Cairo is a bit of chaos sprinkled in with the magic of grand structures that were built thousands of years ago. You will look at things in Cairo and the ancientness (is that a word…) of it all will boggle your mind. I will be honest though, Cairo can be infuriating at times - but if you prepare for it with research beforehand and expectations as you land you’ll be just fine.
Because you need a lot of information to plan a successful trip to Cairo I’ve included some links below to help you jump to specific sections.
Best Time of Year to Visit Cairo | Do You Need a Visa to visit Cairo? | Best Airport in Cairo |
Cairo Airport Tips | Best Cairo Airport Hotels | How to Get Around Cairo |
Best Things to do in Cairo | Best Hotels in Cairo | Malaria in Cairo | Other Egypt Tips |
Guidebooks for Egypt
Best Time of Year to Visit Cairo
Cairo Shoulder Season
If you want to visit Cairo during their shoulder season you will have two short windows: the first from March to April and then later in the year from October to November. If you manage to make the stars align and can plan a trip during these months, congrats, you’ve really lucked out. There are truly some of the best months to visit Cairo.
Here are the pros of traveling to Cairo during their shoulder season:
Comfortable temperatures - making exploring easier.
Hotel rates will be lower which ensure a trip that is easier on your wallet.
Plus, most importantly, Cairo experiences a steep decline of tourists and crowds.
All of these reasons are why you should really try and visit Cairo - and the rest of Egypt as well - during the shoulder season. These things help make the (sometimes hard) trip to Egypt much more enjoyable.
Most Popular Month to Visit Cairo
The most popular time to visit Cairo, Egypt's capital, is during winter. Specifically, December through February. Many tourists flock to the famous pyramids because the days are warm and sunny without being too hot to handle. While the evenings are cool, breezy, and highly enjoyable. Of course, there are huge downsides to planning a trip to Cairo - or Egypt in general - during December and February. Most attractions will have swarms of tourists plus hotel prices will be very high.
Cheapest Month to Visit Cairo
If you want to find the best deals on hotels in Cairo - or again, Egypt in general - you can visit during the summer. But do be aware you will be battling the heat which can be brutal. Many have even stated it isn't worth the savings.
Do You Need a Visa For Egypt?
Yes, if you hold a USA passport you will need a visa to get into Egypt. There are two very easy ways to acquire a visa for Egypt.
The first is applying online for your visa before you arrive. Here is the link.
The second way is to simply get your visa when you arrive in Egypt. Personally, I wouldn’t worry about applying for your visa ahead of time. It is very easy to acquire one before you arrive. I have detailed the exact process for acquiring an Egypt travel visa below.
How To Get a Travel Visa for Cairo in The Airport
It may seem daunting but getting a travel visa for Cairo - and Egypt in general - once you land is actually very easy. Here is exactly how it works:
Once you land in Cairo you'll deboard the plane and walk a short distance to baggage claim. Visas are available at the bank counters near the baggage carousels located right before immigration. At the bank counter simply ask to buy a single entry ($25) or multiple entry ($30) visa. The most important thing you must remember is this: Payment for the visa is in US MONEY. While the bank counter will accept credit cards but they run the card as a cash advance. Running the card this way may include extra fees - it depends on the credit card you use.
Best Airport in Cairo, Egypt
The most popular way to get to Egypt is simply flying in from your home country. You will most likely fly into Cairo International Airport (Code: CAI). It is the second biggest airport in the entire African continent and services more than 16 million passengers a year. There are many daily flights via Egyptair - the national carrier. You'll also find Star Alliance (Delta) partners including Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa, Swiss, KLM and more.
It is very important that you realize Cairo airport is located on the north-eastern outskirts of the city at Heliopolis. The commute to your hotel in Cairo/Giza (most likely near the pyramids or the main square) will be at least an hour. My personal experience after landed involved a lot of waiting in traffic. My flight landed in Cairo around 6 pm - right when rush hour was starting. It took a full two hours to get to my hotel - Marriott Mena House.
Tips For Arrival in Cairo Airport
Because arriving in Cairo - and Egypt in general - can be overwhelming I am going to walk you through the process of getting from the airport to your hotel.
First off, before you leave the airport, exchange your money for Egyptian Pounds. It is best to do this even before going through customs. In the arrival hall, there are also ATMs for all major cards available.
Near the luggage carousel, there are usually many touts who will approach you and ask you questions saying they are "government" employees specifically there to help tourists. Ignore them (politely) this is a scam.
I suggest booking a car service to pick you up at the airport and take you to your hotel. Cairo airport even offers “Exclusive Services” that will pick you up at the gate, help you with all immigration procedures and assist you with your luggage. All this is done while you wait in a comfortable arrival lounge. The cost is only $50 (not bad really!) this price does not include the visa fees. To pre-book this call +202 16708 or visit this website. Warning: the website runs very slowly. As annoying as it is, I suggest calling.
Best Cairo Airport Hotels
Like I stated above, Cairo airport is located on the north-eastern outskirts of the city at Heliopolis and is a good hour away from most hotels in the actual city center of Cairo. If you are doing a quick layover in Cairo or have an early morning flight and want to stay near the airport the night before I suggest these three hotels.
Getting Around Cairo
Best Way to Get Around Cairo
The best way to get around Cairo is a private driver. It will give you the most peace of mind to have your own driver and price-wise it is extremely reasonable.
Taxi's in Cairo
You can hail a cab - usually a white sedan - very easily. These taxis are equipped with meters that are mostly used without any prompting. However, if you get in a taxi and the meter is not on you should definitely ask your driver to start it. Cabs in Cairo also have AC pretty standard which is welcome in this hot city.
Is there Uber in Cairo?
Yes - and it is very easy to use. Although do be aware that because the traffic in Cairo is very bad the time estimate given when you first order the Uber is not usually correct. When I visited Cairo, people in my group usually waited 2-3 times the estimate for their Uber to arrive. Uber drivers nearly always speak some English. Even if they don't, the driver already knows where you are heading via the app.
There is also a Cairo based company called Careem. They operate the same way Uber does.
Both apps accept credit card payment and cash payment. It's a great solution to the hit-and-miss quality of Cairo's regular taxis.
Best Things To Do in Cairo
Below is just a sample of the best things to do in Cairo - there are of course a ton of different things to do in this ancient city. Check out this article for a more detailed list of things to do in Cairo. You’ll also find admission prices and tips for each sightseeing activity so you can make the most of your time in Egypt.
Best Hotels in Cairo
Best Hotel near the Egyptian Pyramids
As I have mentioned multiple times throughout this article, I highly suggest staying at a hotel that overlooks the pyramids. I mean, it is - most likely - why you are in Egypt right? I stayed at Marriott Mena House while in Cairo and had the most wonderful time. While at the hotel you will have unique chances to see sunrise and sunset behind the pyramids. Plus, eating breakfast while staring at this gorgeous wonder of the world is a truly bucket-list experience.
Best Hotel in the City Center
If you want to stay in the city center I suggest Sheraton Cairo Hotel & Casino. Yup - you read that right, this one has a casino in it! While in Cairo, I was able to stay at this lovely Sheraton hotel for one night and really loved the fantastic views that come with every room. The Nile river was a perfect backdrop for sunset (and maybe a glass of wine or two).
Should I Worry About Malaria While Traveling Egypt?
There are many mosquito’s in some parts of Egypt. Like most areas that have this annoying insect they are active from dusk till dawn, and find a dark sheltered place to sleep during the heat of the day. They love humidity and wet environments where they breed. You shouldn't have a problem in Cairo with mosquito’s and you shouldn't worry about Malaria while in Egypt. According to the US CDC, there have been no cases of malaria in Egypt since 1998.
Other Tips For Visiting Egypt
Do some research on what clothing you should wear while visiting this conservative country. You will definitely want to cover up. If you aren't sure what to wear take a look at my packing guide for Egypt.
Learn the proper greeting for locals - it can go a long way. The best thing to say is the local variation of the Islamic form of greeting "Al salamu 'alaykum" which literally translates to "Peace be upon you". I suggest watching this video to learn the pronunciation before you leave. Saying al salamu 'alaykum is the most common form of saying "hello" to anybody. It instantly creates a friendliness between you and people you don't know. Plus, it is respectful to simply try to say a few things in the native language instead of simply relying on English.
When you're returning to the airport at the end of the trip allow plenty of time (2-3 hours to be safe) to get to the airport. Traffic can be unpredictable and the roads can get very congested.
One last thing... even though researching ahead of time is great, I definitely recommend bringing a travel guide for Egypt along with you. Here are some books I recommend...
One of the most common questions I get: What is the best camera for travel photography? I personally love my Nikon D5600. I use the kit lens and a Sigma wide-angle lens (for Nikon) which I am genuinely obsessed with.
And of course, if you have any questions DO NOT hesitate to reach out to me via Instagram, Twitter, or just shoot me an email (tessajuliette at gmail dot com).