From taxis to tuk-tuks: Cairo's most popular modes of transportation

Menna Alaa El-Din , Sunday 13 Mar 2016

A young man drives a tuk-tuk in Cairo, Egypt (Photo: Mai Shaheen)

With a population of about 20 million, Egypt’s Greater Cairo is home to various modes of transport, both old and new. Deemed one of the busiest and most populous capitals in the world, transportation of some form is available 24/7 across the city.

Although transportation methods may seem affordable, the time spent commuting from one district to another is frequently stressful and time consuming. Cairo's passengers waste hundreds of hours every month reaching their destination in a capital that was never designed to accomodate such a high population.

Red public bus
A man trying to catch the bus in Cairo, Egypt (Photo: Mai Shaheen)


Owned by Egypt’s Cairo Transport Authority (CTA), the public bus system provided by the Cairo governorate affiliate was first established in 1966 and covers the Greater Cairo area, with buses servicing three governorates: Cairo, Giza, and Qalyubiya.

Private sector companies can be contracted to operate buses within the CTA, with the routes determined by the authority itself.

public bus
Cairo public bus (Photo: Mai Shaheen)

Fares for old red buses cost 1 EGP, and 2 EGP for the newer blue buses.

A woman riding a microbus in Cairo, Egypt (Photo: Mai Shaheen)


This mode of transportation is available nearly everywhere in Cairo, and is used more often than CTA buses due to its day and night availability.

Microbus operators are often portrayed as foul mouthed drivers who tend to violate traffic laws.

Passengers waiting for the microbuses use a form of sign language to communicate their destination to the drivers, whether it's Rabaa Adaweya Square, the Ring Road, or other destinations.

Fares are similar to those of buses, with riders paying by passing the fare from the back of the bus to the driver.

The Cairo metro is the most important mode of transportation in the capital (Photo: Mai Shaheen)


Launching its first operation in 1987, this heavily used method of transportation accommodates more than 4 million passengers per day.

Run by the National Authority for Tunnels (NAT), the authority has established metro line networks of more than 83 km.

Line 1 is the oldest and covers 35 stations while Line 2 was opened in 1996 and serves 20 stations. Line 3 was introduced in 2012 and currently comprises nine stations, with two phases still underway.

Line 4 is planned to run from Giza’s Haram District to New Cairo, connecting Greater Cairo from west to east. It is expected to be fully operational by October 2020.

This is the cheapest form of public transportation, with a fare of 1 EGP to any destination. Working hours are 05:00am till 01:00am. On all trains, there are metro cars designated for women only, a step aimed to protect women from widespread sexual harassment.

A man drives a tuk-tuk in Cairo, Egypt (Photo: Mai Shaheen)


Known for their shaabi street music blasting from their speakers and "bling customisation," these Chinese-or-Indian-manufactured three-wheeled vehicles are used as a means of cheap transportation for impoverished areas, as well as access in and out of narrow alleyways.

tuk-tuk 2
A young man drives a tuk-tuk in Cairo, Egypt (Photo: Mai Shaheen)

According to a report by Egyptian consultancy N GAGE, there are between four and seven million tuk-tuks in Egypt, creating some 200,000 jobs per year since its introduction in the early 2000s.

But with their ease of moving around in congested areas, there have been legality issues for the auto rickshaws. The Egyptian government has declared an all-out war on tuk-tuks while banning them and imposing fines in several Cairo neighbourhoods and other governorates.

A tuk-tuk fare would range from 1 EGP to 10 EGP, depending on your destination. It is always advisable to negotiate on a price with the driver before taking the ride.

White taxis
White taxis overtake Downtown Cairo, Egypt (Photo: Mai Shaheen)

White taxis

The white taxi service was first introduced by the government in 2009 under a programme of "vehicle scrapping and recycling” that aimed to revamp the cab service through newer and better-equipped cars, bringing the shabby black taxi to an end.

Cairo’s streets have witnessed better services with the introduction of such cars, especially with their affordable prices, but their service has been in decline as some drivers have resorted to rigging their taximeters or refusing to turn them on.

With foreign ride sharing companies Uber and Careem making their debut in Cairo, taxi drivers have been battling for the streets with the two companies and calling for their ban through weekly protests and stand-ins while claiming that the companies are "stealing their livelihood."

Taxi fares vary, depending on the destination and the taximeter being used by the driver.

A man drives a cabriolet carriage in Cairo, Egypt (Photo: Mai Shaheen)


One of the oldest modes of transportation, the karo, in Arabic, is now mostly used to transport goods throughout the capital.

The carriage is drawn by horses or oxen, and mostly used in other governorates.  

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