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Cairo Information
   Arriving & Departing

By Train
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

By Bus
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 periods.

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.

By Air
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 Cairo.

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.


EgyptAir (PHONE: 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 and Tuesday.

From the U.S.

British Air (PHONE: 800/247-9297).

EgyptAir (PHONE: 212/315-0900 in New York; 310/670-8496 in Los Angeles).

El Al (PHONE: 800/223-6700).

KLM/Northwest (PHONE: 800/361-5073).

Lufthansa (PHONE: 800/645-3880).

From the U.K.

British Air (PHONE: 0345/222-1111 in London).

EgyptAir (PHONE: 020/7734-2343 in London).

Lufthansa (PHONE: 0345/73-7747).

Northwest (PHONE: 0990/56-1000).

From Australia

Ansett (PHONE: 13-1300).

British Air (PHONE: 02/9258-3399).

Egypt Air (PHONE: 02/9232-6677).

Lufthansa (PHONE: 029/3673-7747 in Melbourne).

Qantas (PHONE: 13-1313).

From New Zealand

Qantas (PHONE: 09/357-8900).

Singapore Airlines (PHONE: 09/303-2129 or 3/366-8099).

Transfers Between the Airport and Town

By Taxi

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.
   Contacts & Resources
When to Go
Summers can be oppressive in Cairo. The best time to visit is the cooler season, from November through March.

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.

Weather Chart

The following are the normal daily temperature ranges for Cairo:

January 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).


Egypt's national holidays include Sinai Liberation Day (Apr. 25), Labor Day (May 1), Evacuation Day (June 18), and Revolution Day (July 23).

The 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.

Unless 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.

Visitor Information
Tourist Offices

In Cairo

Egyptian Tourist Authority (Misr Travel Tower, Abbasia, Cairo, PHONE: 02/285-3576 or 02/285-9658).

At Home

For information about traveling to and within Egypt before you go, contact the nearest office of the Egyptian Tourist Authority (ETA).

U.S.: 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: 213/653-8961.

Canada: 1253 McGill College Ave., Suite 250, Montreal, PQ H3B2Y5, PHONE: 514/861-4420, FAX: 514/861-8071.

South Africa: Box 3298, Parklands, Johannesburg 2121, PHONE: 011/880-9602, FAX: 011/880-9604.

U.K.: 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.

Egypt's 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.

Directory & Operator Information

There's 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.

International Calls

International 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.

Another 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.

The 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 Calls

Domestic 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.

Public Phones

You 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.

Pickpocketing 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.

What 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 threat feels.

Local Scams

Although 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.

Women in Egypt

It's 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.

Passports & Visas
Entering Egypt

Egypt 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 visa.

Passport Offices

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 as possible.

Australian Citizens

Australian Passport Office (PHONE: 131-232;

Canadian Citizens

Passport Office (PHONE: 819/994-3500 or 800/567-6868;

New Zealand Citizens

New 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;

U.K. Citizens

London Passport Office (PHONE: 0990/210-410; for fees and documentation requirements and to request an emergency passport.

U.S. Citizens

National Passport Information Center (PHONE: 900/225-5674; calls are 35 cents per minute for automated service, $1.05 per minute for operator service;

U.S. Citizens

National 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.

After 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.


ATMs 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).


The 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 newer bill.

Exchanging Money

You 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 home.

Local 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.


Egypt 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.


Baksheesh 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 for bartenders.

For 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.

In 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 bill.

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.

Postcards 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 times.

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.

Egyptians 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 speakers around.

Arabic 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.

Another 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.

We 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 the i.

There 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.

Take 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.

Food & Drink

In 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.

Mild 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 in Egypt.

Drink 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).

Shots & Medications

According 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.

Swimming 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 before traveling.

Guided Tours
If you are looking for a guided tour, your best bet is to try to set it up with a travel agent.

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 necessary.

You'll 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.

Egyptians 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.

If 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).

Fire Brigade (PHONE: 125).

Police (PHONE: 122 or 02/303-4122).

Tourist Police (PHONE: 02/390-6028).


Many hotels have a doctor on call or can recommend a good doctor to contact if you need one.

Al-Salam International Hospital (Ma'adi Corniche, Ma'adi, PHONE: 02/524-0250 or 02/524-0070).

Anglo-American Hospital (Shar'a al-Burgx, Ma'adi, PHONE: 02/735-6162 or 02/735-6165).


In 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.

al-Salam International Hospital (Ma'adi Corniche, Ma'adi, PHONE: 02/524-0250 or 02/524-0070).

Anglo-American Hospital (Shar'a al-Burg, Zamalek, PHONE: 02/735-6162 or 02/735-6165).

Misr International Hospital (12 Shar'a al-Saraya, Finny Square, Doqqi, PHONE: 02/760-8261 or 02/760-8270).

Late-Night Pharmacies

By 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.

Seif (76 Shari's Qasr Al-'Ainy, PHONE: 02/794-2678) is open 24 hours.

Issaf Pharmacy (3 Shar'a 26 Yulyu, at the corner of Shar'a Ramses, PHONE: 02/574-3369) is open 24 hours.

Zamalek 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 Kingdom.

Australian Embassy (World Trade Center, Corniche al-Nil, Bulaq, PHONE: 02/575-0444).

British Embassy (7 Shar'a Ahmed Ragab, Garden City, PHONE: 02/794-0850 or 02/794-0852).

Canadian Embassy (5 Maydan Saray Al-Kubra, Garden City, PHONE: 02/794-3110).

U.S. 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 electrical equipment.

If 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

Clearing 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.

Business Hours
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.

Banks & Offices

Banks 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 hotels.

Businesses usually open by 8 AM and close by 4 or 5 PM Sunday through Thursday.

Gas Stations

Gas stations in cities and along main highways are open around the clock, seven days a week. Most accept credit cards.

Museums & Sights

Most museums are open daily 9 AM-4:30 PM, except for holidays.


Most 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.

Street 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.

More 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 going.

When 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.

When 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.

By Taxi
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.

Fares 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 from there.

Some 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.

There is no cab company to call. Just go hail one on the street. There are always taxis in the streets of Cairo.

By Subway
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 or groped.

By Car
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.

If 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 about driving.

Car Rentals

The 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.

In Cairo

Budget Rent-a-Car (Cairo Marriott, Shar'a Saray al-Gezira, Zamalek, PHONE: 02/735-8888; Cairo International Airport, PHONE: 02/265-2395).

Elite Rent-A-Car (2 Tahran, Doqqi, Cairo, PHONE: 02/337-6050).

Europcar (Cairo International Airport, PHONE: 02/265-2212).

Hertz (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).

Rawas Car and Limousine Rental (Cairo International Airport, PHONE: 02/291-4255).

At Home

Avis (PHONE: 800/331-1212; 800/879-2847 in Canada; 02/9353-9000 in Australia; 09/525-1982 in New Zealand).

Budget (PHONE: 800/527-0700; 0144/227-6266 in the United Kingdom).

Dollar (PHONE: 800/800-4000; 020/8897-0811 in the United Kingdom; 02/9223-1444 in Australia).

Hertz (PHONE: 800/654-3131; 800/263-0600 in Canada; 020/8897-2072 in the United Kingdom; 02/9669-2444 in Australia).

National (PHONE: 800/227-7368; 0345/222525 in the United Kingdom).

Emergency Services

Always 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.


Gas 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.


In 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.

Road Conditions

Major 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 and English.

Drivers 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.

Traffic 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.

Rules of the Road

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.

In 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.

By Bus
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 you onboard.

Much 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.

An 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.

Another 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 headed.

Major Bus Routes

To 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.

To 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.

To and from the pyramids: 804 for Ramses Square and the Citadel; 905 for Maydan Tahrir and the Citadel.

To and from Ramses Station: 65 for Khan al-Khalili, 174 for the Citadel.

To and from the Citadel: 840 for Maydan Ataba and Maydan Tahrir; 905 for Rodah Island, Shar'a al-Haram, and the pyramids.
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