10 tips on how to safely travel in Egypt so that you feel safe & have an adventure of a lifetime in the Middle East.
The day we left for Egypt two of Roger’s staff came & gave him a hug goodbye & asked him to please return safely.
Before we left I had someone tell me to please be safe as they were honestly worried that we would not return.
And while I greatly appreciate their love I really want you to know that traveling to Egypt is not completely unlike traveling to other foreign countries.
No matter where you travel in the world it is important to watch out for pickpockets, people trying to sell you things (or even scam you) on the streets, & to always be aware of your surroundings.
In Paris we had someone harass us to sign a petition, in Key West we had someone follow us asking for money, & I definitely saw more guns in Rome than I did in Egypt.
As I heard my husband say once “people are people. They have their own lives to live.”
There is always one bad apple in a bunch, but that doesn’t mean you spend your whole life not eating apples in order to avoid a bad apple when there are so many good ones to eat & enjoy!
Yes, there have been bombings in Egypt at tourist sites, but there have also been bombings in Paris & at New York tourist sites over the years.
You can spend your whole life being afraid to leave the comfort of your little town, or you can learn how to safely travel the world & have an adventure of a lifetime!
I have chosen the latter & I hope these Egypt travel tips will help you choose to travel to Egypt too!
1. Travel as a Group
I know solo travel is really big right now, but there is truth in the saying “safety in numbers.”
I’m not saying you need to always be with a tour bus group, we never did (that’s not our travel style), but just knowing someone has your back relieves some stress.
Also, having my 6-foot husband & 6-foot father-in-law with us made me feel almost like a movie star with bodyguards. JK, sort of.
Although we had invited my in-laws to travel with us, we weren’t sure they were coming (even up to a week before our trip), & had some preliminary alternative plans if it was just the two of us.
But in regards to safety, I think there wouldn’t have been any safety difference even if we had just traveled the two of us.
However, again, there is safety in numbers.
2. Let People Know Where You Will Be
Before we leave on a trip there is always at least one person who is well informed about our travel plans.
And usually, that person is my father.
He knows so much that when I land at a destination I will turn on my phone & will have text messages from him saying things like “I see you flying over Paris.” because he has our flight information & watches the plane progress over the ocean & foreign countries from his phone.
Aren’t fathers the best!?
But also don’t forget to check in with them so that they know you are safe.
I do this by posting on social media.
Now I know some people don’t feel safe letting others know when they are on vacation (a security system or a house sitter at home can help ease your mind), but I use social media as a way to let others know we are safe & having a great time.
My father is NEVER on Instagram, except when I’m traveling.
I can expect to see him watching my stories & liking my posts when we travel & I like knowing that someone back home is keeping tabs on me.
Outside of family or friends back in the US knowing where you are at, you can also let your hotel, resort, or Airbnb know where you will be for the day if that gives you additional peace of mind.
3. Hire a Local Guide from a Reputable Source
This was a huge help when going to tourist locations where locals will also congregate to sell or ask for money.
I have a whole post about 10 Things You Need to Know Before Traveling to Egypt in which I write about how we booked our Egypt Tours for experiences like the West Bank & East Bank to tour places like the Karnak & Luxor temple, the Valley of the Kings & Queens, Hetshapsup’s Temple, & King Tuts tomb (in the valley).
In some places in Egypt (like when going on a hot air balloon ride in Luxor in the middle of the night or visiting the Great Pyramids in Giza) you will really want to have booked a guide.
That doesn’t mean you have to hire an Egyptologist to give you a grand historic tour, you can simply hire an escort/guide to help ward off persistent sellers & guide you to the best sites.
You can read more about this here.
4. Choose Your Transfers Wisely
Although we didn’t book all of our tours ahead of time, we did book all of our major transfers way in advance.
We also didn’t book our transportation to places like the Cairo Museum (where you really don’t need a guide, especially when your father-in-law has been studying Egyptian history since he was a child), & instead used Ubers.
I’ve said it before & I’ll say it again.
Not only are they cheap, but you can easily check the rating of the driver so that you know what you are getting into “literally.”
Oh, & every time we entered a vehicle my father-in-law made sure I locked the door.
Not that anyone ever tried to get into our car, I think he just liked the peace of mind knowing that it was locked.
5. Keep Track of Where You Are Going
That may sound like common sense, but too often people will get into a taxi or Uber & just assume that the driver knows where to take you.
Roger & I always had our phones open with directions taking us to our next destination.
Not only for safety reasons, but also because we wanted to make sure the driver was taking us the quickest route (especially taxis as they are SO MUCH MORE EXPENSIVE than Ubers).
We were especially grateful to have the peace of mind of having our smartphone directions pulled up while traveling great distances, like Cairo to Hurghada & Hurghada to Luxor.
6. Get Insurance
Before we left we bought insurance, both trip insurance & health/medical insurance.
We never used it, but having that security is always nice, especially in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language.
For Roger & I the cost was $25 each & it covered up to one million dollars in medical evacuation, $100,000 in medical bills, & a bunch of other miscellaneous things.
7. Dress Appropriately
I have a whole post on What to Wear in Egypt (for women) that you can read here, but what’s important to know is that how you dress will affect how you are treated.
You are going into a different culture that may very well be completely foreign to you.
Egypt is not America, it is a Middle Eastern country, & what you experience in Egypt will not be identical to your everyday life in America.
The short answer on how to avoid being harassed in Egypt because of your clothing is to simply dress modestly.
Now I know the word modesty has different meanings for everyone, so if you want to get a better idea of what I wore & what I saw other people wearing be sure to check out this post.
8. Avoid Tourist Traps
The worst part about a “good” tourist trap is that too often you don’t realize you are caught in one until it is too late.
And the worst tourist traps are the ones that involve children & break your heart.
The best advice I can give is to never engage with a local who wants to sell you something unless you seriously intended to buy from them.
Also, if you want to avoid accidentally encouraging a seller from pursuing you with their items wear dark sunglasses so that you don’t accidentally catch their eye as they are coming towards you with their goods to sell.
If someone does engage you, & you can’t seem to get away, just say no or “la” (which is “no” in Arabic) repeatedly & keep walking quickly.
As a born & raised southern gal, not smiling politely while refusing an offer is going against every fiber in my body, but it is necessary as a smile can be encouraging to many venders.
You can read a bunch of tips about avoiding tourist traps here, along with some of the experiences we had & how we avoided them.
9. Keep Your Possessions Hidden
I recommend keeping all of your valuables on your body & hidden.
Yes, you will see some people wearing their travel pouches (containing their money & passports) around their neck or over their shoulders like a purse, but that doesn’t mean you should do it.
A pair of scissors or sharp knife can easily cut through the visible strap & you may not even know it’s gone until it’s way too late.
I recommend either hiding your travel pouch under your shirt or wearing a backpack (over both arms – so they can’t just grab & run) that has a lot of zippers so that people can’t easily reach into your backpack & grab things.
Better safe than sorry.
10. Keep Eyes Open & Be Aware of Your Surroundings
This seems pretty basic, but it can be easy to get distracted by the gigantic pillars at Karnak’s temple & all of the gold at the Cairo museum.
But it’s important to always be aware of your surroundings to ensure the safety & well being of yourself & those around you.
Being aware of things such as where you can & cannot take pictures so that you don’t get in trouble, making sure your hat doesn’t fly away (like the experience I mentioned here), & making sure you get into the correct Uber are all situations that seem simple, but could easily go wrong if you aren’t paying attention.
However, if you are keeping your eyes open you can see some awesome & unique things.
We saw a camel cross a busy road while in Cairo & also an African dignitary in the Cairo museum (this is just a guess based off of their clothing, guides, numerous bodyguards with machine guns under the jackets in the ready position, & my subtle ease dropping as they were walking in & around us).
Roger & I have found that it is really important to travel prepared for safety, but with baseline experience expectations for our trip.
This means not going on a vacation expecting it to be the best vacation ever.
And while that may sound like my semi-pessimistic husband (that’s me being optimistic about his pessimism) has rubbed off on me, I think he may be right.
We try to travel with low expectations wherever we go, whether it be to the Florida Keys, Barcelona, Ireland, D.C., or anywhere else.
Because it’s usually pretty impossible to live up to high expectations.
Instead, we go on every trip prepared for the worst, but with open minds ready be won over by every country, city, & experience.
So what does that have to do with how to travel safely in Egypt?
It means having back up plans if something were to go wrong.
For example, having insurance for a major health issue & having medications for smaller health issues (like food poisoning or a cold).
This also means knowing where the closest U.S. Embassy is in your location & having a means of communication to people back home & in the area (i.e. knowing how to use your American phone to dial local numbers in Egypt).
Being prepared for any possible scenario will help you feel less stressed if something were to happen as you will already have a plan of action if anything was to go awry.
I know it’s impossible to be prepared for everything, but I hope these tips helped you as you plan & prepare not only for the safety aspect of your trip but also your entire Egyptian experience!
I have more blog posts focused on tips that will help you plan your grand adventure to Egypt.
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How do you like to stay safe when traveling?
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With love, Giusti
The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
Psalm 19:1-2 NIV