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How To Visit Egyptian Pyramids Without A Guide: Giza, Saqqara and More

Egypt is home to the first and last remaining Wonder of the Ancient World — the Great Pyramid at Giza. Visiting it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. In addition to this magnificent structure, there are Egyptian pyramids of Saqqara, Dahshur, and hundreds of smaller necropolises across Egypt. 

In this article, I you will learn how to visit all Egyptian pyramids on your own and without extra expenses.

Where Are The Pyramids In Egypt

The following fact may surprise you, but there are 118 pyramids in Egypt!

Giza Pyramid Complex includes the famous pyramids of Khufu, Khafre, Menkauer, the Great Sphinx, and a handful of smaller tombs. It is situated on the west bank of the Nile river, only 20 miles outside of Cairo.

The oldest pyramid complex in Egypt is located in Saqqara. It was the main necropolis of Memphis, the capital of the first dynasties of Ancient Egypt. Saqqara is home to the very first pyramid in Egypt, built for the ruler Djoser in the 26th century BC.

The Dahshur complex is next to the Sakkar burial complex. The Pink and Bent Pyramids were built for Pharaoh Snefru, the father of Pharaoh Cheops. These pyramids have irregular shapes; architects “trained” on them before creating perfectly even pyramids in Giza. 

In the burial complex in Abusir are the burials of kings from the fifth dynasty. On your way to the Faiyum oasis, you can visit the Medum Pyramid. The rest of Egyptian pyramids are scattered in the desert between the Nile and Faiyum oasis. They are poorly preserved and will be of interest only to archaeologists. 

After the three monumental pyramids of Giza were built, the tradition of burial in pyramids began to fade. The capital, and with it a royal cemetery, moved to Luxor. There, pharaohs and their families were buried in richly painted rock tombs.

If you are also looking for an affordable Nile Cruise, be sure to read my guide:

Nile Cruise on a Budget | Backpacking in Egypt

How To Visit The Pyramids of Giza Without A Guide

How to get to the Pyramids of Giza

from Cairo

You can get to Giza from the center of Cairo by subway. It runs from 5:30 a.m. to midnight and costs 5 Egyptian pounds. From Sadat station at Tahrir Square to Giza there are only six stops on the red line. Be sure to pick up your ticket after passing it through the turnstile—you will need it at the subway exit. You can find the map of the stations here.

The minibusses to the pyramids leave from the Giza metro station. Ask a woman or a student where the bus stop is. If they don’t understand you, make a triangle with your hands. Egypt has Uber and Careem taxi apps; it is cheaper than regular taxis. We paid 80 EGP ($3) for a taxi ride.

There is a small town with hotels, restaurants and ATMs within walking distance from the entrance of the pyramids. 

If you are not ready to dive into the hustle and bustle of Egypt, then you might consider taking a tour. The ones below have excellent reviews and fair prices.

from Luxor

The best way to get from Luxor to Cairo is by train. I took a night train because the journey takes 10 hours, but day trains also leave regularly. You can see the schedule and prices on their website. I advise you to buy your ticket at the ticket office because sometimes the website takes your money but forgets to issue a ticket. Tickets cost 100 to 150 Egyptian pounds ($4-6). There is no difference between classes, though more expensive trains are less likely to be late (or less late 😬).

There is a train station in Giza, but foreigners cannot purchase tickets to or from it. You are also not allowed to buy any other tickets at the Giza ticket office. You must go to Cairo station.

There are comfortable Watania trains with only two beds in each compartment. A single ticket costs $80, and $120 for the whole room.

There are no buses that go from Luxor to Cairo.

A one-way flight can be found for $60; check Egypt Air or Air Cairo.

from Hurghada

The cheapest way to get from Hurghada directly to Giza is via GoBus. You can purchase tickets on their website. The trip takes 7 hours, so it is better to spend the night in Giza. However, a day trip is also possible. 

The bus departs from Hurghada at 10:30, 14:00, 18:00, and 23:59. It returns only in the mornings—at 01:00, 03:00, and 8:20. A one-way ticket costs 230 Egyptian Pounds ($9).

Check EgyptAir and AirCairo for flight prices.

These tours from Hurghada have great reviews:

from Sharm El Sheikh

The bus ride from Sharm El Sheikh to Cairo takes about 8 hours. It costs $7 to $11 for a one-way ticket.

The flight costs about $40 one way.

This all-inclusive tour to the Egyptian Pyramids by plane cost only 120$. This bus tour is cheaper, and it has very good reviews.

Opening hours of the Giza Pyramid Complex

  • The Giza Necropolis is open daily from 7:00 to 17:00. 
  • You can get inside the pyramids from 8:00 to 12:00 and from 13:00 to 16:00
  • The ticket office closes at 16:00
  • Recommended time to visit: 3-4 hours

How much does it cost to visit the pyramids in Giza?

  • Entrance ticket to Giza Plateau. 240 EGP ($10) for an adult foreigner, 120 EGP ($5) for students.
  • Entrance ticket to enter the pyramids. 400 EGP ($ 16) to the Khufu pyramid, 100 EGP ($4) to the Menkauer or Khafre pyramid. You can take photos with your phone inside the pyramids. Use of a standard camera is prohibited.
  • Combined ticket to Giza Plateau and Cheops Pyramid: 600 EGP ($25), students – 300 EGP ($12).
  • Camel ride: 200 EGP + tips for the cameleer
  • Light show: 500 EGP ($20)

Is it worth buying the Cairo Pass?

Cairo Pass costs $100 and is valid for five days. It includes unlimited admission to Cairo Museum, Coptic Quarter, Saladin Citadel, Egyptian Museum of Islamic Art, all sights at Giza, Saqqara Pyramids, and Red Pyramid at Dahshur. The photo ticket is not included in the price. You can take pictures with your phone for free.

They sell it at the Cairo Museum and on the Giza Plateau. To purchase, you will need two photographs, two copies of the passport, and your passport itself. Only cash dollars are accepted for payment.

For a regular tourist, Cairo Pass is not worth the cost. The price of it is equal to the sum of tickets to all the above places, but it gives you unlimited access to attractions and the ability to skip the line.

The savings are noticeable when buying two tickets at once: first Cairo Pass and then Luxor Pass since the second ticket has a 50% discount. And even in this case, the offer will be beneficial only for those who are planning to visit ALL attractions within five days.

What to see in the Giza Pyramid Complex

Necropolis of Giza

Giza Necropolis, a large plateau in the desert, was the burial place of pharaohs from the Fourth Dynasty.

For the ancient Egyptians, the pyramid represented a hill of land that rose from the ocean of chaos. Pharaohs and important people were buried inside pyramids. 

The Great Pyramid of Giza (also known as the Pyramid of Khufu or the Pyramid of Cheops) is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Nearby stands the pyramid of Khafre, son of Cheops. Khafre built his pyramid a few meters below his father’s to show respect. But he chose a place for it on the top of a natural hill. As a result, his pyramid appears bigger than that of his father. The Pyramid of Menkaure is in the distance. It was built later than both previous pyramids.

If you don’t plan to ride camels around the Egyptian pyramids, walk instead to the panoramic point in the desert. 

There are hundreds of smaller buildings in Giza, including the satellite pyramids of the wives of the pharaohs, the temple of Khufu, and a worker’s cemetery.

There is no list of open objects. If you see an open door – go in, admission is free. We visited the tomb of Quar, a priest of Maat.

See the Great Sphinx of Giza

The Great Sphinx is the oldest monumental sculpture on the planet. It was carved from a monolithic rock during the rule of Pharaoh Khafre (c. 2558-2532 BC).

The Sphinx is a sculptural portrait of a king with the body of a lion. He wears a nemesis scarf resembling a lion’s mane that symbolizes protection and royal power. He is the guardian of the world order and all the temples in the Nile Valley.

Entrance to the Sphinx is included with your general ticket. Do not let local guys take your picture at the Sphinx—they forcefully ask for a tip of $1 per photo. It’s better to ask someone from the other tourists to snap a shot for you.

Go inside the Egyptian Pyramids

The ticket to the Khufu pyramid costs twice as much as the entrance ticket to Giza. Is it worth it? Yes, if you want to climb into the most famous pyramid in the world. Although, pyramids of Khafre and Menkauer have similar interiors. Entrance tickets to these Egyptian pyramids are much cheaper.

However, if you are going to visit the pyramids in Dahshur, you can skip visiting the ones in Giza. The descent to the Red or Bent Pyramids is more impressive, and there are fewer tourists.

Ride a camel around the Pyramids of Giza

Some may say that camel riding in Giza is a touristy activity. On the other hand, it is a magical feeling when a distant picture from childhood turns into reality. You will walk with a camel caravan among the dunes of the Sahara, admiring the enormous Pyramids of Giza on the horizon. Without a doubt, it is one the best things I’ve done on my entire trip.

If you want to enjoy a camel ride in Giza, skip the offers at the entrance and head to the Khufu pyramid—they have healthier camels and clear prices. We paid 200 EGP per camel at the end of 2021.

Attention. The price does not include a tip for the guide who walks with you in the desert. The money goes to the camel owner for renting his animal. We tipped the guy 200 EGP; he seemed satisfied.

Solar Boat (sailed away)

The body of the deceased pharaoh was transported to Giza along the Nile in a boat. Then this boat was buried at the foot of his pyramid. Ancient Egyptians believed that it would help the pharaoh to reach the afterlife. Due to the dry climate, the wood remained undamaged for thousands of years. 

Solar boat recently moved from Giza Plateau to the Grand Egyptian Museum at Giza. This museum is scheduled to open in 2023. Follow the news on their website: https://grandegyptianmuseum.org/

Should I visit the Pyramids in Giza?

Absolutely. The pyramids at Giza are the most famous attractions in the world along with Machu Picchu, the Chichen Itza pyramid and The Great Wall of China.

The place is packed with tourists and traders, but once you get face-to-face with the Sphinx, you will forget about the whole world. Four hours flew by unnoticed.

Where to stay – in Giza or Cairo?

I recommend spending the night in Giza, in one of the hotels with a view of the pyramids. It is an unforgettable experience in itself. Surprisingly, even on the first line, you can easily find an affordable hotel. You can enjoy breakfast on the roof terrace overlooking Sphinx at dawn – can you imagine a more romantic morning?

For example, Capo Pyramid, Moonlight Pyramids View, and Asma Pyramids View all cost less than $16 per night, while City Pyramids Inn or Mena Pyramids Inn is more comfortable at $30 per night for a room with a great view. You can also stay at Guardian Guest House or Marvel Stone Hotel for $50 per night. They offer fantastic views of the Egyptian pyramids from your window.

How to Visit Saqqara Pyramids on Your Own

Saqqara is the oldest burial ground of Memphis, the first capital of Ancient Egypt.

The Step pyramid of Djoser was designed by the architect Imhotep. He placed six mastabas on top of each other, decreasing in size as they rose. This was the first Egyptian pyramid and the world’s first stone structure of this size. 

Deified over time, Imhotep became a patron of the arts and the son of Ptah, god of the underworld.

The second major attraction of Saqqara is the Pyramid of Unas. Although it looks like a stone pile on the outside, you can find the treasure inside — the Pyramid Texts, the first writings on the walls of a royal tomb in Egypt.

How to get to the pyramids at Saqqara

I recommend you visit the Egyptian pyramids in Saqqara and Dahshur in one day. They are located 40 km from Cairo. There are no direct buses to the pyramids. Taking a taxi or Uber can be inconvenient, as it is hard to find a ride back. The best option is to get a private car with a driver for $20-30. Your hotel can provide you with a phone number of a trustworthy driver.

You can book a tour online on the Viator website (always read the reviews before paying!). There are many tours that combine Giza and Saqqara pyramids, but I won’t recommend them unless you are really short on time. Both complexes are huge, and it is better to enjoy one at the time.

Opening hours of the Saqqara complex

  • Open air museum at Saqqara is open daily from 8:00 to 17:00.
  • The ticket office closes at 16:00.
  • Expect to spend at least 5-6 hours at Saqqara.

How much does it cost to visit the pyramids in Saqqara?

  • Saqqara Necropolis and Imhotep Museum: 180 EGP
  • Noble Tombs + New Kingdom Tombs: 140 EGP
  • Serapeum: 150 EGP
  • Mereruk Tomb: 80 EGP
  • South Tomb in Djoser Complex: 100 EGP
  • Pyramid of Djoser: 100 EGP
  • General ticket: 440 EGP (does not include the Pyramid of Djoser, but includes the Tomb of Meru)
  • Camera photography inside the tombs: 300 EGP (no discount for students)

Students get a 50% discount on all tickets.

Things not to miss in Saqqara Pyramid Complex

  1. Go to the oldest Egyptian pyramid, the Pyramid of Djoser. A simple, straight corridor leads to the empty tomb. If you have already visited other pyramids, you can skip this one.
  2. See the earliest Egyptian texts in the Pyramid of Unas.
  3. Visit the Serapeum, one of the main treasures at Saqqara. It is a burial place of sacred bulls, who were thought to be incarnations of the Egyptian god Ptah. Visitors often overlook this place.
  4. The Imhotep Museum is closed for renovation (as of December 2022).

Should I visit the Pyramids in Saqqara?

Saqqara is one of the major pyramid complexes in Egypt. It is worth spending a few hours exploring its sights. Many people prefer Saqqara over crowded Giza.

Where to stay in Saqqara

There is no need to spend the night in Saqqara—this attraction is easily visited one day from Cairo. However, if you arrive in Saqqara by car and intend to continue your journey deep into the desert, then why not stay there for the night? Hotels in Saqqara offer a view of the Egyptian pyramids no worse than in the popular Giza. I recommend staying in Sakkara Inn or Eye of Horus, and if you have a little more money to splurge, Ark Busir will be a good option.

How to Visit Pyramids in Dahshur

Dahshur is home to the Red and Bent pyramids, built under Pharaoh Sneferu in the 26th century BC. The workers “trained” on them before constructing the legendary pyramid of Cheops.

The base of the Bent Pyramid has a 54-degree slope, but at the top, it narrows to 43 degrees. According to one theory, it threatened to collapse, so the builders decided to change the angle. Another theory claims that Pharaoh Sneferu was dying while the pyramid was under construction, so the workers rushed to finish it before he died.

The Red Pyramid is the third tallest Egyptian pyramid. It was originally covered with white limestone. However, Turkish sultans removed the cover in the Middle Ages to decorate buildings in Cairo. It is one of the world’s first successful attempts at a symmetrical pyramid, although its walls slope too low. As a result, it turned out to be a little flattened.

Black Pyramid was built from mud bricks for Pharaoh Amenemhat III and collapsed with time. It can only be admired from the distance.

How to get to the pyramids in Dahshur

Usually, people visit the pyramids of Saqqara and Dahshur as part of a day trip. It is easiest to hire a driver for a day for $20-30. Finding a taxi from Saqqara to Dahshur is difficult because there are few cars. Cell phone reception is poor, so you can not rely on Uber. Also, keep in mind that you will rush to Dahshur before the ticket office closes. 

Opening hours of the Dahshur complex

  • Daily from 8:00 to 17:00
  • Ticket office closes at 16:00.
  • You will need 1.5 – 2 hours to visit this attraction.

How much does it cost to visit the pyramids in Dahshur?

  • The entrance ticket costs 60 EGP and 30 EGP for a student.

The ticket price includes access to all attractions of the complex. Many doors will be closed, but the guards should open them for you free of charge.

Should I visit the pyramids in Dahshur?

If you are up for an exciting, challenging adventure, I recommend visiting one of the inner tombs of the pyramids in Dahshur. They are quite similar. A narrow and almost sheer shaft leads to this tomb, which you will access via a wooden staircase. You will bend over, crawl on your knees, and touch walls with your elbows. Even though the chamber’s interior is not preserved, exploring these pyramids is fun.

The Dahshur area is a military zone, so tourists can only visit the Bent and Red Pyramids. All other temples and tombs are not available for visiting.

Where to stay in Dahshur

There are no hotels in Dahshur. The nearest hotels are in Saqqara and Giza.

How to Visit the Pyramid at Meidum

The Pyramid of Meidum is not as well-known as other pyramids in Egypt. It belonged to King Huni during the 3rd dynasty and originally had eight steps. Later, Sneferu—the son of Huni—tried to turn his father’s tomb into a pyramid. He laid the space between these steps with stones. The following dynasties used blocks from Meidum for their pyramids, so it has come down to us in a very damaged form.

How to get to the pyramid at Meidum

Meidum is located about 60 miles south of Cairo, near Fayoum oasis. There is no public transportation that reaches this site. Visitors must either hire a private driver or take a guided tour.

Most people visit Meidum along with the Middle Kingdom pyramids of El Lahun and Khawar. 

Tour to Saqqara does not include Meidum, since this pyramid is far away.

Opening hours of the pyramid in Meidum

  • Daily 8:00 – 16:00

How much does it cost to visit the pyramid at Meidum?

  • 60 EGP for adults and 30 EGP for students

Should You Visit the Pyramid at Meidum?

The Pyramid at Meidum is a little-visited attraction in Egypt. Outwardly, it looks more like a fortress in the middle of the desert than an Egyptian pyramid. If you are planning to visit Egypt for the first time, I suggest you visit Saqqara and Giza. If your travel itinerary includes the Faiyum oasis area, make sure you stop at Meidum.

Where to stay near Meidum

To stay near the Meidum Pyramid, tourists can choose between several hotels and campsites at Faiyum Oasis. The nearest hotel is La Viena Health Resort (about $70 per night). Some tourists prefer to stay in Beni Suef on the banks of the Nile. It is a good starting point for exploring the Faiyum oasis and its lost pyramids.

How to Visit the Pyramids in Abusir 

The Abusir necropolis served the fifth dynasty of Egyptian monarchs, including King Sahure and Pepi II. In 1979, UNESCO added the site to its World Heritage List. 

The area is officially closed to the public, but if you ask the guards nicely, you might be able to visit. Tourists get there rarely, so most likely you will be completely alone at the pyramids. You can even crawl through the web-covered passage to the burial chamber inside Sahure’s pyramid if you are allowed to do so by guards.

How to get to the pyramids in Abusir

To get to the village of Shabramant, you can take a taxi or minibus from the Marioteya Canal on Pyramid Avenue in Giza. From there it is easy to walk to the site. From Saqqara, take a taxi or hire a camel at a restaurant near the pyramids. Abusir can also be reached from there on foot in 1.5 – 2 hours (distance 6 km)

Opening hours of the Abusir complex

The necropolis in Abusir is officially closed to the public, but the tip — baksheesh — in Egypt opens many doors. Some agencies take tours there on quad bikes and horses.

How much does it cost to visit the pyramids in Abusir?

There are no official tickets. You will have to leave a tip – baksheesh – to the guards.

Should I visit the Egyptian pyramids in Abusir?

You could visit Abusir as a bonus for the trip to Saqqara and Dahshur. But if you can’t get there, don’t worry; there is plenty more to see in Egypt.

Where to stay in Abusir

It is better to stop at Giza or Saqqara. There is one hotel in the village of Shabramant, owned by a couple of artists from the Dominican Republic. The room costs $50 per night.

Елена
Елена
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