Cairo On a Budget
Cairo sits on the famed Nile River and is filled with history and culture. The city is filled with sights and attractions, but there is also an atmosphere that combines the old and new. The city is an excellent place to explore and experience a modern, yet traditional Middle Eastern capital.
Cairo's climate is a hot desert climate. The humidity is usually higher than you might expect due to the proximity to the Mediterranean Sea and the Nile Delta. Wind storms are common, particularly between the months of March and May. During this time the air can be very dry. High temperatures in the winter months can be anywhere from the mid 60s Fahrenheit to the mid 80s. During the summer the highs can climb over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Rain is rare, but more common during the cooler months.
There remains an ongoing threat of terrorism in Egypt, and visitors to Cairo should remain alert and aware of their surroundings. Research any current developments prior to any visit to the area.
SightsMost people think of the Pyramids when they think of Cairo, but there really is so much more to this city. You should easily allow at least three, if not more, days to fully explore even the most popular sights. Check out this guide to a 5, 7, or 10 day itinerary of Egypt for more info.
You should definitely not miss the Egyptian Museum, which is conveniently located in the middle of town. You can spend hours seeing the artifacts that date back thousands of years. The museum is divided into many rooms and you'll find fascinating objects on display, and also scattered almost randomly around the room. In Old Cairo you'll see most of the Coptic sights, which offer you a glimpse into a very different side of the city. You can also take a stroll down the famed Nile River where you'll see plenty of young Egyptian couples out walking and taking in the evening light.
NeighborhoodsCairo is a large city that covers a vast area. The central core can be divided into 11 districts. These are Midan Tahrir, the Downtown, Midan Ramses, Garden City, Islamic Cairo, Old Cairo, Dokki Mohandeseen, Gezira and Zamalek, Giza, Heliopolis and Nasr City, and Ma'adi. Midan Tahrir is where you'll find the Egyptian Museum, many hotels, and "Liberation Square". Midan Ramses is where the main railway station is located and Garden City is a suburb near the city center and a good option for accommodation.
ActivitiesAs Cairo is a large city, there is no shortage of activities that you can enjoy while you're in town. Many visitors take a felucca ride along the Nile River. Feluccas can be found across from the Four Seasons Hotel in the Garden City. It's possible to charter a ride and negotiate a fair price.
It's also worth visiting at least one of Cairo's many parks. Probably the most famous is the Giza Zoo. Other options include Al Orman Gardens, Al Azbakieya Gardens, Genenet El Asmak, and Merryland, among many others.
Food and DiningCairo has a large number of excellent restaurants that offer everything from traditional Middle Eastern foods to international cuisines. It's best to avoid those that are listed in guidebooks, as the quality often slips as the price goes up. If you're looking for cheap food, then casual street restaurants and street stalls may be your best option. The downtown area in particular has a lot of budget food options.
The Nile is also lined with some of the city's best restaurants, which offer a delicious tasting of Egyptian cuisine. The food is comparable to Middle Eastern food elsewhere, with only subtle differences in the types of cheese used or the style of hummus. Many of the restaurants along the Nile are more expensive, but the ambiance and the quality of the food make them easily worth the added expense.
TransportationCairo has a great metro system that you can use to reach many places around town. It can be very chaotic and crazy, especially during rush hour, but it is cheap and fast. Do keep an eye on your wallet during your ride.
Taxis are another good alternative. They are reasonably priced if you're a good negotiator, but be prepared to barter hard as some drivers can be quite stubborn in their prices.
Public buses also travel around the city. This is one of the cheapest travel options, but they can get quite crowded. Women should use caution when choosing this form of transportation as there are frequent problems with sexual harassment.