Of course, each voyage is different, and we realized early on that there would be some differences from our previous trips. In the first place, it’s strongly encouraged that visitors do not drive in Egypt. Not only do they have one of the highest accident rates, but its only been recently that traffic laws and controls have been in place and enforced. If only one of the guidebooks or websites had mentioned that, I’d be game to try renting a car and heading off into the chaos…but all of them say pretty much the same thing – and a few go even farther to mention that offroading or driving on roads outside of the city can involve land mines. I think we’ll manage without a car this time, thank you very much.
Busses can be an adventure, I’ve been told. Crowded, haphazardly-timed, and — this the fun part — often not stopping entirely to pick up or drop off passengers. You’re likely to see all sorts of Cairenes hopping on and off moving busses with ease. It’s a bit harder for foreigners, unless they can quickly read arabic and know exactly where they are going.
In the larger cities, bus service is common, if confusing. Busses between the major cities are available, but can be long, cramped drives. Where I was able to find it, the photo/site pages will list the bus route.
Self-drive cars are available, of course. Most any rental car agency will most willingly rent you a car in Cairo or Alexandria. And many people hire four-wheel drives or trucks to drive out into the desert. However, it is suggested that people use either public transport or the ubiquitous taxis.
There are several types of taxis available, from the standard cars to minibus taxis – which are really sort of mini-bus routes that will wait for a full load and then careen off to a series of destinations. A couple of notes I’ve gleaned from the tour books:
- While an existing ‘standard’ rate exists for taxi rides to various locations, tourists can expect to pay more (often up to double) what locals would pay for the same ride.
- Either negotiate the price of the trip up front, or determine what it should be and simply pay that much when you arrive.
- Taxis can be rented for the day, although this is usually not necessary if you are visiting the major tourist spots. For some of the remote sites, arrange for pick up or for the taxi to wait for you, or you may be stranded in the middle of nowhere for quite a long time.
Taxis come in a variety of colors: light blue and white in Luxor and Sharm-el-Sheikh; navy-blue and white in Port Said; black and white in Cairo; orange and black in Alexandria; all white in Aswan. Most cities are overrun with taxis. There are also a few different kinds:
- Private taxis – ensure that the vehicle is equipped with a meter, although it probably won’t work. A taxi without a meter and identification is not a proper taxi. Enter at your own risk.
- “Specials”, or collective taxis, which run a specific route and only leave when full. Usually Peugeot 504s.
- Minibuses — a slightly larger collective taxi, usually with further destinations
Tourists are also restricted to certain trains (oddly called Carlson Wagons Lits, as far as I can tell) in certain classes. Apparently, militant wackos sometimes use the trains for target practice in the more remote areas, and tourists are only allowed on the “guarded” trains, or in certain cars of other trains. Trains can be (depending on your viewpoint) either a romantic, relaxed way to travel or a harried, cramped, and uncomfortable means. Most of the guidebooks that I’ve found say to avoid the trains unless you are really a budget traveler, or simply enjoy the crush of humanity that ride along with you. Flights are plentiful and relatively cheap between the major cities.