Safety and security
There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. You should remain vigilant at all times.
Terrorism in Egypt
Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Egypt.
Terrorism is a risk across Egypt, particularly in North Sinai. Attacks could be indiscriminate. Targets might include:
- Egyptian security forces
- religious sites
- large public gatherings
- places visited by foreigners
The authorities in Egypt have a significant security presence across the country, including armed security officers at important sites, critical infrastructure and road checkpoints. Extra measures are in place at tourist sites. Recent attacks include:
- in 2022, an attack to the west of the Suez Canal targeting security forces within the city of Ismailiyah
- in 2019, at least 20 people killed by a car bomb in Central Cairo’s Manial district
- in 2019, at least 16 people injured after an IED attack on a tourist bus near the Giza pyramids
- in 2019, 3 security personnel killed by a suicide bomber in Central Cairo’s Darb al-ahmar district
- in 2018, a roadside blast killed 4 people on a bus near the Giza pyramids
- in 2018, gunmen opened fire on a bus carrying Coptic Christians in Minya province killing 7 people. Daesh (formally ISIL) claimed responsibility for the attack
Terrorism during holiday periods
There is a heightened threat of terrorism in and around religious sites and during religious festivals, such as the month of Ramadan and the Christmas period (including Coptic Christmas in January). Terrorist attacks have occurred over local holiday weekends. See a list of public holidays on the Egyptian Presidency website.
- follow the advice of Egyptian authorities
- be vigilant in crowds and large gatherings
Airports and airlines
Terrorists in Egypt have the intent and capability to target airport buildings and planes.
The main threat is on the North Sinai Peninsula where Daesh operate with greater freedom, but terrorists are active throughout Egypt.
Co-operate fully with security officials at airports and pay attention to security measures on flights from Egypt to the UK.
There is a threat of kidnapping by groups operating in North Africa, particularly from Libya and groups originating in the Sahel. This includes Al Qaeda and Daesh-affiliated groups, who may travel across the region’s porous border. There is a heightened risk of kidnap in border and remote desert areas of North Africa. Terrorist groups have taken foreigners, government officials and civilians hostage for financial gain and for political leverage. Further kidnappings are likely.
British nationals are viewed as legitimate targets, including those engaged in tourism, humanitarian aid work, journalism or business sectors. If you are kidnapped, the reason for your presence is unlikely to serve as a protection or secure your safe release.
The long-standing policy of the British government is not to make substantive concessions to hostage takers. The British government considers that paying ransoms and releasing prisoners builds the capability of terrorist groups and finances their activities. This can, in turn, increase the risk of further hostage-taking. The Terrorism Act (2000) makes payments to terrorists illegal.
Since 2011 there has been significant political turmoil. The political environment remains restrictive. There have been violent protests and disturbances, resulting in a number of deaths.
Protests, marches and demonstrations occur across Egypt, particularly in cities. Avoid protests, marches or demonstrations as the situation could change quickly and without warning. Police have used water cannons, tear gas, birdshot and live ammunition as crowd control.
The authorities may close public spaces, including parks and beaches, at short notice, particularly around the holidays. Follow the guidance of the local authorities. You could be fined or arrested if you do not do as you are told.
Foreigners involved in any political activity or activities critical of the government may be at risk of detention or other measures.
There are reports that personal electronic devices are being checked by security personnel, particularly around places of public gathering, such as Tahrir Square.
The crime rate is generally low, but visitors have reported armed robberies, muggings (including in taxis), sexual assaults, and break-ins to accommodation and cars. Take extra care when travelling alone, particularly at night, in taxis and microbuses.
If you want to report a crime, contact the tourist police on 122. If you do not report a crime before you leave, it will be difficult to ask for a prosecution at a later date.
Sexual assaults and harassment
There are a number of sexual assaults reported to the British Embassy, including cases involving minors.
The majority of cases that have been reported took place in tourist resorts in the Red Sea region, often committed by someone the victim had already met, including hotel workers and excursion staff. There have also been reports of hotel staff discouraging incidents being reported to local police.
Female travellers should exercise caution when travelling alone, particularly at night, in buses, taxis and microbuses. If you are travelling on public transport including microbuses, avoid being the last passenger left on board.
Take extra precautions, including:
make sure children and young people are always accompanied by known and trusted people and not left alone with hotel or excursion staff
don’t allow hotel staff to enter your room when you are alone. Try to ensure a friend or relative is present
avoid travelling in a taxi alone. If this isn’t possible, apply extra security to your trip by sharing the details of your driver and trip with a friend, and using live location on WhatsApp
use reputable providers for any services and excursions, and carry out research beforehand, including by consulting your tour operator where you have one
avoid sharing personal contact or social media details
You may also want to read:
If you experience sexual harassment or assault, or anything you see doesn’t feel right, report it to the hotel or local authorities - Tourist Police on 126 or if you are resident in Egypt you should call the Police on 122 and contact the British Embassy at +20 2 27916000 as soon as possible for advice and support.
Protecting your belongings
Keep a copy of your passport, visa and flight ticket separately from originals when travelling. Leave copies at home where others can access them, and also store them electronically so you can access them easily. If your passport is lost or stolen, tell the police immediately and get a police report.
Take particular care of your possessions on buses, trains and in crowds. Criminals may ride past on bikes and snatch valuables.
Be cautious in tourist areas, where scammers and touts target foreigners.
Staying safe at tourist sites
Tourists at popular tourist sites, such as the Giza Pyramids, may be confronted aggressively for money or business, even while travelling by car or taxi. Visitors using a pre-booked guide, or taking an organised tour to visit the Giza Pyramids, are likely to face fewer difficulties.
Laws and cultural differences
Egypt is predominantly an Islamic country. It is illegal to encourage conversion to the Christian faith.
Respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions at all times. Make sure your actions do not cause offence, especially during Ramadan or when you visit religious areas.
Dress modestly, especially in rural areas, mosques and souqs (markets). Public displays of affection are frowned on. What may be acceptable in the tourist resort areas may not be in other areas.
Ramadan is a holy month for Muslims. Ramadan in Egypt in 2024 will likely begin in March and end in April and will last for 30 days. Get more advice when you arrive from your tour guide, hotel or business contacts.
You should also:
- check opening hours of shops and restaurants
- be aware that if hotels and restaurants are providing food or drink in fasting hours, they may separate you from Islamic guests, for example with screens
- follow local dress codes – clothing that does not meet local dress codes may cause more offence at this time
- be aware that driving may be erratic, particularly when people are trying to get home at dusk
- be patient and show tolerance
Police regularly carry out ID checks. Keep valid photo ID with you at all times.
Alcohol laws and bans
Drinking alcohol anywhere other than a licensed restaurant or bar is illegal and can lead to arrest.
Illegal drugs and prison sentences
Possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs is a serious offence and can, even for small amounts, lead to lengthy prison sentences (25 years), life imprisonment or the death penalty. Those sentenced to life imprisonment on drugs charges will normally spend the rest of their life in prison with no possibility of parole or pardon.
Khat is illegal in Egypt.
Criticising the Egyptian government
Making political or negative comments about the Egyptian government, including about the President or security forces, can cause trouble with the authorities. People have faced prison sentences for making insulting comments on social media.
Restrictions on photography
You need a permit for professional photography or film equipment. This includes photography umbrellas, artificial outdoor lighting gear, and any equipment that occupies or blocks public roads.
You are not allowed to take or share photographs that could be considered damaging to the country’s image. You can only take photographs of Egyptian citizens can if you have their written permission. Do not photograph officials without their consent. Taking pictures of children is not allowed.
Photography of, or near, military property is strictly banned. This includes the Suez Canal. There are sensitivities about taking photographs of embassies, government buildings, churches and religious buildings. British nationals have been arrested for photographing churches, electricity stations, train stations and bridges. If you are in any doubt, get permission before taking photographs.
Do not use radio controlled helicopters or ‘drones’ to take photographs.
The import, production or use of drones is banned in Egypt unless you have prior authorisation from the Egyptian Ministry of Defence. Anyone who uses or imports drones without authorisation could be sent to prison for up to 7 years or fined 5,000 to 50,000 Egyptian pounds.
Same-sex sexual activity is not explicitly criminalised in Egypt, but LGBT+ people have been prosecuted under the law of ‘debauchery’. People have been arrested for flying rainbow flags at public events on debauchery charges.
There is little public acceptance of homosexuality in Egypt. Public expressions of homosexuality or displays of affection between same-sex couples are likely to get negative attention. See our information and advice page for the LGBT+ community before you travel.
Be cautious about sharing content or having discussions of a sexual nature on social media, especially about sexual acts that are considered illegal. Some travellers have been arrested and imprisoned for this.
Children and young people
Egyptian family law is very different from UK law, particularly around child custody. See FCDO guidance for those affected by international parental child abduction and how to get assistance.
Outdoor activities and adventure tourism
Insurance for adventure activities
Make sure your travel insurance, or the tour or dive company, covers the costs for any air or sea rescue. The current fee can exceed 4,000 US dollars per hour. The Egyptian authorities will only undertake rescue operations when there’s a guarantee of payment. Book excursions for activities at your resort or through approved agents or tour operators.
See FCDO travel insurance guidance for more information on travel insurance.
Hot air balloons
Some UK tour operators have not been able to verify the safety standards for balloon flight operators and have stopped selling balloon flights. There have been a number of injuries and fatal accidents. Speak to your tour company before booking.
Diving and snorkelling
Safety standards of diving operators in Red Sea resorts vary considerably. Never dive or snorkel unaccompanied. Where possible make bookings through your tour representative. Very cheap operators may not provide adequate safety and insurance standards. Diving beyond the depth limit of your insurance policy will invalidate your cover.
Shark attacks are rare, but there have been a number involving tourists in the Red Sea region. Monitor any updates from local authorities or your tour operator.
Quad bikes and desert visits
There have been several serious quad bike accidents involving British nationals in resort areas. Take the same precautions as you would in the UK. Safety standards can vary considerably. Always wear a crash helmet.
There is a small risk from unexploded landmines in some desert areas, including:
- in the north west of Egypt near to Alamein
- on some limited stretches of the Mediterranean coast near Marsa Matrouh
- on the Red Sea coast south of Suez
Dangerous areas are usually well marked with signs and barbed wire fencing. Take care and follow local advice, especially if planning trips off marked roads.
If you are planning to drive in Egypt, see information on driving abroad.
You can drive in Egypt on an International Driving Permit for up to 6 months. If you intend to stay in Egypt for a longer period you must apply for an Egyptian driving licence.
You may not be allowed to import a vehicle into Egypt. If you want to bring in a vehicle temporarily, you will need a ‘carnet de passage’ from the Automobile Association.
Accidents are common because of poor road conditions, dangerous driving and poor enforcement of traffic laws. Do not drive outside main cities and resorts at night. Make sure you have adequate insurance.
If you’re travelling off-road, employ a qualified guide and get a permit from the Ministry of Interior.
You must wear a seatbelt in the front of a vehicle.
Rail and bus travel
There have been serious bus crashes in recent years with large numbers of fatalities, including tourists.
There have also been fatal train collisions and derailments.
Suspect devices have been found at train stations and on the rail network. Although some have been hoaxes or false alarms you should be vigilant.
River and sea travel
Overcrowding and poor safety standards have led to several accidents on Red Sea ferries and Nile cruisers.