Self Drive Egypt

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#1
FL
594 Posts
Joined Dec 2000
Has anyone rented a car (not a guide...just the car) in Alexandria (or Egypt in general)?

The rates are certainly reasonable compared to Europe.

We want to drive to Giza and stay at a particular hotel there on an overnight Equinox stop in early October (seeing everything we can fit in along the way, of course).

Many thanks...
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#2
19,518 Posts
Joined Mar 2005
Egypt has perhaps the craziest and most intimidating traffic I have ever encountered. Where there are 3 lanes, the drivers make 5 (or more). Headlights at night are considered optional. Horns are used constantly. Vehicles include everything from taxis to large buses to trucks to donkey carts and bicycles.

I really would not recommend driving yourself here. Getting a driver and car for the day is not prohibitively expensive in Egypt and would be money well spent IMHO.
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#3
Greenville, SC, USA
51,091 Posts
Joined Apr 2000
The roads between Alexandria and Cairo are not safe. That is why vehicles (buses, cars, taxis, etc) usually travel in a convoy with police/military protection. Finding a convoy when you start out will probably not be to hard. Coming back may be another matter.
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Paul
#4
New York, NY
21,021 Posts
Joined Aug 2003
I drove a cab when in College. I worked as a driver improvement specialist for the DMV and took a high speed low speed chase course. I have driven in third world countries throughout the world. I would NEVER drive in Egypt. It has the worst traffic I have even seen with no rules that I understand. While Florida's drivers are no prize(especially the 90 year old's who insist on driving), I doubt you will understand the rules. Let someone else drive, you will see more.
#5
FL
594 Posts
Joined Dec 2000
Well, I guess I knew this was a loaded question when I asked it.

smeyer418 does have a valid point when he/she states "I doubt you will understand the rules".

My only comment is, like many third world countries when it comes to driving, there are NO RULES...and believe it or not, I'm OK with that...I'm entering their world; I expect myself to adapt, as I have when driving all over the planet.

People told me I was nuts driving in Thailand, and well, I just joined 10 million other nuts, so I guess I fit right in...same with Greece and come to think of it Central America had its moments too. Strangely enough, I was a mere 26 years old when we were intentionally and viciously run off the road by a car three times our size in Jamaica, of all places. That was over 20 years ago, and we still keep going because truthfully, nothing could scare us more than what happened that day. Are we stupid? Are we just naive, as you may have thought reading this post? No. We're travelers. We prepare, we understand, we move forward, we experience.

Your concern is appreciated, but truthfully, what will likely prevent me from driving this go 'round however, is that signage and mapping are virtually non-existent in Egypt. With the limited time on an overnight cruise stop, few signs in an unidentifiable alphabet and a long haul distance, it may simply prove too inefficient.

That being said, I'm still holding out hope for some advice from those who have driven Alexandria to Cairo/Giza.
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#6
19,518 Posts
Joined Mar 2005
Originally posted by PBungay
Well, I guess I knew this was a loaded question when I asked it.

smeyer418 does have a valid point when he/she states "I doubt you will understand the rules".

My only comment is, like many third world countries when it comes to driving, there are NO RULES...and believe it or not, I'm OK with that...I'm entering their world; I expect myself to adapt, as I have when driving all over the planet.

People told me I was nuts driving in Thailand, and well, I just joined 10 million other nuts, so I guess I fit right in...same with Greece and come to think of it Central America had its moments too. Strangely enough, I was a mere 26 years old when we were intentionally and viciously run off the road by a car three times our size in Jamaica, of all places. That was over 20 years ago, and we still keep going because truthfully, nothing could scare us more than what happened that day. Are we stupid? Are we just naive, as you may have thought reading this post? No. We're travelers. We prepare, we understand, we move forward, we experience.

Your concern is appreciated, but truthfully, what will likely prevent me from driving this go 'round however, is that signage and mapping are virtually non-existent in Egypt. With the limited time on an overnight cruise stop, few signs in an unidentifiable alphabet and a long haul distance, it may simply prove too inefficient.

That being said, I'm still holding out hope for some advice from those who have driven Alexandria to Cairo/Giza.
I too have traveled the globe. I repeat, there is no traffic chaos like that I've experienced in Egypt. It's not that the traffic moves fast; it's one lengthy traffic jam. That's why I think the benefit in a private driver lies in the fact that he will probably know 8 ways around a traffic jam, while I would be clueless, cooling my heels and cursing that I didn't get to see anything in my short time there....
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#7
east coast
4,697 Posts
Joined Jan 2005
Originally posted by cruisemom42
I too have traveled the globe. I repeat, there is no traffic chaos like that I've experienced in Egypt. It's not that the traffic moves fast; it's one lengthy traffic jam. That's why I think the benefit in a private driver lies in the fact that he will probably know 8 ways around a traffic jam, while I would be clueless, cooling my heels and cursing that I didn't get to see anything in my short time there....
That's exacly the way we feel. We have driven overseas many times, and enjoy the experience when we are on a longer land-based vacation and our itinerary is flexible. But when we are hoping to pack a LOT of sightseeing into a short time in an area where we don't speak the language...or when we are in an area with confusing traffic patterns and poor signage...or when DW and I both want to really concentrate on enjoying scenery rather than concentrating on traffic...we hire a car and driver. Usually surprisingly affordable (especially in the third world), and always a more pleasant experience.
#8
FL
594 Posts
Joined Dec 2000
I certainly don't disagree with anyone's points here...sitting in traffic, no matter what your preference, is a waste of precious time, and we've had wonderful experiences with small private groups in the past.

It looks like Egypt will hopefully be another one of those times. Certainly, with a proper guide, one can both learn and relax more, and we know we'll be grateful for the experience. Considering our limited hours, we'll be grateful our guide knows where they're going and hopefully enlightens us along the way.

Yet, there'll always be a part of us in each journey that truly wishes to get down into the nitty gritty...the soul of a place. Driving helps you do that...it helps you immerse yourself...it strands you and leaves you alone to face the reality of life in a new world. It's exhilarating and eye-opening when you're FORCED to deal with an environment and your new surroundings. You FEEL it.

Let me ask this: would you go to Vietnam and given the choice, eat at McDonalds or at a pathside noodle stall?

Travel doesn't always have to be a relaxing vacation...it can and should be a learning experience...not a window onto someone else's world, but a doorway into it. A tourist will tell you about their great vacation; a traveler will talk of their amazing discoveries.

Given the time, there's a LOT to be said for the freedom of being on your own. As I've said before, a tourist hates to get lost; a traveler revels in it. Therein lies the difference.
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#9
Greenville, SC, USA
51,091 Posts
Joined Apr 2000
If you decide to drive (and my prayers will be with you), you will have to really plan it out in advance. You will not have much time in Egypt, so you will not see everything. Make sure you will have time to see the most important sites (to you). Save the lesser sights for the end if you have time.
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Paul
#10
New York, NY
21,021 Posts
Joined Aug 2003
I have driven in Both Jamaica and the Dominican Republic where the "rules" are similar although they drive on different sides of the road. I repeat don't drive in Egypt. yes there are rules but unless you have driven there you won't know that. ie. Do you stop at this light when red or not only a local knows. Sometimes the traditional rules are optional and sometimes they are not. I had the choice of KFC or local in Beijing and always chose local(ok once I ate at McDonalds in China even that is a different experience. Its the only place in China I was stopped from taking a picture-either there was something on the Menu which they didn't want a picture of or I looked like a spy for Wendy's). Thailand is a much more ordered society than Egypt. Also if its your own car and driver(which I did do in Egypt) they will go where you want to just like your own rental car.
#11
east coast
4,697 Posts
Joined Jan 2005
Let me ask this: would you go to Vietnam and given the choice, eat at McDonalds or at a pathside noodle stall?
I would go for the noodles, but I would also take a cab to get there
#12
FL
594 Posts
Joined Dec 2000
...good line.
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#13
19,518 Posts
Joined Mar 2005
Originally posted by PBungay

Yet, there'll always be a part of us in each journey that truly wishes to get down into the nitty gritty...the soul of a place. Driving helps you do that...it helps you immerse yourself...it strands you and leaves you alone to face the reality of life in a new world. It's exhilarating and eye-opening when you're FORCED to deal with an environment and your new surroundings. You FEEL it.

Let me ask this: would you go to Vietnam and given the choice, eat at McDonalds or at a pathside noodle stall?
Believe me, I am the noodle person, not the McD's person. I would DIY in almost any place where it is logistically feasible. I've spent time in Egypt on my own and eaten street food there (best felafel ever, and don't miss the fuul), which everyone else advised against.... Still would not drive there!

If you want to DIY, you could look into taking the train from Alex and then hiring a driver for the day in Cairo. Probably would only do this if your ship is overnighting in Egypt though, as the trains can also be chaotic (e.g., late, canceled, etc.)
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#14
Ontario, Canada
5,181 Posts
Joined Feb 2006
Originally posted by cruisemom42
Egypt has perhaps the craziest and most intimidating traffic I have ever encountered. Where there are 3 lanes, the drivers make 5 (or more). Headlights at night are considered optional. Horns are used constantly. Vehicles include everything from taxis to large buses to trucks to donkey carts and bicycles.

I really would not recommend driving yourself here. Getting a driver and car for the day is not prohibitively expensive in Egypt and would be money well spent IMHO.
Absolutely the most chaotic driving we have experienced. Not only as Cruisemom says do they make 5 lanes out of 3, if its going too slow on the highway they go to 6 lanes by crossing the median and taking over the median lane on the opposite side of the highway. I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it. Two lanes going to Cairo and one lane going to Alexandria on the same side of the divided highway.
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#15
129 Posts
Joined Mar 2004
Noodles and I agree with absolutely every caution on this board. I think I would want to know what happens if there is an accident, particularily if you were to hit one of the pedestrians who are taking the sheep across the 6 lanes of traffic. Are you automatically deemed at fault? Must you pay fines or other compensation immediately? Will you be detained? That is a frightening thought.
#16
Saudi Arabia
49 Posts
Joined Sep 2008
Unless prices have gone up radically in recent years, I suggest hiring a car and driver (e.g. cab) for a day or tow or whatever. We live in Saudi Arabia and I drive all over the Middle East, but not in Cairo. The city is too big, HUGE mulit-lane streets, tiny squeeky alleys, too easy to get lost, too easy to have an accident, and the driving behaviour is NOT something easily assimilated. You're going for a vacation, so sit back and relax and let someone else drive. Just make sure he has seatbelts.
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#17
Saudi Arabia
49 Posts
Joined Sep 2008
"Are you automatically deemed at fault? Must you pay fines or other compensation immediately? Will you be detained? That is a frightening thought."

Yes, yes, and yes. And yes (frightening indeed).
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#18
rural Arkansas
259 Posts
Joined Aug 2007
I spent 3 weeks in Egypt and 3 weeks in Thailand within the last several years. Bangkok traffic is bad. Cairo traffic several orders of magnitude worse. In Cairo, every car, even newer expensive ones, has multiple fender-bender dings and dents up and down both sides.
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#19
5,323 Posts
Joined Sep 2006
Originally posted by cruisemom42
I too have traveled the globe. I repeat, there is no traffic chaos like that I've experienced in Egypt. It's not that the traffic moves fast; it's one lengthy traffic jam. That's why I think the benefit in a private driver lies in the fact that he will probably know 8 ways around a traffic jam, while I would be clueless, cooling my heels and cursing that I didn't get to see anything in my short time there....

I agree I spent 11 days there last Xmas and while I will drive anywhere I say not here. If for no other reason is because whoever is behind the wheel will see nothing but the bumper of the car in front of them. Maybe there are crazier places but I have not been there yet. As one said drivers are cheap. Why not sit back, relax and enjoy the view. There is much to see!
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#20
1,855 Posts
Joined Feb 2005
Below is a link to the U.S. Department of State's information on Egypt. Please read the comments under Safety and Security as well as the area on Restricted Areas.

http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_p.../cis_1108.html

Remember the part of the world you wish to travel in on your own has some interesting characters.

Ask yourself why does the cruise industry tours have escorted police/army escorts in the front and back of the tour bus convoys from Alexanderia to Cario. You think that they may know something that you do not know?