More about Cairo (Port Said)
Why go to Cairo (Port Said)?
If you've dreamed of seeing the pyramids, you'll do it via Cairo, where you'll also find other architectural gems
Cairo is a tough city, literally and figuratively, and might be a bit of culture shock for many visitors
If you can get past the grit and political unrest, you'll experience some of the world's greatest wonders here
Cairo (Port Said) Cruise Port Facilities?
In Alexandria, ships dock right at the passenger marine terminal, home to all manner of souvenir stands, as well as a queue of bright blue taxis. (It's about a 10-minute drive to the Corniche, the city's waterfront boulevard.) Set a price with your driver up front before you get in. The port itself is pretty buttoned down, and you'll need your passport to exit. Egypt does require a visa, which is handled in advance onboard.
If there is time, Alexandria -- the aptly named "Pearl of the Mediterranean" -- is definitely worth exploring. Don't miss the fabulous Bibliotheca Alexandrina. Opened in 2002, the beautifully styled library, with space for eight million books, was inspired by a library built there in the 3rd century B.C. In its day, it was considered the greatest library of all time, a magnet for the world's intelligentsia. The new library, designed as a sun rising out of the Mediterranean, is believed to have been built on the site of its ancient predecessor.
In Port Said, you're at the entrance of the Suez Canal, and it can be fun to watch the huge vessels coming through. The town has some nice 19th-century buildings along its waterfront (as well as some that are falling down), so you'll have a nice view as you enter. The Port Said cruise terminal has room for up to four ships of varying size, and there are souvenir stands and transportation available outside. If you aren't heading on to other historical sites, your best bet for entertainment is to take the ferry across the canal to nearby Port Fuad on the eastern side. (Check with your ship on the latest safety conditions before venturing afield.)
Good to Know?
First, the currency. Unscrupulous vendors may try to give you piaster notes instead of (Egyptian) pounds when making change. The bills look quite similar, so get familiar with them before going on a spending spree. Also, Egyptian vendors are notoriously aggressive. Don't give them money until you've agreed upon a price and have your purchase in your hand.
Since Egypt is a Muslim culture, it's wise to dress appropriately in more traditional areas and mosques. Women should take care to cover their upper arms, cleavage, midriff and legs when visiting a mosque. A hair covering isn't necessary. Except in tourist resorts, modesty is the best policy, or women may attract unwanted attention.
As for staying healthy, don't drink the tap water in Cairo -- even at the best hotels. It's also a good idea to avoid raw vegetables, fruit without peels and street food.
Finally, always have change on hand. Baksheesh is the word for tipping -- and it is a way of life there. Expect to tip toilet attendants 1 L.E. or, possibly, be denied use of the facility.
Taxis tend to be the preferred mode of transportation for foreign visitors. Hotel taxis are more expensive than the black and white cabs that are hailed on the street. Some taxis have meters; if the one in your cab works, this is the cheapest option. Otherwise, set a price before you get in, and don't pay until you arrive at your destination. However, don't haggle, or you'll never get to where you're going. If you don't like the price, take the next taxi. Fares are paid in cash, and most drivers accept Egyptian pounds, dollars or euros (though your change will come back in Egyptian). It's not unusual to ask the driver to meet you at an appointed hour and place for the return trip. Ask your hotel concierge or tour guide about average prices. Also, it is common practice for taxis to pick up extra passengers traveling in the same direction, so don't be alarmed if your group grows.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money?
The national currency is the Egyptian pound, or L.E., which is divided into 100 piasters, or P.T. Visit www.oanda.com or www.xe.com for up-to-the-minute exchange rates. (Oanda also has a nice "cheat sheet" conversion chart that fits neatly into a wallet.)
Egypt is still largely a cash economy, though credit cards are widely accepted in finer stores, restaurants and hotels. Vendors will take American dollars, euros and Egyptian pounds interchangeably (although your change will come back in Egyptian currency). ATM's tend to be the least expensive way to obtain local currency. Note: Try not to have any Egyptian money left at the end of your stay, as you cannot exchange it outside of Egypt.
Egyptians speak Arabic, but you'll find that most people involved in the tourism industry know English.
Where You're Docked?
Mediterranean cruise ships dock in Alexandria and Port Said, each about a 2.5-hour drive from Cairo. Shore excursions to Cairo from both ports are routine. Many ships drop passengers off at one port and then pick them up the next day at the next, allowing for an overnight in Cairo.
Cairo also serves as the port of entry for Nile River cruises, which operate strictly between Luxor and Aswan. Passengers frequently overnight for one or more days in Cairo before taking the short flight to Luxor or Aswan meet their ships.