Unlike Europe and North America, many developing countries are better experienced with the helping hand of an experienced travel company or tour operator. This is especially the case for a country like Egypt, which continues to struggle with post-revolutionary challenges in the way of economics, infrastructure, and governance. Travel and tourism within Egypt has always been a sort of free-for-all, with train and bus schedules fluctuating sporadically, sites and museums closing earlier or later without much notice, and an army of vultures at the ready to pounce on unprepared tourists at every famous site and on every corner in nearly every city, especially Cairo. There are many good people working in the tourism sector in Egypt, but the bad ones can be really bad, and they can truly spoil an otherwise remarkable vacation experience in Egypt.
A perfect example of these vultures is the “taxi jumpers” that have now proliferated outside the gates of the Pyramids of Giza. Imagine this scenario… you’ve flown all the way to Egypt and spent tons of money to get here, and you and your friends or family are beyond excited to finally be visiting the only remaining wonder of the ancient world. You grab a taxi outside your hotel in Cairo and tell the taxi driver to take you to the Pyramids, of course grossly overpaying for the short ride because you’re a tourist. Nonetheless, you readily agree and as you make your way westward out through the streets of Giza on the Nile’s west bank you finally see enormous pyramidal shapes coming clearer and clearer into view. But just as your taxi rounds a corner on the way to the front gate, three strange men jump out in front of the car and force the taxi driver to stop.
As the driver begins yelling and arguing with one of the men in Arabic through his window, another one opens the door and climbs in the taxi with you. You get freaked out, the driver gives up, and these “taxi jumpers” start telling you that you need to get out of the taxi and go with them to pick out a horse or a donkey or a camel to ride the rest of the way to see the Pyramids. When you decline their offers, they insist that you must take an animal ride into the Pyramids because taxis are not allowed to go any further. They also insist that the Pyramids are still 10, 20, 30 kilometers away, even though you see their imposing facades hovering over you just ahead.
You start to realize that these men are crazy, and you insist that they get out of your taxi and leave you alone. They refuse, and continue to pressure you to buy an animal ride to go into the Pyramids complex with them. You start yelling, they yell back, you yell at the taxi driver to help, the taxi driver starts yelling at them again in Arabic, they yell back at the taxi driver in Arabic, and it just escalates from there until finally the taxi driver manages to slowly pull away as the intruders continue to chastise him for not convincing you to go with them and partake of their services. When you finally get away from them and arrive at the ticket office, you find yourself freaked out, frustrated, and regretting you even came to Egypt. And this is only your first day here.
This type of scene has happened to zillions of tourists over the years that have come to Egypt on their own without realizing that the country tends to be the embodiment of Murphy’s Law sometimes. Such experiences, which aren’t by any means limited to the Pyramids or even to the sites of the greater Cairo area, can really set you off, get your blood boiling, frighten you and your friends or family, and nearly ruin what should be a truly amazing and memorable trip. And the taxi jumper experience at Giza isn’t just a random occurrence either. Over the past two years, every time I’ve gone out to the Pyramids in a taxi, and sometimes even when I go by private car but can be pegged as a potential foreign tourist in the backseat, the taxi jumpers pounce.
Luckily the altercation rarely turns violent; rather, it’s just frustrating and time-consuming for the independent tourist. This situation can be avoided entirely by visiting the Pyramids as part of an organized group tour, as they know targeting those vehicles will be a waste of time because a professional and/or tour staff will be accompanying them. If you do visit the Pyramids of Giza solo or just with a few others, try to arrange to at least take a small van out there as opposed to squeezing into a regular street taxi. Avoiding the frustration and hassle of the taxi jumpers will be worth the few extra bucks you’ll spend, the trip out there will be much more comfy, and the fixed solid price will ensure that you don’t end up in a tussle with the taxi driver too when he tries to cleverly find a way to jack up the fare on you at the end of the ride.