It may sound silly, but the greatest challenge most travellers face in Cairo is crossing the street. Traffic seldom stops, so you have to trust the cars will avoid you. Our advice: position yourself so that one or more locals forms a buffer between you and oncoming traffic, then cross when they do – they usually don’t mind being used as human shields. Never, ever hesitate or turn back once you’ve stepped off the sidewalk, and cross as if you own the road. But do it fast!
It’s of limited utility, but it’s scenic; the river bus runs from the corniche near Downtown Cairo to Giza by the zoo and Cairo University. The Downtown terminal is located at Maspero, 250m north of the Ramses Hilton, in front of the big round TV building. Boats depart every 15 minutes for Giza from near the zoo. The trip takes 30 minutes and the fare is E£1.
Walking from Midan Ataba is feasible, but long: to the Citadel’s entrance gate, it’s almost 4km through the furniture and musical-instruments districts along Sharia al-Qala’a and its continuation, Sharia Mohammed Ali. At Midan Salah ad-Din, walk along Sharia Sayyida Aisha to Sharia Salah Salem, where you turn left to reach the main gate. Alternatively, minibus 150 (E£2) runs from Midan Ataba to Midan Salah ad-Din, still a 15-minute walk from the entrance; a second microbus can take you from Salah ad-Din to Sayyida Aisha at Salah Salem. Taking a taxi is only marginally quicker due to the complicated traffic-flow on Salah Salem.
Leaving the Citadel, if you want to take a taxi, walk downhill and away from the main entrance to hail a cab, where you’re less likely to encounter a driver who refuses to use his meter.
Cairo is thoroughly served by a network of lumbering sardine-cans-on-wheels and smaller, shuttle-size minibuses (on which, theoretically, there’s no standing allowed), but visitors will find only a few uses for them: they’re good for a slow but cheap trip to the Pyramids or from the airport, but elsewhere you can travel more efficiently and comfortably by metro and/or taxi. Signs are in Arabic only, so you’ll have to know your numerals. There is no known map of any of the city’s bus routes. Just hop on and pay the conductor when he comes around selling tickets, which cost between 75pt and E£2 depending on distance and whether there’s air-con (mint-green buses sometimes have it, as do the big white CTA buses).
Major bus hubs are Midan Abdel Moniem Riad, behind the Egyptian Museum and Midan Ataba.
Cairenes use the private microbus (meekrobas) – a small van with 12 or so seats – as much as the public bus. No destinations are marked, which can make them hard to use at first. But they’re quite useful for major routes: from the Giza metro to near the Pyramids and Midan al-Remaya for long-distance microbuses, and from Ataba to Sayyida Aisha for the Citadel. Locals use coded hand gestures to communicate their destination to passing microbuses; if the van has a free seat, it will stop. Fares vary according to distance, from 75pt to E£4, paid after you take your seat. This often requires passing your money to passengers ahead and receiving your change the same way (which is always done scrupulously).