Cairo is one of the busiest cities in Africa and the Arab world. As such, living in Cairo is as intriguing as it is potentially overwhelming. Before you explore the expansive metropolitan area, you should first familiarize yourself with the many ways to get around town.
While living in Cairo, you will enjoy the benefits of one of the few full-fledged metro systems in Africa (in fact, Cairo and Algiers are the only African cities equipped with a metro system). The system is vital to everyday life and indispensable to the millions in Cairo’s outskirts. Its opening in 1987 provided a much-needed relief for the chronically congested streets, which only add to the chaos.
The three lines, serving over 4 million customers per day, are almost as much a natural part of life in Cairo as the heat. Every important part of town that you may have to reach while living in Cairo is serviced by these lines. Another line is currently being considered, including an airport connection and the long-awaited extension of the third line. This measure will definitely make living in Cairo, and particularly international travel to the city (see part 2 of this article), a lot more comfortable.
Please keep in mind that the middle cars of the metro are reserved for women, although they can, of course, also use the other cars. This is a testament to the religious influence on life in Cairo, and should be respected at all times, especially during the very busy rush hour.
Of course, the metro is only one part of the public transportation system you can use. The city also boasts a tram system, ferries across the Nile, and several bus options.
Most people living in Cairo use the standard bus system or one of the many minibuses. The latter are particularly useful as they service more, and narrower, streets. You can take minibuses from wherever you are, as they can be found almost anywhere in Cairo. There are also the more expensive CTA buses, which feature air conditioning on board. If you have trouble adjusting to the heat, you might want to use those.
Many people who are new to living in Cairo may prefer to use taxis, as it can take some time to get used to your new surroundings.
Using the many public taxis is the easiest way to move around major Egyptian cities. The color of these taxis is dependent on the city you are in. In Cairo, they are black and white. If you venture out to Alexandria, the taxis will be yellow and black.
Cairo also has two additional types of taxis; plain white ones and yellow ones. These, unlike the black and white ones, are equipped with a meter to calculate the fare and are using more modern, air-conditioned cars. It would be wise to use either of them to avoid the usual hassle over the fare price when using a black and white taxi. Plain white taxis are more convenient to use as they can be hailed from the street, while a yellow taxi, usually called City Cab, has to be booked before your journey starts. The number for the City Cab is 19155.
A new taxi service was also recently launched with the name London Cab, which allows you to book a cab that is similarly looking to the iconic London taxi and has the option of paying the fare by credit card. It is especially useful for airport transfers. Make sure to ask at your hotel desk for assistance.
One of the most infamous aspects of living in Cairo is traffic. With an ever increasing population of 12 million people, traffic conditions have worsened. Although Cairo features a lengthy ring road around the city redirecting vehicles out of the busy center, jams are a regular occurrence.
If a car is not absolutely vital, you should try to avoid adding to the chaos. Not only are the streets congested nearly all the time, but some traffic rules are also ignored or interpreted rather freely. This takes some getting used to, not only for drivers, but also for pedestrians and you might have to reevaluate how important traffic lights are to you while living in Cairo.
It is recommended not to wander off to unknown or ominous-looking neighborhoods in Cairo, due to the turmoil that the city experienced in the previous years. There are still some traces of violence scattered around Cairo, so it is better to be on the safe side in regards to some neighborhoods. Ask a local friend or colleague about the safety of the place you plan to visit. Usually, areas with malls, high end restaurants and hotels, as well as the many satellite cities around Cairo are considered a safe place to roam around for expats. Do make sure to stay clear of any demonstrations that may be taking place, though.
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