Wednesday, July 14, 2010



Taking a cab in Cairo is always a (mis)adventure. After my first experience with an a**hole cabbie, I've developed a technique for taking cabs based on experience and  learning from the experiences of others. There are 3 types of cabs in Cairo: the black and white cabs are the most common. They are usually very old cars, no air condition, and un-metered. Some people prefer the black cabs because you can sometimes haggle for a cheaper price than with the white cabs. The white cabs, which I personally prefer especially when traveling alone, are newer, air conditioned and metered.  The least common cabs are the yellow cabs. These cabs are the only cabs that are regulated by dispatchers. I have no sustainable experiences with these kinds of cabs because they are still quite rare. One most request a pick up well in advance to catch these cabs. Here are my basic rules for catching cabs.


Black Taxi:
  • Keep small coins and bills on you. Cab drivers will always claim not to have change
  • Always pronounce the name of your destination in Arabic to avoid being taken for a ride
  • If you are familiar with your destination and the cost of getting their, do not negotiate the price beforehand
  • If you are not familiar with your destination, ask someone else how much it will cost to get there. When a cab driver pulls up, negotiate your price BEFORE getting into the cab.Often, if a driver doesn't agree with your base price or destination, he'll refuse to take you and drive off. Don't worry, another cab will soon pass since there are literally hundreds of black cabs on the road. Generally, cab rides are more expensive for foreigners and most range from 5LE-10LE.
  • Most cab doors open on the back passenger side. Women, if it can be avoided, DO NOT sit behind the cab driver or in the front passenger seat
  • I prefer to avoid talking to the cab drivers. Often, cab drivers will make sexual comments to foreign women or offer you camels in exchange for your hand in's best to simply avoid the small talk 
  • Ladies, avoid eye contact in the rearview mirror. This will most likely be misconstrued as an invitation
  • ALWAYS get out of the cab to pay! Hand the money to the driver from the passenger side door
  • Quickly scurry away. Most of the people I know have developed a brisk jog to get away from aggressive cab drivers. There is no guarantee that they will not try to get more money out of you or chase you down so its best to get away as soon as possible

White Taxis:
  • Keep small bill and coins on you at all times
  • -Like the black cab, pronounce the name of your destination in Arabic and see if the driver will agree to take you there. 
  • Always make sure that the white cab is using his meter. If a white can driver is trying to haggle with you about the price or insisting that his meter is broken, walk away.
  • Once you're in the cab, KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE METER. White cabs are sometimes easier to deal with because you can avoid haggling over the price; however, they can also try to rip you off by rigging their meters to move incredibly fast. The meter should go 25 piasters for every 0.2 kilometers. If, for any reason, you are suspicious of the meter, have the driver stop, get out, pay the metered price and just catch another cab
  • Avoid small talk and eye contact as well
  • ALWAYS get out of the cab to pay! Hand the money to the driver from the passenger side door and quickly get away

In the News:


Allie said...

I love your blog!! It's so interesting. I read every post yesterday...I work from home so I have time :)

I travelled to Egypt back in 2001 but I went with a tour company so I didn't have to deal with a lot of the perverted men, ahole cabbies, etc.

One guy in a perfume shop did try to get fresh but we told out tour guide and they had him fired (I jope I didn't get bad karma for that)....

Anyhoo.....your writing style is great!! This is the first blog I have read from top to bottom.

And I agree with you on the Spain post. I lived in Madrid and a few years later I went back to visit. It was a totally different experience (after the immigrants made them embittered and rude)...Won't be going back there to spend my hard earned money...

ohradiogirl said...

Very nice post.

I've used the yellow cabs. Mostly to get to the airport at unusual hours or during holiday weekends when I think getting a regular cab will be scarce.

The yellow cabs are fine. Most arrive on time and will even call to let you know that they are on the way.

I speak very little Arabic, yet I've had few problems w/getting to the right place w/cabs in Cairo.

I've never had a problem w/cabbie hitting on me. Though I have had a problem w/the fare. Paying when you get out is best.

Thanks for the insight. I'll pass this along to others.

Frenchie said...

@Allie, I'm so excited to hear that you enjoyed my blog and you're read it up and down! Thank you so much for taking the time to do so and to leave a comment

@OhRadio It's always good to hear from you. You know as well as I that catching a cab here is a like a game of chess lol

Anna said...


I'm going to Egypt in a few weeks and I've really enjoyed reading your blog. It's really great to find someone giving a nuanced look at race, current events and their experiences in Egypt. The taxi info seems to be an especially useful post, and I now know that I can have a very active social life by being a token white friend (just kidding... well, only sort of... racism definitely sucks).

I would love, if I may venture to suggest a subject, to see a post on summer clothing. I can readily figure out what I shouldn't wear, but that doesn't mean I know what to wear. Like, what kind of (modest) top do you wear with linen pants, anyways?

Have fun in Cairo and keep the updates coming, I really appreciate them.

Frenchie said...

Hi Anna,

Iactually did discuss attire in my Dressing Modestly post
Fashion in Cairo doesn't change much because the weather doesn't really change so you wear the same thing year round. How mostly you'll have to be covered up depends on what part of town you'll be living in and the religious and ethnic dynamics there. Let me know if you need more specific info!

Novinha56 said...

You're right. There was a time when I was so disgusted with taxi drivers behavior than I prefered walking (from metro station.
However, they are not all sexually obsessed or thieves, and I have fond memories of some drives through Cairo. Curiously, they are more eager to speak to a Westerner. Then, I got some interesting confidences. I have learnt many things with them, about themselves, their way of living... and the egyptian society.
I loved the book Taxi by Khaled el Khamissi, if you haven't read it yet, you may. You may change your opinion about taxi drivers and have an accurate glimpse of egyptian society.

VegasSeven said...

Sometimes bargaining in foreign countries when you really know the price of an item or service can be so much fun, especially when there is an oversupply of what you are buying.

So on a 20 minute cab ride, when a cab driver rips you off, how much $ are the ripping you off? I am assuming bargaining a price is more really about face than about price?

Frenchie said...

@Vegas The City Centre Mall is about 15-20 mins from my apt depending no traffic. It's a 15LE cab ride in a white cab. The other day, a white cab driver insisted I pay him 25LE because his meter was "broken" (the meter clearly read 15.25LE). I told him he was crazy and he'd get 15LE or nothing so he eventually took the money after lots of arguing. My roommate will argue over even 1LE when a cab driver pretends not to have change. It's not the money that matters but the principle of it. If we allow them to take more money from us because we're foreign, we're putting all other foreigners and tourists at a disadvantage next time they take a cab b/c the cabbie will insist that they pay more than the actual price. Some people love to haggle and bargain, I dont. I prefer life with as little hassle as possible.

@Novinha I prefer not to speak to the cabbies for the reasons I stated above. However, other people do talk to their cab drivers and have plenty of stories to share thereafter. It's just a matter of personal preference

Govardhan Avvaru said...

Really I am impressed from this post.. Thanks for the rules you suggested and that are always very helpful, it’s always nice when you can not only be informed, but also entertained!
Regards, cabs in hyderabad

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