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On ourĀ trip from Germany to Hurghada, we had a nine hour layover in Cairo. I’d been there before, but Marco hadn’t and so we decided to tour the city a little bit… and of course see the pyramids šŸ˜‰ So, after having planned and taken the tour, here areĀ my 7 stepsĀ to a great layover tour in Cairo:

1. Make sure you have enough time! The nine hours we had were perfect for seeing some of the sights, having dinner, and getting an impression of the city.Ā I think you might be able to do a quick tourĀ of just theĀ pyramidsĀ in about 4-5 hours, but I imagine that to be a little stressful.Ā Don’t forgetĀ to calculate for immigration, getting your luggage, and being back on time at the airport for your next flight.

2. Don’t do it on your own! While I am not generally one to use tour operators and prefer to organize things myself, IĀ do make an exception for a layover tour. Since time is of the essence it helps to have someone pick you up at the airport, keep your luggage safe in the bus, know where to go andĀ how long it will take to get places and back to the airport in time for your next flight.

3. Choose a tour operator/private guideĀ you trust! When I searched Tripadvisor for suggestions on private guides in Cairo, the same companies kept popping up. I contacted a few with requests for a quote for a private guide for nine hours for two people. Most came back with prices ranging from $50 to $90including at the minimum the guide and the bus and at the most the guide, the bus, the drinks, theĀ food, the entry fees, and the gratuities. So, make sure you compare prices and read the fine print. I ended up emailing back and forth with Hani from Egypt Fun Tours and booked the tour with him. We did not regret that decision for a second! Hani did a great job and I would recommend a layover tour with him to anybody! Another quick suggestion… all tour operators I was in contact with demanded payment when in Cairo. Don’t let anybody talk you into transferring money before you are there.

4. Create your own itinerary!Since you are paying for a private guide, youĀ areĀ not bound by a rigid schedule that is determined by other travellers.Ā Ā Scour the web, flip through some guidebooks, ask friends – in short, find out whatĀ interests you mostĀ in the short time you have. However, I would also trust the guide. After all, they are the locals, the ones who know what is possible and was isn’t, what is open and what isn’t. I asked Hani for a proposed itinerary and saw that it included a little more time at Khan El-Khalili than we had hoped for. Marco and I both are not big bazaar fans and were glad when Hani came up with another plan (Al-Azhar Mosque and walking through Islamic Cairo with minimal time at Khan El-Khalili). It worked out great and we loved the tour.

5. Be flexible! The one thing we really wanted to see was the Pyramids and the Sphinx. However, our flight into Cairo was delayed, the area around the pyramids closed early for Ramadan, and we didn’tĀ make it. However, Hani knew of the famous rooftop terrace of a KFCĀ facing the pyramids and the sphinx and brought us there instead.Ā It was close enough to get a good idea of how huge everything is and we enjoyed the beautiful view and Hani’s explanations. ItĀ also gaveĀ us more time for the other sights on our tour. So, it all worked out well in the end!

6.Ā Enjoy the food! Eating local food and trying different things is such a big part of travelling for me. Whenever we are on the road, we want to enjoy what we cannot eat at home. Food is such a big part of the culture no matter where you go, that it would be a shame to miss out onĀ delicious local specialties – even if time is restricted during a layover tour. So, for dinner Hani brought us to Felfela in downtown Cairo. We picked up Shawarma, Falafel, and Koshary, and went back to a coffee shop at Khan El-Khalili, El Fishawy,Ā to digĀ in šŸ™‚ It was delicious and we enjoyed the food just as much as resting our feet.Ā Marco and IĀ were both so sore from the day in the German mountains that the tour through Cairo pushed our poor muscles too theĀ limit šŸ™‚

7. Don’t resist the souvenirs! I don’t necessarily buy something everywhere I go, but if you see something that you really like… why not?! Even though Marco and IĀ  had not evenĀ planned onĀ spending time (or money) atĀ Khan El-Khalili, we enjoyed our dinner there a lot.Ā And on the way to the coffee shop, El Fishawy, we both spotted the beautiful brass work offered everywhere. We saw a lamp that we really liked and Hani brought us to a cheaper shop hidden upstairs where we could buy one just like it for half the price. We finally put it up yesterday and it looks beautiful in our living room (picture below)… and it reminds us of our fun day in Cairo. So, if you see something you like, get it and relive moments of your tour when you look at it šŸ™‚

Overall, Marco and I really had a blast in Cairo and enjoyed it more than we had hoped for. In fact, we want to go back for more! And in large parts that is due to Hani from Egypt Fun Tours. It took a lot of stress out of the picture to have someone take care of everything and I don’t think we would have seen nearly as much had we tried to do it on our own.Ā  So, if you plan a layover tour in Cairo, I highly suggest you hire a private guide – even if you usually do it on your own. While we only had nine hours, the pace of the tour was just right and we had a beautiful day in Cairo.

More on our Egypt trip is here.

Layover Tour in Cairo: coming in over the Mediterranean

Layover Tour in Cairo: flying into Cairo with a view of the pyramids

Layover Tour in Cairo: view from the KFC in front of the pyramids

Layover Tour in Cairo: the Sphinx

Layover Tour in Cairo: Al Azhar Mosque

Layover Tour in Cairo: inside Al Azhar Mosque

I was glad I brought my own scarf... I saw some other female tourists who had to borrow a huge coat with a large hoodie to cover themselves.

Layover Tour in Cairo: Islamic Cairo

Ā Layover Tour in Cairo: Islamic Cairo

Layover Tour in Cairo: El Fishawy

Layover Tour in Cairo: souvernir - our pretty brass lamp

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6 Comments

  • DARN! This is exactly what I needed a month ago! We had a five hour layover in Cairo on the way back from Bangkok. My boyfriend (eh hem…husband – not used to that yet), had been to Cairo before, and suggested we take advantage of the layover, but without a real game plan, we decided not to. Such a bummer! Which reminds me, we are thinking to head back to that region to the Red Sea and go diving – he suggested that I get advanced open water certification for it really to be worth it. Are you advanced or just open water certified?

    • Sabrina says:

      I hope this helps for planning the next trip then. Sorry it was too late for the last. Let me know if you have any questions though! I’m by no means a Cairo-expert or anything, but I’m happy to help if I can. Scuba in the Red Sea? Awesome! That means you’ll like my next posts šŸ™‚ I’m still sorting through the pics, but that’s a big part of what we did in August. Are you already an OWD? That might be enough. And you could always do your AOWD there. They combine the theory with dives from the boat with an instructor by your side. I’m a Dive Master and actually used to work in a diving center at the Red Sea a loooong time ago. So much fun! How’s diving where you live? Never been underwater in Spain.

  • I’m not yet OWD as I’ve only done one dive, but I am planning to get certified here in Spain. My husband, who’s a rescue diver, was telling me that to truly enjoy the Red Sea, I should become a AOWD, but I wasn’t sure if that would just be excessive. What do you think? I actually don’t know personally how diving is here in Spain, my only dive was in Thailand (which I thought was incredible, but what have I got to compare it with?!). Perhaps you and Marco will have to make a trip to Spain to find out for yourselves ;).

    • Sabrina says:

      I sure hope we will šŸ™‚ If you are not an OWD yet, I wouldn’t worry about AOWD for the moment. Get the OWD and see how you like it and how comfortable you are. Some diving centers will restrict you to 18 meters if you don’t have the AOWD, but many people don’t want to go deeper anyways – especially in their first dives. And as I said, you can always do the AOWD once you are there. You still get to do the dives and they are just as beautiful, or more so, with an instructor by your side. Most diving centers will not let you dive only with your buddy anyways if you have less than 20-30 dives. Marco has “just” the OWD and diving is just as much fun. Your husband is right though. The Red Sea is beautiful and one of the top spots worldwide for scuba diving. I’ll post the pics soon. They can be your motivation for studying for the OWD šŸ™‚

  • Jackie says:

    What company did you use? We have a 11 hour layover in Cairo and I desperately want to see the pyramids. I am not interested in shopping at all, but will be looking for photo ops everywhere as we are headed to Uganda to do a documentary film on the Uganda film project! Any suggestions would be helpful! We land at 11:15am and depart just before 10pm!

    • Sabrina says:

      I’m no expert as we only did one layover tour, but we loved how it turned out šŸ™‚ So, here it goes… We used Egypt Fun Tours (http://www.egyptfuntours.com/) and had a great time. I read lots of good reviews about other companies on TripAdvisor as well though. I think the most important thing, whichever company you hire, is to communicate your expectations beforehand via emails and work out a doable schedule that includes the things you would like to see. As these are private tours, any guide should work totally around what your needs are. For example, when he first sent us our proposed itinerary, there were a few things on there that I wasn’t particularly interested in – at least not instead of others that I wanted to see more šŸ™‚ Look around online and find a few things you are really interested in and let the company know that that’s what you want to see. For pictures opportunities I think you’d love Islamic Cairo. There are so many things to see in that area. Many little details. Even if you don’t want to do any shopping, you might like Khan-El-Khalili for pictures. I think 11 hours is a good amount of time to see the pyramids and another area in Cairo (we only had nine and it worked out fine). Just don’t try to pack in too much as it would only stress you out. Oh, and pretty much all of the companies I communicated with had payment scheduled at drop-off at the airport. I wouldn’t transfer money before arriving. Have some Falafel for me and have a blast in Cairo šŸ™‚ Let me know if you have any other questions.

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