My Inner Peace

First steps into Cairo’s habits – Tips and tricks for a great DYI trip

After 2 hours sleep, waking up was not easy, but was necessary as our driver was coming at 9:00 AM to pick us up and start the Egyptian adventure. We went on the roof of the hotel to have breakfast, where there is a beautiful terrace and you can see a nice panorama of Cairo’s downtown. The view was amazing, yet we were in a hurry and we had to wait for more than 30 minutes to have everything cooked on the spot. This way, we found out that due to the pandemic and consequently to the low number of tourists, a lot of hotels are not offering open buffets anymore to avoid wasting food and resources. Hence, they are cooking on the sport only for the people present in the dinning room for breakfast. Not having this information upfront, we ended up waiting for breakfast and making our driver waiting for us for half an hour. The great news: the breakfast was amazing! Falafel, boiled eggs, French fries, vegetables, cheese, bread, butter, jam, and tea. I was so impressed, but unfortunately this amazing breakfast was served only the first day. The bad news: the second and the fourth day we received less food, no Falafel and no vegetables which made me very sad and unhappy.

Hotel Amin Cairo – breakfast

Once we met our driver, Esra, a nice lady which was recommended to us by a close friend, we headed towards the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities in Zamalek (Cairo) to buy the Cairo and Luxor Passes. If you have in mind to visit a lot of sites in both Cairo and Luxor, you should definitely buy both of them because you will receive 50% discount from the Luxor Pass which is more expensive. This way you will save a lot of money and, if you go during a crowded period of time, you can also skip the tickets and entry queues. It is very important to know this information, as no local guide or employee from different sites are aware of it even if the Passes were introduced since 2016. For us the Cairo Pass sold for $100 or 90 EUR, taken separately, was not worth it because we didn’t manage to visit everything we had on our itinerary. This is only if you take into account the entrance fees of the sites we’ve managed to see, which would have cost us 73.5 EUR / person vs. 90 EUR / person paid for Cairo Pass. Otherwise, if we would have managed to see everything, the entrance fees were 95.5 EUR / person vs. Cairo Pass 90 EUR / person. However, the big difference is not consistent for Cairo Pass, but for Premium Luxor Pass. Buying both of them saved us 91.5 EUR / person or $111 / person. Hence, the Cairo Pass + Luxor Premium Pass both sold for $200 / person or 180 EUR / person was a wise choice. Moreover, both are valid for 5 days, so if you want to go and visit the same site in different days, you can do it without paying the entrance fee several times.

Cairo Pass

For Luxor you have 2 options:  

  1. Standard Luxor Pass sold for $100 or 90 EUR which includes all the sites in Luxor area, including Luxor East and West Banks, Luxor and Karnak Temples, except for the Tombs of Seti I, Tutankhamun and Nefertari.
  2. Premium Luxor Pass sold for $200 or 180 EUR which includes all the sites in Luxor area, including Luxor East and West Banks, Luxor and Karnak Temples, plus the Tombs of Seti I, Tutankhamun and Nefertari.

To be honest, if you see these three tombs that are more expensive and for which you have to pay a separate ticket if you don’t have the Luxor Premium Pass, it is like seeing all the other tombs from the Valley of the Kings and from the Valley of the Queens. Most of them are very similar, but in a less good shape than these three. But we will be talking more about Luxor sites in a separate article dedicated to this magic place.

So, if you decide to buy the passes, you should have 2 passport pictures with you and USD or EUR in new banknotes. If the money is not in a very good shape, they will reject it. The lady from the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities said that the Egyptian National Bank is not accepting old banknotes, so take care of this aspect upfront. Another thing you should take into account, is the rhythm some tasks are performed in Egypt. We’ve spent more than 30 minutes for these passes and we waited just 5 minutes at the beginning, because the lady there had to finish the service for the previous person. So, if you are used with fast tasks performance, forget about it in Egypt, otherwise you will get very frustrated. And, if the lady helping you with the passes will ask you to sit, you better do it from the beginning, otherwise her tone will become more and more inquisitive. 😊

Once you have the passes, you’re free to go and visit all the sites you want in Cairo and Luxor (for Premium Pass), but take a good care of them. As I said before, the employees of the sites are not all aware of the existence of these passes, especially in Cairo, so they will look strangely at it, analyze it, ask a superior if it’s ok to let you pass based on it, and they will not treat that piece of paper kindly. Being written in ink, at a certain point the ink may fade away, so be very careful. In the Valley of the Queens in Luxor we had a strange situation with a guy from the entrance. He didn’t want to give us back the passes without paying him. We refused to give him more money and, at a certain point, while we were trying to explain him that we don’t have to pay anything, I tried to take back the passes, but he didn’t let them go easily. Hence, I had to pry it loose and, in the process, due to this man resistance, a small part of my picture was damaged. All this happened in front of two policemen sitting there and smiling while we were trying to take back our passes. So, be careful and try not to give your pass to everyone asking to see it. It is better to show it from your own hand, but it is not always possible as some of them will insist to take it and study it or ask for a superior permission. So, if you see any abuse, just insist to take it back explaining in every way that you don’t have to pay anything as the passes are granting you free passage in all the areas from Cairo and Luxor (only the Premium Pass covers everything).

Back to our first day… Esra was waiting for us in the car to come back from the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities in Cairo with our passes, ready to start the journey. And finally, around 11:00 AM we headed towards the Saqqara Pyramids.

Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities in Zamalek (Cairo)

To be continued…

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