We get so many people on our forums asking for advice on travel to Egypt and the hot topic is usually safety. Is it safe for a woman to travel alone in Egypt? Are terrorist attacks common in Egypt? Is crime a problem in Egypt?
Here is a summary of useful information, tips from our forum, and an update on the current political situation in Egypt, to help answer your questions.
Safety for Women travelling in Egypt
Many women enjoy marvelous holidays in Egypt without incident or worry. However, there are also frequent complaints from female visitors to the country about the extent to which they are pestered and harassed by Egyptian men. Foreign women do report being grabbed or groped by local men in crowds or on public transport. Violent assault and rape are relatively unheard of.
Here are some of the best tips on how to avoid these unwelcome attentions taken from the myriad posts on our forum on the subject of Women Travelling Safely in Egypt
-Yes, how you dress is VERY important! Egypt is primarily a Muslim country and it is respectful to dress accordingly, which means conservatively. At beach resorts you can wear what you like but outside of these tourist areas shorts, short skirts, bikinis, spaghetti-strap tops etc. are NOT suitable. It is best to cover your knees and shoulders: long, lightweight, cotton dresses are a good bet to keep cool and comfortable. Take a scarf or shawl for visiting holy places like mosques. Incidentally, if you dress inappropriately the local women will treat you with disdain too.
-Your manner is also important. Stay calm and polite but do not feel obliged to smile and chat when you get attention from men; it is difficult to get rid of them once they feel encouraged. Show confidence and be assertive. Avoid making eye contact or smiling at men you are not doing business with as this is taken as a sign of interest.
-All Egyptian men are not scumbags, the majority are polite and friendly. However, foreigners must be aware that love and marriage scams are very common in Egypt and that Egyptian men are notorious for scamming foreign women into sex and/or marriage. This is particularly common as an internet scam but visitors to the country are also targeted. Although it is possible to meet the love of your life on holiday in Egypt, some healthy scepticism is a great idea!
-Hire official guides recommended by good hotels. Guides ward off a lot of unwelcome attention while sightseeing and will considerably smooth your path. A lot of the attention women travelling in Egypt complain about is the pressure from touts, merchants and unofficial guides looking for business; if you arrive at the big attractions with a guide you will be protected from this.
If you follow these instructions Egypt should be a delightful adventure!
Terrorism, Revolution and Political Upheaval in Egypt
If you are cautious, well-informed and aware of your surroundings then your trip to Egypt is likely to be carefree and happy. Here is what you need to know.
As of September 2012 a number of governments, including the US, the UK and Australia, have issued serious travel alerts for Egypt. This is mostly the result of the recent violent protests in Cairo which have targeted foreign embassies. Travel to the country is not advised against outright but tourists are cautioned seriously about a few things:
-Stay well away from protests and large gatherings as this is where most injuries to tourists occur. Protests are common and militant in Egypt. In May 2012 clashes between protesters and military left 11 dead and hundreds injured in Cairo. Mass protests most commonly take place in Tahrir Square so be cautious there; sometimes this means that a visit to the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities is not a good idea. Note that big sporting events count as dangerous public gatherings: In February 2012 overcrowding and brawling in the crowd at a soccer match in Port Said killed 70 people. Avoid crowds and protests at all costs and you have hugely minimized the travel risks of Egypt.
-There have been terrorist attacks in Egypt in the last few years and some of them have targeted tourist areas. Everyone agrees that the tourist resorts are still very safe but there is a small risk of attack in areas where foreigners congregate and there are some regions in the country that should be avoided completely. In 2009 a small bomb went off in Cairos famous Khan al Khalili bazaar, killing a French tourist. These incidents are rare and the Egyptians take the safety of tourists extremely seriously as tourism is one of their main sources of income.
-The most dangerous area of Egypt for foreign visitors is Sinai. Some governments advise that you avoid the area completely and most warn that overland travel through the Sinai region is extremely dangerous. There have been numerous kidnappings of tourists in the region and these abductions have increased in 2012. Although famous attractions like Mount Sinai and St. Catherines Monastery may be tempting they are not viable, safe excursions at the moment. However, the major resorts on the Red Sea in Sinai are very safe and still a great option for visitors to Egypt.
General travel safety in Egypt
Crime is not a serious problem for foreigners in Egypt. Violent crime and serious robbery are rare. On the other hand, scams and tricks to get money out of travellers are extremely common. With a little intelligence and some awareness these should be easy to avoid.
-The most common form of theft is pick-pocketing so make use of hotel safes for valuables and distribute your money, cards, and travel documents between pockets or bags so that you cant be robbed of it all in one go. Make copies of your travel documents.
-Get good, comprehensive travel insurance.
-Do not draw attention to yourself in public places by behaving in a way that the locals may find irresponsible or disrespectful: public displays of affection are NOT a good idea; being visibly drunk is dangerous and considered rude; do not eat openly in public during Ramadan.
-Consult official sources before you book your trip, and before you leave, to ensure that you are aware of the situation in the country and know what to avoid and what to enjoy. The situation in Egypt is liable to change with very little notice.
Apart from that
Enjoy! Have a look at our comprehensive Egypt Travel Guide
to find out why you should desperately want to visit this special country.