Egypt: Travel Tips - Getting Around

Getting Around

From Tour Egypt Monthly

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The Nile flows through Egypt from south to north. Lower Egypt is thus the north and Upper Egypt is the south. That's because the country slopes downhill toward the Mediterranean. Going upriver means heading south to Luxor and Aswan and going down the Nile means heading north towards Cairo and Alexandria.


There are a few good maps of Egypt. The best general maps are:

Egypt by Freytag and Berndt. Distributed in Egypt by Al Ahram, this road map includes all of the Nile Valley and Sinai, but only a portion of the Western Desert.

The Nile by Lehnert and Landrock. A full-color illustrated map of the river identifying antiquities and important sites along its route.

Oases and Western Desert of Egypt by Trade Routes Enterprises.

Cairo Tourist Map by Lehnert and Landrock. A street map including central Cairo, Zamalek, Dokki, and the historic zone is accompanied by smaller maps of the Giza plateau.

Chicago House Mini Guide and Map (with text) of Luxor is prepared by the Oriental Institute of Chicago and published by Trade Routes Enterprises.

Cairo and Luxor by Lehnert and Landrock. A handy map with Cairo on one side and Luxor on the other.

From the Airport

All airports in Egypt have a taxi service to city centers, operated on a flat fee basis (ask your airlines). In Cairo transport includes limousine, taxi, and bus. Curbside limousine service is offered by Misr Limousine (tel: 2259-9381).

Official Cairo taxis are predominantly white (Previously Black and White) and Alexandria taxis are black and orange. There are also Peugeot taxis in a variety of colors and sizes, but they all have an emblem and number painted on the driver's door. Fees are the same as the limousine service.

The Airport Bus Service operates from Terminal 1. The bus leaves when full and stops at Midan Tahrir in downtown Cairo, in Mohandeseen, and along Pyramids Road in Giza. There are also regular city buses but they are not recommended for they are often too crowded for foreigners.

Public Transport

By Rail

The Egyptian State Railway is a government-owned system founded in 1851 which services the entire Nile Valley down to Aswan, the Red Sea cities of Suez and Port Said, the Delta and Northern Coast cities of Alexandria (two stops) and Mersa Matruh. There are at least half a dozen through trains a day on major routes. Fares are inexpensive, but unless one is traveling with a tour, tickets must be purchased at the main railway stations ( in Cairo at the Ramses Station at Midan Ramses).

There is one privately-owned train operating in Egypt, the Wagon Lits sleeper with first, second and third class compartments. The train travels overnight from Cairo to Aswan and back again, leaving Cairo at around 7 in the evenings and arriving in Aswan at 9 the following morning. Bookings are one week in advance through a travel agent or from Compagnie Internationale des Wagons Lits Egypte, 9 Sh Menes, Heliopolis, Tel: 290-8802/4; 48 Sh Giza, Giza, Tel: 348-7354, 349-2365.

By Bus

Air- conditioned buses link most parts of Egypt to Cairo and Alexandria. Seats may be reserved up to two days in advance. There is also a fleet of cheaper non-air-conditioned buses. Although bus times may change without notice, departures are so frequent that schedule changes are not a problem.

The principle carrier to Aswan and Luxor is the Upper Egyptian Bus Company, 4 Yussef Abbas, MN. Tel: 260-9304, 260-9297/8. Departures are from 45 al Azhar and the terminal at Midan Ahmed Helmi. Two buses a day complete the run to Aswan, departing early morning and arriving in the evening. To Alexandria the main carriers are the West Delta Bus Company, Super Jet, and the Federal Arab Land Transport Company, which leave from behind the Hilton.

By Bus Around Cairo

The large red-and-white and blue-and-white buses are usually so overcrowded they assault one's sense of private space. But here are a few interesting routes for the adventurous tourist:

Number 400 from the airport to downtown.
Number 66 from the Nile Hilton in Midan Tahrir to the Khan al-Khalili.
Number 72 from the Nile Hilton in Midan Tahrir to the Citadel.
Number 800 and 900 from the Muhama'a in Midan Tahrir to the Pyramids.

More comfortable are the smaller orange-and-white buses which do not permit standing. Here are a few major routes (from Midan Tahrir):

Number 24 to Ramses statue, Abbassiyah and Roxi.
Number 27 to Ramses statue, Abbassiyah and the Airport.
Number 82 to the Pyramids.

Metro & Tram

Both Alexandria and Cairo have tram or metro systems that run through at least part of the city. Trains run every few minutes from early morning (5:30 a.m.) to midnight and fares are inexpensive, usually under a pound to the farthest destination.

By Tram Around Alexandria

Tram lines in Alexandria run only between Ramleh Station (called "Terminus") near the Cecil Hotel and destinations to the east of the city.

Tram 1, (Bacos line), Ramleh Station to Sidi Bishr.
Tram 2, (El Nasr line), Ramleh Station to Sidi Bishr.
Tram 3, Ramleh Station to Sidi Gaber.
Tram 4, Circular route: Sidi Gaber, Ramleh Station, Sidi Gaber.
Tram 5, Ramleh Station to San Stefano via Bacos.
Tram 6, Ramleh Station to Sidi Bishr via Glym.

By Metro Around Cairo

In Cairo the metro system is identified by circular signs with a big red M. The system runs north-south with over 30 stops from Heliopolis to Helwan through the heart of the city. Additional routes, planned east and west, are currently under construction. Useful stations:

Mubarak Station Ramses Square with access to the main train station and bus stations to Upper Egypt and the Oases.

Urabi Station Sh Gala'a. Al Ahram newspaper.

Nasser Station Midan Tawfiqiyyah.

Sadat Station Tahrir Square with ten entrances and access to Egyptian Antiquities Museum, the American University in Cairo, Nile Hilton, all major airline offices, and the Mugama'a.

Mar Girgis at Old Cairo with access to the Coptic Museum, Coptic churches, and Roman fortress.

Zaghlul Station The National Assembly, Zaghlul monument.

By Tram Around Heliopolis

Cairo also has tram systems and Heliopolis is served by six tram lines. The major three lines are:

Abd el Aziz Fahmi line (green) from Midan Abd el Monim Riad (behind the Egyptian Museum) via Ramses to Roxi, Merryland, Mahkama, Heliopolis Hospital to the Shams Club;

Nuzha line (red) runs Midan Abd el Monim Riad, Ramses, Roxi, Heliopolis Sporting Club, Salah el Din, and Midan el Higaz to Nuzha;

Merghani line (yellow) Midan Abd el Monim Riad, Ramses, Roxi, Sharia el Merghani, Saba Emarat, Midan Triomphe, Military College.

By Taxi

If you did not have a chance to be on a taxi in New York City or Rome, take an Egyptian taxi for one of the experiences of your life. Taxi drivers seem to need to fill every empty space of the road . All taxis have orange license plates and are identified by a number on the driver's license and identify number attached to the dashboard. Sharing a taxi is not unusual. For the tourist, it is more expensive but easier to get a taxi from a hotel where they line up and where you can fix the price beforehand. But if you find yourself in need of a taxi on the street, be aggressive. Stand on the road, wave your right hand and yell your destination to all taxis. A taxi will stop for you.

Official prices are stricked and meters should be used. If that did not happen, take the car number ( which listed beside the meter) and report it to the police. It is preferable to ask the driver if his meter is working or not. Most taxi drivers are honest, but few try to cheat unwary foreigners. At your destination, pay the fare in exact change. No tip is expected like other

International cities. Taxi drivers are friendly, many speak English, some are college graduates moonlighting to supplement their income, and most are very eager to be hired by the day. If you plan to visit a number of sites and wish the driver to wait for you,

this can be done. Taxis in Luxor, Aswan, Hurghada, Esaphagas and Sinai are easier to find (they line up at all hotels) but for the distance traveled they are more expensive than those in Cairo.

Private Transport

Car Renta

Driving a car in Egypt allows a great deal of freedom. Streets are congested in the cities, especially Cairo, but highways throughout the country are not.

Car rental agencies exist at most major hotels. Foreigners must have an International Driver's License and be at least 25 years of age to rent a car in Egypt. Some agencies offer 4x4s, with or without driver, for desert travel. You will need your passport, driver's license, and a prepayment. Credit cards are accepted.

Rental Agencies

Avis, 16 Maamal el Sukkar, Garden City. Tel: 2354-8698.

Bita, 15 Mahmud Bassiouni. Tel: 2277-4330, 2275-3130.

Budget, 5 Sh el Maqrizik, Zamalek. Tel: 2340-0070, 2340-9474; 85

Road 9, Maadi. Tel: 2350-2724; 1 Sh Muhammad Ebeid, Heliopolis. Tel: 291-8244.

Max Rent-a-Car, 27 Sh Lubnan, Mohandeseen. Tel: 2347-4712/3. Fax: 341-7123.

Also for four-wheel drive vehicles with or without experienced desert drivers. Branch office in Sharm el Shaikh.

Bita Limousine Service, Gazirah Sheraton. Tel: 2341-1333, 341-1555. Marriott Hotel. Tel: 2340-8888.

Budget Limousine Service, Semiramis Intercontinental Hotel. Tel: 2355-7171 x 8991.

Limousine Misr, 7 Aziz Bil-Lah, Zeitoun. Tel: 259-9813/4.

Egyptrav, Nile Hilton. Tel:2 755-029, 2766-548, 393-2644.

The roads from Cairo to Upper Egypt are the longest, most congested, and most dangerous in Egypt. Most traffic moving south from Cairo must travel a route along the western shore of the Nile. In recent years a new road along the east bank of the river has been under construction. Although it too is a single lane road, it is less congested. To date it is passable from Cairo to Minya and from

Asyut to Luxor. It is not advisable to drive at night; vehicles stop dead on the road and turn out their lights; unlit donkey carts move at a snail's pace and are usually not seen until it is too late, and long distance taxis and overloaded trucks travel too fast and are driven by drivers who use "stimulants".

There are petrol stations throughout the country, with those operated by Mobil, Esso, and Shell offering full service with mini-markets on the premises. Fuel, inexpensive and sold by the litter, is available in 90 octane (tisa'iin) which is super, or 80 (tamaniin), regular. 90 is better for most purposes.

Road signs are similar to those used throughout Europe. Driving is on the right-hand side of the road. Speed limits are posted on major highways and are enforced by radar.

Desert Travel

Use common sense. Bring a compass. Check your car. Be sure to have a good spare tire. Drive on loose sand as you would on snow. If your wheels get stuck in soft sand, put a rag under the back tires and move out slowly. If you spin your tires, you will sink deeper in the sand. If your car breaks down along the road, don't abandon your vehicle; even in remote areas another vehicle will pass by. If you break down on a desert track (you should never leave the main road for long distances with only one vehicle), hike to the nearest road and wait. On all desert travels have ample food, water, salt tablets, a hat and sunglasses. Cover the head and the back of the neck.

Top up your tank at every petrol station, as the next one may be hundreds of miles away. If your tank is small, carry a jerry can on long hauls like Dakhla to Farafrah (390 km/243 miles). Dehydration can sneak up on you in desert travel. In an emergency one teaspoon of salt and two tablespoons of sugar in a cup of water will revive you.

Desert driving is very monotonous. Remember you are still on a highway. When you wish to pass, sound your horn very deliberately, in order to make it clear that you are going to do something extraordinary. Egyptian drivers need an extra signal, since nearly all of them over-use the horn even when no-one is around. Another bad habit is blinking the high beam at night. When a car is approaching he may blind you. Blink back and he may stop. He may be checking to see if you are awake.

Distances between Cairo and other cities


Miles Kilometers

Alexandria (Delta Road)


Alexandria (Desert Road)

138 221


119 191


15 25


151 236


224 359


415 664


449 719


484 775

Kom Ombo

521 835


550 880

Port Said

137 220


87 140


64 103

Bharia Oasis

197 316

Farafra Oasis

262 420

Dakhla Oasis

413 690

Kharga Oasis

366 586

On Foot

Alexandria and Cairo are crowded cities, and walking in the streets is generally not very pleasant. Walking in Luxor and Aswan, however, is a pleasure. These towns are not crowded and there is a pleasant country atmosphere. Hiking as a pastime is not popular in Egypt and should not be under-taken in remote areas without a local guide. That said, there are interesting hikes and local people may be willing to act as guides in the Eastern Desert, Sinai and the Oases.


Hitchhiking is not a common practice in Egypt and is not recommended, especially for women.

Last Updated: June 13th, 2011