The largest city in both Africa and the Middle East with 17 million inhabitants, Cairo is a major global tourist destination thanks to the world-famous historic attractions found in the city, most notably the pyramids of Giza and the ancient Sphinx. However, Cairo is also a modern metropolis in its own right and there are plenty of other attractions in the city for visitors to explore.
Before traveling to Cairo, foreign citizens should first check the documents needed to travel to Egypt, as the majority of passport holders are required to obtain a visa in order to enter the country. Citizens from certain eligible countries are now able to apply for an online visa for Egypt before departure from their home country and receive an approved Egypt eVisa exclusively online, eliminating the need to apply from an embassy or consulate.
As Cairo is a sprawling and busy city, it’s a good idea to be informed about what to expect upon arrival, from entry visa requirements to local transportation. Read on for a complete guide to traveling to Cairo.
As stated above, the majority of foreign citizens are required to obtain a visa to visit Cairo and the rest of Egypt. Only a few nationalities, including citizens of all Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, are able to travel to Cairo visa-free for short stays. Other foreign passport holders are either required to obtain an Egypt visa on arrival, a visa from an embassy or consulate, or through the Egypt eVisa application online, depending on their nationality and the duration of the stay.
Obtaining a tourist visa for Egypt online is by far the most convenient option for eligible travelers, as it removes the need to visit an embassy in person or queue for a visa on arrival at border entry points. It allows stays in Egypt for up to 30 days at time for purposes of tourism. However, those who wish to visit Egypt for other purposes, such as to live, work or study, are required to obtain an Egypt entry visa from an embassy or consulate in advance of their trip.
Cairo airport is the second biggest airport in Africa and receives approximately 16 million passengers a year. Those arriving at Cairo airport with an Egypt online tourist visa will be able to present a printed copy of the approved eVisa alongside their passport at border control to gain expedited entry to the country. Travelers who intend to obtain an Egypt visa on arrival will be required to queue upon entry before passing through immigration.
Those who are planning to queue for the visa for Egypt on arrival are advised to pay the required fee in US dollars and with the exact amount, as all other currencies are required to be first exchanged into Egyptian pounds and then into US Dollars, with high conversion fees. Any change will be given in Egyptian pounds.
Travelers who intend to exchange currency in Egypt are advised to do so at the airport, and, if arriving late in the day, should do so before going through customs as the exchange bureaus in the airport terminal are closed in the evenings.
Although in general it is safe to travel to Egypt, there are often touts in the luggage area of Cairo airport who try to take advantage of arriving tourists. Although these parties claim to be government employees there to offer tourist information, travelers should be aware that this is a scam and refuse any services they may offer. There is, however, an official exclusive service offered by airport personnel, who can pick travelers up at the gate, complete immigration services on their behalf, and collect their luggage while they wait in a comfortable arrival lounge, for a small fee.
In order to reach Egypt’s capital city from the airport, there are a number of options available. There are always taxis available outside of all 3 of the airport terminals, although travelers should make sure that the driver agrees to use their meter before commiting to the ride, as any fixed prices offered tend to be double the regular fare. It is also possible to use Uber or Careem transportation apps in Cairo, and fares can often be lower than those offered in taxis.
Another convenient option to travel to Cairo is to use one of the many ‘limousine services’ available at pick-up points outside the airport. The best of these services is the Micro Bus, also known as the Cairo airport shuttle bus, which can carry up to 7 passengers, although this can often be more expensive than a taxi or Uber.
There are also public buses to Cairo from the airport bus station, which is connected to the 3 airport terminals via a free shuttle bus. These services usually take around 60-90 minutes to reach the city centre, and are very cheap, although it may be necessary to pay an extra fee if traveling with bulky luggage. However, the destination and bus number will be in Arabic, so it may be necessary to ask the driver or other passengers if the bus will stop at the traveler's destination.