Practical Life in Cairo

Transport in Cairo

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Transportation in Cairo is composed of an elaborate system of road network, rail system, subway system, and maritime services. Cairo is the biggest and most densely populated city in Africa and the Arab World and a strong transportation system is vital. Ramses Square is the center of the Egyptian network.

Public Transportation

Cairo is home to Egypt's first and only complete subway system. The metro is fast and efficient, but can be very crowded during rush hour. The metro is run by the National Authority for Tunnels. Over 700 million passengers a year rid the metro with an average of 2 million per day.

The metro runs frequently, but not by timetable, until midnight and starts again around 6:00. On the metro, the middle two cars (4th and 5th) of each train are reserved for women (although the 5th car becomes a mixed use after 21:00).


The cost for a ticket price is EGP 1.00 for each journey.

Tickets are purchased at ticket windows. It may be difficult to make your way to the front at Egyptians do not queue, so be prepared to be assertive. If you will be using the metro more than once, buy multiple tickets at once.


The metro operates three lines in the city, with three additional lines under construction. The key interchanges are Mubarak, at Midan Ramses, and Sadat, below Midan Tahrir.

  • Line 1 (Helwan - El Marg) - It runs a total length of 44.3 km. Helwan University station was built between Wadi Houf and Ain Helwan stations. The line now consists of 35 stations. This line carries trains with 3 Units (9 wagons), which have a time difference of 2.5 minutes and a maximum speed of 100 km/h.
  • Line 2 (Shobra El Kheima - El Mounib) - This line of 21.5 kilometers includes a tunnel under the Nile.
  • Line 3 (Imbaba / Mohandiseen - Cairo Int'l Airport) - This line also crosses under the River Nile at approximately 33 kilometers.


Cairo Transport Authority red, white and blue buses are large and air conditioned with smaller mini-buses extending transport routes. Bus transport is inexpensive, but sometimes unclean. Large, air-conditioned buses that charge 2 EGP provide a more comfortable journey. They can be found in the main squares in Cairo. Micro-buses do not allow standing which may offer a more comfortable ride for woman.

The main terminal is located along the Extension of Ramses Street
El-Gabal El Ahmar
Telephone: 23420533

Buses are hailed from the street and destination are seldom marked. Passengers ask the driver (or use a complicated system of sign-language) to find out which buses go to their destination. If you are unfamiliar with the area, ask the bus driver or passenger where the stop is. If you do not speak Arabic, just say the name of your destination.

Late Night Routes

After nightfall routes may become less reliable. Routes are occasionally randomly terminated and locals rely on private cars to pick them up for a small fee. If you choose this option, be careful. Many mini-buses will not depart until the bus is nearly full which may result in long wait times.


On micro-buses, the fare starts at .50 EGP and goes up to 1 EGP depending on distance.


Egyptian National Railways runs Egypt's trains. Cairo's main railway station is Ramses Station (Mahattat Ramses). This is also the location of the Martyrs Metro Station. Trains tend to be off schedule, conveniently a consistent 15 minutes late.

Obvious foreigners may be subject to enhance security restrictions. At times, foreigners are only allowed to buy tickets on selected trains. It may be possible to purchase tickets directly from a conductor in this case.

Trains in Egypt are quite good and are generally of 2 types
Day trains
Overnight trains - Offers lst class or 2nd class. Cairo, Luxor and Aswan are standard stops.


Tickets can only be purchased at the train station or through a travel agency. Agencies are able to arrange bookings ahead of time via e-mail, fax, or phone and will be comfortable dealing with foreigners. When purchasing from an agent, you will need to pay a commission. If you purchase at the station, there are multiple windows for different classes and destinations. Most tickets are payable in Egyptian pounds, with some higher priced seats being paid in foreign currency (dollars, euros or pounds sterling).

To make sure you have a seat, you should purchase tickets while in advance of your trip. Seats in first class are much more comparable to Western standards than those of the lower classes so consider that when purchasing. During the summer months popular lines like between Cairo and Alexandria sell out.


Eastern Arabic numerals are used to indicate train numbers, departure times, seat numbers, and other vital information. As these appear quite different from Western numbers, you may need to ask for help from a ticket agent to write down the appropriate symbol.



Ferries are an excellent way to arrive in Egypt. Routes run from Cyprus, ports in Europe, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Saudi Arabi, Sudan, and occasionally as far away as India, South Africa and even Australia. Payment may be required in foreign currency such as US dollars. Ticket offices are located near the port and are open from 9:00-12:00.
During hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) boats fill up weeks prior to departure. Buy your tickets well in advance.

Nile cruises are a popular leisure activity. The boats are well equipped for pleasure with amenities including lounges, restaurants, bars, swimming pools, discotheques and shops. The quality of cruisers varies and they are graded with stars just like hotels. Cruises normally take three, four or seven nights.

Falucca are an ancient sail boat, and a traditional way to move around the Nile. They offer not only another transport option, but a way to cool off and travel as Egyptians did long ago.


Cairo International Airport (CAI) is located 22km (13.7 miles) northeast of central Cairo and 40km (24.9 miles) from the Giza Pyramids. There are three terminals with Egypt-Air and Star Alliance operating from the newest terminal, Terminal 3. It is the second biggest airport in Africa and handles over 16 million passengers a year.

Transport To/From the Airport

Shuttle: A free shuttle bus runs between the terminals and the bus station every 30 minutes, 24 hours a day. At Terminal 1 the Shuttle Bus stops are at Hall 3 in front of the AirMall and at Hall 1 at the curb side, but they are unmarked.
Bus: The public bus can be a confusing and chaotic way to get into the city- but it is possible. The free shuttle connects to the bus station. Buses run every 30 minutes, take 60-90 minutes and cost 2 EGP. Luggage items may be charged at 1 EGP per suitcase.
There are also direct express buses from the airport to Alexandria every 30-60 minutes. These buses only run during daylight hours (4:00 - 19:30).
Taxi: White meter taxis are available at the Terminals. The basic fee is 2.50 EGP base charge plus 1.25 EGP per kilometer. Insist on using the meter and do not accept a fixed price. Refuse to pay the "ticket" (5 EGP airport parking fee).
Car: Travelers arriving at the airport should use the Main Access Roads of Salah Salem-Orouba Street, an east/west main arterial road. A secondary access road is the Autostrade-El Nasr Road which runs parallel to Orouba street.


White taxis are the latest fleet offering professional services. White cabs outnumber the older system of yellow cabs. There are cab stands in which to hail cabs as well as free number to order a cab. Most cab drivers speak English.

Meters start at 2.5 EGP for the first kilometer, but tourists are usually charged 6 EGP. Additional fees are 2.50 EGP per kilometer after the first with 0.25 EGP per minute of waiting time.

To estimate fares, the Taximeter is a helpful tool.

Car Hire

Car rental allows visitors to move freely through Egypt. Rentals can be arranged online or at points of entry with major worldwide brands represented. Shop around online to find the best prices. Car rental sites require you to be at least 21 years old.

Gas is inexpensive in Egypt. Prices are heavily subsidized and usually under USD .80/gallon.


An extensive road network connects Cairo with other Egyptian cities and villages. A Ring Road surrounds the outskirts of the city with exits offering access to outer Cairo districts. There are bridges, such as the Sixth of October bridge, when provide an alternate route of traversing the city.

Cairo traffic can be a major problem. Drivers tend to be aggressive and you should be prepared to be watchful and defensive.

Driving Licenses

The Central Traffic Department manages the rules and regulations of the road. A drivers license from your home country usually allows for legal driving for three months from the date of arrival. Egyptian citizens or foreigner residing in Egypt are entitled to a driver's license over the age of 18. To obtain their licenses, applicants must pass a driving test (applicant provide his/her own vehicle) as well as a written test. The test is fairly simple.

    Necessary Documents to obtain an Egyptian License:
  • Certificate of Health from an Egyptian ophthalmologist & physician
  • Valid Drivers License from your home country
  • 2 photographs
  • Fee of about 55 EGP

Apply at:
Ramses 10 El Kasr El Nil

Drivers license, registration and insurance papers must be carried in your vehicle at all times.

International drivers permit are a good option for travelers in Egypt, or to help during a move. This allows you to drive a vehicle in another country, as long as you also have a valid drivers license issued by your state. They typically remain valid for one year, or the expiration of your existing state driving license. Many major car rental company require an IDP for international rentals.

Roadways & Rules

Driving in Egypt is very different than in Western culture. For most visitors, it is easier and cheaper to travel by taxis, train, and/or bus. Traffic laws are not strictly adhered to and their are few signs.

The police strictly enforce speed limits by use of radar and motorcycle patrols. If you are stopped, present your driver's license to the officer and remain calm. You could receive a verbal warning or have your license confiscated. If the officer keeps your license, you will receive a receipt for it. Speeding is a serious offense in Egypt and carries fines of LE l00 or more for minor offenses. In addition, Foreigners may be targeted by Egyptian police seeking a bribe and frivolous charges may be assessed.

    Speed limits:
  • 60 kilometers in town
  • 90 kilometers out of town
City Map:
Road Map:

Update 4/12/2011


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