Terror attacks, political unrest, violent protests, constant warnings about safety and government advice advising against travel have left many travellers thinking is it safe to travel to Egypt at all? Well here is the truth about travel safety in Egypt.
It is hard to deny the fact that Egypt over the years has been the target of terrorist attacks, with government, security and tourist sites alike a target for various extremist cowards, and this, along with the unrest surrounding the cultural revolution has led to many international governments declaring large parts of Egypt unsafe to travel to various degrees over the years, with many do not travel warnings being left up far longer than they should have been and applied to larger parts of the country than they should have been thanks in large part to scaremongering by the media.
But what is the situation really like in Egypt? Is Egypt really a dangerous destination? Should travellers head to Egypt at all? Let’s look at the actual facts.
Is Egypt Safe?
Yes it is. Egypt does of course have risks for travellers just like anywhere else in the world but the fact is in general terms these risks are actually quite low.
Most travellers to Egypt have a great time there and come back home safe and sound with the biggest hassle they face is having been overcharged by the taxi drivers.
Yes, Egypt is in general terms very safe to travel to. The Foreign Commonwealth Office has precautionary advice for small sections of the country but has no warnings against the vast majority of Egypt and does not advise against travel, including all major tourist areas, and states categorically that most visits are trouble free.
The fear is real.
The problem is this reality often doesn’t match up with many peoples preconceived notions of Egypt, nor the media’s often overblown scaremongering.
There is a real fear in the West about Egypt, not helped of course by heavy handed and overcautious official warnings. Many people automatically assume that Egypt is dangerous, that all of Egypt, Sinai included, is just too risky to visit.
The problem is the official advice errs heavily on the side of extreme caution, and a lot of the time these opinions are regurgitated by people who have never even been to Egypt, they are just recounting scare stories they have heard in the media, or if they have been to Egypt they haven’t left the air conditioned walls of their resort.
The actual fact is these scaremongering tales just aren’t true. So what is the actual reality of safety in Egypt?
What is the current safety advice from the Foreign Commonwealth Office?
Official government advice from the Foreign Commonwealth Office in the UK – despite common misconceptions – do not advise against travel to most of Egypt.
The main tourist areas of Cairo, Alexandria, the tourist areas along the Nile river including Luxor, Qina, Aswan, Abu Simbel, the Valley of the Kings and the Red Sea resorts of Sharm el Sheikh and Hurghada are perfectly safe and have no advisories against them.
The FCO does advise against all but essential travel to the area west of the Nile Valley and Nile Delta regions, excluding the coastal areas between the Nile Delta and Marsa Matruh, and all but essential travel to all of Sinai, north and south, due to the potential for criminal and terrorist attacks on police and security forces, with the exception of the Sharm el Sheikh boundary.
The FCO also advise against travel to Sharm El Sheik by air, and the UK has no current flights to Sharm El Shiek airport, but have no advisories against any of the other airports in Egypt.
What does this official advice mean in reality?
Whilst there are warnings against small and specific sections of the country, mostly in Sinai, the fact of the matter is these warnings are as usual erring on the extreme side of caution.
That means that as is usual with official government advice, the warnings should be taken notice of but then taken with a pinch of salt and put into context with wider reading.
Flights between the UK and Sharm el Sheik are currently suspended because of a single unproven and suspected terrorist incident involving a Russian flight in 2015, authorities are still investigating and are working with authorities to resume flights as soon as possible. No other flights to anywhere in Egypt are affected and the Egyptian authorities are campaigning for the UK and other governments to lift restrictions that are harming tourism.
Does this sound like the risk that is often reported?
The real risk of terrorism.
Egypt has been the victim of terror attacks in the past and the UK government, as well as other authorities including the US State Department does warn against a high threat of terrorism in the country, but the fact of the matter is terrorism can happen anywhere, anytime, and it often does. That is the whole point of it.
Terror attacks have occurred all over the world, including the UK, and the warnings against it are always constant.
There have been almost as many attacks in many western countries in recent years, including the UK and Germany for example, yet tourists aren’t told to stay away from these destinations. There is definitely a high double standard at work here.
Any terror attack is abhorrent, there is no denying that and I do not want to downplay any incident, but they are not and should never be a reason for you to not travel anywhere, and that includes Egypt.
Egyptian security is very visible and very good, and if you take sensible precautions against travelling with the risk of terrorism yourself there is no reason at all to fear a potential terror attack.
The fact is unless there is specific intelligence warning of a specific attack, any general warnings are unwarranted. There is no reason to believe that another terror attack will happen in Egypt as opposed to anywhere else in the world, and there is no point in living your life afraid of what may or may not happen.
Terrorists want you to be afraid. Don’t let them win.
The risk of political unrest.
Egypt does have a risk of political unrest, especially since the revolution in 2011, and there is always the chance of protests, marches and demonstrations, and if these do occur there is also the chance of a security response against it.
But again, just put this risk into a bit of perspective, you can say the same is true in pretty much any country in the world. How many protests have the UK and the US had last year alone? How many of those were violent? Does that make the US and the UK dangerous? No.
Just as with many other risk factors just take reasonable precautions and you will be fine. Keep abreast of any local news, listen to any advice from authorities, hotels and tour operators, and if you do find yourself nearing a crowd of demonstrators then just leave as quickly and as safely as possible or stay in your hotel or accommodation and ask for advice.
The risk of hassle.
One of the biggest things all potential travellers worry about before visiting Egypt is the hassle, and this is something that always gets blown out of all proportion.
Just like any major tourist site in the world there are touts and tourists will get hassled by them. Touts are annoying, there is no getting around that fact, but one thing they are not is dangerous.
There are many ways to avoid touts and hassle whilst you are in Egypt but you can’t avoid it completely, you are a tourist there after all and locals are just trying to earn a living, but don’t escalate the hassle to a level of risk or danger that it just isn’t.
You will get hassled in Egypt, but most of it is minor and the vast majority of people you meet in Egypt will be friendly and welcoming. Just read up on the common scams and tricks and be prepared for them if they happen to you, and you will be fine.
The risk of crime.
The FCO advise that there is a risk of various crimes including car jackings, robberies, muggings, sexual assaults and rape, well yes of course there is. There is no denying that crimes do happen in Egypt, it is ridiculous to pretend that it is some crime free utopia.
But it is also important to remember that there is a risk of any of these crimes anywhere in the world. There is a risk of becoming a victim of any type of crime wherever you are.
The truth – when you put it into context – is that the actual crime rates in Egypt are generally very low, and are even rarer for tourists.
Travellers are statistically highly unlikely to be the victim of any type of crime. In fact in general terms Egyptians are far more likely to look out for tourists rather than target them as victims.
Where there is a small risk of becoming a victim it is generally crimes of opportunity such as theft or pickpocketing, or becoming the victim of a scam or being ripped off, and the risk of these crimes can be easily avoided and managed.
Use the same reasonable common sense safety precautions that you would take anywhere in the world, including at home, and you can reduce any potential risk of becoming the victim of any type of crime to manageable and acceptable levels.
The reality of travel safety in Egypt.
The truth is Egypt is a generally safe country and the vast majority of travellers will experience no trouble at all beyond the annoyance of touts and ticket sellers trying to squeeze that last little Egyptian pound out of them.
The vast majority of Egyptians are warm, welcoming and offer no threat to the general traveller at all, and in fact it is a shame that most travellers will not experience the warmth of Egyptian hospitality beyond the main tourist sites because of wariness of the touts.
Because of how badly tourism has been affected in Egypt at the moment there were man times on recent trips where I was the only fair skinned traveller around, in some cases instances where I was the only traveller period and there were many instances of having entire hostel rooms entirely to myself! So it is safe to say that despite my best efforts to blend in I still stuck out a fair bit.
Yet I never once felt unsafe, at all. I hiked the desert around Giza on my own, visited almost completely deserted tourist attractions, went out at night in Cairo looking for a snack on my own, and I never once felt threatened. I never once had a single negative incident.
The worst thing that happened to me on my most recent trip was a day where my tolerance for taxi drivers trying to rip me off hit rock bottom and I got annoyed. I simply took a step back, rested for a day with a good book and started using Uber instead.
Egypt is a very safe place, and I cannot stress that enough.
The presence of heavy security at most sites is off putting to many, but they are there as a precautionary measure, a heavy handed one I grant you, but precautionary nonetheless. There is no more reason to fear them, or fear the potential of anything bad happening than there is to fear the metal detectors at any airport around the world.
Security standards in Egypt are actually pretty high.
The truth is Egypt is an amazing country to visit. It is truly remarkable, unique, welcoming, frustrating, easy and challenging, all at the same time! But one thing it isn’t is dangerous, and I urge any traveller and backpacker who hasn’t been, or anyone at all who has dreamt of visiting Egypt but have been put off by it’s reputation and the general media scaremongering, to just go! Forget what you think you know about Egypt and go and see for yourself.
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