We will be the first to tell you, the task of dragging a couple of school aged kids onto a plane to another continent is daunting. When that continent is Africa, a whole new set of challenges are on the table.
But don’t let anything stop you. Here are some tips on doing the land of the Pharaohs with kids.
Getting In – First, the visa is going to cost $25 per person (USA passport). You can get a visa on arrival in the airport. Pay this in US dollars. But as soon as possible, get some Egyptian pounds in hand. You will need them for taxi fare and TIPS! Everyone will want a tip, including the random person who opens the bathroom door for you.
Hotels – If its your first time in the country and you don’t know anyone, we would recommend you stay in one of the major hotels near Tahrir Square. The Marriott, Hilton Ramses and Intercontinental are all good choices. You will be central to a lot of the major sites you would want to see.
Getting Around – Moving around the city is much easier these days because Uber is available in Cairo. We highly recommend this as you will avoid bargaining with the taxi drivers and getting charged more than you should. Walking is very normal in Cairo. However this is not a good option with kids because you will find yourself crossing major roads without crosswalks – and cars generally do not stop for pedestrians. Do not bring a stroller. A baby carrier would work if you must.
Seeing the Pyramids – If you just want to see the pyramids and take some pics, you can get a taxi to drop you off at the ticketing booth. You can purchase tickets and go in yourself. Be ready to say “la shukran” (no thank you). You will encounter people offering you souvenirs, camel rides, horse buggy rides and everything else, every step of the way. Just say “la shukran” and keep walking. Do not make eye contact with them unless you want them to keep following you. If you do want to go for a ride, it would help to have a local do the bidding for you. But if you must do it yourself, don’t pay over 10USD for half hour camel/horse/buggie ride. And it is customary and OK to tip. Anything over 2USD is an extraordinarily high tip. Avoid this as you will draw unnecessary attention to yourself and your group.
Shopping – Kids will love the sights, sounds and smells of Khan el Khalili. This is a place where you can practice your bargaining skills without much pressure. You will be among hundreds of other tourists from all over the world in this winding bazaar. You can shop for souvenirs and gifts for all your friends back home at this location. The main bargaining tip we would give you is do not think of prices in dollars. Get a feel for what the item actually costs by asking about the same item at different locations. You will generally be quoted a price double what you should really buy it for. Also, be ready to walk away. Never let them know how badly you want something.
Safety – Cairo is generally safe, but like any major metropolis, you need to stay cautious. Hold your kids’ hands in public and do not let them out of your sight at any time for any reason. Avoid talking to people about politics. If they bring it up, just politely play ignorant about all politics.
Just for Kids – Spend one day at Dream Park, an awesome theme park near Giza. One whole section of the park is for younger kids and the other is for older kids and adults. Think of this like a Disneyland and 6 Flags Magic Mountain in one location. If you dare, try the ride called Discovery. Crazy!