This is a question I’ve been asked a lot lately. Hardly surprising considering the constant stream of scary images you see on TV and the internet. You’d think the country was in complete and lawless chaos, which I am happy to inform you, it is not.
Sharm el Sheikh, Hurghada, Marsa Alam, and other Red Sea resort areas are completely isolated from things going on in the big cities. Life here is centered around diving, snorkeling, desert trips, and other holiday activities. It is safe to venture out of your hotel and into the town centers using precautions you would use in any holiday destination. Your holiday representative will give you all the local details about health & safety, taxis and transportation, and excursions.
Cairo and Luxor are no less safe than any other big city in the world. It’s always smart to avoid large gatherings of people, dark alleys, and stray dogs wherever you are. I once ran into a stray pack of dogs in Thailand by convincing my traveling companion to follow me taking a self-advised “shortcut”. She didn’t want to, and actually rescued me from the very angry dogs that bounded out of everywhere on my approach. Practice common sense and good judgement.
The best way to see the major sites like the Pyramids, CairoMuseum, Luxor & the Valley of the Kings is by guided tour. Your tour representative at your base in Sharm or other resort area is your best bet for excursions. Tours are well organized, insured, and offer you recourse if issues should arise. These are typically one or two day guided tours including at least one meal and several stops at points of interest, including shopping. You will also get a tour leader who will accompany you throughout the entire excursion. The sites of interest in Cairo are spread out over a large area so a well-organized tour is vitally important so you are not sitting in traffic for hours on end.
Be wary of tours offered by people on the street or by the pool or on the beach. These are not your official tour representatives and many are not licensed and don’t carry insurance. The quality of tour could also be compromised, and as mentioned on the US & UK embassy websites: not everything that is cheap is good. Most incidents are not malicious but a result of unprofessional behavior and unorganized management which can lead to things like getting picked up late, forgotten in the desert, and sometimes even serious injury resulting from say, a crash when not wearing a helmet on a quad bike. Official tour groups expect a high level of service from the excursion providers and hold them to strict standards. Stick with your official rep!
So, is it safe to travel to Egypt? My answer is yes! As an American woman living and working in Sharm el Sheikh I have never experienced a situation that made me feel concerned for my personal safety. Here in Sharm, there are a lot of safety measures in place but it’s done in a way that is not invasive. There are speed humps throughout town centers to control traffic speed and promote pedestrian traffic and there are security checkpoints at the town borders and at all the roads that lead into and out of Sharm. You cannot enter a hotel or resort without intense scrutiny from the security gate and private cars are not allowed in at all. There is easy, inexpensive public transportation available everywhere, 24 hours a day that I’ve used extensively. Oh, and for that sleep well at night feeling, the UN multinational security forces (MFO) are stationed right outside of Sharm in the event of an emergency.
So, if you’re concerned about travelling to Egypt, relax! Once you are here, you will realize that you’ve landed in one of the most amazing places in the world to go diving with stunning natural beauty above and below the water. You’ll seriously wonder what all the hype on CNN was about.