Even the smallest cities in Egypt have taxis. They’re inexpensive and efficient, even if in some cities the cars themselves have seen better days.
Fares In Cairo metered taxis are taking over, but everywhere else, locals know the accepted price and pay it without (much) negotiation. Check with locals for taxi rates, as fares change as petrol prices rise.
Hailing Just step to the roadside, raise your hand and one will likely come screeching to a halt. Tell the driver where you’re headed before getting in – he may decline the fare if there’s bad traffic or it’s too far.
Negotiating For short fares, setting a price beforehand backfires, as it reveals you don’t know the system. But for long distances – from the airport to the city centre, for instance – you should agree on a price before getting in. And confirm it, as some drivers tend to try to change the deal on arrival.
Paying In unmetered taxis, avoid getting trapped in an argument by getting out first, then handing money through the window. If a driver suspects you don’t know the correct fare, you’ll get an aghast ‘How could you possibly pay me so little?’ look, if not a full-on argument. Don’t be drawn in if you’re sure of your position, but do remember that LE5 makes a far greater difference to your driver than it does to you.
Sharing You may be welcomed into a cab with a passenger, or your cab may stop to pick up others. If you're a man and don’t mind sharing, sit in the front seat and leave the back free for others it’s considered a bit forward for women to sit in the front seat).
Egyptian taxis are a blessing and a curse. They’re remarkably convenient and affordable, but outside of Cairo, where reliable meters have yet to be introduced, they can be a frequent source of unpleasantness when it comes to paying the fare. Passengers frequently feel that they’ve been taken advantage of (which they often have), while drivers may be genuinely (as opposed to just theatrically) aggrieved by what they see as underpayment.
Bear in mind, driving a cab is far from lucrative. Average earnings after fuel has been paid for are rarely more than LE20 per hour. Many drivers don’t own their car and have to hand over part of their earnings as ‘rent’.
Which isn’t to say that the next time you flag a taxi for a 10-block hop and the driver declares ‘10 pounds’, you should smile and say ‘OK’. But it might make it easier to see that it was probably worth his while trying. And if you talk to him and listen to his stories, you will likely get entertainment or enlightenment, as well as a ride, for the money.