Cairo is an overwhelming place. The city attracts 6.9 million tourists annually, and all go to the same places. Without a guide, you will struggle to get around. To make the best use of your time in Egypt‘s fascinating capital, we recommend taking at least two tours:
- Explore the Pyramids of Giza, Sakkara, and Memphis
- Old Cairo: Citadel of Saladin, Coptic Cairo, National Museum of Egyptian Civilization, and the Egyptian Museum
We previously wrote about why we highly recommend booking a guide: Seven Reasons to book a guided tour in Cairo. We also recommend spending at least one day in Luxor, a one-hour flight away from the capital.
Best tour for the Pyramids in Giza
We did a full-day tour that we booked through GetYourGuide.com: Cairo: Pyramids, Sakkara & Memphis Private Tour with Lunch. This tour was organized by Emo tours and was simply perfect. We were picked up at our hotel and went to all the sights in a clean and comfortable sedan. Our driver was friendly and drove safely, while our guide (Khaled) was knowledgeable and friendly.
Our first stop was the Pyramids of Giza, where our guide explained some of Egyptology’s (much-needed) basics. Meanwhile, he helped us avoid some of the large crowds while teaching us how to get rid of the famous hustlers. The Pyramids were stunning. Thanks to the guided tour, we could see them from all angles bringing home unforgettable memories and photos.
After the Great Pyramids of Giza, we continued to Sakkara. We found Sakkara to be more interesting than the famous picture-perfect pyramids. We opted to go into the pyramids at Sakkara, filled with hieroglyphics, and not go into the Great Pyramid of Giza, which is empty inside. At Sakkara, you can go inside pyramids to see beautiful hieroglyphics that aren’t painted but carved into stone. Sakkara gives you the feeling you have entered one of the famous Egyptian adventure movies.
After Sakkara, we visited Memphis. The city of Memphis, once the capital of Egypt, has been destroyed. While the site is small, a stunning statue of Rameses II is a must-see on your visit to Cairo. Plus, it is on its way back to the city from Sakkara, so there is no excuse to skip it.
During the tour, we also had a large lunch. While we are usually skeptical about the food quality at tourist hotspots, it was very delicious. We also didn’t get sick (writing this post five days after we ate there). Another reason to do an organized tour: it ensures you get good and safe food. On the way, there were also two stops at local shops that some would consider tourist traps: a local perfumery and a papyrus workshop. While we usually avoid such places, the staff was friendly, and we didn’t feel forced to buy anything.
Overall, this organized private tour was one of the best we have ever been on. We will write a more detailed post about it later. Our guide Khaled was terrific, the driver was exactly what we needed, and we got everything we wanted from the city. We returned to our hotel feeling we had made the most out of our day in Giza.
Best tour for Cairo's old city
In Cairo city, you will want to visit the following highlights: the Citadel of Saladin, Coptic Cairo, the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization, and The Egyptian Museum. Once the new museum is opened in Giza, that will alter this itinerary a bit.
The Citadel of Saladin sits on a plateau high above the city of Cairo. Here you can find the impressive Al-Nasir Muhammad Mosque, built in 1318. Outside the mosque, you can have a good view of the city, and on clear days you can even see the pyramids of Giza (so we were told).
After the citadel, our tour continued to the National Museum of Egyptian Museum (NMEC). This brand-new museum explains the history of the country’s civilization throughout different eras and themes. The main highlight of the museum is the Pharaohs’ mummies. Those were brought to the museum in a fantastic spectacle in late 2021 called the Pharaoh’s Golden Parade.
After NMEC, our tour continued to Coptic Cairo, where you will explore the Christian history of Cairo. Here, you can find two famous churches: one, the Church of Abu Serga, where the holy family (Maria, Joseph, and Jezus) hid from the Romans in a cave for three years. The other is the hanging church, an architecture wonder ‘hanging’ above an old Roman fortress.
The famous Egyptian Museum was the last stop of our private tour through Cairo’s old city. This is where you can still see thousands of Egyptian artifacts until they are moved to their new home in Giza. The main attraction is the mask of Tutankhamun. After visiting the museum, we safely and quickly returned to our hotel.
Can you do Cairo in one day?
No, you can’t visit all of Cairo in one day. Cairo is too big, and there is too much to see to explore in a single day. Although you can visit some of Cairo’s highlights on a 1-day excursion, these will be those sights in Giza or Cairo. If you only have one day, we recommend booking a private excursion that includes the Pyramids of Giza and Sakkara. If you can also squeeze in the Egyptian Museum, you have the best one-day tour of Cairo.
What will you see on a guided day tour in Cairo?
There are two options. Either you go to the Pyramids in Giza, or you go to old Cairo. You can expect the following on a one-day guided tour in Cairo:
- Giza option: Pyramids of Giza (including Sphynx), Sakkara, and Memphis
- Old Cairo option: Citadel of Saladin, Coptic Cairo, National Museum of Egyptian Civilization, and the Egyptian Museum
Do I need a tour guide in Cairo?
We highly recommend booking an organized tour if you want to explore Cairo. It gives the best value for money; you will see the best sights, save time and get protection against the famous Egyptian hustlers.
Things you must see in Cairo
There is too much to see in Cairo to put in a single post. But here are some of the highlights we enjoyed the most:
- Pyramids of Giza (including Sphynx)
- Citadel of Saladin
- Coptic Cairo
- National Museum of Egyptian Civilization
- The Egyptian Museum
Can you explore Cairo on your own?
While you could explore Cairo independently, we don’t recommend it. Cairo is too big and too busy. If you go on your own, you will miss some of the most remarkable sights, spend too much time trying to find your way around, and spend more time stuck with hustlers.
Is Cairo safe to explore on your own?
Cairo, in general, is a safe city with lots of security. Like any large city, you must be street-smart traveling as a tourist: watch your belongings and protect yourself against minor crimes. While generally considered safe, we noticed a more significant number of hustlers than in most other touristic cities.
One thing to be aware of is Cairo’s traffic. Crossing roads in Cairo is the most dangerous thing you will experience. Be careful while crossing the streets!
How much will a private tour of Cairo cost?
Private tours in Cairo are affordable. You can book a guide plus a car for around 70 USD per person per day if you are in a small group. The price drops considerably per person if you travel in a larger group. If you want a more affordable option, cheaper tours are available if you are willing to travel in a group.
Best Cairo tours to avoid crowds
The best way to avoid crowds is by booking a private tour. A private tour will come with a guide and a driver. Your guide will help you navigate the masses, which can be overwhelming.
What are Cairo's most crowded tourist attractions?
We visited Cairo in late October 2022. While tourism has yet to fully recover from COVID-19, we did find the city, in general, very crowded. Most crowds can be found around the Pyramids of Giza and Coptic Cairo, and The Egyptian Museum was extremely crowded. While the Great Pyramids of Giza probably attracted most tourists, it didn’t feel as crowded as some other places.
That is probably because the area is much larger, with tourists more spread out over the place. We found The Egyptian Museum the most crowded destination in Cairo. There are relatively small corridors and entrances that thousands of tourists enter daily. According to our guide, the best time to visit The Egyptian Museum is in the afternoon.
Where to go in Cairo to get away from the crowds?
You cannot avoid crowds in Cairo. While we were never alone in Cairo, some places felt more crowded than others. The lesser crowded areas included Sakkara and Memphis. Sakkara was exceptionally calm, while there was so much to see and explore. It is the best place to enter a fascinating pyramid and get up close to hieroglyphics carved into stone.
Are two days enough in Cairo?
If you want to see the city’s main highlights, two days in Cairo is the minimum. We recommend booking two private tours if you have only two days. One to visit old Cairo and one to visit the Pyramids and Sakkara.
What should a woman wear in Cairo?
Men or women don’t have to worry about a dress code in Cairo. You can wear whatever you want without getting into any kind of trouble. We recommend respecting local customs and traditions. Most of Egypt’s population is Muslim. Although you don’t need to wear a head scarf, we recommend wearing long light pants and covering your shoulders.
What is Cairo's climate?
Cairo is very hot, with average temperatures ranging from 21 degrees Celsius (70 Fahrenheit) in the winter to 35 degrees Celsius (95 Fahrenheit) in the summer. The best time to visit Cairo for comfortable weather is October to April.
How to get from the airport to your hotel?
The best way to get to the airport is by pre-booking your ride. Cairo is the city of hustle, and you will soon fall victim to some kind of scam if you don’t book things in advance. We recommend booking your transportation through a large booking website such as Viator or GetYourGuide.com.
Our experience in Cairo
We visited Cairo in October 2022. We only did some tours, but we researched online and then picked the best we could find. Our picks in Cairo were good. We had the best tour guide in a while: Khaled from Emo Tours. We booked the tour ourselves through GetYourGuide.com.