“Egypt is as safe as any country in the world and safer than most – and it has always been so for tourists”
Egypt tourism safety issues have caused a huge blow to its tourist industry in the last few years. Once a hugely popular destination for holiday goers, the country has struggled to attract visitors following the 2011 uprising and multiple terrorist attacks in the six years since.
Incidents like these are tragic both on an individual and community level, and devastating on a national one: tarnishing the whole country as a less than desirable holiday destination. Potential visitors tend to think it best to stay away entirely – at least, that’s what the data suggests. Before the 2011 uprising, nearly 15 million tourists visited Egypt a year. In 2017, the number totaled just 5.3 million, according to the chairman of Egypt’s Tourism Authority, Yehia Rashed. This has had a huge domino effect on Egypt’s economy, as tourism had always made up a significant proportion of Egypt’s GDP, which has been hurt greatly by reports of Egypt tourism safety issues.
Although the country has been troubled, most of the popular tourist spots have remained largely undisturbed and are not listed as off-limits; North Sinai is a designated no-go zone for tourists, however. This means that Egypt’s tourism safety is largely unchanged from before the revolution.
This echoes the message that Egypt’s tourism officials are anxious to get across. Speaking at the Arabian Travel Market convention in Dubai, Egypt’s tourism minister Yehia Rashed told the Associated Press that the Red Sea resorts and Ancient Egyptian sites are safe for travelers. “We are saying that the tourism sector is safe, the airports are secure, the hotels are secure.” Egypt tourism safety is crucial, and Egyptian officials are thinking positively, and have declared an aim of attracting between 7 and 10 million visitors in 2017.
What not to do:
- 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.
- Don’t go walking along the Nile at night or darkened streets away from the main streets.
- Don’t go off the beaten track looking for the ‘hidden Egypt’. Anything worth seeing will definitely not be hidden
- If you are a ‘party person’ it can be tempting to head off to a nightclub other than the one in your hotel (many hotels have one on-premises), but this can lead to putting yourself in danger.
- Wear shorts and sleeveless t-shirts. For men it’s ok, but try to avoid sleeveless t-shirts and wear the normal ones. This will not be the case if you are visiting Sharm-El-Sheikh, Dahab, Marsa Allam, and Hurghada. In these coastal cities, wearing this type of clothing is acceptable.
- Cross busy streets alone. Wait for someone to come and cross with you, or ask someone to help you. Egyptians usually will offer to help you in such situations. This doesn’t apply to all streets, of course, but in Cairo and Alex especially there is a lot of traffic and sometimes no traffic signs. Cars won’t stop to let you cross and you have to find a way between them.
- Put your feet on a table. This behavior is not acceptable and might offend the people around you.
- Talk to people who are approaching you in the street or in tourist areas to offer services like city tours, special visits to tombs, sites or shops…etc. It’s always preferable to go through registered tour operators and agents.
- Pet street dogs and cats (unless you have all your vaccines and you’re not afraid to be bitten or scratched).
- Expose yourself to the sun (in summer especially). This is dangerous unless you are wearing proper clothes.
- Drink tap water.
- Drink alcohol on the street (it’s not socially acceptable, and in some areas, it’s forbidden by law).
- Eat, drink or smoke in public places during the daytime during Ramadan.
- Take a taxi if you are alone late at night. Try to use Uber or Careem instead.
What to do:
- Plan your trip before you go.
- Book trusted, recommended hotels and do it before you leave home. Book places that offer internet and phone access. 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.
- 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 and cruise boats.
- If you have any allergies, are a rare blood type, have medical conditions such as diabetes or peanut allergies, or have to take certain medication it is a good idea to have that information recorded and keep it with your passport.
- ALWAYS tell your tour leader, tour guide or whatever person is responsible for you if you have received any hurt, scratch, insect bites, have a small accident, or if you feel unwell. 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 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.
- Keep your passport with you all the time – the slim document bags that hang around your neck are a good idea and you can also keep your phone inside them as well. Security at some sites have asked visitors to produce their passports and entry can be refused if you don’t have it.
- Leave tips at cafés, restaurants, hairdressers, and almost everywhere! Sometimes people won’t take them, but usually they will, as they don’t have good salaries.
- Bargain (it sounds paradoxical after what I’ve just said!) in souvenir shops, markets, taxis. Within reasonable limits, bargaining in Egypt’s souvenir markets is a nice way to start a conversation and is expected.
- Dress modestly and not too extravagantly.
- Ask locals the fare for a taxi ride before taking the taxi, then agree on that fare with the taxi driver. In Cairo they have the metered taxis (“white taxi”), so you shouldn’t have to discuss the fare, but always make sure the meter is working. If not, leave the taxi and take another. You can leave a small tip at the end of your ride.
- Ask directions from at least three different people (to be sure you have the right information). Sometimes people try to help even if they don’t know the place.
- Use Uber or Careem rather than public transportation, especially for women.
- Take off your shoes and cover your head (for women) as you enter a mosque.
- Ask permission before taking a photo (even of people). In some places, it is forbidden to
- Spend time talking to the people. Egyptians are interesting, kind, and have a great sense of humor. You will learn from them as they will learn from you—it is always a rich exchange. Don’t miss out on that!
- Enjoy the country as much as you can. Egypt is not just any country—Egypt is “Om el Donia” (the Mother of the World)!
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 a terrorist attack in Egypt. Egypt tourism safety is not at its peak but is improving steadily as the years go by.
Within the last year, there has been an increase in group travel in Egypt since the tourism recovery began.
“There are no guarantees anywhere on the planet these days. Too many people are afraid which means the numbers are light and you can have these fantastic sites nearly all to yourself, so right now is a perfect time to go”