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The Present Perspective

Cairo Travel Guide: Tips for Visiting Egypt’s Capital [2023]

sweet family with todler standing in front of the pyramids of giza

Cairo is one of the craziest on Earth. Home to the oldest Wonder of the World, as well as over 20 million people, this city’s legacy and importance, are tough to match. Cairo was always on my bucket list, but I actually wasn’t sure what to expect.

After visiting, it clicked. All of the good I expected to find in Cairo was indeed there. And the majority of the bad that I expected to find, actually wasn’t there!

Cairo has a reputation for being chaotic. It also has a reputation for being packed with cultural and historical significance. This post will spell out exactly what it’s like to visit Cairo, including everything you need to know before you go.

This post contains affiliate links that may earn a commission on any purchases made at no additional cost to you.

sweet family with toddler sitting in front of the pyramids of giza

Best Places to Stay in Cairo

Cairo is sprawling and there are many neighborhoods you can stay in. I highly recommend staying in either downtown Cairo, Zamalek, or Garden City. These neighborhoods are all centrally located near the heart of Cairo, making excursions hassle-free.

Steigenberger El Tahrir Hotel

We’ve stayed at two hotels in Cairo – the Steigenberger El Tahrir Hotel in downtown, and the Le Meridien Hotel at the Cairo Airport. The Steigenberger El Tahrir is a great place and is located within walking distance of the Nile. The food here is delicious, the amenities are nice, and the staff is wonderful.

Father and toddler son lying on pool chairs on a deck

Le Meridien Cairo Airport

The Le Meridien at the Cairo Airport is stunning. This hotel is gorgeous, sparkling clean, and packed with amazing amenities. The restaurants here are incredible, too.

The hotel is linked to Terminal 3 of the airport by a bridge, and there is a free shuttle service to the other terminals. There is no better place to stay near the Cairo Airport. However, if you’re going to be exploring Cairo, this hotel is a bit far from many of the city’s top attractions. 

precious pregnant woman holding her small bump while wearing a blue swimsuit by a pool

Marriott Mena House

In Giza, we stayed at the Marriott Mena House and were beyond wowed. While it is pricey, it is worth every penny. Delicious food, stellar service, a stunning property, and the best views of the pyramids. 

This is the best hotel in Egypt, as far as I have heard. It is a bit inconvenient to explore some parts of Cairo, but it is wonderful if you plan on visiting the pyramids, Sphinx, and the new Grand Egyptian Museum.

If you can afford it, I’d recommend staying in a luxury hotel while in Cairo. This is regardless of the neighborhood you decide to stay in. Hotels are very cheap in Cairo compared to many European and American cities, and the comfort of luxury hotels goes a long way after a day in the chaos and heat of Cairo.

Mother and father holding hands with toddler son while walking in hotel garden with the great pyramid of Giza in the background

How to Get to Cairo

Cairo is the biggest city in Egypt. As such, you can expect its airport to be the best airport to fly into in Egypt! Cairo is served by two airports: one of the past, and one of the future.

Cairo International Airport (CAI)

For now, the best airport to fly into in Cairo is Cairo International Airport (CAI). This airport is located about 30 minutes east of downtown Cairo. It is the biggest hub airport in Egypt, serving thousands of flights to destinations all over the world.

Cairo International Airport is notoriously chaotic. It is inefficiently laid out, riddled with security checkpoints, and also pretty dated. There are three terminals, and one of them (Terminal 1) feels like it hasn’t been updated since the 80s.

While the airport isn’t luxurious, it serves its purpose. Despite what felt like utter chaos, we made it through customs and immigration in under an hour and our bags were delivered in perfect condition. Getting your visa on arrival in Egypt is a bit complex, but all in all this airport isn’t as bad as people say.

From Cairo International Airport, you can get to Old Cairo in 30-40 minutes, the Giza Pyramids in 50-70 minutes, and New Cairo in 15-20 minutes. The best way to get from the airport to anywhere in the city is Uber. I highly advise you to avoid taxi drivers both at the airport and elsewhere in the city.

cairo egypt travel blog

– R E A D –

Sphinx International Airport (SPX)

Sphinx International Airport is a very new airport designed to take some pressure off of Cairo International Airport. It is located to the northwest of Giza. Because of this, this airport is especially convenient for travelers who are only interested in visiting the attractions in Giza.

Giza is located about 30 minutes west of Cairo, and Cairo International Airport is located about 30 minutes east of Cairo. As a result, anyone solely desiring to visit the pyramids used to need to fly into Cairo and drive over an hour through traffic.

Sphinx International Airport is designed to alleviate this issue. Due to its location, travelers can get to Giza in roughly 30-40 minutes without the need to cross Cairo’s traffic. 

This airport is still new. There aren’t many flights to and from its terminal yet. However, as time goes on and this airport’s operations ramp up, it could be a great option for travelers.

I’ve heard that there are plans for international flights to destinations in Arab countries like Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the UAE, as well as European and Asian countries. There will also be direct flights to destinations all over Egypt.

While you’re likely going to find better flight options using Cairo International Airport for now, I recommend including Sphinx in your search. You never know what you will find, and both airports are within 45 minutes of Cairo’s downtown area.

How to Get Around Cairo


Cairo is absolutely massive, and it is one of the least walkable cities we’ve ever visited. It isn’t just the largest city in Egypt, but it’s also the largest city in the entire Middle East. There are two ways I recommend getting around Cairo: the metro and Uber.

Cairo has a passable metro system. It isn’t one of the best metro systems in the world, but it serves its purpose. Traffic in Cairo isn’t terrible, and the metro is a big reason why.

Cairo’s metro system has 3 lines that connect to areas all over the city. All rides cost less than a dollar, with the actual price depending on the number of stops ridden. The metro is open from 5am to 1am every day of the week, and there are cars on every train reserved specifically for women.

Cairo’s metro system is very safe. However, depending on where you stay, you may have no need to use it. There are plans to open a line that connects all the way to Giza, but that has yet to be realized.

Uber is the best way to get around Cairo. Rides are very cheap, traffic really isn’t that bad, and there are plenty of drivers available. We used Uber in areas all over Cairo and never had a bad experience.

While the cars often aren’t as nice as they are in some other places, the rides are still plenty safe and efficient. At a good time, you can Uber one hour all the way from the Pyramids of Giza to Cairo International Airport for just $5. If you are able, I highly recommend tipping your Uber drivers, simply because the cheap rides mean they’re making next to nothing to drive you around.

mother in white and floral dress sitting in the back of an uber with her toddler son

Normally I love buses and public transport. But in Cairo, they’re not one of the best ways to get around. It isn’t a matter of safety, but more comfort and necessity.

Simply put, you have no need to take a bus in Cairo. Yes they’re cheap, but Uber and the metro are unbelievably cheap, too. The buses in Cairo aren’t the best quality, and nobody wants to sit in a steamy bus for an hour through Cairo when you can just call a ride on the app for $2.

I advise avoiding taxis at all costs, both around the airport and throughout the city. The taxis in Cairo are of terrible quality, and the drivers are known for being a bit scammy. There is simply no reason to take a traditional taxi in Cairo.

Uber is roughly the same price, and the quality and safety of its rides is exponentially better than taxis. If you’re unable to find a ride, the only taxis I’d recommend are ones commissioned directly by nice hotels. We almost had our hotel in Giza call one for us after an Uber driver to the airport canceled, but luckily a second driver came to pick us up.

Is the Traffic Really that Bad in Cairo?

Cairo has a reputation for having terrible traffic. Many travelers talk about wild driving, hectic streets, and terrible traffic jams. Personally, I think those assertions may be overblown, especially outside of the busy season.

Cairo is definitely hectic. There’s no disputing that. But its traffic and business come nowhere close to cities in places like India and Bangladesh.

New Delhi and Chittagong are next-level craziness. I wouldn’t say Cairo’s traffic is any worse than New York City. Yes, it is worse in the busy season than in the low season, but no it isn’t unbearable.

There may be a culture shock for travelers who aren’t used to hectic destinations. But if you’ve visited places like India, Bangladesh, or China, Cairo will feel shockingly not busy.

The piece of Cairo traffic that really shocked us was how difficult it can be to cross the street in the city center. It is not impossible, but crosswalks are few and far between. Traffic can be challenging to cross, and sometimes you just need to piggyback off of what the locals do. 

If anyone offers to help walk you across the street, be ready to tip them. Personally, I just recommend crossing on your own, but if you’re uncomfortable you can ask a local for help. Egyptians are very friendly and aren’t always looking for money, despite the rude things many other people write.

traffic in cairo egypt during daytime

Best Things to Do in Cairo

Cairo is a city with thousands of years of history. Ranging from the building of the pyramids, through the time of Jesus, past the Egyptian revolution, and onward to the present day, Egypt has been at the forefront of human history for millennia. This rich history has endowed Cairo with a wealth of incredible things to see and do.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of things to do in Cairo, but it is more than enough to fill an itinerary. One site I decided not to include on this list was the Egyptian Museum in downtown Cairo. Located just off of the famous Tahrir Square, this museum was one of the biggest duds of our trip.

While everyone raves about it, I didn’t like it at all. I found it to be underwhelming, dated, and not nearly as nice as the one in Turin, Italy. It is being replaced by a new Egyptian Museum in Giza, which is a much-needed move.

1. Visit the Pyramids and Sphinx

The Pyramids of Giza and the Great Sphinx are the top things to do in Cairo. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about that.

The Great Pyramids of Giza aren’t one of the New Wonders of the World like many people think. They are actually the only surviving member of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World! In fact, they were the oldest member of that list.

The Giza Plateau is a bucket list destination. From entering the Pyramid of Khufu to taking a camel ride through the desert, visiting the pyramids is a full-day activity. If you visit at the right time, it doesn’t have to be hectic or stressful, either. 

woman on camel and father with toddler son on a second camel in front of the great pyramid of giza

I highly recommend hiring a guide to take you on a private tour. We hired a guide with Viator and were very pleased with the result. There are about one million reasons to hire a guide to take you to the pyramids, and the price for a private tour is minimal.

The oldest pyramid on the plateau was built around 3500 BC. There is no posted information throughout the plateau, so unless you are an Egyptologist, you’ll want a guide. 

A guide with a car is even better, as the plateau spans for miles and is not walkable whatsoever. We didn’t realize this before we visited, but the pyramids, Sphinx, and observation point are not close to each other at all, and the heat makes walking challenging. 

There are carriage drivers looking to sell rides, but a carriage ride is likely to cost almost as much as a full private tour.

On a very cool note, did you know you could enter the Great Pyramid of Giza and crawl into a tomb?!

portrait of toddler boy on mothers back

2. Go On a Private Tour of Coptic Cairo and Islamic Cairo

To many people, Cairo is synonymous with the pyramids. But there is so much more to do in Cairo than just the Giza Plateau and other pieces of Ancient Egypt! Coptic and Islamic Cairo are two incredible areas to visit that are filled with history and stunning religious sites.

There is so much more to do in Cairo than just the Giza Plateau and other pieces of Ancient Egypt.

We booked an Islamic and Coptic Cairo day tour with Deluxe Travel which took us to several important churches and mosques in Coptic Cairo and Islamic Cairo. As devout Catholics, we were especially interested in Coptic Cairo. The churches we visited were built over places where the Holy Family stayed during their flight from Herod!

Catholic orthodox mother with head covering with husband and toddler son at a coptic iconostasis

The Hanging Church and Saints Sergius and Bacchus Church are stunning. Equally striking is the Monastery of St. Simon the Tanner, which is carved entirely into a mountain. The stories behind these churches are even more impressive than their designs.

We also really enjoyed visiting some of the most famous mosques in Cairo, like the Al-Azhar Mosque, the Alabaster Mosque, and the Mosque of Sultan Hassan. While the pharaohs are very important, Christians, Jews, and Muslims are a crucial part of Egyptian history, too. These churches and mosques, on their own, are some of the best tourist sites in the city, and their respective neighborhoods are very close to central Cairo.

exterior of Alabaster Mosque in Cairo Egypt

3. Eat Breakfast with a Pyramid View

The pyramids are striking, and I advise soaking in their glory as much as you can. One great way to do that is by eating a meal with a pyramid view. To do this, we booked a stay at the Marriott Mena House hotel located just off of the Giza Plateau. 

We reserved a room with a direct, uninterrupted view of the Great Pyramid of Giza. While pricey, this was one of the best experiences of our entire trip. We ordered a large breakfast of local foods to our room, and ate as a family looking out at the stunning view of the world-famous Pyramids of Giza.

You don’t have to stay at the Mena House Hotel to do this. There are cheaper options that also offer a great view of the pyramids. However, if you can fit it in the budget and are looking for a truly unforgettable experience, I can’t recommend the Mena House enough.

Mother and father with toddler son sitting on his lap eating morning breakfast on a patio in front of the great pyramid of Giza

4. Soak in the Views from the Citadel

The Cairo Citadel is one of the coolest spots in all of Egypt’s capital city. Located just across the street from St. Simon the Tanner Monastery, this area is packed with beautiful structures and surrounded by gorgeous views. This is where the famous Alabaster Mosque is located, and in my opinion, it is the prettiest mosque in all of Cairo.

The Cairo Citadel was used as a palace and royal residence for centuries. Nowadays, it is one of the most popular tourist attractions located just a quick drive from the heart of Cairo. The palace was damaged by an earthquake and is going to take a long time to restore.

attractive young male traveler in white button down shirt standing in front of Egyptian skyline at daytime

5. Head to the Child Museum

The Child Museum is one of the best children’s museums we have ever visited. Tucked away in a park in Heliopolis, this museum is super interactive, very clean, and the perfect place to take your kids.

Entrance to the museum cost us just a few dollars, and it was one of the biggest bargains of our trip. The museum was filled with interactive games, puzzles, and exhibits meant to teach kids about Egyptian history. While our son was a bit young for the museum at just 20 months old, he still had a blast.

I’d recommend the museum for any kids over 18 months. I think 3-year-olds and up would get the most out of it. Outside of the museum, there is a beautiful park filled with statues of animals, playgrounds, and a cafe.

exterior of child's museum building with large dome and stairs

6. Eat Dinner on the Nile

The Nile River is thought of as the life source of Egypt. It has been of the utmost importance to the country for thousands of years. In Cairo, it is a wonderful place to grab dinner!

The Nile River divides Cairo and Giza, with Cairo sitting on the east bank and Giza sitting on the west bank. Along both banks of the river, there are long promenades dotted with restaurants, hotels, cafes, and bars. While this is a lovely way to spend an evening, there’s an even more popular option.

Thousands of tourists flock to boats on the Nile to embark on dinner cruises. A typical dinner cruise on the Nile includes food, views, and live entertainment. These cruises are pretty affordable by Western standards, too, often costing around $50 per person.

white and red boat on Nile River during daytime

7. Visit the New Grand Egyptian Museum

I mentioned earlier that the Egyptian Museum in Cairo is underwhelming and not worth visiting. Egyptian authorities must have realized this, as a brand new Egyptian museum has been built in Giza! This Grand Egyptian Museum is going to be the crown jewel of Egyptian Museums.

The Grand Egyptian Museum is located a short drive from the pyramids. This location was a good idea, as it will encourage more tourists to stay in Giza instead of Cairo, alleviating some of the pressure on Cairo’s infrastructure.

The old Egyptian Museum, sometimes referred to as the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, probably won’t close its doors. The plan is to renovate it after the new museum opens and eventually reopen it to the public. It houses an impressive collection but really falls short from an information and facilities standpoint.

8. Venture Out to Saqqara

Saqqara is the site of the oldest pyramid in Egypt. This small step pyramid was the first of many in Egypt, and it is a very popular place to visit. Despite its reputation, it isn’t nearly as busy with tourists as the Pyramids of Giza.

Saqqara is located about 30 minutes south of the Giza Plateau by car. Many private guides include Saqqara in a full-day tour itinerary of the pyramids. We didn’t have the time to visit, but our tour guide of Coptic Cairo was adamant that Saqqara is undeniably one of the top attractions around Cairo.

9. Explore Khan el Khalili

The Khan el Khalili Bazaar, sometimes referred to as the Khan el-Khalili Market, is widely considered one of the best attractions in Cairo. This tightly woven network of streets is filled with vendors looking to peddle their wares. Similar to the Souks of Morocco, this area is the chief place to barter for wares in Cairo.

We initially planned on visiting the Khan el Khalili neighborhood, but we ultimately decided not to. Our tour guide told us that the vast majority of things sold there are actually made in China. 

This unfortunate reality is the case in many popular tourist attractions in the world, and we’d prefer to support true local artisans instead. This personal conviction doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go! If you want to go for the experience, be ready to haggle and pay in cash!

10. Learn about Papyrus Making

One of the most famous inventions of Ancient Egypt is papyrus. This special type of paper is able to last for thousands of years when preserved properly, and this longevity is what taught modern Egyptians and historians so much about Egyptian history.

Papyrus remains an important piece of Egyptian culture, and there are several special places to go to witness the creation of papyrus and learn about its history. One of the most famous places to go is the Three Pyramids Institute.

a real egyptian papyrus paper

Best Time to Visit Cairo

I wrote an entire post on the best time to visit Egypt . In that post, I mentioned that the low season is absolutely unbeatable.

If you’re able to put up with the heat, there is no better time to visit Cairo than August or May. 

sweet family with todler dancing in front of the pyramids of giza

It will be hot during these summer months. When we visited in August, the average high temperature was somewhere in the 90s to low 100s. However, if you can stomach the heat, you get to experience the capital of Egypt with practically no lines.

During August, the number of tourists in Cairo is minimal compared to the winter. We visited the Pyramids of Giza and Sphinx around 9am on a weekday in August, and there were no more than 500 people on the entire Giza plateau. In the winter, there are thousands at any given moment.

We didn’t experience a wait for any single attraction in Cairo. From the Grand Egyptian Museum to the Al-Azhar Mosque, there wasn’t a line at any attraction in Cairo or Giza. In fact, when we visited the Sphinx at noon, there were literally no other tourists there. Zero.

When we visited the Sphinx at noon, there were literally no other tourists there. Zero.

If you can’t take the heat, I recommend visiting in the shoulder seasons around September and April. The weather will be a little more tolerable, but the crowds will also be much larger than in the summer. The winter is the busy season, and while the weather is the most comfortable, the crowds and traffic are known to be absurd.

Is Cairo Worth Visiting?

Cairo is unique. Before visiting, we weren’t sure what to expect. We had heard stories suggesting it was chaotic like New Delhi, but also had seen gorgeous pictures of places like Coptic Cairo and the Marriott Mena House Hotel.

All in all, Cairo is absolutely worth visiting. There is no disputing that. The city is packed with things to see and do, and I’d recommend it to anyone.

Cairo is hectic, and Cairo is dirty. In fact, our first impression of Cairo wasn’t all that great. But the more time we spent in Egypt’s capital city, the more we came to love it.

Places like Coptic Cairo, the Giza Plateau, and the Cairo Citadel are amazing. Other places like the Old Egyptian Museum and the Khan el Khalili are underwhelming. If you pick the right things to do and visit the right neighborhoods, Cairo is truly a special place.

American family with toddler son holding eachother in front of Egyptian city skyline

Is Cairo Safe to Visit?

We had heard mixed reviews about safety in Cairo before we visited. Very quickly, we realized that the Egyptian capital city is a very, very safe place. This is for multiple reasons.

The Egyptian capital city is a very, very safe place.

Firstly, Egyptian people are incredibly kind and hospitable! We never once felt at risk when among Egyptian locals. We took basic precautions, but at no point did we feel like we were in any more danger than we would be in Paris or New York.

Secondly, there are security checkpoints everywhere in Egypt. There are so many that it gets annoying, but I’d rather be safe than not. Every major building is equipped with a metal detector, and there is a very high police and security presence in the streets. 

At no point did we feel in danger, even traveling with a toddler. I’ve heard many solo female travelers say they’ve had a similar experience, too. Cairo is just as safe as many of the popular international destinations throughout Europe.

The only safety concerns I’d truly beware of are food precautions and crossing the street. I picked up some sort of stomach bug from something I ate while in Cairo, and it wasn’t a fun day. It’s normally best to beware of street food.

When it comes to crossing the street, crosswalks can be hit or miss. Make sure to be safe when crossing the street, as there are a lot of cars on the road that are happy to zip right by you while you cross.

Coptic deacon joyfully holding toddler boy in front of iconostasis

Best Place to Get Egyptian Pounds in Cairo

Egypt’s currency is the Egyptian pound. As I wrote in my post on getting foreign currency for a trip, most people get ripped off when exchanging money before they travel.

In that post, I spell out why currency exchange booths are the worst place to exchange money. Most banks in the US and Europe don’t carry Egyptian pounds for exchange, either. This leaves ATMs as the best way to get Egyptian pounds. 

In Egypt, many ATMs add a markup to the exchange rate in order to make a profit. This gets really pricey, in addition to ATM fees charged by your bank and the ATM’s bank.

I spent a couple of hours walking around downtown Cairo checking out different ATMs to determine which banks offer the best deals. I found that ABC Bank is undisputably the best bank to use for cash withdrawals. Their ATM gave me the live exchange rate without adding any kind of fee or surcharge! 

When I traveled, this was equal to 30 pounds per dollar. Other ATMs offered me between 19 and 25 pounds per dollar, plus a fee. There are several ABC Bank ATMs in Cairo, including the one I used a couple of blocks from the Steigenberger El Tahrir Hotel.

Frequently Asked Questions About Visiting Palermo

Can you explore cairo on your own.

You can absolutely explore Cairo on your own, but hiring a guide is a good idea. We spent the first couple days of our trip exploring on our own, but we enjoyed the days that we had a guide much more.

How many days do you need in Cairo?

You could spend a full week in Cairo and still need more time. However, since you’ll likely want to visit other places in Cairo, you should allot at least 4 full days to explore Cairo.

Is Cairo a walkable city?

Cairo is one of the least walkable cities we’ve visited. The city is massive and most major attractions are far apart. Additionally, the traffic makes crossing the street at certain places very difficult.

Is it safe to go to Cairo as an American?

It is very safe to go to Cairo as an American. Americans are at no greater risk than any other nationality in Cairo, and the city is generally regarded as very safe. There are security checkpoints all throughout the city, including at the entrances to most major buildings.

That’s all we have for you about Cairo! Hopefully, this post is helpful as you start planning your journey to Egypt’s capital city. I really do think that Cairo is worth visiting, and it shouldn’t be skipped on any itinerary to Egypt.

If you’re planning a trip to Cairo, let us know! We’d love to chat ahead of time and answer any questions you have. Otherwise, have a wonderful day and stay present!


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Hi, I'm Greg. I'm an avid traveler who has traveled to over 50 countries all around the world with my wife and kids. I've lived in Italy, Mexico, China, and the United States, and I dream of moving abroad again in the future. With this blog, I provide my audience with detailed destination guides to my favorite places and pro-tips to make travel as stress-free as possible.

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cairo egypt travel blog

Never Ending Footsteps

How to Spend Three Days in Cairo, Egypt 

I’d been dreaming about visiting Cairo for years .

What can I say? I love spending times in bustling cities that are packed to the brim with ancient architecture, numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and vibrant, unfamiliar cultures. I had a feeling that Cairo would check every single one of those boxes.

And did it? Yep!

Cairo is known as the City of a Thousand Minarets and because of this, the streets are always loud and busy, full of movement and colors; just how I like them. Every corner has a mosque around it, and the call to prayer rings out loud and proud, five times a day, continually inviting you to stop and reflect. 

And the sights? I’m sure you can imagine how impressive they are. Getting to see the Pyramids of Giza for the first time was the most breathtaking experience, and who wouldn’t be blown away by the majesty of sailing down the Nile at sunset?

I fell in love with Egypt from the moment I stepped foot on its dusty shores, and subsequently decided to dedicate a significant portion of my travels to exploring it more. As I write this now, I’ve been fortunate to have now spent an incredible six months travelling across the country, with two of those spent basing myself in Cairo.

And so, today, I’m excited to start kicking off my Egypt coverage by sharing how to spend three days in chaotic, charming Cairo.

cairo egypt travel blog

Why You Should Absolutely Visit Cairo

Before we jump into my itinerary, I want to first share a little more about what makes Cairo so special.

In my opinion, this city is works well for so many types of trips and travelers. For all of my backpackers out there, you can easily experience the city on a shoestring, paying as little as $4 a night for a hotel room, plus mere cents for your meal. But there’s also a wide selection of luxury options dotted across the city — some five-star hotels are as little as $120 a night! — if you want to experience Cairo’s grander side. If you have the budget, it’s well-worth splurging a little in this city.

In terms of neighborhoods, you’ve got a true spectrum of experiences to dive into. From the center of Cairo, which brings the local vibes and is always loud and crowded, to the more affluent neighborhoods, like Zamalek, which offers up hipster cafes, delicious brunches, and a much more tranquil atmosphere. It’s worth hitting up as many of Cairo’s neighborhoods as you can, as they all have something different to offer. Zamalek, though, was an easy favorite for me.

You guys know that I love to explore a city’s streets on my feet, and I found wandering the alleyways of Cairo to be fascinating . It’s true: I’ve done some of my best people-watching while in Cairo. As you meander through the city, you’ll run into a vast array of street vendors around every corner, and you’ll find you can’t venture more than a few feet without coming across the next cafe. I quickly learned that Egyptians absolutely love their tea, or shai , and they’ll sit and sip it from tiny Arabic tea cups, with mounds of sugar, for hours while playing backgammon. 

cairo egypt travel blog

And speaking of street vendors: to my great delight, I discovered that Cairo is home to some incredible dishes, like the iconic koshari , which attempts to marry as many carbs as possible (rice, pasta, lentils, chickpeas, tomatoes, and fried onions) into one hearty dish. You’re going to love it.

Unsurprisingly, food is super cheap in Egypt, so if you’re eating from small, local restaurants you can easily get a meal for less than a dollar or two. Look for where the locals are eating to ensure you avoid food poisoning.

With all that being said, Cairo is intense. I can’t deny that. I think if I’d rocked up in this city as my very first solo travel destination, I’d have likely panicked, turned around, and hopped on the next flight out of there! The streets are always loud and overcrowded, it’s dirty and dusty, the roads are manic, and you have to haggle for everything . Ten million people call Cairo home, and sometimes it can feel as though they’re all squeezed down the same street that you’re on. And yes, you will experience harassment as a woman.

I don’t recommend that you head to Cairo as your first ever city break, but if you’re brave enough to take it on, I guarantee you’ll leave culturally enriched and in awe of this incredible city. 

cairo egypt travel blog

How Many Days Should You Spend in Cairo?

I mentioned above that I spent two months living in Cairo, so my love for this city is clear. However, visiting a city as a tourist is different to living there; that’s why I believe three days is the perfect amount of time to spend in town.

With three days, you’ll be able to see the vast majority of the attractions. Day one will be allocated to the city center, day two will be all about the Pyramids and the Nile, and day three will focus on the Islamic side of Cairo.

And beyond that? Even I can hold up my hands and admit that Cairo becomes a bit stressful and overbearing if you stay for much longer, so get your three days under your belt, and then venture off to explore more of wonderful Egypt.

That’s enough of my waffling! Let’s jump into how to spend three days in Cairo.

Day One: Visit Zamalek and the City Center  

I mentioned above that Zamalek was my favorite neighborhood in Cairo, and I recommend basing yourself in this area while you’re in town. I stayed at the gorgeous Houseboat65 Hotel and loved it. It’s a houseboat! On the Nile! How cool is that? There’s nothing quite like sitting beside this mighty river, sipping your morning tea and watching the boats pass by.

If you do decide to stay in Zamalek, your first activity is going to be particularly accessible: exploring, um, Zamalek! Simply step outside your front door with a camera in hand, and get ready to discover one of the city’s coolest areas.

Zamalek is also referred to as Gezira Island, and is one of the most modern, hipster neighborhoods of Cairo. As the name implies, it’s located on an island in the middle of the Nile, just a bridge-crossing away from the rest of the city. As you wander the area, you’ll come across cute cafes selling cappuccinos and iced lattes, and boutique shops with organic skin products and local produce wrapped in fancy boxes. The streets are leafy and peaceful; quiet and orderly — at least by Cairo’s standards!

The main reason why I recommend traveling to Zamalek first is precisely because of all these reasons: Cairo can be a shock to the system, so kicking off your explorations in a laidback area of the city makes a hell of a lot of sense. Think of it as dipping a toe into the waters of Egypt: start peacefully and then work your way up.

So what should you look out for while you’re in Zamalek?

cairo egypt travel blog

The island isn’t very big, and you could explore most of it by foot on your first morning in town. Make sure you catch a glimpse of the 614-foot tall Cairo TV Tower on the southern part of the island. You can go to the top for a fee too! Aside from that, there are a few museums and culture spots worth visiting, like the Museum of Modern Egyptian Art and Cairo Opera House. 

If there was one neighborhood that I would safely say you can explore alone in Cairo, it’s Zamalek. It’s here where you can confidently get lost in its winding streets, where you’ll discover hidden art galleries, quirky shops, and stunning views of the Nile along the way.

Numerous foreign embassies and consulates are in Zamalek, so don’t be surprised if you walk past grand buildings with guards outside them every once in a while. I always love the architecture of embassies when I travel.

Next, hop in an Uber and get yourself to Downtown Cairo. Be prepared for a total change in atmosphere. Whilst Zamalek is quiet and fairly empty, Downtown Cairo is absolutely wild! It reminded me of the chaos of Old Delhi, India . The streets are always full of crowds and there are cars tooting their horns everywhere — it’s far from tranquil!

But the liveliness of this neighborhood of Cairo is energizing and contagious. 

Start in iconic Tahrir Square, which has been the epicenter of many of the protests and uprisings, like the Egyptian revolution in 2011, when thousands of Egyptians took to the streets to stand against President Hosni Mubarak and his government. 

It was also the site of the 1919 Egyptian Revolution, after which it was given its current name, which translates to Liberation Square, although it wasn’t officially changed till 1952.

The square isn’t the prettiest, and there’s a huge roundabout in the center that is jam-packed with cars at all hours of the day, but you can’t visit Cairo and miss such a historically important spot! 

There’s also a statue of Omar Makram in the square and most importantly the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities that has artifacts spanning over 200,000 years of Egyptian history.

cairo egypt travel blog

Walk to the end of Talaat Harb Street from Tahrir Square and you’ll find yourself at Talaat Harb Square. The square has a statue of Talaat Harb, an Egyptian entrepreneur, and was once a prominent spot for shopping and entertainment. 

Most of the famous buildings are now in disuse, like the Groppi tearoom and Cafe Riche, but they stand as a testament to Cairo’s colonial past and are prime examples of French neoclassical architecture. 

From here, there are many streets leading off the square that are lined with busy cafes and some of the city’s best restaurants. Stop for a tea before you continue exploring!

After that, I’d recommend allowing a bit of time to stroll around the center and get a bit lost. The city center is safe and always busy, so you don’t need to worry about getting stranded anywhere. 

cairo egypt travel blog

The truth is that most of Cairo’s best attractions aren’t on the map. They’re hidden down unexpected streets and in unexplored corners of the city. They aren’t the Pyramids (although the Pyramids are amazing, don’t get me wrong), they’re the ancient arches that appear as you turn a corner and seem to be of no relevance, the breathtaking carvings on stone walls, and stunning doorways weathered by time.

Cairo was founded in 2,000 BC and since then it has been reigned by countless monarchs and an array of empires, from the Romans to Sultans. Its long and varied history has left imprints on every corner of this mesmerizing city. To find Cairo’s essence, you’ll need to put your must-see list aside for an hour or two and allow yourself to just explore, with no agenda! 

Another of the most fascinating things about Cairo is the culture. It’s so different from Western culture that everything will seem unfamiliar. At the start, it’s hard to see any order in the chaos that characterizes most of Cairo’s neighborhoods. 

But, if you stop and observe you’ll start to notice that Egyptians are respectful, dignified people who follow strict cultural norms.

cairo egypt travel blog

Something else you’ll start to realize is that, as a tourist, you’re never getting the local price. Egyptians will start at the highest (almost quite ridiculous) price they think they can get away with, and then it’s totally down to you to haggle your way out of it.

To tell the truth, even after haggling, you’ll probably still be paying at least twice what the locals are, but now you can say you shopped like a local!

If you were raised in the West, you’ve probably never haggled before and it can feel a bit uncomfortable and unfamiliar at the start, but it’s the Egyptian way: challenge yourself and give it a go!

It’s handy to learn some of the arabic numbers and sentences like “ma3andeesh floos” (well-pronounced in this video ), which translates to “I don’t have any money”, before you go. Don’t take yourself too seriously when you haggle and it’ll often turn into a humorous negotiation between you and the vendor.

cairo egypt travel blog

Before leaving Downtown Cairo, make sure you visit the Abdeen Palace. It’s just a five minute drive away from Tahrir Square! The palace is grand, enormous, and has spectacular ornaments in every corner – history fans will especially love it.

Construction of the Abdeen Palace began in 1863 and continued until 1874. It was built where the ruins of Abdeen Bay’s old house stood. It is now the main office and official residence of the president. There are numerous museums on the bottom floor of the palace that you can venture into, like the Arms Museum. 

cairo egypt travel blog

Day Two: The Main Attractions

Let’s be honest, no one comes to Cairo without going to the Pyramids. They are the most famous and world-known attraction the city has to offer. You might be surprised to hear that the Pyramids aren’t actually in Cairo, they’re just outside in the nearby city of Giza. Of course, that does explain why they’re called the Pyramids of Giza . 

Still, they’re close-by: it’ll take you about half an hour to an hour to get from central Cairo to the entrance of the pyramids.

I suggest setting off early (around 7 a.m.) for a number of reasons.

Firstly, you’ll miss the crowds that arrive later on in the day in their hundreds, forming long queues at the ticket office and crowding around the Pyramids and Sphinx. The pyramids aren’t quite as majestic when there are groups of shouting friends and herds of tourists with selfie sticks. May I present Exhibit A?

cairo egypt travel blog

But more than anything, I suggest getting there early because of the sun. There is absolutely no shade at the Pyramids of Giza. You are surrounded by desert sand and not a tree in sight. It gets very hot and after an hour walking around in the afternoon sun you’ll start to feel tired, sunburnt, and frustrated. Do yourself a favor and come early!

Once you’ve got your tickets, step onto the barren trail that winds its way between the three Pyramids (that are surprisingly far apart from one another) and the Sphinx. The sheer size of these incredible structures, built in 2550 BC, will leave your mouth hanging open. It’s amazing to think you could once scramble up the giant rocks and enjoy the views from the top!

Each stone that makes up the pyramids is about the same height as you, and you’ll find yourself scratching your head and doing a lot of unresolved mental mathematics as you try to figure out how they got there.  

The Sphinx is equally as impressive and huge. There’s something captivating about this mythical creature’s poised position and on-guard appearance. You’ll have a great time taking silly pictures of yourself with the sphinx too! 

Needless to say, remember your camara. The pyramids are a haven of picture-perfect views and magnificent travel photo opportunities.

There are a few things you need to be wary of when you visit the Pyramids, and a few things you should know that you likely haven’t been told about. 

My first piece of advice is that you bring water; lots of it. There are no cafes or restaurants super close to the pyramids, and there’s nothing but stone and sand inside, so bring everything you need with you.

If you’re going later in the day, wear a hat and sensible clothing to protect you from the sun, especially if you’re going in spring or summer. 

cairo egypt travel blog

You can go to the Pyramids independently, but there aren’t any information plaques around the site, so you won’t learn much about the history or importance of the site. I’d suggest going on this guided tour at a price of $35, so you can get all the inside information about this World Wonder from a local and knowledgeable tour guide. 

Now, here are the strange and unexpected things you should be aware of. One, you’re going to be approached by men offering you camel rides all the time. Seriously, all the time. They can be quite insistent, but don’t let it ruin your experience, just walk away. 

Secondly, don’t just hire anyone who calls themself an official guide to show you around. There are lots of cunning fake guides at the Pyramids; make sure you’re actually getting an official guide or go with the tour guide company I recommended .  

All that said, enjoy! This is one of the coolest places on earth, so relish every second of it.

cairo egypt travel blog

After an exciting day at the Pyramids, go on a cruise down the Nile in the evening! You might not know this, but Egypt is the birthplace of belly dancing. 

Egyptian celebrations are often accompanied by belly dance music and big events, like weddings, often hire a belly dancer to get the crowd dancing! Belly dancers are treated with respect and revered by locals.

River cruises down the Nile come with dinner and a belly dance show, and they’re one of the most iconic experiences the city has to offer. Dine on traditional Egyptian dishes whilst a belly dancer in beautiful attire twirls and shimmies in between the tables. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience, and you’ll pay $30 for the best cruise in town .

cairo egypt travel blog

Day three: Experience Cairo Like a Local

Kick of your third morning in town by hitting up the Cairo Citadel, which is also known as the Citadel of Saladin. The citadel is located in the area of Cairo known as “Islamic Cairo”, which is yet another one of my favorite parts of this wonderful city. You’ll find it atop of Mokattam Hill, where it has towered over the area since the Middle Ages.

The citadel was named after An-Nasir Salah ad-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub, or Saladin for short. He was a famous warlord and strategist who later became the Sultan of Egypt and overthrew the Fatimid Dynasty, establishing the first Ayyubid Dynasty in the country in one fell swoop. 

It was back in 1176 that he ordered the construction of the citadel to protect what is now modern-day Cairo from the Crusaders, and to serve as the heart of the Egyptian government. 

A hell of a lot has happened since then, but the citadel is still one of Cairo’s most important monuments. It’s even a UNESCO World Heritage Site!

cairo egypt travel blog

The citadel is a complex that comprises four museums and three mosques, so you could easily lose an entire day to wanderings around here. If you only have time for one — or aren’t much of an architecture enthusiast — go for the Mosque of Muhammad Ali (no, it’s not named after the boxer!)

The Mosque of Muhammad Ali is the largest in the space, and the most impressive, so it’s definitely the one to prioritise.

Personally, I loved all three mosques and recommend making time to explore all of them. You’ve got the Al-Nasir Muhammad Mosque and the Mosque of Sulayman Pasha al-Khadim remaining. The former was the royal mosque for the city, where the sultans of Cairo undertook their Friday prayers, while the latter is It is the first mosque in Egypt that displays an Ottoman architectural style.

There’s three museums within the citadel, too — the National Military Museum, the Al-Gawhara Palace Museum, the National Police Museum, and Royal Carriages Museum. Trust me when I say that none of them are particularly great, so you could easily skip over them all without needing to feel guilty about doing so.

From the top of the hill there are spectacular views of Cairo below, so before you leave the grounds, make sure you take all the beautiful photos.

cairo egypt travel blog

After visiting the notorious Cairo Citadel, head deep into the heart of Old Cairo to El Moez Street. The street starts at Bab el Fotouh where it has its north entrance, and ends at the south entrance at the Tentmakers’ Market. 

You’ll see this street referred to as many names: Moez Street, El Moez Street, Al Moez Street, Al-Muizz li-Din Allah al-Fatimi Street, Al-Muizz Street… know that they’re all referring to the same place in Cairo.

Prepare to be swept away by crowds of people walking in between stalls and let your senses be overcome by the noises and smells that fill the air.

cairo egypt travel blog

Moez Street is definitely not one for people who hate crowds and shy away from busy streets, but it is one of the most beautiful and intriguing places in the city. Aside from that, it has an authentic, local feel to it. There are few tourists around, and that’s how you know you’ve come to one of Cairo’s true gems.

cairo egypt travel blog

The street was named after Al Moez Ldin Allah Al Fatimi, the fourth Caliph of the Fatimid Dynasty who reigned from 953 to 975. There are numerous historical buildings along the street, and arches and mosque minarets around every bend. 

cairo egypt travel blog

Stalls line both sides of Moez Street, and little crafts stores are built into the old buildings. Watch craftsmen at work embroidering intricate tapestries, making candles using traditional methods that have been employed for centuries, and shaping leather into stylish bags. It’s the best place to buy souvenirs!

cairo egypt travel blog

Food stalls waft the smell of falafel into the air, and there is an invigorating buzz about the place. Get lost in this dizzying maze of colorful stalls, stunning archways, and breathtaking historical buildings.

cairo egypt travel blog

The UN reported that this street has the greatest concentrations of medieval architectural treasures in the world, and when you get there you’ll quickly understand why. Stunning mosques line Moez Street and silence the rush of people every time a call to prayer begins. 

cairo egypt travel blog

Buildings worth keeping a lookout for, and going into, include the Al Hakim Mosque that was built in 992 AD, the Ottoman-era Sulayman Agha Al-silahdar mosque, and the Beit El Seheimy museum, which perfectly replicates residential Ottoman architecture. 

cairo egypt travel blog

You could spend days at Moez Street, so you’ll have to be selective about what buildings and mosques you go into. Follow your intuition and decide for yourself which you think are the most impressive! Most are free. Remember to cover up and bring a head scarf if you’re a woman. 

cairo egypt travel blog

What to Know About Cairo Before You Go: How to Stay Safe

Cairo is pretty safe. In fact, Egypt has a lower crime rate than the United States on a number of crime indexes. They have lower rape statistics, gun crimes, and murder rates than New York for example. 

I never worried about being mugged whilst I was there, unlike my experience in cities like Chicago. Cairo is objectively quite safe. Of course, there is a difference in the experience men and women will have in Cairo, and it’s considerably more polarized than in other cities.

If you’re traveling alone as a woman you won’t necessarily be unsafe, but you will receive a lot of unwanted attention. Out of respect to the country’s culture and religion, I also recommend wearing long trousers and tops. 

Like all cities, Cairo is less safe at night. Stick to busy roads with lots of lighting and try to avoid going out alone at night, especially if you aren’t sure where you are. 

My top three safety tips are:

  • Put your passport and money into an anti-theft bag and hide it around your waist, below your clothes.
  • Sew a pocket into your waistband that can fit your credit card and a bit of spare cash for emergencies.
  • If you’re worried someone is following you, lean against a wall and pretend to be tying your shoes, that way they will walk past you and you can change your route.

Overall, Cairo is safe and you shouldn’t have any problems. Use your logic and follow these tips and you’ll have a safe and fun time on your trip. 

cairo egypt travel blog

How to Get Around Cairo

Most big cities have great public transport, with easy to navigate timetables and clearly mapped metro lines that get you from A to B quickly and efficiently. Well… Cairo is an exception.

Whilst public transport in Cairo is very cheap, it’s far from easy to navigate. As a general rule, Google maps doesn’t work across Egypt. There were various times where I followed my map to a Movistar or H&M that didn’t exist, and, according to the locals, had never existed, despite the fact that it was very much real on the map. So imagine how unreliable the bus schedules are! 

Cairo also has a metro line, but it gets very cramped and unpleasant, especially on a hot day! I lived in Cairo for three months, but I only took the metro once – telling my local friends (who never use the metro, by the way) that I wanted to experience Cairo like a “local.” They laughed, but finally agreed to come along. 

We jumped on, sweated and struggled for air before hopping off just 15 minutes later, a fair walk from where we wanted to be. I never got the metro again. 

If you’re only in Cairo for three days, don’t bother trying to figure out the public transport unless you’re determined to do so – you will waste hours of your time. 

You’ll be surprised to know that the best way to get around Cairo, and the way that all my Egyptian friends who had lived there their whole lives get around, is by Uber. Yes, Uber! I was shocked too. But the app is fast, super cheap, and reliable. 

In Egypt Uber also has a scooter option, so you can hop on the back of the driver’s motorcycle (they bring a spare helmet, don’t worry) and get to where you want to be in no time. 

I wouldn’t recommend renting a car in Cairo either. The roads are absolutely crazy. There are always long lines of traffic and unexpected road users, like donkeys pulling carts with young children on them. 

Apart from anything else, Egyptians don’t often use the pavement, so there’s always people appearing out of nowhere, crossing the road in a hurry, or just walking along the motorway as if it’s the most normal thing in the world.

Unless you’re a confident driver, or you think that using the local public transport is a must when you travel, then get an Uber. It won’t cost much more, especially if you’re a group, and you’ll save yourself a considerable amount of time and energy.

cairo egypt travel blog

The Best Time of Year to Visit Cairo 

The best time of year to visit Cairo is from October to April. During these months the city experiences its most mild and pleasant temperatures. Cairo has warm and sunny winters with cool, but far from freezing cold, nights. 

One thing to bear in mind if you come during the winter months is that December and February are very touristy. If you can, come in October or November, or early spring. 

Summer is the worst time to visit the city because it’s scorching hot. That isn’t an exaggeration, temperatures can soar above 102°F, though they tend to stay around 94°F. Once May arrives, all you’ll want to do is stay indoors with the AC on full blast – it’s far too hot to do anything else.

cairo egypt travel blog

Where to Stay in Cairo

There’s plenty of accommodation options in Cairo, from a $15-a-night guesthouse that overlooks the Pyramids, to internationally renowned hotels. So however you want to travel, whether it be luxury or budget, you’ll find it in Cairo.

But where do I recommend that you stay?

I stayed at Houseboat65 Hotel and loved that it offers something a little different. Imagine waking up along the Nile in a little home that is just for you, yet still a part of a friendly and welcoming hotel! You get the best of both worlds: the privacy and intimacy of an apartment and the perks and great service of a luxury hotel.

I particularly love the views of the Nile from the rooms. You’ll feel like you’re in a dream as you sit on the water’s edge, sipping your morning coffee and watching little boats float by. It’s also the perfect place to escape the noise of the city without compromising on location!

This stunning property gave me the perfect balance between modern and traditional. I relished all the well-thoughtout details around the property and was delighted by the undeniably Egyptian feel of the place. 

The colorful carpets, low-down coffee tables, and stunning decorations made it feel warm, welcoming, and homely. It’s the perfect place to relax after a long day exploring Egypt’s most fascinating city. 

Lauren Juliff

Lauren Juliff is a published author and travel expert who founded Never Ending Footsteps in 2011. She has spent over 12 years travelling the world, sharing in-depth advice from more than 100 countries across six continents. Lauren's travel advice has been featured in publications like the BBC, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and Cosmopolitan, and her work is read by 200,000 readers each month. Her travel memoir can be found in bookstores across the planet.

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I am off to Cairo in December and have found your blog invaluable.

One question though – can you speifically recommend the tour guide/company for the pyramids tour – the link goes to a generic Get Your Guide webpage which has many options. Was wondering which guide you went with.

Many thanks and keep up the good work – your website is now firmly on my list of resoures for all our travels! Thanks Fergus

Hi Fergus! Ah, yes, Get Your Guide is so annoying with how it redirects links to a full search page! This should work for you: https://www.getyourguide.com/pyramids-of-giza-l4184/giza-pyramids-and-spinx-half-day-private-tour-t17540/?partner_id=5OA45ES&utm_medium=online_publisher&placement=content-middle&cmp=cairo-itinerary&mkt_cmp=true — if not, it should be the first result on the GYG link and highlighted in blue, it’s titled Giza Pyramids and Sphinx: Half-Day Private Tour

Hi Lauren, Thank you so much for such a well written blog. I do plan to go end if this month. I guess booking in advance would be wise. You haven’t mentioned much about the museums. I thought that would be a highlight as one would want see the mummies.

Would you recommend exchanging money in Cairo- airport?

Thanks again.

Hello! interesting blog! as an Egyptian – with Turkish roots – living in Cairo for almost my entire life, I think you got a grasp on it.

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Captivating Cairo: All You Need To Know Before You Go

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Captivating Cairo: What to do in the capital of Egypt by Wandering Wheatleys

As our taxi weaved in and out of traffic in Cairo, driving much faster than was wise and honking unnecessarily at every passerby, I couldn’t help but smile and think “this guy is either absolutely fearless or totally insane!” But it wasn’t just him. It was a family of five. They balanced precariously on the back of a rusty old motorbike and the elderly lady dashed across the highway narrowly avoiding the cars whizzing by. And slowly but surely, that fearlessness crept its way into me as well.

Cairo has that effect on you – it awakens all of your senses and gives you this energy, it makes you feel truly alive. It only takes a day or two to get used to the persistent taxi drivers, the smells that can either be horrifying or intoxicating, the constant traffic and honking of horns, and the curious locals that exclaim “Welcome to Egypt!” excitedly and then request to take a photo with you. And it doesn’t take long to become totally, completely captivated by Cairo!

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase or booking through one of our links we may earn a small commission (don’t worry, it’s at no extra cost to you).

Complete Guide to Cairo, Egypt

Mosque of Muhammad Ali, Cairo Citadel, Egypt by Wandering Wheatleys

Cairo is the capital of Egypt as well as the largest city. It has a population of approximately 6.76 million (with an additional 9.5 million living in close proximity). Most people associate Cairo with the nearby Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx, the Nile Delta, King Tut, Pharaohs, mummies and “walking like an Egyptian”. You’ll find all of that and much more in this massive, sprawling metropolis. For everything you need to know before you go, and once you arrive, you’ve come to the right place! 

Cairo: Know Before You Go

  • The currency in Egypt is the Egyptian Pound (LE). At the time of writing (November of 2017) the conversion rate was about 17.65 LE to $1 USD . We’ll be referring to costs in Egyptian Pounds so just keep in mind that if we say something costs 100 LE, that’s just about $5.50 USD.
  • Each Egyptian Pound is made up of 100 Piastres and the bills look similar so familiarize yourself with both.
  • The prices appear to have gone up significantly. But they haven’t. The value of the Egyptian Pound has fallen drastically since 2016 and prices have been increased to reflect the change.
  • The following countries can obtain a visa on arrival at Egyptian ports of entry:   USA,  UK, EU Nationals, Australia, Canada, Croatia, Georgia, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Macedonia, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Serbia, and Ukraine. The price is $25 USD/person and the visa can be purchased at the currency exchange counters before you reach passport control . If you don’t have US dollars, don’t worry, you can also exchange your currency there.
  • Egyptians speak Arabic and you should learn a few key phrases to get around ! “Al Salam Alaikum” (pronounced sall-em wall-a-come) is a nice way to say “hello”. “Shukran” (pronounced shoo kran) is “thank you”. “Ma’-Elsalama” (pronounced ma sell lem-a) is “goodbye”. And “tip” is “ baksheesh ” – you may get asked for one every now and again.
  • Islam is the official religion for 90% of the population and most of those are Sunni Muslims. As with most conservative countries, women are expected to cover their knees and shoulders when venturing out of the house (although this is not necessarily the case in upscale neighborhoods). Foreigners are only expected to cover their heads when entering mosques.  Remember, you’re not here to change the culture, you’re here to experience a new one. 
  • Friday is the Muslim holy day and you’ll find that many stores are closed. Buses run infrequently, if at all, on Fridays.
  • Make sure you read our Egypt travel tips before your trip!

Is Cairo Safe?

Mosque of Muhammad Ali, Cairo Citadel, Egypt by Wandering Wheatleys

Forget everything you’ve heard about how “dangerous” Egypt is and don’t take everything you read at face value. There are some areas that are still a bit seedy, including the Northern Sinai Peninsula (so we would not recommend a land border crossing from Israel). However, you’ll find that most of Egypt is full of kind, welcoming people. All they want is to learn about you and take a photo with you, and complete strangers all over the city will be concerned with making sure you feel safe.

I read a lot of blog posts that warned of “passive aggressive groping” (where men pretend to brush by your bum) and endless catcalling prior to visiting. And warned that women should avoid eye contact with men as it would be perceived as flirting.

Well, the only touches I received from men were friendly handshakes. The worst of the catcalls was “how many hearts have you broken today?”. The only time I felt uncomfortable was when I was surrounded by school children requesting selfies and my cheeks were in physical pain from smiling too much.

Is Egypt safe ? Absolutely! While bad things can happen anywhere and everywhere, I never felt unsafe not even once during my time in Cairo.

Side Note: I traveled to Cairo with my husband and while I didn’t get the feeling that I would be uncomfortable in any situation without him, solo female travelers may attract more attention from men. 

Best Time to Visit Cairo

Stained Glass Windows in the Coptic Museum, Cairo, Egypt by Wandering Wheatleys

October until April is generally considered the best time to visit Egypt and Cairo is no exception. The weather is more bearable than in the sweltering summer months. High temperatures in the winter months range from 57-72°F and in summer the highs can reach 104°F. Rainfall is sparse.

During the off-season – May to September – you’ll find that tourist sites are less crowded and prices are generally lower. You’ll likely want to find a pool around mid-day.

TIP:   You’ll find a very different atmosphere if you happen to visit Egypt during the holy month of Ramadan . It takes place in the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. Muslims must fast from dawn until dusk during that month . Most businesses operate on a reduced schedule because they are only allowed to work six hours/per day.

How Long to Spend in Cairo

We recommend spending 3 days in Cairo – which gives you enough time to explore the Cairo Citadel, the Khan el-Khalili market, Coptic Cairo, the Egyptian Museum, and the Great Pyramids of Giza .

Time not an issue? Consider spending a night in Giza at a hotel with a view of the Pyramids . Waking up to the sun rising over the last ancient wonder of the world is a memory you won’t soon forget.

How to Budget for Your Trip to Cairo

Egypt is probably one of the cheapest countries we’ve visited up to date. The tourism industry collapsed resulting in four years of high inflation after the Egyptian revolution in 2011. You’ll probably spend a lot less than you’re expecting, so keep in mind when it comes to budgeting for Egypt .

Our 45-minute Uber ride from Cairo to Giza cost us less than $3 USD. Our thick American brains cannot figure out how the price of both gas and time could possibly make that trip worth it for the driver!

We ate huge, delicious meals for about the same price as the taxi. It’s worth it to opt for luxury accommodations in Egypt as your money will go a lot further here than you’re probably used to! You can take a luxury cruise down the Nile or stay in an all-inclusive on the Red Sea for a fraction of what a similar experience would cost you in the USA or Europe.

What to Pack for Egypt

Mosque of Muhammad Ali, Cairo Citadel, Egypt by Wandering Wheatleys

Women are expected to cover their knees and shoulders as mentioned earlier, but Egypt can be incredibly hot! We recommend wearing long, comfortable pants, button-down shirts, long dresses, and a scarf to cover your head when you enter mosques.

A few of my favorite Egyptian staples:

  • A floor-length, short-sleeved comfy maxi dress
  • A lightweight scarf
  • Comfortable but cute close-toed walking shoes
  • A foldable brimmed hat
  • Wide leg wrinkle-free pants

Getting Around Cairo

  • The Cairo International Airport (CAI) is a hub to get to/from Cairo and Giza. It’s located about 13 miles Northeast of Old Cairo (where you’ll probably be staying).
  • Giza is just a short 30-minute drive from Cairo so it’s easy to do as a day trip if you’re short on time. Although, we would highly recommend spending a few days in each place.
  • Uber has made its way to Cairo! Taxis are everywhere but, as with other large cities in the world, taxi drivers prefer to keep rides for tourists off the meter. Getting around Cairo is incredibly inexpensive, regardless of your method of transportation, unless you hire a guide to accompany you.
  • Decided to rent a car (or even just end up in a car at night)? You’ll notice that many people drive with just their low beams on. Sometimes with no headlights at all. Some Egyptians believe that headlights make driving more difficult at night and have been known to get irritated with drivers who don’t comply. Also, we would NOT recommend renting a car unless you are well-versed in navigating lawless roadways. We were on a mission to find a dent-free vehicle anywhere in Cairo to no avail.

TIP:  Hiring a driver to take you to the sights around Cairo is fairly common. You can expect the price to vary considerably depending on if you just hire a driver or if you have an English-speaking guide to show you around as well.

We even ran into one couple who had hired a private security guard to accompany them on their tour of Cairo. Of course, a tip will be expected so plan on an extra 50-100 LE depending on the length of time that you spend touring the city.

Where to Stay in Cairo

cairo egypt travel blog

There are hundreds of places to stay in Cairo. However, there is only one that offers  5-star luxury in a garden oasis on an island right in the middle of this big, bustling metropolis . The Cairo Marriott Hotel sits on six acres of amazing gardens on Gezira Island and provides a tranquil reprise from the city chaos outside of it.

The original building was a palace, constructed in 1869 by the ruler of Egypt, Khedive Ismail. The Marriott gained management of the property in the 1970s. It has done a fantastic job of preserving the history and architecture of the palace while adding modern-day luxuries.

Cairo Marriott, Cairo, Egypt

Elaborate restaurants, ballrooms, and lounge areas are filled with ornate gold mirrors, plush carpets, intricate latticework, and beautiful artwork throughout. They create the illusion that you have stepped back in time and gained royal status. Large conferences and lavish weddings are commonplace here and for good reason. The property is absolutely stunning!

Views of the Nile, Cairo Marriott, Egypt by Wandering Wheatleys

Wake up every morning and enjoy a cup of coffee from your spacious balcony overlooking the Nile River. Then, head downstairs to try their lavish breakfast spread. You’ll find everything from traditional Egyptian flavors, made-to-order omelets, a selection of charcuterie, cheeses and loaves of bread, and everything else in-between!

You may never want to venture off the property! It has 14 delicious and diverse restaurants and bars, a state-of-the-art fitness center, an inviting pool, and even an in-house casino. But if you do decide to explore more than just the Cairo Marriott, we’ll tell you everything you need to know in order to see all of the highlights of this sprawling city.

TIP:  Keep small change on you to tip the bellboys, the housekeepers, and any other helpful hotel staff members. 

What to Do in Cairo

Egyptian Lamps in Khan el-Khalili, Cairo, Egypt by Wandering Wheatleys

The Great Pyramids of Giza – Of course, there’s no way you would come to Cairo and miss visiting the Pyramids. They are bound to be an unforgettable experience!

Citadel of Cairo – the citadel was constructed for protection against the Crusaders between 1176 and 1183 AD. It was the seat of the Egyptian government until the 19th century when Khedive Ismail moved to his brand new palace. The present-day Citadel contains three mosques and three museums. It offers breathtaking views of the city below. Go early as the courtyards offer little shade. ( Open 8 am – 5 pm except on Fridays during prayer. Entrance fee:100 LE/person)

Mosque-Madrassa of Sultan Hassan – this mosque was commissioned by Sultan Hassan who ruled over the region twice – once at only 13 years old. Construction began in 1356 AD and was completed three years later “without even a single day of idleness.”

The Egyptian Museum – containing approximately 160,000 items, this museum houses  the world’s most extensive collection of pharaonic antiquities. ( Open 9 am – 5 pm every day. Entrance fees: 120 LE/person for just the museum or 240 LE/person to visit the mummy rooms as well. Thursdays and Sundays the museum is open during the evening from 5:30 pm – 9 pm, but you’ll pay a higher entrance fee. If you want to take photos with a camera you’ll be charged an extra 50 LE for photography and 300 LE for video).

Khan El-Khalili – a large market that offers typical Egyptian souvenirs that tourists will go nuts over. Don’t forget that their first offered price is never their final price!

Coptic Cairo – a unique area within Old Cairo containing six churches that date back to the early Christian Era between the pharaonic religion and the arrival of Islam.

Amr Ibn Al-Aas Mosque – originally built in 641–642 AD, it is the first mosque built on the African continent.

Where to Eat in Cairo

Lamb at Saraya Gallery, Cairo Marriott, Egypt

For an upscale, immaculate 5-star dining experience while being serenaded by soft piano music, Saraya Gallery is a lavish restaurant located inside the Cairo Marriott. Start with the traditional French onion soup, the slightly spicy nicoise salad, and a glass of Egyptian chardonnay. For your main course, either the rack of lamb or the filet of fish in hollandaise sauce is spectacular. And don’t dare leave without sampling their creme brulee trilogy!

The Garden Promenade Café in the Cairo Marriott gardens is a popular spot among Cairo’s elite for a casual lunch or dinner. They offer classic American dishes with stunning views of both the palace and the courtyard.

You can try quite a few Egyptian specialties at Zooba , also located on Gezira Island. Try the Classic Koshari, the Ful, and the Spicy Pepper Taamia – this filling meal will cost you less than a burger at Mcdonald’s!

For a stuffed pigeon right in the heart of the bustling Khan al Khalili market, try Naguib Mahfouz . If you can’t stomach it, you really can’t go wrong with anything on their menu.

TIP:  A 10% tip is customary for servers in Cairo although many restaurants add a service charge to your bill. If that is the case you may give a bit extra if your server went above and beyond.

Must-Try Egyptian Foods

Hamam Mahshi (stuffed pigeon) by Wandering Wheatleys

Koshari  – you might think that the person who created this dish hadn’t been to the grocery in a while and just threw everything they had left in the cupboard into a pot. Often referred to as a “poor man’s dish”, koshari is made of rice, macaroni, lentils, chickpeas, onion, and tomato sauce and tastes a bit like spaghetti (but better).

Hamam Mahshi – don’t let the fact that this dish is actually a stuffed pigeon turn you off. Sure Americans refer to pigeons as rat birds but we also can’t live without bacon which comes from garbage-eating pigs. You can’t leave Cairo without trying this specialty!

Fiteer Baladi – Egypt’s version of pizza (but a bit less healthy, if that’s even possible) is layers of buttery, delicious filo dough either served plain or stuffed with savory or sweet fillings.

Shawarma – this is a staple all over the Middle East and for good reason – it’s delicious and cheap! But some might argue that the best shawarma can be found in Egypt. Be sure to try some while exploring the city.

Taamia – quite similar to the classic falafel, but made with split fava beans rather than chickpeas.

Ful – a simple dish of cooked fava beans served with oil, cumin, and other spices, and occasionally topped with tahini. Eat it like chili or as a dip for your pita bread!

Where to Drink in Cairo

Billiard Bar at Cairo Marriott, Egypt by Wandering Wheatleys

In Islam, the consumption of alcoholic beverages is generally forbidden in the Qur’an. However, some choose to imbibe depending on personal beliefs. You won’t find as much of a “bar scene” here as in Europe or the US, but there are plenty of restaurants and bars that cater to foreigners. You’re more likely to find Egyptians smoking shisha (flavored tobacco out of a water pipe) than drinking alcohol. We’ve recommended a few good spots to partake in if you so choose.

Billiard Bar is nestled away behind the Saraya Gallery Restaurant on the ground floor of the Cairo Mariott. Due to its hidden location, mood lighting, and lavish decor, it feels a bit like stepping back in time and into a speakeasy.

Cairo Jazz Club is a fun place to catch a live show and rub elbows with the young and hip of Cairo. If you plan to arrive after 10 pm a reservation is recommended.

The Tap Maadi offers a casual atmosphere, good food, and live nightly entertainment.

Sugar & Spice  is nestled in the middle of a trendy shopping area just west of Gezira Island. Fancy coffee drinks, comfortable chairs, and shisha make this a popular spot with the local Egyptian women.

Egyptian Nights  is also located inside the Cairo Marriott and offers authentic Egyptian food, nightly entertainment, and shisha. It’s the perfect late night hangout!

Any other captivating Cairo treasures that we missed? Comment below so we can add them to the list! 

Planning a visit to Egypt? Check out our favorite books and travel guides.

Egypt Travel Guide by Lonely Planet


Captivating Cairo: What to do in the capital of Egypt by Wandering Wheatleys

Val grew up in Portland, Oregon but moved to Oahu on a whim back in 2013. She sold her house and all of her belongings and bought a one-way ticket. Since then she’s taken two around-the-world trips and has visited 60-ish countries while living out of a duffel bag. Val started documenting the Wandering Wheatleys travels back in 2013 as a way to update friends and family about her whereabouts and to relay humorous daily interactions. The only readers were her mom and her mother-in-law but that didn’t stop her! These days you’ll find Val dreaming up future trips, creating new travel content, managing a team of amazing travel enthusiasts, and chasing around her two adorable but naughty kids.

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10 thoughts on “captivating cairo: all you need to know before you go”.

cairo egypt travel blog

Loving the pictures and outfits. The hotel looks amazing although I stayed at the Meridian pyramids which as you can imagine, had views of the pyramids so was pretty happy there. The Egyptian Museum is on my list of the top five museums I have ever visited. It is incredible. So much so that I even visited twice and I am not a fan of museums generally.

cairo egypt travel blog

Did you have a guide for the museum? We didn’t and we were so confused about what was going on! Lol.

cairo egypt travel blog

I went to Cario, years ago and was blown away by the Pyramids. The Egyptian Museum is fascinating, apart from some of the artifacts are in the British Museum in London, so I had to go there to see the rest! The Marriott Hotel looks beautiful and your photos you took on the grounds are lovely. I wouldn’t mind staying in a palace and I cannot believe Uber is in Cario!

cairo egypt travel blog

After visiting Marrakech I’d love to explore more of northern Africa . The Cairo Marriott has got to be the most luxurious Marriott I’ve ever seen. This is a great guide for a first time visit to Cairo.

cairo egypt travel blog

Wow, this is such a detailed and well written post! I was especially interested in the food part and it didn’t dissapoint. I’d love to try the Koshari, especially because “poor peoples” food is often the most authentic and delicious. Thank you for the tip with the mummy room, I have to go and see that massive mummified crocodile! I’ll definitely save this article on Pinterest as well 🙂

cairo egypt travel blog

This is such a great comprehensive guide to Cairo, and the photos are stunning too! Such a good idea to pack a red dress, makes everything fabulous!

cairo egypt travel blog

Thanks for such a complete guide! I feel like I am all set and ready to go for a trip after reading this post! Don’t even have to do much extra research! Also, the Cairo Marriott Hotel looks absolutely gorgeous! Would definitely want to stay there if I go!

cairo egypt travel blog

Cairo has been on my bucket list for quite a while. I was told that it is a lot more expensive than it used to be so thanks for pointing out that the value of the Egyptian pound has dropped.

cairo egypt travel blog

First of all, what a well made comprehensive guide to Cairo. Bookmarked in case my travels take me there. $3 for a 45 minute Uber ride! That’s crazy! The Cairo Marriott looks pretty fabulous!

cairo egypt travel blog

Ever since I was a teen I was fascinated by Egyptian culture. Pharaohs, pyramids, the Sphinx, the Nile, and hieroglyphics. I’m glad you touched on safety with regards to the people but I’m concerned about safety with regards to extremists. As Cairo was just recently in the news. When I hear those stories it makes me put the breaks on visiting. I know the news exaggerates stories but how can you be sure. When I do go I will refer to this post as a guide.

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Cairo travel blog — the fullest cairo travel guide for first-timers.

cairo egypt travel blog

Cairo, a destination that must always be on the list of “Must-Visit Places” of any visitor. Cairo has its arrogant Pyramids, defying the test of time, a mysterious Sphinx, Islamic architectural works that are completely different from other places. Cairo is a city full of charm and contrasts. Standing in Cairo, you will feel sorry for the distant past. Sometimes you will lose patience because of the traffic, chaos but Cairo brings you timeless history and breathtaking architecture and delicious food. The beauty of Cairo is difficult to appreciate at first, but if you have more time than spending two short days for the Pyramids and the Sphinx, you will see a historic, different and captivating Cairo.

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cairo egypt travel blog

Discovering the treasures of the Egyptian Museum, wandering the mysterious market, tasting the legendary koshary or taking a cruise on the Nile River are experiences in Cairo that you will never forget when traveling to Cairo, Egypt.

cairo egypt travel blog

So, is Cairo worth visiting, how to visit Cairo, what to do in Cairo? Let’s check out our Cairo blog (Cairo travel blog) with the fullest Cairo travel guide (Cairo tourist guide, Cairo guide) from how to get to Cairo, best places to visit as well as top things to do in Cairo to help you maximize your trip as follows!

cairo egypt travel blog

Down the historic Nile River, ancient Egyptian civilization left humanity with brilliant achievements. But perhaps Cairo is where the most quintessential things are “kept”. A city with the only remaining wonder, buildings tinged with time, hustle and bustle of life… creating an enchanting yet contradictory look.

cairo egypt travel blog

Cairo is the place where the most quintessential things are “preserved”. It is the wonder of the Pyramid that defies time, the Sphinx is full of unanswered mysteries, unique Islamic architectural works.

Overview of Cairo (#cairo travel blog)

cairo egypt travel blog

Cairo is a large city located in the Northern region of Egypt and is also the capital of the country of Egypt. Cairo city is located right next to the legendary Nile River. With a population of more than 22 million people, Cairo is currently one of Africa’s largest cities and also the 19th largest city in the world. The city of Cairo has a long history. Ancient Cairo dates back to 641, when the Arab commander Amr Ibn Al-Aas successfully conquered Egypt. The modern city of Cairo was founded in 969, under the Tunisian Fatimid dynasty.

cairo egypt travel blog

Cairo is closely associated with ancient Egypt, as the famous Giza pyramid complex and the ancient city of Memphis are located within its geographical area.

Situated close to the Nile Delta, Cairo was founded by the Fatimid dynasty in 969, but the land that makes up the city today was home to ancient national capitals whose ruins can still be seen in parts of Old Cairo. Cairo has long been the center of the region’s political and cultural life, and is known as the “city of a thousand minarets” because of its famous Islamic architecture.

vendors streets in egypt

Cairo is famous and known all over the world for its rich and fascinating history with many mysterious legends. Egypt has a total of 97 large and small pyramids, but the pyramids near Cairo and Giza are the most famous, pyramids such as Khufu pyramid, Khafre pyramid, Djoser pyramid… are between 4,400 and 4,600 years old. In particular, the Giza and Saqqara pyramids were the first pyramids built by architect Imhotep.

With its northern location in Egypt, on both banks of the Nile River, Cairo has long been a place associated with many brilliant dynasties of the past. And the most prominent is ancient Egypt, with the famous Giza pyramid complex and the ancient city of Memphis that still exists today.

cairo egypt travel blog

When to visit? (#cairo blog)

cairo egypt travel blog

November – April: This is the best time to visit Cairo because the weather is cool, not too hot. However, this is peak time so the number of tourists will be very crowded and prices will also increase.

cairo egypt travel blog

May – August: Summer in Cairo is very hot, however this is the low season so the number of visitors is small and prices are quite cheap. From June to August is the hottest months in northern Egypt, especially the capital Cairo, the temperature can reach more than 40 degrees Celsius. At this time there can also be sandstorms, dust clouding the sky, traffic jams and scarcity of drinking water, so this is not the right time to travel to Egypt.

cairo egypt travel blog

You can go to Cairo in the months around June or September, when the weather is not too hot or rainy, there are fewer people at tourist attractions and prices are reasonable.

And one point to note, Cairo city has a very large temperature difference between day and night. I went in the winter when it was 9 degrees Celsius at night but during the day it was up to 24 degrees Celsius. Please pay attention to choose appropriate clothing.

cairo egypt travel blog

How to get to Cairo? (#cairo travel guide)

From Vietnam, there is currently no direct flight to Cairo. You can buy a ticket from Hanoi/Saigon to transit in a third country such as Thailand, Malaysia, Dubai… or the most economical way is to buy a ticket from Vietnam to Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur and then fly to Cairo from there. There are many airlines flying to Cairo or Aswan city such as Gulf Air, Turkish Airlines, Qatar Airlines, Emirates Airlines… with many reasonable prices and time frames. Check out Google Flights , Skyscanner , Kayak to hunt cheap airfares.

cairo egypt travel blog

From the airport to downtown Cairo, there are 3 types of means of transportation:

Bus: The cheapest way to get from the airport to central Cairo is to take the airport bus in front of Terminal 1. Every 30 minutes, from 7:50 am to 6:15 pm, the bus will take you to Ramses train station in the city center, from here you can take the metro to other places. Bus price is about 5EGP/person.

Taxi: Taxis will be faster than buses, but be sure to negotiate the price with the driver in advance. The taxi price from the airport to the city center is about 150 EGP.

Rent a shuttle: This is the fastest and most convenient way to get from Cairo airport to the city center for about 20USD. You can refer to and book private transfer services via the link.

Getting around Cairo (#cairo travel blog)

cairo egypt travel blog

Cairo’s public transportation system is quite developed (including a metro system). If your group has a small number of people, you can absolutely use this system.

Our group has 5 people, so traveling by public transport will not be very optimal. So we rented a 7-seat car and driver to take us around the city (and to the airport).

Actually, this is a very right decision. Because firstly, it is convenient, saving time finding directions and calling a car. Second, our driver was very nice, introducing us to the unique features of the city that only locals know.

Metro: The cheapest and fastest way to get around Cairo is the metro, it only costs you from 7EGP per trip. However, the metro does not reach every location in the city, so if you go somewhere other than the metro line, you will have to combine taxis, walking, etc.

cairo egypt travel blog

Taxi: Before getting in a taxi, you must ask the driver if the meter works and clearly agree on the price, negotiate the specific destination and price to avoid being scammed. Some examples for your reference: from Tahir square to the old town costs about 13EGP, from the old town to Khan el-Khalili market costs 10EGP, Tahir square to Giza Pyramid costs about 40EGP.

cairo egypt travel blog

Buy a tour: If you want to go to places far from Cairo such as the Step Pyramid, Red pyramid, Memphis… Buying a tour is the best way. You won’t have to worry about traffic, won’t be afraid of being scammed, and will have a tour guide with you. You can buy tours at hotels or travel companies in Cairo.

Self-driving cars: I honestly don’t recommend driving yourself in Cairo because of the extremely heavy traffic and frequent traffic jams.

Where to go and what to do in Cairo?

The Egyptian capital is a fascinating metropolis with lots of interesting aspects to explore. On the one hand, it is rich in history with foundations dating back to the 10th century, with the ancient sites of Giza and Saqqara that every tourist wishes to visit. On the other hand, it’s a cosmopolitan destination with a diverse culinary scene, world-class art galleries, epic concert venues and swanky shopping malls. Mosques cover some areas of the city, while others are dominated by synagogues or Coptic churches. Whatever your interests, one thing is for sure: Cairo has something for you.

cairo egypt travel blog

When Egypt flourished, peaked more than 4,000 years ago and then declined in the early years of the common era, civilization in other places was just beginning.

Great Pyramid of Giza (#cairo travel blog)

The Great Pyramid of Giza includes three pyramids with different names: Khufu, Menkaure and Khafre. Many theories believe that this great work was built in about 20 years from 2560 BC, this is the only ancient world wonder remaining today. Khufu is the largest pyramid with a height of 146m (equivalent to a 40-storey building). According to scientists’ calculations, building the Khufu pyramid required 5.9 million tons of stone and 20,000 craftsmen for 20 years. Today, Giza still has many unexplained mysteries such as Giza being built exactly on the median line dividing the world, the 3 peaks of the Giza pyramid align exactly with the 3 main stars in the constellation of Orion?

cairo egypt travel blog

Egypt’s most recognizable landmark, the Pyramids of Giza, are located on the outskirts of Cairo. Here you will find three separate pyramid complexes including the Great Pyramid of Khufu, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World that still stands today. The Giza Pyramids, dating back some 4,500 years to the Fourth Dynasty of Egypt’s Old Kingdom, are a monumental testament to the incredible skill of ancient architects.

cairo egypt travel blog

Sphinx (#cairo blog)

The Sphinx statue is located in front of Giza. There are many theories that the Sphinx was carved as a god to guard and protect the Great Pyramids. The statue has the body of a lion, and the head of a man with a Royal style headgear.

cairo egypt travel blog

The statue is made of limestone in the shape of a lion’s head and body, placed in front of the Khafre pyramid in a prostrate position overlooking the Sahara desert as a deity guarding the Pharaoh’s eternal sleep.

cairo egypt travel blog

Usually gods in Egyptian religion are depicted with animal heads and human bodies, but the Great Sphinx is the opposite. The head wears a Nemes scarf – an outfit reserved only for Pharaohs, showing wisdom and control while the lion’s body symbolizes strength, this means that strength is under control, it represents strength, demonstrate the supreme authority of the Pharaohs.

Step Pyramid of Djoser

Built at Saqqara about 4,700 years ago, the Djoser step pyramid (Step Pyramid) was the first Egyptian pyramid with 6 stepped floors, 62 m high covered with limestone. This is also the largest and oldest stone construction, just after the stone city in Peru. This first pyramid was built as a burial place for Pharaoh Djoser’s body. Prime Minister Imhotep was assigned by Pharaoh Djoser to do this task.

cairo egypt travel blog

Later, Imhotep was deified because of his incredible achievements for Egypt. The Pyramid of Djoser was originally built as a mastaba – that is, a mausoleum with a rectangular shape, a flat roof and sloping sides. After many expansions, the tomb structure has become a 62 m high pyramid with 6 floors built on top of each other.

Red Pyramid and Bent Pyramid

Bent Pyramid and Red Pyramid were built by Pharaoh Sneferu. The bend pyramid is a 101 m high structure, with a base of nearly 188 m, with not only two inclined angles but also two entrances. This is the most unusual pyramid compared to the others as the first 49 m largely retains the smooth outer limestone shell and is built at a steep angle of 54 degrees, then tapers towards the top.

cairo egypt travel blog

The Red Pyramid was built entirely of red sandstone, with a height of 104m, ranking fourth among the tallest pyramids built in Egypt. This is humanity’s first success in building a pyramid with a steep surface. The path down to the crypt is quite steep and very low, you will have to bend down close to the ground to be able to crawl down. There are handrails on both sides and the ramp has wooden edges to prevent slipping. At the end of the steep ladder is a small tunnel with an almost vertical V-shaped dome, and continue climbing another wooden ladder to get to the bottom of the pyramid.

cairo egypt travel blog

Islamic Cairo (Medieval Cairo)

Muslims conquered Egypt in 641, then subsequent dynasties continuously built cities and magnificent architectural works. During the Mamluk period (from 1250 to 1517) was the peak period of Islam with countless mosques and mausoleums being built. Most mosques are free and allow non-Muslims to visit.

Cairo Citadel

  • Address: 27H6+G27, Privet Entrance Bel Kalaa, Al Abageyah, El Khalifa, Cairo Governorate 4252360, Egypt
  • Tel: (+20) 0-19654
  • Opening hours: 09:00 – 17:00
  • Web: [email protected]
  • Ticket price: 300 EGP – Adults | 150 EGP – Children – Buy tickets in advance here

cairo egypt travel blog

Cairo Citadel is a Muslim fortress built in the Middle Ages in the capital Cairo, with the purpose of protecting the city of Cairo and Fustat from attacks by the Crusaders. Today, Cairo Citadel is one of the most famous attractions in Cairo.

The Citadel was the home of Egypt’s rulers for nearly 700 years, built in 1176 by the famous Muslim commander Salah ad-Din (also known as Saladin) to protect the capital Cairo from foray. Citadel today is one of the attractive tourist place in Cairo.

Muhammad Ali Mosque

Citadel is famous because it has the Muhammad Ali Mosque with bold Ottoman architecture (Turkey), built by Sultan Muhammad Ali’s first son, Tusun Pasha, to commemorate him.

cairo egypt travel blog

The mosque is very prominent with two soaring minaret towers and silver domes, this work was built under the direction of Greek architect Yusuf Bushnak from Istanbul and the prototype of this mosque is the mosque Yeni Islam in the capital of Turkey. The main part of the mosque is built on a square surface with an area of 41x 41m. The main dome is 21m in diameter, 52m high, gilded and elaborately carved. In addition to the main dome, there are four side domes and four secondary domes. These domes make the space inside much larger than it actually is. The inside of the church is especially majestic with a blue dome and gorgeous crystal lights.

cairo egypt travel blog

City of the Dead

City of the Dead in Cairo is the largest cemetery in the world. Despite this, the area is still home to more than half a million people.

cairo egypt travel blog

In the past, this area was the burial place of the rich and aristocratic class (some tombs were even very large in scale). But due to war and urbanization, poor and homeless people have moved here to take refuge.

Then gradually these homeless people became grave caretakers for these graves. And of course they are allowed by the homeowner to live in this land. From there was born the “City of the Dead” area.

cairo egypt travel blog

Maybe this area will not be on the top list of must-visit areas when coming to Egypt. But for me, “City of the Dead” is what is most characteristic of this city and the whole country of Egypt, where “the dead is the source of the living”.

Cairo Old Town

Cairo’s Old Town is the area with the largest concentration of Islamic buildings in the world, with a full range of architectural schools built from the 10th to 17th centuries. This entire area was recognized by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage in 1979.

cairo egypt travel blog

The most prominent of these are works such as the Hanging Church. This is one of the oldest churches in Egypt, dating back about 1800 years. This church is located at a height of 6m above the ground and the distance from the ground to the main building is 29 steps, so it is also called “Staircase Church”. The Hanging Church has very delicate and sharp carvings on the wooden doors. It was once the headquarters of the Coptic Pope from the 7th to the 13th century.

cairo egypt travel blog

The Hanging Church is also known as the Church of the Virgin Mary. The Coptic Hanging Church in Cairo got its name because it was partially suspended above the Babylon Fortress. The current building dates back to the 7th century, and was preceded by another church built on the same site four centuries earlier. Therefore, it is believed to be one of Egypt’s oldest places of Christian worship.

Mosque-Madrasa of Sultan Hasan and Islamic Academy

Address: 27J4+WF7, El-Darb El-Ahmar, El Khalifa, Cairo Governorate 4292008, Egypt

cairo egypt travel blog

Built in the mid-14th century, the mosque and islamic school is one of the largest mosques in the world and it is an impressive architectural achievement of its time. Sultan Hassan Mosque is 150m long, the tallest tower is 68m high, the walls are 36m high and is a combination of many different decorative styles expressing strength and splendor, luxury and great beauty.

cairo egypt travel blog

Sophisticated and extremely majestic in design, the mosque’s facade is decorated with stone and marble. In the middle of the mosque’s courtyard is a domed fountain, surrounded by four soaring domed halls are four Islamic academies of four schools of Sunni Muslim thought: Shafi’i, Maliki, Hanafi and Hanbali.

Admission to Sultan Hassan Mosque includes admission to the neighboring Al Rifa’i Mosque. Although Al Rifa’I Mosque was built more than 400 years after Sultan Hassan, you will see many similarities between these two structures.

Ibn Tulun Mosque

  • Address: Ahmed Ibn Tolon Sq., Tolon, El Sayeda Zeinab, Cairo Governorate 4261342, Egypt

cairo egypt travel blog

Ibn Tulun is the oldest mosque in Cairo, built in 876 and made entirely of fired bricks. Ibn Tulun’s architecture is square, with an area of about 26,318m² including a central courtyard of about 92m². In the middle of the courtyard is a domed fountain, originally the dome was gilded but it collapsed in 968, the current dome was built in the 13th century. Ibl Tulun also has a Ziggurat minaret tower inspired by the architecture of the Great Mosque of Samarra in Iraq, you can climb to the top of the minaret and see the view of Cairo from above.

cairo egypt travel blog

  • Ticket price: 60 EGP – Adults | 30 EGP – Children – Buy tickets in advance here

Abdeen Palace Museum

cairo egypt travel blog

Abdeen Palace is the most famous royal palace in Cairo. Once the place where the government apparatus was located from 1874 to 1952, then converted into the presidential palace, Abdeen Palace is a historical witness to many important events of Egypt.

cairo egypt travel blog

  • Address: 26VW+7VP, El-Gomhoreya Square, Rahbet Abdin, Abdeen, Cairo Governorate, Egypt
  • Opening hours: 09:00 – 15:00
  • Ticket price: 60 EGP – Adults | 30 EGP – Children
  • Note: You will have to send the camera outside

Coptic Cairo

cairo egypt travel blog

The Christian community in Cairo makes up about 10% of Egypt’s population (i.e. more than 8 million people) and is the largest Christian community in the Middle East and North Africa. Egyptian Christianity belongs to a separate branch called Coptic. Some studies suggest that Christianity began to spread in Egypt about 30 years after Jesus’ death and that by about 300 AD, Alexandria had become one of the largest Christian centers along the Mediterranean coast.

Khan El Khalili Market

Mentioning the countries of the Middle East and North Africa means mentioning mysterious bazaar markets, where exquisite handicrafts, elaborate silverware, or rows of aromatic scents are sold. And Khan El Khalili market is a tourist destination in Cairo, Egypt, where you must definitely visit when traveling to this city.

cairo egypt travel blog

This market was established in 1382 with the original purpose of serving as a warehouse for merchants coming to Cairo to exchange goods. Later, as commercial activities became more and more vibrant, Khan-El-Khalili Bazzar gradually developed into a large and bustling commercial area like today.

cairo egypt travel blog

The market includes many shops filled with unique items. From traditional handicrafts such as wool carpets, leather goods, jewelry, lamps or perfumes and spices to high-end items such as gold, jade, jewelry…

St George’s Church

Once inside, you’ll immediately notice the vaulted wooden ceiling, marble pulpit, and an astonishing collection of religious icons. The church is where the apparition of the Virgin Mary was once witnessed (the name for events where the Virgin Mary is believed to have appeared at a certain location), open every day from 9am to 4pm.

cairo egypt travel blog

St George’s Greek Orthodox Church and Monastery is a beautiful complex. It was rebuilt in 1904 after the original building was destroyed by a fire.

Saints Sergius and Bacchus Church

cairo egypt travel blog

This is perhaps the most unique and historically fascinating church in Cairo. Not only is it the oldest church in Coptic Cairo, but it is also built over a cave. This is where Jesus, Saint Mary and Saint Joseph stayed during their trip to Egypt.

Egyptian Museum

The Egyptian Museum in Cairo can be considered one of the largest and greatest museums in the world. In addition to storing more than 120,000 artifacts, the museum is also famous for preserving the victory stele of Pharaoh Narmer and the massive treasure found in King Tutankkhamun’s tomb.

cairo egypt travel blog

There are so many antiques and mummies related to the history and culture of the great civilization that when entering the museum you will be overwhelmed. Egypt has many Pharaoh tombs, but almost all of them have been completely looted after thousands of years, only Pharaoh Tutankhamun’s tomb was still quite intact when discovered in 1923. Tutankhamun’s tomb is considered the The tomb is the smallest in the Valley of the Kings, but the amount of wealth found there is still staggering. The mummy was placed in 5 gilded coffins, the mask covering the mummy weighed 11kg in gold, extremely delicately carved.

cairo egypt travel blog

Located in Downtown Cairo – the heart of the Egyptian capital, the Egyptian Museum is the first Cairo experience for any traveler interested in the country’s ancient history. Since 1902, it has been a repository for artifacts unearthed at legendary archaeological sites such as the Valley of the Kings and Luxor.

cairo egypt travel blog

Today, the museum is somewhat overloaded with more than 120,000 items crammed into a 15-hectare space. Everything displayed here is of great value, including the treasures of Tutankhamun and the mummies of famous pharaohs (ancient Egyptian kings).

cairo egypt travel blog

The Egyptian Museum is open from 9am every day and costs 120 EGP/adult.

Address: El-Tahrir Square, Ismailia, Qasr El Nil, Cairo Governorate 4272083, Egypt Hours: 9 AM–5 PM

See the city with a “bird’s eye” view from Cairo Tower

Cairo Tower was completed in 1962, using funds donated by the US government to Egyptian President Nasser for political purposes. In order to protest this “bribery”, Nasser decided to use the money to build a tall tower as a symbol of resistance. The tower is located on Gezira Island today and is the tallest building in North Africa (187m).

cairo egypt travel blog

Once you reach the tower, you can admire the mosaics in the lobby, depicting landmarks of the now-defunct United Arab Republic. At the top of the tower there is an observation deck and a revolving restaurant where you can get a 360-degree view of Egyptian Cairo city from above and from every angle. Therefore, people often compare this to a “bird’s eye” sightseeing experience. Entrance tickets cost 60 EGP.

Explore the trendy Zamalek district on Gezira island

cairo egypt travel blog

Cairo is famous for its historic neighborhoods like Coptic Cairo and Islamic Cairo, but those looking for a bit of modern Egyptian culture should head to Zamalek. Located on the northern half of Gezira island, this is a trendy area filled with foreign embassies, upscale restaurants, art galleries and fashion boutiques.

SafarKhan Art Gallery is a bastion of contemporary Egyptian art, while the eclectic El Sawy Culture Wheel regularly hosts concerts, festivals, plays and engaging lectures.

cairo egypt travel blog

A must-have evening experience in Cairo is Le Pacha 1901, a floating venue with breathtaking views of the Nile, where you can enjoy dining at one of nine award-winning restaurants.

Go up Bab Zuweila – experience Cairo at a cheap price

One of three remaining gates in the city walls of Cairo’s Citadel, Bab Zuweila has stood there since the 11th century. Its twin towers served as a vantage point from which to observe approaching enemies, and during Mamluk era, the gate was known as an execution site.

cairo egypt travel blog

Today, Bab Zuweila is a historical relic where you can climb two minarets for breathtaking views stretching all the way to Cairo’s Citadel. Entrance fee is 15 EGP.

Enjoy the evening at the Cairo Opera House

When traveling to Cairo, you will come across a lot of impressive architecture. One of them is the Cairo Opera House located near the southern end of Gezira Island, the most highly regarded performing arts venue in the city. In addition to foreign music performances, the Theater also organizes traditional music nights with the participation of artists from the Cairo Opera Company, Cairo Symphony Orchestra and Cairo Opera Ballet Company.

cairo egypt travel blog

There are 7 performance spaces in total, from the Main Hall with more than 1,200 seats to the airy outdoor stage. Remember to check information on the theater website to update the latest performance schedule.

Extend your trip with a cruise on the Nile River

The longest river in the world, the Nile has been the lifeblood of every Egyptian civilization since ancient times. To feel its timeless majesty, book a cruise on this bustling body of water.

cairo egypt travel blog

Options are endless, including a romantic traditional wooden boat (felucca) cruise at sunset, or a multi-day trip to Luxor, stopping at famous attractions along the way such as the Valley kings, Karnak and Dendara. You can also take a boat to explore Cairo by destination within the city, admiring the beauty of Egypt’s past and present from a very different perspective.

What to eat?

Ful medames.

cairo egypt travel blog

Ful medames is one of the top famous Egyptian dishes consisting of fava beans cooked with spices and olive oil. Dried beans are often cooked until soft and served in the morning with eggs and pita bread. This rustic dish is often eaten for breakfast, you can buy it anytime during the day at street shops or restaurants serving local and middle eastern dishes.

Koshari (Koshary)

cairo egypt travel blog

Many of Cairo’s restaurants are eclectic, serving dishes from around the world. However, when you come here, don’t forget to enjoy typical Egyptian delicacies. Top-rated local restaurants include Abou Tarek in Downtown Cairo and Zööba in Zamalek. Among them, Abou Tarek is a famous place that appeared on CNN with only one dish on the menu: Koshary. Although koshary is simple, it encapsulates the essence of Egyptian cuisine.

egypt foods

Coming to the Egyptian capital Cairo, try a fast food dish called Koshari, a perfect combination of pasta, rice, lentils, green beans and caramelized onions covered with a layer of tomato sauce with garlic. According to local people, Koshari is very good for sleep. Koshari is a famous dish with a delicious and attractive flavor.

Hamam Mahshi (Stuffed Pigeon)

cairo egypt travel blog

Pigeon is stuffed with rice or “Green Wheat” and then fried. When enjoying this dish, you should pay attention to the small bones in the bird meat. This is one of the most loved dishes in Egypt. You will easily find this dish at the entrance to Khan El Khalili market in Cairo and at high-end restaurants.

cairo egypt travel blog

Karkade – Hibiscus tea

cairo egypt travel blog

The tea is purple in color, created from the red color of dried hibiscus flowers, boiled, cooled, then added a little sugar to dissolve. The water has a taste between sour and sweet, this is considered a drink with quite a great taste. With this type of tea you can also enjoy it hot like herbal tea and it gives you a lot of minerals to prevent high blood pressure.

Where to stay?

You should book a room in the central Cairo (near the Egyptian Museum) for convenience in going out and traveling.

However, the city center area is far from the Pyramid area. For convenience, before visiting the Pyramids, you can change hotels to the Giza area. Hotels around this Giza area have a direct view of the Pyramids, but are very dirty (when you open the window you can smell the smell of animal dung).

cairo egypt travel blog

Almost all hotels in Egypt are family-run and managed. There is no doubt about the quality: firstly, the rooms are very old, amenities are minimal, and secondly, the service is poor.

We were “sold” on our first night in Cairo. Yes, sold, you heard right, sold publicly right in the middle of the capital. The story is that we booked a hotel on booking.com, but when we arrived, we received a phone call from the hotel owner (we booked the hotel’s airport shuttle) that we were overbooked today. room already. We will transfer you to a nearby hotel of similar quality.

But no, the hotel they “sold” us was old and terribly bad (rooms were old, furniture was broken) and generally too bad. But because we only stay for one night, and we had just taken a long flight, we had no choice.

Below we recommend more best budget, mid-range and upscale hotels with good ratings and reviews you can refer to.

  • Kempinski Nile Hotel Cairo ( Agoda , Booking )
  • Fairmont Nile City ( Agoda , Booking )
  • Sonesta Hotel, Tower & Casino – Cairo ( Agoda , Booking )
  • Grand Nile Tower ( Agoda , Booking )
  • Pyramisa Suites Hotel Cairo ( Agoda , Booking )
  • Steigenberger Hotel El Tahrir Cairo ( Agoda , Booking )
  • Cairo Marriott Hotel & Omar Khayyam Casino ( Agoda , Booking )
  • Le Meridien Cairo Airport ( Agoda , Booking )

cairo egypt travel blog

Check out top and best hotels in Cairo on Agoda.com or Booking.com

Cairo itinerary 3 days

You should spend at least 3 days to explore Cairo. Because firstly, you will need time to rest after a day of flying, secondly, Cairo has many areas to visit and they are far apart (like the Giza Pyramid complex 20km from Cairo city center).

cairo egypt travel blog

On the first day of arrival, you should rest, then 1 day go to places in the city center, 1 day go to the Pyramid area.

You can refer to our Cairo travel itinerary below:

  • Day 0: Fly to Cairo
  • Day 1: Cairo Citadel – Abdeen Palace Museum – Mosque of Ibn Tulun – City of the Dead – Khan el-Khalili Market
  • Day 2: Visit the Giza Pyramid complex
  • Day 3: Egyptian Museum

In addition, from Cairo you can go out to Alexandria city for the same day. For convenience, you can buy a tour. There are many units offering this tour but the prices are quite varied. You can go to the following page to see the listed tour prices.

cairo egypt travel blog

A few small notes when traveling to Cairo

  • Eat oranges, eat lots of oranges, not because they are nutritious or vitamin C, simply because they are so delicious.
  • Sit and drink tea at the bazaar market, immersing yourself in the local culture.
  • Bargain a lot, even in convenience stores, always finalize the price before any activity.
  • Drink non-alcoholic beer
  • Don’t wear white clothes, the reason is simple because it will get dirty very quickly and when washed here the color of your shirt will no longer be white.
  • Tourist manipulation is quite common in Cairo, as well as throughout Egypt. If in Vietnam, just tell the seller not to buy and he will leave. But in Egypt it’s not the case. Maybe it’s still there and they’re pulling it even harder.
  • Tips are quite common in Egypt, and many people take it for granted (even if the service they provide to customers is not good, they still ask for it).
  • Always bargain when buying goods (even in stores with listed prices) because Egyptians are always to charge high prices.
  • Buy a SIM card right at the airport. When leaving the baggage claim area, you will see counters selling sim cards from Vodafone, Orange… Choosing a sim will depend on your wallet as well as your usage needs. I bought Orange’s sim package because its price was the most reasonable.
  • Bring a mask because Cairo city, firstly, is very polluted, secondly, the smell of dung is everywhere.

Today, Egypt, with its series of ancient structures and unanswered mysteries, is considered one of the most attractive destinations in the world, attracting tens of millions of tourists each year.

cairo egypt travel blog

Some best day tours, trips, activities and transfer services, tickets in, from and to Cairo you can refer to

  • 2 Days Private Guided Tour around Cairo and Giza
  • Cairo Private Day tour to historical Pyramids
  • Private Transfer From Cairo Airport to Giza and Cairo
  • Cairo Private Day Tour to Egyptian Museum, Cairo Citadel & Bazaar
  • 5-Star Luxury Nile Maxim Dinner Cruise in Cairo
  • Alexandria Private Cultural Day Trip from Cairo
  • Private Full day tour to Islamic and Christian Cairo
  • Cairo Dinner Cruise with entertainment

cairo egypt travel blog

Read more Egypt guide here .

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Vanilla Papers

The Perfect 1 Day Cairo Itinerary (A Local’s Guide!)

Cairo is an underrated city full of hidden gems. Here’s my local’s guide to the perfect Cairo one day itinerary. 

After years of living in Cairo, I’m still exploring the city and discovering something new . And it’s a shame that many tourists often rush through here.

If you only have one day in Cairo – spend it wisely. Avoid the tourist traps and the overrated attractions. Focus on the experiences that are truly special and spend some time exploring them.

Cairo is a huge city with lots of traffic jams. A lot of online one-day itineraries don’t take this reality into account.

You’re not going to pack in a half dozen attractions across the city – that will only leave you exhausted.

But with a streamlined itinerary and some good planning, you can experience the best of Cairo in a single day.

Here’s my perfect one-day itinerary on how to spend 24 hours in Cairo wisely. I’m a longtime expat living in Cairo and this is the advice I wish I knew when I first visited!

Table of Contents

Cairo one day itinerary:

1. giza and the pyramids.

cairo one day itinerary

The pyramids are very touristy – but also very much worth seeing.

The Giza pyramid complex should be your first stop on the ideal one-day Cairo itinerary. The pyramids are genuinely breathtaking when you see them for the first time.

And they still impress me after all these years, when I’m on my way to dinner and catch a glimpse of their dusty peeks through the taxi window.

But these ancient wonders are not surrounded by desert, as they’re often shown in photos.

They’re in the middle of Giza, a densely packed city that’s one of the largest in Egypt. And Giza is technically just outside of Cairo – which means at least an hour in a taxi.

The Giza pyramids are also notorious for aggressive vendors, persistent guides that offer you their “bargain” services, and determined camel and horse riders.

It’s not surprising that many tourists (and Egyptians) remember their visit to the pyramids as stressful and hectic at best.

Here’s my advice to avoid the hassle

cairo one day itinerary

  • Head out early in the morning to avoid traffic: The pyramids open at 8 am so arrive as early as possible to avoid the crowds and get your tickets. If you’re visiting in the summer, get to the plateau as early as possible to avoid the day’s heat.
  • Take a taxi:  The city’s white taxis are notorious for overcharging tourists, rigging their meters and taking you in circles through the suburbs. And while most of them are honest, it’s better not to take chances. Use Uber or Careem for all of your rides.
  • Hire a tour guide: I love solo travel, but I wouldn’t recommend it in Giza. Hire a local Egyptian tour guide and you’ll get a lot more from your visit. A guide will save you time at the plateau and take you to hidden gems you’d otherwise miss. The aggressive vendors will also leave you alone if you don’t appear lost and alone.
  • Skip the souvenirs: They’re overpriced and include more bickering and bartering than they’re worth. Focus on the history and majesty of the pyramids and leave the shopping for later.
  • Eat well:  It’s tempting to grab lunch from the local falafel (aka taamiya ) stand, but don’t take chances with your gut this early in the day. Head to Pizza Hut (yes, really) right across from the Sphinx for what’s probably the world’s best fast-food restaurant view. For a more leisurely lunch, head to 9 Pyramids Lounge (reservations recommended,) which is Giza’s first restaurant right on the plateau. Right across the street, the Marriott Mena House has some incredible restaurants that are pricier but worth it for the ambiance.

Giza plateau guide:

cairo one day itinerary

Allow 2 or 3 hours for visiting the plateau, and dress comfortably in the summer. Thin and loose linen works best, while jeans or a tight t-shirt are nightmares in the humidity.

There are two entrances to the plateau. One is directly in front of the Sphinx, and the other is on a hill near the Great Pyramid. I would recommend entering at the second entrance and then making your way down towards the Sphinx.

The complex includes Khufu’s Pyramid , known as the Great Pyramid of Giza, which is the biggest and oldest of the three pyramids. It’s the only site of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World that’s still intact. There are two smaller pyramids called Khafre and Menkaure , and three even smaller pyramids containing Khufu’s wives and sisters.

The Sphinx is the other famous landmark of the Giza plateau: an enormous limestone statue with the body of a lion and a human’s head.

Read 5 Essential Tips To Visiting The Pyramids Of Giza  for more tips on experiencing the pyramids without the hassle!

2. Khan el Khalili

cairo one day itinerary

After a morning at the pyramids and lunch with a view, take an Uber to Khan el Khalili – Cairo’s famous medieval souq. Its dense, vibrant alleys are packed with historic mosques, Ottoman-era mansions and plenty of shopping.

Islamic Cairo is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that dates back to the 14th century. And it’s lined with masterpieces of medieval Islamic architecture and some of Egypt’s most beautiful mosques.

Split your time at Khan el Khalili into two parts. First: take a guided walking tour so you don’t miss any of the incredible mosques and historical sites. Second: take a few hours to wander, shop for souvenirs and explore the small alleys full of scarves, perfumes and spices.

Khan el Khalili walking tour

moez street cairo

If you want to tackle Khan el Khalili on your own, take an Uber to Azhar Mosque and start your walk from there. This street map is a great start to plan your tour. It features all the main attractions you’ll find along Moez Street – the main pathway through the souq.

Al Azhar Mosque is a gorgeous, recently renovated masterpiece. Founded in 970, it’s now regarded as the highest authority in the Islamic world for the study of Sunni theology. It boasts an open-air courtyard paved in white marble and surrounded by Mamluk-era minarets.

Cross Azhar Street and have a tea with mint at El-Fishawi cafe , one of the city’s oldest cafes and the famed hangout of Egyptian novelist Naguib Mahfouz. It’s an old cafe in a narrow alley that’s always lively with musicians and groups of friends smoking shisha.

And don’t miss Bab al-Ghuri , a gate filled with shops selling colorful lamps. At night the lights illuminate the historic walls and the picture-perfect arches.

Islamic Cairo landmarks you shouldn’t miss:

cairo one day itinerary

  • The Mosque-Madrassa of Sultan Barquq: One of the city’s greatest architectural feats from the Mamluk era, this religious complex has a stunning courtyard with a richly decorated interior.
  • Bayt Al-Suhaymi: This historic Ottoman house is an example of how a wealthy merchant lived in medieval Cairo. The house was built in 1648 with fine mashrabiya windows, marble floors and wood furniture. It’s on a narrow lane just off Moez Street and you’ll need a ticket to enter.
  • Al-Hakim Mosque: This unique mosque is named after a Fatimid caliph infamous for his bizarre laws. The mosque was used throughout its long history as a prison, a fortress for Napoleon and a school.

Read 11 Must-See Hidden Gems in Islamic Cairo for a deeper look at this gorgeous neighborhood.

Shopping in Khan el Khalili:

khan el khalili

Leave time to wander and browse for souvenirs during your Cairo one-day itinerary.

Souvenirs in Cairo range from the kitsch and plastic to the handmade. You’ll find anything from spices and alabaster figurines to pottery, lamps and applique wall hangings.

Don’t miss 26 Amazing Souvenirs to buy in Egypt for a complete guide to Cairo shopping.

3) Felucca ride and downtown Cairo

nile river

Wind down in the evening and give your feet a rest. Head to downtown Cairo and hire a traditional felucca sailboat for a trip down the Nile River. If you walk around the Qasr el Nil bridge towards the Four Seasons Nile Plaza, you can find a line of boats and negotiate a price.

For a quieter experience, head to the nearby leafy suburb of Maadi near the TGI Fridays. Get a felucca from there for a quieter and greener river sail.

what to see in cairo

Planning a Cairo one day itinerary can feel overwhelming. It’s a huge and bustling city, and there’s a lot to experience.

But with some wise planning – and a good guide – you can get a great taste of this vibrant city.

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Dee Nowak is the founder of Vanilla Papers. She keeps a daily journal and takes long walks on weekends. After a decade of slow living in Cairo, she's on a mission to help travelers navigate Egypt and the Middle East like a local. She loves simple living, journaling and local cultures.


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  6. The Perfect 1 Day Cairo Itinerary (A Local’s Guide!)

    You’re not going to pack in a half dozen attractions across the city – that will only leave you exhausted. But with a streamlined itinerary and some good planning, you can experience the best of Cairo in a single day. Here’s my perfect one-day itinerary on how to spend 24 hours in Cairo wisely.