Crossing the African continent is a dream many travelers have. The Cape Town to Cairo route has been a British Imperial idea and, with a bit more work it will become a reality. There isn’t – yet – a direct route connecting Cape Town to Cairo but it’s possible to get between these two points in Africa overland. Depending on your budget and which type of traveler you are, it may take months to complete the journey across the continent.
The Cape Town to Cairo journey has been done by bicycle, car, motorbike, by a combination of trains, buses and flights. It’s up to the traveler to decide which way to take, but in any case it’s the beginning of a logistical nightmare to figure out the route overland.
Flights from Cape Town (airport code: CPT) to Cairo
Cairo International Airport (CAI) is the busiest airport in Egypt and the main hub for Egypt Air. Located 15 km from the city center, it handles flights from all over the world.
Cape Town International Airport (CPT) is the second busiest airport in South Africa and the third busiest on the continent.
Unfortunately, there are no direct flights between the two cities. It is possible to fly via Johannesburg, the busiest airport in Africa. The total travel time (including waiting for the connection in Johannesburg) is 13 h 25 min. Flights start at US$612 one way, on South African Airlines.
Traveling overland from Cape Town to Cairo
First of all, if you run a search on any website which shows driving routes, you’ll come empty handed. So, let the logistical nightmare begin!
By bus, train and ferry
The British also wanted to complete a rail link between Cape Town and Cairo, but just like the road link, they haven’t managed to do so. Most of the rail link is operating, but there are uncompleted parts in Sudan and Uganda. It’s best to plan most of the journey by bus, then switch to the ferry when you cross to Aswan and take the train for the last leg of the trip.
Step 1: Cape Town to Nairobi by bus
By bus, you’ll be making several stops along the route: Cape Town – Johannesburg – Gaborone – Lusaka – Dar es Salaam – Nairobi
Budget total (estimated): US$200
Total travel time: 3 days and 17 h
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Other possible route is via Windhoek.
>>read more about Getting from Cape Town to Windhoek
Step 2 : Nairobi to Wadi Halfa by bus
This part of the journey also requires several stops: Nairobi – Moyale – Addis Abeba – Gondar – Kartoum – Wadi Halfa
Step 3: Wadi Halfa to Aswan by ferry
The passenger ferry takes 18-24 hours (at the same time, the barge carrying the vehicles will also depart). The ticket price ranges from US$40 to US$80 depending on the type of seat or birth you choose. Ferries leave Wadi Halfa on Wednesdays and Aswan on Mondays.
Step 4: Aswan to Cairo by train
The train takes 12 hours and costs about US$60 for a sleeper. But even second class is comfortable. Make sure to book in advance. Alternatively, you can catch a boat along the Nile or a bus.
By car and ferry
Figuring out the itinerary if you want to drive from Cape Town to Cairo is not easy. First, you need to take into account all the paperwork needed (visas, papers for the car, vaccinations, etc). Then, you can start the research ; ideally, look up some itineraries people have done before and start from there.
One possible driving route is: Cape Town – Harare (Zimbabwe)– Lusaka (Zambia)– Nairobi (Kenya) – Wadi Halfa (on Lake Nasser) – ferry to Aswan (Egypt) – Cairo.
Cape Town to Zimbabwe : 2496 km ; 1 day 7 hours
Harare – Lusaka: 471 km ; 6 h 41 min
Lusaka – Nairobi: 2273 km ; 1 day 6 hours
Nairobi – Wadi Halfa: 4122 km ; 2 days 11 h
Wadi Halfa to Aswan by ferry: the passenger ferry takes 18-24 hours, while the barge which carries the vehicles takes 2-3 days to complete the journey. The ticket price ranges from US$40 to US$80 depending on the type of seat or birth you choose. If you travel with a vehicle, for a small sized car expect to pay 2012 LE. Ferries leave Wadi Halfa on Wednesdays and Aswan on Mondays.
Aswan – Cairo: 870 km ; 11h 38 min