From the minute I decided to go to Egypt, people started asking me if it was safe to travel there. I have gotten even more questions since I got back. If I didn’t think it was safe, I wouldn’t have gone is the short answer. I know that isn’t enough for people and after visiting and seeing the decline in tourism, I decided that I need to help calm people’s fears and encourage them to travel to Egypt!
It is true that Egypt has had terrorism lately and it can politically unstable, but I would say it isn’t any less safe than New York City after 9/11 or Paris after the recent terrorist attacks there. There has been stabbing of tourists in Cairo and Hurghada. These were the only two stabbings that came up when I Googled it and when I Googled stabbing in New York City, I got several returns including this one. I lived in New York City for 7 years and never had anything bad happen to me or any of my friends. Bad things can happen anywhere! Now I know you are thinking what about the plane being bombed last Fall in Sharm el-Sheikh? I would actually say that going to a place after a terrorist attack may be the best time to go. That is because they usually don’t strike the same place again quickly. Also, I went through at least three metal detectors along with my bags at the Cairo airport. Things felt very secure there. Don’t let a few things prevent you from going on a trip of a lifetime! You would be missing out on so many places right now.
Since we know that bad things can happen anywhere, and there is a heightened awareness of safety in Egypt, here are some tips for staying safe and enjoying Eygpt.
Research and Plan! – Decide where you want to go and places you shouldn’t go. It’s that simple. By planning ahead, you can decide if you are comfortable traveling to that place. I would say that you should probably stick to the tourist sites at the moment and not go off the beaten path unless you are on a tour. Some areas of Egypt you are not allowed to go to while not on a tour the Abu Simbel temples is one of these places. Book hotels in advance so taxi drivers don’t try to take you to their uncle’s “hotel.”
Go on a Tour – Since I was going to be traveling alone, I decided a group tour was the way I felt most comfortable going to Egypt. I don’t usually go in for a group tour, but I loved my experience with G Adventures. Because I was with a local tour guide, I felt safe. He knew where to go and what areas where safe to go to. Not only that he has a degree in Egyptology, so I got a lot more information from him that from a sign or a guide-book! There were 14 women on this tour and only one man, so ladies Egypt is safe for you too!
Calm the Fears of Family – Believe it or not, my Mom is the one that suggested Egypt when I was trying to decide where to go! Thanks, Mom! I know that many people need to calm the fears of your family when visiting a controversial area. Show them this post and the many other bloggers’ posts about the safety of Egypt. Here are a few links. Is It Safe to Go to Egypt? and Why I Feel Safe in Egypt. You can point them in the direction of government websites, but they don’t always give you the best idea. Their job is to keep you safe and not get sued! So, they are going to say a place isn’t safe because they have to, but they do usually have reliable information. Instead, look at the United Nations World Tourism Organization and see what they have to say about Egypt.
Fewer Crowds – Because people have stayed away, everything was less crowded. There was only a handful of tourists at the Great Pyramids when I went and for a few minutes, I was alone in King Tutankhamun’s tomb. This means two things, you get to enjoy all these great sites with less people and fewer people means less likelihood of something happening and you can be more diligent in making sure you and your stuff are safe.
Be Aware of Scams and Touts – Just like most tourist locations; unsavory people want to take advantage of tourists. Taxis, seem to be the main culprit in Egypt. Taxis have been known to not turn on the meter and then charge you an exorbitant amount at your destination or try to take you to another hotel. If you are going to take a taxi in Cairo, negotiate the price before you get in. Then be firm when getting out because they still might try to get more money from you. My Egyptian coworker encouraged me to take Uber or Careem while I was in Cairo. Careem is the Uber of the Middle East. The offer to help. Many Egyptians are extremely helpful and expect nothing in return, but beware the extremely friendly person who approaches you first. The will want baksheesh (a tip). Some will want to take you to their shop, and then you will feel the pressure to buy something. For something simple like directions, I don’t mind giving a tip. I usually gave one Egyptian pound, but I am not willing to get waylaid in your store and be pressured into buying something. Don’t be afraid to walk out. They may yell but just walk confidently on. Touts – These are the people trying to sell you something in the tourist site, like camel rides at the Great Pyramids. They will be relentless. Just keep walking or ignore them. The scam one guy tried to get me to go for at the pyramids was to shake my hand. When he shook it, he put something in my hand and tried to get me to pay for it by telling me to put it in my pocket. I declined and forced it back on him. My guide told us that if it happened and they won’t take it back to drop it on the ground and walk away. You will feel rude doing lots of things to avoid being sold something or pressured into talking, but do not feel bad! It will keep you from being taken advantage of.
What to Wear – Both men and women need to be aware of their clothing. You should always aim to blend in with the locals. For women, this means covering your shoulders and knees in Egypt. The majority of Egyptians are Muslim and dress more conservatively because of that. You will feel more comfortable that way as well. For men, this means not wearing sports baseball caps and white sneakers. Most of the men I saw in Egypt were wearing nice pants and sweaters; it was chilly when I went. My tour guide did wear jeans and younger men were as well. To be fair my tour guide did wear a baseball cap, but it was a black G Adventures cap.
Protect your Things and Money – First let me say, Egypt was the first place I didn’t feel like I was going to be pickpocketed in a long time! Both Paris and Rome worried me more about this than Egypt. I am not saying it can’t happen, though. Carry very little cash and leave your passport at the hotel. While out and about keep your money in sight. Women should carry handbags on the opposite side of the street so none one can swipe your bag from a moving vehicle. None of the hotels I stayed in had in-room safes, so you might want to leave your valuables in the hotel safe. I put everything in my bag and locked it. The hotels in Aswan and Luxor only had push-button locks on them, so I would recommend getting a doorstop alarm for when you are in the room.
Enjoy! – Egypt is the best trip I have been on so far and I cannot recommend it enough! Go now while it is slow and help Egypt recover from the downturn in their tourist economy! Egypt is Safe!
Feel free to ask me questions about my trip either in the comments or via email. I would be happy to answer any question or quell your Mom’s fears.