Gas prices prompt people to consider other means of traveling around Cairo
CAIRO: Whichever way you choose to travel through the city, taking transportation in Cairo is an adventure shared with a lot of strangers. Most people make their transportation choices based on calculating price, difficulty, time, and the final destination. With the hike in gas prices, you might want to consider alternative means of transportation than your car.
Admittedly, traveling by car is the easiest way to move around Cairo, but car prices have skyrocketed in recent years, and are still on the rise. With the recent rise in car fuel prices, driving a car has become more expensive too. The most commonly used 90 octane gas now costs LE 1.30 per liter.
While cars can be convenient, they carry their disadvantages as well: parking spaces are hard to come by. And driving can be taxing on your nerves, with people darting across the streets at any, and every, point because of the lack of decent crosswalks. But, most nerve-racking of all, it s near impossible to escape traffic jams. Ultimately, however, a car is generally the safest and easiest way to get around.
The second easiest mode of transportation is the taxi. Cairo is full of them.
The traditional Cairo taxi is black and white. Cairo taxi drivers are a little more snobbish than in other places. You hail them with by waving your hand, tell them where you are going, and then they can either accept or refuse to take you there. The fare is agreed upon after tactical bargaining. Taxi drivers usually try to make the most out of the ride and they may even try to take advantage of you.
Recently a new line of taxis has hit the streets under the name Cairo Cab. These are air-conditioned cars that are summoned by telephone. When they pick you up, they’ll go wherever you ask them without asking them first. The same is applicable if they stop for you on the street. Their fares are higher but are determined by a meter.
For those who can t afford taking a taxi everyday, public transportation is cheaper, fairly reliable but can be a challenge.
One of the fastest and most reliable means of public transportation is the underground. There are two underground lines in Cairo. The first one stretches from Helwan to El-Marg, stopping at many stations in between. The second one stretches from Shubra El-Kheima to Giza. The two lines intersect in two of the busiest stations, Sadat, below El-Tahrir Square, and Mubarak, below Ramses Square. A third line is under construction that will link Salah Salem to Imbaba.
The underground ticket used to cost 75 piasters, and has just been raised to LE 1 a ticket, arousing some public anger toward the government. The first two cars in each train are reserved for women until 6 p.m. Men who ride in these cars are fined at the next stop.
The trams are another option, with lines scattered across the capital – mostly in Heliopolis. When it s not crowded, it can be a nice experience, but with a speed of 8 to 10 km per hour, it s not advisable that you take the metro if you have an appointment. It only costs 25 piasters.
To go places neither the underground nor the tram reaches, there are public transportation buses. The usual price now is 50 piasters. The government has leased some lines to privately owned companies whose buses get better maintenance, and cost LE 1. These are the most commonly found buses. They stop running around midnight or 1 a.m.
If you don t want to take a taxi, and don t want to be squeezed into a crowded bus, you can take the CTA. They are billed as air-conditioned buses, but currently they re in worse shape than they were when they started a few years ago. These buses cost LE 2, one reason why fewer people take them, making them less crowded.
In addition to state-owned public sector transportation, the private sector has created an efficient, faster and cheaper means of transportation. The most common is the microbus or the minibus. Usually two people work on each bus, the driver and another person who stands and calls out the destination. At one time, these buses cost 25 piasters, but after the recent increase in fuel prices, they now cost 50 piasters.
Something called a Tok Tok is yet another method of transportation. This funny looking motorcycle is used in urban areas on the outskirts of Cairo where there s no governmental supervision. The Tok Tok is not a licensed method of transportation. It s a covered three-wheeled motorcycle, sometimes driven by kids. The ticket is very cheap, around 25 piasters.
One thing all of these methods of transportation have in common is that they all suffer when car fuel prices rise and they all have patiently maneuver through the city s notorious traffic jams – that is except for trains, high-ranking officials and the president.