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The Pyramids are the last remaining ancient wonder of the world. Whilst the other 6 have been destroyed or lost to history, the Pyramids of Giza have stayed strong, towering over the ever sprawling Cairo.
I first read that the Pyramids were virtually deserted at the end of 2020. Whilst the world was in lockdown and tourist number plummeted, a few hardy souls kept travelling and had the vastness of the Pyramids all to themselves.
After reading that, I knew it was somewhere I wanted to go sooner rather than later. Egypt has had its ups and downs with tourism in recent years, starting with the 2011 Revolution as part of the Arab spring, the downing of the commercial airliner over Sharm El Sheikh and of course, the Coronavirus pandemic.
Now all of those are less of a concern, I knew I had to see the Pyramids of Giza for myself before the tourist numbers got too high!
Getting To Egypt
If you’re coming to Egypt, you will probably land at Cairo International Airport. They have flights to most major cities in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. However, budget airlines aren’t really a thing. One of the cheapest you may find is Nile Air, other than that you will be on a full service airline.
I highly recommend getting an airport pick up if your accommodation provides it. This will save you the hassle of navigating Cairo’s busy and difficult roads and public transport system. Taxi’s are available if you’re willing to haggle enough. An extension of the Metro to the airport is expected in the future.
Where To Stay In Cairo
There are two main options if you are wanting to visit the Pyramids. Stay in central Cairo or stay in Giza. Central Cairo has a lot more options including the big international chains of hotels down to backpacker hostels. This is a great option if you’re staying in Cairo and going to the Pyramids is a side part of your trip.
However, for me, the main part of my trip was to see the Pyramids. I wanted to wake up and have a perfect view. So I decided to stay in Giza itself. There are a few hotel options around but I stayed at the 4 star Mamlouk Pyramids Hotel & Spa. I’m normally a budget traveller but I treated myself to a deluxe sweet that had a balcony with views of the Sphinx and Pyramids which cost £167 for 3 nights. This may seem like a lot but when I checked out, this would cost £450 in regular, non Covid times. You can get a room without a view for as little as £38 in this hotel, or £15 in other budget hotels nearby.
This just goes to show that they are crying out for business and you can get some incredible discounts if you look for them! Unfortunately there are no hostels in Giza if you are looking for an ultrabudget option. There is an incredibly named hostel, Holy Sheet Hostel, in the centre of Cairo which I nearly booked before deciding to treat myself.
One of the best things about where I stayed was the rooftop restaurant where I had a buffet breakfast every morning that overlooked the Pyramids. From this view point, you can also head back here in the evening to watch the sound and light show at the Sphinx which is just in front of you.
Getting To The Pyramids
If you’re staying in central Cairo, most accommodation providers do tours which you can join which vary in price greatly. If you want to visit them by yourself, I recommend getting an Uber which will be about 100LE (£5) one way from Tahrir Square to the entrance of the Pyramids.
If you’re staying in Giza, walk out of your door and you’re there!
How Much Do The Pyramids Cost To Enter
There are two entrances to the Pyramids. A tour group one located near the Marriot Mena resort to the north of the pyramids, and a regular one located just to the east of the Sphinx which is used by a lot of independent tourists. At the latter one, there are no signs indicating it’s a ticket office, it’s just a bland white building next to a security gate. But many locals will show you where to go. It is also tagged on Google Maps and Maps.me Buy your tickets at the window in this building. Note: They do not accept card! But there is an ATM across the street if you need to use one.
Prices in 2022:
- 200LE – Entry into the complex
- 100LE – Entry into the Pyramid of Khafre
- 400LE – Entry into Khufu’s Pyramid (Grand Pyramid of Giza)
I paid for the entire lot for 700LE but I personally think the 400LE entry fee for the Grand Pyramid isn’t worth it. Regular entry into the complex is enough to see it all if you’re on a budget.
Entry Into The Complex
After having your tickets checked and going through a security scanner, you will probably have a lot of “friendly locals” advising you of where to go. They will ask you to follow them and will often try to get you to take a camel or horse trek with them. They will say how far away the pyramids are and that you can’t walk it without an animal. But you most definitely can. Say “No” firmly and they will leave you alone.
You have two main options when you enter the complex, head left and see the Sphinx first, or head right up the main road to see the pyramids first. I went right and walked for 10 minutes up the hill and saw the Great Pyramid first.
As mentioned previously, I went inside the Grand Pyramid but I don’t think it was worth the extra payment., It is cramped and hot and the view of the tomb at the end looks like a stone trough. Even though it was cooler when I went, it was still warm inside. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like on a 40 degree day in summer! If you are really interested in the Pyramids then go for it. However I didn’t think it was worth the price or effort.
To get into the Pyramid of Khafre is only 100LE (£5) and is very similar to the the Great Pyramid in terms of what you see inside. The walk is a bit shorter and not as steep and there is another tomb at the end, which again looks like a stone trough.
I then made my way to the Pyramid of Menkaure, the smallest of the three large pyramids, which was also the least busy. There were a few Egyptian tourists near this pyramid when I was there and that was it. The guy guarding the entrance informed us it was closed and you couldn’t go inside, but if it was going to be anything like the other two, I probably wouldn’t have bothered. He was happy to chat about the Pyramids and Mo Salah, as was every Egyptian I met!
There are some other smaller pyramids close by which are worth a look. I then headed out into the desert (sounds dramatic doesn’t it!) to a viewpoint I had found on Maps.me. There was a road leading to it with a couple of tour buses driving up to it but they didn’t seem to get out. It’s actually quite a large area that is raised up from the rest of the plateau giving incredible views of all three of the large pyramids. There were a few souvenir sellers that we had a chat to and we got some water and drinks that were at western prices. Me and my friend bought a lot from him so he very kindly gave us another bottle of ice cold water.
I then walked (there was a lot of walking!) back to the Sphinx which is basically back at the entrance. There are some small columns to walk through and then you are hit with THAT view. You know the one you have seen a million times before whenever Egypt is mentioned, the Sphinx in front with the Great Pyramid of Giza behind. Although not much to see, it is still incredible seeing something so famous for the first time. It was a bit later in the day but this was the busiest place I saw in the pyramids complex, but still very few western tourists.
How Much Time Do You Need At The Pyramids
I took it slow and saw everything. I also walked everywhere and needed some rest and time to cool down in between. I spoke to some locals and stopped for a drink as well. I didn’t have a guide so I could go at my own pace.
I wanted to get in there early before the heat and before the crowds. I got in just after 8.30am and left just after 2.30pm. I’ve heard stories of people being there for just a couple of hours and everything in between. As I left at 2.30, there was a tour group just entering the complex. If you are in a rush and hired a camel or horse, you could probably see it all in an hour. But I definitely recommend taking it slow although, maybe 6 hours was a bit too much!
I found that if you wanted to sit in the shade along with the many local tourists that are there, the locals are more than happy to talk to you but they have varying levels of English. A lot of the younger ones will try and take selfies with you which I was happy to oblige for if they asked nicely. But be warned, if you allow one person to take a photo, their friends will also want one and before long you may find a line of locals wanting photos with the lesser spotted western tourist.
There are many touts throughout the complex offering to sell you everything from bottles of water, postcards, small souvenirs to the afor mentioned horse and camel rides. They vary in their pushiness from following you with a camel for a few minutes, to asking once and leaving you alone. In personal experience, they were pushiest nearest the entrance and early in the morning. I actually had a really good chat to some of them about football, Egypt or just about their lives but you have to pick and choose who is friendly and who is going to be pushy. I have to say the touts weren’t as bad as I was expecting them to be.
I had also heard of guides asking to see your tickets and them not giving them back until you had paid them some money for their services. The only place you need to show your tickets are at the entrance and the entrances to the pyramids if you go inside them. There are usually some men sitting on chairs at the entrance to the tombs once you have climbed up a few blocks of the pyramid.
Take water and lots of it. They search your bags on the way in but water is allowed. Even on a cooler day when I went (under 30 degrees when I started with a peak of 32), I got through so much I needed to buy more. If you go in summer I would recommend a minimum of 2L per person and take cash so you can buy some more on the way. Take some snacks as well as I didn’t actually see any food being sold in the complex. (Apparently there is a tourist restaurant inside the complex that the tour buses go to but I didn’t see it, does anyone have any info on this?)
It is illegal to climb the pyramids. Like any other ancient monument, it should be preserved as best it can for future generations. However, getting into and out of the entrances means a short climb up a few blocks. Any higher, and you’ll have security guards yelling at you. Although I didn’t do this, I have heard stories of being able to give a gift to a security guard (Read: bribe) in quiet parts of the pyramids and they will let you climb a bit higher and take a photo. You really don’t need to do this as the previous photo shows, but it is info for those with a wonky moral compass.
If the Pyramids are on your list of places to go, now would be the time to see them. With the end of the pandemic and countries opening up, now is the perfect time. How you do it is up to you, whether a tour with a guide or if you want to walk it like I did (I hit 24,000 steps that day!), but the one thing I do recommend is go and see them now!
Dan is an avid traveller from London. His first big adventure was in 2010 living in Malaysia for 3 months and becoming a divemaster. He has been on the road almost constantly since 2015 travelling to destinations that aren’t on the mainstream tourist trail.