The Pyramids of Giza were constructed some 4,500 years ago. And the Great Pyramid of Khufu is the only one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world that exists intact today! How the pyramids were constructed is one of Egypt’s biggest mysteries. But the recent identification of a hidden void in the Great Pyramid of Khufu is hoped to give some insight into the illusive pyramids and how they were built!
Looking up at the massive pyramids, under the hot Egyptian sun, was a major bucket list moment for me! In this post I’ve outlined a guide from my experiences of visiting the pyramids – including the good, the bad and the ugly.
The pyramids of Giza are only around 20 minutes from the hustle and bustle of downtown Cairo. You can easily get there by taxi or Uber. I use Uber a LOT in Egypt, especially when traveling solo. The prices are comparable to regular taxis. They are also set so you don’t end up having to haggle over the price every time, which often happens with regular taxis.
Another option is to take a guided tour. These tours will often also arrange your transportation to and from the pyramids. Here are a few options for tour operators that have come recommended:
TIP: If you decide to get there by taxi or Uber, make sure the driver takes you ALL THE WAY to the entrance of the Pyramids. Many times, regular taxi drivers will drop tourists off slightly before the entrance where all of the touts are waiting. If you get out before the entrance you will be bombarded with people trying to get you to take them as a guide or ride a camel.
When to Visit
The pyramids are open daily. The times below are from the official website for visiting the pyramids. But I’ve found (the hard way!) that they usually stop letting people in after 4:00 pm, even during May when the complex is supposedly open later.
From 1 May – Ramadan: 7:00 am – 7:00 pm
1 Ramadan – 30 April: 8:00 am – 5:00 pm
I would suggest going early to avoid the crowds of school groups that visit. It also gets really HOT in the late morning and afternoon and there is little to no shade in the complex. Friday is a quiet day to visit, as many people are at Friday prayers. Saturday is BUSY, with many Egyptians making use of their weekend to also visit the pyramids.
Tip: Take water. But in the event that you run out there are people selling water all throughout the pyramid complex.
What to Wear
Exploring Egypt, and the pyramids more specifically, requires a combination of cultural sensitivity and practicality.
Egypt is a predominately Muslim country. While you will see more bare skin (still very little!) in cities like Cairo, traditional clothing is the norm. Both men and women dress conservatively. In recognition of this and to avoid unwanted attention, you should do the same.
For men, this means no shorts or tank tops. Trousers and a t-shirt is fine. For women, this means your legs should be covered. I tend to also cover my arms with a light airy blouse, but a t-shirt is fine at the pyramids too.
Egypt is hot and the pyramid complex is big so take some practical items to make yourself more comfortable. Sunglasses, a hat and sunscreen will help with the sun – there is little shade or cover once inside the complex. Also make sure to wear comfortable shoes for walking. Comfortable sandals are a good idea if you don’t want to get sand inside your shoes!
Entrance to the pyramid complex costs 120 EGP ($7). If you want to go inside any of the pyramids themselves this is a separate admission ticket. It can only be purchased at the main ticket entrance, so decide early if you want to do this. The massive pyramid of Khufu costs, for example, an extra 300 EGP ($17).
What to See
- Great Pyramid of Khufu, the largest pyramid in the complex and a UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Pyramid of Kharfe is slightly smaller than the pyramid of Khufu
- The Great Sphinx is the famous lion with the human head
- Pyramid of Snefuru is the first pyramid
- Pyramid of Menkaure is the smallest pyramid in the complex
Tip: Climbing the pyramids is now illegal. Many of the guards seem to look the other way when people do it but it’s damaging to the pyramids themselves and dangerous.
Following a visit to the pyramids, head to the Mena House for some relaxing tea and food. It’s also a beautiful spot to watch the sun set on the pyramids!
The ugly side of visiting the pyramids
Before I went to the pyramids, I had heard a lot of negative things from other people who had visited before. Mostly about how close the pyramids are to the city of Giza, the aggressiveness of touts outside of and within the complex, and the awful treatment of camels and horses.
I tried to visit with an open mind. Seeing the pyramids was something I had dreamed of since I was little and first learned about Egypt in school. And I was actually pleasantly surprised when I finally did see them. Yes, the city creeps right up to one side of the pyramids (on the side of the Sphynx). But the other side is desert and I was still able appreciate the magnificence of the experience.
BUT I did find a few things really disappointing. The treatment of some of the animals in the complex was really difficult to watch and I would never ride a camel or horse for this reason. It’s easy to feel upset with the animal caretakers but this would see the situation outside of the wider context of Egypt. Egypt is suffering economically. This, mixed with the decrease in tourism since the 2011 revolution and a lot of other things, has led to a pretty desperate situation for a lot of Egyptians.
The other thing I found really difficult on both my visits to the pyramids is the sexual harassment. On both occasions I had groups of young Egyptian boys say really vulgar things to me. Perhaps this was exacerbated because I was on my own. This is something that is pretty endemic in Egypt, but I personally noticed it more as a tourist at the pyramids than anywhere else I’ve been in Egypt.
Young kids, girls and boys alike, were also constantly asking to take a photo with me. This might not bother some people (and I saw a lot of other young foreign women doing it), but I always said no, particularly to teenage boys.
Please know that this is just my opinion from visiting the pyramids twice. Overall, I would definitely recommend going but I wanted to keep this post open and honest about some of the things I’ve experienced and noticed while visiting. You know, the things the glossy photos don’t always show!