typical taxi troubles in egypt


When we got in a taxi near our hotel to visit the Giza Pyramid complex, we expected the ride to take 5 minutes. Thirty minutes later we still hadn't arrived at the gates to pyramids, our taxi had left us, and the sun was mercilessly hot. This is how it all went down:

Not long after arriving in Cairo, we observed that there are far more taxis driving around than passengers. Some drivers would say 'no' to a fair price and drive off, but another taxi would quickly pull up and eventually one of them would agree to the fare.

Our plan for getting to the pyramids was simple: offer the driver 5 LE (Egyptian pounds) for the ride. Now, we know that offering a taxi less than $1 might seem absurd, but the locals pay less than that amount, and it was a short ride straight up the street.

Our daily strategy was to walk about 100 feet away from the hotel and then hail a cab driving by (avoid anyone hanging around the hotel lobby). An older taxi pulled up (the newer taxis always wanted 3-4 times as much) and the negotiations began. English was not widely spoken by most of the cabbies that we dealt with, so we would hold up the actual bills that we were going to pay with to ensure that there was no "confusion" about the fare.

Describing to the taxi driver where we wanted him to drive us necessitated pointing in the direction of the pyramids and making a pyramid-like shape with our hands. Eventually we were confident that the price and destination were understood and off we went!

After a few minutes of driving, with the pyramids looming in front of us, a man from the street jumped on the back of the cab. An argument ensued between the cabbie and the man (while the taxi was still in motion). The cabbie stopped and the man got into the front passenger seat. He began telling us in English that the taxi was not allowed to go further into the pyramid complex and that we would have to continue on his camel into the site. We had heard of this scam before and firmly denied his offer. He continued to repeat his lies, but the cabbie pushed him out of the taxi after we yelled at the man to get out.

The taxi continued on, but the driver began saying something to us in Arabic. As he pulled the cab over we understood that one of the tires was flat. He got out and spent a few minutes changing the tire.

The pyramids looked so close at this point, we really hoped this was the last delay in the ride.

No such luck. The taxi turned off the main street and began driving through back alleys. We could still see the pyramids, so we weren't too worried, but something didn't quite seem right. As we rounded a corner we saw 5 men sitting in the alley ahead. When they noticed the taxi they stood up and the cabbie stopped. They came over to the cab and told us the taxi couldn't go any further and that we had to continue on their camels into the site. This time the taxi driver seemed unwilling to proceed (the men were physically blocking the alley). We left the cab (reluctantly paying him the agreed fare) and walked away from the men.

At this point we were in what looked like a residential area. Even though the pyramids were right ahead of us, we weren't quite sure how to get to the entrance gate and the 35+ Celsuis (95+ Fahrenheit) weather wasn't helping the situation.

An Egyptian boy yelled at us and gestured for us to follow him down a narrow corridor between 2 buildings. We initially ignored him (since another kid had earlier tried to sell us a camel ride) but with no other viable option in mind we decided to head down the corridor.

When we finally emerged at the other end there was no sign of the helpful kid, but what we did see was tour buses. At last, we had reached the gates of the pyramid complex. We still had to endure a few more frustrations before finally seeing the Great Pyramids...

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  1. We had the same thing happen to us in Cario in November of 2008. We ended up just getting out and walking.

  2. Anonymous24.6.10

    To save yourself any such hassles, don't be so stingy and take a yellow cab. They have a/c, a fare meter, are far more reliable and the drivers typically speak English. They may be more expensive by Egyptian standards, but not in comparison to Western taxis and your trip will not be tainted by memories of inconvenient taxi rides.

  3. I have never been to Cario...but I think I would have been pretty freaked out with this whole situation!

  4. in egypt i found that although there are scammers and people trying to make a quick buck - there were still plenty of good people, willing to help, who wanted nothing in return. in your case, the little boy.

    while there i had one older lady walk me about 15 minutes to the post office when i couldn't find it..in the opposite direction she was initially going. i offered her a few dollars but she wouldn't accept.

    i also found the best people to ask questions, directions when lost were older women - you know, the grandma or older mom looking types. they were always willing to help and often asked nothing in return.

    look forward to reading more of your experiences in egypt! will you be visiting other cities? i was in luxor, aswan and dahab - would be happy to send you any tips if needed!

  5. oohh my goodness, this seems like it could be out of a bad movie!! and that meter, haha love the vintage :)

    xox Vicky
    Bikinis & Passports

  6. Holy Moly! That sounds like a harrowing experience. I don't know...maybe I watch too many movies, but I definitely would have been scared. Good for you guys for keeping your heads.

    p.s. were the pyramids worth it? :-)

  7. what an interesting story. I can't believe all their shenanigans.

  8. Hmm... When I was just in Germany for work, most of the cabs were Mercedes. Despite the fact that I thought I was about to meet my maker on the autobahn, there's nothing quite like a good old luxury car. Think I'll stick to that.

  9. Hmm... When I was just in Germany for work, most of the cabs were Mercedes. Despite the fact that I thought I was about to meet my maker on the autobahn, there's nothing quite like a good old luxury car. Think I'll stick to that.

  10. taxi's in egypt are crazy! i was told only to use the white ones as they are less likely to screw you over....
    i just got back from being cairo for 2days for a job interview....didnt get a chance to see much but looks like i will see more in the future!

  11. what a crazy adventure! glad you made and i'm sure the pyramids were worth the hassle - right??

    do you think youll ride a camel at some point? that would be so cool :)

  12. Anonymous24.6.10

    Ahhhh, this sounds like Greece. Last time I was there, our taxi driver pulled over when he say some man on the side of the road waving for help. The man was in the Greek military and had just taken a bus to get to the airport and was waiting for another bus, when he realized he left his ticket on the first bus. He got in our cab and the taxi driver started searching for the first bus - 45 minutes later, we found it, but now the soldier was at risk of missing his flight, so the cabbie booked it down the highway, it HAD to have been close to 110 miles an hour, no lies. The man gets there in time, and we finally get to our destination shortly after, with a free ride, luckily!

  13. this sounds stressful and a little scary! i hope it was worth it to see the pyramids :)


  14. Wow... you have an impressive blog full of fun and interesting posts to read! I look forward to reading more!

  15. Mellissa - We had some shady cab experiences in Luxor in 2009 so, I'm sure it happens all the time.

    Anonymous - We prefer to think of ourselves as 'fiscally responsible' but stingy works too! From what we experienced, the yellow and white cabs are just as bad, the drivers still spoke English just as poorly (not that this matters), and you end up paying more than you should. Also, this way, we get to see the 'real Egypt'. Thanks for your concern though!

    kay* - You're absolutely right. I wish we could have thanked that kid! Unfortunately the 'good' people we encountered in Cairo were few and far between.

    We went to Luxor last year and had a great time there. We're pretty behind in posting, so we've actually moved on from Egypt - but we'll keep that in mind, thank you!

    shopgirl - This cab ride was slightly annoying, but it wasn't scary. (Maybe just a little bit with the guys in the alley, but we got out of there quickly). It's not like we had anywhere else to be… and it was early enough so we weren't in any rush. We'll be posting our thoughts about the pyramids soon!

    The Childlike Empress - The guys with the white taxis were the ones lurking around our hotel, they were really creepy and we knew they would charge more than necessary, so we were willing to deal with a little haggling to save a few dollars.

    Nicole* - We rode a camel in Dubai. It was kind of fun but we also felt a little bad for it. We chose not to ride them in Egypt because they didn't seem to be treated very well.

  16. Haha! this is quiet funny. We have experienced that before and it is so frustrating that you can only laugh.

  17. Oh my gosh! I'd would have been kinda scared!

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