Giza (الجيزة al-Gīza) is a Governorate to the west of the Egyptian capital Cairo - a city in its own right, but for a long time now absorbed as part of the heavily-populated and sprawling Cairo metropolis. Giza is best known as that part of Cairo closest to the world-famous Pyramids of Giza, situated high on the desert plateau immediately to the west of the urban district, itself located in the valley and centred around the Pyramids Road, linking central Cairo with the ancient wonders. One of the premier attractions of Egypt, if not the world, the Pyramids of Giza represent the archetypal pyramid structures of ancient Egyptian civilisation and - together with the Sphinx at the base of the Giza plateau - are the iconic image of Egypt.
The city / district of Giza is important as a secondary - and increasingly popular - option for travellers for food, accommodation and entertainment beyond central Cairo. Most of these services are concentrated along the local transport artery, El Haram (the Pyramids) Street.
Under the former regime, the desert plateau of Giza, adjacent to the Pyramids, was the projected site of the proposed Grand Museum of Egypt  (the competition-winning design conceived by an Irish architectural team led by Shih-Fu Peng), a long-awaited replacement for the long-standing, out-dated and under-sized Egyptian National Museum in Midan Tahrir. Completion was projected for 2013, but is now unknown as the project has been put on hold indefinitely.
Not much more than a century ago, El Haram Street existed as little more than a dusty carriage track amongst irrigated fields, leading out from the city to the then small peasant village of Giza adjoining the pyramid field. Given the rapidly increasing population of Cairo in the 20th century, and the obvious tourist opportunities that the Pyramids provided, Giza has now been transformed beyond recognition to those pioneering Western travellers of the late 19th century. Major arterial roads, apartment blocks, retail strips, restaurants and night clubs now replace what used to be palm-fringed farmers' fields, and the city has now spread to the very limit of the desert plateau. Such rapid development, of course, has not been without its costs - social, economic and aesthetic - and the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities is now making some efforts to control and channel future (re)development in areas closest to the Pyramids themselves.
The three main Pyramids of Giza are the focal point of the Giza necropolis, or cemetery, that served the elite of the Old Kingdom capital of Egypt at nearby Memphis during the mid to late 4th Dynasty (late 3rd millennium BCE). Three pharaohs were buried here in turn - Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure - their astounding burials attracted a number of surrounding, associated, burials of their queens, family members and nobility.
The Pyramids may be nearer than you think, so it's possible to take a taxi to the Pyramids from any part of Cairo at a reasonable cost, and it's certainly the fastest and easiest method. There are several options for this, private car or unmetered & metered taxis:
Use the Careem application (Middle East version of Uber) for Android or iPhones to order a car and professional driver. With real-time GPS tracking and credit card payment options for fixed rates, it is the cleanest, safest, haggle-free way to get around in Cairo. This option is especially recommended for women solo travellers.
Older black & white taxis "rarely to find now" - meters are not used, so you are forced to haggle. A one way ride from Tahrir square should coust you about 40-50.00 LE. Taxi drivers will nearly always want to take you to see their "brother's" perfume shop, or their "father's" carpet warehouse on the way - if you don't want to waste time doing this, and being put on the spot to make a purchase - just make it very clear that you only want to see the monuments.
Solid-yellow"rarely to find" and solid-white taxis "most common" - These are metered and air conditioned sometimes. You might save yourself the hassle with the black and white taxis mentioned above, and at almost the same cost, if not less depending on your skill. On the other hand there are stories of drivers of white and yellow cabs fixing the meters, which would hardly be surprising given that it happens all over the world. "Not recommended for female solo travellers due to risk of harassment"
By Public Transport
CTA bus From central Cairo, the optimum way to get to the Giza Pyramids using public mass transit options is by bus routes 355 or 357 - a large white, air-conditioned coach with CTA (Cairo Transport Authority) on the side. Travelling every 20 minutes from the airport and Heliopolis, the bus stops (or doesn't - you may have to flag it down!) at the Abdel Menem Riyad Station in Midan Tahrir, next to the Egyptian Museum, before continuing out to Giza and the Pyramids. Tickets cost a mere LE 2.00
Microbuses Even cheaper and more interesting is taking the ordinary buses 900 or 997, for 1.00 LE, from the big central bus station under the overpasses "please consider that there's no timetable for it maybe you waiting 1 minute or 1 hour", close to the museum. There are three lanes, and they leave from one closest to the rundown controllers' booth (as of late July 2010). Be careful when about getting down "near to the pyramids", you may encounter tour operators attempting to circumvent you to their camels and onward to the pyramids for a fee, but if you are not interested simply avoid chatting or looking at anyone and just go directly to the pyramids hill in front of you. For 997, the correct spot is along a long avenue, after you're spotted the Pyramids and the bus has done a U-turn and then turned left — get off when you a see a blue sign for the Light and Sound show. "Not recommended for female solo travellers due to risk of harassment"
Underground/Subway/Metro Metro Line 2 now runs from Cairo to Giza, although it doesn't go all the way to the Pyramids. Get off at "Giza" station (not the terminus!). When you go out from the ticket machine you'll see the ticket window, take the left door then go down the stairs. You will find the pyramids road tunnel in front of you. A shared taxi can be hired, the old VolksWagen cars. A taxi to the pyramids wouldn't be so expensive, and if you take the white taxis they should have a meter. If the driver doesn't run the meter just open the door and pretend like you are getting off and he should run it (he should turn it on before the car moves). The cost is about 15LE for Egyptions, though they will ask you for 50LE at least, so if you give the driver 20LE=3$ will be good for the driver. If you're in a group of 3 or 4 persons give him 5$ and he will be full of happiness. The Pyramids are 8 km, 15-20 min trip due southwest on the long Al-Haram Avenue that the train crosses over just before stopping at the station. That's effectively a 'right turn' from the line you've just been taking. Any number of minibuses and buses go to the site (known as 'al-haram' in Arabic'); they include the green public 900 and 997 buses, but I wouldn't recommend taking public transportation because you can get ripped off and recently Egypt hasn't been the safest place.
There is a restroom located to the right of the ticket booth just before you enter the pyramids. Another restroom is located near the gift shop in the Solar Barque Museum, but you may have to ask the shopkeeper to open it for you if the attendant is away. A "W.C." sign located outside of the Sphinx exit will direct you to the right. At least LE 1.00-3.00 is expected for services (toilet paper, cleaning, soap and paper towels). Be aware that your tip is the attendants sole means of income.
See Cairo/Giza with children article for suggestions on visiting Giza with children.
All the worthwhile attractions within the Giza area are concentrated on the Giza Plateau at the end of Pyramids Road. Some people are shocked to travel down a street in Giza and see the tip of a Pyramid rise up over the golden arches of a McDonalds with a sign in Arabic - your idea of pyramids rising up out of an empty desert might not match the reality from this approach. Consider riding in from the southern desert instead if you want a more romantic approach.
There are two ticket offices: the first is near the main entrance, the second - near Sphinx, in the eastern part of the Plateau. If you use the second one in the morning you will avoid crowds of tourists and will have a possibility to explore the Sphinx area all alone in silence. Entry to the site is LE 80, and to enter the pyramids themselves costs another LE 60 for the Pyramid of Menkaure and LE 200 for the Great Pyramid of Khufu. Student IDs will come in handy, giving you a 50% discount. The interior of the pyramids is hot, humid and somewhat claustrophobic, with the passages steep, dusty and hard to move through, and those with any heart or lung issues or a physical handicap will want to steer clear. There are only 2 pyramids open to the public at any given time, while the third pyramid is being restored and they rotate every 2 years. For those willing to brave these conditions, however, it may be an interesting and educational experience. Personally witnessing the interior walls and passage ways of the pyramids gives one an even deeper appreciation of the tremendous achievement accomplished by the builders of these ancient structures. No cameras are allowed into the pyramids. For those on a tight budget, visiting the Pyramid of Menkaure is a very similar experience to visiting the larger pyramid and cheaper.
Not all the Pyramids are equally accessible for interior exploration, the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities close them to the public at least one at a time for conservation and renovation measures.
Climbing the Pyramids, although once a popular tourist activity, is both now officially forbidden and extremely dangerous - several tourists have met an untimely death attempting it. Some Pyramid guards have been known to turn a blind eye in return for baksheesh (tip/bribe) in less frequented areas, but this practice has a very negative impact on the industry as well as the monuments themselves is now a punishable offence.
It's wise to arrive at the Pyramids at the moment they open, as tour bus activity and (in the summer) the heat quickly make the attractions overrun and difficult to fully enjoy.Since the post-revolution downturn in tourism, prices are lower and crowds are generally much less than in the past, but check for local holidays as they will be busy then.
Do not give up your ticket to anyone outside of the gate checkpoints. You will need to show it to enter through the metal detectors at the entrance to the Pyramids area, as well as the Sphinx area, the solar boat museum and to enter one of the pyramids if you choose to pay extra for the latter two. There are many folks who will walk up and claim to work for the government and ask to see the ticket/grab it, then take it and try to start a tour for you. Don't think that just because they are doing this in front of the police they are legit. They want to explain things at a fast pace, and then demand a tip. Do not give up your ticket and do not be afraid to stand up for yourself and refuse tip. If you want a tour, better ones can be booked in advance and will offer more accurate details of what you are seeing. (A favourite place for them to lurk is by the tombs outside the Cheops Pyramid.)
There are hawkers of souvenirs and drinks, they can be very reasonable, so if you are interested, don't be afraid of bargaining. You can often get better deals here than anywhere else due to the recent devastating decline in tourism. Be aware that the majority of Egyptians, educated or not, professional or not, make about $150USD per month and have a hard time living on that, especially with a family as the cost of living has sky-rocketed, and the hawkers are currently making much less than that. The majority will be willing to negotiate a fair price for you, and some will take absolutely anything in their despair.
Before you get on the back of a camel or horse have a look around how they treat their animals (see below for more tips on this). You should change your mind if they are ill treated. It's recommended to arrange a ride through your hotel or with a trusted stable away from the entrance to the pyramids. There are many that can also offer a more peaceful experience by riding into the desert in view of the pyramids without having to pay the entrance fee or dealing with the hawkers, aggressive shop sellers and opportunists. But if you do wish an up and close view then the stables to the south of the entrance also have access to an entrance that does not involve riding through the streets in traffic which is a lot safer for you and the animals.
It is customary to be offered some hospitality, like a cup of tea or glass of hibiscus. It is polite to accept, expected to be offered free and a good opportunity to form an opinion of the tour operators and negotiate a price. If you do decide to take up an offer of a horse, camel, quad or cart ride, make sure you discuss the price and time first. Confirm that the price negotiated covers all members of your group if others are with you. Generally, 100 LE per person for 1-hour is usual. Watch your own time and when you have been riding for half of the time you have agreed on, tell your guide it is time to return.
At the end of the trip, get off the horse/camel, hand the man the agreed money and walk away, there is no need to stay for anymore tea as you have already accepted their hospitality, so it will not be culturally offensive. They may try to come up with all sorts of reasons why you should pay more, but if you kept to the time, and the ride went as agreed then do not accept this. They may also offer to show you a 'museum' or 'exclusive' Egyptian perfumes or something, and if you are interested, fine but be aware that it will drag out the time and whatever special price they originally offer you will be about 1/3 of what they will actually accept - so make sure to bargain.
If you are happy with the experience and you wish to give a tip, do it because you choose to. There are always visible or invisible (ie: grooms) 'assistants' who are often poorly paid and poorly treated, so giving one tip to the person you negotiated with and asking them to share the tip among the staff responsible for the success of your experience is appreciated. But don't feel pressured into giving extra if you do not wish to. It is okay to just walk away. They won't follow you.
A number of Western fast food options exist immediately opposite the main ticket gates to the Pyramid enclosure, Pizza Hut and KFC included, so you can munch on a Tower burger and sip on a coke in air-conditioned comfort whilst gazing on the 4,000+ year-old Sphinx across the road! Many may prefer a more 'authentic' experience at on of the following:
Be aware that Egypt is a majority muslim country, and therefore alcohol is not as available as in Western countries. Alcohol is generally only served at foreign chain hotels, bars, nightclubs or restaurants frequented by coptic Christians or tourists.
General accommodation options are somewhat limited within the Giza district - most travellers tend to stay in and around central Cairo itself and travel out to the Pyramids for at least part of the day. For people determined to stay in close vicinity and / or for whom cost is no issue, there are a number of very comfortable options:
The Giza Pyramids, being the main tourist attraction in Egypt, attract millions of tourists each year. They likewise attract a large number of the most determined opportunists for miles around. Report any instances of harassment by camel drivers and tourist touts to the black-uniformed (or white-uniformed in the summer) Tourist Police immediately, and be prepared for all manner of potential scams, possibly including "advice" from official-looking individuals that an attraction is closed or has an alternate entrance. Also be aware that any "favour" of any kind (offering directions, being shown something, etc) might be done in expectation of a tip, so be cautious when accepting unsolicited help (although don't let your holiday be spoiled by overzealous caution, you also might encounter genuine help). Also note that some Tourist Police might routinely offer to help you in the expectation of a tip. Many known scammers will operate right in front of the tourist police, who are either in on it or don't bother to intervene.
How to Avoid a Scene
Egyptians are well aware that many tourists feel it is impolite not to return a smile or a greeting. They are also well aware of how uncomfortable tourists are with confrontation or undue attention. Therefore they will take advantage of good manners and etiquette in order to pressure tourists into parting with some cash. They also prefer foreign cash.
Safety Tips for Animals & Humans
Please do not perpetuate the poor treatment of working animals by accepting rides on ill-treated animals. Long-standing and reputable tour companies treat their animals well. Prior to 2011 there was such a tourism boom that many thought to join the industry to make quick money and do not have the care or knowledge required to work with animals. Riding an ill-treated animal is also unsafe