Can you guess what everyone’s reaction was when I said I’ll travel alone to Egypt for my birthday? I’ll give you a hint – a) I’m crazy; b) it’s too dangerous; c) I shouldn’t go; d) All of the above. Based on my experience there, I have just 2 tips for a great stay, especially for the solo women out there.
Before we get to that however, let’s answer the most important question:
Is Cairo Safe?
Being the 15th largest city in the world, Cairo can be quite overwhelming in many different ways and it was definitely the craziest I’ve seen. This gives it a bit of a bad reputation among travellers and many people prefer not to stay there for anything more than a pyramid visit, while the city has so much more to offer.
Does this make it dangerous though? Yes, just as dangerous as any multi-million city anywhere in the world – there’s crazy traffic, road accidents, pick-pockets and locals who’d harass the tourists. There’s good and bad at any place, especially one with 6.7 million people living in the city and 9.5 million more in close proximity.
Due to the revolution in 2011 there is a lot of military presence and check-points everywhere, which at first might create a sense of danger, but it actually ensures the safety in the region. Unfortunately, they still experience attacks from religious fanatics, but so do major European cities.
There is no straight-forward answer to how dangerous Cairo is as, safety in general, is a very subjective topic nowadays. Did I feel safe? – YES. Even though the city of thousand minarets is quite mental, my short stay there was absolutely amazing and exceeded my expectations a gazillion times.
Here’s how I did it:
1. Book a Nicer Place With Airport Pick-Up Service
As a real pyramid buff, I knew that I wanted to stay in Gizah and see as much of the pyramids as possible. A search on Booking.com showed me a new hotel called Panorama Pyramids Inn, which offered, I’d say, THE BEST view over the pyramids in all of Cairo. The rate was a bit more compared to what I normally pay, but it was my birthday after all 🙂 The rooms have pyramid views, there is a fantastic rooftop terrace with even more pyramid views, free airport pick up and a breakfast included in the price.
A taxi from the airport to Giza will cost you around 300le (14-15eur), so the free airport pick up is already a great benefit. What is more, you don’t have to deal with all the hassle and harassment from the taxi drivers at the airport. They can be quite pushy, so thank God for that! The driver was waiting for me with a sign of the hotel and took me to a brand new car (literally still with the plastic covers on the seats :)). Mind you that most of the cars in Cairo are older than the pyramids.
The best part is that in the hotel I experienced hospitality like never before – whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted it. Even if I didn’t want anything, the guys from the staff will start listing different things to me, so that I could change my mind and want something. I’ve never seen such a determination anywhere in the world to try and please your guests. Coffee, tea, beer, food, shisha – anything… and free of charge! I even got a birthday cake and a candle from the hotel manager Amir, who sang Happy Birthday to me in English and Arabic, right in front of the pyramids.
I felt like a celebrity and I was curious whether I’m receiving an extra special treatment due to the fact I’m travelling solo for my birthday, so I spoke with some of the other guests. Everybody shared exactly the same opinion and were fascinated by the service. But you don’t even have to trust me on this – just check out the fantastic reviews they’ve got on Booking.com.
I got my money’s worth 10-fold and I experienced a hospitality of a different dimension, out of this world. I watched the Pyramids Sound & Light show from the rooftop terrace 3 times … for FREE! What is more, the super friendly and helpful Amir arranged for me different guides, which leads me to my second tip:
2. Book Local Guides
Yes, you have to visit the Great Pyramids if you’re in Cairo and yes, it is a good idea to hire a guide for it. Now, this will cost you extra, but I assure you, it will make a big difference for your stay. Due to the fact I had a local guide for the pyramids and for central Cairo, I could experience this buzzing city 100% hassle-free and I loved it! I’m certain that my blog post about the Egyptian capital would’ve been very very different hadn’t I hired a guide.
If you’re determined to travel solo, this might seem like a bit of cheating, but hey, at least I have a lot of fantastic memories from two amazing days in the largest metropolitan area in the Middle East. My guides were also “bodyguards” and protectors of sort, making sure nobody harasses me, touches me or robs me, which are some very real possibilities for solo female travellers. Thanks, but no, thanks.
My pyramids guide Saudi was extremely kind, honoured all my wishes and also turned out to be a very skilful photographer! Thanks to him and Mañana the camel, I can share with you some awesome pics like those:
My city guide Mohamed was recommended by the hotel manager, came with a nice car, drove me around all day, came with me inside the Egyptian Museum and the Papyrus Museum, making sure I enjoy my time without being bothered by local men (which apparently happens in the museums as well). He was strictly by my side at the Khan al Khalili market and even helped me out with the bargaining process! And I swear to you, that was so much fun 🙂
I was so impressed by the many things Cairo has to offer, that I kinda regretted giving it only two days. Travelling solo is great, but at some places it might be worth it having a local guide. I’d love to see more of Cairo, and I’m certain I wouldn’t do it alone. Not because it’s dangerous, but because it can be a lot of hassle, which I don’t want to deal with.
For a total of 80 eur for guides for both days, I got:
- Entry tickets to the Egyptian Museum and the Papyrus Museum
- Entry to the Pyramids
- Riding a camel for the first time in my life – my friend Mañana
- Being driven around all day
- Drinks and snaks
- The opportunity to enjoy myself without being harassed
- Money saved on Khan al Khalili market, thanks to the bargaining skills of my guide
- Great photos from extremely beautiful places
- Lots of laughter and an incredibly good time
For me it was all worth it 🙂
The truth is that, I fell in love with Egypt so much (and especially South Sinai), that I’m going back with a one-way ticket very soon. It’s time for people to go back to this amazing country and I’ll be able to provide first hand experience.
And just for the fun of it, a video from my 2 awesome days in Cairo 🙂
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Happy travels! <3