Hotels and alternatives
Cairo has a fair collection of hotels in every price and quality class. In general you get what you pay for, few places are overpriced. As of 2003 the general price level was very affordable. But once you get to the bottom of the price list, what you get can be more than comes to the eye. Some cheap hotels have serious hygenic situations, others serve as brothels.
A good up-to-date guide book will direct you to the good cheap places, although on my last trip in April 2004 I experienced that even my all-time favourite Rough Guides were terribly wrong in its recommendations on several points.
People with more money to spend can choose from a range of international luxury hotels, where they will be charged more or less what the same hotels would be charging anywhere else in the world.
Restaurants and alternatives
Cairo has fewer restaurants than you might expect, but for anyone staying here 4-5 nights, it is no problem eating good food in a new place ever evening. For longer stays, you might start to feel void of new opportunities.
For the hardcore budget travellers, Cairo is heaven. It is no problem eating filling meals for E£3-4 including a soda. This normally involves eating the delicious kushari which is rice, macaroni, tomato sauce and spices or a sandwich or a kebab from one of the many stalls.
As many travellers don't get all too enthusiastic about Egyptian food, Cairo offers many restaurants serving international cuisine, French, Levantine, Chinese, Japanese, Korean etc. Even these places are very reasonable, and you could expect to pay from E£30 for a three-course and up.
A great experience for many will be eating in one of the floating restaurants. These are old-fashioned boats (that were used for private parties, with alochols and promiscuity, in the old days), and are harboured along the riverbank. A full meal here will rarely cost more than E£100 and sometimes less.
Sports and Activities
Cairo isn't really the place for sports, although some of the better hotels have gyms.
Apart from the obvious activities, like visiting the pyramids on the Giza side of the Nile, or the Muslim/Coptic monuments on the Cairo side, boat rides are popular. You can either join one of the join one of the public boats docked at Maspero, just north of the Ramses Hilton, or negociate a trip from the Giza side. Finding one of the Giza docks is best done with the help of a taxi driver.
Cairene nightlife is better than you might expect from a predominantly Muslim city, and the joints can be divided into two groups. The first are sleazy nightclubs dominated by Egyptian men and prostitutes (mainly gay men, some non-lesbian women and the occasional crossdresser). The other group are upperclass discos, which over recent years have introduced a rule of only admitting couples (in order to avoid being gay clubs).
If you want belly-dancing of good quality, the good hotels are the places to look. This could, however, be an expensive experience.
My experience is that ATM withdrawals are the best way of changing money. The rates are better than with bank notes, and as always, I do not recommend the use of travellers checks, as few banks welcome these now, and there are many fees involved with them.
More expensive hotels welcome payment in US dollars, but are open for Euros as well.
The few exchange booths still in operation should only be used after you have checked the official exchange rates in the banks.
Cairo had naturally excellent connections with the rest of Egypt.
There are domestic air flights with destinations that includes Hurghada, Sharm el-Sheikh, Luxor, Kharga, and Aswan. Prices are OK, and you can get a return ticket to Sharm el-Sheikh for US$200, but there is little room for discounts.
Bus services are excellent, but only to the extent that there are a bit too many bus stations in Cairo (which of course is unavoidable). With buses, you can get practically anywhere in Egypt, but you will of course have to change buses when your destination is en route with another big destination. Prices are incredibly low. What about US$30 for a return ticket to Aswan? And then we're talking about the best quality of the buses. These buses are swift, but they often include stops for eating en route, even if there is serving of snacks and simple beverages in the buses themselves.
Trains are more or less offering the same as buses. While buses seldom get really crowded, the lowe classes on the trains do. Prices are more or less the same. There are less destinations with the trains, but as long as you're going up and down the Nile, buses and trains offer parallel services. There are wagon-lits on long-distance destinations, like Luxor and Aswan, but these are unfortunately priced double from what Egyptians have to pay. A return ticket to Aswan will cost about US$120.
Taxis are a good alternative, if you're not going to far away destinations. One way to Alexandria would cost you around US$3, and this is normally the fastest way of overland travelling in Egypt.
250 km south: Minya
150 kmeast: Suez
250 km northeast: Port Said
250 km northwest: Alexandria