Safety and security
Political and security situation
Since January 2011 Egypt has experienced significant political turmoil and the political environment remains restrictive. This has sometimes involved violent protests and disturbances, which have resulted in a number of deaths.
Protests, marches and demonstrations can occur across Egypt, often on Fridays, but also at other times and with little prior notice. If you become aware of any nearby protests, marches or demonstrations you should leave the area immediately as the atmosphere can change quickly and without warning. Police have previously used water cannons, tear gas, birdshot and live ammunition for crowd control.
You should keep valid photographic identification with you at all times. Westerners, including British nationals, have been killed, raped and sexually assaulted in crowds – including at celebratory events as well as at demonstrations and protests.
Follow the news on television and radio closely, and take advice from the authorities, hotels and tour operators.
Foreigners engaging in any form of political activity or activities critical of the government may be at risk of detention or other measures.
The crime rate in Egypt is generally low, but over the years expatriates have sometimes suffered armed robberies, muggings, sexual assaults, rapes, break-ins to accommodation and cars, and car-jackings at gun and knife-point have taken place in areas popular with expatriates, including during the daytime. Car-jackings generally target four-wheel drive vehicles. Muggings have occurred in taxis.
In 2016, the British Embassy responded to 3 cases of rape and sexual assault against British nationals in Egypt. Assaults have occurred in taxis and on microbuses. If you are travelling on a microbus, avoid being the last passenger left on the bus. Take extra care when travelling alone, particularly in taxis and microbuses.
Take care of your passport and valuables. Use hotel safes and beware of pickpockets and bag snatchers.
If you are the victim of any crime you must report it to the tourist police immediately. Failure to report crimes before you leave Egypt will make it impossible to seek a prosecution at a later date.
The FCO advise against all travel to the Governorate of North Sinai. The Egyptian armed forces are conducting military operations against extremist groups in this area.
In North Sinai, there are frequent, almost daily reports of attacks. Most attacks are in the northeast corner of the governorate between Al-Arish city and the border with Gaza, but the whole of the North Sinai governorate is at risk. Most attacks are against the Egyptian government and military installations and personnel, but attacks have been carried out against civilians suspected of working with the authorities and recently in 2017 against local religious minority groups.
A state of emergency has been declared and a curfew is in place between 7pm and 6am along the coast between al-Arish and Rafah extending around 40km inland.
For the latest requirements on crossing from Egypt to Gaza, delivering aid or entering for humanitarian purposes, you should contact the Egyptian Embassy in London. However, the Egyptian authorities have stated that all aid going into Gaza from Egypt must be channelled through the Egyptian Red Crescent:
- telephone: + 20 226 703 979, + 20 226 703 983
- fax: + 20 226 703 967).
Short notice requests for humanitarian access and those made in Egypt are unlikely to be considered. The Egyptian authorities can ask for a letter from the British Embassy in Cairo as part of their entry requirements. The British Embassy considers each request carefully and is only able to provide letters in certain circumstances and against strict criteria when entry is for humanitarian aid purposes. Contact the British Embassy directly for details. You should also read the FCO Travel Advice for Israel and the Occupied Territories.
Foreign workers have been taken hostage by Bedouin tribesmen.
Security authorities often close the Suez-Taba road.
South Sinai and Red Sea Governorates
The FCO advise against all but essential travel to the Governorate of South Sinai, with the exception of the area within the Sharm el Sheikh perimeter barrier, which includes the airport and the areas of Sharm el Maya, Hadaba, Naama Bay, Sharks Bay and Nabq. However, the FCO advise against all but essential travel by air to or from Sharm el Sheikh.
Security measures are in place in the resorts of Sharm el Sheikh, Hurghada and Marsa Alam. Security forces are situated at airports, at checkpoints around the perimeter of the towns and throughout the South Sinai and Red Sea Governorates. Routine security checks are being performed on entry into the airports and police are carrying out vehicle checks in towns.
There’s a risk that tourists at high profile sites like 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.
There have been a number of attacks in Cairo mainly targeting government and security targets.
Exercise extreme caution in all border areas.
The FCO advise against all but essential travel to the area west of the Nile Valley and Nile Delta regions, excluding the coastal areas between the Nile Delta and Marsa Matruh (as shown on the map). The tourist areas along the Nile river (including Luxor, Qina, Aswan, Abu Simbel and the Valley of the Kings) and the Red Sea resorts of Sharm el Sheikh and Hurghada aren’t included in the areas to which the FCO advise against all but essential travel.
You’ll need a permit from the Travel Permits Department of the Egyptian Ministry of the Interior if you travel to the south west corner of Egypt near the border with Sudan or Libya. You should carefully consider your security arrangements; the border areas are porous, and bandits and armed groups operate. In July 2014, an armed group attacked a security checkpoint along the Farafra-Bawati road in the New Valley Governorate, killing 22 border guards. In September 2015 Egyptian security forces mistakenly killed 12 Egyptian and Mexican members of a tour group in the western desert area of Al-Wahat.
Accidents are common, mainly due to poor road conditions, dangerous driving and non-enforcement of traffic laws. The UN estimates that road accidents killed almost 16,000 people in Egypt in 2011. This is more than eight times the number in the UK. Observe the speed limit and if possible avoid independent road travel outside main cities and resorts at night. Make sure you have adequate insurance.
You can drive in Egypt on an International driving permit for up to six months. If you intend to remain in Egypt for a longer period you must apply for an Egyptian driving licence.
By law, seatbelts must be worn when travelling in the front of a vehicle.
If you are travelling off road, employ a qualified guide and obtain appropriate permits from the Ministry of Interior.
Only certain categories of foreign residents may import vehicles. Vehicles of visitors should be temporarily imported with a valid “carnet de passage” available from the Automobile Association.
There have been a number of serious bus crashes in recent years with large numbers of fatalities, including tourists.
There have been a number of fatal accidents in recent years. On 11 August 2017, two trains collided in Alexandria, killing at least 36 people.
Suspect devices have been found at train stations and on the rail network. Although several of these have been hoaxes or false alarms, you should remain vigilant, and take into account the possibility of delay or disruption to rail services, especially on the Cairo-Alexandria line.
River and sea travel
In the past, overcrowding and poor safety standards have led to several accidents on Red Sea ferries and Nile cruisers. There were 4 significant fires on Nile cruisers between September 2006 and November 2012.
Before undertaking any adventure activity, make sure you are covered by your travel insurance.
Nineteen people, including two British nationals, died in a hot air balloon accident in Luxor in February 2013. Some UK tour operators have not been able to verify independently safety procedures for balloon flights and are not selling balloon flights to their customers. Speak to your tour company before booking a balloon flight.
If you are considering diving or snorkelling in any of the Red Sea resorts be aware that safety standards of diving operators can 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 of any kind are very unusual in the Red Sea. There were a series of attacks in Sharm el Sheikh in late 2010 and in March 2015, a German tourist was killed by a shark attack in al-Qusair. You should monitor updates issued by the local authorities and your tour operator.
Make sure your travel insurance, or that of your tour or dive company, provides adequate cover for the costs involved in any air/sea rescue. The current fee can exceed US$4,000 per hour. The Egyptian authorities will only undertake air/sea rescue operations on receipt of a guarantee of payment.
There have been several serious quad bike accidents involving British nationals in resort areas. Take the same precautions as you would in the UK and note that safety standards can vary considerably. Always wear a crash helmet.
There remains a small risk from unexploded landmines in certain desert areas in the north west of Egypt near to Alamein, and on some limited stretches of the Mediterranean coast near Marsa Matrouh and on the Red Sea coast south of Suez. Danger areas are usually well marked with signs and barbed wire fencing. Take care and follow local advice, especially if planning trips off marked roads.