From Cairo to Aswan: A detailed guide for western tourists about travel safety in Egypt.

Do you want to see the Pyramids, the valley of the Kings and Abu Simbel? But are you wondering if is safe to visit Egypt? Then read on!

The whole Muslim world isn’t especially popular among western tourists these days (unrightly so, I might add). Terrorist attacks, refugees, and human rights violation didn’t really help to advertise trips to countries in the middle east. But what about Egypt? Is Egypt safe to visit?

The short answer: Yes, Egypt is safe! But in this travel guide, I tried to incorporate all my first-hand observations and experiences from my last visit to Egypt (read about it here). All in the hope to encourage further generations of travelers to visit the amazing country on the Nile. You can easily visit it independently (check out my 14 days Egypt itinerary for reference).

But let’s dive right into it?

General safety in Egypt

Demonstrations on Tahrir Square on Nov 22nd 2011
Demonstrations on Tahrir Square on Nov 22nd 2011 | pic: Lilian Wagdy @flickr.com

After the November revolution in 2011 and the ensuing rule of the Muslim Brotherhood (short as it may have been) tourist numbers almost dropped to zero. Even before those abductions and infrequent terror attacks against tourists had always been a problem – especially on the Sinai peninsula.

Luckily, the political situation stabilized in the following years. 2018 was the first year that saw a significant increase in tourism (according to local guides & hotels) and a renewed interest in Egypt.

Now, is it safe for Americans to travel to Egypt in 2019? This is a tough question, as terrorist attacks occurred in the USA itself, or in Paris, London or Berlin.

Al-Nasis Muhammad Mosque inside the cairo citadel egypt
Al-Nasis Muhammad Mosque

There were 7 terror attacks in Egypt in 2017, 6 in 2016 and 4 in 2018 so far. Sounds like a lot, but in a global context, it isn’t. The most important part: Almost none of these attacks targeted foreigners. Almost all of them happened in mosques or churches. The locals and their beliefs were the targets (mostly the conflict between the Christian minority and the Muslims, but also the special conflict on the Sinai peninsula). There was one bomb to hit a tourist bus, tho.

Now, I don’t mean to downplay these tragic events, but they really shouldn’t hinder you to visit Egypt. The military has quite visible checkpoints all over the country (virtually ever 500 meters). Most tourist attractions have a quite high safety standard (and always a visible military presence), and buses usually travel in police-escorted convoys (for reference: read what to expect from a visit to Abu Simbel)

See, in the USA alone there were 15 mass shootings in 2016, yet 37.6 million tourists came to the US at the same time. Is the US safe? Hell yes, but so is Egypt. If you take certain precautions, it will be perfectly safe to travel to Egypt.

Visiting the Sinai Peninsula is currently (2019) probably not a smart idea (except Sharm El-Sheikh), and going too deep into the desert, especially without an escort, might not be smart either. Egypt, while slowly being on the way to enduring peace and prosperity, is still a region with lots of internal conflicts and quite some poverty. So, use your common sense!

Is Cairo safe at night for tourists?

A bazaar in cairo at night is safe for tourists in Egypt
Typical bazaar in Cairo at night

Cairo is an incredible city, but pretty much one big warren (definitely read my guide to the 20 best things to do in the city). It’s quite easy to get lost on the big markets and at night you might be the only fair-skinned traveler within a radius of one mile. But is it safe to go the markets in Cairo at night? Pretty much.

Now, I wouldn’t bring the expensive watch, maybe leave my credit card in the hotel and only take a reasonably large amount of money along. But other than that, you will be perfectly safe in Cairo. Some locals might be staring at you, but that’s probably your worst problem – apart from local vendors and café owners trying to sell you something. Again, use your common sense.

And remember, there is safety in numbers. So, if you are a small group, your biggest fear is probably getting lost. If you do, just call one of the ubiquitous taxis and tell him to get you to your hotel.

If you are not brave enough to venture out into Cairo, Luxor or Aswan at night alone, hire a local guide for a couple of pounds. He will be your safety shield, know what to do in each situation and keep you from falling for scams (he might be affiliated with a restaurant or so, though).

Travel safety for solo female travelers in Egypt

The pyramids of Giza near Cairo in Egypt with camel riders in the foreground
The pyramids of Giza

Now, admittedly I am neither a woman nor a solo traveler. But, I’m quite aware that out of necessity or preference some of my female fellow travelers like to go on vacations all by themselves. Generally speaking, Egypt is perfectly safe for solo female travelers as well.

Now, as a woman, you really should stick to dressing conservative – but if you have been traveling solo before, you know that this is probably THE golden rule, no matter where you can (do check out my guide on what to wear in Egypt). Same applies to talking with strangers and getting into any situation where you are not in control. Try to avoid flirting at all cost (expect you REALLY want to) and generally stick to official channels. Which means, call your taxi through your hotel, get your guide through the hotel and all the other usual precautions you should take as a solo female traveler in Egypt or anywhere else.

There are some reports of harassment, but that is (sadly) neither uncommon nor unheard of no matter where you go. There are lots of guided tours around the major tourist’s attractions and you can easily arrange for joining one of these groups or get a guide all by yourself.

Common scams

Souvenir booths at the Pyramids of Giza where tourists are often scamed in Egypt
Souvenir booths at the Pyramids of Giza

Your worst problem in Egypt is peddlers and shop owners. Ever since the decline in tourism, sales dropped as well – making some of them desperate. So, is it safe to visit the Pyramids in Egypt? Probably, but stick to one very important golden rule: Don’t ever talk to the locals! And never tell them where you are from. Just say “no thank / la shukran” in a friendly way and move on.

I’m dead serious. It might sound a bit crass, but it’s the only thing that will prevent you from getting scammed – especially around the pyramids (read my guide).

The most popular scam is the “present scam“. Vendors will usually start a conversation by asking your name and where you are from. From there, they will invite you to check out their offers and then they will make you a present. “Take it. Is present.”. Don’t. Walk away. If you told them their name, they will sometimes start writing your name in Hieroglyphs on the present and you are doomed. The present will be free, but incidentally, the vendor’s sister will be marrying tomorrow and she would be mortally offended if you don’t chip in some money for her dowry.

Especially in Cairo, locals will offer you to show you a shortcut or a safe way to cross the street. This is quite the tempting offer, but just another scam. In the best case, they will expect some baksheesh (tip), in the worst case you have to come to their gallery, shop or home where some scam will take place.

Handing your camera to a local, especially around the Pyramids, might not be a good idea either. They will appear to be helpful and then ask a big tip for taking the pictures, and there is that chance they’ll run away with it.

Money changing tricks are also abundant. Mostly, you are asked to change coins (Euros or Quarter Dollars) into bills. Stay away from it, even though they are asking for your help in the most insistent manner. And always change money at a local bank or withdraw it directly from the ATM. Nothing good will ever happen when changing money directly from a local for a “good rate”.

Driving with locals taxis can be a problem as well. New ones will have meters. If they don’t – prearrange a price beforehand, but always leave a small tip. Sometimes they will try to add a fee for extra persons or extra baggage, etc. Don’t fuss around over 5 pounds, but if it’s more, stay strong and walk away.

A typical neighborhood in Cairo
A typical neighborhood in Cairo

Last, but certainly not least, children joined into the scamming machinery in the past years. Some of them are truly poor wretches, but always be aware that giving them money, even if they tell you they don’t have anything to eat (which may even be true!), will never help them in the long run.

By supporting that kind of industry you will teach the locals that investing in local businesses, taking up a regular job that supports the economy is less lucrative than scamming foreigners or begging. The problem: The more tourists get scammed, the more children beg, the less effective it will be and the more tourists will come home telling bad stories – quite the vicious circle. If you want to help, go through the usual NGOs.

But please, don’t get the wrong impression. Egypt is by far not the only country where tourists are being scammed. Even in central Europe, it will happen in one way or the other. With a little bit of research and by using your common sense, you will almost certainly be able to avoid them.

Health precautions for Egypt

A felucca inside of the tomb district in Aswan, Egypt
A felucca near Aswan

When it comes to travel safety in Egypt, you should also take common health concerns into consideration. Egypt is a very warm country and not all restaurants stick to common western hygiene standards. Diarrhea is your worst enemy and should not be taken lightly at all – you would not be the first European / American to end your vacation hospitalized (which is why having travel insurance is quite important in Egypt – normally I don’t advertise them!)

Always stick to “peel it, cook it, or leave it“. Don’t drink fresh juices, ice cream or unbottled water. Never use ice cubes (I’m talking to you Americans!), don’t try those salads and buffets are, generally speaking, not the best idea either.

You also should never consider bathing in the river Nile, even if you take a cruise (read about my experience here). Schistosomiasis, also known as Bilharzia, is transmitted by parasites found in the river. Especially in the lower regions of the Nile, there is a lot of garbage floating down to the estuary and the currents can be quite dangerous as well. Please, stick to the pool – it’s a lot safer and cleaner.

Apart from that, Malaria isn’t a problem, but Hepatitis A can be, and you are probably already vaccinated against tetanus, Diptheria, and poliomyelitis, so there are no major precautions you need to take. If you are traveling in rural areas (99% of tourists don’t), you might consider a rabies vaccination, otherwise, Egypt is safe.

So, this is my little guide about Egypt travel safety. I hope I was able to convince you, that Egypt is safe, but you need to come prepared. In a way, I only wrote this guide because so many of my friends kept on asking me the safety question. I personally never had a single doubt about Egypt, and I really want you to feel the same. Sure, the culture is different, and sure, Egypt has a history, but that history is more than 4,000 years and it would be quite wrong to reduce it on a scant few happenings in the past decade. Don’t let unfounded predjudices spoil the trip of a lifetime! :)

As you are traveling to Egypt, I’d really like to point you towards my free Egypt itinerary. Just enter your e-mail address and download it from the confirmation e-mail you get!

So, hope you enjoyed my little Egypt travel safety guide! Got any questions? Ask them in the comments below. Oh, and don’t forget to pin this to your pinterest board!

Is it really safe to visit Egypt in 2018? This travel guide will tell you everything you need about travel safety in Egypt. Also covers common scams and things you need to avoid doing. Click for more information on Egypt travel safety.

 

22 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you…this has really helped to make my decision to go to Egypt. Send me an email so I can ask you a few more questions, If that is okay?

  2. Thank you so much for all this info! I’m so excited to start planning my trip for this year!
    One thing, in your file there is a typo: The title on the cover says EGPTY… Please fix it.
    Thanks again!

    • Well…from a terrorist point of view, I’d say it’s perfectly safe. But the health situation is not the best and they may have to visit the toilet once too often, if you get my meaning ;-)

  3. Hi. A couple buddies and I are looking to go to Cairo this year, but we do not know much Arabic. How difficult is it navigating the city knowing very little of the native language?

    • Hey Sid,
      not a big problem. Google maps will be your best friend and some taxi drivers speak a little bit of English (most locals don’t…except shop owners).
      Tourists have been visiting Cairo for 200 years ;-)
      If you are really worried and this is your first time navigating a big city in the Middle East, get a guide. They are cheap.

  4. Im in cairo today, my last night thank god . Today I decided to stay in the hotel and finally have few minutes of peace. But of course with the thousand of cars honking Day and night that will be impossible. Don’t get me wrong , I love Egypt, but I love the idea of Egypt of thousands of years ago. This , wherever you want to call it , it’s NOT what I dreamed . Please please please , don’t come here !!! There’s nothing DREAM like material about this trip. It has been the worse trip of my life and I feel like so many people are dreaming on coming here and have no idea what are they getting into . This is not vacation material . You will be harassed, lied to , cheat on, disrespected and believe me , it’s not worth it !! I’m traveling from NJ USA with my husband , we are 46 ans 45 , travel savvy, been traveling the world , and I was not prepared for such a nightmare / do yourself a favor , watch a documentary and stay home .

    • Hey Jesse,
      I’m sorry Egypt was nothing like you excepted.
      Expectation management is quite important and there is a modern side to Egypt…but I feel it is somewhat wrong to see it as a negative. The Egyptians, much like Egypt, have changed since the Pharaonic times.
      I feel this is a good thing.
      My trips to Egypt have all been quite a dream. Visiting these ancient sites, so pristine after all these thousands of years, is quite unimaginable. But for somebody who has never been to the real Middle East (I’m not talking about Dubai or Istanbul), it can be a bit overwhelming.
      I don’t want to imply anything, but in my experience, most Americans I met on my travels live and travel in quite a bubble – language, food, and experience wise. Which is totally okay. For those, it’s often best to rely on good tour operators working together with luxury hotels – else it might feel like a nightmare. Because frankly, the average Egyptian is rather poor and the suburbs of Cairo seem less inviting on the first glance (the locals are exceedingly friendly, tho!).

      From my experience, all lot of the people who had a negative experience (and I talked to quite some), booked cheap hotels, cheap (bus) tours and thought 600$ for two week would buy them the ticket to a fantastic experience. Well, it won’t, but 600$ won’t really get you anywhere at home either, so that’s an interesting expectation at best.

  5. Hi Norman, thank you for this great article and all the information.
    I am planning to visit Cairo and Jerusalem in Aug/Sep 2019 for 6 days max.
    Are 3 days enough for Cairo?
    Traveling from Cairo to Jerusalem by Bus is safe? I like to travel by road in foreign countries.
    How much budget I should keep for Cairo? (I know there is no best answer to this question, but I mean an average).
    Thanks!
    -Amit

    • Hey Amit,
      3 days in Cairo will be enough to cover most of it. As for traveling by bus – I possibly can’t say and it probably depends on your travel route ;-)
      Budget..cairo is rather cheap, though some museums are a bit on the expensive side for tourists (like Egyptian museum or pyramids). I’d say with a hundred dollars a day you will be fine – more if you want to see the sound and light show and other such things in the evening.

  6. Hi Norman, my brother and I were looking at hiking Mount Sinai on the southern end of the Sinai peninsula. Given what was mentioned in the article, and that it’s pretty rural, what would be your recommendations on trying to be safe in this Area?

    • Hey Sean,
      Hm…this is a tough question. I’d look for a tour operated, to be quite frank with you. I’m currently not aware of any abductions etcs, but I want to be honest with you…I have no personal experience and so it would be a bit wrong to give you advice.

  7. I was in Cairo last week (early Feb 2019). Saw numerous fires all over the city each day – mostly cars being set on fire. The locals appear numb to it, like a normal occurrence. My view is that the place is not safe, and I have recommended everyone I know to stay well away.

    Not only that, my determination to still go there felt unrewarded, as I was constantly being targeted for scams and cheaters. It leaves you feeling frustrated and constantly on guard. You would think now would be a cheap time to visit Egypt, however the Egyptian response to lower tourist numbers is to further scam the ones that do show up.

  8. i would like to visit cairo for 3days and luxor for 3 days including cruise to luxor temples and valley of the kings and museums. is it a good idea? your advice please.

  9. Hmm…your arguments are a bit too simple for my taste, Mike. While it is true, there are quite a lot scams going on, I find it hard to fault them. So many people lost their jobs in recent years. Some of them literally have nothing to eat anymore.
    Doesn’t make the country unsafe, if you ask me. BUT of course, if you are looking for a carefree holiday instead of exploring a different country, Egypt might be the wrong place.
    Also, this article is about Egypt being safe. Losing a dollar or two doesn’t make a country unsafe.

    I know so many European friends who are equally afraid of visiting the U.S. because they are afraid of the high crime rates and shootings.

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