Page update - Aug 26, 2023
The city of Cairo now has a population of 12 million people, with another 5 million coming to work there every day. Naturally, such a big city can't do without a subway. But is the Cairo Metro useful for tourists? What are the fares and operating hours? Read the answers on this page.
The fares and other information on this page are current as of August 2023. The fares changed in February 2023. See current fares below on this page.
The Cairo Metro is indispensable for the residents, but it is not very convenient for tourists. Most attractions are not accessible by the Cairo Metro. For example, the Cairo Citadel and the Mohammed Ali Mosque are 3 miles (5 kilometers) from the nearest station, and tourists have to take a taxi. The Great Egyptian Pyramids at Giza are also far. The nearest station Giza is 6 miles (10 kilometers) from the pyramids.
The Cairo Metro can make travel to the city's sights cheaper and save on taxis, but it is not a "panacea" like, for example, the Dubai metro or the Vienna metro. Fortunately, cabs in Egypt are inexpensive as we talked about in the review "Cabs in Egypt - fares and rules".
The reason for this is the small size of the Cairo Metro which only covers a third of the city. There are only three lines. The first line (red) is 27.5 miles (44.3 km) long with 35 stations runs along the right bank of the Nile. The second line (orange) is 13.4 miles (21.6 km) long with 20 stations crosses the Nile and goes to Giza.
And the third (green) line is under active construction, it is now 12.1 miles (19.5 km) long with 19 stations. This third line will go eastwards and end at Cairo International Airport. Completion dates are not yet clear, and the metro will be the most convenient way to get from Cairo Airport to the city.
From 5 am to 12-30 am (5-00 to 0-30). But we must clarify how these figures are properly understood.
The first trains of the Cairo Metro start at 5:00 am. That is, it is the start of the first trains from the first stations. If you want to board at another station, the first train will arrive later, for example at 5:15 am, 5:30 am or 5:45 am, depending on how far away the station is from the beginning of the line.
The last trains finish at 12:30 am (0:30) at night. This is the arrival time of the last trains at the terminal stations. The last trains from the Helwan station start at 11:10 pm (23:10), from New El-Marg at 11:30 pm (23:30), from Shubra El-Kheima and El-Mounib at 11:35 pm (23:35).
If you want to get in at another station (not starting), the last train will come at a later time, for example 11:40 pm (23:40), 11:55 pm (23:55) or 12:10 am (0:10), depending on how far away the station is from the beginning of the line.
During the month of Ramadan, the subway operates until 2 am.
The fares are (changed since February 2023):
1-9 stations are EGP 5.
10-16 stations are EGP 7.
17-25 stations are EGP 10.
25+ stations are EGP 12.
See the actual exchange rates in our review "Money in Egypt".
There was a time when the Cairo Metro ticket cost 1 Egyptian pound (not counting the number of stations). Then in March 2017, the price was raised to 2 Egyptian pounds. In May 2018, the price was raised again and the price became dependent on the number of stations - 3, 5 or 7 Egyptian pounds.
And the next increase happened on 17 August 2020. Prices were further increased to 5, 7, 10 Egyptian pounds. And in February 2023 the new tariff for 25+ stations was introduced. That's how the price of thr ticket in the Cairo metro has increased 5-12 times in just 6 years!!! No price increase yet (this page was updated in August 2023). However, there are rumors that another increase is "just around the corner".
But before you enter the metro, you need to buy a ticket, a task that can be difficult. Egyptians are not used to standing in queues, so they often crowd the ticket office. Don't even try to get your bearings in the crowd as it's completely chaotic. In the photo near, you can see what such a ticket office looks like. In the moment of the photo, there are not many people, but there are many more usually.
So, if possible, buy your ticket from a vending machine. Unfortunately, not all stations have vending machines. Unfortunately, some of the machines are only in Arabic.
If it's a one-time trip, then it's better to go with a one-time paper ticket. The algorithm is as follows:
Step 1: Buy a paper ticket at a ticket counter or a vending machine. At the ticket office, you have to tell the cashier the destination station and he/she will write out the right ticket. How the ticket looks like, see in the photo below, click on the photo to enlarge it.
Step 2: Insert your ticket into the slot in the turnstile. The turnstile will "eat" the ticket. Go through the turnstile. See how this slot looks like in the photo below, click on the photo to enlarge it.
Step 3: Ticket will appear on the reverse side. Take your ticket back. You'll need it to exit the subway at the destination station. See how this slot looks like in the photo below, click on photo to enlarge.
Step 4: Ride to your destination station. The turnstile at the exit will "eat" the ticket, but this time for good.
By the way. There are ticket inspectors in the carriages. It's rare, but it still happens. You have to show the ticket to the ticket inspector. If you don't have a ticket, he/she will write you a fine of 50 Egyptian pounds.
You can buy a smart-card for 25 Egyptian pounds. Top up your balance and use it at your pleasure. Just don't forget to validate your smart card at the exit so that the system calculates the correct fare.
From the beginning of 2020 it is possible to pay by contactless credit card. But whether it will work with non-Egyptian credit cards is unclear, we haven't tried it yet.
Due to the frequent incidents of sexual harassment in the Cairo metro, special carriages have been introduced there. Only women and children can stay in these carriages. In Arab tradition, a person is considered a child until the age of 12.
These carriages are usually marked with special signs and lettering on a red background. Or simply with the lettering on a red background (without the sign). See the photo near, click on the photo to enlarge. There are pink signs on the platforms that indicate where the women's carriages stop. It looks like this.
Don't mix up the carriages! It is an administrative offense for a man to be in such a carriage, with all the consequences that entails.
Such cars are divided into two types: the first - are such all the time, and the second - only from 9 am to 9 pm (9-00 to 21-00). In any case, watch which carriage you enter, it is better not to enter the carriage with "female" signs at all.
Each carriage has four doors. The outer two are for exiting passengers only and the middle two are for entering. In practice, the Egyptians do not pay any attention to this rule and "break in" through all doors. The Egyptians don't like to follow any rules - it's just their mentality.
There is no air conditioning in the carriages, this is not the Dubai metro. The only thing that makes up for the horrendous heat is the fans. It gets a little easier if you walk up to an open window, which is often very difficult as the carriages are always densely packed with passengers.
If you read English- or German-language travel websites, you can find publications of tourists full of indignation: "There are no toilets in Cairo metro stations!" For Europeans, and not only Europeans, this seems like a wild thing.
A nice feature is that all information signs are duplicated in English. These are station names, entrance and exit signs. The metro schemes at the stations and in the carriages are the worst, as many of them are in Arabic only. Tourists have to count the stations to get to the right one.
Beware of pickpockets! Before entering the metro, put all valuables in your inside pockets. This is very important for a tourist. It's one thing to have your money stolen, but it's quite another to have your documents stolen as well.
The Cairo metro has different impressions of tourists. Some call it "wild", some describe it as "chaos", some are quite normal about the local crush and the reluctance of Egyptians to stand in organized queues.
We advise you to avoid travelling during rush hours.
The metro is an extremely rare phenomenon in Arab countries. There are only 4 metro systems in Arab countries: Cairo, Dubai, Algiers, and Mecca.
The Mecca metro is difficult to take seriously as it has only 1 line and 9 stations and only operates for 7 days a year during the Hajj and carries pilgrims. Algeria is a bit more serious with 1 line and 14 stations. It turns out that there are only two full-fledged metros with at least two lines in the Arab countries - Cairo and Dubai.
Now, many readers will object, "What about the Istanbul metro?" The answer is, "Turkey is not an Arab country, Turks live there, not Arabs." Similarly with the subways in Tehran, Tabriz, Shiraz and Mashhad, all these cities are in Iran, and Persians live there, not Arabs, Iran is not an Arab country.
If you use Cairo's metro to go sightseeing, you're likely to visit Sadat station, the most beautiful of all. This station is decorated in the style of ancient Egypt (pictured near, click to enlarge). You can see beautiful mosaics stylized as Ancient Egypt on the walls, and there are statues on the platform. And it is near this station that the Cairo Museum is located. You can say that this station is dedicated to the ancient history of Egypt.
The Cairo government has an ambitious plan for the metro. In addition to completing Line 3, they want to build Lines 4, 5 and 6, covering almost the entire city of Cairo and part of Giza. Objectively it is clear that Egypt has no money for that now and will not in the near future.
The Cairo Metro is being developed on state subsidies and on credit. The ticket price, even after the increase, is clearly not enough for further construction. It is difficult to judge the real needed cost of a trip, but officials are talking about 9 or 25 Egyptian pounds.
- You can only buy a metro ticket in Egyptian pounds. Read our in-depth review "Currency Exchange in Egypt";
- On weekends, the metro is not as busy. But don't forget that in Egypt, weekends are Friday and Saturday, while Sunday is a working day. Read more in our review "Friday in Egypt";
- What other expenses await besides the subway fare, read our review "How much money to take to Egypt".
Have a great trip around Cairo, and read our other pages about Egypt (find the list of the pages below).
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