The US Department of State currently has a level 2 travel alert to exercise increased caution for Egypt. This alert is due to Egypt’s high risk of terrorist attacks — it is not related to the coronavirus. A few important notes to consider:
- If you’re buying travel insurance within 30 days of a reported terrorist attack at your destination, you might not be covered for trip cancellations.
- Make sure your policy states you’re covered for terrorism ahead of time. That way, if a terrorist attack delays your transportation or causes damage to or theft of your belongings, you can get coverage.
Many people dream of seeing Egypt’s ancient sites or cruising the River Nile as the Pharaohs once did. But recent political turmoil has painted a question mark on the country’s safety for tourists, especially areas in or close to the Sinai Peninsula. However, you can still travel to some lower-risk areas if you stay aware of the risks and take precautions.
Is Egypt safe for travel in 2020?
It depends on the area where you’re traveling. Egypt holds travel warnings from the Department of State because of unpredictable terirorist groups, as of March 2020. Safety considerations for Egypt:
- Avoid travel to the Sinai Peninsula or the Western Desert. The Sinai Peninsula has seen multiple terrorist attacks on police forces and civilians alike.
- Do not travel near Egyptian borders where military zones are enforced.
- Tourists can travel to the resort Sharm El-Sheikh if traveling by air only.
- Cairo has seen multiple attacks despite the city’s increased police activity there.
- Crime such as stolen purses, female harassment and price gouging are common.
- Travelers to Gaza need special permission from the Egyptian Embassy in Washington to cross this border.
- Those traveling near or in the Eastern Desert should stay vigilant. World War II land mines have been spotted around this area.
What precautions should I take?
To protect yourself against the threat of terrorism, keep these precautions in mind:
- Avoid traveling to unsafe areas. Keep updated on areas the Department of State recommends US citizens avoid, including locations listed above. You can enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program for real-time alerts.
- Stay away from crowds or protests. These are a breeding ground for unpredictable behavior.
- Stay aware at holy sites or Western tourist spots. Terrorists may target these areas. Take particular precautions when traveling during holiday festivals and significant religious periods.
- Avoid free gifts from vendors. Some Egyptian vendors offer gifts and then demand payment for accepting it.
- Be vigilant about sports or tourist activities. Tourist rides and attractions may not include safety warnings or regular safety testing the way US tourist attractions do.
Is food and drink safe in Egypt?
You can find safe areas to eat with a few considerations, but avoid drinking tap water in this country.
Is it safe to eat in Egypt?
You can find many restaurants throughout Egypt that are up to Western food hygiene standards, but some will be questionable. The safest spots to eat are at hotels, on Nile cruise boats or in mainstream restaurants.
However, if you want to fully experience the local culture, you can lessen your chances of getting ill with a few tips:
- When eating street food, make sure the food is well cooked and served hot. Look for clean and tidy restaurants.
- Avoid eating uncooked foods including raw fruit or salads that may get washed with unfiltered water before serving.
- Don’t eat raw or undercooked meat, fish or eggs.
- Seek out busy spots full of locals. This is a good guide for meal quality and for freshly prepared food.
- Use popular review sites to find the best places in a new city.
Is the water safe to drink in Egypt?
Tap water isn’t safe in all locations. For safety, you should drink bottled water which is cheap and readily available in the country. A few things you can do to keep safe while drinking water in Egypt:
- Only consume tap water after it’s boiled and filtered.
- Look for an unbroken seal when buying bottled water to ensure no contamination.
- For extra safety, you might brush your teeth with bottled or boiled water in case you swallow it.
- Avoid ice in drinks unless you know it’s made with boiled or bottled water.
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Do you need vaccinations before going to Egypt?
Before traveling to this African country, you should update your routine vaccinations and speak to a doctor about other important precautions. The CDC recommends travelers to Egypt get vaccines for:
- Measles — One dose for children under one year, two doses at least 28 days apart for travelers over one year old
- Hepatitis A — To combat the risk of infection through contaminated food or water
- Typhoid — Recommended especially for travelers visiting small cities, staying with locals or eating local food
- Rabies — Recommended for adults doing outdoor activities, children or anyone working with animals
- Hepatitis B — Can be contracted through contaminated medical supplies, blood or sexual contact
- Yellow fever — If you’ve traveled to a country at risk for yellow fever, including stops to high-risk countries
Is it safe to travel to Egypt alone?
Many travelers visit Egypt solo without incident, even women. Take care of your personal safety as other travelers are advised in Egypt and avoid unnecessary risks.
However, women face the added challenge of harassment and may be subject to Egypt’s religious or cultural beliefs toward women. Egyptians have been known to sexually harass American women verbally or physically.
Women can avoid unwanted attention by taking a few extra steps:
- Dress modestly. Egypt is a fairly conservative country. Consider covering the shoulders, chest and knees while out and using a scarf to cover your head inside mosques. Also consider wearing a T-shirt and shorts over your swimmers at public beaches and hot springs.
- Ignore verbal harassment. You might ignore minor verbal harassment to avoid escalating, but don’t be afraid to find help such as local police if it gets out of hand.
- Consider traveling in groups. You might be safer traveling with a friend or group, especially in high-risk areas.
- Stay vigilant. Massive crowds, public transportation or isolated areas around religious sites can be targeted areas for female harassment. But you may also want to avoid walking alone in poorly lit areas or places that don’t have much foot traffic.
Is it safe to drive in Egypt?
No, Egypt sees some of the most driving fatalities per mile in the world. Road travel in Egypt involves dangerous conditions, such as poorly marked roads, high-speed or erratic driving. Many locals drive without headlights at night, leave disabled cars without reflectors or walk along the roadways. The US Department of State recommends tourists consider other options like reputable taxi services.
If you do choose to drive, you should be able to use your US license as long as you’re not renting for more than three months. In some cases, you may need an international license along with your original license.
How do I drive safely in Egypt?
Our top tips for keeping safe while driving in Egypt:
- Driving is on the right-hand side, the same as the US.
- Keep your identity papers and license handy in case of checkpoints.
- Avoid driving at night due to the additional hazards of animals, pedestrians and carts.
- Carry water with you for longer drives.
- If you commit a traffic violation, the police may confiscate your driver’s license or arrest you if you’ve been drinking and driving.
Is public transportation safe?
No, using public buses, minibuses, metros or trains are not considered safe forms of travel around Egypt. Regular accidents and derailments happen with these types of transportation.
However, you might consider taxis or hired drivers since they’re used to navigating the streets. You can find Uber drivers in major cities like Cairo, including Uber scooters for a cheaper ride. You may have trouble finding your driver among other vehicles due to Arabic number plates. Make sure they identify themselves first or say your name before jumping in.
Is it safe to travel to Egypt while pregnant?
Travel to developing countries is not ideal during pregnancy due to risks of illness and limited medical care. If you take precautions, follow your doctor’s advice and travel during a healthy pregnancy, you might travel to Egypt without a problem. Your second trimester may prove the safest time so long as you aren’t experiencing pregnancy concerns.
Risks of vaccinations
Several vaccinations recommended for Egypt are not recommended for pregnant women, such as the measles or active typhoid vaccine. If you haven’t received them recently, you might go without some protection that could lead to complications. You can face food poisoning or typhoid fever risks from eating contaminated food in Egypt.
Limited medical care
Medical care suited to Western travelers is available around several main ports and tourist areas. However, doctors and hospitals may be limited in other places. Ambulances may battle crowded streets, especially in Cairo. In addition, you should expect to pay cash up front for medical services. Payments for medical attention are covered under most travel insurance policies during emergencies.
Travel insurance exclusions
A travel insurance policy designed for pregnancy should cover you for unforeseen pregnancy complications. However, most insurers won’t cover routine checkups or volunteer trip cancellations unless you found out about pregnancy after purchasing the policy. Also, most plans don’t protect you for normal childbirth expenses and may exclude traveling after a certain time period like 26 weeks.
What travel insurance should I consider for Egypt?
If you’re journeying to this monumental land, you might want a moderate amount of coverage for:
- Trip interruption or cancellation. Consider policies with this coverage in case you need to cancel your trip before or after departure for a covered reason.
- Baggage coverage. While not as high a risk, petty crime could lead to stolen baggage or personal items. And international travel poses the risk of losing or delaying your baggage.
- Medical emergencies. You may want at least this coverage in case you need emergency care, medical transportation or an emergency exit of the country.
- Terrorism. You should make sure you understand how your insurance company handles terrorist attacks. You can most likely get coverage for unexpected events as long as no other known attacks happened recently before buying coverage.
Egypt offers the world a rich history, architecture and historical monuments that you can still see if you take adequate safety measures ahead of time. Safety measures include eating well-cooked food, getting recommended vaccines and avoiding main areas advised as unsafe. Gain extra peace of mind when you buy travel coverage.