"Egypt is as safe as any country in the world and safer than most - and it has always been so for tourists"
I don't ask you to take my word for it that Egypt is as safe as anywhere else. But I do ask you to do some research into the recent history of Egypt. Find out how many tourists have been killed or injured. You will discover that fewer foreigners or Egyptians have met with harm from terror attacks in Egypt than in any other countries of the Western World. To put it in perspective... there were 47,000 gun shootings in the USA in 2017!
Internationally designated safe areas
Cairo, Luxor, Aswan, cruising and driving between Luxor and Aswan is deemed safe by all countries (as far as I am aware). As is driving between Luxor and Hurghada, Sharm El Sheikh on the Red Sea, and the road between Aswan and Abu Simbel, as well as Lake Nasser and the villages south of Aswan
Areas to which travel is not advised
However, I would not travel in the Sinai or the Western Desert personally, nor overland to Israel. I believe most international travel warnings advise the same, as does the Egyptian Government.
Travel Agents who advise you against travel to Egypt
Dig a little deeper when you get this advice. I am guessing that those travel agents have no contracts in place with hotels, transport companies or travel agents inside Egypt. Hence they actually don't have anything in Egypt to sell you. BUT, they do have contracts with lots of other places so, of course, that is what they want to sell you. Please remember everyone in business has their own products and their own agendas - and your agenda may not coincide with their priority.
19 Things NOT to do in Egypt as a Tourist.
- Don't go looking for excitement in the middle of a big crowd, regardless of what is going on
- Don't arrive in Egypt thinking it is easy to find a hotel, a guide, or whatever at the last minute once you get here. Do a bit of research in advance. Know who you are hiring. Book with reputable service providers.
- Don't go walking along the Nile at night or darkened streets away from the main streets, especially not alone.
- Don't go off the beaten track looking for the 'hidden Egypt'. Anything worth seeing will definitely not be hidden
- Don't be so quick to follow people offering to show you the "local market" or something "special" I wrote the post "Follow me" - Don't do it! in 2015 and it still amazes me how many tourists don't give a second thought to following strangers down alleyways all over Egypt!
- Don't lose your head in a nightclub. If you are a 'party person' it can be tempting to head off to a night club other that the one in your hotel (some, but not all hotels have nightclubs which can go on til 6 am). If you do, then at the very least make sure you let someone know where you are going and what time you will be back. Allowing yourself to be taken from your intended nightclub etc to a second or third "better party" is a terrible idea in any strange country.
- Alcohol is allowed in hotels, licensed bars/restaurants, cruise boats, some restaurants - don't drink alcohol on the street.
- Cannabis etc is illegal and carries severe penalties.
- "Local" coffee shops is not a good a good idea for hygiene reasons.
- Don't take photographs of security personnel, police stations, anything to do with police or army. This is for their safety and to prevent members of the security forces from being personally recognised and targeted by criminals or terrorists.
- It is becoming popular to use drones for photography - don't! It could get you in trouble with police and/or army and may be seen as espionage.
- Don't do stupid things like climbing the outside of the Great Pyramid or anything else equally childish to make a name for yourself. Firstly, it is a protected ancient and sacred monument, so show respect. Secondly, you could get seriously hurt or killed. If you don't, but a security man gets injured or killed going after you - do you want to face 25 years in an Egyptian prison or face the death penalty?
- Don't use local transport such as buses or micro-buses UNLESS you are 100% sure you know the route it is taking. If you do take one and don't know the route you could easily end up in a suburb where nobody speaks english and neither does the driver. What you do then?
- Don't eat "street food" plain and simple - no exceptions. Buy a packet of Antinal as soon as you arrive in Egypt - do not take it as a preventative measure. You might want to read my post on the Egyptian Tummy Bug - Pharaoh's Revenge!
- Don't touch or pet cats, dogs, donkeys, horses or ANY animal - you may have a soft spot for cats but a "pretty" little cat or kitten can suddenly turn on you. One scratch can leave you with what we simply call "cat scratch". Symptoms are EXTREMELY red face, intense itch, headache and fever for about 3 days even if diagnosed immediately. You will most likely need anti-histamine and pain relievers. Should you also need an antibiotic because you also got an infection at the same time, bear in mind that antibiotic mixed with antihistamine can lead to anaphylactic shock which is potentially life-threatening. Not to mention they probably carry ticks, mites, infections and all kinds of nasty germs. Apologies for scaring you - just leave the animals alone!
- Be careful crossing the road, this may sound silly but wait until you experience Cairo traffic! Not every driver knows that a red light means "STOP!" Some think it only means it if there is also a policeman there. And there are few traffic lights anywhere anyway.
- Don't assume that zebra crossing (pedestrian crossings) are for crossing the road anywhere, EVER! Egyptians don't use them to cross the road - they cross the road everywhere and anywhere they want, safely. Few drivers know what the black and white lines painted across the road mean... seriously.
- Don't assume that all UBER drivers are safe - are they all safe where you live? I would not use UBER traveling by myself. I feel safer using a regular, signed taxi -there is always one passing by, wherever you are and he is more likely to know where you want to go than an UBER driver using google maps. That observation is based on personal experience.
- Taking a taxi? Just agree the price BEFORE you get in, most likely the meter is not working anyway and, at least, you can relax knowing what you are going to pay. This way you also avoid a disagreement at the end of the ride.
14 Things to do to Travel Safely in Egypt:
- Plan your trip before you go. I have written posts on the most frequently asked questions as well as advice on a myriad of topics on Egypt. You can find them in my Travel Guide
- Book trusted, recommended hotels and do it before you leave home. When you arrive take their advice on where to go and where not to go if it is offered.
- Do make sure all your documents are in order - passport valid for minimum 6 months after your departure date from Egypt etc.
- You can now buy a SIM card at the airport on arrival or find out from your hotel where is the nearest place to buy one. I would get a package that gives you more internet than phone access so you have google maps also etc.
- Keep in touch with home. Let someone know your itinerary and arrange with them that you post on FB or message them regularly during your trip. Give them the contact details of your hotels, cruise boat, tour manager. Most people see for themselves shortly after arriving that they are safe and well taken care of. However, do remember your family at home do not have your new insight and their imaginations can run wild within a short space of time.
- Tell someone where you are going. Especially if you are traveling alone let the hotel know each day you go out what time to expect you back and leave your phone number with the reception desk.
- Carry Passport Copy - If you don't want to keep your passport with you always - at least carry a copy of it. Security at some sites have asked visitors to produce their passports (very rarely).
- Wearing earphones will lessen the hassle from vendors because they think you can't hear them. However, I do recommend not having anything actually playing in your ear - or at least at a low volume so you are aware of your spacial surrounds - but I would recommend low volume when out walking in any country not just Egypt.
- Dress appropriately for local customs and the weather. For more detailed tips on how to dress you might like to read my post What Should I Wear in Egypt.
- For the sake of equality of the sexes...if you are going to assume there is a threat from every man you pass, don't also assume that every woman you meet is not going to try a tourist scam on you.
- Take out health/accident AND cancellation insurance. Hospital and medical treatment in Egypt can be quite expensive for tourists - yes, different pricing structures. You cannot leave hospital without either clearing the insurance or paying there and then, if you have to go to a hospital. Have a look at my post re Hospital in Luxor It tells what you need to know about initiating insurance payment but this info will apply to any hospital and the sooner they start it, the sooner you can leave, assuming you are ok 🙂
- Tell someone if you are unwell - ALWAYS tell your tour leader, tour guide or whatever person is responsible for you if you have received any hurt or scratch from a cat/dog or even insect bites, get a heel blister, have a small accident (whatever) or feel unwell immediately. At home you may pass these little things off without a thought but when you are away from home the local person will know better if it is advisable to administer a treatment or seek medical advice in the situation. Please don't think that you are making a fuss about nothing. The person guiding or hosting you should appreciate that it is better to be safe than sorry and respond accordingly. I am constantly surprised at the number of people who don't want to "complain" and suffer minor annoyances for several days before admitting to discomfort. Taking care of a potential problem in the early stages is always easier.
- Recovering Alcoholic If you are a recovering alcoholic be very clear when presented with refreshments - especially free drinks such as at the Captain's Cocktail Party on cruise boats - be very clear with the person supervising the drinks table which cocktails contain alcohol. There is not a high awareness of alcoholism in Egypt and I have seen a waiter tell someone that all the drinks on a table were the same - they were not.
- Medical Record - If you have any allergies, are a rare blood type, have medical conditions such as diabetes, epilepsy, or have to take certain medication like blood thinners, blood pressure meds etc. it is a good idea to have that information recorded and keep it with your passport. If you prefer to leave your passport in the hotel safe then make up a little info packet and keep it in your bag. It should contain your medical info, hotel details and a contact number for a family member at home. Hotels don't ask for this information but at Mara House we welcome the information in advance if you are ok with giving it to us.
Why would you keep written medical record in your bag?
- in case you were in any type of accident requiring emergency medical assistance - it would be important those attending you access this info asap
- if you suddenly fell ill and could not discern the reason yourself. For example if you are on medication for high blood pressure and didn't know that hibiscus tea "kirkadee" is the strongest natural product known to lower blood pressure. You will be offered free "welcome drinks" everywhere you go in Egypt and hibiscus tea is the most common offered. Drinking too much a few days in succession could drastically lower your blood pressure beyond safety limits.
- The most obvious thing an attending medical person would do is search your bag to check for medication if you were unable to speak for yourself.
- Apple iPhones have a Health app already installed when you buy it and the icon is a white square with a little red heart on it. This app can be accessed even if your phone is locked and awareness of this is increasing. You can record your medical information and family contact details etc here - it's a good idea to use it. You can also download this kind of app for Samsung and other phones - but I don't know how aware all medical personnel are on this subject.
Get the right perspective on safety
In comparison to the risk of street muggings or violence in Chicago, to the risk of the continuous earthquakes in China, or even the risk of the common floods in Gt. Britain, the risk in Egypt is minimal. You are more likely to be run over crossing the street at home than you are to be involved in anything life-threatening in Egypt - as long as you follow good advice 🙂
Group Travel is a good option - if you are nervous about Egypt
There has been an increase in group travel in Egypt since 2017. Traveling with a group can feel comforting both for the traveler and their families back home. You will find our group info and dates for 2020 here if you are looking for a nice group to go with. Mara House is doing a group tour in March, May, Sept and Nov.
Most Common Questions Asked About Egypt
- Do I have to tip in Egypt and how much?
- What currency should I take to Egypt?
- What should I wear in Egypt?
- What to do if I catch Egyptian Tummy Bug?
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Come to Egypt and have a wonderful time! - Mara, Nov 2019