My Guide to a Great Cairo Layover

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As I found on my recent Cairo layover, now is a great time to visit. With tourism down and the political situation stabilizing, a Cairo layover should be back on your travels list. While researching how to tackle my Cairo layover I struggled to find useful information so I thought I would share just that.

Read on for my guide to a great Cairo layover.

When to Visit

99% of the time, traffic in Cairo is a nightmare. So much so that the new government is looking at building a new city to host it’s offices just to help release some of the load. The traffic can make your Cairo layover a stressful one as the 40 KM trip to the Pyramids of Giza can take 3 hours to reach on a bad day. Here is my #1 tip for your Cairo layover – visit on a Friday. It may sound odd but Friday is a holy day and therefore roads are as quiet as they will be all week. To make things even smoother, plan your arrival for early a.m. The Pyramids of Giza open to the public at 8 AM. Being there early can drastically reduce wait times.

Where to go

On your Cairo layover you can easily see the following:

  • The Nile river
  • The Pyramids of Giza
  • The Sphinx
  • The Egyptian Museum

Getting to the pyramids takes 45 minutes on a good day, 3 hours on a bad. Although you could spend all day wandering around taking pictures and riding camels, I found 2 hours is plenty – especially in the heat.

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The Egyptian Museum

If your Cairo layover is long enough, definitely visit the Egyptian Museum. My layover was 8 hours so missed out. In retrospect I probably could have fit a short visit in but note, you can spend all day in here. A brisk visit can take hours. Plan accordingly.

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The Egyptian Museum via Flickr CC @V Manninen

How to Best Tackle your Cairo layover

The best and easiest way to tackle your Cairo layover is to hire a guide before arriving. I used Blue Sky Travel and they were great. For ~$30 per person I was picked up, provided a very knowledgeable guide (he had a masters in archaeology!) taken to the sites, and dropped back off at the airport. There was also a stop at a papyrus shop thrown in as we had more than enough time on our 8 hour Cairo layover.

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How Long

Cairo is a large and hectic city. Seeing the sights can easily be achieved in one day or on a Cairo layover. If you’re planning on spending longer I suggest getting out of the city after a day or two. A Nile cruise is on my list and I have heard the resort areas are unreal.

My original Cairo layover was 15 hours which would’ve been more than enough time to do all of the above. Because I let others perceptions on Egypt slip in I cut my layover back to 8 hours. This meant no time for the museum. Shame as it is supposed to be amazing. Don’t do that for your Cairo layover.  Now is a great time to visit Cairo.


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For more reviews from Egypt and beyond see HERE.


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