Food, fun, transportation- oh my!
How much do things cost in Cairo? How much do I need to bring for a month in Egypt in 2019?
Here we outline some expenses for each a frugal, moderate or unrestricted budget to give you a sense of your spending options and general costs in Cairo.
To note, the value of the Egyptian pound and corresponding exchange rates have changed a lot in the last few years. For reference, this article was written in April 2019 and the exchange rate is currently about 1 USD = 17.5 EGP
.How much should I budget for a month in Egypt in 2019?
In general, we recommend students budget between $300-$500 USD per month for life in Cairo. It is also possible to live on $200/month for those who budget well.
Like any place, there is a huge difference in how the frugal and luxurious live in Cairo, and students studying Arabic will have budgets that vary greatly depending on how they eat, get around and spend their time.
Since cost of living in Egypt is cheaper than cost of living in most of the home country of our students, many Arabic students take advantage of the cheap prices to buy and do things that they would not splurge on at home- such as taxis and always eating out.
Here we outline expenses for people who are living on different budgets in the school accommodations.
How can I live cheaply in Egypt?
The students who live the most cheaply in Cairo are the ones who take public transportation, cook for themselves, and have exceptional bargaining skills.
Therefore as your Arabic improves and you become more comfortable in Egypt, you will find it easier to live a cheaper lifestyle.
One key to saving money in Cairo is that you have to think in Egyptian pounds. It is easy to convert the prices in your head and say to yourself, "Okay, this taxi ride is only $3.50, that's not bad" but that $3.50 is 60 LE which could buy you 20 metro tickets.
The cheapest way to live in Cairo is to follow the example of thrifty locals. Personally, I make a combination of the most cheapest options, middle options, and then splurge for some things when I'm feeling homesick.
I take public transportation and the metro everywhere I can, but I call an Uber at night or when I'm feeling tired, and I treat myself to a bowl of pasta every once in a while.
How much does food cost in Cairo?
Part of the joy of living in Cairo is the amazing food options. From Egyptian street food, to home-cooked meals, you should try to try a little bit of everything while you're here. There are food options to fit different student budgets and you can live very cheaply or also find imported foods that you might be missing.
For students who like to cook, students say they spend around 450-750 LE (around $25-$45 USD) on groceries for a week, depending on where they shop and how much they cook. Local vegetable stands are the cheapest places around to get what you need and there are also upscale supermarkets around the city.
For eating out or ordering in, here are some outlines of different food options and their prices to give you an idea of how much you might spend while here:
Foul and tamiyya sandwiches from a street cart: 3 LE
A medium-sized bowl of koshary: 20 LE
Fresh juice from a local stand: 20 LE
Shawarma sandwiches from Shabrawy: 25-30 LE
A coffee in a cafe downtown: 30 LE
Lamb shish kebab from the corner kebab store: 60 LE
Biriyani and chicken tikka in an Indian restaurant in Zamalek: 90 LE
A medium-sized pizza ordered in from Pizza Hut: 100 LE
A bowl of pasta in Zamalek: 120 LE
Again, the average student eats from a combination of the cheapest street foods to the nicer international restaurants. In the beginning, as your body adjusts to the environment and food, it can be better to spend more on slightly nicer foods to avoid an upset stomach.
How much are transportation costs in Cairo?
Learning to get around Cairo is an adventure in itself!
As a metropolis of over 20 million people, Cairo holds an endless sea of buses, cars and scooters moving from place to place. You'll have fun learning the microbus signs, reading the Cairo metro map, and exploring different neighborhoods and the different routes to get there.
Staring out the window of the bus is a great time to practice your Arabic reading skills as you pass by signs and advertisements ready to be read.
The cheapest options for getting around are buses, microbuses and the metro. Microbuses and buses take some time to get used to as you need to learn the routes and the layout of the city. The metro is fairly simple to use and takes you to most of the different places you would need to go- but it doesn't extend everywhere in the city yet.
The most comfortable options are Uber and Careem (Uber's local counterpart), and there is the option to call a normal car, a scooter/motobike, or sometimes a tuk-tuk. The apps can be connected to your card for convenience or you can pay in cash.
Here are some outlined transportation costs to give you an idea of how much to bring with you for a month in Cairo:
Buses: 2.5- 3 LE
Microbuses: 2.5- 3 LE
Metro: 3-7 LE per ticket, depending on how many stations you go.
Uber scooter: average 10-45 LE, depending on how far you go
Tuk-Tuk: average 10-30 LE, for short rides along back streets
Uber or Careem: average 15-125 LE, depending on how far you go
Biking: Around 1000LE to buy a bike here and then you can try to re-sell it as you leave. Cairo is not a very bike-friendly city but it is becoming more popular in recent years as a way to weave through traffic and be more eco-friendly. We recommend checking out groups like Project Pink or Cairo Cycling Geckos if students are interested in cycling.
Walking: Free! The school and accommodations are walking distance from each other so that you can save time and money with no commute. Make sure to take some long walks across the bridges over the Nile before you leave.
Personally, we recommend taking a combination of both depending on your budget, Arabic ability and comfort level.
Try out public transport options in Cairo and see if it is something you are comfortable with, and try to explore the different routes and transportation options to get where you need to go.
How much do fun things cost in Cairo?
A budget is not complete without money set aside for having fun!
There are plenty of cafes, museums, concerts and trips to take during your time in Egypt, depending on your lifestyle and travel plans and this might end up being your biggest cost. Make sure to set aside money to travel to different cities on the weekends, pick up some souvenirs for people back home, and to get involved in different activities after class.
Here are some outlined prices of some things that students like to do in their free time:
Enjoying two coffees in an outdoor qahwa with a game of backgammon: 60 LE
Entrance into a sporting club or "nady" to exercise or hang out: 25 LE
Listening to a traditional concert at Sad El Sawy Culture Wheel in Zamalek: 60-80 LE
An afternoon in the Islamic Art Museum: 120 LE
Entrance into historical sites: 60-200 LE
Buses to different cities within Egypt: 85-350 LE
A night in a hostel in different cities in Egypt: 150-250 LE
How much can you buy with $10 in Egypt?
Students coming from the US or EU will generally find life in Egypt quite cheap and will be able to live comfortably for much cheaper than their home cities.
Currently $10 USD is about 200 LE.
200LE in Egypt can be enough for your daily expenses for 2-3 days, or it can be enough for one fancy meal in a restaurant or one alcohol beverage. So how much you spend depends on how you live your life here.
If you really want to save money- you have to think in Egyptian pounds and not in dollars or euros. You can take a taxi ride for 40-50LE and say that that is not much because it is only $3, but there might be an option of public transport for 3LE.
How to live comfortable in Cairo for less than $10/day?
If you want $10 to go the farthest in Egypt, while still having fun, you could live your life like this:
Walk to school!
Eat breakfast at Shrabrawy (a foul sandwich and a fried egg sandwich): 6 LE
Buy a bottle of water and snacks at the khushk (kiosk or corner store): 20 LE
Make coffee or tea at the school: 0 LE
Buy vegetables, rice and cook lunch after school: 30 LE
Take public transport to downtown and hang out in a cafe: 6 LE for the microbus there and back, 30 LE for a coffee, and 30 LE for your friend's coffee. (Treat them- as it's the Egyptian way!)
Get dinner of bowl of koshary or shawarma sandwich: 25 LE
Go to see a movie to practice your Arabic listening skills: 40 LE for a ticket (depends on the place)
Buy popcorn at the movies: 10LE
You have 3LE left to buy a chocolate or save for tomorrow!
Save your pennies and come to Cairo- we're looking forward to seeing you soon :)