The good news is many tourist areas are still safe to visit, but there are still a few things to consider before your trip begins.
Many dream of seeing Egypt's ancient sites up close and cruising the River Nile as the Pharaohs once did.
Sadly, recent political turmoil has painted a big question mark on the country with many tourists wondering if Egypt is still safe for a holiday.
As with most developing countries, that answer is complicated. Most parts of the country are still safe to visit if you're aware of the risks and know what precautions you need to take.
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Safety considerations for Egypt
Whether it's the uncomfortable possibility of food poisoning or the more serious threat of terrorism, make sure you have the right level of cover in your Egypt travel insurance plan.
Is Egypt safe in 2019?
Historically, Egypt has been a safe and popular destination for travellers where the biggest thing you had to worry about was overeager touts harassing you with offers of camel rides and trinkets.
The recent period of unrest in Egypt started in 2011 when political protests sparked a series of terrorist attacks including the downing of a passenger plane on the Sinai Peninsula.
The overall travel advisory for Egypt is to reconsider your need to travel with specific advice not to travel near Libya or North Sinai. Your travel insurance may not cover you if you include these regions in your travel plans.
The country's key tourist sights (including the Pyramids of Giza, Luxor and the Red Sea) are still considered safe but be aware when visiting holy sites and stay away from protests and political demonstrations.
Take particular precautions when travelling during holiday festivals and significant religious periods.
Petty crime is relatively low but violent crime such as armed robbery, carjacking, sexual assault and burglary does occur. The last major tourist threat was the stabbing at a Red Sea resort, in which 3 people died in July 2017.
Is the food and drink safe in Egypt?
Is it safe to eat in Egypt?
While there are many restaurants throughout Egypt that are up to Western food-hygiene standards, some that you encounter will be questionable.
If you want to fully experience the culture and get away from the hotel restaurants, there are some things you can do to lessen your chances of getting ill.
- Seek out the spots that are busy and full of locals. This is a good guide both for meal quality and also food that will be freshly prepared and not just sitting there.
- Use review sites like TripAdvisor, Lonely Planet and Zomato to find the best places in a new city.
- Avoid eating uncooked foods, like fresh salads, that are often washed with unfiltered water before serving.
- Fruits and vegetables that you can peel yourself are your best bet to avoid contamination.
- When eating street food, make sure meals are well cooked and served hot.
- Avoid raw or undercooked meat, fish or eggs.
- Eat at nicer restaurants in hotels if you don't want to eat local foods as they tend to cater to international tourists.
If you do get struck down by the dreaded tummy bug, make sure to stay hydrated, eat bland food and see a doctor if your condition doesn't improve.
Is the water safe to drink in Egypt?
Tap water in Cairo is heavily chlorinated and safe to drink but the taste usually turns most travellers off.
Outside of the city, you should use bottled water which is cheap and readily available so there is no need to bring water purification tablets.
A few things you can do to keep safe while drinking water in Egypt:
- Only consume tap water that's been boiled.
- Don't brush your teeth with tap water in case you swallow any.
- Avoid ice in your drinks unless you know it's been made with boiled or bottled water.
Is it safe to travel alone in Egypt?
Solo travel is very common in Egypt, even for females and it is safe to travel alone. Take care of your personal safety just like you would at home and make sure you don't take unnecessary risks.
Solo female travellers have the added challenge of getting noticed more than they might like. Egypt has a reputation for sexual harassment and you should be prepared to deal with catcalling, leering and even minor groping in crowds or closed-in spaces.
Egypt is a fairly conservative country and you can avoid unwanted attention by dressing modestly. Cover shoulders, cleavage and knees while out and use a scarf to cover your head inside mosques.
Bikinis and swimsuits are fine at private hotel beaches and pools but consider wearing a T-shirt and shorts over your swimmers at public beaches and hot springs.
Some other tips to follow are:
- Ignore verbal harassment as much as possible but don't be afraid to make a scene if things get out of hand.
- Use the women-only buses and carriages on the Cairo metro.
- Don't sit in the front passenger seat of taxis or microbuses. If possible try to sit next to another woman.
- Avoid crowds, especially after events such as football matches when testosterone is likely to be high.
Is it safe to travel to Egypt while pregnant?
Travel to developing countries, in general, is not ideal during pregnancy due to the additional health risks but there are two mains things to consider: medical care and travel insurance.
Travelling to Egypt while pregnant is safest during your second trimester so long as you aren't having any pregnancy concerns.
Many vaccinations that are recommended for travel are not safe for pregnant women to take so if you don't have them already you might need to decide to go without. Some medications, such as ones used to help diarrhea and food poisoning, are also unsafe. Food poisoning is a risk for pregnant women and is common in Egypt.
Medical care suited to Western travellers is available in Egypt where you will be able to find doctors who can speak English. You should expect to pay more for this service but it's likely to be covered under your travel insurance during an emergency.
A good travel insurance policy designed for pregnancy should cover you for any unforeseen pregnancy complications that may arise. Some insurers consider pregnancy to be a pre-existing medical condition meaning you'll have to go through a medical assessment before you'll be covered.
Most plans don't include a normal childbirth and some will not cover you at all if you're travelling after 26 weeks or if you're expecting multiple babies.
Do you need a vaccination before going to Egypt?
Before travelling to Egypt, you should make sure your routine vaccinations are up-to-date and speak to a doctor about other travel vaccinations that might be important.
Smartraveller.gov.au and a doctor can advise the risks of any other diseases/viruses, which can include:
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
Remember, your travel insurance may not cover you if you don't get the recommended vaccines and fall ill while abroad as a result.
Is it safe to drive in Egypt?
Cairo is sure to test even the most experienced of drivers as one of the biggest and busiest cities in the world. Road travel can be dangerous as conditions are poor and cars and buses tend to drive at high speed and without headlights at night.
Road accidents occur often and you're twice as likely to be killed in a motor vehicle accident in Egypt as in Australia.
An international licence is required to drive in Egypt which will need to be certified by an Egyptian diplomatic mission in Australia before leaving.
Motorbike hire is rare but if you do decide to rent one then make sure motorbikes are covered under your travel insurance policy. Egyptian law requires the use of a helmet for motorbikes.
Here are our top tips to help you keep safe while driving in Egypt:
- Driving is on the right-hand side, the opposite of Australia.
- Roads in the cities can have up to eight lanes and the lack of markings makes navigating difficult.
- If you commit a traffic violation, the police will usually confiscate your driver's licence and you will have to go to the traffic headquarters in the area to get it back.
- Checkpoints are frequent so keep your identity papers and licence handy and not in your luggage.
- Be aware of the risk of carjacking, particularly along the valley roads and at night.
- Avoid driving at night due to the additional hazards of animals, pedestrians and carts.
- Carry water with you for longer drives.
If you do have an accident, head to the nearest police station and report what happened as quickly as possible.
Is transport safe in Egypt?
While transport in Egypt is safe in general, there are some precautions you can take to get around easier.
Learn Arabic numerals before your trip or even just write them down to help with timetables, bus numbers and licence plates.
Uber is relatively new in Cairo but it's definitely one of the safest and cheapest ways of getting around. The one tricky part is picking out your driver among the other cars due to the Arabic number plates. Make sure they identify themselves first by saying your name before jumping in.
Taxis are also a good option with metered taxis the norm in Cairo.
Cairo has a metro system which is relatively safe and easy to use. Solo female travellers should look for the women-only cars marked with red stickers, usually in the middle of the train.
Aside from the Cairo–Alexandria and Cairo–Aswan train routes, bus travel is recommended over train travel, especially for longer distances. Train derailments and accidents have occurred as recently as August 2017 and while train travel is generally safe, the cars are old and poorly maintained.
Are terror attacks common in tourist areas?
Terrorists have been known to carry out attacks in Egypt, but most attacks occurred in Northern Sinai which is currently ranked as a "Do not travel" area.
The Red Sea Riviera located on Egypt's eastern coastline is a popular tourist destination but there have been several terror attacks there in recent years.
In July 2017, 3 tourists were killed and others injured following a knife attack at 2 beach resorts in Hurghada. Attacks also occurred in Luxor in June 2015 and Hurghada in January 2016. The October 2015 downing of a plane that departed from Sharm El Sheikh International Airport killed all passengers onboard.
Terrorist groups have also been involved in a number of attacks in places of worship in recent years. While these groups do not target tourists specifically, it's important to be aware of if you plan to visit any religious sites.
For your safety, you should avoid crowded places and gatherings during religious festivals and times of heightened tensions.
If this is a concern for you, make sure your travel insurance will cover you in the event of a terrorist attack or check our list for brands that cover you in case of terrorism.