Different Modes of Transportation For Getting Around In Cairo, Egypt
Get from Point A to Point B with the least amount of hassle
Cairo is a city of 20+ million people. That’s a helluva lot of people in just one city -- we’re talking more people in one city than in most European countries.
So it’s safe to say that the city is sprawling and it’s not just a hop, skip and a jump from one end to the other (trust us, we wish).
Cairo offers several different ways of getting your bod from one spot to another, but it’s important that you know which mode of transport works best for you, so that you’re not scratching your head curbside wondering what the hell is going on.
We’ll go through each mode of transportation with you, but that does *not* mean we recommend all of them, oh God no. Some Cairo locals won’t even attempt some of them.
Before the introduction of Uber and Careem to Cairo streets, the savvy Cairo tourist did most of their hustling via white cabs. These taxis are a dime a dozen, in all neighborhoods, at any time of day or night. No joke. With the trusty white cab, you’ll never fear being stranded at 4 am with nary a way to haul ass to the airport. They are omnipresent, like, everywhere.
Regarding whether or not you should tip the driver, you can tip them at your own discretion (always appreciated) but don’t believe any nonsense they might feed you at the end of the trip about extra fees or whatnot -- unless you’re going to the airport and need to pay the entrance fee, which is standard.
Pros: they’re convenient, and cheap. Egypt was found to have the cheapest taxis in the world.
Cons: these cabs have meters, but some drivers will try to make an extra buck off you and tell you that the meter is broken or not working, hoping to negotiate a better price. Make sure to ask them if the meter is working before you hop in, and don’t agree to pay anything higher than the meter fare at the end of the trip. If the meter isn’t working but you still want to take a white cab, make sure you to tell the driver where you’re going and agree on a price before you get in.
Word of caution though: most drivers won’t speak much, if any, English and unless you have a rudimentary grasp of Arabic, haggling the fare can be both annoying and exhausting.
Listen, unless you want a cheap ride in a Flintstones-reminiscent vehicle, then just leave these million-year-old monstrosities to themselves and let them die a natural death. Black cabs are the ugly-ass cocoons refusing to turn into beautiful white cab butterflies.
Pros: the sheer wonder of how a vehicle like this still manages to do something resembling driving.
Cons: the meters won’t work, the AC won’t work, there’s a big chance your door and window won’t work and we can’t not guarantee a breakdown or three on your ride.
Uber and its Middle Eastern counterpart, Careem, are relative newbies on the Cairo transportation scene and quickly garnered both praise and censure alike. We personally use them all the time as our choice of transport but are totally aware of some of the issues that have caused people to complain.
Pros: there’s no negotiating over price, you can plug in your destination and minimize the back-and-forth with your driver (which will be undoubtedly lost in translation).
Cons: for some bizarre reason, it seems that some of the drivers aren’t clear on how to use the GPS system correctly, so they’re not always able to find your pick-up and/or drop-off location without assistance. To be fair, this is really up to you and your luck when it comes to drivers, if we had to personally guestimate, we’d say 80% know their sh*t and 20% need to find another day job.
If you’re used to zipping around on the metro to get to most places in your normal life, the Cairo metro might give you pause for a minute. There are three (well, two point five if you want to get technical) functioning metro lines in Cairo. The point five is Line 3, which is only partially completed.
While handy if your goal is avoiding traffic at all costs, the metro’s stops are limited so a lot of the city isn’t served by a nearby metro station.
Pros: it’s super cheap (a ticket costs 2 EGP -- the equivalent of a dime, give or take), there are women-only cars, and the obvious bonus of avoiding Cairo’s aboveground gridlock. Sweet.
Cons: like we said above, the stops are limited so you might find yourself having to take a cab or walking long distances from the metro stop. Also, it can get really crowded. Like, really crowded. And really smelly.
Just… no. We can’t in clear conscience recommend that a Cairo newbie try out our bus/microbus system (and we’re being fast and loose with the word ‘system’). To be fair, some long-distance buses, like GoBus, which serves Hurghada and El Gouna and a bunch of other places outside of Cairo, are fine and not much different than your typical Greyhound. But the local city buses are kind of a disaster in the eyes of the unsuspecting Cairo tourist.
Pros: if you can get where you need to go by city bus, you have officially won at life.
Cons: they’re crowded to the umpteenth degree, there’s no official bus line or bus stop -- you usually find a particularly vocal chap sticking his head out of the bus’ window to shout the bus’ general direction, with people jumping on and off randomly with frightening speed and agility.
Renting a car
This we only recommend for the brave of heart. Cairo traffic is synonymous with a chaotic cacophony of car horns, lanes as ‘suggestions’, and a cheerful ‘oops, almost killed you/me/that pedestrian/passing goat” attitude while driving. We’ve heard it referred to as real-life bumper cars (here in Cairo, no one gets too upset about an accidental car knick or dent here or there -- we understand that sh*t happens *insert shrug emoji*).
Pros: if you have nerves of steel, driving in Cairo can almost be fun because the only real road rule is to not kill yourself or someone else. They’ve also implemented a few traffic lights here and there! Woohoo, developed country, here we come. It’s also really handy if you’re planning on driving to Alexandria or the beach.
Cons: besides the fact that a lot of Westerners experience angina when faced with Egyptian driving, daily traffic can be a real biatch. Parking isn’t a walk in the park either.
Wouldn’t it be awesome if this was a legit thing? To be fair, it *is* real, as in there really is a thing called Nile Taxi, but it’s not exactly what we had in mind: we were thinking more along the lines of hailing a river boat and being whisked along to wherever our riverside destination is. Spoiler alert: the Nile Taxi is not that. Meaning, it’s a fun experience but definitely not an actual reliable mode of transportation.
The real Nile Taxi is a fleet of small boats that you can call (or hit up on their app) to reserve a place on a boat for one of their four lines. Stops and pick-up/drop-off times are limited.
Pros: ummmm you’re cruising down one of the most famous rivers in the world!?
Cons: there have been reports about the service not being reliable and they serve very few stops.
So after all this, what’s our final say?
Local recommendation: stick to Uber/Careem or white cabs. They’re always available and get the job done.