Monday, July 30, 2007

3 Tips for new arrivals in Cairo

This was compiled by a friend of mine who wanted to remain anonymous, but has given me permission to post this here on my blog. Thanks A.

Since some people are arriving in Cairo in the next few days, here are some tips about Visas, Duty Free, and Taxis!

If you haven't already gotten an Egyptian visa in advance at a consulate abroad, you will need to get one upon arrival at the airport. Here's how it goes... You will come to a hallway filled with about 5 or 6 little booths labeled with names like "Bank of Alexandria" "Banque du Caire" "Banque Misr" etc. You go to one of them and tell them you will buy a visa. You can go to any of the booths, and a visa costs the same for everyone, as far as I know... It costs 15 US DOLLARS. Be careful: once I saw a German guy pay 15 EUROS, so he got ripped off about 2 Euros because 1 US $ doesn't equal 1 EUR! You should pay in dollars, or insist that they convert your Euros or British sterling to 15 US Dollars and then use that money to buy a visa from them or any of the other booths.

Then after you've paid, they will give you two small stamps... in my passport I have a small orange one labeled LE 27.20 and a small blue-green one labeled 5 LE. (Strangely, when I bought another Egyptian visa at a consulate in Europe , my stamps were blue-green for 5 LE and green for 7.70 LE).

Then you will go to the border control guy, who will stamp your passport marking your arrival DATE. He’ll then stick on the two little paper stamps into your passport.

Kim's Note : Not all nationalities are eligible for Visa on arrival, so kindly check before you travel !

There is a rule that when you arrive in Egypt, you can buy alcohol at Duty Free shops for two days, but afterwards you can’t. So, if you arrive on 25 Jan, you can go to the store on 25 Jan, 26 Jan, and 27 Jan, but NOT on 28 Jan.

At the Duty Free stores you can buy imported alcohol for cheaper rates than you will find elsewhere in Egypt . The wines vary in prices from about 4 USD to 20 USD. You must pay in foreign currency, such as Dollars or with a Credit Card.

Many of the wines are ONLY available in the Duty Free stores, where they have wines from all over the world. So if you are arriving and you want to drink something better than the Egyptian-produced wine (middling quality and costs 25-50 LE!), you should be sure to buy your duty free allowance. It also makes a great gift for dinner parties.

I know you can buy chocolate and things like that at the Duty Free, but you can also buy imported chocolate at grocery stores such as Metro. I’m not sure which one is cheaper.

There is a LIMIT to the number of bottles you can buy. If you buy the bottles AT THE AIRPORT when you arrive, then you can buy FOUR bottles of alcohol. I’m not sure where the Duty Free shop at the airport is… you should ask someone. I think it’s before Customs but I’m not sure. I heard the shop at Terminal 3 (the new one) is the biggest.

If you buy bottles AFTER you leave the airport, your limit is just THREE bottles. Here are the other Duty Free Shops that I know of:
1. First floor of the Doqqi Sheraton Hotel (This is close to downtown.)
2. Mohandassin: Gam’at al-Dawal Al-‘Arabiya. At the south-eastern end of the street, near where it intersects Sharia Al-Sudan. Just tell the cab driver “Nasyet Share3 es-Sudan wi Gam3at ed-dawal el-3arabiyya.” The fare from Downtown to there is about 6 LE depending on traffic. Precisely, the duty free store is on the intersection of Gam’at ad-Dawal Al-‘Arabiya and Sharia Zamzam but the cab driver probably won’t know that small street.
3. Nasr City (Madinet Nasr): in the City Stars Mall.

Kim's Note : If you fly in on Egypt Air, then I too haven't noticed a Duty Free Shop in that Terminal. But if you come in on any other airline, the Duty Free shop is in the Visitors area as you walk out of immigration at the extreme Right.
I haven't compared the rates on Chocolates either.

There are two ways to get to downtown from the airport: public bus and Cab. The bus doesn’t run late at night (like from midnight till 5 AM ). The bus is big and white and relatively clean. I caught it by walking away from the terminal to the small bus-stop on the other end of the parking lot. I paid something like 2 LE for the ticket plus 1 LE for my bag. Don’t let them put your bag in the storage area under the bus - it's oily and very dirty.

The cab touts can be annoying but I found that if I just agreed to about 40 or 45 LE then they say yes and it’s ok. Tell them that you are paying this price INCLUDING the parking ticket which costs 5 LE. They will probably try to stick you with the price of the parking ticket anyway. If they do, then that’s fine… paying 45 LE or 50 LE is the normal foreigner price. You could probably negotiate to something lower like 30 or 35 if you speak good Arabic, but I have found that the cab drivers just argue too much to make it worth it.

If you are taking a cab downtown, just try sharing with another foreigner coming in on your flight; you can split the fare in two then, and each will pay about 25 LE.

If you want a map, head to the AUC bookstore and get the “Cairo Maps – The Practical Guide.” Just bring your passport, which you will need to leave at the gate to enter university grounds.

Kim's Note : Maps are available at other bookstores too. Check Bookshops in Cairo for a list of English books stores.
You need to leave some kind of photo id at the AUC gate. Photocopies aren't valid. It could be a drivers licence (issued by your home country) or a photo credit card too. You take a call on what photo id you would rather leave with the security. I've visited numerous times and the guards are very polite and helpful and safe to leave stuff with them (from my personal experience so far)


Bob said...

Pretty much very accurate. I remember paying less for my visa (around 40EGP) though.

Links !

Anonymous said...

A lil update inshAllah for the british natioanls passing through cairo airport. when i came through the first week of august, i got my visa from one of the travel agents before passport control, they charged me 90EGP and stamped in my nationality as being american. i didnt realise till after i had got to my hotel n looked at my receipt. Double check before u sign the paper to get the visa, could save u a good 40EGP by the looks of it.
thanks for this post anon freind of ms kim.
good day.

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