There are a lot of ways to get around the city, and I’ve used most of them. Some of your options depend on if you’re living here or visiting and if you have a smartphone with data. Luckily almost every transportation option is affordable, and some are down right cheap!
The cheapest option is your standard white taxi. Hail one from the street, request the meter (they are required to have a working meter, but sometimes you’ll get the “oohhhhh it’s broken” refrain), and off you go.
Pros: You’ll always find one at tourist sites, the airport, and most neighborhoods and streets. They are very cheap and most rides will cost you between 50 cents and $1.50 unless you’re going all the way across the city.
Cons: You’ll need lots of small bills or be willing to fight the “no change” mantra. Very few have seatbelts. If you’re going anywhere except a major hotel or large tourist site, be prepared to help navigate or be content with them asking for directions regularly from people on the street. Typically little to no English.
Uber in Cairo works the same as Uber anywhere else in the world. You’ll need the app on your phone and data for it to work and it’s best if you link a credit card to your account.
Pros: Eliminates the hassle of small change if you link a credit card. Most have seat belts. You’ve got about a 50% chance of a driver being able to read the map and navigate you to where you’re going without help. Uber regularly puts out deals that makes the rides very very cheap. Some have a little English.
Cons: About 50% of the drivers have no idea how to read the map on their smartphone and will struggle finding you to pick you up or need help navigating in the car. Be prepared to read your map (Google maps works way better than Apple maps here) and give directions.
Note: There are other similar apps in Cairo too, like Lyft and Careem. I have not used them, but they operate the same way
A cross between a taxi and hiring a private car and driver for the day, you can prearrange a private taxi if you know a name and number. I text my guy typically the day before, but sometimes day of and set up a time, itinerary, and pick up point. Ask someone who’s been living here a while and they can set you up with their favorite guy. I use Ayman at +20 100 518 9445. He is on Whatsapp and runs a family business, meaning their is almost always someone available to drive you.
Pros: Seatbelts, will either stay and wait or return to pick you up again depending on timing, knows where to go, normally have some English. Slightly pricier than an Uber or taxi, but still a good deal.
Cons: You need to prearrange otherwise they might be booked.
If you’re looking for a swankier experience, more room, or a prearranged airport pick up, London Cab is the way to go. You’ll need the app and to prearrange the day before, though occasionally they can fulfill a request with a few hours notice. You’ll be given the price at time of booking and you pay cash at the end of the ride.
Pros: They’ll be ready and waiting for you at the set time, have space for 5 passengers in the back and 1 next to the driver, cost is prearranged, no tipping allowed, seatbelts, plenty of space, drivers know exactly where to go.
Cons: Need to prearrange. Pricier than other options, but still a good deal. I think from Maadi to the Airport–a 45 min ride typically–is about $15. You also need a set pick up time (within about a 30 min window), which can be trickier if you don’t know when an event will end.
Private Car Hire for the Day
Any tour company can arrange a private car and driver for the day. They’ll follow your itinerary, wait for you at each stop, and often will come with a guide for sightseeing.
Pros: No worries about finding a ride or navigating, seatbelts, plenty of space as you often get a van for 3+ people, can leave carseats or other belongings in the car at stops
Cons: Most require a full day hire. Expect to pay $40-60 and up for 8 hours, plus additional tips for the driver (and guide if applicable). This is definitely the place to shop around. I use Mostafa Fawzy for cars within Cairo–firstname.lastname@example.org or +20 111 7333 4777. He is on Whatsapp.
Many people who live here drive themselves, particularly around their own neighborhood.
Pros: Go on your own schedule, keep your belongings and carseats in the car, seatbelts and plenty of space. Google maps does a decent job navigating.
Cons: Many places severely lack parking, unless you are comfortable with cramped, crazy road side parking. Roads can be very congested and not all roads are well marked.
The Metro is growing in Cairo and can be a convenient option. However, US Embassy personnel are not allowed to use the Metro for security concerns, so I have no input on it. Same is true for public buses and trains.
Note: none of these photos are mine but courtesy of Google Images