Cairo is chock-a-block with budget crash-pads, including a few really good ones, but midrange gems are rarer. At the upper end, luxury hotels line the banks of the Nile.
It pays to reserve in advance for your first night or two. Cairo is no place to haul your luggage around comparing room rates. Many budget hotels offer better rates if you book directly rather than using big online booking agencies.
Cairo Luxury Hotels
If your wallet has adequate padding, this is one city where you may want to enjoy the top-end options.
If not, at least feel free to treat these hotels as locals do: as places of respite from the city din, with clean bathrooms and other comforts. Rates at the high end fluctuate according to season and rarely include taxes or breakfast.
Cairo Hotel Scams
In short, all scams are attempts to distract you from your lodging of choice. Hotels do not open and close with any great frequency in Cairo, and if it’s a known place, it is very unlikely to have gone out of business by the time you arrive.
At the airport, you may be approached by a person with an official-looking badge, claiming to be a government tourism representative. (There are no such true reps at the airport.) They’ll ask if you’ve booked a hotel and then offer to call to confirm that a room is waiting for you. Of course, they don’t call the hotel – they call a friend, who says there is no booking and that his establishment is full. Concerned, the tout will offer to find you an alternative.
Some taxi drivers will stall by saying they don’t know where your hotel is. In that case tell them to let you out at Midan Talaat Harb – from here it’s a short walk to most budget hotels. Other lines include telling you the hotel you’re heading for is closed/very expensive/horrible/a brothel and suggesting a ‘better’ place, for which they earn a commission, which will then be added to your bill.
The most elaborate scam is when a stranger (often on the airport bus) chats you up and asks your name and where you’re staying. Then the person says goodbye and isn’t seen again. What they next do is call a friend who goes and stands outside the hotel you’ve booked. When you arrive, he or she will ask ‘Are you…?’, using the name you volunteered back at the airport. Then you’ll be told that the hotel has been closed by the police/flooded because of plumbing issues/totally booked out, and that the owners have organised a room for you elsewhere.
Finally, when checking in without a prior reservation, never pay for more than a night in advance. No decent hotel will ask for more, and this gives you recourse if the place doesn’t meet your needs.
This is primarily budget territory, though there are a few noteworthy upper-end sleeps. Either way, you’ll be in the thick of things and near great cheap restaurants. Most hotels are located on or around Sharia Talaat Harb in old apartment blocks. Don’t be alarmed by grimy stairs and shaky elevators – they aren’t necessarily a reflection of the hotels above. Many have balconies and windows overlooking noisy main streets; request a rear room if you’re a light sleeper, with earplugs as backup.
Just south of Midan Tahrir, this area is quieter and less congested than elsewhere in Cairo, but there aren’t many hotels to choose from.
The negatives: no immediate metro access, touts like locusts, nowhere to get a beer and more than the usual number of mosques with loudspeakers. But this is the place to plunge in at Cairo’s deep end.
The relatively quiet enclave of Zamalek offers the best night’s sleep in the city, though not the cheapest. Many of Cairo’s best restaurants, shops, bars and coffee shops are here, but sights are a taxi ride away over traffic-jammed bridges.
One step removed from the all-out-bustle, Doqqi has a more residential feel. There's not huge amounts of choice in accommodation or restaurants, but the Doqqi metro station means you're only a hop from Downtown.