| Arriving &
Railway lines from Cairo to other parts
of the country depart from and arrive
at Ramses Station, 3 km (2 mi) northeast
of Maydan Tahrir. Trains traveling to
and from Alexandria, the Nile Delta towns,
and Suez Canal cities use Tracks 1-7 in
the station's main hall. Trains to al-Minya,
Luxor, and Aswan depart from Platforms
8, 9, 10, and 11 outside the main hall.
Torbini VIP trains,
which are quite pleasant, run to Alexandria
three times a day, at 8 AM, 2 PM, and
7 PM (EGP22-EGP32); standard trains make
the trip five times daily (EGP17-EGP22).
Other lines depart throughout the day
to Alexandria from 6 AM to 10:30 PM (EGP14-EGP30).
The most expensive and luxurious trains
to Luxor and Aswan are the Wagonlits sleepers,
with dining and lounge cars. One-way tickets
cost EGP300 for a double cabin and EGP460
for a single. The train leaves once a
day, at 7:45 PM. The much less comfortable
lines run daily to Luxor and Aswan and
other Upper Egyptian cities at 7:30 AM
and 10 PM, with an extra train to Luxor
at 12:30 PM; fares are EGP39 to EGP73,
depending on class.
For exact schedules
and fares, inquire beforehand. Purchase
tickets a few days before departing at
the train station, at your hotel reception
desk, or at the Egyptian Tourist Authority
(Maydan Ramses, PHONE: 02/579-0767). or
Buses are an inexpensive means of traveling
between cities. Generally they are safe,
if not always relaxing. Most companies
have installed videos to play Arabic and
Indian movies at top volume, even on night
buses. If you consider this local color
rather than annoyance, take a bus. You
can find schedules and buy tickets at
the kiosks set up at major bus stations.
Although bus companies theoretically give
out information over the phone, you may
find it difficult to actually reach anyone.
Ticket purchases are in cash only; it's
wise to buy your ticket a day in advance,
especially when traveling during peak
The East Delta Bus
Company (PHONE: 02/574-2814) goes to Sharm
al-Sheikh. Buses leave from Cairo's Targoman
Station off Gala' Street, Downtown, from
6:30 AM to 11:30 PM; fares start at EGP50
(the 11 PM and 11:30 PM buses cost EGP65).
There are also daily buses to Taba and
Nuweiba, at 8:15 AM, 10:45 PM, and 11:15
PM for EGP40 to EGP50 one way. The bus
to Ismailiya and Suez leaves every half
hour from 6:30 AM until 6 PM for EGP6.50;
buses run to Bur Sa'id (Port Said) every
hour from 6:30 AM to 6 PM, with EGP15
fares each way.
Super Jet (PHONE:
02/579-8181), relatively speaking, runs
the most luxurious buses to and from Alexandria,
the Nile Valley, and the Red Sea, Sinai
Peninsula, and Suez Canal cities. Buses
leave every hour (between 5:30 AM and
11 PM) for Alexandria from Targoman Station
off Gala' Street, Downtown; Giza; the
airport; and Almazah Station in Heliopolis.
Tickets cost EGP20 if you leave between
5:30 AM and 5 PM, EGP22 if you depart
after 5 PM, EGP29 if you travel on the
VIP bus with phone access that departs
from the airport. Buses to Sharm al-Sheikh
leave once a day at 11 PM from Targoman
Station; return buses leave Sharm al-Sheikh
for Cairo at 11 PM. A one-way ticket costs
EGP55. Buses to Hurghada depart from Targoman
Station at 7:30 AM, 8:30 AM, 2:30 PM,
and 11:15 PM; tickets cost EGP50 each
way for the day bus, EGP55 for the night
bus. Buses return from Hurghada at noon,
2:30 PM, 5 PM, and 7 PM. Buses to Bur
Sa'id (Port Said) leave from the Ramsis
Street Super Jet station near Ramsis Square
throughout the day from 6 AM until 6:30
PM; the fare is EGP15.
From Targoman Station,
the Upper Egyptian Bus Company (PHONE:
02/431-6723) departs for Bahariyya daily
at 8 AM and 8:30 PM; two more leave at
7 AM and 8:30 PM, stopping first in Bahariyya
and going on to Farafra and Dakhla. Fares
range from EGP12.50 to EGP35, depending
on the destination. Buses to Kharga leave
at 9 AM and every hour between 7 and 10
PM; fares are EGP23 to EGP35. Buses to
Abu Tartur leave at 7 and 8 PM for EGP30
and EGP38, respectively. Buses to Luxor
and Aswan leave at 5 PM and 9 PM, traveling
via Hurghada, Safaga, and Qena; tickets
cost EGP45 for the early bus and EGP50
for the later one.
Cairo International Airport (CAI) (Heliopolis,
PHONE: 02/244-8977 for Terminal 1; 02/291-4255
for Terminal 2) lies on the northeastern
outskirts of Heliopolis, about 30 km (19
mi) from downtown Cairo. Terminal 2, known
more familiarly as the new airport, services
international European and American airlines,
both arrivals and departures; Terminal
1, the old airport, serves domestic flights
and regional carriers.
Most flights from
North America stop over in Europe en route
to Cairo. EgyptAir flies nonstop to Cairo
from New York. From other parts of the
United States, flights connect either
through New York or a European city: Lufthansa,
for example, flies from San Francisco
to Frankfurt and on to Cairo. Most major
European cities have nonstop flights to
Flying time from
New York to Cairo is 10 hours. The total
time in the air on the San Francisco-Frankfurt-Cairo
flight is about 17 hours. Direct flights
from London take about five hours. Travel
time to Cairo from Sydney, with connections
in Frankfurt, is about 20 hours; from
Johannesburg, 19 hours.
02/392-2835) flies daily from Cairo to
Sharm al-Sheikh, Hurghada, Luxor, and
Aswan, with flights twice weekly to Abu
Simbel and a weekly flight to Taba. Flights
to Alexandria leave daily except Saturday
From the U.S.
British Air (PHONE:
212/315-0900 in New York; 310/670-8496
in Los Angeles).
El Al (PHONE: 800/223-6700).
From the U.K.
British Air (PHONE:
0345/222-1111 in London).
020/7734-2343 in London).
Ansett (PHONE: 13-1300).
British Air (PHONE:
Egypt Air (PHONE:
029/3673-7747 in Melbourne).
Qantas (PHONE: 13-1313).
From New Zealand
Qantas (PHONE: 09/357-8900).
(PHONE: 09/303-2129 or 3/366-8099).
the Airport and Town
Taxis and limousines
are the best option for getting to and
from the airport. The minute you exit
the arrival hall, you will be inundated
with offers from taxi drivers. This will
be your first opportunity to test out
your bargaining skills -- you should be
able to bring the price down to around
EGP40. Keep in mind that most taxis do
not use their fare meters. If you are
too tired to go through the hassle, opt
for one of the limousine companies located
in the arrival hall for a flat fee of
EGP60 to EGP80.
Cairo taxis are
black and white or black and yellow; limousines
are black, usually old-model Mercedes
sedans. Going to the airport from the
city is much easier, because you can have
your hotel arrange your transportation.
can be oppressive in Cairo. The best time
to visit is the cooler season, from November
Egypt's climate is
characterized by hot and dry summers, which
last from the end of April until the beginning
of October. Spring is very short, if not
nonexistent. Winter is mild, but nights
do get cool. Generally speaking, it doesn't
rain in Egypt.
The most important
time of year to keep in mind is the 50 days
of the khamseen, between the end of March
and mid-May, when dust storms whip up occasionally
and blot out the sky.
following are the normal daily temperature
ranges for Cairo:
46-66 deg. F (9-19 deg. C); February 49-69
deg. F (9-21 deg. C); March 52-75 deg. F
(11-24 deg. C); April 57-83 deg. F (14-28
deg. C); May 49-90 deg. F (9-32 deg. C);
June 64-94 deg. F (18-34 deg. C); July 71-94
deg. F (22-34 deg. C); August 71-95 deg.
F (22-35 deg. C); September 68-90 deg. F
(20-32 deg. C); October 64-86 deg. F (18-30
deg. C); November 57-77 deg. F (14-25 deg.
C); December 50-69 deg. F (10-21 deg. C).
national holidays include Sinai Liberation
Day (Apr. 25), Labor Day (May 1), Evacuation
Day (June 18), and Revolution Day (July
Muslim lunar calendar is normally 10 to
11 days earlier than the Gregorian year.
The month of Ramadan lasts from 28 to 30
days and entails fasting -- no food, water,
or smoking -- from dawn to sunset. It's
followed by Eid al-Fitr, known as the "small
feast" in English. The "big feast"
is Eid al-Adha, which occurs at the end
of the Pilgrimage Period. The other two
main Muslim holidays are the Muslim New
Year (in late March or early April), and
the Prophet Muhammad's birthday (falling
anywhere between late May and late June).
Coptic holidays are observed by Coptic citizens
only. They are Christmas (Jan. 7), Baptism
(Jan. 20), Palm Sunday (the Sunday before
Easter), and Easter.
you're a night owl by nature, you probably
won't want to schedule your trip to Egypt
during Ramadan (which starts in mid-November
in 2001, early November in 2002). Everything
slows down dramatically and even minor errands
are difficult to accomplish. Museums and
other tourist destinations, as well as government
offices, usually have shortened working
hours; eating out during the day is limited
to five-star hotels; and getting anywhere
between noon and sunset is impossible, as
everyone rushes home to shop and prepare
the meal to break the fast. At night it's
a different story, as the streets come alive
with people socializing and celebrating
until the dawn meal.
Tourist Authority (Misr Travel Tower, Abbasia,
Cairo, PHONE: 02/285-3576 or 02/285-9658).
information about traveling to and within
Egypt before you go, contact the nearest
office of the Egyptian Tourist Authority
630 5th Ave., Suite 1706, New York, NY 10111,
PHONE: 212/332-2570, FAX: 212/956-6439;
645 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 829, Chicago,
IL 60611, PHONE: 312/280-4666, FAX: 312/280-4788;
8383 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 215, Beverly
Hills, CA 90211, PHONE: 213/653-8815, FAX:
1253 McGill College Ave., Suite 250, Montreal,
PQ H3B2Y5, PHONE: 514/861-4420, FAX: 514/861-8071.
Africa: Box 3298, Parklands, Johannesburg
2121, PHONE: 011/880-9602, FAX: 011/880-9604.
Egyptian State Tourist Office, Egyptian
House, 170 Piccadilly, London W1V9DD, PHONE:
0171/493-5282, FAX: 0171/408-0295.
The country code for Egypt is 20. The city
code for Cairo is 02. When dialing an Egyptian
number from abroad, drop the initial 0 from
the local area code.
telecommunications system is improving.
Direct international lines are still a rarity,
but call-back services are widespread. You
can now rent mobile phones upon arrival
from most five-star hotels, although roaming
is not yet on par with the United States.
European-made cellular phones work in Egypt,
but U.S. models do not. Landlines are government-run
and therefore very affordable.
& Operator Information
no toll-free directory information service.
If you dial 140, you can reach a very effective
directory assistant if you speak fluent
Arabic. With a little bit of creativity
and some luck you might still be able to
get the number you need in English, but
English-language operators aren't available.
calls are most cost effective when made
from the Telephone Central, the neighborhood
phone offices. After 8 PM, calls are cheapest.
Give the number and name of your party to
the operator along with the number of minutes
you would like to speak.
option for making international calls are
the business centers around Egypt, but their
fees can be 20%-30% higher that those of
Telephone Central. Calls from your hotel
room can cost anywhere from double to triple
the fees of Telephone Central. Using international
calling cards is a good idea.
country code for the United States and Canada
is 1; for Australia, 61; for New Zealand,
64; and for the United Kingdom, 44.
long-distance, direct calls can be made
from any phone that has a working 0-line.
That is, it must be equipped to dial an
initial zero (the same kind of line is necessary
to make calls to cellular phones). This
is fairly widespread, but do not assume
that it's always available. Phone cards
can also be used.
can make local calls from just about anywhere:
kiosks, grocery stores, craft stores, coffee
shops, et cetera. Most of these places charge
25p-50p per call.
Egypt is far safer than you may think. Indeed,
it's a sad irony that the handful of terrorist
attacks involving foreigners has given Egypt
a reputation as a dangerous place, because
it's blissfully free of the sort of ordinary
social violence -- murder, mugging, vandalism,
and so on -- that's all too common in the
West. In Cairo there are no "bad"
neighborhoods, only poor ones, and you can
freely walk anywhere at any hour.
is a minor concern in heavily touristed
areas like bazaars. ATMs are safe to use
at virtually any hour of the day or night,
as many banks have 24-hour guards posted.
Women can reduce unwanted advances by dressing
in a way that reveals little skin. Generally,
you'll find that you are more likely to
be assaulted by hospitality than by violence.
Egypt does have, unfortunately, are rare
but shocking attacks that seek to destabilize
the government by scaring away tourists
(tourism revenue is the lifeblood of the
country). The government stepped up security
following the Luxor massacre in November
1997 -- which was likely the last gasp of
the Islamist groups rather than a sign of
their resurgence -- but it is impossible
to stop every radical, so the threat of
attacks remains. Once you land in Egypt,
however, you'll realize how remote this
most people in Egypt will treat you with
genuine kindness and honesty, there are
exceptions. Watch out for the mostly harmless
but annoying offers to "take you to
my uncle's shop." This proposition
is invariably offered by an unofficial guide
who gets a percentage from the shop owner
on any purchase you make. More serious are
the rare instances of scams pulled by rogue
"cops." These are usually police
impersonators who will ask to see your passport
and/or wallet, then will make off with whatever
you give them. Do not turn over your passport
to any unidentified person claiming to be
a police officer, and certainly do not get
into any unmarked "police" car.
perfectly safe for female travelers to brave
Egypt alone, but women should expect to
encounter a fair degree of unwanted attention
from men, ranging from polite questions
about marital status to catcalls in the
street. The latter are best ignored, or
perhaps answered with a sharp 'ayb (for
shame!). For more-persistent admirers, just
mention the tourist police, or the shurtat
al-siyaha -- you'll be surprised how quickly
your unwanted companion will disappear.
To put a stop to personal questions, politely
point out to your interrogator that such
questions are considered rude in your country;
this will immediately embarrass him into
silence. You can avoid unwanted attention
by dressing modestly and being firm but
polite when being approached by strangers.
If you do ever feel threatened in public,
or have the unfortunate experience of being
touched inappropriately, raise your voice
in any language and make a scene. You'll
find Egyptians, both men and women, rushing
to your defense. They'll deal with your
aggressor swiftly and harshly.
requires that all visitors have a valid
passport and a visa. You cannot enter the
country with a passport that's due to expire
within six months. Visas may be obtained
in advance through an Egyptian consulate
office or, for one-month stays or less,
upon arrival at Cairo, Luxor, or Hurghada
airports. Expect to pay $15-$20 for the
best time to apply for a passport, or to
renew your old one, is in fall or winter.
Before any trip, check your passport's expiration
date, and, if necessary, renew it as soon
Passport Office (PHONE: 131-232; www.dfat.gov.au/passports).
Office (PHONE: 819/994-3500 or 800/567-6868;
Zealand Passport Office (PHONE: 04/494-0700
for information on how to apply; 04/474-8000;
0800/225-050 in New Zealand for information
on applications already submitted; www.passports.govt.nz).
Passport Office (PHONE: 0990/210-410; www.ukpa.gov.uk/ukpass.htm)
for fees and documentation requirements
and to request an emergency passport.
Passport Information Center (PHONE: 900/225-5674;
calls are 35 cents per minute for automated
service, $1.05 per minute for operator service;
Passport Information Center (PHONE: 900/225-5674;
calls are 35 cents per minute for automated
service, $1.05 per minute for operator service).
A cup of coffee at a hotel costs about EGP5
($1.30); a falafel sandwich EGP1 (25 cents);
a can of Coke EGP1.50 (39 cents); and a
2 km (1 mi) taxi ride in Cairo EGP5.
years of being pegged to the dollar, Egypt's
currency began slipping in the autumn of
2000 -- bad news for Egyptians but good
news for travelers coming from the United
States. To stretch your dollars even further,
avoid five-star restaurants and hotels,
many of which charge in dollars or at least
gauge their prices to a dollar standard.
are found all over Cairo in banks and major
hotels. Major shopping areas of most smaller
cities and tourist areas also have them.
Just ask where the nearest makinat al-flus
(money machine) is. Carrying cash is not
much of a worry here (as long as you're
not riding on public buses).
Egyptian pound (EGP) is divided into 100
piasters (pt). Bank notes currently in circulation
are the following: 10p, 25p, and 50p notes;
EGP1, EGP5, EGP10, EGP20, EGP50, and EGP100
notes. There are also 5pt, 10pt, 20pt, and
25pt coins. Don't accept any dog-eared bills,
as many vendors will refuse to take them.
Just politely give it back and ask for a
can easily change money through banks, which
charge a small fee. Although ATM transaction
fees may be higher abroad than at home,
ATM rates are excellent because they're
based on wholesale rates offered only by
major banks. You won't do as well at exchange
booths in airports or rail and bus stations,
in hotels, in restaurants, or in stores.
To avoid lines at airport exchange booths
get a bit of local currency before you leave
exchange offices keep later hours than most
banks, and branches are everywhere. Just
ask for the nearest sarrafa. Each office
is free to set its own rate, so shop around.
At times you can get a much better rate
than banks offer. These offices do not charge
a separate fee -- it's factored in to the
exchange rate posted.
doesn't have a value-added tax. The taxes
you will have to reckon with are in restaurants
and hotels. Meal taxes vary around the county;
in Cairo they're as high as 26%. Hotel taxes
in Cairo, Sharm al-Sheikh, and Hurghada
are 19%; 21% in Luxor and Aswan. Price categories
for restaurants and hotels in this guide
include these taxes.
is a word that every traveler to Egypt gets
well acquainted with. It means tip, and
many people expect one. For this reason
it's important to carry around a good number
of 50p notes and EGP1 bills in your pocket.
Porters, taxi drivers, doorkeepers, and
many others will expect this of you. There's
no need to give a lot of money; small tips
are fine. It's customary to leave a 10%
tip (before taxes) at a restaurant. The
bill already has a 12% service charge, a
5% government tax, and a 2% city tax included
in the total. A similar tip is expected
taxi drivers, the tip is usually covered
in the fare; tip an extra pound if the driver
has made an extra effort to get you to your
destination. Rest-room and gas-station attendants,
ushers, and theater attendants usually receive
between 50p and EGP1 for their services.
If you have an especially good tour guide,
a tip of EGP5-10 is in order, depending
on the length of the tour.
hotels, rates vary according to the level.
In five-star hotels, a EGP10 tip may be
in order for the porter, particularly if
you have lots of luggage; about half that
is the norm for lower-scale hotels. Chambermaids
get about EGP5 for each visit, although
this depends on the level of service. Room-service
waiters, like restaurant waiters, should
be tipped approximately 10% of the total
The quality of the mail service in Egypt
improved dramatically in the late 1990s.
Egypt's 1,470 postal offices nationwide
are open from 8:30 AM-3 PM. The larger post
offices in Cairo -- Muhammad Farid (Downtown),
Ataba Square (next to the Postal Museum),
and the Maadi offices -- are open until
6 PM daily. All post offices are closed
on public holidays and the first days of
the Eid al-Fitr and the Eid al-Adha feasts.
to countries outside the Middle East cost
EGP1.25 and take a minimum of seven days
to reach their destination. A letter mailed
within Egypt costs a mere 20 piasters and
take two days to reach its destination.
A more costly express-mail service is also
available: same-day service within the country
is EGP5; within the Arab world next-day
service costs EGP30; anywhere else in the
world costs EGP45 and arrives within 48
hours. Note that these are expected delivery
times, as advised by the postal service;
they don't reflect how long mail actually
takes to arrive. If in doubt, double these
Egypt's official language is Arabic, which
is Semitic in origin and, in its classical
form, is known as the language of Islam.
Colloquial Arabic differs significantly
from classical, written Arabic, and the
colloquial Arabic spoken in Egypt differs
from the colloquial dialects of other Arab
countries. It is nonetheless understood
across the Arab world because of the popularity
of Egyptian films and television programs.
are gesture-oriented people. Plenty of large
arm and hand movements will explain a lot
that words aren't needed for. This non-verbal
communication can be especially effective
if you do not necessarily understand what
someone is trying to tell you. Most Egyptians
understand and speak at least a little (if
not a lot of) English or French. Both languages
are requirements in the school system, and
Egyptians are accustomed to having English
is not an easy language to speak. In addition
to there being two kinds of h, s, d, and
t sounds, there are a few letters that don't
exist in English. The first of these is
the kha, as in Khan al-Khalili (the famous
Cairo bazaar), which sounds much like the
German ch in Bach.
letter not found in English is the ayn.
Difficult to pronounce (and even more difficult
to explain in text), it is a lengthened
a sound interrupted by a guttural extension
that sounds a bit like the ah in Bach with
a hint of the ch to terminate the word.
It appears in such words as shar'a (Arabic
for street). No one will expect you to get
this right; just give it your best shot
and you're sure to be understood.
spell the Arabic word for street "shar'a".
You may see it rendered elsewhere as shari'a.
It has been noted however that this encourages
people to pronounce the word shar-ee-ah,
which in Arabic means Islamic law, rather
than street. Consequently, we have omitted
seem to be innumerable ways to transliterate
Arabic into the Roman alphabet. We have
aimed for the closest approximation of correct
pronunciations. One example is the name
al-Husayn, which is often spelled el-Hussein.
Considering that it is pronounced hu-sayn,
not hus-ayn, we do not double the s. In
that spirit we do not generally double consonants
unless correct pronunciation demands it.
In the same spirit, ayn is thought to be
more akin to the Arabic sound of the word
than is ein. This system of transliteration
is one that many scholars, among them Albert
Hourani, author of "A History of the
Arab Peoples," now use.
Your first concern in Egypt should be the
sun. In this latitude sunburn happens quickly,
and the heat itself -- shade temperatures
are very often in the upper 90s (Fahrenheit)
-- is intense. In the dry desert areas,
you might not feel that you're sweating,
when in fact your body is losing considerable
amounts of water.
extreme care to protect yourself from the
sun by covering your skin and using high-level
sunblocks. Always carry bottled water and
keep up your water intake. Dehydration can
be a serious problem, so replenish your
fluid levels regularly.
Egypt the major health risk is "gippy
tummy" -- traveler's diarrhea varying
in intensity from mild to disablingly severe.
It's almost certainly attributable to contaminated
water, and, consequently, you are strongly
advised to drink only bottled water (or
water that has been boiled for at least
several minutes), avoid uncooked vegetables
with a high water content (lettuce, green
salads, watermelon), and be very wary of
taking ice in drinks. When eating out, ask
for your drinks min gheir talg (without
ice), and always request mayya ma'daniya
(bottled water). Check to make sure that
the seal on your bottled water is intact
before drinking it. However, precautions
are often of no avail. A cruise of some
90 British medical doctors and their spouses
found 70 members out of action for three
days. People who consumed identical meals
at the same table were hit randomly. Staying
at the very best international hotels won't
necessarily protect you from this.
cases may respond to Imodium (known generically
as loperamide) or Pepto-Bismol (not as strong),
both of which can be purchased over the
counter; paregoric, another antidiarrheal
agent, requires a doctor's prescription
plenty of purified water or tea -- chamomile
(babunag) is a good folk remedy. In severe
cases, rehydrate yourself with a salt-sugar
solution ( 1/2 teaspoon salt and 4 tablespoons
sugar per quart of water).
to the U.S. government's National Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),
there's a limited risk in Egypt of malaria
and dengue fever, diseases carried by insects,
and some risk of schistosomiasis, a parasitic
infection acquired by swimming in fresh
water. Malaria poses almost no risk to travelers
visiting major tourist areas in North Africa.
One exception is al-Fayyum oasis.
in the Nile, or in fresh water anywhere
in Egypt, is highly discouraged and should
be reserved for well-chlorinated pools or
salt water. Prepare yourself for the most
common illness that befalls travelers by
bringing antidiarrheal tablets with you
from home. Also as a preventative, adults
and children should complete Hepatitis A
and B and tetanus shots at least a month
If you are looking for a guided tour, your
best bet is to try to set it up with a travel
Etiquette & Behavior
When in Egypt, do as Egyptians do. Although
this doesn't mean that you'll need to don
a veil, you'll feel more comfortable during
your visit if you take your cue from the
people you see around you. Egyptians, both
men and women, tend to dress modestly. Unless
you're at the beach, leave your shorts in
your suitcase. In summer, opt instead for
light cotton pants and skirts, preferably
knee-length or longer. Short sleeves are
fine for both men and women, as are T-shirts
and jeans. Dress more conservatively if
you're planning on visiting any mosques
or churches; women should bring along a
light scarf to throw over their heads if
see Egyptian couples walking down the street
arm in arm or holding hands. Less discreet
displays of affection are frowned upon.
Good friends, both men and women, will greet
one another with a light kiss on both cheeks.
When in doubt, a handshake is fine, although
more-traditional men and women may not shake
hands with members of the opposite sex.
place a high value on politeness -- to be
called impolite is considered a true insult
and implies that one was not raised well.
Knowing only how to say please (min fadlak
to a man and min fadlik when addressing
women) and thank you (shukran) can make
your interactions much more pleasant.
you're invited to someone's home, a small
gift is in order. Flowers and pastry or
some sort of sweet are always appreciated.
Don't bring alcohol unless you're sure that
your hosts drink. In any situation it is
considered rude to put one's feet on the
furniture or table. The more traditional
taboo against using one's left hand to eat
has become mostly a moot point these days,
as communal meals are less common and eating
utensils are the norm. Still, if you find
yourself sharing a meal from the same plate
with someone, use your right hand to take
food from the main plate.
Ambulance (PHONE: 123).
Brigade (PHONE: 125).
(PHONE: 122 or 02/303-4122).
Police (PHONE: 02/390-6028).
hotels have a doctor on call or can recommend
a good doctor to contact if you need one.
International Hospital (Ma'adi Corniche,
Ma'adi, PHONE: 02/524-0250 or 02/524-0070).
Hospital (Shar'a al-Burgx, Ma'adi, PHONE:
02/735-6162 or 02/735-6165).
case of an emergency, contact your embassy
first for a physician referral, because
hospital emergency rooms leave much to be
desired. Hospitals work on a cash basis
and don't accept foreign medical insurance.
Some hospitals accept credit cards, but
most do not.
International Hospital (Ma'adi Corniche,
Ma'adi, PHONE: 02/524-0250 or 02/524-0070).
Hospital (Shar'a al-Burg, Zamalek, PHONE:
02/735-6162 or 02/735-6165).
International Hospital (12 Shar'a al-Saraya,
Finny Square, Doqqi, PHONE: 02/760-8261
law, every neighborhood is required to have
at least one pharmacy open all night. Often
pharmacies take turns. Check with your hotel
staff about the open one nearest you.
(76 Shari's Qasr Al-'Ainy, PHONE: 02/794-2678)
is open 24 hours.
Pharmacy (3 Shar'a 26 Yulyu, at the corner
of Shar'a Ramses, PHONE: 02/574-3369) is
open 24 hours.
Pharmacy (3 Shagaret al-Dorr, Zamalek, PHONE:
02/735-2406) is open 24 hours.
Embassies and Consulates
New Zealand does not maintain an embassy
in Egypt. For inquiries on visas and other
matters, contact the embassy of the United
Embassy (World Trade Center, Corniche al-Nil,
Bulaq, PHONE: 02/575-0444).
Embassy (7 Shar'a Ahmed Ragab, Garden City,
PHONE: 02/794-0850 or 02/794-0852).
Embassy (5 Maydan Saray Al-Kubra, Garden
City, PHONE: 02/794-3110).
Embassy (5 Shar'a Amrika Al-Latinnya, Garden
City, PHONE: 02/795-7371).
The electrical current in Egypt is 220 volts,
50 cycles alternating current (AC). Most
wall outlets take rounded plugs, so North
American travelers will need both a converter
and a plug adapter to use U.S.-purchased
your appliances are dual-voltage, you'll
need only an adapter. Don't use 110-volt
outlets marked For Shavers Only for high-wattage
appliances such as blow-dryers. Most laptops
operate equally well on 110 and 220 volts
and so require only an adapter.
Customs & Duties
Arriving in Cairo
customs should present no problems for short-term
travelers and usually takes less than 10
minutes, if that. Declare all electronic
equipment you're bringing into the country.
While laptop computers and cellular phones
are no longer problematic, portable printers
and fax machines can be. You may be required
to pay a cash deposit on these, which will
be refunded when you leave the country.
You can bring up to one carton of cigarettes
and three bottles of alcohol into the country.
The Egyptian weekend starts Friday. For
some people it includes Saturday, and for
others, such as craftsmen and laborers,
Sunday is the traditional day off. To make
things even more complicated, the government
recently instituted Thursday as a holiday
for some government workers in an attempt
to ease crowding and traffic in city centers.
Just know that you won't be able to conduct
any official business on Friday and usually
Saturday as well.
are open for business 9 AM to 2 PM Sunday
through Thursday. In addition, you can withdraw
money from your home bank using the ATM
machines found outside major banks and inside
usually open by 8 AM and close by 4 or 5
PM Sunday through Thursday.
stations in cities and along main highways
are open around the clock, seven days a
week. Most accept credit cards.
museums are open daily 9 AM-4:30 PM, except
shops are open by 9 AM in summer and 10
AM in winter; they stay open until about
10 PM. Many stores close during Friday prayers,
which begin at noon (1 PM in summer) and
last for 15 minutes, open for the latter
half of Saturday, and are closed Sunday.
Cairo's celebrated Khan al-Khalili bazaar
is open Monday through Saturday 10-9.
| Getting Around
To get a real feel for the city, you really
need to walk around. If walking is last
on your list of priorities, take taxis,
or hire a chauffeur-driven car from any
upscale hotel at a fixed flat rate.
addresses in Egypt are generally useless
when it comes to locating a museum or
a hotel or a restaurant. In fact, there
are whole towns -- Sharm al-Sheikh, for
instance -- that don't really have street
names, but nonetheless have plenty of
travelers passing through. This might
sound unsettling, but you should be able
to manage just fine.
often than not, landmarks are used to
give directions, not street names or numbers.
This might be because street names often
change every three blocks, and streets
are often referred to by their pre-revolutionary
names, which don't appear on any maps.
Local people go by place names and landmarks,
which often means that you'll have to
ask pedestrians where to go at various
points on your way to wherever you're
giving directions to a taxi driver, instead
of giving a street address, name a major
landmark near your destination. In Cairo,
for example, you might give Maydan Tahrir
(Liberation Square) or al-Azhar University.
As you get closer to the destination,
give more specifics; this will avoid confusion
between you and your driver. For mailing
addresses, postal codes have been recently
instituted. However, like street names,
they're not commonly used.
asking for directions, make sure you ask
more than one person along your route.
Egyptians are loath to admit that they
don't know where something is, partly
out of pride and partly out of a misplaced
desire to help. The result is that three
people on the same block will give you
entirely different directions to the destination
you're trying to reach.
The fact that meters are rarely used by
Cairo taxi drivers makes life a bit more
difficult for visitors, who are considered
to be the best prey for the exorbitant
fares that some drivers try to charge.
The first rule is that you should not
take any taxi parked in front of a hotel
unless you bargain the price down before
getting in. It is always better (cheaper)
to hail a taxi off the street after walking
a few meters away from the hotel.
vary according to the time you are in
the taxi and the distance you cover. Early
in the morning and very late at night,
fares are about 40% to 50% higher than
during daylight. During normal daylight
hours and in the evening, a 20-minute
cab ride from Maydan Tahrir to the pyramids
should cost about EGP20 one way; a 5-
to 10-minute ride should cost no more
than EGP5. If you are going a long distance,
such as all the way to Saqqara, the ride
should be about EGP30 one way, and you
should have the driver wait -- it is extremely
difficult to get a cab back to the city
drivers are extremely stubborn, so you
must set a price before embarking on your
ride to avoid unpleasant scenes once you
arrive at your destination. When giving
directions, name a major landmark near
your destination (rather than a street
address), such as Maydan Tahrir, or al-Azhar
University. As you get closer to the destination,
give more specifics; this will avoid confusion.
is no cab company to call. Just go hail
one on the street. There are always taxis
in the streets of Cairo.
By far the most efficient mode of public
transportation, the metro is clean, reliable,
and cheap. Tickets cost from 60p to EGP1,
with no multiday passes available to foreigners.
Trains run from South Cairo (Helwan) to
North Cairo (Heliopolis), with sub-lines
to Shubra, Ataba, and Abdin. The long-awaited
second, cross-Nile line is finally open;
it runs from Giza to Shubra. The metro
runs from 5:30 AM to midnight in winter
(to 1 AM in summer), with trains arriving
every 5 to 10 minutes. The first car in
every train is reserved for females. Women
are advised to use them, especially during
rush-hour travel, to avoid being hassled
If you are into the adrenaline rush of
driving in Egypt and are flexible enough
to adapt to an entirely different set
of rules, then renting a car has many
benefits. You can explore when and where
you please. You are spared the discomfort
of blasting Arabic pop music on buses
and similarly unpleasant sights and sounds.
However, buses, trains, and planes are
a much more sensible option if you want
to play it safe. Statistics prove that
car accidents are the greatest danger
facing foreigners in Egypt; the country
has the highest rate of traffic fatalities
per miles driven than any other place
in the world. Drive at your own peril.
you manage to find (and fend) your way
driving through the aggressive streets
of Cairo, parking will prove to be an
even greater challenge. Either you will
spend half your day looking for a parking
place or you will be ripped off by a monadi
(one of the self-employed valet parking
boys). Just do yourself a favor and forget
average daily rate for a basic, standard-transmission
car with air-conditioning is approximately
$55, or $330 a week. At some agencies
you can rent a car with a driver. The
advantage to renting a car with a driver
is that you are not responsible for insurance
or any damage that might befall the vehicle.
The daily rate for a car with a driver
is approximately $125. For about a third
of the cost, you can hire a taxi for the
day. Your hotel can help you arrange this.
Rent-a-Car (Cairo Marriott, Shar'a Saray
al-Gezira, Zamalek, PHONE: 02/735-8888;
Cairo International Airport, PHONE: 02/265-2395).
Rent-A-Car (2 Tahran, Doqqi, Cairo, PHONE:
(Cairo International Airport, PHONE: 02/265-2212).
(Ramses Hilton, 1115 Corniche al-Nil,
PHONE: 02/575-8000; Semiramis Inter-Continental,
Corniche al-Nil, PHONE: 02/794-3239; Cairo
International Airport, PHONE: 02/265-2430).
Car and Limousine Rental (Cairo International
Airport, PHONE: 02/291-4255).
(PHONE: 800/331-1212; 800/879-2847 in
Canada; 02/9353-9000 in Australia; 09/525-1982
in New Zealand).
(PHONE: 800/527-0700; 0144/227-6266 in
the United Kingdom).
(PHONE: 800/800-4000; 020/8897-0811 in
the United Kingdom; 02/9223-1444 in Australia).
(PHONE: 800/654-3131; 800/263-0600 in
Canada; 020/8897-2072 in the United Kingdom;
02/9669-2444 in Australia).
(PHONE: 800/227-7368; 0345/222525 in the
take extra water when traveling long distances,
especially on the desert roads. If possible,
take a cellular phone with you as well
the telephone numbers of police stations
and hotels along your route. If you have
car trouble on the highway, get your car
off the road as soon as possible, then
wait for any passing vehicle to flag down.
Many Egyptian car owners don't carry insurance,
and disputes tend to be resolved on the
scene with more or less fanfare depending
on the seriousness of the accident. Insist
on getting a policeman who speaks English,
and take down the license number of the
other driver. For serious accidents in
which people have been injured, get emergency
help first and then immediately contact
or drive to your embassy. In all situations,
insist on having present a senior police
officer who speaks English.
stations and rest areas are plentiful
on major highways, and credit cards are
widely accepted. Most gas stations in
Egypt are full service, and it's customary
to tip the attendant who fills up your
car a pound or two. All gas is unleaded
and is sold by the liter. There are different
types of gas, roughly equivalent to plain
unleaded and super unleaded, with prices
ranging from 80p to EGP1.25 a liter. Plain
unleaded is called tamanin, or 80, denoting
the level of purity. Higher quality gasoline
is available as tisa'in, or 90, and occasionally
khamsa wa tisa'in, or 95.
Egypt an International Driver's Permit
and your driver's license are required.
Permits are available from the American
and Canadian automobile associations,
and, in the United Kingdom, from the Automobile
Association or Royal Automobile Club.
These international permits are universally
recognized, and having one in your wallet
may save you a problem with the local
authorities. Most rental firms will not
lease cars to drivers under the age of
26, and remember that you cannot take
any car rented in Egypt out of the country.
expressways linking urban centers are
generally in good shape, as many of them
are fairly recent constructions. The speed
limit on highways throughout Egypt is
100 km/hr (approximately 60 mph). Highway
signs are usually clearly visible throughout
the country and are written in both Arabic
tend to go as fast as they can, but road
crowding in urban areas usually puts a
reasonable lid on speed. Watch out for
city buses, which always have the right
of way by virtue of their size and the
steely nerved insouciance of their drivers.
Extra attention should also be given to
pedestrians, who tend to cross the street
whenever and wherever they sense an opening.
Egyptians make constant use of their horns
-- to warn other drivers and cars of their
presence, to tell them to get out of the
way, to signal their desire to pass, or
to signal a turn. Use your horn to signal
your presence; if you don't, the other
vehicle may not know you're there.
lanes are ignored, as are stoplights,
unless there's a traffic policeman standing
guard. Traffic can be a nightmare, and
it always seems to be rush hour. From
2 to 5 PM is the worst, however.
of the Road
rules and their enforcement are much less
rigorous in Egypt than in North America.
One major exception is the enforcement
of the seatbelt law. Front-seat passengers
without seatbelts are subject to a fine
of EGP50-EGP100. Make no mistake: If you
don't obey, you will be pulled over and
ticketed. The same law also requires motorcyclists
to wear helmets and prohibits the use
of a cellular phone while driving (headsets
are permissible). Driving under the influence
of drugs or alcohol entails a fine of
EGP500 and the confiscation of your driver's
license, but as breathalyzers are not
used, it's up to the individual traffic
officer to decide how drunk you are.
contrast to driving offenses, you should
pay careful attention to where you park
and obey all parking rules. In Cairo,
your car can be booted or even towed.
Although the fine is relatively modest
(approximately EGP100), finding out who
towed your car and where it is can be
a real problem, and you could easily spend
a day or two trying to track it down.
Most visitors to Cairo aren't likely to
use the local city buses. But buses are
far and away the cheapest mode of transportation,
with tickets costing a mere 10pt to 50pt.
Buses arrive at and depart from the Maydan
Tahrir (Liberation Square), the Maydan
Ataba and Opera Square, the Pyramids Road,
Ramses Station, and the Citadel. Route
numbers are sometimes missing from the
buses, so it is always best to ask where
a bus is going before it lurches off with
less of an experience, and more reliable,
are the orange-trimmed minibuses. They
charge slightly more than the larger buses
(25pt to EGP1), and are usually much less
crowded. If you decide to use either type
of bus service, be very cautious. Especially
on large buses, pickpockets are known
to look for potential victims.
exception to the rule, the Cairo Transport
Authority operates a fleet of comfortable
air-conditioned buses that are surprisingly
convenient and affordable. Marked with
a large CTA logo on the side, for EGP2
the bus will take you from the airport,
through the city's northeastern suburbs
and Downtown, eventually passing through
Giza to deposit you at the foot of the
pyramids. It stops at Abdel Menem Riyad
Station in Maydan Tahrir, but you can
flag it down or ask the driver to let
you off at any point along the route.
option is the microbuses, or service taxis.
These privately owned 12-seaters, painted
blue and white, cost 60pt and go from
all the major terminals to just about
anywhere you want to go. They are unnumbered
however, so ask the driver where he's
and from Maydan Tahrir: No. 400 for Heliopolis
and Cairo International Airport (all terminals);
268 and 63 for the Khan al-Khalili; 951
and 154 for Ibn Tulun Mosque and the Citadel;
997 for the pyramids in Giza; all lines
except 154, 951, and 268 for Ramses Station.
and from Maydan Ataba and Opera Square:
948 for Cairo International Airport; 950
and 80 for Khan al-Khalili; 104, 17, and
202 for Maydan Tahrir and Mohandiseen;
94 for Fustat and the Mosque of 'Amr;
50 and 150 for the Shrine of Imam Sahfe'i;
48 for Zamalek.
and from the pyramids: 804 for Ramses
Square and the Citadel; 905 for Maydan
Tahrir and the Citadel.
and from Ramses Station: 65 for Khan al-Khalili,
174 for the Citadel.
and from the Citadel: 840 for Maydan Ataba
and Maydan Tahrir; 905 for Rodah Island,
Shar'a al-Haram, and the pyramids.