Dangers & Annoyances
Despite a rise in petty crime following the 2011 revolution, Cairo is still a pretty safe city, with crime rates likely much lower than where you’re visiting from.
- For female visitors, sexual harassment continues to be a problem.
- Pickpockets and bag-snatchers are rare but do sometimes operate in crowded spots such as Khan Al Khalili, the metro and buses.
- Touts operate around Midan Tahrir and Midan Talaat Harb. Be wary of anyone who approaches you in these areas.
- If anything does get stolen, go straight to the tourist police rather than the normal police.
Cairo’s worst scams are associated with tours. Rather than making arrangements in Cairo, you are almost always better off booking tours in the place you’ll be taking them. Stick with reputable agencies. Even your hotel is not a good place to book anything except typical day trips from Cairo. Never book with a random office Downtown (many are fronts) or with the help of someone you meet on the street.
Contrary to media reports, women are generally safe walking alone in Cairo. Although minor harassment is rampant, actual physical assault remains much rarer than in many European or 'western' countries. After about 11pm, however, solo women travellers will probably feel more comfortable buddying-up while strolling the streets, and at all times avoid the cheapest buses (notorious for frottage, to female commuters’ chagrin) and endeavour to steer clear of large groups of aimless men: political demonstrations and any kind of football-related celebration tend to bring out the testosterone. Also be a bit wary of men (or boys) who want to escort you across a street – it’s a prime groping opportunity. Women should always sit in the back seat in Cairo's taxis. If you'd like to book a female cabbie, call Nour Gaber.
Practical Tip: Playing Chicken
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 pavement, and cross as if you own the road. But do it fast!
Main Tourist Police Office On the 1st floor of a building in the alley just left of the main tourist office in Downtown. Come here first for minor emergencies, including theft.
There are various other offices scattered around the city:
Tourist Police Near Khan Al Khalili.
Tourist Police Within the Citadel.
Tourist Police Across from the Mena House Hotel.
Egyptian Student Travel Services Head here to get an ISIC in Cairo. You’ll need a university ID card, a photocopy of your passport and one photo; cards can be bought online too.
Emergency & Important Numbers
Drop the 0 from the area code when dialling from abroad.
|Cairo Area Code||02|
Gay & Lesbian Travellers
Although homosexuality is technically not a crime, Cairo (and Egypt) is a conservative society and gay men can, and have been, prosecuted using debauchery and public morals laws with prison terms of up to 17 years. In late 2017, the Egyptian government launched a large crack-down on the LGBT community arresting 57 people in a series of raids. The situation for the local LGBT community in Cairo remains very tense.
For foreign gay travellers in Cairo, the situation may be nowhere near as depressing, but exercising common sense discretion and caution is advised. Solo male gay travellers should not use gay dating apps while here as the police are known to target app users. Gay or lesbian couples should avoid public displays of affection – the same rule applies for heterosexual couples – and it's advisable to steer clear of the very budget end of the accommodation market. Midrange and top-end hotels will usually have no problem with same-sex couples requesting a double bed. Be aware that although there is a small and very underground gay scene in Cairo; tapping into it as a visiting foreigner can be difficult and risky.
Wi-fi is available for free in the vast majority of hotels (although it often can be painfully slow), as well as many cafes and restaurants.
Hotel bank branches can change cash, but rates are slightly better at independent exchange bureaux, of which there are several along Sharia Adly in Downtown and on Sharia 26th of July in Zamalek. These tend to be open from 10am to 8pm Saturday to Thursday. ATMs are numerous, except in Islamic Cairo – the most convenient machine here is below El Hussein hotel in Khan Al Khalili.
The weekend is Friday and Saturday; some businesses close Sunday. During Ramadan, offices, museums and tourist sites keep shorter hours.
Banks 8.30am–2.30pm Sunday to Thursday, though many international bank branches open until 4.30pm
Bars and clubs Early evening until 1am, often later
Government offices 8am–2pm Sunday to Thursday
Post offices 8.30am–2pm Saturday to Thursday
Shops 10am–11pm Saturday to Thursday and from noon on Friday. In Khan Al Khalili, shops shut on Friday mornings and all-day Sunday.
Public toilets in Cairo are a rarity. Most large museums and monuments have passable facilities. You can stop in to fast-food places like Gad where the toilets usually have an attendant; tip LE2. In Khan Al Khalili, head for the Khan El Khalili Restaurant & Mahfouz Coffee Shop.
The streets around Midan Tahrir teem with travel agencies, but watch out for dodgy operators. Along with those listed below, Travel Choice is reliable.
Egypt Panorama Tours Just south of Ma’adi metro station, this is one of the best-established agencies in town. Organises private guides, group day-tours of Cairo sights and longer itineraries as well as bookings for Nile and Lake Nasser cruises. It’s also good for four- and five-star hotel deals.
Misr Travel The official Egyptian government travel agency, which also has offices in most of the luxury hotels.
International Travel Bureau of Egypt Reliable small travel agency, catering mostly to high-end clients looking for tailor-made tours.
Travel with Children
Cairo can be exhausting for kids, but there is much they will enjoy. Be aware the pavements and traffic can be a nightmare for parents with little ones, so backpack-style child carriers are a much better idea for toddlers than pushchairs. The heat can be a serious drain on kids, as well as frazzle parents, so visit in the cooler winter months if possible and time outdoor sightseeing for the morning. It’s worth buying Cairo, the Family Guide, by Lesley Lababidi and Lisa Sabbahy (AUC Press), revised in 2010.
Children of all ages will like an excursion on a Nile felucca or a night-time party boat, gawking at Tut’s treasures in the Egyptian Museum, and investigating the Pyramids of Giza and the brilliant solar barque at the nearby Cheops Boat Museum, as well as exploring the mazelike market of Khan Al Khalili. For evening entertainment, most kids will be mesmerised by a rambunctious and colourful performance of the Al Tannoura Egyptian Heritage Dance Troupe, while the Cairo Puppet Theatre shows should enchant younger ones.
Parents with smaller children should head to Al Azhar Park on a Friday or Saturday, when local families flock here for picnics. It's a great chance to mingle with local children. Although a full-tilt tourist trap, many little ones will also enjoy Dr Ragab's Pharaonic Village. A little tattered, it's good for sparking the imagination about what life in ancient Egypt was like. In Ma'adi, the Art Cafe runs child-friendly arst and crafts sessions, as well as storytelling events that are a good way to balance out all the history.
Travellers with Disabilities
Cairo is not well-equipped for travellers with mobility issues. Street curbs are high, entrances to most public buildings and historic sites aren't fitted out with ramps or other accessibility measures and rooms with full accessibility features are only found in top-end hotels. In saying that, intrepid travellers with disabilities shouldn't completely write Cairo off. In general you'll find locals willing to help with any difficulties and hiring taxis for the day is very affordable, making getting around easier.
Egypt For All This travel company specialises in making tailor-made travel arrangements for wheelchair users and travellers with other mobility issues, from day trips to complete Egypt packages.