Ins and outs

Contents
1 Getting there
2 Getting around
3 Information
3.1 Opening times
3.2 Admission charges

Getting there

As one of the world's most crowded and noisy cities, arriving in Cairo can be a daunting experience. Authorities have worked hard to eliminate the once all-pervading hustle on arrival at the airport, taxi drivers are no longer permitted to pick up rides from the curb and other would-be hustlers are left outside if they don't flash the necessary identification. Still, upon reaching the pavement outside the airport, independent travellers may encounter a barrage of unsolicited offers from self-declared tour guides, drivers, hotel vendors, and the like, seeking to take advantage of an unschooled newcomer. Breathe deeply, avoid eye contact, firmly say
la'a shukran
(no, thank you), and stick to your plans. Bear in mind that Cairo is an exceptionally safe city and violent crime is virtually non-existent. The greatest thing to fear is getting severely overcharged for a taxi ride or being lured to a dingy hotel room. With a day or two meandering around the city, you'll figure out how things work soon enough. The easiest way to dodge such happenings from the outset is to work out in advance where you're going and how you intend to get there.

The
airport
, www.cairo-airport.com, is 22 km (30-45 minutes) northeast of Cairo. The older
Terminal 1
 caters for all
EgyptAir
flights, and some international airlines. The newer
Terminal 2
 is 3 km away and takes international flights. Terminal 3 handles both domestic and international flights, just to confuse the matter further. In terminals 1 and 2, there are tourist information booths in the departure hall but they are not overly helpful. Also on site are ATM machines and several banks that remain open through the night as flights arrive. Visas are on sale just before passport control at the bank counter.

Taxi drivers will assuage you upon exiting. Taxis get cheaper the further you head out of the car park, and if you can pick one up outside the precincts of the airport they are cheaper still. Another good option is the
Shuttle Bus
, www.cairoshuttle.com
who have seven-seater minibuses with set prices to various districts of Cairo, such as Downtown and Zamalek.

Despite what any taxi driver at the airport will tell you, it is possible to take public transport into the city. Buses and minibuses gather by the bus stop, about 300 m in front of Terminal 1, visible as you exit. If you're heading downtown or to Giza, the most comfortable option is to take one of the air-conditioned buses. Further public buses, a little cheaper and a bit more uncomfortable, run from Terminal 1 through the night. If you arrive at Terminal 2 and want to take public transport, a free 24-hour shuttle bus connects the two terminals. These line up outside arrivals and, about three minutes after setting off, reach a roundabout by a parking lot where a bus stop has been constructed. Get off here and catch an onward bus to Cairo. There is also a bus direct from the airport to
Alexandria
.

Getting around

Considering its size, getting around Cairo is quite easy. The centre, known as Downtown, is a condensed area and walking is a good way to see the heart of the city. There is a local bus service, metro system, and a profusion of cheap taxis. A few air-conditioned buses that run on the major thoroughfares connect the main
midans
(squares) to Heliopolis and the airport. They are a bit more expensive than the public buses, but more pleasant to use. For the truly adventurous traveller, the inner-city buses and minibuses cover every inch of Cairo. They are generally so crowded that people literally hang out of doors, and as they rarely come to complete stops, courageous riders must run and jump to hop on. There are also microbuses that are private van-like vehicles that transport passengers through the maze of Cairo. There is usually a driver and a navigator that shouts the destination out of a moving van. When it suits you, motion to the van and they'll stop. You can also shout out where you want to go and if it's en route, they will enthusiastically let you on. If you see a large collection of people at what looks like a bus stop, just tell someone where you want to go and they will go out of their way to put you on the right bus/micro or at least point you in the right direction.

The metro is excellent - clean, cheap, and efficient, but with only two lines (and a third in construction), it doesn't cover the entire city. For cheaper and quicker transport, you may want to traverse the city by metro and then take a taxi or microbus for the final leg of your trip. Taxis are so inexpensive, abundant and easy, they really are the most convenient way of getting around. Black and white cabs are everywhere but they don't have working meters so as a newcomer it's best to agree a price before you get in, or when you've got to grips with fares pass the money through the window after getting out of the cab. Less plentiful are
yellow cabs
 that have air conditioning and working meters; these are cheaper for longer journeys around Cairo but work out more for short dashes.

Information

Main tourist office
. The staff speak English, but except for a fairly useless map and a few colourful pamphlets they have little to offer in the way of useful information. There are tourist offices at the airport, open 24 hours, and at
Ramses Train Station
, Giza Train Station, and by the
Pyramids of Giza
. Often more helpful than the tourist offices is the information available in hotels.

If you are interested in a more exhaustive explanation than this handbook can offer for the Islamic area of the city, pick up a copy of Caroline Williams' excellent
Islamic Monuments in Cairo
(available in the AUC Bookstore). The Society for the Preservation of the Architectural Resources of Egypt (SPARE) publishes superb and extremely detailed maps of Islamic Cairo with brief accounts of each monument (also available at the AUC Bookstore, Diwan or Lenhert & Landrock).

Opening times

In the last few years, the Historic Cairo Restoration Programme has exploded in Islamic Cairo resulting in the temporary closure of many monuments. It also means that sights that have been closed for decades are at last reopening again. All the mosques in Cairo are accessible to the public except those of Sayyidnah Hussein and Sayyidnah Nafisah. Note that many of the mosques in Islamic Cairo are active places of worship and shouldn't be entered by non-Muslims during times of prayer. The times of prayer vary depending on the season, but are vaguely dawn, midday, mid-afternoon, dusk and mid-evening. Churches are open all week.

Admission charges

The Ministry of Tourism, in response to agitated Muslims who did not want to pay admission to pray, have deemed all mosques free to enter. The Citadel, museums and other secular sights have admission charges and hand out official tickets. For students with ID, there is a 50% discount. Cameras and videos sometimes require an additional fee. There are a few sly touts left lingering about the more touristed mosques who will insist there is an entry fee. There is not. If someone asks you for an admission charge, ask for a ticket, their inability to find one usually facilitates passage. Baksheesh is still expected for guides (who may offer to lead you up a minaret) and it is common courtesy to tip the shoe caretaker.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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