A guide to driving in Cairo

Engine? Start!

Mirrors? Check!

Windows? Down! And we’re off…

Off to Cairo, the largest populated city in Africa and the Middle East. This large amount of people obviously requires an extended transport system. And as every system has its rules, so does traffic in Egypt. Quite different rules if compared to other countries. But let us mention a few to give you an impression of what’s it like to participate in daily traffic.

Common view in Cairo

traffic in cairo

The setup of the roads

People drive on the right side of the road. There are lanes in most cases, but these are hardly used. The most right lane is used to stop, pick people up and to park your car.

The most left lane can direct you to U-turns (to switch driving directions) and also deals with cars incoming from the other U-turn. In between, every car finds it’s own way.

There are (almost) no traffic lights and crossroads are the place where you make up for not having to wait at the traffic light. Traffic floats from crossroad to crossroad, on straight roads average speed is 60-70 km/h, while near junctions and u-turns, this is about 10 km/h. Usually before a new junction there is a road bump; cat eyes surround the road bumps. So if you see or feel cat eye obstacles, SLOW DOWN for the road bump and look for the direction you’re heading for.

The driving attitude

To move from A to B, you have to do this yourself. So every spot that you can take, every car that you can pass, left or right, everything that will make your travel faster, do it!

There are several key signals to understand when driving in Egypt.

Honking the horn is a necessity as well as commonality. It still is used as warning signal meaning: “Watch out, here I come” or “Move it”. From Vespa to Transport Truck, every one will let you know when they are coming close to you.

Headlights are also very important. When the headlights are turned off, there is no problem. Crossing, passing or driving past each other,

Headlights on full beam mean “you wait, I go first”. This is used for crossing pedestrians, inserting cars and when passing. Especially when inserting or with crossing the roads. Do not think headlights are a signal to do cross.

Then, when your mother is calling to ask you for dinner, go ahead: Answer the phone. And yes, also the third time. Do not forget to put your ringtone on a high volume, so that you can hear your calls.

As last, most drivers wear a seatbelt, since it is obligatory by law. However you might also often see is that no one in the car is wearing a seatbelt, value according to the capabilities of your driver or the traffic if it is necessary to wear one.

It is Alive!

What do the following terms have in common: a donkey, horse, cat, dog, rock, rat, garbage, blown car and a street seller. What they have in common is that you can expect them at any time and any place in Cairo. On the road, yes.

Next to these participants there are microbuses slinging back and forth, dropping and picking up people from the (side of the) road. As well as vacant taxis honking to every one looking for a ride and people crossing the street at every point. So when driving, always expect something to pop up in front of you.

Play music as loud as possible

This seems very straightforward, and it is. Emphasize on your favourite Amr Diab song or one of the current Arabic hits. Roll your windows down and get as many people in your car as possible, do not forget to keep clapping on the rhytm. That is how you drive in Cairo.
Insider insight: during the call for prayer, please remember to mute your music. It is considered impolite to disturb the call for prayer. With Egyptians in your car it might give you a subtle image boost.

Mercedes vs. Microbus

Ranging from Microbus to brand new Mercedes, most cars do not get away from Cairo without actual evidence: scratches and dents. Your car represents your attitude of driving, the more damaged your ride is, the more tough you drive. This can give you an impression of what to think about the driver.
We will take an example of a new Mercedes and a Microbus.

The new Mercedes is fast, well streamlined, safe and very dynamic. The Microbus is ponderous, unreliable and unsafe; seasoned with crashes and scratches. The Mercedes is designed for comfort and durability, on top also relatively expensive. One Microbus ride will cost you 1.50 LE.

The look of the Microbus is one to watch out for: the scratches are like scars in the battlefield, the neon lights signalling the colours of danger of poison, the Arabic music playing reminds to a national anthem and the back trunk is open spreading fear to pass.

To ride every day to your work, the choice is yours.

Our verdict: Microbus wins.


So far our guide about the culture of driving in Cairo, make sure you check the mentioned points before visiting. Do you have any additions or experiences to share with us? Please leave a comment or connect with us through the available Social Media.


About Mike

Raised in the modern society of North-West Europe, I am just a rookie in the daily life of Egypt. Traveling straight out of Thailand this creates a unique opinion. I try to write with creative, cultural and analytical viewpoints. Although I am not that structured, I try to keep you updated every week!