Getting Around Cairo on a Budget
Travel in Cairo is a little different to travel in cities like London or New York. Because the city is not quite as developed, you may not find a lot of the things there that you would in these other cities. But, the good news is that there are quite a few ways of getting around in Cairo, and they don’t have to cost a lot of money. Once you land in Cairo you can take a shuttle bus from the airport; it’s been running since 2003 and will take you to different destinations around Cairo. I found a fare from as low as 140 Egyptian Pounds (E£), the equivalent of around £6GBP/$8USD. You can find out more about the shuttle buses in Cairo here.
Once you actually get into Cairo, you will need to think about the transport choices here. Now, the main options you’re going to want to look at are taxis, buses, metro, and felucca. The most efficient way of getting around Cairo on a budget is definitely via the metro system. There are three lines you can travel on, and a one-way ticket will cost as little as E£1. This is the perfect way of getting around to all the important sites of the city, as well as avoiding the crazy Cairo traffic. You should combine your metro use with journeys on the buses as well. There are plenty of bus options, but I advise trying your luck with the major operator Cairo Transit Authority. A one-way ticket costs around E£2 and can be a great way of getting to important places.
Taxis are another way of getting around, and they might be the mode of transport that makes you feel the most secure. There are areas the Metro doesn’t cover, and this is when you’ll need to use a taxi. There are three types of taxis available in Cairo – black and white ones, yellow ones, and white ones. The black and white will be the cheapest, and you’ll need to negotiate the fare, but these will not have air conditioning. The white cabs are newer and will have air con, but you should expect to pay more, while the yellow ones will need to be booked in advance.
If you fancy a different mode of Cairo transport on a budget, I would suggest you check out the felucca – privately operated wooden boats that navigate the River Nile. A one-hour ride will cost around E£60-80 and is well worth the cash.
Budget Accommodation in Cairo
When you want to stay somewhere in Cairo, you need to make the right choices about the type of accommodation you want. Finding budget accommodation in Cairo is much simpler because of a positive exchange rate. You are going to want to base yourself in a great establishment, with a good location and affordable rates. Budget accommodation ideas in Cairo will generally extend to hotels, hostels, or AirBnB. So, below we’ve come up with a list detailing a few of each, and, hopefully, you can make the best choice.
It’s pretty clear that AirBnB has transformed the way people approach accommodation abroad. There are so many different options these days, and it is often much cheaper and more versatile than getting a hotel. AirBnB choices in Cairo are plentiful, and this could be the ideal way of finding the best possible location for your trip. Here are three possible options for AirBnBs in Cairo; one for a singleton, one for a couple, one for a family:
A giant room is available in Dokki, just a 1-minute walk from the Metro station. And is the homeowner, and will give you a proper Egyptian welcome upon arrival. Ask for an insider’s guide to Cairo (trust me, you won’t regret it). This wonderful place will set you back just E£400 per night.
Bright, spacious, homely. Those are just three of the adjectives I would use to describe this place. Location-wise, it’s difficult to get much better than this, and you’re pretty much right on the river! It’s a unique and impressive choice, and perfect for couples who want the convenience of a great location. Yours for just E£843 per night.
What better place to choose for your family than this wonderful apartment in the city? It will comfortably fit a family or group of 4 and there’s a swimming pool to enjoy too. This whole place will set you back by around E£592 per night which works out as about £30GBP/$39 USD a night. Now that really is budget travel!
Some people prefer the convenience and luxury of a hotel when they go travelling. This way they don’t have to worry about cooking and cleaning, and they get to feel much more like they are on holiday. If you don’t fancy AirBnB, you might decide that you’d like to find a wonderful budget hotel in Cairo. Some of the best and most affordable hotels in Cairo are perfectly located, and these are just a few of the stand out ones.
Hotel Royal, Downtown Cairo**½
From E£347 per night
This is a really smart and gorgeous hotel, with massive rooms, and some wonderful architecture. It’s also in a convenient location – Downtown Cairo, so everything is readily accessible. And, for a price equating to just £15 GBP$19 USD per night, we’re sure you’ll agree, this is a bargain!
Talisman Hotel de Charme, Talat Harb Street***
From E£1,581 per night
At the higher end of the budget, we have this amazing luxury hotel in Cairo. The beautiful boutique design will make you feel as though you are staying in an Arabian palace or something! A hidden gem, off the beaten track, with room prices starting from around £67 GBP/$87 USD, this is the place to spend your Cairo holiday in style.
Osiris Hotel, Bab el Louk **½
From E£649 per night
If you are looking for the best affordable hotels in Cairo, you can stop your search. I’ve stayed in the city a few times, and I can honestly say, it doesn’t get much better than this place. The rooms are massive, there is a wonderful roof terrace with a beautiful view, and the food is delicious. And, at a cost of just £28 GBP/$36 USD per night, it’s a bargain!
Yes, even in Cairo you’re still going to be able to find hostels to stay in. You might be on a gap year or a journey of self-discovery across the world. Whatever the reasons, you are on a tight budget, and you want to make every penny count. This is why hostels in Cairo could be the number one choice for you. Check out a few of the best options below – these are hostels I’ve stayed in on past visits, and they definitely enrich your experience.
Meramees Hostel, Sabri Alou Alan Street
From E£101 per night
Situated on the banks of the River Nile, this cheap and easy-going hostel comes highly recommended. There is plenty of entertainment, and breakfast is provided each morning. Sharing a mixed room costs as little as £E101, or you can stump up E£180 for a private room!
New Minerva, Talaat Harb
From E£152 per night
This cheap as chips hostel is perfect for anyone looking for budget accommodation in Cairo. In the heart of the city, this hostel has a reputation for being friendly, clean, and safe. The location is perfect, and all the rooms are comfortable and offer air conditioning. You might even be lucky enough to get a balcony as well!
Arabian Nights, El Dasara
From E£200 per night
‘Arabian days, ooooh like Arabian Nights…’ This is the perfect hostel to help you enjoy the delights of Cairo. There are so many monuments and stunning architectural wonders really nearby. All the rooms have air conditioning, so don’t worry, and the staff are hugely attentive and helpful.
Eating & Drinking on a Budget in Cairo
When you go abroad to places like Egypt, you are wasting your time if you don’t sample some of their culture. The food and drink in Cairo is so wonderful, and it’s important for you to sample and enjoy as much of it as you possibly can. You’re going to want to find budget-friendly eating & drinking options in Cairo in order to enhance the mealtime experience. Check out our awesome tips you can use to get the flavour of Cairo on your travels.
The food choices in Cairo are very eclectic, and, whether you want street food or a restaurant meal, you’ll find it all here. Taking influences from the Middle East, North Africa, and the Mediterranean, Cairo offers a melting pot of delicious cuisine. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the breakfast options. And, here’s the good news… Cairo offers the cheapest breakfast in the world, according to Bloomberg!
Zooba, Zamalek, Cairo
Price Range: Very Cheap
Zooba is classed as a fast food joint, but get visions of McDonald’s out of your head right now! This is authentically and deliciously Egyptian, and the perfect place for a budget breakfast in Cairo. There is plenty Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food to try; I would particularly recommend the shakshuka. Delicious!
Left Bank, Zamalek, Cairo
Price Range: Cheap
As an alternative option, you should check out this amazing breakfast joint right on the Nile! Imagine that as a view while you have the first meal of the day. Avoid the 9 am rush and go for brunch instead – the food is amazing, and you will be much more likely to get a seat.
Because of the climate in Egypt, you may not want something too heavy for lunch. But, if you have a busy day you will need energy and sustenance. That’s why I would suggest you check out Koshary, the national dish of Egypt, made up of lentils, rice, and macaroni (just trust me, it’s lush). Here are a couple of great places you should check out to enjoy affordable lunch options in Cairo.
Sequoia, Zamalek, Cairo
Price Range: Cheap
This restaurant specialises in Mediterranean and Lebanese cuisine, and it’s one of the best places to have lunch in the capital. The view is exquisite, and I heartily advise you to try the tapas, you won’t be sorry. It’s a very affordable and perfect for a stop in the middle of sightseeing.
Felfela, Sharia Honda Shaarawi Street, Cairo
Price Range: Cheap
Just seeing the outside of this place show’s you how authentic your dining experience is about to be. I love the design and decor of the restaurant, and the service is amazing as well. This is the best place for lunch on a budget in Cairo – try the falafel or the shawarma, as they are specialities for the restaurant.
Forget breakfast, I think dinner is the most important meal of the day. I love spending time indulging in a long dinner with friends or family, and the Egyptian capital is a city tailor-made for dinner. Before I went, I spent some time researching the best places for dinner on a budget in Cairo. I tried them all out, and I’ve decided to share the best ones with you below. These are places you can really find delicious and affordable food and have a dinner to write home about.
Fasahet Somaya, Youssef El-Gendi, Cairo
Price Range: Cheap
Cairo has so many gems and treasures, and this wonderful hidden authentic Egyptian restaurant is one of them. Run by Sumaya herself, and offering a different menu each day, this is a slice of home-cooked and delicious Egyptian cuisine. A cult icon, the restaurant is only open between the hours of 5pm-7pm, and you will not be served after that time.
Naguib Mahfouz Cafe, Khan el-Khalili, Cairo
Price Range: Fairly Cheap
This exquisite cafe/restaurant is one of the most majestic in all of Cairo. Stepping across the threshold is like taking a trip to the Cairo of old. The wonderful food and service simply have to be experienced, and this is has got to be your first port of call for dinner on night one. It may not be as cheap as the other places out there, but it’s certainly affordable and well worth it.
Going for a drink in Cairo is definitely part of the experience. It’s not like walking into a London pub and ordering a pint of Camden Ale, this is a different experience. For one thing, they don’t serve beer everywhere in Cairo. You will need to make a decision about the kind of booze you want, and the sort of nightlife you’re looking for. Quiet, bustling, or something in between. These are some of the options you need to consider if you want to go out.
Cairo Jazz Club, Giza Governorate, Cairo
Price Range: Affordable
If you’re looking to indulge in the Cairo music scene, this is definitely the place for you. If you are interested in absorbing some culture, and absorbing some amazing jazz music, you definitely need a visit. The drinks are affordable, and you can stretch the budget a little just this once. Just make sure you book in advance by phone, or they may not let you in!
Pub 28, Shagarat el Dor St, Cairo
You’ll find this pub in Zamalek, and it’s the best place to go for echoes of home. Those feeling a little homesick should check out the classic British pub feel they have in here. It’s the perfect place to come for a beer or some whiskey. The interior is cosy and welcoming, come on in and make yourself at home!
Cheap or Free Attractions in Cairo
There are so many incredible attractions in Cairo, and it’s a place on many bucket lists. Some of the tourist hotspots in Cairo are things that can’t be seen anywhere else on Earth. As soon as you land in Egypt you’ll get the feeling that this is not a regular place – there is a magic and mythology at work here, and you need to experience it. Make sure you check out the different attractions in Cairo before you travel. That way you will be able to make a decision about what you want to see, and you’re not going to miss out on anything.
- The Great Pyramids of Giza – One of the Wonders of the World, and a truly staggering architectural feat, the pyramids are a must-see! There are so many myths and legends surrounding the pyramids, and you need to see for yourself how wondrous they are.
TOP TIPThere will be lots of scammers there promising you discounted tickets – don’t buy from them. Go to the desk and order a real ticket for around E£80.
- The Sphinx – In Egyptian mythology, the Sphinx is a fearsome, legendary creature, with the body of a lion and the head of a human. And now it is immortalised for all time in the desert of Cairo. Go and see the breathtaking noiseless monument as soon as you can, it’s truly awesome.
- Hanging Church of Cairo – One of Egypt’s oldest churches, the Hanging Church of Cairo is simply one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. It’s said that this was built in 690 AD and it’s unlike any church I’ve ever been to.
TOP TIPThere are a lot of tours you can book, but I’d recommend the Half-Day Private Tour to Old Cairo, where you can see the hanging church and the carved church in Moqqata. It costs around E£373 – approximately £16GBP.
- Mosque of Muhammad Ali – Being a Muslim city, Cairo has a lot of mosques, but none are more famous than this one. Known as the Alabaster Mosque, it is a building of outstanding beauty, and visiting it is a once in a lifetime experience.
Final Top Tips for Visiting Cairo on a Budget
Now you have all the pertinent information you need for visiting Cairo on a budget. All that remains now is to take a look at some of our final top tips to help you have a much better Cairo experience on a budget.
- Keep in mind that Egypt is a Muslim country, so there are many cultural differences. For example, public displays of affection are frowned upon, and it’s appreciated if you dress modestly.
- Never drink water from a tap – this is the perfect way to ensure you get ill. Instead, make sure you only buy bottled water; don’t worry, it’s cheap enough!
- Don’t worry about sorting your visa out before you go; wait until you get to Cairo Airport and get it there, this will work out considerably cheaper.
- If you have to learn one phrase for your trip to Cairo, make sure it’s “La Shukran,” it translates roughly as “No thank you,” perfect for dealing with street side sellers.
- Take a small flashlight or torch with you on excursions – some sites and attractions only use natural light and can be dark, so a flashlight is invaluable.
- If you are female, please use one of the women-only carriages on the metro (usually the middle ones). This helps you to avoid some of the unwanted attention from men.
- If you visit the Sphinx and Pyramids, don’t buy anything from the Giza Plateau, the prices are all marked up just for tourists. You can find the same stuff for much cheaper in other places, such as Khan El-Khalili.