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Getting Around Cairo: A Transportation Guide

Don’t fret about being left to your own devices while getting around in Cairo. This simple — yet comprehensive — guide will keep you on the right track.

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Riding the metro in Cairo
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If you’ve ever travelled, then you certainly understand the stress and worry of trying to navigate through unknown city streets, like the chaotic arteries of Cairo, Egypt. Having a tour guide on hand to steer you in the right direction is wonderful, but not always possible. Don’t fret about being left to your own devices while getting around in Cairo. This simple — yet comprehensive — guide will keep you on the right track.


Tips:

  • First and foremost – plan ahead.
The ideal time to get around in any city is when the traffic is least busy, so it’s best to try and schedule your transportation needs accordingly whenever possible.
In Cairo, these hours are before 8AM and between 11AM and 1PM.
  • Purchase, not one, but several maps.
Not every map is made equal. You may find that one map labels the streets differently than another and, often, streets on maps have no names at all.
If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, take the time to create your own map, using the printed ones as a resource. This way, you can highlight the particulars of your trip and omit things that are simply clutter.
  • Schedule an ealy morning tour
If funds and time permit, schedule time early in the morning (before 6AM is perfect) to have a taxi driver bring you around for a sneak peek at the sites you plan to visit later.
  • Inquire with your hotel about transportation options
Some hotels and hostels arrange for transportation as a part of their paid services.

Transportation Methods

The Metro

If being sardine-canned in a moving bullet puts you off, then consider the advantages of taking the metro.
First of all, the flat rate is a bargain at 1LE per trip. That’s less than half the cost of a taxi fare’s flat rate (before they turn on the meter).
Secondly, for women travelling alone, the first car (and sometimes the second) is reserved for women only. This will eliminate the concern of being jeered at and groped by men as you are pinned between them, but be prepared for the possibility of being harassed about your religion or your “inapproriate” dress.
Since the metro runs on a line, there are limits to where it can take you but, with two lines running different routes, they cover a lot of ground.
You can get a map of the metro system at UrbanRail.net.

The Bus

The “red, white, and blues” are your public transportation buses. Like the metro, they are often overcrowded, but they are cheap to ride.
Also like the metro, there are buses reserved for women only. These are smaller buses in red, white, and blue, or in orange and white. You are prohibited to stand on the microbus, so if you don’t have a seat, you’ll need to wait for the next one.
There are also air conditioned buses, called the CTA (Cairo Transport authority) but these cost a nominal amount more to ride and prohibit standing, therefore they are quite a bit less crowded than the public bus.
While the buses cover the entire city, you need to call out your stop to the driver when you reach it. If you don’t know when to stop, notify the bus driver ahead of time so he can help you out.
Tthere are bus stations spread out among the city, but the largest can easily be found in Midan Tahrir behind the Egyptian Museum. Bus routes are availlable at any of these stations.

The Taxi

When taking the taxi in Cairo, there are some things you need to be aware of.
  • First, women should always sit in the back. Taking a seat beside the driver is considered a sexual invitation. If the driver attempts to strike up conversation with you, make pointed remarks about your “husband” (whether you have one or not), to disuade any intentions he may have.
  • Keep exact change. Trying to get change from a driver who is unwilling to give it can be difficult … moreso if your driver doesn’t speak English.
  • Know your fare ahead of time. A driver who notices that you have no idea what a fare typically costs may inflate his prices. You can get an estimate on taxi fare at Taxi Fare Finder.
There are three types of taxis available for public use:
  • Black and whites
The oldest and most common taxi in Cairo is identified by its black and white colour. Since they are the oldest, they also have many cars that appear to be unsafe. If you are concerned about the condition of your taxi, it’s best to wait for another one. Unfortunately, there aren’t many drivers who speak English, so prepare for communication breakdown.
  • Whites
The white taxis are generally more comfortable and roomy than the black and whites, but they don’t use a meter system. Taxi drivers expect you to “make a deal” and, quite often, you end up paying less than you would with a meter.
Make sure you do your homework before hailing one of these cabs … if the driver suspects you have no inclination as to the cost of your fare, you may be overcharged.
  • Yellows
Known as either “Cairo Cabs” or “City Cabs”, these taxis are usually hired by reservation, but can b
e hailed if they happen to drive by without a fare. Drivers are not allowed to smoke in the cars, and the fare is run by meter. It also helps that the cars are kept in good condition. You can contact a yellow cab using their hotlines (a three-hour advance call is preferred):
Cairo Cab: 19730
City Cab: 16516

Of course, you can always travel by foot to get to locations nearby, but wear comfortable shoes … Cairo is a large city with many wondrous sights to see.

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