Any traveler to Egypt will see a horde of taxis – both old and new. The new ones are black and white, metered, have working air conditioners, and working parts. The old ones are falling apart, some with no handles, definitely no air conditioner, and no chance of a working meter. Visitors are often confused by the differences in taxi etiquette in Egypt. How do you negotiate a price in a foreign country with no meters and no regulations? How do you even get a taxi to stop? Many tourists end up feeling frustrated and overcharged. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
How do you get one?
Egyptians don’t hail a taxi with their arms raised. They keep their arms at their hips and merely wave their hands palm down. Sometimes you will see them just raise one finger in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it fashion. When the taxi stops, you must tell the driver your destination. If he nods, get in. Otherwise he will refuse and head off. If that happens, simply keep trying until someone says yes. If the driver tries to negotiate a price at this point, you should leave him and go for another taxi. No matter what the driver says, he will try to rip you off.
Where do you sit?
If you are a man, you can either sit in the front seat or the back. It is up to you. A woman, especially a foreigner, should sit in the backseat opposite the driver. If you sit in the front seat, he might think you are available. It can also be a little too close for comfort. In the backseat, there is enough distance and it is still easy to communicate with the driver.
How do you pay?
Egyptians pay when they reach their destination, as you normally do in a taxi, but they get out of the car first. They go to the passenger side window in the front seat and pass the driver the fare. With a metered taxi, you just pay what you see. With the older taxis, there isn’t usually a discussion of how much because Egyptians know the prices and the variables. Ask a local what the fare should be before you go and you’ll have the comfort of knowing that you are offering a fair price. Most journeys average about 20LE, and it should never cost more than 50LE to go across the city.
Taxi drivers will try to get a higher fare from foreign travelers. It doesn’t matter if there is a meter or not. Your best option is to be prepared and to know what to expect.