Surviving Egyptian Scams at the Giza Pyramids

Egypt Scams
Camel at the Pyramids of Egypt

Note: The following article is about my visit to the Giza Pyramids during October 2012. For an updated situation about Tourism in Egypt in 2015 scroll down to the end of the article. All the photos in this article are from my recent visit to Egypt in May 2015.

In 2012 I finally fulfilled my dream to visit the last standing Wonder of the Old World: The Giza Pyramids at Egypt but little did I know how the harsh reality of Modern Egypt is vastly different from the romanticized version we have about Ancient Egypt.

However, before I dive in and share some hard-won wisdom, if you want to travel to see the Pyramids and discover the meaning of the hieroglyphs, make sure you get an Egypt visa.

This electronic travel authorization can be easily obtained online. Make sure you apply for the Egypt visa before you begin your misadventures.

And yes, like most misadventures of wonders, this one started when I decided to go to the toilet as soon as I arrived to the airport…

Egypt Scams
Souvenir salesmen inside the Giza Pyramid Complex

Culture shock in Egypt: The meaning of baksheesh

“Baksheesh, baksheesh” the small Egyptian man screamed at me as soon as he handed me over a piece of toilet paper. I looked at him in the most confusing manner and said “Uh?“.

As I left, he tried to follow me around shouting the same words over and over. “Pleased to meet you, Mr. Baksheesh, my name is Raphael” I replied. His face turned red in anger as he left uttering curse words in Arabic.

When I told the story to my taxi driver, he laughed and explained to me that “baksheesh” means “tip” in Arabic and that the small man at the toilet actually wanted me to pay him for handing me over toilet paper.

Egypt Scams
“And now, let’s dance like Egyptians”

“But that doesn’t makes sense. I mean, I could have easily gotten the toilet paper from the toilet itself. One cannot seriously hope to get extra money for things that others can get on their own, right?”

Afterwards, the taxi driver and I joked and laughed about the entitlement tipping culture of the globalized world and how now even DJ’s in America demand a tip from customers in addition to the salary they’re getting.

Is tipping really a sign of gratitude when it’s forced upon you? That’s a good question to reflect on, isn’t it?

Egypt Scams
“It’s 5 USD per photo”

And yes, as soon as I descended from the taxi and proceeded to my hostel, the driver extended his hand and asked “baksheesh?”.

I shook his hand and told him: “May the Gods reward you for your services, for I certainly won’t”. He laughed and drove off, not before offering me a tour to the Giza Pyramids the next day.

Little I knew that my Egyptian scam nightmare was just starting.

Egypt Scams
“No charge for looking, sir”

How to reach the Giza Pyramids from El Cairo

From El Cairo, there’s basically three ways of reaching the Giza Pyramids, the first is by using public transportation, the second is by taking an organized tour and the third is by taking a random street cab to reach them. It’s an easy 30 minute ride and shouldn’t cost you more than 4 USD…at least in theory.

You see, taxis in El Cairo are metered but none of them will accept to turn it on if you’re going to the Giza Pyramids since they’ll have to come back empty to the city so they will try their best to scam you. Yes, I’m sure that it is possible to find an honest taxi driver that will accept to turn it on but after spending half an hour trying to find one I decided to negotiate a reasonable price (6 USD) and just go.

20 minutes later I saw my first glimpse at the Giza Pyramids, big triangular monuments lost amid the urban development that has contaminated this wonderful sight. Then, just as I could feel the Pyramids getting closer…we stopped. At a horse barn.

Egypt Scams
Camel at the Pyramids of Egypt

“From here the only way to the entrance is by horse carriage” the taxi driver told me. “Come on! You’re lying. I know you’re lying and you know I know you’re lying. Take me to the entrance or I’m walking out without paying you”.

As you can predict, his face also turned red in a routine that I call the “Egyptian Tantrum” which takes place when scam artists find someone who is smarter than them.

After a few more minutes of heated arguments he finally relented and offer me to take me to the real entrance as long as I paid him double the price. And believe it or not, the worse was yet to come.

Egypt Scams
Someone doesn’t look very happy…

Surviving Egypt Scams at the Giza Pyramids

I agreed to give my driver 15 extra Egyptian pounds (roughly 2 USD) for him to take me to the entrance to the Giza Pyramids where I bought my tickets and got ready to ditch my dishonest companion, “How long you stay at the Pyramids? I take you up back to Cairo later, yes?” he told me. “I must really salute you for you are a very good comedian” I replied as I walked away to the entrance.

So there I was. Alone in front of one of mankind’s greatest creations…but as soon as I was getting ready to snap some shots of the beautiful Pyramids and enjoy a lovely time of solitude and reflection, at least a dozen touts approached me asking to be my tour guides.

Their Egyptian scam arguments were…let’s say very creative.

Egypt Scams
Surviving Egypt Scams at the Giza Pyramids

“I’m a licensed tour guide by the Egyptian government, look at my driver ID” (!),”It is illegal to go to the Pyramids without a guide” (?), “Please, sir, I have three families to feed” (!!!), “My camel is sick, choose me, I need it the most” (???).

As I realized that there was no human way for them to leave me alone, I budged in and made an agreement with the most honest looking one. We agreed on 150 Egyptian Pounds (20 USD) for the one hour tour, which included a camel ride. Sure, why not, at least I’ll have a hassle-free visit.

At least that’s what I thought.

Egypt Scams
The Man of Wonders at the Pyramids of Egypt

The Egypt Scam of the Giza Pyramids: Beware the Camels

I’ll admit it, riding a camel at the Giza Pyramids is one of my best memories of all Egypt. The freedom and the sense of wonder is incredible as you imagine yourself in the shoes of the many travellers who came to this land centuries ago and were soon face to face with monuments beyond words or description.

Timeless pieces of history that once shined across the desert with their golden decorations. It is something truly special…at least until the hidden Egyptian scam fees start to arrive.

At the end of the tour, which included exiting the Giza Pyramid Complex to go to the “Papyrus Museum” (aka the papyrus shop of the uncle of the tour guide), your tour guide will ask you to pay many hidden fees which include photography, camel handling and of course, the traditional baksheesh.

Egypt Scams
The mighty Sphinx at the Pyramids of Egypt

To add insult to injury, the tour guide asked me for 150 USD instead of 150 Egyptian pounds that we had previously agreed on! This was literally the last straw that broke the camel’s back (no, not literally) and I exploded at this Egyptian scam artist and shouted at him:

“You’re lying, you’re a big liar, none of what you’re saying is true, you’re a disgrace to your country, culture and religion”.

You see, most Egyptians are good honest hard working people so it’s a real shame to know that the Egyptians that you will end up encountering inside the number 1 most visited site of the country are dishonorable individuals who make a living by ripping off tourists.

Egypt Scams
The lonely Egyptian camel guy

At this point, I was so boiled up in anger that I did the most daring thing ever: I started to run the hell away from him without paying anything as he chased me on top of his camel. “Pay me, pay me, pay me!!!” he shouted as he started to chase the Man of Wonders. Eventually, I managed to outrun him and I headed out to the exit in front of the Sphinx.

After a minute of catching my breath I began to think about how to proceed. Should I go back to the main entrance and hope that he’s not there? Should I lay low for a while until he disappears? Should I agree to pay him the 150 USD? Hell no!

In the end, I did what any other Mexican would do in times of stress and despair: Eat. Luckily for me, there was a KFC AND a Pizza Hut located right in front of the Sphinx entrance.

The best part? No bargaining for prices and definitely no baksheesh!!! Plus, an unparalleled view to the Giza Pyramid Complex from the rooftop. After a few hours, I went back to the main entrance and the scam artist was long gone, probably preying on a new victim.

Want to know the sad part of the story? The tour guide could have gotten a well earned 20 USD but he shot himself in the foot by aiming to high and trying to rip me off demanding the unrealistic sum of 150 USD.

The Man of Wonders awards honest people and feels sadness those who are not. I sincerely hope that this lesson in humility will help the tour guide to find inner peace and self-reflection. To him, I wish him the best…

Felucca Sailing in the Nile River, Egypt 2
Felucca Sailing in the Nile River, Egypt

UPDATE MAY 2015: In the last couple of years, Tourism to Egypt has dropped significantly (more on that on a future article at Journey Wonders) which means that each day there are less and less visitors to the Giza Pyramids. The number of scam artists has also decreased and there are now signs with set prices for camel rides (50 Egyptian Pounds for 30 minutes).

However, there have been cases of camel handlers extorting travelers at the end of the ride for an unrealistic mandatory tip at the end so my best advice is to go on a organized tour to the Pyramids (this May 2015 I went with Busabout. You can read all about our journey in the Nile River next week here at Journey Wonders).

All official tour guides have a friend at Giza who can give you an all inclusive price for a camel ride (that is, tips included) in order for you to avoid the stress of baksheesh and other hidden fees. If you’re not with a organized tour, you can always approach the guide and he’ll be happy to help you out.

Last but not least, don’t forget to use our Booking.com Affiliate Link of Wonders for making hotel reservations.

Same price for you and a small pocket money commission for this website of yours.

Sweet deal, uh?

Why Travel to Egypt ?
The Luxor Temple at Night

And yes, please remember that you shouldn’t judge all Egyptians by the actions of the scam artists who dwell in the Giza Pyramids. Most Egyptians are honest people who really want you to have a good time in their country.

After all, we travelers are the ones who will end up improving the local economy of Egypt by inviting our friends to visiting this country filled with the amazing wonders of Ancient Egypt.

Have you ever been a victim to an Egyptian scam? How was your experience at the Giza Pyramids? Share your thoughts and let me know what you think!

The ultimate survival guide to avoid scams at the Giza Pyramids in Egypt near El Cairo and how to deal with the Egyptian scam artists.
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67 Comments

  • Thanks for the tips! I would gladly pay more for transportation/sight seeing if it could be done without the hassle/uncertainty. I’d rather just not have to deal with it. Glad you were able to get out of your sticky situations with no major harm!

  • Ohh it’s insane, isn’t it?! We were pretty thankful we were there with a guide (we went with Top Deck) who was not only crazy knowledgeable (he was an Egyptologist), but knew most of the guys there… without him though, I think I’d have freaked out!! I’m glad you still enjoyed it all, despite the scammers!

  • We were in Egypt around the same time as you, and while I have no doubt that scams are always abundant, I think it’s much worse because of the current political situation and lack of tourists. Not that it’s an excuse for being dishonest, but people are very desperate there. It’s tragic because they are almost shooting themselves in the foot with their bad behaviour. We went to India after Egypt, and it felt like a big relief because it felt like there was much less scamming there, if you can believe it!? Incidently, we took the public bus to the pyramids and it was totally fine…

  • We did a guided tour of Egypt to avoid this kind of thing. Our guide said UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCE take a ride here, as no matter what you will get scammed. So here at the Pyramids some of our group took photos of the camels instead and were chased by men wanting baksheesh…. I loved my time in Egypt, but the fear of baksheesh always had me a little on guard. I do hope you outran that camel. Thanks for linking up for us for #SundayTraveler

  • The image of you running away from that guide on the camel has me laughing. Other people have mentioned getting scammed and hassled while trying to visit the Pyramids. It almost puts me off on wanting to visit there. On the other hand, your wonderful photos make it seem like a very tempting idea.

  • What a wonderful story, I can just see you running along being pursued by a camel can’t wait to read the next instalment. I have heard so many bad things about Egypt I am really becoming not interested in going there at all.

    • Thanks Michele! Egypt as a whole is a very wonderful country, specially once you venture out of El Cairo. But yes, the Giza Pyramids are a turning point in the life of every traveler because it truly tests their patience haha

  • That is NUTS! There’s definitely some pushier countries.destinations than others, but I haven’t encounters aggression yet personally. It was a little crazy in Seville, Spain with the gypsies (Roma?) but this is good info for a future trip to Egypt, thanks!

  • Sounds stressful! The worst scam we ever got caught in was a visa scam at the Cambodian border. These Egyptian guys sound pretty intense, I’m chuckling just imagining you physically running from the camel guy.

    • Border agents (and fake border agents) are the worst!!! I had a very bad experience crossing from Bolivia to Peru that I had to bribe the agents in order to avoid them from confiscating my laptop!

      • Really? Which border crossing? I traveled over land from Argentina to Colombia last year and never had any any problems at borders. Quite the opposite: everyone was very courteous and professional.

  • Been to Egypt once and couldn’t WAIT to get out of there. The entire country is run on touts and it made me crazy. Was nearly kissing the ground back in Israel (not to mention of course, my visa was cut down to one month upon my return after having been to Egypt). Never again.

    • Yes, it can get really bothersome after saying “No” to all touts and scammers.

  • Thanks for the heads up. I havent been to see the Giza pyramids. Yes, it doesnt make sense that I went to Egypt but didnt get to see the pyramids. I totally get where you are coming from with the scams and pushy behaviour of sellers in Egypt.

    I get that they need to eat but its so annoying. Thanks for the tips on the different scams there I will definitely bear that in mind when I visit Cairo.

    • Where did you go in Egypt? To the Sinai Peninsula? I heard the Red Sea is an amazing place to snorkel!

    • If there was an University of Scammers, the Egyptian touts would be the professors.

  • Well Raphael, this just seems like to much to take. I would not like people trying to cheat me all the time. On a side note, I’m surprised to learn that they say baksheesh for a tip in Egypt. In some parts of Croatia, we use the same word. I’m always fascinated with the languages, and how they arrive from one place to another. I’ll be investigating this one :). Thanks for linking up to the #SundayTraveler!

    • Are you sure those Croatians aren’t Egyptians in disguise? I wouldn’t be surprised to be honest hahaha

    • Ain’t nobody got time for scams! Hahaha running is definitely the best option in some cases!

  • been there done that. I didn’t enjoy Egypt because of that, people are completely FAKE and they extort money out of you for anything. Did you see the different prices at the pyramids? Adult/Student/Arab… basically exhorbitant tourist price and peanuts for the locals. I was there the same year as you, in April though. How did you find the driving in Cairo?

  • Crossing the streets was an extreme sport for both foreigners and locals. I was truly shocked to see a family of 5 riding the same motorcycle…at least until I went to India and I saw 12 people on top of one!

  • This post is both hilarious and sad. I want to go but cannot stomach the idea of constantly having to be on alert for fending off scams. Thanks for the great narrative/cautionary tale for those who wish to visit. Sigh. Happy travels.

  • I went to Giza in the year 2000 and swore never to go back. These con artists are a real turn off for me and I was sick of being hassled and attempted to be conned.

    I went on a tour and we were warned when getting off the bus about the con artists. Even still we tried the camel ride. We were led away from the pyramids to somewhere a fair distance away and still sat atop the camel. The guy then upped his price and refused to take me back unless I agreed the price. Like you I argued and managed to get his price down again.

    These con artists are low lives.

    I worked in the Middle East for 17 months at this time and even fellow Arabs would tell me “never trust an Egyptian”.

  • This is hilarious! I recently visited Egypt and was wondering how to write about it on my blog without being too negative (because overall I’m glad I went). I couldn’t stop laughing at your story. Mostly because i was thinking, “yup yup that’s exactly right”, the whole time. Also, we stayed in the inn next door to that pizza hut!!

  • Thanks for the honesty in this post, it certainly had me laughing!

    I have always dreamed of going to Egypt since I was a kid. While being aware of the troubles in Egypt, I finally decided to book a trip with a tour group this Fall on a whim. I hope being with a reputable tour company is helpful in avoiding the scammers.

    While you had a troublesome time, your photos are still absolutely stunning and make me want to go even more!

    Cheers,
    Lexie

  • If you’ve been to Egypt, you’ve been scammed. I think we did quite well overall, but yes, we gave in once or twice to the touts…they’re relentless. I have to say Egypt is one of the harder countries to travel independently. We did it. We enjoyed it, but it was difficult at times.

  • Great article – I think scams are hard to avoid in most of the Middle East. I had a good experience in Egypt, my trick use the local hotel to help me higher a trust worthy driver for $50 a day. They took me to not only Giza but also out to Bent and Step Pyramids – well worth a visit.

    All that said – I feel you!!! figuring out who is scamming you in a foreign country can be hard!

  • Great post, Raphael. I visited Giza in 2008 with my then-girlfriend and we had an experience very similar to yours, which including being dropped off at the camel depot and not the pyramid entrance, then guilted into a big tip, etc.

    The pyramids are gorgeous, no doubt about it…but the hassle factor in that part of Egypt is off the charts, and I didn’t enjoy my visit nearly as much as I had hoped to. A shame, especially considering that Egypt was #1 on my list at the time of my visit.

  • That’s what happened to me yesterday! Someone came up to us at the sphinx entrance,told us he is a government worker and that we won’t have to pay anything else apart from what we agree on. So we agreed on 120 Egyptian pounds. When we got to the first pyramid,about 5 guys walked up to us, telling us that they could take our photos if we wanted them to. They said things like ‘you can tip us if u are happy but it’s ok if u don’t. But as soon as they were done with the pictures, they surrounded us asking for baksheesh,actually demanding 100 pounds each. They got furious n started shouting at us when we refused to give them all that money. We finally agreed on 75 pounds. Our tour guide witnessed all that. So as soon as we left the first pyramid, he refused to take us anywhere else n took us back to the sphinx despite our protests!!( n we had already paid him the full amount at the beginning) I guess coz he thought we might not tip him as he expected. So we ended up paying for a full tour but just going to one pyramid and the sphinx

  • Definately suggest using a horse and carriage, especially during summer…there is a lot of ground to cover by foot and the scorching sun is unbearable. Horse and carriage can do it faster plus you have shade. It will stop whereever you want so you can get off and take photos…plus the guide will protect you from other people trying to harass you…best way to see pyramids. It cost us 200 Egyption pounds each which is 22 american dollars. Very cheap.

  • is there any way to do this without the hassle?
    i am keen to do a camel ride with my 8yr old son but dont want the hassle..

    • yes get a guide who will organize everything for you. I can recommend a guide should you want a pleasant tour

  • Hi Raphael, my husband and I took a trip to egpyt, was bombarded with merchants as soon as we got near the pyramid. But we were with a travel tour guide, provided by our tour agent. I remember i think, the mose funniest things that happened to me, with our tour guide, a merchant came by asked me i wanted to buy one of his products, told him firmly no thank-u, he replied :u look like my mother, and then went to my husband and told him he looked like his father yea right. Then we took our pix of pyramid and walk away, thanks for seeing this comment

  • Also added to above comment on that was in Gize, took toilet paper with me in my purse, as I walked into bathroom facilities, Was about to handme a bathroom tissue, showed him my toilet tissue, he got upset and still asked for money, walked away and told him no thank-u thats Giza.

  • Yes carrying your own toilet paper very important in Egypt. Also having about 50 1 dollar American bills for tips. Wear sunglasses when going through market and keep your head down. Best bang for your buck though is going on a nile cruise and seeing the temples and tombs. Loved it!

  • Hey, am an Egyptian and am very sorry that you had to encounter those people i know how it feels when i was in high school i used to take tourists around for free so those scammers don’t ruin the picture of our country am very sorry for the unpleasant experience

  • Love the article- the thought of you running away from the camel driver was hilarious! totally agree food is the answer to most problems! We have just been to Giza & stayed in a wonderful hostel with a rooftop view of the pyramids & the light & sound show. We visited the pyramids with a guide organised by the hostel to get us past all the hawkers etc. Well worth the US$20 for this reason alone. We stayed 2 nights because the hostel was so good – they provided breakfast & ordered in dinners. The one meal we had in the neighbourhood we got ripped off after being harassed by hawkers & beggars. We didn’t enjoy going out so we stayed in & enjoyed the view.

  • We where in Egypt in April for our honeymoon. overall the trip was awesome, the trip to the Pyramids and all the other sites was really good, we had excellent guide Mahmoud Mastafa because of him we had no stress and enjoyed our stay. did get ripped off in Sharm El Sheik with bottled water. I gave 15 us instread of 15 Egyptian pounds. otherwise it was a trip I will never forget. I wrote a facebook post which I called I left my heart in Egypt. and we did. the best advise is get a descent guide. I can recommend our guide. we are going back in March 2018,

  • Having a little Arabic and or mentioning the police ,having said that I got scammed by a jew in Aswan and I am a police man …….just keep your wits about you and don’t be afraid to tell people where to go …a man tried to mug me in Giza on the forth day but I just snapped his hand and he ran off into the darkness :)

  • Went to Egypt in 2009 with a tour company. The local guide kept telling us to keep away from the vendors at Giza because after the tour she would take us to a shop where souvenirs were “guaranteed authentic by the Egyptian government.” She dumped the group at the shop for hours while the store owner served her tea. We were starving and couldn’t find her when everyone in the group was clearly done shopping. I learned quickly during the trip to make no eye contact and never appear interested in anything anyone was selling. The vendors would try to call my attention by asking in this flattering way, “wow, are you Egyptian?” I pretended I didn’t speak English or any major language. Luxor was the worst because the vendors there literally started to pull on my shirt sleeves in an attempt to drag me to their stalls. I put my hands out defensively and forcefully saying, “no touching! If you touch, I don’t look!” You could tell they were so accustomed to doing this, that they would repeat and remind themselves “okay, no touch” over and over when they forgot and tried to touch me again. It was like an involuntary reflex for them! Next time I’d have the hotel recommend a daily driver to take me everywhere I wanted, for the amount of time I wanted and to shoo away unwanted vendors.

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