I update my Facebook page much more regularly and have now included a feed from there (via Twitter) at the top of the right hand column so if you are not on FB you can see, and also you can follow via Twitter if you prefer (follow me button below the feed).

Newest Post

Questions and Answers Page


Scroll to the BOTTOM of the RIGHT HAND SIDE BAR to get to the LABELS to help you find posts.

Visit the RIGHT HAND SIDE BAR for the following menu items which posts are grouped into (not entirely up to date!)

About Me

Women of Egypt Project (add to my database)
Contact Me
The Weather in Cairo
Cairo Prayer Times
Visitors to this page world map


Practicalities of Life
Personal Crisis Links
Public Transport in Cairo
General Musings
Places Visited
Bringing Pets to Cairo
Women in Egypt


Lifestyle Links (including online church etc)
Egyptian News
Useful Links
Things To Do On Blog
Other Blogs

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Coming to live in Cairo for a year - Summary

Having just made this huge post on another place in answer to someone's questions, I have copied it over here!

The original question related to some of the practicalities of actually being here for a year including the cost of living. Please note I have excluded accommodation discussions because my situation is a little different. The best advice is usually to get here and then look, not try to fix up from abroad.

What visa can I get?

The only visa you can get yourself in your own right - without being married to an Egyptian or without having a job with work permit - is 'touristic'. If you come into the country and get the usual 30 day effort at the Airport, then before 30 days is up, make your way to one of the places you can get a touristic visa - there may be one nearer where you end up living than Mogamma. You can ask for a one year visa but don't be surprised if they offer you a 3 month or 6 month instead.

What if I want to be able to leave Egypt and come back?

If you plan on leaving the country and coming back you MUST get a reentry visa before leaving Egypt otherwise your residency visa is cancelled when you leave. As far as I know, the only place you can get a reentry visa is Mogamma.

Can I get a work visa?

There is no such thing as a work visa. To work legally you need to get a job from an employer who offers a work permit. Or get married to an Egyptian, get the 5 year permanent residency, then have him go to Mogamma with you and sign papers saying that he assumes full responsibility for your work.

The position of 'freelancers' who are not confined to one employer is vague to say the least.

While many people are working here illegally, that choice is between you and your Maker! Just imagine if they had the equivalent of the Daily Mail here [Wink]

What about tax (in Egypt)

If you have a job with a work permit, then the employer should be paying your taxes. As we all know, there are companies which deduct the tax from your pay but don't in fact hand it over to the authorities.

What do I do about healthcare?

Healthcare - again, some companies will include it as part of a package, otherwise you're on your own. Having said that, paying private here is probably cheaper than getting health insurance if you are relatively fit. My view is, keep at least one of your UK credit cards with a big balance clear (well use it once a year so they don't close it!) just in case. A friend's husband had quadruple heart bypass and it cost something like 130000LE I seem to recall, just to give you some idea of an upper cap.

I did look into private health insurance and it would have cost about £40 per month when I looked (holiday insurance won't do btw!) - about 20% of my typical monthly expenditure. Total health care costs for me todate 'paying as I go' (including seeing cardiologist, neurologist, ECG, electrocardiogram, blood tests) in over 2 years = £35.

A trustworthy Egyptian friend has access to an account with some money set aside in it in case I ever get in a situation where medical care needs to be paid for quickly and when I am not in a position to be able to get to the ATM myself. I carry the friend's contact details on me just in case. (I think it's best if the emergency contact is an Arabic speaker!)

UK Tax

The UK has a double-taxation treaty with Egypt so if you are working here, money earned here is not subject to tax in the UK and vice versa (caveat - I am not a financial adviser, this is not advice and legislation may change at any time). (This isn't, say, the case for Canadians who have to pay tax on world wide income even if it is taxed in the other country!!!!!) Depending on your financial position back in the UK (eg are you going to be receiving rental income, savings income?) - you may still have to complete an annual tax return and there is a nice fat fine for not doing so. Call the Inland Revenue begin_of_the_skype_highlighting     end_of_the_skype_highlighting and ask to register as 'non resident for tax purposes'. They are very helpful!

UK National Insurance

You have to pay 30 full years (under current legislation and if you are under, say, 50) to get full pension. You can make voluntary contributions if you want to keep up your record and if there's no danger of you going back - but you have up to 6 years after the relevant year to make voluntary contributions.

It's worth getting a statement from them as to how many years your record is - I was amazed to find I had 29 years in and so it's not worth me paying voluntary until much nearer the retirement age unless the rules change! (Apparently all the time I was at Uni, contributions were made for me by the State!)

(And btw even if you have got 30 years in - if you continue to work, you continue to have to pay NI so keep your eyes on the legislation in case the 30 years changes again and decide whether it's worth you paying voluntary).

Opening a Bank Account in Egypt

You can open one easily with a tourist visa + passport + credit card or similar from the UK. Unless or until you get a job, open a savings account. There are some very nice juicy interest rates here and most transactions are still done in cash.

You can open in more than one currency so, say, you could move sterling over here into a sterling account and just have it sit there and change it up when you need it or when exchange rates are good.

Your choice whether to go for a European-name bank (eg HSBC or Barclays or Credit Agricole or BNP Paribas or whatever) or an Egyptian bank eg Arab African or United Bank or whatever. Note that there are many banks with slightly different names!

How much does it cost to live here?

Not including accommodation costs: my monthly Opex - living expenses are about 2000LE averaged over the year: (including electricity (100), broadband (150), phone (25), gardener (130), 300LE for catfood, transport - mainly buses, microbuses and metro - I use taxis rarely - food, cleaning materials,toiletries, going out about once a week, mobile top ups etc).

You will find that I am probably at the lower end for an expat.

My vices are drinking gallons of milk (costs me around 200LE per month [Eek!] ) and my inability to go to Hyper1 without spending 40LE in Cilantros on iced white chocolate drinks. Hence I avoid going to Hyper more than once every 6 weeks. It is physically impossible for me to go in Cilantros and just have a coffee for 10). My name is OBC and I am a milkoholic.

The other thing you may want to factor in is a gym or similar. I joined a club way back when I first started coming here - before I moved here - offering a quick prayer - because the cost now would be way out of my reach. I haven't included the 'write down' of that in my monthly expenditures because it came out of 'capital'. (Sorry - too many years of corporate budget models!)

Full gory details of my 2008 costs are here: Gory Details

Finding somewhere to live

Here's a useful link for flats (apartments) and sharing. Obviously, keep your wits about you and don't do anything here you wouldn't do in your home country.

Expatriates.Com - Cairo Housing Classifieds


Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Cairo Metro - a few updates

I haven't posted for a while as I was away for a month and then since I got back, have been busy working on a project (which I hope to reveal soon!)

Anyway, yesterday I was out and about on the metro and thought I should highlight a few changes which have happened over the past 3-4 months for those of you who may not have used the metro for a while.

Women's Cars (carriages)

First thing to remind everyone is that for around 2 years now, the women's cars have been the two in the middle of the train, not the front one.  Some guide books and internet sites which have not been amended give the outdated information.  Also, as a reminder, women can travel in ANY car.  Men are not supposed to ever go in the ladies' car labelled in red, but can use the ladies' car labelled in green in the evenings.  Sometimes men accidentally get on them, and upon realising their error, look all embarrassed until they can get off and move down to the mixed cars.  I have witnessed police 'raids' a couple of times where they turf all the men out of the red-labelled ladies' car.

Since I returned from my trip, signs have been appearing on platforms showing the position of the ladies' cars more prominently.  Some stations have had them before, but written in Arabic and not obvious. Recently, quite a few stations have now got clear blue signs saying 'Ladies' on them - this is not indicating the location of toilets, but where you should stand for the Ladies' cars.

Getting on and off

Generally speaking, getting on and off the train is a bit of a scrum, especially in rush hour or at the most popular stations (Mubarak and Sadat - the two interchange stations).  However, for the past 3-4 months, posters have been going up in metro stations indicating that you should get ON to the train using the middle two sets of doors on each carriage and OFF the train using the end two sets of doors on each carriage.

So far, carriages on the Shubra/Giza line have been labelled accordingly with very clear signs, both inside and outside the carriages indicating whether you should be using that door to get on and off.  I first noticed these about 3 months ago, and I was amazed to note that where the carriages are labelled accordingly most people actual FOLLOW this!  Of course, occasionally if the carriage is very busy and there is no time to push down to the exit doors, people will still get off in the middle, and also if you are rushing for the train on at the ends. But, all in all, people are making an effort.  So far, all the labelling appears to be on the Shubra/Giza line only.  I haven't yet seen any El Marg/Helwan trains labelled up (though the posters are at stations for both lines so this will clearly be brought in eventually).

Travelling in the heat

Most of the trains I have travelled on - both lines - are air conditioned (or blowing cool air into the carriages through vents).  However, one day last week I was on an old Helwan metro and was amused to discover a very Egyptian solution to a problem which has baffled London Underground engineers for years - how to cool the carriages in hot weather ....

Yes, that is a fan stuck up there.  There were a number of them located around the carriage supplying a nice cool breeze.

So actually, using the metro in the hot weather is not as bad as it might be.

Cairo Metro

Metro stations can be found above ground by spotting the big red M on a blue background signs.

There are two lines (with a third under construction).  Shubra-Giza and El Marg - Helwan.  There are just two interchange stations at present, Mubarak - which is right under Ramses Main Train Station, and Sadat - which is the station at Tahrir - for Mogamma, Egyptian Museum, the AUC Downtown campus, and a number of other important places.

One thing to notice is that the names of stations given in many of the tourist maps and guides are NOT CORRECT.  Whether this is because stations may have been renamed at some point in the past 6-7 years or what, I don't know.  Also, new stations at the ends appear occasionally, for example, on the El Marg line, there's a new station appeared north of El Marg which isn't on the maps - it's called something like New El Marg.

Station names are all given in English letters as well as in Arabic so don't worry about that!

The stations are surprisingly clean. Trains are frequent and I haven't personally experienced a breakdown, though apparently there was one 2 years ago which made everyone 20 minutes late one day and was the subject of much comment and threats never to travel by metro again! (One 20 minute delay in how many moons?  20 minute delays were the daily norm on the jolly old Victoria LIne back when I were a working lass in London not so long ago!)

Time from El Giza to Sadat is around 15 minutes and El Giza to Mubarak, around 20 minutes. During the day, from El Giza up to Sadat and down to El Maadi is maybe 30-40 minutes.

The fare is 1LE for a single journey anywhere on the network - from one end to the other - crossing lines, or from one station to the next.  If you are going to be doing a lot of travel - eg study or work, then season tickets are available, though I think you have to be making 10 journeys a week for it to work out as worth it.

To buy a ticket, go down into the metro station and you will see ticket booths. You may be lucky and there may be no queue. Otherwise, you will have to push and shove your way to the front and deposit 1LE per ticket under the glass hatch and grab a ticket back again. If you are new to this, I suggest you try to pay the exact fare and not have to wait for change as people will just be pushing over you. Do NOT try and be polite and stand in a queue, otherwise you will be waiting for ever. Not a time to be shy.

To get access to the platforms, you have to push your ticket into a machine - like the ones on London Underground and on Paris Metro (I think - haven't travelled there for many years) - and it pops up on the other side - don't forget to take it and keep it! - and you can push through the turnstile bar.  To get back out of the station, you have to reenter your ticket - and this time the machine will keep it - so make sure you keep hold of your ticket while travelling!

At all the stations I have been to, there are attendants around to help you on the rare occasions tickets get stuck in the system or if the turnstile bar doesn't open for you.  I've seen a few people jumping over the turnstiles, but very few compared to what I used to see all the time in London.

They don't have Oyster cards yet though ;)

I was very surprised when I asked the question on a forum about 3 years ago how few of the foreigners on that forum had ridden the metro, which is quite a pleasure most of the time. One of my friends did get spat at by a hawker on the metro when she didn't buy anything from him (he was walking through the ladies' car) but that is a pretty rare event.

Cairo Metro official link
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...