Cairo on a Budget: 10 Cheap Ways To Enjoy The City
Updated: Dec 26, 2019
Whether you’re a local Cairene strapped for cash at the end of the month, or a visitor to Cairo on a backpacker’s budget, never fear -- there’s a lot of fun, interesting things you can do in Cairo without paying a bomb.
1. Have a world-class view of the Pyramids over lunch or dinner at… Pizza Hut.
Strange, but true. If you want to have an open-air, world-class view of the Pyramids over lunch/dinner but want to avoid the exorbitant prices at hotel restaurants, then look no further than the nearest Pizza Hut to the Pyramids.
This famous chain is on the 2nd floor (above KFC) and has an outdoor balcony with one of the best views in the city. During the day, you can see the ancient giants in all their glory, and at night you can witness them lit up during the Sound & Light Show.
2. Soak in the UNESCO World Heritage Site that is Old Cairo, for free.
Islamic Cairo, Coptic Cairo, Moez Street, Khan el Khalili… all these points of interest come together to form Historic Cairo, which was deemed a World Heritage Site by UNESCO (to learn about Egypt’s other World Heritage Sites, head here).
You can walk around and enter centuries-old mosques and churches (like Ibn Tulun and the Hanging Church) for free, as well as roam Khan el Khalili and window shop (they actually have extremely affordable stuff there if you’re a good bargainer). Head here for our full Khan el Khalili guide. Walking Moez Street and seeing the beautiful architecture lit up at night also won’t cost you a thing but is a must-do whether you’re a local or a tourist - and here's our detailed guide to Moez Street.
Check out our article on the ten most beautiful mosques in Egypt.
Note: these places aren’t all within walking distance of each other, so you can dedicate a day to Coptic Cairo and ‘Mogama’a El Adyan’ (the Interfaith Complex, where there’s also the Ben Ezra Synagogue) and another day to Islamic Cairo, etc.
3. Get around town using Swvl or Uber Bus - or the metro for that matter.
If you’re not keen on spending a huge portion of your budget on Ubers, Careems and cabs, and microbuses aren’t exactly in your comfort zone, there’s the trusty, always-cheap metro. Empty, it is not, but affordable it is. Women have their own carriage as well.
And for those areas of town that aren’t accessible by metro? Check out Swvl and Uber Bus. They have different lines going to all different ends of Cairo for way more affordable prices than a regular Uber or white taxi.
4. Downtown food-hopping
Starving but don’t want to spend a fortune on food? Downtown has *all* the answers.
Having a diverse, several course meal is extremely affordable in Downtown Cairo. You can either hit up just one establishment for nourishment (in that case we recommend Abou Tarek for koshary, it’ll fill you up for seemingly a year for 10 EGP), or you can hop from street vendor to street vendor, most of them unnamed but all of them feeding dozens of happy customers at any given moment.
Types of food carts, food vendors and little hole-in-the-wall ‘restaurants’ to be found in Downtown: kebda & sogoq (liver & sausages), hawawshi, feteer, fuul & taameya, kabab… and way more. There are also places like 'Fasahat Somaya’ that’s open for only a couple of hours a day and you eat whatever it is that Somaya has cooked up for you that evening, in huge portions.
Then you can move on to the dessert portion of the evening, and wind down with a cheap shisha and cup of tea in any of Downtown’s ubiquitous cheap sidewalk ahwas.
5. Join a running group to combine exercise and exploring the city.
If you’re the type of person who likes to exercise outdoors instead of a gym, then you should think about joining a group like Cairo Runners. They organize group runs in different areas of Cairo and other Egyptian cities regularly, where everyone gathers at the meeting point early Friday morning and can participate for varying distances.
The streets are usually empty that time of day on Fridays, and participating in these runs are free. They also have different runs scheduled throughout the years for different causes, as well as women’s-only races. There’s also an annual marathon.
6. Shisha, tea and a view on the Moqattam hills
Instead of going to another overpriced cafe, next time you’re in the mood for a hot drink and a shisha, try heading up the hills of Moqattam.
At the top, you’ll find not only one of the best views of the city, but several makeshift ahwas scattered around -- basically plastic tables and chairs set up on the cliff and someone who will gladly bring you a shisha or make you tea or coffee.
For the best views in Egypt, check out these 12 places.
7. Disconnect on a felucca.
This is a good option if you’re a small group, because it makes it more affordable. An hour on a felucca at Dokdok will cost 200 EGP an hour, but it’s negotiable. So you basically divide 200 EGP (plus tip) over everyone in the group.
You can bring your own snacks and just kick back and relax, away from the usual crowds in the usual places.
8. Discover all the hidden little shops, art spaces and random beautiful spots in Zamalek.
Zamalek is one of the very few Cairo neighborhoods that’s ideal to explore by foot. Besides the fact that the parking is a nightmare, Zamalek has a lot of little blink-and-you’ll-miss-it shops and interesting spots that we usually zoom right past in a car.
Exploring the whole island of Zamalek by foot could take the better part of a whole day if you take your time and explore at your own pace. Make sure you stop in the vintage stores, antique shops and art galleries as well as peep at the beautiful villas that house the various embassies and ambassadors’ homes (what you can see behind those massive gates and road blocks, that is).
9. Wadi Degla Protectorate
This is a great one for dog owners. If you want to hang out somewhere different with your dog and/or friends, then you can have a whole barbecue/picnic/hike/chillax day at Wadi Degla Protectorate.
This valley of desert and rocky hills is reached by car, but then once inside you can hike/bike/explore on foot.
The entrance ticket is for 3 EGP (5 EGP for foreigners) and you can bring all the food, games and sports stuff you want or need for the day, but bear in mind there’s no bathrooms or places to buy water, etc from.
10. Azhar Park
Another option for a picnic & chill kind of day, but this one is in an actual *green* park and not the desert. It also has an awesome panoramic view over the city, so try to go around sunset.
Also try to avoid weekends, because it tends to be overcrowded when the weather is nice (also avoid public holidays, obviously). If you don’t feel like bringing your own food, they have several restaurants/cafes in the park that can hook you up.
Tickets are for 10 EGP for Egyptians and 15 EGP for foreigners (except on weekends, when the ticket is 20 EGP for foreigners).
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