hotel we were staying at. He offered to bring Karen and my sisters to a food stall where they can buy “cheap” food. Not only did my sisters and Karen get price gouged, I’m pretty sure the guy got a commission for taking them there. We were all 100% certain he doesn’t even work in the hotel we stayed at!
Walking in the streets of Cairo is like sticking your face in the car’s exhaust. The whole sky is filled with smog and every breath is poisoning your lungs. Karen and my sister started developing a bad cough by being in Cairo.
If you travel to Egypt and especially Cairo, you will need to cross the street to go anywhere. The problem is, I never saw any crosswalks in Cairo and the drivers there are insane. It’s very easy to get hit by a car in Cairo if you’re not a local and not used to crossing streets with cars zooming towards you.
When you try exchanging your money, rarely will you get small change in Cairo. If you try using the ATM, same deal, you can’t get small change. I’m not sure if this is a scam they do on purpose (which I believe it really is a scam), but when you go to popular tourist attractions, they often times have no change to give you. Which leads to the next irritant…
Using the toilet is not free
Whenever you use a toilet, there is a person waiting outside awaiting to receive gratuity from you. Sometimes, you can sneak pass them, sometimes, they block the way in the washroom and demand a tip. Because you don’t get very many small change, it is hard to tip these people even if you wanted to. I suppose you can stop drinking water so you won’t go to the bathroom so much but Cairo is hot and you’ll get dehydrated if you stop hydrating yourself.
How I would approach Cairo if I can do it all over again
1) I would not stay in Cairo more than 24 hours
Because of the reasons I discussed above, your goal is to get in Cairo and get out as fast as possible. Unfortunately, the Pyramids of Giza and the Egyptian Museum is located in Cairo and you have no choice but to dive in to see these two amazing sites.
2) I would stay in an airport hotel
One of my biggest regret is staying at the Le Meridien Pyramids hotel. I redeemed 3000 Starwood points a night to get three free night stay in that Starwood hotel property. On paper, it looks like a good idea because the hotel is very close to the Pyramids. However, the benefit ends there because you still need to take a taxi to get to the Starwood hotel and you still need a taxi to get inside the Pyramid. The wifi wasn’t also working making any travel booking and planning difficult.
What I would have done instead is stay in an airport hotel. Because I am travel hacking, I would have redeemed one or two nights at Le Meridien Cairo airport hotel which has better internet.
3) I will only hire an Uber driver to take me to the Pyramids and the Egyptian Museum
Uber driver is the way to go in Cairo. The prices are set and they can’t scam you because Uber is the awesome middle company that is protecting you. When we hired an Uber driver, he charged us 22 (roughly $4) Egyptian pounds to take us into the Pyramids. We decided to hire him to take us to the Egyptian Museum and the next day take us to the train station.
If you are in Cairo, go ahead and hire an Uber driver to pick you up from the airport hotel and take you to the Pyramids of Giza and Egyptian Museum in one day.
4) I will arrive in Cairo on a Friday and leave by Saturday night (or Monday morning latest)
Because Egypt is mostly an Islamic country, Fridays and Saturdays is a day of prayer for them. This means there is less traffic and less annoying sales people frequenting the popular tourist destinations. This is your time to take advantage of this situation to get the least amount of harassment from aggressive sales people and enjoy the amazing Pyramids of Giza and Egyptian Museum.
If I can travel in Cairo again, I would try to get out of there in 24 hours. And so should you. If you want to enjoy your time in Cairo, arrive on a Friday and leave by Saturday or Monday morning to minimize harassment, traffic and lung problems.
The Pyramids of Giza is truly amazing and is one of my top three favourite tourist destination during my time in Egypt. You don’t want to miss visiting one of the ancient wonders of the world and visiting the Egyptian Museum.
Good luck in your travels to Egypt and Cairo!