Yesterday I shared my Egypt Travel Guide, with general information on traveling to Egypt! Today I want to share my thoughts on Egypt’s #1 destination…Giza, home to one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World. So today I am starting my Egypt Travel Diary with a Giza Travel Guide! While I will share pictures from my vacation, I want this to be more useful for anyone planning to go to Giza and in hopes that it will make their exploration a little easier than mine! And even then, pictures don’t do these monuments justice. They are something you MUST see in person, not in a picture!
I had the HARDEST time finding websites that provided consistent information about the opening time for the Pyramid park. I read somewhere that it was 7am, but when we got there we were told 8 am. And now when I google it, most sites say 6 am. So my advice, google Giza Pyramid Complex, and check the hours for the day you are planning to go. A great rule of thumb, you can never be too early! And regardless of the opening times, I recommend going for sunrise (which I’ll explain later). I will say that the earlier the better, because the crowds didn’t pick up until around 9:30 am, and the whole morning was amazing!
I also read that they only sell a certain number of tickets in the am and then again in the pm, but that didn’t appear to be the case (unless they were talking about tickets to go inside the pyramids). So I’m not sure what was going on with that! I also recommend earlier in the morning because it is the desert, and it does start to get HOT. The early morning was enjoyable and pleasant.
TICKETS & THE GATES
There are various tickets for the Pyramid Complex, but general entry cost 80 EGP per person unless you have a student I.D., which cuts the cost in half (Tip: Your student I.D. does this for almost every entry fee so BRING IT!). After the general entry, there are various tickets to see the inside of the pyramids. We chose to go inside the largest pyramid and that cost 100 EGP per person (I’m not sure what each one costs or if there is a bundle ticket for all 3). I’ll explain viewing inside the pyramid further down the page; so you can decide if this is something you want to pay for!
The gates…kind of confusing! There are two entry gates. The one in front of the large pyramid is the North and “main” gate. The other entrance is at the east end in front of the Sphinx. Both sell general admission tickets, but only the “main” gate sells tickets to tour the pyramids. You can enter at this gate or do like we did and walk through the whole park to go back out and stand in line again ( though it was actually quite enjoyable to walk up the backside and see everything in one view with hardly anyone around)!
Seeing the Sunrise
During the peak season when the park opens at 6 am, this would be A LOT easier ! But for us…it was kind of a mess, but still very fun and beautiful. So here’s the deal. The main gate is located at the top of a hill, which is barricaded until the park opens (no driving or walking access). If you try to go see the sunrise from here you will be turned away with NO view of the pyramids. The same is basically true from the east (Sphinx) gate.
There did seem to be a “parking lot-looking” platform out in the distance (to the south) behind the smallest pyramid. I could vaguely see it packed with tour buses while on our camel ride. If sunrise comes before the gates open I believe this far away (30 min) destination is where you can go to watch the sun come up. Even when the gates open earlier, I would still recommend trying to get around to this “platform” out in the distance to have the unhindered horizon view that you see in so many people’s pictures! Or you can take a chance and do what we did!
Since we got our Uber very early on the morning of our visit, Uber routed us way out to this area. We knew the gates were closer (from google maps) and ultimately (and incorrectly) redirected our driver. After being turned away from the main gate, somehow our Uber driver persuaded the security at the driving barricades leading to the east (Sphinx) gate to let us pass. We got up to the gate, but we could still only see through the bars…still AMAZING! But our driver had a conversation with the guards, and THEY OPENED THE GATE FOR US! Of course we were asked for a “tip” but no problem! So we were able to enter the park 2 hours early and take photos and enjoy the sunrise! It was an AWESOME and, of course, very lucky experience. Then we had coffee at a nearby cafe for 2 hours waiting for the complex to officially open!
With the summer/peak hours opening earlier (6 am), I don’t see there being any issues and can now understand why there are no forums that talk about issues that come up when going to see the sunrise!
I assume most people who visit the pyramids stay in Cairo because it is the major city and only 20-30 minutes out from the Giza Necropolis. However, I stayed along the Nile on the Giza-side, which was perfectly fine! (Neither one is better, I just wanted to be in the middle of all the attractions, which we were!).
There is public transportation to Giza (a metro stop in Giza and then a public bus), but it is often recommend that travelers not to take public transportation in countries of high risk (we did use the metro a few times though and it was great…extremely crowded but great). To get to the pyramids we used Uber (afraid that in early morning taxis would be unavailable). The ride was very inexpensive and easy!
As I explained earlier about going to see sunrise, the Uber routed us to the south side of the pyramids. That is perfect for seeing the sunrise, but it would have been incorrect if you want to go to the gates! I don’t know if Uber could recognize the time vs. the park’s opening hours and that’s why it chose this route or if it was just wrong! So I do recommend you make sure the Uber route matches a google maps route from your location! Regardless, a taxi or Uber are the best ways to arrive at the pyramids
Of course, walk and take in the views! Take TONS of photos. Most of all make sure you see EVERYTHING! We did our camel ride and felt we had seen everything and ended up missing the Khufu Ship. See all the pyramids, the ship, the Sphinx, the complex in front of the Sphinx…EVERYTHING!
After stating the obvious, there are some “touristy” things you HAVE to do! You must take a perspective picture looking like your touching the top of the pyramids! It is what it is, and every “guide” around will make you do it anyway. Enjoy it. It’s a fun goofy pic to look back on!
Of course…Camel Rides! I hate riding camels…they are super imbalanced and make me nervous, but I regret not relaxing and enjoying in this ride more! It was a fun trek around the necropolis, and Caleb loved it! Just give it a shot. You can pick a short ride or the long route. We did the short because, as said, I don’t like riding camels. Our trip took us from the large pyramid to a vista from which we could see all the pyramids and then back to a middle path up to the Sphinx. It was the perfect amount of time. We saw the long routes that go way out into the desert for a more scenic view of the necropolis. It seems like it could take awhile, and if you’re into it DO IT! But beware it will cost you. I read and prepared so much for this camel adventure, and still we got ripped off.
Here’s the run down: there are signs everywhere: 50 EGP per person (idk if that includes sharing a camel) for every 30 min! And everything I read said to negotiate BEFORE stepping onto the camel, making sure the trip was all inclusive (photos, dismount, etc.). And Caleb is not new to haggling after living in India on and off his whole Graduate School career…but they are the WORST! We agreed on a small tour at a set price and repeated this many times before getting on the camel. But then after a photo opp just a few minutes into the ride we were asked to pay the boy who brought the camel.Then at the end we were asked to pay again! The guide had us. He wouldn’t let us off the camel until we paid an amount that suited him (which was ridiculous), even after my clear irritation and argument.
The whole situation really burned my britches considering I had prepared and researched in order to avoid this fiasco. I thought we had it under control, but it seems there is no controlling the situation. I mean they kind of have you when you’re stuck atop a camel! So, here’s my advice…just let it be. Caleb made a great point after it all…he said haggling just stresses you out and gets you worked up. In the end we’ve paid for this entire vacation, and what’s a little extra. It’s just not worth it to work yourself into a frenzy over it. Yes, you can haggle and argue, but what’s the use? To save 10 bucks? That’s a trip to Starbuck for two. This camel ride is something you must do, and while I encourage you to agree on the government price (listed above) and try to make them stick to it (don’t just get taken to the cleaners), but don’t let anything ruin your experience! HAVE FUN!!
Touring the inside of the pyramids: a toss up. It was fun and awesome that I can say I did it, but it was not much to see! You basically climb up the steepest steps you will ever encounter for what seems like forever to end up in a empty room. YES, EMPTY! No, it’s not like Indiana Jones or the Mummy. These films have combined the idea of the Luxor tombs with Giza pyramids to create a fictional space! There’s no carvings, no paintings, no statues, NOTHING! So while it is cool to say I did it…it was more of a workout than anything! I wouldn’t change a thing though. Remember it costs 100 EGP; so if you’re on a budget I recommend cutting this from the itinerary, and your money can be spent elsewhere.
Touring the pyramids took us around 4 hours…and as I said, we missed some sights! Looking back we should’ve walked around a bit more before our camel ride to make sure we had seen everything! Because after riding the camel we were tired and felt we had seen all the sights (albeit from one side). Also, we only did a short camel ride. The long route would’ve been much farther…and more time consuming! But after 4 hours of wandering around in the sun, we were exhausted and ready for lunch.
Had we planned a little better we would’ve packed a lunch and maybe spent a little more time here. However, the Pyramids are in no way a day long adventure! I say 4-6 hours and then head to something light! Perhaps a tour or boat down the Nile for a nice relaxing evening. Even if all you do is ride a camel for hours, being out in the desert sun will wear you out!
As I said above, the best thing to do would be to pack lunch; so you don’t have to leave the park. If you don’t pack a lunch, no worries, there’s plenty around. If you do it like us and go early morning, lunch can be eaten outside the park. We chose Pizza Hut (before you judge, German pizza is gross) right across from the East Gate and enjoyed our lunch with an air conditioned view of the middle pyramid and Sphinx! Before heading into the park we also enjoyed a Turkish coffee at a nearby cafe. Egyptian cafes have some delicious local food and is alway an option for a light lunch! Be sure to BRING WATER. It’s a lot of walking (through some sand too); so its exhausting and HOT. You may not need food or snacks, but you will need water! They do sell it in the park, but I’m sure at a ridiculous price.
What to Wear
I wore a safari-themed long sleeve shirt and jeans…because I was cold! It was only in the 70s until noon, and I knew that would’n’t be warm enough for just a t-shirt. I almost wore a dress but remembered I would be straddling a camel! Most important is to remember to be respectful and not show too much skin, while keeping cool! Also while most of the pathway is paved, the paths from pyramid to pyramid are sandy; so sneakers you don’t mind dirtying-up are a must! Everyone usually thinks sandals in sand, but you don’t want to be irritated flicking sand out after each step like you’re at the beach. Sneakers will keep the sand out and keep you comfortable!
On the subject of being a tourist, you will probably get asked to take photos! This may sound conceded or weird, but there wasn’t very many western visitors when we visited these sights, mostly other Egyptians or Eastern tourists. There are also A LOT of the children on school trips…who may or may not have ever interacted with a non-Egyptian person before! So they will probably stare, and some might ask for photos!
While there are some rules I almost always indulge them, not because I am vain but because why not?! Picture it, you’ve never interacted with a person who looks like this before and have heard awful things about them (for example: Americans are rude, selfish, etc.) so you work up the courage to ask them for a photo and they live up to that stereotype. Or you could change that stereotype be the sweetest person ever who played and took selfies with them one afternoon!
But for women there are some rules. It is ok to take photos with any female (child or adult), but NOT men! Young boys are ok…I usually draw the line around puberty (about 10+). Usually you can determine if they’re too old just by looking (don’t think you need to ask their age). Taking photos with boys/men is not appropriate for these cultures and can be misconstrued. It may not make sense to a westerner, but just try to imagine the mind of a pubescent boy, and yup you’ll get it! However it can be ok if you’re in the photo with a guy you’re traveling with. So sometimes Caleb will get asked for pictures, and they’ll ask me to jump in, which is ok…I just always stand next to him.
Again, I HIGHLY recommend visiting Egypt at least once in your life. And if you do nothing else, GO TO GIZA and see the Pyramids! You’ll never regret the things you do, only the things you don’t!!
What’s the #1 Place to Visit on your Wishlist? Let me know in the comments!