Cairo is challenging to explore on your own. If you even know where to go, the distances are too big, and the hustlers are everywhere. We experienced that it is much easier to explore the city with a local guide. A local guide will know where to go and how to avoid some of the city’s crazy crowds. Plus, your guide will help keep the famous Cairo hustlers away.
The main reason why you should book a guide is that Cairo is too big to explore on your own. There is too much to see, and you have only limited time to do so. We recommend splitting your exploration of Cairo into (at least) two days. Use one day to explore the city of Cairo itself and use the other day to explore the Pyramids on the western bank of the Nile.
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1. Cairo is too big to explore on your own
The main reason why you need a guide is that Cairo is huge, extremely crowded, and hard to navigate. The city is a metropole that consists of two major cities: Cairo and Giza. Cairo is east of the river Nile, while Giza sits on the other side. Combined, these two mega cities are home to over 21 million citizens.
During your stay, you may want to visit both Giza and Cairo. Giza is home to the famous Pyramids, while Cairo hosts the royal mummies, Coptic Cairo, and the Citadel of Saladin. Plus, a lot more, of course. We recommend booking two excursions to explore all of Cairo. Cramming both sides of the Nile into a single day would mean you are rushing the beautiful city, and you would miss out on some of its beauty.
2. Cairo transport is too complicated to go on your own
Of course, you can choose to explore Cairo by yourself. With a good travel guide, you will know exactly where to go and how to get there. The next problem you will face is transportation. Although some public transport is available, Cairo’s Metro is the only well-organized working mode of transportation. You will need to do all the rest by taxi, which will be an adventure.
Traveling through Cairo using taxis is obviously a less safe option than booking an organized tour that always comes with transportation. You will be transported from site to site when you book an organized excursion, and no negotiations with taxi drivers are necessary. It also reduces the risk of scams. For example, there is a famous scam described by Lonely Planet. As soon as you enter the area near the Pyramids of Giza, a stranger would step into your taxi, claiming to be a guide. He will then try to get money from you: more about this in the Lonely Planet guide.
3. An Organized tour reduces the risk of scams and hustlers
Every Cairo travel guide will have a part dedicated to hustlers. There are many known scams around the Pyramids of Giza. People will try to force you to get a guide, a camel ride, or buy souvenirs that you probably don’t want. If you travel by yourself through Cairo, you need to be strong. Practice saying ‘no’ a lot. The easiest way to get rid of hustlers is to say ‘Shokran’ (‘Thank you’ in Arabic) and simply keep walking.
An organized tour will significantly reduce the risk of scams and hustlers. Your tour guide will know exactly where to go and what to avoid. The tour guide will probably give tips and tricks to keep the hustlers away. Even better: scammers will recognize that you are escorted by a local and go for better odds with unaccompanied tourists.
The benefit of getting less exposed to hustlers is most certainly the case when you travel in small groups. If your group is larger, your guide will be less able to assist and ‘protect’ you. We always recommend smaller group tours, but that is extra important in Cairo.
4. You will see more with an organized tour
While we enjoy preparing for our travels, making a good list of things we want to see and do can take a lot of work. If you book an organized tour in Cairo, that is no longer an issue. Your guide will know exactly where to go and what to do. Your day will include the main highlights in either Giza, Cairo, or both.
If you book an organized tour, your day will be optimized to see the best Cairo offers. You will see the main highlights, have precisely enough time to spend at Cairo’s main sites and then move on to the next. You will not waste time organizing your transport. You will not have to skip out on one of your itinerary items because you were wasting time getting organized.
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5. You will travel with a translator and expert on local customs
Egypt can feel like another planet. Things are organized differently, and the local culture might differ from what you are used to. On top of that, there is a significant language barrier. If you travel with a guide, you will always have an expert on local customs and a translator.
Egypt has a long history of professional travel. The first tourists arrived in the country hundreds of years ago. As a result, the country has highly skilled tour guides and translators in (almost) all languages: you can get a tour guide speaking any language.
6. An Egypt specialist is always with you
You may want to understand why something is built in a certain way. Or, you want to know the meaning of a special hieroglyphic. The chance of you figuring that out yourself is close to zero. When you explore Cairo as part of an organized tour, you always travel with an Egypt specialist. While not all tour guides are full-blown Egyptologists, we have encountered knowledgeable guides who could answer all our questions.
7. Supporting the local economy
While doing a tour on your own might be cheaper, you must realize that a tour guide is sitting at home with no income. Booking a tour offers you a better experience in Cairo. At the same time, it brings much-needed income to the family of tour guides, drivers, and those working at the local travel agency.
Unofficial reason 8: Skip the Line in Cairo
Cairo’s museums and main sights don’t offer skip-the-line access. There are no special lines for those who pay extra like you have elsewhere. Lots of tourists are struggling to buy tickets and standing in line. Our tour guides could go through long lines at lightning speed. Not only did they buy tickets for us, but they were also very ‘assertive’ regarding the long lines. We didn’t wait at all at the Great Pyramids of Giza, NMEC, or the Egyptian Museum. Thanks to our guide, we had the equivalent of skip-the-line in Cairo.
What is the best website to book organized tours in Cairo?
We recommend booking your tours, guides, and day trips in Cairo in advance through Viator or GetYourGuide.com. Both offer a variety of excursions and provide consumer protection if something goes wrong.
We don’t recommend booking tours on the ground in Egypt. Prices are usually higher, and the quality of the tours isn’t always guaranteed. Plus, you have no organization to claim your money back if something goes wrong.