I have met quite a few travelers who really hate Cairo. They can’t stand the dust, the car fumes, the constant cacophony of honks, and the strange foods. For me however, all of those reasons are why I love Cairo. I love how non-western, crazy and funky the city is. I love wandering alone through the unguarded tombs surrounding the Pyramids, and I love navigating through the city’s maze of back alleys. But perhaps the thing I love most about Cairo and Egypt in general is its exchange rate. At a rate of 6 Egyptian pounds to 1 dollar, Egypt is super cheap, and thus a perfect location for you intense budget backpackers or runaways.
Cairo is full of cheap hotels and hostels. Hostelworld.com alone lists around 80 of them. While some can cost as much as 250 pounds a night, around 45$, others can be as cheap as 20 pounds or 3$ a night. However, at hostels as cheap as this, bed begs tend to be the happiest guests. For a review of one of the coolest and cheapest Cairo hostel, check out my article on The Coolest Hostel in Cairo.
The cuisine of Cairo is delicious and seems to cater specifically to carnivorous western taste buds. Though finding pork is near impossible, chicken and beef Shawrma sandwiches are abundant. A large Sharwma sandwich costs around 10 pounds and will keep you full for most of the day. However, if you want to go even cheaper, you can find scrumptious mini sandwiches filled with your choice of liver, egg, cheese, or mystery meat for a pound each. Another option, popular among locals, and said to be the reason why Egyptians are getting fatter, is Kushari. Kushari consists of rice, lentils, chickpeas, and macaroni, and is topped with a sweet tomato sauce. A large bowel is extremely filling and tasty, and will only set you back between 6-10 pounds.
Perhaps the best part about Cairo is its juice bars. Here you can order a fresh quart of sugar cane juice for only a pound, that’s only 16 cents! And for 2 ½ pounds, you can get fresh mango, cantaloupe, pomegranate, strawberry, banana, apple,orange and grapefruit juice. It is so fresh, healthy and delicious, I dedicate about 10 pounds of my budget to juice every day. That’s about 5 quarts of sugar cane and 2 quarts of assorted fruit. However, if beer and alcohol is your libation of choice, you are in luck. Though Egypt is a Muslim country, liquor shops have recently sprung up throughout the city. A 24 ounce of Stella, a local Egyptian beer, goes for 7 pounds, while a 12 ounce of Heineken is only about 6 pounds. Egyptian liquors can also be found for relatively cheap.
Whether you take a donkey, a camel, the metro, a microbus, or a taxi, all means of transportation in Cairo are inexpensive. The metro will take you just about everywhere for 1 pound. Taxi’s will usually get you to your destination for between 10 to 20 pounds and micro busses, or vans, will get you from downtown Cairo to the pyramids for about 3 pounds.
Cairo is famous for its Pyramids and Egyptian museum, and both are priced fairly. To enter the Pyramid complex costs 100 pounds for general admission. But if you have a student ID it will only cost 30 pounds. Similarly, the Museum is about 50 pounds but for students it is only 30 pounds.
I am currently living extremely comfortably on only 60 pounds or 10$ a day. Where 35 pounds goes to my hostel and the remaining 25 goes to chicken Shawrma and sugar cane juice. Occasionally however I do go over. The Pyramids and museums are usually the reasons, but sometimes I have to splurge on a 25 pound meal at Mcdonald’s, Hardee’s, or KFC.
So, if you’re on a tight budget, Egypt and Cairo is definitely the place for you. Though the city can be overwhelming and claustrophobic for some people at times, the price is too good to beat.