Very broadly – and of course there are exceptions – hotels in Cairo tend to fall into one of two categories:
1. Expensive, plush five star type jobbies.
2. Cheap and cheerful hostels where you’ll be happy to lay your head for the night, but not much more.
But in a city as sprawling and unwieldy as Cairo, there’s another factor – just as important as budget – to take into account. Yep, it’s location, location, location.
Here’s a brief lowdown on where you might want to stay, and why.
This is for people who want to be in the thick of things. There’s restaurants, bars and chaos galore, and you can easily walk to places like the Egyptian Museum and Khan al-Khalili. There are also hotels to suit every budget.
Still quite centrally located, but a lot more relaxing than Downtown Cairo. Some of the nicest hotels in Cairo are found in and around Garden City. If you are willing to trek a little, you can still visit a lot of touristy spots on foot.
If you are looking for a full power assault on all your senses, staying in Islamic Cairo is the way to go. Note that, other than in Ataba, there are no Metro stations – so you’ll spend a lot of your time either on foot, or en route somewhere in a taxi. Plenty of street food and coffee shops, but not much booze.
There are a number of hotels here that are popular with tour groups. Although you are on the west side of the river, there are a couple of Metro stations, so getting Downtown is easy. Zamalek is also a short cab ride away, and you are just that little bit closer to the Pyramids. The area is a fair bit quieter than Downtown, and there are enough restaurants, cafes and bars to keep you occupied.
A good choice for people who want a slightly more upmarket, westernised area, but still want to be staying in the heart of Cairo. Lots of posh restaurants and bars. But unless you are visiting somewhere like al-Sawy Centre or the Opera House, you’re almost certainly going to be hopping cabs everywhere you go.
Out near the Pyramids (and near Saqqara) are some of Cairo’s finest hotels. Lots of them are more like resorts, so they are a good choice for people who like to spend time chilling in their hotel when on holiday. They are also good for families. But other than that, they are very isolated, and getting into the centre of town can be a real pain.
Stuck out in – from a tourist’s point of view – the middle of nowhere, the hotels of Heliopolis aren’t particularly suitable for anyone other than business travellers who want to be located near to the airport.
It’s horses for courses, and where you choose to stay will depend entirely on what you are looking for. But wherever it is, make sure you get out and explore as much as possible!
Note: The photo is from flickr Creative Commons, and was taken by air babble.