Starting to research for a trip to Cairo can be daunting, which is why we've broken it down into 6 important things to know when you are planning your time in Egypt's incredible capital. This way you can be sure you know when is the best time to plan your trip to Cairo for, how to get there, and you can make sure that you aren't forgetting anything when you are planning out your itinerary.
Traveling to Cairo (and Egypt), there are now no COVID travel restrictions. On arrival you also no longer need to provide proof of vaccination.
To get started on planning your visit to Cairo, we've broken this article down into the following sections to help you navigate:
1. How Long to Stay in Cairo
One of the first things to do is to decide on how long to stay in Cairo. Being the capital city of Egypt, there is a huge amount to explore throughout different parts of the city, but it is also a great place to start your Egypt trip from as this is where most international flights come in. That's why we recommend staying for 2–3 days, including your arrival day so that you aren't rushing around while recovering from any potential jet lag.
It is also worth noting here that the Pyramids of Giza are located in Giza, and not included in this suggested timeline even though Giza is very close to Cairo. If possible, we recommend spending a day or two touring the Pyramids of Giza, the Great Sphinx of Giza, and the Grand Egyptian Museum in Giza, on top of a couple of days in Cairo itself.
Suggested reading: How to Plan a 7-Day Egypt Itinerary (Expert Advice)
2. The Best Things to Do in Cairo
The list of sights to see and things to do in Cairo is endless, but we've picked a few things that should definitely be on your list!
1) See the Nile River
The river that gave Egypt life, from ancient times until today, is one of the must-see spots in Cairo. We recommend visiting Zamalek District (you can read more about what to see in Zamalek here) for some food with an unforgettable view. Alternatively, you can also see the Nile from a boat, by taking either a cruise or a felucca (a traditional wooden sailing boat) along the water.
2) Tour the Citadel of Cairo and Visit the Great Mosque of Muhammad Ali
Also known as the Alabaster Mosque, you'll find the Great Mosque of Muhammad Ali in the Citadel of Cairo, which is the ancient Islamic-era fortification built by Saladin. It was the seat of the government between the 13th and 19th centuries, and it was built in a very strategic position. The mosque there was the largest to be built in the 19th century, and is the most visible mosque in Cairo due to its twin minarets.
3) Explore Al-Azhar Mosque
For an excellent example of an earlier mosque, the Al-Azhar Mosque was built in the 10th century, but has developed into the second oldest university in the world, specializing in Islamic law. A visit will give you some more understanding into its past as a Shiite institution, and its current role as a Sunni Muslim institution.
4) Walk Along Muizz Street (also known as Al-Muizz il-Din Allah al-Fatimi Street)
Muizz Street is in the center of Islamic Cairo, and is worth spending up to half a day on, as it is home to some of the most beautiful monuments found in Cairo. Along this road you'll find the Mosque of Al Hakim bi Air Allah, the Mosque of al-Aqmar, the Mosque of Sulamayan Agha al-Silahdar, the Madrasa of Barquq, the Mausoleum of Sultan Al-Ghuri, and the Khan al-Khalili Market where a lot of the city's shops and restaurants are located.
Suggested reading: The Top 10 Egyptian Souvenirs to Take Home
5) Shop at Khan Al-Khalili Market
As mentioned above, the Khan Al-Khalili Market is a good place to do some shopping and grab some local dishes for lunch or dinner. To find out more about traditional Egyptian foods, we have an article about the best Egyptian foods and dishes to try while you are in Egypt, many of which you can find in Cairo.
- For more suggestions on what to see in Cairo in the evenings, we've curated a list of evening activities.
- For those who are looking for more adventurous, ultimate things to do in Cairo, we also have a list with the top Cairo activities for thrill-seekers and those looking to make the most of their time in Cairo.
3. The Best Time to Visit Cairo
It's a good idea to plan your trip to Cairo according to the weather. June to August are really hot months and best to avoid, with October and April being cooler, and December and January being the most popular months to visit. If you can visit in October, November, February or March you'll be missing the peak of tourism, and you'll find the weather more bearable.
Just as an example, July sees an average temperature of 28°C (82°F) in Cairo, and an average high of around 35°C (95°F). However, in November you're looking at around 14–25°C (57–77°F) on a typical day, and December sees an average temperature range of 10–20°C (51–67°F).
Suggested reading: When is the Best Time to Visit Egypt?
4. How to Get to Cairo
Cairo's International Airport (CAI) has good connections to the rest of the world, with direct connections to most major European cities and a couple of cities in North America.
The national carrier, Egyptair, is a member of Star Alliance, and connects directly to 90 destinations including Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Paris, Rome, London, Vienna, Munich, Barcelona, Dusseldorf, Bergamo, Athens, Zurich and many more in Europe, and New York and Washington in the United States at the time of writing (October 2022).
If you are unable to find a direct flight, we recommend checking out Turkish Airlines, which has codeshare flights with Egyptair and connects into Cairo through Istanbul from many cities worldwide. Another option is finding a flight with Qatar through Doha's airport, Etihad through Abu Dhabi or Emirates through Dubai.
Alternatively, from the United States, you may have to go to one of the North American cities listed above to connect to Cairo, or you could fly into a European airport first and then transfer to Cairo depending on your location and what works best for you.
Suggested reading: The Best Domestic Airlines in Egypt
5. Where to Stay in Cairo
Picking a hotel to stay in in Cairo can be challenging, as there are many to choose from. We've broken down a few suggestions in a range of different budgets, depending on what you prefer to spend on your accommodation.
High budget (>300 US dollars per night)
On the higher tier of the budget there are many international hotel chain options, such as the Fairmont, the Kempinski Nile Hotel Garden City, the Royal Maxim Palace Kempinski Cairo, or the Marriott Mena House, which are all housed in beautiful buildings. Some of them are in old palaces, and others have Nile views, but they will all have international dining options and very comfortable rooms.
Mid-tier budget (100–200 US dollars per night)
In the broad middle range (prices do range depending on whether you're traveling in peak season), we recommend looking at the InterContinental Citystars Cairo, or the Grand Nile Tower. In Zamalek there is also the Hilton Cairo Zamalek Residences which has a lovely view over the Nile. If you want to stay in Zamalek, our piece on visiting Zamalek has some hotel suggestions for the area, too.
On the lower side of this middle range, there are the Sofitel, Radisson Blu and Novotel hotels dotted throughout Cairo city which are also a decent option. There's also a Novotel near the airport should you need to stay close by ahead of an early departure or after a late arrival into Cairo's airport.
Lower budget (less than 50 US dollars per night)
If you prefer, there is also the option of getting a private room in a hostel to make the most of your budget for around the 30–40 US dollars per night option. Options here include Cheers Hostel or Madina Hostel, which are close to the center, have generally good reviews, and have dorms as well as private rooms available depending on your budget.
6. Do You Need a Visa, and How to Get it
Most countries require a visa to enter Egypt (almost all, exceptions are citizens from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Oman), but these are not too much of a hassle to obtain as this can now be done online through the Visa2Egypt portal (www.visa2egypt.gov.eg), where you can pay by bank card.
Tourist visas for Egypt are valid for 3 months, and cost 25 US dollars (or 60 US dollars if you need a multi-entry tourist visa). Once you arrive in Egypt, you'll have to show your e-visa print-out, your passport with at least 6 months validity, your travel itinerary, a supporting letter if you are visiting for business or visiting family, and hotel details and bookings if you are visiting as a tourist.
Suggested reading: Step-by-step guide to obtaining a visa for Egypt
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