Visiting Egypt is a thrilling experience to any tourist, and in many cases, tourists wish to start their tour with the capital, Cairo.
Cairo has so much to offer, from hotels overlooking the Nile, to museums and camel rides at the Giza pyramids. Despite being a busy city with an abundance of thrilling activities, budgeting will be relative to time and taste.
While Cairo has become a hub of innovation with attractions, cuisine and nightlife that can rival any major city, there are certain key landmarks and dishes unique to the ‘City of a Thousand Minarets’ to try.
Upon arrival at Cairo International Airport, tourists are expected to pay a fee worth USD 25 (EGP 479) for a single-entry visa usually valid for a maximum of 30 days (check with your local embassy or consulate to confirm your eligibility for visa on arrival).
There are plenty of accommodation options.
If one is looking for a place to simply sleep in, hostels downtown can cost around EGP 200 to 400 (USD 13 to 21) for one night.
Alternatively, there are countless options like the 4-star Steigenberger El Tahrir Hotel or Ramses Hilton, where one night costs an average of EGP 3,000 (USD 157). On the other hand, if one chooses to stay at a hotel overlooking the mesmerizing views of the Nile, there is Sofitel Gezirah, Intercontinental Cairo Semiramis, and Conrad Cairo with the price of one night ranging between EGP 4,100 to 5,200 (USD 214 to 271).
Additionally, there are more luxurious options like The St. Regis Cairo Hotel and The Nile Ritz-Carlton, where the price of one night can range from EGP 7,000 to 9,000 (USD 365 to 470).
As for those who would like to see the Great Pyramids of Giza from their balconies, the first recommendation on the list would be Marriott Mena House, for approximately EGP 5,500 (USD 287) per night, directly in front of the view.
Sites to visit
When it comes to places to visit in Cairo, the list is endless. Depending on one’s interests, one may choose to go to museums and historical sites like the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization (NMEC) or Baron Palace, or local attractions such as the Khan El Khalili market or the iconic Tahrir Square, the Cairo Tower, or even ride a felucca (sailboat) by the Nile.
In many tourist attractions across the country, ticket prices vary according to whether the visitor is Egyptian or not.
For NMEC, tickets for Egyptians and Arabs cost EGP 60 (USD 3) and EGP 30 (USD 1.5) for students while tickets for non-Arabs cost EGP 200 (USD 10) and EGP 100 (USD 5) for students.
As for the Baron Palace, standing proudly in Heliopolis, the entrance fee costs EGP 100 (USD 5) for foreigners, EGP 50 (USD 2.6) for foreign students, EGP 20 (USD 1) for Egyptians, and EGP 10 (USD 0.5) for Egyptian students.
Another beloved attraction in the capital, Cairo Tower’s tickets run for EGP 55 (USD 2.8) for Egyptians and EGP 200 (USD 10) for non-Egyptians.
A 45-minute to one-hour felucca ride can cost between EGP 350 to 400 (USD 18 to 21).
One of the most iconic attractions that must not be forgotten is the Giza Plateau, where the Great Pyramid, and other monuments lie. The general admission tickets to the plateau costs EGP 60 (USD 3) for Egyptians and Arabs, and EGP 240 (USD 12.5) for foreigners, with a special price. However, this ticket does not cover entry inside the pyramids.
More so, there are tombs and temples worth visiting too, like the mastaba tomb and the valley temples, surrounding the three Great Pyramids of Giza.
There’s more than just sightseeing at the pyramids. One can choose to ride a camel or a hantour (a horse-drawn carriage), but the price of these activities mainly depends on how much one negotiates with the camel driver and hantour driver. For Egyptians, the camel ride can cost around EGP 50 (USD 2.6), while the hantour ride can cost between EGP 150 to 200 (USD 7.8 to 10).
For those looking to visit religious sites, the Citadel of Sultan Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi (Saladin) is one of the most remarkable monuments in Islamic Cairo, with an entrance fee of EGP 60 (USD 3) for Egyptians and Arabs, and EGP 200 (USD 10) for foreigners. One can also visit historic sites of the three religions side by side at the Complex of Religions in Old Cairo. The complex features The Hanging Church, Amr Ibn Al-As Mosque, Ben-Ezra Synagogue, the Coptic Museum, the Church of Abu Serga, and much more.
Meanwhile, one cannot visit Egypt and miss trying authentic Egyptian food. From molokhiyya to koshary, the variety is endless. A medium-sized koshary box from the famed Abou Tarek costs EGP 25 (USD 1), while a plate of molokhiyya with chicken from Tableia Balady in Downtown Cairo is for EGP 65 (USD 3).
Another delicious option for authentic Egyptian food is Abou El Sid in Zamalek. Although it is slightly expensive, it has the full Egyptian menu including mahshi (stuffed cabbage, vine leaves, eggplant, and zucchini), mousaka’a (baked eggplant dish), and mombar (rice-stuffed sausage).
Regardless of what one chooses to eat, local eateries in Egypt, like Kebdet El Prince, are not to be missed. Located in Imbaba, one can smell the appetizing kebda (liver) and molokhiyya being cooked inside from far across the street.
While visiting Khan El Khalili, one can get a snack or a drink for refreshment from one of the many historic and iconic cafes, such as Fishawy or Naguib Mahfouz.
To move around the bustling city, the most affordable mode of transportation is either the metro, with the fares ranging between EGP 5 (USD 0.3) and EGP 10 (USD 0.5) depending on one’s route, the blue minibusses for EGP 5.5 (USD 0.3), or the microbus for an average of EGP 5.5 (USD 0.3). Unlike the metro, one can hop onto a microbus or a minibus from anywhere in Cairo.
However, for those who prefer one mode of transportation, taxis are available across the city, and Uber is the most commonly available ride-hailing app, although it is not the most affordable.
Aside from the chaotic traffic and the loud streets, Cairo has plenty to offer, from local culture and rich history, to iconic monuments and exciting experiences. The best time to visit is between October and May, to avoid the summer heat and enjoy these experiences away from the scorching sun.
As a bonus visit, Saqqara, located 40 kilometers southwest of Cairo, features multiple tombs, pyramids, underground galleries, in addition to the remains of a Coptic monastery. Described as an “open-air museum”, Saqqara will be a significant addition to the tour.
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