Egypt Travel Tips About The Cairo Cab
A couple of years ago, my aunt and uncle went to Egypt and spent quite a lot of time in Cairo. They came back with useful tips about Cairo cab. I am sharing their short story and tips here. Remember that this was before the "Arab spring". Currently traveling to Egypt is not as safe as it used to be. Some countries advise against all travel to many parts of Egypt. If you still plan a trip, I hope you'll find these information useful.
Photo: by lbadura on Flickr
Understanding Cairo Cab Drivers
Probably the most convenient way for a tourist (and for plenty of Egyptian people as well) to get around is to use a cab driver. If you have ever been there you will agree that traffic is crazy. But even though it might seem that everybody just drives the way they please, there are some rules in this total chaos. The most basic rule is probably not to hit other cars too badly and as long as you abide by that, all the rest seems permitted.
As a tourist you just have to go with the flow and do as the common Egyptian does, which is just relax and let it happen once you are inside the taxi (according to my aunt, it's not that easy but apparently you get use to it. Closing your eyes and listening to your iPod may help).
So how do you go about getting a cab in Cairo and what do you have to keep in mind?
First of all, there are a few different types of cabs and knowing the basics is important, so keep reading!
Taxi by Khaled Al Khamissi
A novel based on 58 Cairo cab drives the author took.
1- Typical Black Cairo Cab
These black taxis are mostly old to very old and have no air-conditioning, almost a necessity during most of the year. Another thing they don't have is a taximeter, so it means you will have to either just pay what the taxi driver tells you to pay, or you have to agree on a price before getting in.
This can be a tricky situation especially when it is your first day of your stay and you really don't know what a normal price is to get around the city.
So most of the time, tour operators and guides advice tourists not to get in a black taxi, because they never can be sure not to be ripped off.
Decide where you want to go and what you want to pay before getting in a black taxi.
Not sure I'd survived the ride
2- The Official Modern White Taxi
The White Taxis are the official legal Cairo cabs and they are almost always modern cars with air-conditioning and equipped with a taximeter.
For tourists this is probably the easiest way to use a taxi driver in Cairo, the price it says on the meter is what you pay, period. Using a taxi with a taximeter does not mean you are always paying the right price though.
Some taximeters are rigged in such a way that you end up paying double the normal price and obviously some use the most common taxi driver trick of either "getting lost" or just driving a few extra blocks to up the price. My uncle and aunt
once took a white taxi and even after several requests, and with the car already in movement,
the taxi driver kept refusing to turn on the meter, so they got out of the car in order to avoid having to agree on a price upon arrival.
Photo: by Shahib Amin on Flickr
If you just need to go from point A to B, use a white taxi with a working taximeter.
The Handy Cairo Taxi Driver
These basically are taxi drivers that drive around in their own car without using a taximeter. The cars they drive are in pretty good shape and the drivers are normally waiting in the vicinity of tourist hotels, wanting to drive tourists around for the whole day or even the whole period of their stay. Before agreeing on a price you explain to the driver which places you want to visit and for how long and then set a price to be paid at the end of his services.
Especially when traveling in a group of four and wanting to see the most of the city in a short time, this can be your best option. On their last day, my aunt and uncle were so fed up with being ripped off and having to continuously hassle the price that they decided to just use one of these Cairo taxi drivers in a normal car. It has been their most relaxed ride and the price was right.
They feel it's the best way to save yourself from continuous hassle and worries. All you will need to do then is plan which sites you want to see and fully enjoy the sights!
If you want to go from point A to B to C etc and then back to point A, hire an handy Cairo cab driver for the
Using the Taxi Minivan
It can also happen that you come across a taxi minivan. These vans are equipped to transport up to 9 people or so but many times you will see double that amount of people packed in.
As you might imagine; they are far from comfortable and even when traveling in a group and thinking of using this type of service between all of you, you will never be sure your won't
stop along the way to pick up a few more customers or even wait at a certain spot to try and get more clients in.
The taxi minivan is not recognizable as such, there is no taxi sign, no taxi meter, just a small minivan packed full with people.
The Final Verdict
It takes time to hassle your price, and most of the time you are paying in a foreign currency you sort of lose track of what it is you are really paying. Driving around in a Cairo cab is cheap, so maybe your best attitude is to just relax and don't fuss too much, and try to ignore the nagging feeling that you are constantly ripped off.
However, don't agree on the price immediately, drivers will ask at least double or triple the amount to start with when negotiating the price and if you don't feel like paying that, just
offer what you think should be the price.
As for the white taxis with the taximeter there could be a big difference between one taxi and the next, sometimes double the price for the exact same route.
Also, not knowing the city you just can't tell whether they are taking you straight to your destination or drive a few more rounds to up the price, a very common practice not only in Egypt!
If at any time you decide to use a taxi without a taximeter, make sure you agree on a total price before leaving. And I say total because it happened to my aunt and uncle that we agreed on a price only to find we were expected to pay 2 times the agreed upon price because the taxi driver wanted it per person and not per taxi ride.
Useful Travel Guides
Was it an interesting experience? It was for my uncle and aunt.