Cairo, Egypt is one of the world’s most historic cities; in Greater Cairo you’ll find no shortage of interesting places to visit, from duh – The PYRAMIDS, to all sorts of Mosques, Churches and Synagogues from ages ago. The city has a lot to offer, and you know what the best thing is? At least for y’all dollar and euro folks (and anyone else with a high value currency). This city is SUPER cheap. Now, before all my Egyptians come running for me, let me clarify. The city is NOT cheap for most people living here. Cairo’s poverty rate is extremely high, unfortunately.
So, maybe when you’re here, consider helping some people out!
To put things into perspective, lemme give you the facts;
As for right now, 1 USD is equal to about 18 Egyptian Pounds
1 Euro is equal to about 20EGP
1 British pound is equal to about 23EGP
You get the gist. So in true Shut Up & Go fashion, I’m twisting up the 20 vs 20 series and show you what 20 Egyptian Pounds can get you in Cairo, and what 20 DOLLARS can get you in Cairo (a LOT). 20USD is about 360 Egyptian Pounds, which is probably more than I’d spend on one given day on regular living expenses, so I’ve compiled a bunch of activities and meals together from a few different days. On the other hand, 20EGP is super difficult to get by in Cairo on in one day, so I’ll pull out my best money saving hacks.
Cairo on 20EGP
Let’s do this! So, breakfast is the easiest, because it’s a light meal (anddd you can pretend you’re full ’til lunch). Today, we’re going to El Korba, which is my favorite neighborhood in all of Cairo. I interned there this summer and explored all the food options available. Let me tell you, this neighborhood has a raaange of restaurants. There’s everything from the cheapest corner stores to these luxe Italian and French restaurants. El Korba is pretty central in the middle of Cairo, so it’s about twenty minutes away from where I live.
If we’re talking transportation, quite honestly that is not one of my favorite things in Cairo. We have a metro and buses, but they don’t cover all of Cairo. Personally, I have a car, which can be costly – obviously, but let’s estimate with the cost of the metro from a different station – which is 3EGP.
Breakfast today is an iced coffee from Dunkin Donuts for FREE 99 (because I did the survey at the end of receipts) and a fries sandwich from Arabiata Shabrawy for 2.5EGP. Yes, a fries sandwich – CARBS on CARBS on CARBS.. but it’s my favorite. You could also get a Fool (beans) Sandwich or a Taameya (Falafel) Sandwich for a similar price, which are both Egyptian CLASSICS.
For today, the activity is simply walking around El Korba, because we simply can’t afford any more under 20EGP. It is a pretty neighborhood, though. It’s like the beautiful architecture of Paris and the hustle and bustle of New York had a very polluted baby. Sometimes there’s also free events at one of the photography or design centers in the area.
You could also take a 3 EGP metro to Old Cairo at the Mar Girgis stop from AlAhram Stop in El Korba, where you can visit a ton of old mosques, churches and synagogues, most of which offer free entry, and are walkable.
Now, I know we’re getting hungry, so we’re eating another CARBilicious Egyptian favorite, Feteer – some would call this “Egyptian Pizza” but it’s very different dough, and the toppings are inside, so it’s more like pie – but different. You just have to try it! So for this, I shared a large feteera with five friends for 40EGP, so it cost me 8 EGP. Now that you’re full with carbs, walk them off around Old Cairo, visit The Hanging Church, the Amr Ebn El As Mosque, or catch a free cultural event at Darb 1718.
Are you culturally satisfied? I hope so! Let’s walk back to the metro, and pay another 3 EGP to go home, and chips from a nearby Koshk (canteen) – they’re everywhere – if you’re hungry at night for 2 EGP!
Let’s total it up:
Metro – 3 EGP
Brekkie – 2.5 EGP
Metro – 3 EGP
Feteer Dinner – 8 EGP
Metro – 3 EGP
Chips – 3 EGP
Okay, so it’s not exactly 20EGP, it’s 22.5, but close! Lemme remind you; 20 EGP is equal to approximately 1.12 U.S. Dollars!!
Conclusion: 1. Cheap Food is mostly carbs. 2. It’s hard to eat properly on 20 EGP a day.
Cairo on 20 Dollahhhhhs
Now, this is our time to go luxe. As I mentioned earlier, 20 Dollars is 357.83 Egyptian pounds – and it makes me cringe just thinking about spending that much in one day. But, here’s what you can get for 20 Dollars in Cairo.
Today, we’re heading to El Zamalek, a bougie neighborhood in Cairo that geographically looks like a mini Manhattan island. It’s where most embassies in Cairo are, so you can imagine that it’s somewhat luxurious. The island itself is very walkable, but to get there from eastern Cairo is a little under an hour, and isn’t as accessible by Metro. So today we’re taking an Uber from El Korba to El Zamalek for 45 EGP (That’s a lot, I know, right?).
Once we’re there we’re gonna have us some nice breakfast at one of my favorite spots – TBS The Bakery Shop. I’m having a delicious Cheddar Croissant and Mocha for 47.6 EGP and sitting to watch the view of El Zamalek.
Then, I’m walking to Diwan Bookstore. It’s an actual bookstore with a cafe inside where you can grab a book and sit down and read. It’s quiet and serene and you don’t have to buy anything to sit down! It will isolate you from the noisy traffic just outside on the main street.
When you’re done pretending you’re a writer from Paris, take a walk down to the Sawy Culture Wheel. This is a cultural hub that’s always POPPIN. From art exhibitions, to concerts and speaking events, there’s always something going on there. The venue overlooks the Nile River and has one of the best views of Cairo you can find. If you’re really lucky you might catch a local band’s concert, tickets are often 20-50 EGP at this place.
Personally, I’m hungry (always). My favorite restaurant in El Zamalek is a tiny authentic Italian place called “Dido’s Al Dente”. It’s very intimate, barely fitting four or five tables, so don’t invite a group here! But, they’re food is always great. I got a Caprese Salad, Pesto Cream Pasta and Lemonade for 120 EGP, and it was DELICIOUS.
This is the most exciting part of the day – let’s walk to the Cairo Tower. Admission fees are 30 EGP as far as I last heard. It’s dark by now, and the best thing about Cairo is that it’s truly “the city that never sleeps”. New York talks a lot of talk about that but by 10PM the streets are empty and restaurants are closed. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE New York – but in Cairo, it’s perfectly normal to be walking the streets at 11PM, eating a late dinner and enjoying your time at night. Most of us don’t drink either, but we stay lit late regardless. The Cairo Tower will give you a view of this city that doesn’t sleep in it’s brightest lights at night. There’s a revolving restaurant above where you can eat an overpriced pre-midnight snack for about 80 EGP while admiring the noisy city from a bird’s eye view.
Now that we’re full of food, cultural and views for daysss, it’s time to get on the metro near the tower (El Opera Station) back to El Korba at the Ahram station to go home – 3 EGP.
Let’s Recap this Luxe Day:
Uber – 45 EGP
Brekkie – 47.6 EGP
Dinner – 120 EGP
Cairo Tower – 30 EGP
Supper/Snack – 80 EGP
Metro – 3 EGP
This totals out to 355.6 EGP, just under our $20 limit. We all have our bougie moments, but this is what it would look like if they were all combined into ONE day. (Would not recommend doing them all in one day).
Conclusion: THIS is how cheap Cairo is for you if you’re coming from a country with a decent economy, at least compared to Egypt. The flight may be expensive if you’re coming from The Americas or East Asia, but the remainder of your trip will probably make up for it!
Shut Up and Go and find the places that you can afford to go to, and they exist, because you can survive in Cairo for $1 a day, and you can thrive with $10!