You'll be lucky if you ever get into a taxi in Cairo that has a working meter. The meters were calibrated years ago when petrol was much cheaper, and so now everyone has to guess the price of a journey.
A good rule of thumb is about 1LE for each minute of your journey. We've been living here for four months now and haven't been shouted at by irate taxi drivers since using this rough rule.
Benha is a town about 50km from Cairo in the Nile River delta, far from the tourist trail. You get to see the Egypt where the real people live and most people here never see foreigners. On the way in the minibus you'll see the working class suburbs of Cairo, the fields that mark the start of the delta, farmers in their distinctive outfits and the wonder that is population growth.
Take the Metro to Koliet El-Zeraa station and then outside the station take a minibus to Benha.
Remember that most taxi drivers who operate on the street, not from the tourist hotels, don't own their cars. They might make 120 Egyptian pounds a day and give half to the car owner. A kind tourist who pays 50 Egyptian pounds instead of 20 for the trip might mean the driver can buy a kilo of meat for the family at home.
Cairo is hard for middle-aged fathers who have to work all hours to pay for tuition for their kids. Remember that the next time you think you are being fleeced and pay extra to the decent ones. They deserve it.
A felucca is an Arab form of sailing boat. If you can't spare the time to sail down the Nile from somewhere upriver, just take an hour or so to relax while sailing up and down in the downtown area. Cairo from the water is surprisingly quiet.
There are several small jetties along the river bank.
I urge you to take as many taxi rides as you can. They're much more fun and better value than any theme park ride or virtual arcade game. Basically, they weave at breakneck speed in and out of traffic, creating a third and fourth lane when there are only two. The first ride will be disconcerting and have you calling out for your mother, the second will see you addicted.
No meters. You're meant to know how much a journey costs, and if you don't, you'll get ripped off. Also, be sure to memorise the numbers in Arabic from 1 to 10, so that you can haggle more effectively.
The rough rule of thumb for knowing how much a certain journey should cost - roughly, a trip from Zamalek to Tahrir would be about 5 Egyptian pounds. This isn't a long journey and takes maybe 10 minutes, depending on traffic. 5 Egyptian pounds is about 50 pence. Longer journeys, especially to tourist destinations, will always give inflated prices, but try to haggle them down. You can also pre-agree the prices for longer journeys, but it's trickier for quicker inner-city taxi rides.
Further, when you get a taxi from the airport, it's very important to disregard the first couple of drivers who offer you their taxi, so that you build some credibility. 50 Egyptian pounds isn't that bad, especially for westerners just arriving, to get a taxi to your hotel in the city, but if you can get it lower, so much the better. The reason it's more expensive from the airport isn't just the distance (it's maybe forty minutes) but also the fact that the taxi driver has to pay a couple of entry fees and bribes in order to be inside the airport area at all.
Instead of choking on exhaust fumes sitting in a taxi in dead-end traffic, take the Cairo underground. It is quick, efficient, very cheap, and if you are a woman on your own, the front carriage is reserved for women only. Much faster way to get around the city, also.
There are a number of very reasonable buses travelling the 13 miles from Terminal One to the key districts of Cairo, but the 362, 356 and 799, all of which are air-conditioned, will make for a significantly more comfortable journey. Taxis are also an option, but look out for the official Cairo cabs (they are black), and be sure to haggle.
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