Egypt’s capital, Cairo, is one of the largest and most populated cities in Africa. As the commercial, media, and educational center of this north African country, Cairo is teeming with activity. For first-time business travelers, the city can be overwhelming with its 18 million residents.
The Four Seasons Cairo at Nile Plaza is in the heart of the financial district, with the city center less than 5 minutes away, and about 45 minutes from the airport. Located along the Nile, among the city’s oldest district, it’s everything you would expect from the Four Seasons brand. For $50 per person, the hotel offers an airport meet-and-assist service, where a representative will guide you through passport control and customs. Even if it’s your first business trip to the city, this is a nice-to, rather than a must-have. Once at the hotel, you’ll find a total of 9 restaurants and lounges as well as 13 meeting and event spaces – there’s also a high-end mall attached to the back of the hotel. The spa includes a gym, salon and indoor pool. The hotel is equipped with the full range of business needs, including everything from computer rentals to translation services. The biggest disappointment here is that although Wi-Fi is available throughout the hotel, you’ll have to pay $12 per hour (you’ll find this to be common practice at most hotels in the city).
Hilton Pyramids Golf Resort is only 20 minutes away from the city’s Smart Village, an IT and business park, making it a popular choice among business travelers who are there to visit the hub. The Resort is also just under an hour’s drive from Cairo International Airport. If you call two days in advance, they’ll arrange for a driver to pick you up. In terms of amenities, the Resort has over a dozen meeting rooms available on site, along with a fully-equipped business center. Again, the Wi-Fi access disappoints. There is no Wi-Fi in the rooms, only in the public areas of the hotel. Internet connection is sketchy, which is frustrating as it costs $15 per hour.
The Fairmont Towers in Heliopolis is a central hotel, located a short 10 minute ride from Cairo International Airport. The hotel has a fully equipped fitness center along with a tennis court and outdoor pool. The onsite business center offers meeting facilities as well as all the usual fax and photocopying services. Wi-Fi is available in the public areas of the hotel, and comes at a fee.
There are a number of airport transfer options available when landing at Cairo International Airport. One of the cheapest, and most reliable, is the one offered by the airport. Cairo Airport Shuttle Bus offers 24/7 service from the airport to most hotels in the city. It departs every 30 minutes. You can make a booking prior to your arrival, simply go the counter at the arrivals terminal. Prices are fixed. Expect to pay just $5 to get to downtown Cairo where most of the best business hotels we’ve listed above are located.
Taxis are the best way to get around Cairo if you’re there on business. You have three options: the old black and white taxis (they usually don’t have meters so negotiate a price before getting in), the white taxis and the yellow taxis. The latter two are new, air-conditioned and metered.
Navigating your way through the streets of Cairo is an adventure in itself. We wouldn’t advise renting a car and driving yourself, especially if you’re only in the city for a few days. Taxis are readily available at most hotels. But you will have to call the taxi company when you are in other locations. If you insist, the daily cost of renting a car ranges from around $70 for a basic manual car to just over $200 for an automatic SUV.
Visa, Mastercard and American Express are widely accepted at almost all major hotels and stores.
Egypt’s currency is the Egyptian pound (E£). While U.S. dollars and British pounds are accepted inside major hotels, smaller stores and taxi drivers prefer local currency. We advise you exchange cash on arrival. Most large hotels, including the ones we have listed under our accommodation recommendations, provide currency exchange services onsite.
ATMs are widely accessible across Cairo. There are at least 8 ATM cash machines – including Barclay’s, HSBC and United Bank – available in the arrivals hall at the airport. They’re safe to use and the best way to get local currency. There are also at least half a dozen local bank branches at the airport that offer currency exchange services. Note that outside of the airport, most banks are open from Sunday to Thursday.
When traveling in most major cities in Africa, Cairo included, you have a choice of a) using your cell phone and phone number from home and making roaming calls or b) buying a local SIM card, thus operating with a local number, charging it with airtime locally. There are three mobile operators for you to choose from: Etisalat Egypt, Mobinil and Vodafone Egypt. You can pick up a local SIM card for less than $1 at a supermarket. Each operator has their own rates, while some have special visitor packages like Etisilat’s ‘Welcome Line‘.
For international calls to the US and Europe, we highly recommend using Skype or Google Voice. Google Voice offers free calls to the US. You will be able to use both Skype and Google Voice wherever you have access to the internet.
Is it safe to travel there?
We find the most informed, level headed, comprehensive and up to date information on travel to Africa is that published by the British government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office. We advise business travelers to check their website frequently to get a sense of evolving dynamics in Egypt. Click HERE for their travel advice to Egypt.
Another useful source for assessing safety and security is the Ibrahim Index, founded by Sudanese businessman Mo Ibrahim. The Ibrahim Index ranks African countries relative to one another, and ranks Egypt’s personal safety as 38 out of 52 countries. For more information, visit the Ibrahim Index score for Egypt HERE.
Arabic is the official language in Egypt. English and French is common in business circles.
In Cairo, business attire is formal and conservative. Dark colored suits for men will make the best impression. For women, while skirts and dresses are allowed, be modest – you’re in a Muslim country.
Electrical Outlet: 220/230/250 V, 50 Hz frequency.
Egypt generally uses “Type C” Europlug and the “Type E” and “Type F” Schuko sockets.