Is Safe to Travel to Egypt?
One of many things to know when travelling to Egypt: Is it safe? This question came to me before my last visit, and when I look it up online I was overwhelmed by the amount of security and safety travel advisories that I could find online. Is it safe for Americans and British? Other Westerners?
Information available online from different sources range from official governmental authoritative sites to someone expressing an opinion because they had a negative personal experiences when they went there. I did really want to go, so I spent some time researching this subject.
Top 12 Safety Tips When Traveling to Egypt:
- Check online authoritative (government) travel advisories about Egypt before traveling. Do not pay too much attention to untrusted media sources.
- Avoid areas in Egypt with know ongoing conflicts. Keep reading to know more about these areas
- Enjoy your trip and don’t be too concerned. Just do your due diligence before traveling. Egypt is generally a safe and welcoming country.
- Be prepared with proper anti-theft bags, properly concealed wallets, etc. I provide some advice here on how to do that.
- Respect local culture and do not disrespect religious values in Egypt
- Ask for help when needed. Egyptian are know to be helpful and friendly in general
- Plan your itinerary and know what attractions and places you are interested in. Egypt has many places with interesting touristic attractions, but tourist are not expected to show up in some areas.
- When walking in crowded areas always pay attention to your surroundings.
- If you have children traveling with you, never leave them unattended
- Egypt is a conservative country in general. Pay attention to what you wear and where to wear it. What can be acceptable in touristic areas, may draw too much attention in other areas.
- Internet and cell phone service may not be perfect in some areas. Always keep a list of important addresses and a map handy. You never know if you will need this information. Old school piece of paper with addresses and important information can be useful in some cases.
- Never bath in the Nile River. It is not safe.
Egypt Vacation Safety
One of the most important things to know when travelling to Egypt: Is it safe? In a nutshell the answer is ‘Yes’, but do not take this blindly. There are some facts and guidelines that you should know and check before you travel and to also be aware that safety is very much relevant to where you are planning to go in Egypt and when.
It is a never ending question. If you look at the media without carefully reading and understanding the situation and context, you will most probably keep Egypt off your bucket list and you would be missing a lot.
Egypt as a destination is with no doubt one of the most popular destinations in the world. In recent years and especially after the political instability and the revolution that took place in Egypt back in 2011, there has been a struggle between Egyptian authorities and some insurgent groups in certain areas of Egypt.
It is very rare for regular day to day life in main Egyptian cities to be interrupted by this struggle or for terrorism actions to actually impact regular daily life of Egyptians or visitors to Egypt.
Egypt is a large country around 1+ million square kilometers and with over 100 million population. Most of it’s population is distributed around the Nile river delta and across the river line that extends from south to north across Egypt.
Some areas are known for potential terrorist activities and ongoing struggle between insurgents, smugglers, criminals and authorities. Some other areas are not really areas where tourists are expected to visit although these areas are perfectly safe. I indicate below these areas with low popularity for tourists and with not much interesting attractions or things to do.
High Risk Areas
The high risk areas are the ones that are impacted every few years with a terrorism incident. The media will not usually focus on the specific area, but will report ‘A terrorism incident in Egypt’ as Egypt is a familiar name for everyone across the world , while a name like ‘ Sheikh Zuweid ‘ a city in north Sinai that witnessed some of the struggle over the years may not be familiar to everyone.
This casts a shadow of fear and concern over all of Egypt every time it happens. This is exactly what the extremist groups are after in their struggle with the government: to negatively impact tourism industry.
They have been relatively successful so far. It is a situation where the tourism industry in Egypt have been bleeding billions of dollars for many years and millions of tourists have been denied the opportunity to visit this magnificent land of civilization due to fear and safety concerns.
The areas where most of insurgencies are expected to happen or may have increased military presence are:
North Sinai: areas around Arish city, Sheikh Zuweid, Bir El Abd, El Hassana, Nakhl, Rafah, and the north part of Sinai in general. This extends to the border area with Israel and Palestinian Gaza. The population of this area is around half million mainly Bedouin tribes.
Western Desert: The vast area of Sahara desert to the west bordering Libya. The population is relatively low as most of the area is Sahara desert except for some inhabited areas in the north coast and at Siwa Oasis in the desert.
These two areas are usually relatively safe and are ranked among the best areas to visit except for the last few years due to instability across the Libyan border. The higher risk comes in venturing into the desert itself or getting too close to Libyan border as instability in Libya spills over into this area and the military is trying to control this border.
Border areas: Border areas with Libya and Sudan are usually not recommended for tourists due to heavy military presence trying to track down smugglers, illegal immigrants, and terrorists.
Safe areas: Other than the areas mentioned above, the rest of Egypt is relatively safe. You can expect normal criminal activities that are usually lower than other countries including western countries. Some areas are not expected to have tourists so expect to get some curious looks if you go there. You can find most popular areas for tourist in this article.
Is it more dangerous for some Nationalities than Others? Is it safe for Americans, British, and other Westerners?
Is it safe traveling to egypt as an American? As British? Or German? Does it make a difference where you come from? The answer is maybe! The ongoing political conflicts in middle east does impact who extremist or terrorist may try to target. But is stops at that: Extremists or terrorists.
The rest of Egyptian people (which is almost everyone as extremists or terrorists are a very small fraction down to thousands out of 100 million people) are actually very much welcoming to Westerners whether they are coming from The United States, Canada, UK, or anywhere else in Europe. Egyptians are actually big fans of American culture, technology, and they are very familiar with Hollywood productions. So, if you are American, Canadian, or European, expect to be welcomed almost all Egyptians.
But, what about Israelis? Egyptians and people across other Arab Countries have a long history of war and hostile relation with Israel. Does that make Egypt unsafe for Israelis? My answer would be No! However, most Israelis like going to Sinai and they are welcomed their as tourists, but don’t expect all Egyptians to be very much welcoming in other areas as the history of Arab Israeli struggle is still casting its shadows on most people. Don’t expect people to be disrespectful though, but I would recommend limiting movement to touristic areas.
People from other parts of the world do not need to worry even about the small groups of extremists who may pose some risk from time to time. Tourists coming from Asia, South America, or other middle Eastern countries are not usually targeted by extremists. That said, I strongly recommend referring to government advisories before traveling to make sure the overall situation is clear and safe for your target travel dates. Do not rely on mainstream media as isolated events or relatively small incidents are usually exaggerated.
In conclusion for this section, millions of people go in and out of Egypt every year. There was some interruption back in 2011 due to Egyptian revolution, and for some time after that due to the struggle between Egyptian security forces and some insurgent groups, but things are back to normal. Terrorist threats are expected in Egypt from time to time, but this is the case in many other countries including UK,France, and many other European countries. The risk in my opinion is at the same level of risk of falling victim to crime in any other country. It is actually less dangerous in my opinion for many Americans to visit Egypt than visiting many cities or neighborhoods in America. The same is true for many other countries.
Other Crimes in Egypt
Like any other country, crime happens. My best advise to you is be aware of your surroundings (whether in Egypt or not!). Bag snatching, carjacking, and pick-pocketing can happen in crowded places especially in Cairo and crowded markets or ‘Souks’. It is not that common, but it happens especially if you look like you are absent minded.
Sexual harassment can happen especially verbally, and although this type of crime has increased in recent years, it is not that common and if you are a woman, you can better be in a group when going to dense or crowded areas. If you are alone do not venture into areas you know nothing about. The average Egyptian person will not stand by if a crime is happening and Egyptians will usually step in to help any one in need.
Just be alert and ignore any verbal harassment or gestures and keep going. If you go outside touristic places such as hotels, resorts, ancient Egypt sites, try to be modest with your clothing especially for women to avoid attracting too many looks. Always show confidence and seek help if you feel threatened. People will step in and help or go to nearest policeman in the area and they are present in tourist popular areas.
My advice: Be alert and aware of your surroundings (isn’t this the advice anywhere?) but do not be too concerned or afraid, the overwhelming majority of locals are friendly, kind, and welcoming. Like any other country, the education level and cultural background of individuals impact how people interact with tourists, but most Egyptians see tourist as welcome guests to their country who can help revive the economy.
So.. What’s next? Just pack and go?
Always check the news and formal advisory sites. Try to get a feeling of the current status. Ask residents of Egypt if you know any. Most of the time the media will be panicking because of one incident that usually happens in the unsafe areas I mentioned above, but the whole country is usually put under warning.
You need to do your due diligence and make your decision based on what is best for you. This is true for any travel plan regardless of destination. Here is a list of advisory site that you can check when planning to travel to Egypt:
I do look at these advisories every time I plan to go to Egypt, but I found out over time that if I take these warnings literally, I will never go to Egypt.
I eventually decided to make sure I put these advisories in proper perspective and context and from my personal experience as long as I avoid times of big incidents and the areas I marked above, Egypt is actually more safe than my home country most of the time (I come from Canada.. a relatively safe country to live in).
Attacks of Terrorism in Egypt compared to mass shootings in the US
I was curious about this and I wanted to lookup this information to see how big is this terrorism fear in Egypt? Here is what I found:
I noticed that the terrorism problem in Egypt is comparable to the mass shootings problem in the US (actually it looks to be trending down in Egypt while trending up in the US) and yet around 78 million visitors entered the US in 2018 with no ‘mass shooting advisory’ or media warning international visitors not to go to the US.
This is in comparison to around 8 millions who visited Egypt in the same year. The numbers are not to be compared only from tourism point of view here and I know that. I expect more people to visit the US for many reasons, but I would also expect a country like Egypt to receive more visitors if it was not for the exaggeration of the terrorism problem by the media and some international governments in my personal opinion.
This does not result in only keeping many people away from visiting Egypt who would have done that otherwise, it also limits the country’s capacity to grow and improve the tourism sector to provide better and higher quality services to visitors. What government or investor would pour investment in a business that is so fragile? Both Egypt and visitors from around the world are losing this war to terrorists in my opinion.
The resolution in my opinion should can come from the big media and international governments: stop exaggerating the problem and put it into proper context like similar problems in other countries such as mass shooting problem in the US or growing crime problems in some south American countries for example.
Most of those attacks in Egypt are actually targeting military, police and other officials or locals, while tourists are only a small part of these attacks. I do not see it as mainly targeting tourists except in very few incidents. Well, this is only my personal opinion based on my personal travel experience anyway.
Where to go in Egypt: Best and safest destinations for tourists and visitors
Egypt has around 27 governorates. I say ‘around’ because this number was subject to change over the years. The government reviews the distribution of governorates from time to time to come up with better local government structure for Egypt that can better serve economic growth plans. Here is the current list of governorates and their popularity as destinations for tourists based on my personal experience:
|ID||Name||Safe?||Popularity for tourists||Famous for..|
|1||Matruh||No. Except the city of Matrouh||High||-North Coast resorts in the summer especially in city of Matrouh.|
-Siwa Oasis: Famous for desert and Bedouin type of life
|2||Alexandria||Yes||High||-Second largest city in Egypt. |
-City attractions and shopping
|4||Kafr El Sheikh||Yes||Low||-Lake Borolos|
|6||Damietta||Yes||Low||-Ras El-Bar beaches|
|7||Port Said||Yes||Low||Suez Canal|
|8||North Sinai||No||Madium||Arish, Rafh, Bardawil Lake|
|14||Giza||Yes||High||-Pyramids, Sphinx, and other Ancient Egypt attractions|
-Nile River attractions
-Resorts, galleries, art, cultural centers
-Ain Sokhna city and resorts
|18||South Sinai||Yes. Excpt north parts||High||–Sharm El sheikh, Dahab, Nuweibaa , Taba, other coastal resorts|
-St. Catherine, Mt. Sinai, and other historical attractions
|19||Beni Suef||Yes||Medium||-Ancient Egypt attractions|
-Ancient historical Sites
|20||Minya||Yes||Medium||-Ancient Egypt Attractions and sites|
|21||New Valley||No||Low||-Farafra, Dakhla and Kharga Oases|
-Ancient Egypt Attractions
– The Black Desert
-The White Desert
|22||Asyut||Yes||Medium||-The Holy Virgin Mary Monastery|
-Meir Monumental Tombs
|23||Red Sea||Yes||High||–Hurghada, Safaga, Marsa Alam and other resorts in coastal areas|
-St. Anthony’s Monastery (Oldest Monastery in the world)
-Ancient sites attractions
-Ancient Egypt Attractions
|25||Qena||Yes||Medium||-Dendara and other Ancient Egypt attractions|
|26||Luxor||Yes||High||-This city is a open museum of Ancient Egypt|
|27||Aswan||Yes||High||-Ancient Egypt attractions: like an extension to Luxor|
Which is more safe: traveling to Egypt solo or with a tour group?
I would say it depends. Reputable tour groups that are not too cheap will guarantee a good level of guidance, protection, and good communications with the government, hotels, and other destination managers.
Cheap tours with lousy arrangement and planning will save you some money in the beginning but may put you in a risk to be targeted by terrorism if they venture into places or routes without proper arrangements or abandon you when you need them. Remember that terrorists usually target larger groups to get better publicity.
Traveling with reputable tour provider can give you good protection, less headache in dealing with different authorities or service providers here and there and you also get experienced guides taking you places and destinations you may not know how to go to on your own.
On the other hand traveling solo, as a family, or in a small group can give you more flexibility and freedom in planning and movement. You only need to take the guidelines in this article and other tips and advises from our site here into consideration.
If you like traveling, you can’t skip Egypt! It is a must for you. If you panic too much from bad news in the media, or from the possibility of running into any kind of risk, safety, or health issues,then maybe traveling is not for you to begin with.
Whether it is Egypt or any other country, there will always be some level of risk expected and in the case of traveling to Egypt the risk is relatively low except in certain areas and in certain times as indicated in this article. Also check my safety guidelines for health risks here.
Do not let your life go by without taking a chance to visit the place where civilization began and where you can find some of the best relaxing, enjoyable, and chilling places in the world!