- Know where you are going, or at very least let me driver think you know where you are going
- Take white taxis instead of black taxis, unless you know exactly how much your trip should cost. Black taxis don’t have meters.
- Make sure your meter is turned on and starting from 2.50
- To avoid creepiness, ladies riding alone should always sit in the back of the taxi.
From my earlier descriptions of crossing streets I assume you deduced that traversing Egypt is not an easy feat. I am a slowly mastering each variety of transport. I feel like an opportunity is opened to me every time I decode a new mode.
At first just using taxis felt like an accomplishment. They can be nerve racking if you don’t know where you are going, and sometimes drive around in circles to bump up the fare. Here are some hints to avoid being ripped off by taxis:
But to be perfectly honest, fares are so cheap, I don’t feel bad about overpaying a driver now and again. Taxis and are the easiest and most convenient mode of transport, and can offer some great Arabic practice, but ladies be aware that you may receive marriage proposals. It’s cute at first, but it gets old. Never feel bad about telling someone off if they’re bothering you. Also don’t be startled if your taxi driver takes on another passenger in the front seat while on your route. It happens.
There are other types of taxi-like things, like tuk-tuks, or little three-wheeled go-carte things. I’m not sure how payment works or what kind of distances they go, but I plan of figuring that out! In 6 October they also have pick-up trucks that work as taxis.
It seems silly now, but I was very nervous about taking the Metro, or subway, alone here in Cairo. Now I have come to realize it is by far the most reliable and safest form of transportation available and only costs one pound. It is even clean! It has a couple of segregated women’s cars, which I prefer when traveling alone. I am so excited for September when I live right on the line. There are two main problems with the metro: the heat (but the new line is all air conditioned!), and limited stops. For instance there is no stop in Mohandessin, supposedly they are building one, but I’ll believe that when I see it.
Finally, there are buses, minibuses, and microbuses. These are all dirty and crowded, but they go everywhere you could ever dream to go for cheap. From what I can tell minibuses are older slightly smaller buses, and microbuses are more like vans and only have sitting room. They all follow regular routes, but only some of the buses and minibuses are marked. The only way to figure out routes is to have someone show you the way. Luckily, your fellow passengers are usually more than willing to help you locate your stop... and by stop, I mean push you out as the vehicles slows, because there aren’t stops. I have begun regularly taking the bus from Mohandessin to Heliopolis where my Egyptian grandma lives. This includes a transfer at Abu M3een El-Reawd station near Tahrir.
The most difficult part about these buses is catching one, and even more challenging is catching the correct one. Some of the buses have shebeb (young men) hanging out the doors shouting their end destinations incomprehensibly sometimes paired with location-specific hand gestures. To get on the bus you have to wave it down on those busy Cairo streets, hop on stealthily, and then negotiate with the driver to make sure it’s actually going to your desired destination. Despite all that excitement, I think these buses are safer than taxis because you’re surrounded by people who will be upset of your driver goes off track. I find that reassuring.
Wish me luck. Tomorrow I take a microbus from Mohandessin to 6 October by myself. I can’t wait to meet my friends out there. Most people cringe at the idea of living in a dessert suburb, but I miss my life out there. There is a sense of community, and plenty of Egyptian life to experience beyond the few infamous gated communities out there. 6 Oh for life!