10 things I learned about Cairo

By: Sandstorm

Sep 06 2008

Category: Middle East

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Cairenes are some of the friendliest, most welcoming and inquisitive folk in the world, but they can spot a clueless tourist a mile off.

Follow these tips to avoid making the same costly slip-ups we did…

1. A ‘limousine’ over here actually just means a modern car like a Lexus, and definitely NOT a limo!

2. If food other than bread is placed on the table before your meal arrives, make sure it’s complimentary – they’ll charge for it, whether you asked for it or not.

3. As with the rest of Egypt, there’s a hefty charge for taxis to enter or depart an airport – if you’re not burdened with heavy luggage, get them to drop you off just outside the chargeable zone of your terminal.

4. If you want to tour a particular part of the city and you’re not sure where to start, visit the Concierge in your hotel. They’re more than happy to make suggestions and arrangements, and can often negotiate much better rates from their trusted drivers and guides.

5. However cheap your restaurant bill seems, don’t forget to add a 32% service charge onto everything – this is often left off menus and sprung on you unexpectedly, or written in very small print.

6. The ONLY way to do the Pyramids in comfort during the heat of the day is to be driven around them in a fully air conditioned taxi. It sounds like a luxury but trust me, it isn’t! A normal taxi feels like you’re cooking alive and the Pyramids are much too far apart to walk in the heat. You can ride horses and donkeys around but it’s inhumane (in my opinion) and uncomfortable for both. And you’ll smell all day.

7. You will be relentlessly approached by traders selling faux Rolex watches/faux Egyptian scrolls/other things you probably don’t want, but if you don’t want to buy, there’s no need to be rude – a friendly but firm ‘La, shukran’ (“No, thank you”) will suffice.

8. Be extremely wary of taxi charges in the city. You shouldn’t have to pay more than 35 Egyptian dollars to get from Airport to centre or centre to anywhere else within a 15-minute range (barr the Pyramids which are further) – but they’ll try to charge you up to 80.

9. Crossing the road anywhere near Midan Talat, the Nile or the main bus station literally means taking your life into your own hands. Forget the mildly crazy drivers in Paris and Prague – this is seriously terrifying, and the only way to do it is at the same time as a large group of locals who know what they’re doing!

10. Don’t be afraid to haggle – it’s all part of the fun. I left Cairo with a bottle of the most divine-smelling jasmine oil perfume, a beautiful rust-red hand-woven pashmina, a gold carved ashtray, a set of hand-decorated Egyptian tea glasses and a toffee-coloured Moroccan pouf, for just over £15.


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