Having just got back from 2 weeks in Egypt (Sharm, Cairo and Alexandria) and not normally a reviewer of my trips but thought it was really necessary to advise about the Giza Pyramids as it was by far the most stressful day of our trip and almost not worth the hassle, and we spent a total of 6 days in the Cairo area. I had read about and felt clued up about most of the Cairo scams and hassles but our guide book and info didn't really prepare us for the situation at the pyramids. You can definitely enjoy the experience but don't learn the hard way like we did, I would say if possible go as part of a pre arranged tour for this sight (and I am not normally a huge fan of being part of big tour groups) but you can blend in with others and get less hassle, or get your hotel to arrange a one to one tour guide who can accompany you around and basically keep hasslers at bay! I would say do not go on your own or with a few other people. I went with my boyfriend who has travelled extensively in Africa and India and said it was by far his worst experience of being hassled.
It started as soon as we arrived, a random man jumped in the taxi and started selling us various things (camel rides, guides) getting rid of him and getting to the ticket office then means you have more 'guides' offering to show you around and then once inside it is pure craziness. There are a few occasions when a small tip (which should be what you think it should be and not an amount demanded upon you) seems to be the mainstay, for example inside the pyramids, a guy at the entrance may look after your camera whilst your inside then take a photo of you afterwards, we paid 5 L.E (50p) for this and there are also people in the pyramids who will tell you about it and expect a tip (even if you don't want them to tell you this extra info) but again it's only a small amount and we didn't mind this as whilst it is expected it is still on your terms.
The real problem comes when you are walking around the main pyramids just trying to take everything in because the views are spectacular, then you have people coming up to you and giving you 'gifts' except they are not gifts and they don't take no for an answer. We did pretty well in the rest of Cairo, just saying a polite no thank you and continually walking until people stopped following us and in general this worked fine and we had no real problems but at the pyramids they will literally thrust things at you before you know what's happening, I got some stones thrust into my hand outside the great pyramid before I knew what was happening and no amount of saying I didn't want the gift worked, then when I said Ok thank you, accepting it, the guy followed me and demanded money, these people are the ones who are aggressive and won't accept a reasonable amount like the others do. The worst one was a guy who put a headscarf in my boyfriends pocket under the same pretence of a gift, after some discussion I got into a heated argument with him which resulted in him grabbing my arm aggressively and demanding money to which we gave in. Interesingly at this point a man with a camel saw this and made the other man give us some of our money back but then tried to talk us into a camel ride himself. I made the mistake of saying basically no but maybe later and 20 minutes later after we had been walking around he appeared and before we knew it was taking photos, when we gave him money he demanded money from both of us individually and when I gave the money to his son, he said I had to give him money too, which totalled between us about 30 euros!! Generally we don't see ourselves as easily led but the pyramid situation takes you by complete surprise. Our tactic for the rest of the day was to decide on a route walk quickly without stopping and ignore everyone with the exception of no thank you. Don't make the mistake of arguing like we did because as soon as you engage in eye contact of conversation you have brought something, don't let people stop you, act like you have somewhere to go and as for the people literally putting things on you, try to see them coming and avoid them. The worst area we found was the great pyramid and the best areas are around the smaller pyramids. So definitely go but just be prepared and vigilant!
The attitude pf most guides or fake guides of asking for tips was really odd. They are annoying and not just stress you to get some money(often for not required information), but they’ll also complain and argue because you did not give enough.I had not this problems with taxidrivers or hotel or restaurant staff, only with people on touristic sites which follow you and trying to give(sell) information even if you clearly say you do not want and then will insist to get some money.
Fun Alternatives: Once a guide refused the few money I gave t him and so I found the solution, offered one coin and most of them sent me to hell but at least went away.
Well "yes" the hawkers do hassle you but our guide gave us such dire warnings that we nearly missed out on photos of a lifetime. Our guide wanted us to save all for "her shop". If you know what you are doing there are some interesting buys "out there". So don't discount the hawkers all together.
One hawker brought us change and as he was passing the change to us another grabbed the money and tried to give us goods. We jumped around and complained till we got the money. David is a strong looking guy.
Unique Suggestions: Try not to let hawkers hassle you. If they want to use your camera to take your photo be prepared to pay..cost us 5 euro .
Remember not to feel sorry for them. It is business. And they will drop the price if you seem reluctant.
Fun Alternatives: Just be aware of how it all works and you will be OK.
It almost put me off traveling to egypt after reading the reviews posted here. I am glad I braced myself and went there and had one of the most memorable holiday ever. All the reviews you read are all exagerated, or at least written by someone who had not traveled much. The hawkers and touts at the pyramids, or anywhere else in egypt, are only doing their job, to make ends meet. But they are no way near as aggresive as other countries in Asia. It was only mild persuasion and they know when to back off if you showed no interest and are firm.
Unique Suggestions: It is good that you read all the reviews so that you know more or less what to expect. So use your common sense. It was easy for me to handle these people. They are fun and welcoming people. I just returned from Luxor, Assuan, Cairo and (El gouna)Hurghada myself. Man, I loved every moment of it, except in Hurghada, no action at all. However, I must warn you that though they are very friendly and willing, either old or young, they expect some kind of reward for their service. Give them whatever you think is fair. They put on sour face and complained just for the show. One thing you should also know is that these people earn most of their living from tourists. And some of them know the tricks so well to milk you out for more cash. However, they are by no mean dangerous or violent at all. They are very welcoming and peace loving people. Sometime they raise their voice but that is their way to squeeze more money from you. Don't take it seriously and just ignore them and be firm. At the end, they will accept whatever you give them. People in Luxor is most notorious for this kind of act and very skimming too. I find people in Assuan are more genuine and much less aggresive in asking for moeny. In Cairo, there is a mix. Some ask for money and some not. Whatever it is, you will have a good and memorable time. . In fact they are more worried than you are to be found out what they do to you. They will *** in their pants if you say you will report to the police. LOL! I did not threaten them that way but I had the feeling that would be the case. I don't know any country in the world where people are so fear of police like the egyptians. So, you can be sure there will be no blackmails or threats imposed on you. I just love the mischievious egyptian way. I find it is so endearing. Enjoy your holiday in egypt. I wish I could go back there soon again. I really had great time there.
Fun Alternatives: Try travel to China, India, Indonesia, Philipines or most countries in Asia. Then you will know what is called real aggressive hawkers, touts and beggars.
Know in advance if you are traveling here this is by far the home of the most aggressive hawkers in the world. These hawkers act as if they own the place. They camp out right at the foot of the pyramids. They have free reign.
Just go with a group and be advised.
I wouldn't really call it a tourist trap because the people are generally real nice but they are trying to make some money and will try to mislead you,not in a mean way but it will turn to a pressure type situation.The best thing you can do if starts to go awry is to tell them you not wanting to buy anything at the moment but you might come back later.How I got trapped is when we were at pyramids all I wanted to do was pet one of the police officers camels,he said it was o.k. but then I had to pay him 5 pounds.
Particularly around Maidan Tahrir and Talaat Harb.......
What does that mean. I mean sure. I use both my legs. Always have.
This is one of the verbal hooks used to initiate a conversation, and this particular one always sets off alarm lights. Should the conversation show the slightest sign of papyrii, perfumes or uncle's shops of any description, I just walk away. Like an Egyptian.
The problem of course is distinguishing between the touts and the people who are simply being friendly. Generally the Egyptians are welcoming, friendly and eager to help and maybe.practise their english or help with your Arabic.
What I am trying to do is learn to cross the road like an Egyptian.
Fun Alternatives: Hop like an Assyrian
I would recommend you do not hire a tour guide. Invariably, they will move you through at a quicker pace than you might prefer and end up taking you to one of the surrounding shops to purchase papyrus or perfume - never allow someone to "guide" you into a store/shop as they are going to subject you to a high pressure sale and, if you do purchase, it will be at a much higher price than you could likely negotiate on your own.
At the pyramids you can wander all around the immediate area and see the mastabas as well as venture away from the other tourists to get a "personal" view/experience. I would recommend bringing a guide book with you and that is generally all the guide you wil require. (during one of our visits, we met one of the camel guides whose picture was on the guide book we had along - he took great pride in seeing it.)
Unique Suggestions: Expect the touts or guides at the pyramids to be persistant and sometimes bothersome but don't let them interfere with your experience. Just use the phrase, La'a, shukran (no, thank you) and they will leave you be after the initial inquiry. If you choose to follow their lead, be sure to haggle as they expect it and will allow you to talk them down in price as they have set the starting point very high.
Fun Alternatives: Do not be deterred...You must experience all of this - it is part of Egypt!
I can honestly say that my experience at the Pyramids of Giza was the only time I felt truly uncomfortable and harrassed as a tourist while in Egypt. From the moment we entered the approach to the pyramids, we were followed, intercepted, offered goods and even touched - with headscarves placed on our heads despite our refusal.
If only I'd learnt the word 'baksheesh' means 'gift', which does not appear to mean something given freely, rather something to be offered in exchange for something else. So when a headscarf is placed on your head and offered as a 'baksheesh', you will be expected to offer something back in return. Attempting to give back the headscarf proved a challenge. Persistance is key, I personally found this all too overwhelming because I had not expected it at all.
We actually escaped by way of a camel ride... which was a great experience though only then led to further disputes about the cost of the ride. We agreed a journey time and price before setting out but it was still a matter of dispute when we were right out in the desert and not able to get off and walk. We ultimately bartered for a reasonable price - above our original - but I still ended up giving them camel riders my pens hung around my neck through their persistance. It was no big deal, but a little frustrating to feel so obliged to give them.
Unique Suggestions: Be prepared to be hassled, and try to remain calm and firm in your response. Remember to say 'la shukran' for 'no thank you', with a smile.
I felt that my experience distorted by view of the site, and with the firey heat I found it a little exhausting. However, when we were out in the desert on the camels we were able to gain an amaZing view of this wonder of the world.
Fun Alternatives: Despite the pyramids of Giza, there are many other pyramids you can visit in Egypt - over 100 in total - so why not visit some of them instead?
We took a day out with a driver hired for the day - thanks to our hotel reception. We visited the Bent Pyramid and the Red Pyramid in Sakkur... with an early start enough to avoid any tourists at all for the first half an hour, and were able to enter the [Red] pyramid itself to get a feel for what life could have been like some 4000 years ago when they were first built........
Oh boy, how the hawkers around the pyramids disenchanted me. The second I got out of my tour bus and got my camera out, some guys came over offering to take "special" pictures for me. Their special picture is to make you stretch your arm up so that it looks as if you are touching the top of the pyramid. Magical, who needs photoshop? They then somehow manage to lure you over towards their camels... wrap a headscarf around you, offer to take a picture of you on a camel, and wahey! Before you know it, you're heading off into the desert.
I turned around and my boyfriend is still on a camel about 20m behind me, being hassled for money. I very sternly told the guy leading my camel to stop and go back, but he didn't listen. If you're seeing your loved one being led away into the desert and they have your expensive camera, it might be a bit of a blur, and before you know it they've taken something scandalous like £25...
It was meant to be a pleasant camel ride up onto a small hill, where I could see all 3 main pyramids. However, it was ruined by my rising panic that they were going to leave us there or charge us to take us back, or refuse to return my camera. I managed to say that I just wanted to take one picture from up on my camel, and then kept my camera very close, despite the guy trying to get it back for more "special pictures". Oh yes, by this point the other two guys had disappeared, attaching both camels to each other and leaving one guy leading us. He would occasionally "jokingly" walk away and leave us on the camels.
When we got off, he tried to get more money from my boyfriend, saying that as he had taken us, he deserved money too!!! I had had enough by then, I just went "no more!!" and dragged the bf away. I could not believe the cheek of it. To be honest, it was terrifying, I didn't know what they were going to do or what they'd do if we didn't give them money. Our tour guide just let this happen, by the way...
After this, the tour bus drove us up onto a plateau, where we had a view of all 3 pyramids....
Another thing. Just outside the main pyramid, there was a guy giving "presents"... so I said thanks and tried to walk away quickly. He then shoved some postcards into our hands and asked for a "small coin". He didn't accept that we had no money, so I eventually shoved the pictures back into his hands, and he angrily demanded his presents back, before going "can I kiss you?" I ended up saying "emshi" (get lost) and walking away, leaving him muttering about "bloody English"... children also walk around Cairo, pointing at their mouths (does this mean they want food?) and trying to sell you fake papyrus.
We went on a day trip from Hurghada. If you think Hurghada is bad... well, Cairo completely ruined most of my fascination with ancient Egypt. Hawkers should be banned from the pyramids area - for most people this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and they will just pounce on your and ruin your day.
Oh, yes, you don't see much at all inside the pyramids, and it costs £5-10 to go inside one. But at least you can say you've been, if you're into that kinda thing.
Small children are running aroud everywhere att the tourist attractions and handing out small crystals and screaming "free free" but if you take it they expect money anyway and will follow you until you get so bored that you give them money so they go away.
Unique Suggestions: Don`t take anything thats "Free" nothing is free for tourists.
Young children, approx eight years old are being used to sell goods, it is difficult for us Westerners to refuse children, in good faith I gave one pens pencils and sweets, I wanted nothing from him, he kept shoving an Arab headress in my bag saying gift, I did not want it, and kept giving it back to him, my husband had to intervene, and ended up giving him 5LE to get rid of him,
A Man who was obviously "in charge" of these children, came running after us demanding money for HIS headress, we were rescued by our guide Islam,
Be carefull about taking photo's of Camels & riders it will cost you, as will someone taking your photo with your camera, ask another tourist/guide to take your picture
Unique Suggestions: Please, if you are inexperienced, or find it difficult to be rude, (the Giza conmen are very experienced at what they do), then please go with a group, and/or guide, you will have a lot more protection
Dont make eye contact, and definately dont speak, they will realise what nationaility you are and go for the jugular
Fun Alternatives: There can be no alternative to the Pyramids of Giza, it is a must see, despite the hassle it was still breathtaking.
Can you imagine how annoying it is to be viewed as some rich, fat-cat American? Especially when you come from my background of being a hippie in the sixties. But that's what it's like in Cairo. I bought a banana in some fruit stall near my hotel and as I was taking it up to my room in the elevator, the bell-hop jumps in and tries to grab the fruit so HE could be the one who carried it up for me. Then he would expect a tip. These people are unbelievable.
Unique Suggestions: Hide whatever you might have purchased before you return to your hotel.
Loads of tips on this but my experience is you cant let your gaurd down for a second.
We went independant and if your streetsmart no problem.
I let my guard down for a second went we were off the beaten path. A hawker shoved goods in my hand and opened goods and put them on me and demanded payment. I said no and he got annoyed and aggressive.
If hawkers wont take no for a answer ask if them if we should take this over to the tourist police. They will back away, be assured of that.
Its annoying but its the way of things as you are viewed as a walking wallet. Take it with humour and patience and dont let it ruin your holiday or let it put it off. If hawkers really annoy you and you will let it ruin your holiday im sorry to say Egypt probably wont be the place for you.
When you are walking through Cairo you alsmost inevitably come across people who want you to show the way, show you something special, etc. etc. You will end up in a place you don't want to be. It might be a shop or, like here, an old mosque. The guy in the picture wanted NO money from us, he said. He wanted just to talk English and learn a bit from us. Well there are people in Cairo who want that, but this young man just wanted a big baksheesh!
Unique Suggestions: Be firm and say NO, Thank you! (LA, shukran!), don't make eyecontact and walk on as if he isn't there.
Fun Alternatives: There is no alternative to a tourist trap like this.