So as you may know, I have just visited Egypt and during my trip, I ticked the Pyramids of Giza off my list. If you haven’t already read my post on visiting the pyramids, check it out here.
In this post, I will share with you my top tips for getting the most out of your visit to the pyramids. Whether you’re planning a trip, or would like to visit some day, I hope this post will give you some information needed to have a great visit.
- The location
If you have read my post on visiting the Giza Plateau, you may remember this point. All the photos make the Pyramids look as though they are in the middle of a secluded desert. They are not. As the city of Cairo expands, the pyramids are becoming engulfed in the greater city area. Therefore, they are easier to get to than the photos suggest.
A ticket to enter the plateau complex is 80 Egyptian Pounds. This gives you access to the whole plateau and allows you to see the pyramids and the sphinx, access a lookout point across the plateau and allows you to walk freely around the complex.
It will cost you extra to enter the Great Pyramid. I believe it is an extra 100 Egyptian Pounds to enter the pyramid but I never entertained the idea of doing this due to a disliking of enclosed spaces and the many reports I’ve heard that the inside is underwhelming. Our guide, Sam, said that the money is better spent visiting the tombs of the Valley of the Kings in Luxor (where our tour was taking us) where the walls are elaborately decorated. The inside of the pyramid is a plain, narrow tunnel leading to a chamber in the middle.
3. The salesmen
This was perhaps the biggest surprise about visiting the pyramids. I knew before I even left home that there were salesmen at the pyramids, and I knew that the whole bartering method existed in Egypt; their methods often seeming ‘pushy’ to western visitors. I was however surprised by the number and tenacity of the salesmen. There are therefore, a few tips I have to dealing with this situation in a polite and respectful manner.
Firstly, it’s important that you remember that they are just trying to make a living. Egypt once hosted 20 million annual visitors. That dropped to 1 million and has slowly risen to 2 million in the last 12 months. Not only are these people dealing with a drastic reduction in numbers, but the very nature of their job means a good living wage is not guaranteed. They are just keen to sell to you, that is all. Sometimes, you may want the product or service they are selling. You can barter for it and buy it. Sometimes, you will not be interested. In this case, it’s important to tick to your guns while remaining calm and respectful.
The salesmen will try to sell you a while host of things. From scarves and Arabian headdresses, to Tut-Ank-Hamun statues to camel rides, they will be pushing these products on you, literally. You could be walking along and suddenly you will have a scarf tied around your head.
If you want any of these services, the key word is BARTER. See my post on bartering in a souk here
NEVER accept the first price. You will be ripped off. The first price they offer is always inflated. Come back at a price around half of what they offered. There’s no need to feel embarrassed, this is how it’s done. If the price is not right for them, then they simply won’t sell to you. So don’t feel bad thinking you’ve ripped them off.
If you don’t want the item, the salesmen will be persistent in trying the sell to you, often placing the item in your hands and refusing to accept it back. In this case, politely decline and try to hand it back. If they won’t accept it, gently place the item on the ground and walk away. Don’t stay standing there as the longer you do that, you will give the impression you are interested. Just begin to walk away while saying ‘no thank you’.
4. It’s free… please take it… a gift from me.
Leading on from point number 3, I experienced the words ‘gift’ and ‘free’ quite a lot during my visit. You may find a scarf or a model of the pyramids placed into your hands while a charming man says ‘I want to make you happy. Please, a gift from me’.
It doesn’t matter what you are told, IT IS NOT FREE. Nothing is free! If you take the item, you will be chased for money. Tell them that they said it was free, and they will argue that the item itself is free, but that they want a baksheesh, a tip. Therefore, it is not free.
Again, just hand the item back or place it on the floor and politely decline.
5. I’ll take a photo of you.
During your visit to the pyramids, you will be approached multiple times by people offering you their ‘favourite spot for a photo of the pyramids’ or to take a photo of you. Like the free items, THIS WILL COME AT A PRICE. This will not be free either. If you decline, you will be told they want to make you happy, while trying to take your camera or phone from you. Once they’ve taken the photo, be sure to take the phone or camera right back. Don’t let them keep hold of it and keep your eyes on it the whole time, keeping a sensibly close distance to them at all times.
After they’ve taken the photo, they will ask you for a baksheesh, a tip. Again, they have not charged you for the photo per se, but they will expect a little something for doing it. You can either delete the photos, give them a little something (no more than 5 Egyptian Pounds, no matter what they say) or just leave, bearing in mind you may be followed.
At the Sakaara Pyramids, a man trying to sell a camel ride practically snatched the camera from me and was taking my photo before I knew it. I grabbed the camera back and he asked for 100 Egyptian Pounds. This is the equivalent of nearly £5 British, just for taking a photo on my own camera. I inspected the photos and did actually like them. So, I kept them and gave him 5 Egyptian.
You’re not going to visit the last remaining ancient wonder of the world and not take photos, right? Make sure your camera is fully charged with lots of memory. You will not be able to stop snapping away. Every corner and step reveals the pyramids in a different light or angle. Take photos of them from different angles, line the pyramids up with one another and be sure to visit the look out spot for a panoramic view and photo of the whole plateau.
Also, leading on from point 5, if someone does take your phone or camera to take a photo of you, keep close to them at all times to avoid them having the chance to run away with it, and be sure to quickly reclaim it before they can ask for money.
Allow yourself plenty of time for your visit. The pyramids is something you won’t want to rush. They are so mesmerizing that you will want to take it at your leisure to fully appreciate them. Walk a leisurely walk around the plateau and really take it all in.
8. Water and sun protection
Spending this time out in the open means you will need to take precautions against the sun. Egypt can get pretty hot, especially when you’re walking around out in the open sun. Go prepared with a hat and sun glasses and have some sun protection cream of at least factor 30 with you. Keep hydrated and keep a spare bottle of water with you in your bag. You will need it!
Water is available for purchase at a reasonable price while on the plateau. Expect to pay around 10 Egyptian Pounds per bottle. ALWAYS check that the seal is in tact on the bottle. There should be a seal attached to the screw cap, as well as a plastic film seal over the whole cap. If this is not present or is broken, don’t buy it. Buy only sealed.
9. Camel Rides.
A camel ride on the Giza plateau is one of those uber bucket list things. Having that photo of you on a camel with the pyramids behind in the backdrop is a must. Expect to pay around 100 Egyptian Pounds (including a tip) for a 30 minute ride. My ride took me from the lookout point back down to the pyramids, stopping for a photo on the way. You can barter for a price for your camel ride. The camels seemed to be well-cared for from what I could see.
When climbing on to your camel, it is easier than getting on a horse. Camels collapse onto their knees, meaning you just swing your leg over and sit on the saddle. The work comes when they stand up. Their front legs go up first, meaning you are thrust backwards and must lean your weight forwards. Then their hind legs go up meaning you must transfer your weight backwards. Remember to hold on to the saddle when the camel is walking and stay steady on top to refrain from falling! The don’t go very fast and it is a real highlight.
10. Possible scams.
I have not experienced this scam myself because I did not go into the pyramid. However, I have heard of it and thought I’d include it here to be safe. When you have paid to enter the pyramid, you will not be allowed to take your camera into the pyramid with you as photography inside is forbidden. Therefore, you will be asked to leave your camera outside at a desk. I have heard of a scam where a fraudster claiming to be the attendant asks you to deposit your camera and by the time you’ve come out looking to reclaim your camera, they are gone and have your camera with them, obviously not a real attendant.
Be aware of this as a possibility.
11. Read up before hand
I think it would be best to read up on a few of the basics and learn a few facts about the pyramids before you arrive. There is so much to take in when visiting, that if you arrive with a basic knowledge, you will be set to develop your knowledge from what you hear or read. There is a lot of history and many facts surrounding the pyramids. It can be overwhelming to take it all in at once.
Finally, enjoy your trip. Visiting the pyramids for me, was one of the highlights of my travels so far. I’d wanted to visit them for so long, it was surreal to have finally stood before them. It was an experience I will remember forever and I encourage every traveller to make the trip to Egypt and see them in person. You will not be disappointed.
Have you ever visited the pyramids? Let me know your thoughts and stories in the comments?
Thanks for reading and happy travels,