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Is Egypt safe to visit? That’s probably the first question in your mind when you consider travel to Egypt. A country in the Middle East with years of inner turmoil – how could anybody feel safe in Egypt?
Egypt is a country that so many people dream of visiting from childhood, whether it was watching Brendan Fraser in The Mummy, or Indiana Jones beat Nazis, or just learning about The Great Pyramids of Giza in school, Egypt has an enticing mystique about it that lures travelers in.
If you’re considering booking a trip to the country, then wondering if Egypt is safe to visit is a great place to start. With tourism suffering tremendously due to Covid-19, the country could really use your tourism dollars.
I was also a bit hesitant about carrying out my dreams of traveling to Egypt, so I decided to book a group tour for the first part of my trip so that way I wouldn’t have to stress about logistics, and just see the country with other women. I did a group tour for the first 10 days of my trip, then the last 5 I was on my own but I did use a local travel agency to help me book accommodations (which I now know I don’t need to do again), my White Desert tour, and a food tour.
This gave me a sense of security for my first visit to Egypt, but I also got a taste for solo travel in Egypt.
Table of Contents
Is Egypt Safe To Visit?
Why is it considered unsafe to travel to Egypt?
Egypt is considered a level 3 country for threat of terrorism by many governments. In Canada, our government recommends us to exercise a high degree of caution when traveling Egypt.
This is because there is a threat of terrorism and security is unpredictable. It’s simply not safe to travel to certain areas, such as borders close to Sudan or Libya. There are ongoing military operations by the Egyptian Armed forces, and bandits are out in the desert. Egypt also tends to struggle with corruption in parts of the government. But this doesn’t mean the entire country isn’t safe.
I think it’s a good idea to think of your country and the cities there. I live in Vancouver, for example. While Vancouver is a popular tourist destination, many people I speak with who say they’ve visited Vancouver tell me how surprised they are by the homelessness and drugs, especially when they’ve come off of the cruise ships, went to go walking, and found themselves in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side, where there are large encampments with drugged out people, naked people, people suffering from mental health problems, and a wide variety of drugs available.
While this part of Vancouver isn’t a good idea to go visit as a tourist, this doesn’t mean the entire city of Vancouver isn’t safe, so we can’t generalize the city, just like we can’t generalize Egypt as an unsafe country. There are pros and cons to every place we visit.
Where is Egypt safe to visit?
The typical tourist trail is safe to visit in Egypt. Don’t forget, Egyptians rely on your tourism dollars, so they want to welcome you to the country so you spend your money.
I felt safe every location I went to, which includes: Cairo, Alexandria, The White Desert, Hurghada, Aswan, and Luxor.
There will always be petty crime and tourists will get ripped off, but thankfully crime in Egypt is low.
Where shouldn’t you go in Egypt?
Like most places, not everywhere is safe to go. The Egyptian Government recommends that you don’t go within 50 kilometers of the borders of Libya or Sudan. This is because bandits sometimes cross over into these areas, and while there are check points, the check points have even been attacked. There’s no need for you to go to these areas.
You should also avoid North Sinai and the Israel border, which is the most dangerous part of Egypt with repeated attacks on the Egyptian armed forces and civilians by Islamic extremists. You absolutely SHOULD NOT attempt to go to this area.
Other parts of Egypt that it is recommended people not travel to are the oases and deserts. “But wait Brooklyn, haven’t you been to the White Desert?”. If you’ve read this blog before than chances are you know that I went to and loved the White Desert. Here’s the thing, these places are beautiful and tourists want to go, so the Egyptian Government monitors it and the only way you should travel to those areas is with a guide and a permit. This is due to the threat of terrorism and armed groups smuggling. I personally felt very safe during my visit, but check local media before deciding if you’re hesitant.
South Sinai is another area that’s risky. The very popular town of Sharm El Sheik is safe to visit, as is Sharks Bay, but otherwise this area is under threat of attack. There is quite a lot of security here because Shark El Sheik is so popular with tourists, so you can go, but just be cautious.
Most locals in Egypt are delighted with the tourists they meet and are incredibly friendly, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t people who desperately need money and aren’t above scamming you.
The most common place for scams to happen are around major tourist sites, like the pyramids.
The biggest scams I was warned to look out for are from people who put an item in your hand and insist they are gifting it to you. Once you go to walk away they become angry and say you need to pay them a high amount for it. I would recommend that you never accept anything for free while in Egypt. To say no in Arabic all you have to say is “La”. More often than not they will insist, so keep saying “La la la la” and add in a “Shukran” to say thank you. They can be persistent, so stand your ground!
Another common scam is camel and taxi rides. Never get on a camel (also I don’t recommend riding camels in Egypt, I didn’t see camels, cows, or horses treated very well while there) or into a taxi without first negotiating the price. The biggest complaint I heard from other tourists has been how after they are riding the camel or at their final destination in a taxi, the vendor or driver will raise the price drastically. This is why I prefer Uber in Egypt. You have a digital trail, and they can’t try to overcharge you at the end of the ride.
Men can also be pretty insistent with women, and raise their voices when they want a higher tip or review. It’s frustrating the sexism, but you are in your right to enlist the help of others if need be, such as if you got dropped off at your hotel you can ask the workers for help. Most workers will get upset if they see someone hassling a tourist, so you can expect others to help you out if they notice.
Another scam is with jewelry. I did not attempt to buy gold, but I’ve heard horror stories of people who got majorly ripped off.
When I visited the Temple of Philae a vendor at a market stall tried to rip me off. He actually succeeded, but since I was traveling with Alyssa from My Life’s A Travel Movie and she hired the BEST Egyptologist, he yelled and had a new bangle dropped off for me at my hotel that evening.
I had found a beautiful crocodile bangle. I loved it and asked our Egyptologist what a fair price would be (this is another benefit to traveling with a guide, they can help you). The vendor tried to charge me 5 X the amount. I declined, and when the “manager” (let’s do quotations because I’m not positive if he was legit) saw I didn’t get anything he asked me why. I explained that I wasn’t paying so high, so he walked back with me to hassle with the vendor with me. We negotiated down a price, still twice as high, but I really wanted that bangle. The manager put the bangle on my wrist and took it off a few times, seemingly to wave it in the vendors face. When we finally agreed on a price, the manager put the bangle back on my wrist and I paid and went away.
On the boat taking us back to the docks, I noticed this bangle had a huge scratch down one side. Our Egyptologist yelled at the boat vendor, and made him call the original vendor who ripped me off. He gave the boat vendor back my bangle, and by the time I arrived at the hotel that evening I had a perfect new bangle waiting for me.
If it weren’t for our Egyptologist I would have been SOL.
At the end of the day that wasn’t a huge rip off and it could have been much worse if I had paid more for it, but this is just normal, so keep an eye on your wares that you purchase.
My personal experience visiting Egypt.
I traveled in Egypt for two full weeks. The first 9 days were on a group tour, and the last 5 on my own, but I used a local travel company to book my private hostel room, a food tour, and a White Desert tour.
I found Egyptian people to be overwhelmingly kind. I was welcomed everywhere I went with a “Welcome to Egypt” and a smile, and I never once felt unsafe.
The people of Egypt rely on tourism, and between Westerners hearing how unsafe the country can be and Covid, Egypt is suffering without the cash flow that foreigners bring in.
How to dress in Egypt.
Egypt is a conservative, Muslim country, so you need to respect the culture when traveling here. I wrote a packing guide for Egypt that will help you with concerns about how to dress while traveling. Over 90% of the population is Muslim, so you want to keep covered but not melt away in the heat.
Certain areas of Egypt are more relaxed than others. For example, in Cairo you need to dress more conservative and have your shoulders covered, have no cleavage showing, and don’t wear anything too short. In the resort town of Hurghada it’s common to see women in bikinis, because this is where tourists go to unwind, the workers here see it often enough it doesn’t outwardly bother them.
You never need to cover your head while traveling Egypt unless you are entering a mosque, however there were several times when I felt my scalp and neck burning, so I chose to cover my head with a scarf for sun protection.
Since Egypt gets very hot I would recommend wearing long loose clothing such as boho pants or long skirts, and kimonos or scarves to cover your shoulders.
How to stay safe in Egypt.
First things first, like in any place unfamiliar to you, don’t try to stand out. You’ll already be noticeable as a tourist, so don’t go out of your way to draw more attention to yourself. You need to exercise the same amount of caution in Egypt as you would any other new destination. Use common sense and you shouldn’t have a problem.
Keep your valuables out of sight, don’t be flashy with them.
Make copies of all of your travel documents.
Be careful with PDA, but especially so if you are a LGBTQIA2S member.
Use Uber in big cities instead of taxis. This is both so you don’t get overcharged at the end of your ride, but also so you have an electronic record of you’re whereabouts.
Dress respectful of the culture. Sexual harassment is common for women in Egypt, so if you dress modestly you’ll hopefully receive less attention.
Don’t travel alone at night in empty areas. Everywhere I went at night was still bustling with people around, and it felt very safe, but I wouldn’t have gone down any empty alleyways.
Don’t pet the dogs. They are so cute but more often than not, the dogs seemed to be mangy and covered in bugs. It was heartbreaking. The cats were really well taken care of, which was nice, but I felt terrible for the stray dogs.
If you’re a woman you should take the women only carriages on the metro.
Another tip for women is to not make eye contact if you aren’t wanting a conversation. Once you make eye contact men seem to think this invites them to speak to you.
Final thoughts on whether or not Egypt is safe to visit.
Is Egypt safe to visit? I truly believe so. I felt incredibly safe traveling Egypt in all capacities (group tour, solo, and small overnight tour), and I could even argue that I felt safer in Egypt than I do in downtown Vancouver, but that’s another topic entirely. The people of Egypt were incredibly friendly and happy to see tourists; there are bad people anywhere, but overall people are good.
I think that if you want to explore Egypt you should. This country is just brilliant, and this will be a trip that will stay with you.
Where would you go in Egypt if you could?
Do you think Egypt is safe?