Egypt has been off and on my travel list for a few years now. Mostly it’s been off the list as I wasn’t sure how safe it would be to travel to.

I was fascinated by Cairo back when I watched the uprising in 2011 when they got rid of their president. You can read about that here

I saw some flights that were a price I wanted to pay and just decided to book them. I didn’t care whether or not it would be safe. I managed to get return tickets for £252. Sadly it wasn’t direct and it was a flight from Heathrow to Vienna and then from Vienna to Cairo. It didn’t include a checked bag either so there was a little bit of stress about how I was going to take enough clothes to cover the trip. I decided to contact the hostel and they offered a laundry service so I decided I would use that – especially since the baggage allowance on Austrian was pretty dismal. I was allowed an 8kg carry-on bag and a personal item that was pretty much the size of a carrier bag.

I decided I would chance my luck and take my backpack too and see how I got on with the gate agents.

I had to get the last train to London so I could get the tube to Heathrow as the flight was at 06:00 and there would be no public transport to get me there at that time of the morning. I had asked the airport if the terminal was open so I could sit in and they said no. I asked again a few weeks later and they said yes. I decided if I needed to sit outside then I would do that. I had no other option really.

I got to the airport and went to the terminal and sat on some benches and had some food. I was restless though so I walked around and found somewhere where I could sit and nap and charge my devices. I could also keep them in a corner and if someone wanted to steal them they would wake me up by having to reach over me.

The queue for security started to grow by 04:15 (it opened at 04:30) and I was worried I wouldn’t get to the gate in time. I needn’t have worried as it was fine.

At the gate, they said if anyone wanted to check a bag they could do so free of charge. I availed of that as I didn’t want to have an argument at the gate. The bonus of this is that I got to get on the plane first. Result. I had an emergency exit row so I wasn’t worried about not having any overhead bag storage. As it turns out too, people were bringing more than the allowance and they were able to use the space in the overhead lockers – I needn’t have worried as much as I was.

Both flights were uneventful – mostly because I was super tired. The extra leg room on each allowed me to stretch out and get some much-needed sleep. It’s hard to sleep in an airport.

I was going to see about getting public transport from the airport to the hostel but Google Maps wasn’t very forthcoming so I decided that I would get an Uber. It was far cheaper than what the hostel was asking. The hostel wanted about £20 and an Uber was about £7. I booked it as soon as I picked up my sim card. They kept cancelling. If they say they waited longer than 5 minutes for you, Uber charges E£15 (about 60p) as a cancellation fee. It is a common tactic amongst Uber drivers in Egypt. I had to contact them a couple of times to request the fee be returned as it was the driver cancelling. It took me 5 attempts to finally get an Uber.

I got to Tahrir Square – it was surreal to see it only ever having seen it on TV and in books. I got to the hostel and checked in and got myself settled before I went to do a little bit of exploring. I went to the Nile and walked over the Qasir El Nil bridge to take in the sights of Cairo from the riverside.

One thing to note in Cairo is that people will constantly stop you to ask you where you are from and offer “help” to find places. All along the bridge, there were teenagers offering to take pictures in exchange for payment. Nothing – and I mean NOTHING – is offered for free in Cairo. If they stop you and give you help, they are expecting to be given a tip for it. Here’s a tip for you: put headphones in and walk with a purpose and they will not stop you.

I got some magnets and then I headed back to the hostel for the night. I was really tired and needed some sleep so I could be refreshed for walking around the city in the morning.

At the time of writing, the exchange rate is £1 = E£22.10

Saqqara Pyramid Complex

Memphis Open Air Museum

Giza Pyramid Complex

Ibn Toloon Mosque

Muhammad Ali Mosque

City of the Dead

The Hanging Church

St George's Church

Khan el-Khalili Market

Qasr El Nil Bridge

Cairo Opera House

Great Sphinx of Giza

Giza Pyramids Panorama

Unas Pyramid with Heiroglyphs

Egyptian Museum

The Cave Church

Garbage City Graffiti Vantage Point

  • Today I decided to have a lie-in and then have breakfast at the hostel (they offered it free of charge) and after that, I would have a shower and go out to the tower. I am a sucker for high views of a city and Cairo was going to be no exception. I wanted those views damn it! I asked the hostel if it was worth going and they said it was because the views were amazing. I took their advice and headed there.

    I went to where I thought it was but it turns out it wasn’t the right place for the entrance. That’s fine, I got myself a drink and had a walk around to the right area. It was nice to just walk around (even if it was 30-degree weather) and take my time in finding where I needed to be.

    I found the entrance and went inside. I had to go through airport-style security to get in. You are not allowed drinks inside so the security people keep them and you can get them when you leave.

    I went to the ticket office to get a ticket. They have a price for foreigners and for locals – which is generally half the foreigner price. It costs E£200 (around £10) to get a ticket to the tower.

    The tower is something like 185m high (equivalent to a 62-story building). It is the tallest tower in Egypt and in North Africa. The Pyramids of Giza are around 43m high. The lift to get there is pretty quick and takes less than a minute. When I got off the lift I was directed into the cafe and was told there I could take pictures of the city. I wasn’t overly impressed as pictures through glass are not the greatest. The pictures had a blue tint to them because it was through glass. I was still impressed with the views nonetheless. I stayed there for about an hour and then headed back down. There were a couple of places I had seen that I wanted to go to. I wanted to go see the Opera House and that side of the island. The tower is on an island called Zamalek – it’s a pretty cool part of Cairo.

    I got to the Opera House and thought I knew where I was going. It turns out I was wrong and instead of seeing the Opera House, I walked down the side of it with no way to get back in unless I did a U-turn. I decided against it and that I would go again another day. I carried on walking to the bridge that I had seen. They had a building there that looked a bit like the Flat Iron building in New York. I thought it was pretty cool. I was accosted by a local who insisted on following me wherever I went and I had to forcefully tell him no. I decided to head back towards the metro station and got to Sadat – where the hostel is – to get some food. I mostly wanted to see if I could navigate the metro myself. The signs are in English and Arabic thankfully. On the Cairo metro, you pay according to the distance you want to travel. It is grouped by stations. The furthest I travelled was about 5 stations and the cost was E£5. You get a coloured ticket depending on the number of stations you travel to. Mine was always a yellow ticket. You put them through the barrier and it prints the date and time on and then on the stop you get off, the barrier takes and keeps the ticket. I bought another ticket so I could stick it in my souvenir pile.

    I had to go through airport-style security when I was entering the station. I did also notice that there were soldiers and police everywhere in the stations. I wanted to take some pictures but wasn’t sure if it was allowed.

    I got off the metro in Sadat and the next challenge was to find the correct exit. If I got the wrong one, I would have to cross the road amongst the crazy drivers and I didn’t quite feel like dying today. Thankfully I got the right exit and I made a beeline for McDonald’s and got myself some food and then went back to the hostel to chill for an hour or so.

    The room had a balcony and I stood out there just observing the square and the sheer amount of traffic. It was mind-blowing. It was awesome to see though. You can see this in the video below.

    After I had rested, I went out again and just walked around for an hour or so. I was quite enjoying just walking and not having anything planned that I needed to do. On my way back, I stopped at KFC for some food and I asked for normal – non-spicy – chicken strips. I got 2 that were normal and 4 that were spicy so I had to take them back and get some normal chicken in return. I took it back to the hostel and decided to stay in for the rest of the night as it was about 21:00 by this time. I sat and chatted with one of the workers from the hostel and it was quite cool to listen to how they live their lives and how they just get on with things. I am always impressed by this in countries that don’t have as much as we do here in the UK.

    I took a video of me crossing the road in Cairo. You have to take your life into your hands to do so!

    I decided then to head to bed as I was up early in the morning for the trip to the pyramids.

    Today was a good day and it was nice to not have anything planned so I could go at my own pace.

    Total steps: 12,803

    Total miles: 6.33

    Below are some pics from today

Today was the fly-home day so I didn’t really do too much in the morning. I packed my stuff up and sat in the main room of the hostel and just waited until it was time to book the Uber to the airport. I flew at 15:45 so I wanted to be there for around 12:30. I ordered the Uber to pick me up around 12:00 and then I headed downstairs so I could head to the airport. The booking this time was fairly straightforward and I didn’t have to book four or five before one turned up. It was a nice quiet trip to the airport. As we got close to the airport a motorcyclist was by us and turned a corner and fell off. Luckily he was able to get up and dust himself off and walk away from it. It could have been so much worse for him.

I got to the airport and tried to find departures as the driver dropped me off at arrivals. I found the escalator and went to departures and went through security only to be told that I went through domestic departures and that I needed to go back out and go through international departures. I did this and saw that they weren’t separated from each other on the other side. It made no sense.

I headed to immigration so I could go through and then get some food and drink. As I got up to the desk I was told I needed a departure card so I had to go to check in to get it. As I got to the desk I asked them for a card and she asked if I had bags to check, I said only if they were free and she did it for me for free. Winner for me as it meant no gate arguments. I got back to the desk and she let me through this time and I went and got some water. It was pretty cheap for an airport. Only E£22 for 1 bottle. I decided to get a couple more. I was told I would have to have them sealed in a bag otherwise they would be taken from me at the gate. I had two put in and kept one out so I could drink it on the way to the gate.

I got there and realised why it had to be sealed: they did more security checks. If it wasn’t in the bag they would have taken them off me. I got through and waited for the boarding time. We started to board late and I was worried I would miss my connection in Vienna as I only had one hour to make it. I was also worried as my luggage was showing as still being at the check-in desks. I didn’t need any of this stress. As I got on the plane, the AirTag updated and showed the luggage on the plane with me.

I asked the cabin crew about the connection and they said 25 minutes would be long enough to make the connection. The only issue with that is that we were late leaving. I had to ask if I could go out first (along with the others needing short connections) so I could make it. I didn’t want to be stranded in Vienna overnight. I wanted my own bed.

I got off and went to passport control and the border guard said I had to go upstairs to get the connection. I did this and there was another security queue. I asked the people in front of me if I could go ahead of them because of the connection and they said yes. Thankfully there were others in the queue for the Heathrow flight too. I put my stuff on the belt and the security guy made me take my water bag out and check it separately. I told him I was in a hurry to get the flight. He didn’t seem to care. I got done and walked as fast as my legs could carry me to the gate. I got to the gate and was one of the last to scan my boarding pass to board. I was so relieved that I was heading back to London.

This flight was running about ten minutes late too. I was stressing that I wouldn’t make the tube to Kings Cross in time for my train home. I got to the passport gates and the queue was massive. I checked and realised if I didn’t get through passport control and get my luggage and get to the tube platform in 25 minutes I wouldn’t make my train back to PTown. If I didn’t make this one I would have to sit in the station until 05:00 as Thameslink were cancelled due to emergency rail works. My poor legs were working overtime on the way back.

I made it to the tube platform and was stressing about getting out of the tube and to the train platform on time. I had 6 minutes from the tube level to make it to the train level. I went out and got to the train platform with about 90 seconds to spare. They close the train doors 60 seconds before departure so they can leave on time. I am so glad I made it. I didn’t even care we were late getting into PTown as I was home. I got home and went straight to bed.

All in all, it was a good trip despite getting ill and having a mad rush at the end of the journey.

I highly recommend Cairo. I want to go back and see more of Egypt.

My advice to you is this: Just. Do. It.

Total steps: 106,410

Total miles: 52.05

You can view all of my main Cairo pics here

You can view all of my Coptic Area pics here

You can view all of my Egyptian Museum pics here

You can view all of my Garbage City pics here

You can view all of my Saqqara/Memphis/Giza pics here