Top events in Egypt

August
22

One of the most spectacular events in Egypt, the Abu Simbel Festival celebrates the precision with which Ramses II designed the largest temple so...

September
11

Bringing together 150 international women tennis players from 25 countries, including Japan, Italy, Russia and the Ukraine, this tournament...

September
27

A week-long endurance race that starts at the Pyramids of Giza and takes a circular route on the sands around Cairo, this event attracts...

Pyramids, Egypt
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Pyramids, Egypt

© 123rf.com / Fatih Kocyildir

Egypt Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

1,001,450 sq km (386,662 sq miles).

Population

85.3 million (2013).

Population density

85.2 per sq km.

Capital

Cairo (El Qahira).

Government

Republic.

Head of state

President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi since 2014.

Head of government

Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab since 2014.

Electricity

220 volts AC, 50Hz. Sockets take the continental European-style two-pin plugs.

A complicated but fascinating country with some of the most enduring historical monuments on Earth, Egypt stands as an unforgettable travel destination. It’s had to deal with its fair share of turmoil in recent times, but this North African nation remains proud, welcoming and accessible. And with treasures as timeless as the temples and pyramids of the Nile to shout about, it’s not somewhere that’s going to slip from public consciousness any time soon. A trip here still very much has the potential to thrill.

In many ways, there are two Egypts. The first is the Egypt of Cairo and the Nile, of bustling medieval bazaars, noseless Sphinxes, river cruises and Agatha Christie-era exoticism. The second, and just as integral to many visitors, is the Egypt of the Red Sea, where a spread of large-scale modern resorts caters to sun-seekers and scuba divers. Sharm el Sheikh, with its world-class diving, high-end hotels and desert adventures, is the best known of them.

Most of the country’s ancient treasures were built during the time of the pharaohs. The Pyramids of Giza (the sole survivors of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World); the lotus-columned temples of Luxor and Karnak; the Valley of the Kings; Aswan and the temples of Abu Simbel: strung along the Nile, these monuments have drawn visitors for centuries. They represent a lasting legacy of one of the most fabled periods of human history.

Of course, the country is best understood not so much for its great monuments or its coral reefs, splendid though they are, but through its people. Bartering for a bargain in Cairo’s ancient Khan al-Khalili bazaar, taking tea and falling into long conversation with a local, or simply stopping awhile in a remote village, silent but for the chatter of hooves on tarmac, will give a glimpse of a country full of character, colour and fortitude.

Travel Advice

Last updated: 26 May 2015

The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.


Political and security situation

Since former President Morsi was removed from office on 3 July 2013, there have been violent clashes between the opposing groups and the security forces. Most of the clashes have taken place in Cairo and Alexandria but there have also been clashes elsewhere, including, Assyut, Suez, Ismaliyya, Mansoura and Qena. Hurghada and Luxor saw a small number of limited protests in July and August 2013.

On 14 August 2013 security forces ended sit-in protests in Cairo, according to official figures there were 686 deaths that day. Violent clashes also occurred near Mostafa Mahmoud Square in Mohandiseen, Cairo. On 17 August 2013, there were further violent clashes in Ramses Square and at the Al Fatah Mosque between protesters and security forces.

In October 2013, there were more than 50 deaths at political protests in Cairo and other cities. On 19 November 2013, at protests in and around Tahrir Square 2 people died and over 50 were injured. In January 2014 there were over 90 deaths at protests in Cairo, Alexandria, Fayoum and Ismailia.

Since early 2011 protests have taken place in the following areas of Cairo: near the Constitutional Court and the Presidential Palace, Tahrir Square, the Maspero area of downtown Cairo, the Abasiya district, the Israeli embassy in the district of Giza, the US Embassy in the Garden City district, Simon Bolivar Square, the Muhammad Mahmoud area, Mostafa Mahmoud Square in Mohandiseen, Ramses Square, the Al Fatah Mosque, theRabaa Al-Adaweya mosque in Nasr City, many universities including Cairo University and Al Azahar University.

In Alexandria, demonstrations have centered on the Ibrahim Mosque and the area of Sidi Gaber. There have also been clashes between groups of demonstrators in Suez, Ismalia and Port Said Governorates. Further demonstrations are likely. Protests and disturbances have blocked roads in parts of Egypt including Sinai, Aswan, Qena, Suez and between Luxor and Hurghada.

Demonstrations often happen on Fridays but can occur at any time and with little warning. The atmosphere at demonstrations can change quickly and without warning. Police may use water cannon, tear gas, birdshot and live ammunition for crowd control. British and foreign nationals have been arrested during demonstrations.

There is a serious risk of violence and sexual assault at demonstrations. NGOs reported more than 100 rapes and sexual assaults against women in demonstrations in June and July 2013. Foreign and Egyptian women have been attacked.

Follow the news on television and radio closely, and take advice from the authorities, hotels and tour operators. Stay away from demonstrations and large gatherings of people. If you become aware of any nearby protests, leave the area immediately.

Crime

Although the crime rate remains generally low, since early 2011 there has been a marked increase in crime across Egypt both in cities and rural areas. 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.

Reports of cases of sexual assault against British nationals have increased during and since the unrest of early 2011. In 2013, the FCO handled 20 cases of sexual assault and 4 cases of rape. Some assaults were against minors. Many occurred in what were considered to be safe places, like hotels. Assaults have occurred in taxis and on microbuses. If you are travelling on a microbus, avoid being the last passenger left on the bus. Women should take extra care when travelling alone.

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.

If you are going to drink alcohol, know your limit. Remember that drinks served in bars overseas are often stronger than those in the UK.

North Sinai

The FCO advise against all travel to the Governorate of North Sinai. In North Sinai, terrorists and criminals seek to prevent the Egyptian authorities from exercising control. The Egyptian armed forces are conducting a military operation against these groups. The death toll has increased since July 2013 with reports of over several hundred deaths.

There were terrorist attacks on 24 October 2014 and 29 January 2015 around Sheikh Zuwayed, Rafah, and al-Arish, that killed over 30 soldiers on each occasion. 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.

There are regular bomb attacks against government buildings, security forces and energy infrastructure. The al-Arish area has seen many attacks, but the whole of the North Sinai region is at risk.

Foreign workers have been taken hostage by Bedouin tribesmen.

Security authorities often close the Suez-Taba road.

South Sinai

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.

Enhanced security measures are in place to protect the resort areas. There were no violent protests in the South Sinai resorts during disturbances in Egypt 2013.

The security situation outside the resort areas in the Governorate of South Sinai has deteriorated since early 2012 and there have been a number of hijacks, robberies and kidnaps in the interior of the Governorate.

In October 2013 and May 2014, there were bomb blasts in El Tor (Al Tur) in South Sinai which targeted a security forces building, police checkpoints and a passenger bus on the road south of El Tor. There were a number of deaths and injuries.

On 16 February, 3 South Korean tourists and their driver were killed in an attack on a bus in Taba (Sinai).

On 6 March 2013 two British tourists were stopped while travelling near Ras Sudr, on the Suez to Sharm el Sheikh road, and detained by a local tribe. They were released unharmed.

On 21 March 2013 two foreign nationals were kidnapped on the Taba to Dahab road while travelling at night. They were released unharmed five days later.

You should be aware that 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 increases the risk of further hostage-taking.

Hurghada

Enhanced security measures are in place to protect the resort areas. In Hurghada on 14 August 2013 there were some violent clashes, in an area away from tourist resorts. One man was killed.

Cairo

There have been a number of incidents reported around the Giza Pyramids where tourists have been accosted aggressively 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.

Nile Delta

There are regular protests in many Delta towns. Since August 2013 there have been regular attacks against security forces buildings and personnel in and around the town of Ismailia. These attacks often happen at security checkpoints. Civilians have not been harmed in these attacks but there are reports of at least 15 deaths of members of the security forces and over 30 people injured

Border areas and the Western Desert

Exercise extreme caution in all border areas.

The FCO advise against all but essential travel to the area west of the Nile Valley and Delta regions, excluding Siwa, Fayoum and the Coastal areas. The area to which the FCO advise against all but essential travel does not include many of the tourist areas along the Nile river (eg Luxor, Qina, Aswan, Abu Simbel and the Valley of the Kings).

On 19 July, an armed group attacked a security checkpoint along the Farafra-Bawati road in the New Valley Governorate, killing 22 border guards. This is the second attack on this checkpoint. On 1 June, an attack killed 1 officer and 5 conscripts from the same border guard unit.

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.

There have been clashes close to and along the entire length of the border with Israel. There have also been clashes and attacks close to the Rafah border crossing with Gaza.

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 channeled 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 request 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.

Road travel

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 license.

By law, seatbelts must be worn when travelling in the front of a vehicle. Where available, seatbelts should be worn at all times. Child car seats are available locally.

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. If you are a passenger in a vehicle that is travelling at an unsafe speed you should instruct the driver to slow down.

Rail travel

There have been a number of fatal accidents in recent years. On 15 January 2013 a train crash in Giza, close to Cairo, killed 19 people. On 17 November 2012 47 children died when a train collided with a bus at a level crossing at Assyut, south of Cairo.

There have been a number of incidents where 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 four significant fires on Nile cruisers between September 2006 and November 2012.

Adventure travel

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 snorkeling 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 but following a series of attacks in late 2010 you should monitor updates issued by the local authorities and your tour operator. In March 2015, a German tourist was killed by a shark attack in al-Qusair.

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. The British Embassy is unable to provide this initial guarantee, but can facilitate communication between insurance companies and the Egyptian authorities.

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.

Landmines

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.

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