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:
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:
- 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.
- 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
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.