If you ask us, there are many world wonders out there for you to explore. Some people like to make definitive lists. In the ancient past, there were considered to be 7 wonders of the world. Nowadays, many people like to make lists of modern world wonders, and 7 is often the number they choose.
One of the sights that lands on both modern and ancient lists are the Great Pyramids of Egypt. While many ancient peoples built pyramids, the ancient Egyptians built some of the most prolific. As a result, there are many pyramids and tombs around Egypt, but none are so renowned as the site at Giza.
The pyramids are a staple of tourism, both for Egypt and for travelers at large. Seeing them rising out of the desert, their weathered stones a testament to human ingenuity, inspires a sense of awe for most people. Before you visit this amazing archaeological site, however, there are some things you should know.
We’ve compiled a list of 20 things every traveler should know before they make the trek to Giza. Keeping these tips in hand will help you plan your trip, and get more enjoyment out of visiting this world wonder that’s withstood the tests of time.
20 There Are 4 Main Sights
The pyramids of Giza are an iconic sight. Whenever you think of them, you likely call to mind the image of what’s known as the Great Pyramid.
There are actually many pyramids and structures in the complex, but there are 4 main sights to check out here. The obvious one is the Great Pyramid, also known as the Pyramid of Khufu. It’s the largest and best-known structure. The Pyramid of Kafre and the Pyramid of Menkaure are smaller, but located nearby. Finally, there’s the Sphinx statue as well.
Of course, there are other locations in Egypt well worth visiting, including the Valley of the Kings.
19 It’s Not Cheap
If you just want to drive by the pyramids and gawk at them from the highway, you won’t need to spend much more than the price of a bus ticket or your rental car. If you want to get more up-close and personal, however, be prepared to shell out.
Entrance tickets to the main site will cost you around 60 Egyptian pounds. This will get you access to the pyramid site, but it won’t allow you to go inside the pyramids themselves. If you just want to take a look around, this is fine. If you want more, you’ll need to pay more.
18 Extra Fees Abound
Tourists traps are almost more renowned for their ability to part people from their hard-earned money than for the sights you can see. The pyramids of Giza are a major tourist attraction, and, as such, they’re also one world-famous tourist trap.
Be prepared to pay extra fees for almost everything when you visit the pyramids. You’ll pay your initial entrance fee, but beware! This definitely isn’t an all-access pass. If you want to enter the Great Pyramid of Khufu, you’ll need to pay for an additional ticket. Same thing if you want to head into the Pyramid of Khafre. There may be other charges, such as a camera charge.
17 The Pyramids Aren’t Always Open
The pyramids have operating times. The usual schedule runs from 8 in the morning until 5 in the evening. This probably doesn’t surprise you. Although it might be neat to see the pyramids at night, it makes sense to close down the site at certain times of the day.
Of course, there are also other times when the pyramids may be closed. For example, during the winter, the pyramids close half-an-hour early, at 4:30 in the afternoon. During the festival of Ramadan, they close even earlier, at 3 in the afternoon. Pyramid sites may be closed for restoration at any point, so be sure to check what’s open and what’s not before you head out.
16 You May Need to Haggle
In some cultures, haggling is a way of life. At the pyramids of Giza, it’s pretty much expected that you’ll haggle with the vendors setting up shop around the site.
Most vendors sell overpriced souvenirs here since they know people will pay the additional markup. If you see something you like, be sure to haggle with the vendor. If you don’t want anything, or you’d prefer not to be bothered, give a polite, but firm “no, thank you.”
Do be aware the vendors here have a reputation as being quite persistent, so be prepared to stand your ground. You don’t need to buy anything if you don’t want to.
15 You Might Need A Translator
English is not the predominant language in Egypt, so although there’s a good number of speakers and a large number of English-speaking tourists, you’ll need to be careful about booking tours. Some information will be presented in multiple languages. If you aren’t part of an English-language tour group, however, you may not understand everything being said.
The good news is you can easily organize a tour with an English-speaking guide beforehand. In fact, you may even be able to arrange this from your hotel. If you’d prefer a self-guided option, you can likely pick up an English guidebook or an app.
14 See More Pyramids For No Extra Cost
If the news that you’d have to pay for general admission and then pay again to enter each individual pyramid disheartened you, don’t worry. There are a few pyramids and buildings you don’t need to pay extra to enter.
Included in the price of general admission are 3 smaller queen's pyramids, which are associated with the Pyramid of Khufu. If you have your general admission ticket, you can enter each of these pyramids in turn. The pyramids are located on the eastern side of the plateau. The Tomb of Queen Khentkaus I is another pyramid you can visit at Giza.
13 Your Hotel Might Have A Deal
There’s another way you can save a little bit of money and still see more of the pyramids of Giza. Check in with your hotel to see if you can book a tour package. Sometimes, it’s cheaper to bundle all of the things you want to do. A package might include entrance to the major sites, minor pyramids, and tombs. It could also include a camel ride.
If you do end up booking a package deal that doesn’t include a camel ride, you can also book one at the site itself. To get the best deal, head to the stables near the base of the plateau. Be prepared to haggle, and don’t be surprised if you’re charged more upon dismount.
12 You Don’t Need A Camel To Get There
You don’t need to book a camel or horse ride around the site, although some guides and vendors will try to convince you that you do. Most often, tourists are told there’s a 5-mile walk from the taxi stand where they arrive to the pyramids and the Sphinx statue.
This isn’t true, and the pyramids are easily accessible. It’s more like a 5-minute walk from the taxi stand. If you want to book a camel ride, be sure to do so from your hotel as part of your package, or head down to the stables to negotiate the best price.
11 Tipping Is Expected
This next tip is one that will serve you well anywhere in Egypt. You’re going to want to carry plenty of small bills and coins with you, since you’ll need to tip for almost any “service” provided to you. In fact, you may even need to “tip” to get toilet paper in the bathroom.
Tips, called “baksheesh,” are expected for everything from an Uber or taxi ride, to services such as having a phone repaired. Almost anyone who starts a conversation with you will likely be looking to offer you a service so they can request a tip. This can become quite annoying, so it’s best to be prepared when visiting a major site like the pyramids.
10 You Can Get There By Public Transport
When you picture the Giza plateau, you probably envision the pyramids are in the middle of the desert, isolated from all civilization.
This isn’t true at all. In fact, the city of Giza is encroaching on the pyramids as it continues to grow. While there have been concerns about this, it does mean it’s pretty convenient to get to the site. You can even take a bus!
If you’re coming from downtown Cairo, you can hop on a couple of different bus lines. They’ll take you straight to the Egyptian Museum, where you can explore much of ancient Egypt’s history before you take a tour of the tombs.
9 Tourism Has Taken A Hit
Egypt has suffered a decline in overall tourism in the last few years, particularly after the upheaval in the country that began in 2011. While things are a little calmer now, the situation is still a little uncertain. As a result, many people have decided to put off a trip to Egypt for a later date.
The result is that tourist crowds are a little thinner these days. Prices have also been slashed, so you may be able to score a pretty great deal on hotels and attractions. Just be warned that the downturn has made some vendors even more aggressive.
8 It’s Being Transformed
In a radical decision, Egypt's government has decided to give management, maintenance, and security of the pyramids of Giza to private companies. This has drawn some outcry, considering the pyramids are the last surviving wonder of the ancient world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The pyramids are undergoing a $30-million makeover, which will streamline the role of vendors and renting camels and horses. There are even plans for an on-site cinema and an electric train that will take visitors around the major attractions. Some are obviously concerned about this commercialization, while others see it as a welcome change from the current system.
7 Unlawful Construction Is Everywhere
We’ve already mentioned just how close the city limits of Giza are to this ancient architectural wonder. You might not fully appreciate just how close the modern world is, however, until you see the plethora of hotels, fast-food restaurants, and new apartment buildings going up just a few hundred meters away from the pyramids.
While that would be a great view, this kind of construction violates a law restricting urban development within a 5-kilometer radius of the plateau. UNESCO and others have voiced disapproval, but illegal construction continues as the government of Egypt has turned its attention to more pressing issues.
6 Tourists Are Destroying The Tombs (But Not How You Think)
The news about urban encroachment on this ancient site might give you pause. Is the site being destroyed by new high-rises and hotels? Does having a McDonald’s so close at hand detract from the experience of the pyramids?
It’s true the pyramids are slowly being destroyed by modern-day activity, but tourists play a bigger role in this than you might think. One cause of degradation is from tourists doing nothing more than breathing in the tombs. Respiration increases the humidity in the chambers, causing the limestone walls to crack. Restoration work seeks to limit the damage, but you might want to stay above ground anyway.
5 You Shouldn’t Climb Them (But Some People Try Anyway)
It should go without saying that, after thousands of years of withering desert sun and shifting sands, the pyramids are, well, a little fragile. While they’re still standing and unlikely to crumble away to dust in our lifetimes, most people agree we should treat the pyramids with some respect.
In accordance with this new outlook, climbing the structures was banned in the late 1980s, in an effort to limit damage to both the site itself and to unwitting tourists who happened to hurt themselves. However, some people still try to scale the pyramids to get a better vantage point. Doing so can get you in trouble, unless you’ve been handpicked by a guard to climb up a little higher.
4 Bring Some Water
Most people have seen pictures of the Giza complex. If you have, you likely know the pyramids are basically surrounded by the open desert on three sides. Although Giza is creeping closer, it doesn’t change the fact this wonder of the world is still in the middle of a desert.
As a result, the climate is often hot and dry. In the summer months, the temperature can push 30℃, and the desert sands make it feel even warmer. You’ll want to bring some water with you, especially if you don’t want to pay for overpriced bottles on site. Sunscreen and a hat are also highly recommended.
3 There’s A Sound And Light Show
Although the complex closes its gates around 5 in the afternoon, you can return in the evening for the Sound and Light Show. This spectacle runs 7 nights a week, so you can catch it whenever you happen to be in Giza.
The show has been going on for the better part of 20 years, and it hasn’t changed in all that time. It’s a bit campy now, but it’s also good fun, especially if you have a family. It’s a great way to learn a little bit more about the history of the site. If you’re staying at a nearby hotel, you can hop on up to the roof to see if you can catch a bit from afar.
2 There Are Other Tombs In Egypt
The pyramids of Giza are perhaps the best-known examples of ancient Egyptian architecture, but they’re certainly not the only thing these ancient people built. In fact, you can visit any number of other sites around Egypt.
Some popular choices include Luxor, on the site of ancient Thebes. Here, you’ll find Luxor Temple and Karnak Temple. Just across the river are the tombs of the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens. There’s even a Sphinx here too!
If you truly want to learn about ancient Egypt, the pyramids of Giza are a great place to start, but there’s more to see.
1 Visit During The Week If You Can
Even though tourism has dropped off in recent years, the pyramids are still the last remaining wonder of the ancient world. Tourists from around the world still flock to see them. What’s more is that many Egyptians will also come out to see them! You may encounter school groups or local Egyptian families exploring the site alongside you.
Fridays and Saturdays are usually considered weekend days in Egypt, with Friday being prayer days for Muslims. Fridays may see school buses full of children arrive, while Saturday will be filled to the brim with families. If you can, visit from Sunday to Thursday instead!
References: Lifofshal, worldnomads, scmp, thirstyjourneys, wanderingwheatleys, annaeverywhere