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Last updated : Nov 2009
 
Cairo Getting Around
Getting Around Cairo - TravelPuppy.com
Public Transport

Using public transport is not advised in the city of Cairo with the exception of the clean, cheap and efficient metro system.

Buses are usually very overcrowded and visitors will have to fight their way on like the Cairenes, who try to make sure they get on-board by leaping at the bus before it has even stopped. However, it is a real experience of Cairo life, tickets should be purchased on-board from the conductor who fights his way through the throng of passengers. The fare depends on the journey length but for a few stops is usually around 25 piastres.

There are also microbuses, which are private enterprises and a cross between a public bus and a taxi . The destination is not marked, therefore visitors should shout out where they wish to go as one passes and if it is going in the right direction and has room on-board, it will stop. The fares on microbuses are slightly more than on public buses.

The metro is one of Cairo’s delights, the system is clean, quick, cool, safe and cheap, operating 5.00 am to 11.30 pm. There are 2 lines, 1 runs along the east bank of the Nile from Helwan in the north to al-Marg in the south, via Tahrir. The other, newer line goes from Shubra in the north to Giza in the west, also via Tahrir where the lines intersect with more metro extensions planned.

A flat fare of 50 piastres will take you up to 9 stops, with a sliding scale beyond that. Smoking is prohibited in the stations and the trains. The 1st 2 carriages on most trains are reserved for women only, although women can travel in any carriage without much risk of harassment.

Taxis

While Cairo does have its share of rogue taxis drivers, there are also several drivers who will become your guide, protector and even friend while you are visiting the city. Taking a taxi directly from a hotel is more expensive than hailing 1 in the streets. Taxis are black and white and are shared, so if one is driving by with passengers, it is achievable to call out one’s destination and if it is going that way, it will stop.

The protocol in Cairo is different from that in other cities. Passengers are expected to know the fare rather than negotiate it in advance or use the meter. A guideline is E£10 per kilometre for a hotel taxi and half that for one hailed in the street, a hotel taxi to the airport costs about E£60-70 (again half that for a street taxi). It is also possible to negotiate hire by the hour or by the day, for personal tours. The round-trip taxi fare to Saqqara is about E£100.

Limousines

There are limousine hire companies in the city and, while the standard of the cars may not be quite up to Hollywood standards, neither are the prices. They do represent an good economic proposition if you do not wish to join organised excursions or face the occasional hassles of dealing with taxi drivers or public transport.

Limousine Misr (telephone number: (02) 285 6721) charges about E£55-80 for a half-day hire with air conditioning and an English-speaking driver.

Other companies include:

• Bita (telephone number: (02) 574 6169)
• Cairo Car (telephone number: (02) 345 2393)
• Heliopolis Limousine (telephone number: (02) 240 1789)
• Hepton Limousine (telephone number: (02) 417 7500)
• Mohamed Naguib (telephone number: (02) 350 9123)
• Mohamed Selmi (telephone number: (02) 352 8706)
• Mustafa Muhammad (telephone number: (02) 375 1961)
• Rowas Car and Limousine Rental (telephone number: (02) 349 9831 or 554 4400) and
• Smart Limo (telephone number: (02) 365 4321).

Driving in the City

Driving is not advised in Cairo as it is not for those of a nervous disposition and taxis tend to be far safer. Visitors who are contemplating driving should spend a day or two observing the locals before going ahead, as few road rules are followed. There is no such thing as rush hour – it lasts all day and through most of the evening too. Road markings are generally ignored, as are most of the traffic lights. Horns are used constantly. At night, few drivers use lights, except for flashing lights, which are to tell oncoming traffic to move out of the way, rather than to indicate giving way as in many countries.

Car Hire

An International Driving Permit is required and the minimum age for hiring a car in Egypt is 25 years old.

Most of the larger hotels will have agents for the leading car hire companies but the main offices are:

Avis, 16 Sharia Ma’amal el-Soukkar, Garden City (telephone number: (02) 794 7400)
Budget, 5 Sharia Makrizy, Zamalek (telephone number: (02) 340 0070), and at the New Airport (telephone number: (02) 265 2395)
Europcar at the Max Building, 27 Sharia Libnan, Mohandiseen (tel: (02) 347 4712)
Hertz, 195 Sharia 26th July, Mohandiseen (tel: (02) 303 4241)
Thrifty, 1 Al-Entesar, Heliopolis (telephone number: (02) 265 2620)
J Car, 33 Sharia Missaha, Dokki (telephone number: (02) 335 0521).

Rates begin at about E£185 per day for unlimited mileage.

Bicycle Hire

Although many Egyptians cycle, it would be unsafe for any visitor not used to Cairo traffic.

Getting There By Road

To drive in Egypt, foreign drivers must be at least 25 years old and be in possession of an International Driving Permit, however, driving in Egypt is not recommended as there are few rules that are either enforced or adhered to.

The roads are of very poor quality, with several bumps and potholes to avoid. Egyptian drivers overtake constantly and visitors should beware of cars coming towards them in their own lane. Flashing headlights means ‘get out of the way’ and night driving is particularly dangerous as headlights are rarely used.

Emergency breakdown service(s):

No national provider, car hire operators may have local arrangements.

Routes to the city

Main routes from Cairo are Highway 1 (Delta Highway) northwest to Alexandria, Highway 11 (Desert Highway) also northwest towards Alexandria and the northwest coast, Highway 3 northeast towards Port Said, Highway 2 south alongside the Nile towards Luxor, and Highway 33 east to Suez.

Driving times to the city:

• From Alexandria – 3 hours
• Port Said – 3 hours
• Luxor – 10 hours
• Aswan – 16 hours.

Coach services

Cairo is linked by comfortable, inexpensive and regular coach services to other main Egyptian cities. Several coaches are air conditioned but there are also older coaches in operation, which can be very uncomfortable. Generally, the ticket prices reflects the level of comfort to be anticipated.

There are 5 long-distance coach stations and tickets can only be bought at the coach station itself but can be booked in advance only in person. Services are run by many operators serving different regions of Egypt from the different coach stations. These include the Upper Egypt Bus Company, the East Delta Bus Company and the West Delta Bus Company. Coach terminals are chaotic, with ticket offices and refreshment stands.

The Abdel Mouneem Riyad Terminal is often also called the Ramses Hilton Terminal, as it is located close to that hotel on Sharia Gala. From here, there are half-hourly services to Alexandria, several per day to Hurghada, and 1 per day to Aswan and to Luxor (overnight).

Behind here is the Ahmed Helmi Terminal, with numerous overnight services to Luxor and Aswan, and other daily services to Hurghada and to Middle Egypt.

The Sinai Bus Terminal (officially the Abbassiyya Station, close to Midan Abbassiyya) has many services per day to Sinai towns, such as Sharm el-Sheikh and Nuweiba, with 1 per day going via St Catherine’s Monastery.

The Koulali Terminal at Midal Ulali near Midan Ramses serves the towns in the Nile Delta and the Canal Zone, while the Al-Azhar Terminal, 45 Sharia al-Azhar, operates services into the Western Desert.

Getting There By Rail

Egypt’s railway provider is the Egyptian State Railway (telephone number: (02) 574 9474 or 575 3555, wagons-lits reservations). The network is limited but efficient and reasonably comfortable in 1st class or 2nd class superior. All trains stop at Cairo’s main station, the Ramses Station, Midan Ramses. A post office, tourist office, and left-luggage facilities are located at the station.

Rail services

Cairo is connected to the other major Egyptian cities, such as Alexandria (journey time of 2 hours 20 minutes), Luxor (journey time of 11-12 hours) and Aswan (journey time of 14 hours). If travelling south from Cairo down the Nile Valley, tourists must use the guarded ‘tourist trains’ for security reasons. Tickets can be reserved up to 7 days in advance at Ramses Station. Abela Egypt (telephone number: (02) 738 3682; website: www.sleepingtrains.com) run 1st class sleeping trains, primarily to Luxor and Aswan. It is possible to book these through their website or the Egyptian State Railway numbers, the Central Reservation Office outside the station, but it is easier to use a travel desk at a major hotel or a local travel agencies for a small commission.

Transport to the city

There are buses, taxis and service taxis ) outside the railway station. It is also on the metro (Mubarak metro station stop).