Cairo, the lively capital of Egypt stands as a living testament to the ancient wonders and vibrant modern life of modern Egypt. We spent six weeks in Egypt and 6 days in Cairo with kids. In this suggested 4-day itinerary tailor-made for families, we give some suggestions on how to navigate Cairo and make the most of your visit to the city without succumbing to the chaos.
Why Travel to Egypt with Kids
Why on earth should you take the kids to Egypt? It’s not your run-of-the-mill family destination – but it is it’s an epic journey into history, culture, and a load of adventure. We booked Egypt for the history but Egypt surprised us with everything else it had to offer. With history, culture, mummies, myths, deserts, beaches, boat rides, scuba diving, hot air balloons, horse riding, camel riding, shopping, delicious food…this is a place you MUST visit!
Why Cairo is a great destination for families
Cairo has to be up there on the list of dream destinations to visit. We have all seen the images of the pyramids and Sphinx and heard the stories of the great Pharoah’s of Egypt.
But realistically, is it a good family travel destination?
Yep, 100% Boston Family Travel approved. Egypt is a fantastic destination for families with kids who are eager to explore and learn about ancient history, tombs and mummies, and architecture whilst being immersed in a different and vibrant culture.
There is a hustle and bustle to Cairo’s streets which can feel overwhelming, but that’s all part of the adventure! Imagine your kids’ excitement (and your own) when they see the towering Pyramids of Giza for the first time, or when they get to ride a camel through the Sahara Desert. It’s an experience that they’ll never forget!
Cairo is so much more than history though. This vibrant city has embraced the modern and is a city of contrasts.
Not forgetting the food! From traditional Egyptian dishes like koshary and ful medames to international favorites like pizza and burgers, there’s something for everyone.
Egypt blew our minds and completely exceeded our expectations. Cairo is a city of noise, smells and crazy sights to see but it is an incredibly interesting place to experience. Read on to learn how to survive this
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What to expect and how to plan your visit
Cairo is the capital city of Egypt and one of the largest cities in Africa, with a population of over 20 million people and this is a city which feels like those 20 million people are hanging around exactly where you are! The city is a fascinating blend of ancient history and modern urban life.
When planning your visit to Cairo, it’s important to keep in mind that the city can be overwhelming at first. When we arrived at the airport, we had the talk with the kids.
‘Stay close, when we step outside everyone will be shouting at us, trying to get our attention, stay with us and don’t worry!’
Well, embarrassingly, there was no one outside. Our prearranged pick up was waiting for us in the airport and we walked out to no-one. It was so quiet and not what we were expecting at all. But once we were on the road, we discovered Cairo. The roads and the streets are bustling with cars, buses, camels and people, and the noise and pollution can be intense. Having prebooked accommodation can ease the stress of arriving to a new place.
Where to stay in Cairo with kids: Hotels and neighborhoods to consider
One of the first things you’ll want to do is choose your accommodations. Cairo has a range of hotels and neighborhoods to choose from, depending on your budget and interests. Downtown Cairo is a popular area for tourists, with plenty of budget-friendly hotels, restaurants, and shops. Other neighborhoods like Zamalek, Maadi, and Heliopolis offer more upscale accommodations and quieter surroundings.
Let me tell you a little story about the Boston family who booked their hotel through booking.com…to a hotel that didn’t exist!
Our planned, organised arrival was scuppered by a hotel which didn’t exist, well, it did exist but where it said it was going to be, but also not with the same name. After driving down a very dodgy alleyway (more about that later) we arrived at the Lotus Guest House. But alas, all was not what it seemed. When we walked up the half-demolished stairway, we quickly realized this was not where we were supposed to be. We hopped back in the car and tried again.
After exploring the whole of Giza in an attempt to find the hotel, being sent the wrong way by many locals, we eventually managed to get through to the property.
Which was the guesthouse formerly known as THE LOTUS GUESTHOUSE but now known as GOHAR GUESTHOUSE except they forgot to tell anybody!
*TOP TIP ALERT*
Contact your property before your arrival to confirm details such as address and if it actually exists!
So where to stay in Cairo with kids?
First the positives:
Proximity to the Pyramids: The Giza area is home to the Pyramids of Giza, staying in this area means that you can easily visit the Pyramids at any time of day, and you get to see the sunset and light show from your rooftops.
Unique experiences: Staying in the Giza area can offer a unique cultural experience for kids. They can see the local markets, camels and horses and experience a more ‘local’ experience.
Busy and noisy: The Giza area is busy and noisy, especially during peak tourist season.
Pollution: Cairo has high levels of pollution, and this can be particularly noticeable in the Giza area due to the traffic congestion and proximity to the Pyramids.
Limited food options: While there are some good restaurants in the Giza area, the food options can be limited and may not cater to all tastes.
Giza is good budget option and is close to the pyramids. There are some lovely homestays but the neighbourhood itself is struggling with the huge population and limited facilities. There are animals everywhere and the pollution is everywhere. We found limited food options too.
an island in the Nile, oozing trendiness and upscale vibes. This neighborhood is a lively hub, featuring family-friendly spots like the Gezira Sporting Club – a hotspot with a swimming pool, tennis courts, and a playground. For a cultural fix, there’s the Cairo Opera House and the Museum of Islamic Art. Lots of dining and entertainment options too.
If you’re after the city’s pulse, Downtown Cairo is the place to be (which we are definitely not!). Iconic landmarks like the Egyptian Museum, the Citadel, and the Khan el-Khalili Bazaar make this area a must-visit. Downtown Cairo can get pretty crowded and chaotic, so it might not be the smoothest ride for families with little ones.
Shift gears to the east bank of the Nile, and you’ll find Coptic Cairo, a hub of significant Christian sites like the Hanging Church and the Church of St. Sergius and St. Bacchus. It’s a more laid-back, family-friendly zone than Downtown Cairo, offering green spaces like the Garden of the Church of St. Anthony.
The area exudes a quiet charm, making it an excellent choice for families. Parks like Al-Azhar Park offer a serene escape, letting you dive into Cairo’s rich history and culture at your own pace and has the Egyptian Museum, the Museum of Egyptian Civilization, and the Coptic Museum just around the corner.
How to get around in Cairo
If you haven’t heard us, say already, Cairo is a bit crazy. Traffic can be an absolute nightmare and let’s not even start talking about the driving style.
The metro system is an affordable and efficient way to get around the city whisking you beneath the congested streets.
Buses are a good budget option but they can be a hassle.
We mainly used Uber, prebooked taxi’s and had a set price.
4-day itinerary for Cairo
Day 1: Exploring the Pyramids and Sphinx with Kids
Morning: So, the most obvious thing to kick things off with is a tour of the Giza Pyramids – we have all seen the pictures of the pyramids but have you seen the original pyramids at Saqarra and Memphis. Honestly, the pictures do little to help you understand the sheer scale and enormity of these pyramids. They are incredible. There is an option to pop in to the Great Pyramid where there is a small room with not much to see. A guard may offer to take a picture…it will be terrible and he will want to be paid. I’d give it a miss.
Afternoon: Pop over to visit the Sphinx, the mystical guardian watching over the pyramids. It can get busy here and there isn’t a lot of space so keep a tight hand on the kids.
Day 2: Visiting the Egyptian Museum and Khan El Khalili Bazaar
Morning: Say hello to the Egyptian Museum. Mummies, sarcophagi, and Tutankhamun’s stash – it’s a treasure trove. Your kids? They’re going to have their minds blown by the tales of pharaohs and ancient Egyptian life. The mummies are pretty graphic and our 10-year-old covered her eyes for most of the walk around. King Tut’s treasures are absolutely mind blowing! There is a possibility that when you read this, the new Grand Egyptian Museum may be open, but it has had many, many delays so for now, head to the Egyptian Museum.
Afternoon: Jump into the hustle and bustle of Khan el-Khalili. It’s a bit of a maze, but that’s part of the charm. Teach your kids how to haggle, Bargain for souvenirs, spices, and maybe a funky hat or two.
Day 3: Strolling Through Islamic Cairo and the Citadel
Morning: Time to explore Islamic Cairo – the narrow lanes, the Fatimid district’s mosques, and tombs. It’s like stepping into a living history book.
Afternoon: Now, head up to the Citadel – ancient fortress vibes and The Mosque of Muhammad Ali, the Alabaster Mosque.
Optional activity: At this point, our kids were feeling a little over the history so we made a switch to the Mall of Egypt. Before judgement is passed, let me explain. We went here to ski! Check out our post here on the girls first experience of snow.
Day 4: Cruising the Nile and Visiting a Local Park
Morning: Need a breather? Hit up a park like Al-Azhar or Gezira. Green, serene, and perfect for the kiddos to run wild. Just what you need after all that history and bustling bazaars.
Afternoon/Evening: Float down the Nile on a sunset cruise. Check out Cairo’s skyline, soak in the countryside views, and let the breeze do its thing.
Is Cairo safe to visit?
Cairo, like many major cities, has areas that are generally safe for tourists, and it’s a popular travel destination.
Here are some general safety tips for visiting Cairo:
- Stay Informed: Keep yourself updated on the current situation in Cairo by checking travel advisories and local news.
- Respect Local Customs: Understanding and respecting the local culture and customs can contribute to a more positive experience. Dress modestly, especially when visiting religious sites.
- Avoid Demonstrations: Political demonstrations can occur in Cairo. It’s advisable to avoid large crowds and demonstrations, as these situations can be unpredictable.
- Use Reliable Transportation: Choose reputable transportation options and avoid unregistered taxis. It’s recommended to use official transportation services or arrange transportation through your accommodation.
- Secure Your Belongings: Like in any tourist destination, be vigilant about your belongings to avoid petty theft. Keep an eye on your valuables, use a money belt, and be cautious in crowded areas.
- Health Precautions: Stay hydrated, especially in the hot weather, and take necessary health precautions, such as vaccinations, if required.
- Follow Local Advice: If you’re unsure about safety in a particular area, it’s advisable to follow the advice of locals and hotel staff.
It’s crucial to check the latest travel advisories from reliable sources such as your government’s travel department.
Should you hire a guide?
Totally optional. We did and I think it enhanced our experience. You can read about the pros and cons on our post here.
Meet the author
Lisa is the founder of Boston Tribe Travels. She has lived and travelled abroad for the last 15 years, visited more than 30 countries and has done most of that with her husband and two children. As a full time travel family, they like to travel slow, worldschool and seek new adventures. From living in Borneo for 5 years to backpacking South America, Lisa shares a wealth of travel experience to empower more families to travel and learn together.