Public transport in Egypt: everything you need to know

Getting around Egypt by public transport is actually not as difficult as you might think! Public transport in Egypt is pretty accessible these days.

We travelled through Egypt entirely by public transport after having been in East and Southern Africa for 6 months. Those of you who have travelled elsewhere in Africa will be aware that public transport in many African countries can be chaotic, to say the least! Our expectations for public transport in Egypt were therefore quite low. Luckily, Egypt exceeded our expectations and then some.

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Table of Contents

Is public transport in Egypt good?

If you’re just wanting some reassurance that public transport in Egypt is easy to use, then rest assured, it is. Though it is simple enough and most forms of public transport in Egypt are very comfortable, it might not be obvious at first glance, and it is a little tricky to pre-book/organise in advance, as most of it is not available online. In this post, I’ll talk you through all of this to help you plan your trip properly.

Public transport in Egypt fits a few different categories and there are a few different modes of transport. Whether you’re travelling across the country or within a city, this should help you figure it out.

The palace in Alexandria
Beautiful Alexandria

Tips for using public transport in Egypt

If you’re not used to taking public transport abroad and you’re reading this, then well done! It’s great to take an interest in taking public transport somewhere new. Public transport has numerous benefits, including cost-saving and environmental advantages. It’s better for your wallet and the planet!

However, it’s true that it can be a daunting experience when you’re travelling. Language barriers, lack of familiarity with the system, not knowing where you’re going and safety concerns can all get in your head and may cause you to lose face and turn to private transport. Here are some general things you can do to help you feel more confident:

  • Download Google Translate in Arabic (if you don’t speak Arabic) to help you buy tickets and in case you get lost
  • Always try and pre-book your tickets for long journeys, whether that’s in person or online (we used Busbud to do this when we could, as it was really easy)
  • For short journeys, work out your route ahead of time
  • Have a back up plan (and back-up fund!) in case things go wrong. This could be taxis, a later bus, different method of transport etc.
  • Keep a close eye on your belongings. Try to travel a little lighter and make sure you have your valuables in a safe place or on your person.
  • Be confident – you got this!
A skyline of Giza with the pyramids in the background. You can see apartments in the foreground with washing hanging up
The Pyramids of Giza

Intra-city transport in Egypt

The main cities of Egypt that you’ll probably visit as a tourist are Cairo, Luxor, Aswan and Alexandria. Of course, there are other cities in Egypt, but these are probably the main ones you’ll navigate as a tourist. Each has its own public transport system, mainly buses, but there are other options too.

Cairo, for example, has the metro, and Luxor has a good ferry for crossing between the two banks. Here are the main forms of public transport in Egypt for getting around cities.

The Metro (Cairo)

Cairo has a pretty good metro system these days. A map of the most up-to-date version I can find is below.

A metro map from Cairo. One form of public transport in Egypt
The Cairo Metro

The metro experience in Cairo is similar (onboard) to most other metros in the world. Most of the metro stations do not have ticket machines so you need to buy tickets in person. It was our experience that most of the ticket sellers spoke English, but it’s handy to have Google Translate downloaded if you don’t speak Arabic just in case. The signage is also pretty clear, and easy to follow.

Something which is different from many metros is that you have to pass your bags through a security scanner. This is before you go into the station itself and shouldn’t be too stressful. Mainly the scanning machines do the work and it shouldn’t delay you by too long.

Metro trains in Cairo have women-only and mixed carriages. If you are a solo woman or a group of women travellers, you are fine to travel onboard a women-only carriage. Men, even when accompanying women, are asked to stick to the mixed carriages. Note: you will need your ticket to exit the metro, so keep hold of it!

Intra-city buses in Egypt

Buses are, admittedly, a bit more complicated than the metro, but do cover more of Cairo and other cities. Like most of Africa, there are two main types of public bus in Egypt (in most cities). There are small microbuses – these are more like minibuses/people carriers and fit around 12-16 people. Of course, the drivers will always try and cram in more. The second type of bus is a large public bus, which we might also call a coach in the UK.

To board either type of bus, simply stand on the side of the road which matches your directly of travel and hold your hand out. As the bus approaches, shout the destination you’re travelling to and the driver will let you on if they have space and are travelling there. Something to be aware of is that often the buses do not come to a complete stop, so the drivers do expect you to hop on as they’re still moving, especially in Cairo. Honestly it’s not super scary, but probably best only for able-bodied travellers, as it is a little risky.

You don’t need to pre-book tickets for either type of bus. Once on board, the large buses are comfortable and spacious. You also usually get a seat! The microbuses are a little more cramped, but they’re not too bad at all.

Buildings in Cairo
An unusually quiet street in a normally hectic Cairo

Taxis

There are three different popular taxi apps in Egypt:

  • Uber – I’m sure you’ve all heard of it!
  • Bolt – again, this is quite a popular app worldwide
  • Careem – this is a local app, very similar to Bolt or Uber. Local taxi drivers seem to prefer using it to Uber and Bolt because you can pay in cash in local currency.

We talk about taxi scams a little in this article we wrote about safety in Egypt, but there are a few you need to watch out for. Of course, there’s the usual driving the scenic route to get you to pay more, but others include:

  • Marking themselves as ‘arrived’ but waiting around the corner, then leaving when you cancel. The benefit seems to be that you’re charged the cancellation fee, and then they can pick up another client.
  • Asking you to pay cash rather than on the app (on Uber mainly). This is not possible with Uber in Egypt yet (or wasn’t when we were there) so you’ll be charged twice if you agree.

We have to say, we had the fewest issues with Careem (the scams are more common with Uber, and the service with Bolt is generally terrible), but the app is a little glitchy. We found it charged us a fee a few times when we’d already paid by cash. Nevertheless, it’s the best of a bad bunch. Additionally, every city in Egypt seems to have Careem, whereas they don’t all have Uber or Bolt. Alexandria was the one where we needed Careem because the others weren’t available. Egypt taxi prices are generally good value across all apps.

Cross-country travel in Egypt

There are a few different ways to get around using public transport in Egypt. As we usually do in our articles, we’ll go from most to least sustainable.

Trains

Trains used to be a super popular mode of public transport in Egypt as a tourist, however there have been some changes recently. In December 2022, train prices for tourists changed dramatically (a 350% increase!). Every station in Egypt will have a separate desks for Egyptian Residents and tourists, and the prices are vastly different. Quite honestly, on a backpacking budget, we did not find train prices affordable. On a normal trip/holiday though, we think they’d be OK.

The trains in Egypt are very comfortable and would absolutely be the most comfortable way to get around. There are both old (Spanish) and new trains. The ticket sellers will usually advise you which trains are which and try and persuade you to take the newer trains. The old trains are a little cheaper and we did not see a huge difference. That is to say, we felt pretty comfortable on the older trains.

There are also sleeper trains you can for longer journeys (such as between Cairo and Luxor) and these are apparently quite luxurious (we didn’t try them ourselves). If you’re making this journey, you can book the Cairo – Luxor – Aswan train here through Get Your Guide and it’s really easy and simple to do in advance. It’s also the same cost as doing it in person.

Powered by GetYourGuide

You can also buy tickets in person at the train stations in each city.

The seat-back tv on the bus in Egypt
Impressive seats with Gobus

Buses

We personally found the buses the best mode of public transport in Egypt. Though there are a few different companies, GoBus is the company with the most extensive network. GoBus have a fairly easy to use online booking tool, but you can just as easily book in person if it’s not working. You can also use BusBud like we did for most other connections.

Travel everywhere for less

We found that the buses were mostly punctual, comfortable and felt safe to us. Unlike many African buses, the seats are spacious, and lights and music will be turned off overnight. Trust us when we say that this does not happen in much of the rest of Africa! With GoBus also, we had functioning charge points, a full seat recline and even WiFi, which was amazing.

Planes

You can fly internally in Egypt. We prefer not to recommend this method, as there are more sustainable options, and they are not inconvenient. Even the trains and buses run overnight (and are comfortable) so if you are short on time, you can use these options.

A felucca boat

Boats on the Nile

Though Nile cruises are more a private group tour than a mode of public transport in Egypt, you might be surprised to learn that you actually can get around Egypt via public transport on a boat! Particularly in Luxor and Aswan, though also in Cairo, you can take a ferry or a felucca. So what’s the difference?

A ferry is something most people will be familiar with. They’re much the same in Egypt as everywhere else, and are used to get from A to B on the Nile. Perhaps the most common short route in Egypt is West to East Bank and vice versa in Luxor.

A felucca is a traditional sailing boat in Egypt. You can use them in Cairo, Luxor or Aswan, and they do need to be booked as part of a tour, but in some places they are used as public transport.

Overall, public transport in Egypt really is very easy to use and nothing to be afraid of! Let us know in the comments if you’d add anything else.

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    Written by Emma

    Emma

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