One of the great things about Cairo is that is does use Uber and allows you to get rides without the fear of being scammed by taxis or random drivers. In this post, I just wanted to highlight some of the things I learned and what I experienced to give you an idea of what to expect when using Uber in Cairo.
As a point of reference, my Uber ride from Cairo International Airport to my hotel along the Nile was about 15 miles and about 45 minutes (without much traffic) and that cost 125LEs (about $8 USD). I mention this to point out that Uber isn’t really expensive here so I found myself using it multiple times a day. The ride from my hotel to Old Cairo was about 30LEs (which is about $2 USD). Add an exorbitant tip and it still wouldn’t be a dollar more.
Use a PIN for Your Rides
The first thing I would immediately do is activate your Uber account so that the driver has to input your 4 digit PIN for every ride. Yes, it’s annoying. But here’s the thing. Unless you know Arabic, you won’t be able to read the license plate numbers. The numbers will come up as “regular” numbers on the Uber app but the license plate numbers will be written in Arabic. So if you’re on a busy street where multiple cars and taxis are stopping, it’ll be impossible to know which car is yours. Although there is a small description of the car, it really won’t be enough to differentiate it from the myriad of other cars.
Tons of Distractions
You’ll quickly notice that Cairo is a loud place. There’s tons of honking, yelling, and overall noise that it’s difficult to concentrate on locating your driver as well as ignoring all the distractions around you. While you’re waiting, people will come up to you begging for money, offering to sell you something, or wanting to drive you somewhere. And it’ll happen incessantly. It isn’t a very calm atmosphere.
Random Drivers Offering Rides
The real reason a PIN is important is because MULTIPLE people will gladly stop and pick you up to offer you a ride. They know you aren’t from around here and they know that you’re an easy target. They’re happy to act like they’re your Uber driver and whisk you away. You can say “oh, I always ask for the driver’s name” but they’re also happy to say their name is whatever you say to get you in the car.
This happened to me a couple times and once, I actually had to force my way out of a semi-moving vehicle because the driver was so adamant that he would take me. After that, I turned on the PIN function. Drivers will still stop and waive you into their cars but if they don’t have the app open and waiting, then you immediately know you’re in the wrong car.
Take a Moment to be Sure
People will be yelling and honking. Whatever. There were police yelling at my Uber driver to (I assume) get a move on since he was blocking the lane. However, when the officer saw me, he quickly realized I was a tourist and left us alone. I was confirming the driver to my app and I wasn’t about to get in the car until I was comfortable. By this time, I’d learned my lesson.
The point is, I really didn’t care what the other drivers wanted and neither should you. There is a large police presence in the very touristy portions of Cairo. They’re there to help lost or confused tourists. And my experience was they’re patient and very willing to help (it also helps that they speak English as well). These special tourist police wear an all white uniform with a badge that says “Tourist Police” on their arm. Don’t be afraid to go to them for help if you feel uncomfortable. If that means you need an extra second to collect your thoughts, they certainly won’t harass you.
Uber is great to use in Cairo and really helpful to tourists. However, that doesn’t mean you can let your guard down. I don’t know how many random drivers stopped and acted like they were my Uber driver or how many honked and asked if I needed a ride. Just take a little extra time to make sure you’re aware of who your driver is and if you’re unsure, just get out.