Hope you are one of those countless numbers of people who have been dying to see the great pyramids of Giza through the ages. For your convenience, we are here to share our thoughts. All the suggestions written below are based on our 1st hand experience of visiting Giza as independent travelers on October 2016.
Tombs and pyramids of Giza, Saqqara and Dahsur can be visited in one full day, but if you tend to observe and click every detail, then it is better to split the trip in two days, one day for Giza and another day for the rest of the sites.
How to get to Giza Complex
There are following ways to reach there:
- The most hassle-free and the most expensive way is to take a private guided trip from any tour operator of Cairo. Joining a group-tour will cost you less, but may not suit your own pace and interest. Most of the hotels of Cairo usually arrange these trips for their guests.
- You may get to Giza by hiring a private cab, but there are many cab-drivers, who will not take you directly to the front gate of Giza complex, rather stop the car to a horse/camel provider’s office, which is far away from the gate and will force you to hire their animals or carts, otherwise he will not drive anymore. To avoid this type of scam, it’s better to book an Uber (radio-taxi) and carefully set the front gate of Giza complex as your destination.
- The most convenient and a very pocket-friendly way, as we recommend is to jump into the AC buses (no 355/357) of Cairo Transport Authority and get down in front of the Giza complex. These buses are available from Tahrir Square, airport or Heliopolis. Try to start in early morning to avoid traffic jam.
- Availing micro buses, which are frequent, though remain crowded usually, from the bus-stop opposite to El Giza metro station is a little adventurous and the cheapest way to be there. El Giza metro station is situated in line 1. Cairo metro map(easily available in internet) will show you the metro station close to your hotel is on which line, and if it is not on line 1, then where to change for another train. ( For details, click here Pyramids of Giza : How We Came?)
Best time to visit
The most appropriate time of the day for visiting the pyramids of Giza is either early morning or late afternoon. For the best experience, I would rather suggest to visit in both of the time, if possible. The face of the Sphinx, along with the front sides of the pyramids is illuminated by morning light as well as the walls of the pyramids viewed from the panorama point look awesome when the rays of setting sun fall upon them. More to this, an afternoon visit may be clubbed with the light and sound show on evening. (For details, click here:Pyramid Complex of Giza : Tips for Your Best Experience)
The entry ticket to Giza pyramid complex includes visit to Sphinx, strolling around the pyramids and entry to all tombs laid there. For visiting the inner chambers of the pyramids, one has to buy special tickets, which, along with the entry ticket of the complex is available at the ticket counter on the main gate. Remember, only two the three pyramids are kept open at a time. The separate ticket for visiting the solar boat museum is available on that museum and there is an extra fee for camera. (For information like up to date ticket price, you may click here: http://www.sca-egypt.org/eng/SITE_GIZA_MP.htm). Keep in mind that photography is not allowed inside any pyramid or tomb. There is no extra charge for outdoor photography in Giza complex, apart from a special fee for using tripod. If anybody, pretending to be a part of authority demands money for photography, remember he is a scam artist. If you take a guided trip, then the tour operators may arrange your tickets, otherwise never allow anybody to buy tickets for you.
Inside the pyramid
All the pyramids have almost similar inner structures. To experience this, I am suggesting you to choose the red pyramid of Dahsur. While the great pyramids of Giza burn hole in your pocket, the entry inside this red pyramid is free of cost and tickets are required only for entering Dahsur pyramid complex. More to this, red pyramid, being smaller in size is less strenuous to explore.
Hiring animal or cart
If you intend to wander around the Sphinx and the pyramids of Khufu and Khafre, then you may opt for walking. But if you wish to encircle all pyramids and reach Panorama view point, then you should hire horse, camel or horse-cart, as it would be extremely tiring to cover the hot and dry desert on foot. Remember, in recent days, a fixed rate chart for hiring animals or carts is set and some boards showing that rates are placed in different areas of Giza complex. As per I remember, one of this boards is placed on the asphalted path (left hand side from the ticket counter if facing to pyramids) which opens to the mortuary temple of the Sphinx.
Best view of pyramids
There is a particular zone, called panorama view point in the complex of Giza. From there, one can get the magnificent view of three pyramids together, one after another. This is far away from the entry gate, so it’s better to access by horse or camel. We are not sure whether horse-carts go to this point, so before hiring them, make sure about the inclusion of panorama view point. Another excellent view point is the rooftop of the Pizza hut shop, situated just opposite to the main gate of the complex. From here an afternoon visitor can enjoy the magnificent sundown behind the silhouetted pyramids. (For details, click here Pyramids of Giza: Here We Come!!!)
All the tombs of Giza complex are supposed to be open for visitors, but in reality a very few of them found unlocked and there are some ‘unofficially’ open tombs, that means whenever you approach to any of them, a guard with a key will appear and say he would unlock the tomb in return of ‘baksheesh'(tips). He will try to deceive you by describing how worth-visiting that tomb is. Don’t pay attention to them. Try to visit the tombs of Meresankh III, Qar or Idu, if found open. These tombs are gorgeously decorated with rock-cut statues and painted reliefs.
Essentials to carry
There is no shop inside the Giza premises. While walking on desert, the fluid requirement in one’s body increases, therefore carry adequate water. If you plan to stay longer, then have some food with you. Sun-glass, hat, sun block lotions are other mandatory items to carry.
Often in early morning, the pyramids are found to be covered by dense fog. Don’t waste your time. Do all sorts of indoor activities like visiting burial chambers of pyramids and tombs and the solar boat museum until the weather gets better.
There are some particular points in Giza complex from where you can take photographs like placing your palm over the top of the pyramid, hanging two pyramids from both hands or kissing the Sphinx. Your animal handler or cart-driver will take you to those points, but if you do not hire them, then, never ask anybody for, as you will be charged ‘baksheesh’ in return of this ‘help’. Even you don’t ask, some people will run after you to offer their ‘help’! The best trick to find those photo-points without losing money is a silent observation on other visitors who are taken to those points by their guides.
As per I have found, there are three toilets in Giza complex. The one, near the ticket counter will cost you, but the toilet inside the boat museum is free of cost. There is another toilet on the north-side of Khufu’s pyramid, but I did not visit it. Someone may push the toilet door for you, or hand over toilet tissues. Refuse their services, because they are going to demand ‘baksheesh’ (tip) from you. It’s better to use your own toilet papers.
There are enormous chances of getting ripped off in Giza complex:
- Wherever you step in Giza complex, you will see touts approaching towards you to make you hire their animals or carts. Everybody, needless to say, will demand higher charges than the fixed rate (as I said earlier), though mentioning phrases like ‘special price, only for you’ et cetera et cetera. If your nationality is apparent in your look, then they will try to impress you by mentioning some popular references of your country, like, identifying us as Indians, they were shouting ‘Raja-Maharaja’(Indian words for kings & emperors) and names of Bollywood actors. Even there are chances of getting trapped by the touts outside Giza complex, in bus-stations, in metro-stations, even in the footpath of Cairo. Whenever you see anybody himself starts talking to you in English, be alert. Their common trick is pretending to be sociable to foreign visitors initially. But, remember that the common people of Egypt, not associated to tourism business usually don’t start conversation about the historical sites and most of them don’t know English. So, you can easily identify who is a tout. Even, the staff of your hotel or your cab-driver may try to convince you for taking animals and carts from someone he knows very well. They have their own interest. Don’t pay attention to any animal/cart-provider outside and even inside Giza complex until and unless you find the board mentioning the fixed rate. To avoid these endless persuasive efforts, try not to make eye contact with any of them, or put headphones to pretend as if you are not listening to them. If these tricks do not work, then start talking in your own language (apart from English and Arabic). They will get confused!!!
- Before fixing any deal, re-confirm the currency to be paid. There are some dishonest people who start the deal in Egyptian pound, but after getting the service, you are asked to pay the same amount in USD or GBP!
- If you are found not with any tour operator, scam artists pretending to be ‘licensed guide’ will rush to you with fake i-cards hanging from their necks. Even, some common local people, or staffs of Giza, without being asked may start to help you by providing petty information like ‘This is Khufu’s pyramid. This is 146 mts tall’ et cetera! Firmly refuse their ‘help’, as at the end they are going to demand ‘baksheesh’!
- Never give your camera or smart-phone to anybody, not even to your horse or camel handler. They may not return it until you tip them. If you wish to take your own photograph, then either use a selfie-stick or ask help from other foreign visitors.(though we did not face any of such kind of blackmailing but it is better to be alert than sorry)
- While you would be trying to capture photographs of those colossal structures, some local people in traditional attire may appear in your frame and start posing. If you are not interested to feed those tip-mongers, tell them to move away.
Winning over all these fraudulent attempts is really a challenging task! They may be tip-hungry but they are not harmful. So be stern but don’t be rude. Don’t lose your mental peace for some pushy people. Remember that you are in front of the greatest man-made wonder of this planet and you may not get another chance to be here. Take it as a fun and try to innovate mischievous counter-tricks! Enjoy!
(To know more, you may click here : How to Handle the Tourist Scams while Visiting Egypt)
Wander with Reshmi & Saikat