6 things I wish I knew before flying to awesome Cairo
January 1, 1970
by Merche Thomas Díaz - Pallares
First of all, I want to be clear that I have been living in CAIRO for just two months and I’m sure there’s much more I’m going to learn about life in EGYPT.
Maybe you are just passing through, maybe you are also thinking of settling here for a while – in whatever manner you are thinking, I would like to share a quick SURVIVAL KIT I believe may be a good little helper for anyone heading this way.
Entry tourist visa costs 25$ / 25€ and is available for purchase at the airport 24/7
This was obviously one of my first and most urgent concerns when I knew I was going to move to Egypt. How to get my visa? How challenging would it be? How much (money and time) was it gonna cost?
Fortunately, there are several kiosks open 24/7 where you get to buy your visa prior to crossing the passport checkpoint. Again, let me emphasize, these are located once you have gotten off the plane and after a little walk, and before crossing the security checkpoints where an officer checks your passport and before picking up your checked-in luggage.
There’s no metro stop in the airport yet, although one is currently under construction and should be running within a short time.
So, to move from the airport to the city center it mainly depends on where you are staying, the hotel you’ve book should offer a private car or minibus to take you into town but if not, an Uber wouldn’t be too expensive.
Booking and paying for hotel reservations
According to Egyptian law, foreigners must pay their hotel reservations in their own currency (dollars, euros…), whereas Egyptians pay in Egyptian Pounds.
When looking at the options of where to stay, prices and reviews, I used a couple different accommodation search engines. Besides helping you compare places/prices, some of them will also allow you to book a couple rooms without needing to pay beforehand and with free cancellation (when you cancel a couple days before the supposed arrival date as indicated on the details of each booking).
My personal favorite website when looking for and comparing for accommodation is ‘Booking‘, as it gives you the choice to book a room without pre-payment.
Uber is the most convenient/ better-safe-than-sorry way to move around
To be honest I wasn’t expecting to be able to use the Uber app in Cairo –Uber is a smartphone application where you can order a private car to take you places, just as you would with a taxi.
The driver gets the direction and route from the app’s GPS, once he/she had arrived at the pickup point and then once you have arrived, the app itself calculates the price according to the distance/time made. So the good news is that you know you are paying for the service you have consumed. Also, you pay in cash, not need to use your bank card.
The not-so-good news is that you need a SIM card to make sure you can communicate with the driver.
If the queue at the metro ticket window is too long, you can ask someone standing in front of you to buy yours with theirs at the same time
Cairo is most likely not the only place in the world where the metro gets crowded, where commuting can get pretty challenging and the where it feels time freezes.
However, a few tricks to riding the subway and for moving around like a local come in pretty handy when experiencing Cairo’s metro.
Be aware that Cairo is all hustle and busy; the population of the city is currently almost 23 million people and unlike in some western countries, the given idea of personal space is very different.
Expect people to touch you on your shoulders or arms when they want to pass in front of you in public places, such as the metro.
If you are a body products or makeup addict, get your supplies prior to your flight.
On one of the first weeks, since I arrived in Cairo, I went to treat myself and do a little shopping. However, and yet not so surprising I found a high, three-digit price, surrounding the multiple-500 EGPs on most of the items on international shops such as ‘The Body Shop’ and ‘H&M’. No big surprises there, yet, it’s obviously not worth it to pay like triple what you do back home, even when the currency exchange of the prices in Egypt leave the product still affordable compared to that of your home currency.
‘Streptoquin’ is your best friend when it comes to digestive problems
Bought it for about 10 EGP, it helps to control and stop ASAP, any digestive non-stop dramas such as the unpleasant ‘d-i-a-r-r-e-a-h’ you can expect.
Other general, useful meds can easily be purchased at local pharmacies and, in the case of uncertainty, I recommend you to obviously seek professional help from a doctor or contact your health insurance. Of course, I am not a doctor myself, but the meds mentioned above are the ones that had helped me when sick. However, I strongly suggest you read the prescriptions and indications for use before consuming any, directions which you can find in English inside the corresponding box.
To sum up, Cairo is a beautifully busy, dynamic city. Perfect for the people who love the hustle and are active. It’s also within reasonable distance to other great spots like Alexandria ( 3 hours by train), Ain Sohkna beachside (1ish hours by bus/ car).
People are very amiable and cordial just by smiling, and life is very colorful and dynamic. The culture is rich and so is the food, so there are plenty of things to fill up a good dozen of bucket lists.
I am currently living in Cairo, but of course there is so much more to see in Egypt: Luxor, Alexandria, Hurghada and the Red Sea coastal area, to name a few and I really look forward to the chance to visit them all and be able to share my experience in order to make yours much more easy-going.