The Pyramids Hustle

Usually crammed with tour buses, gargling camels, and camel- and horse-carriage touts, the Pyramids is an intense tourist scene and many visitors find it the most gruelling part of their trip. The government introduced legislation in 2018 that promises to fine aggressive vendors, but unfortunately, until the site is better managed and the people in the village by the Pyramids have some other income besides selling horse and camel rides, there is no way to avoid the sales pressure and scam attempts. It does help, however, to know what you’re up against. These days, however, with fewer tourists around, there are fewer vendors, but among these the desperation to make some money is even greater.

The hustle can start before you even leave your hotel, where someone tries to sell you a ‘sunrise tour’ of the Pyramids: really just a way of delivering you early to the horse touts, as you can’t enter the site before 8am. En route, someone will chat you up at the Giza metro, or a man will jump in your taxi while it’s stuck in traffic on Pyramids Rd. The road ahead is closed, he warns, and the best way to proceed is on a horse. (The road is closed, sort of; about 1km from the site, all outbound traffic must detour north on Sharia Al Mansouria. Don’t panic – you’ll loop back to the Pyramids soon.) If you've been dropped at the bottom of the hill at the main entrance gate, while you're walking up to the ticket office horse touts will try to convince you the entrance has moved, only vehicles are allowed to enter this way, or point you to a secret back route. Counterfeit tickets aren’t unheard of – buy yours only from the ticket-office windows.

Once through the turnstiles, police might direct you to a waiting man, or men will ask for your ticket in an official tone. Ignore them, as they’re just attempting to become your guide. You need only show your additional tickets at the Great Pyramid, at whichever secondary pyramid is open, and at the Tomb of Meresankh III (and guards should take only half the ticket, not the whole thing). Guards also sometimes check your general ticket at the Sphinx. Attendants at smaller tombs will ask for a ticket, hoping you’ll assume you need to buy one – flash your general ticket and you should be fine.

Even knowing all this won’t stop touts from approaching you, and no matter how tersely and frequently you say no, these guys won’t stop – it’s the only job they’ve got. So it’s key for your own happiness not to snap, but to smile and just keep walking. It also helps to remember that the Pyramids have been attracting tourists since day one, and a local was probably already waiting to sell a souvenir.