Egypt claimed a high place on my travel wish list a long time ago.
It combines everything I love about a destination: an abundance of nature, from the endless dunes of the Sahara to the fresh water flowing into the Nile; a rich and vibrant culture that mixes the modern and the old; and certainly a bit of secret.
While part of this secret stems from age-old questions about the ancient Egyptians and the Pyramids, part also stems from the way the country is portrayed in the media.
If you search for Egypt on government travel websites, you will often find notices telling tourists not to visit Egypt for safety reasons. I see this warning regularly issued by the American, British and Australian governments. As a rule, they say they are considering traveling due to the threat of assassin activities.
Egypt has certainly seen its fair share of unrest, from political unrest to assassin strikes — there’s no denying that.
However, it is also important to note that the vast majority of this fuss has nothing to do with tourists. And although no destination can ever be guaranteed to be 100% safe, there are certain precautions that should be taken to minimize problems and potential problems. Egypt is no different.
If you are concerned about your safety in Egypt but still want to go there, there are ways to mitigate the risks. The information below will help you prepare for your trip and stay safe in the field.
Beware of scammers
Before visiting Egypt, I had mentally prepared myself to face many scams every day. I expected to suffer them left and right, based on everything I had heard. And even though I met a few of them, they were quite minor and honestly, it wasn’t that bad.
Taxi scams: Always accept a price before getting into a taxi. Don’t let the driver get you into the car or create a sense of urgency. Before you open the door or sit in the backseat, set this rate! As for the roads themselves, some are poorly maintained and some drivers are careless. If you want to avoid the whole ordeal, consider ride-sharing apps, buses, or trains when possible.
Pushy sellers: Don’t accept anything as a “gift” and never feel pressured to buy something you don’t actually want. A simple “no, thank you” (or ten) will do.
Attracting you: Another common scam you may experience is being “lured” into a situation where you are supposed to pay money. For example, a passer-by may tell you that the hotel/museum/attraction where you are going is not yet open and that you should come for tea or lunch in the meantime. Or, in the same way, that you are at the wrong entrance and that you should take a camel ride to the right entrance. All of the above pays off and is often not even true.
I am pleased to report that, on the whole, the locals went out of their way to be helpful and did not expect anything in return. However, if you are in a paid attraction or in a situation in which money would be exchanged, it is better to exercise caution.
Perils on the Main Tourist Sites
In addition to everything mentioned above, the biggest “peril” that can be found on the main tourist sites is petty theft. This could take the form of pickpocketing or snatch burglary.
Pay attention to where you put your wallet and phone. Avoid the back pocket of your pants or the back pockets of backpacks. Women can opt for a shoulder bag rather than a backpack.
Also, if you are carrying a camera, be aware of its location all the time. Be careful when handing it over to a stranger to take your photo. If things seem sketchy, don’t put them off.
Most of Egypt’s major tourist sites have dedicated police stationed throughout the grounds to ensure the safety of visitors. If something goes wrong, you should report it immediately.
The tourism industry is one of the main ways in which locals earn a living in many parts of Egypt. This includes everything from working as a guide, managing hotels, selling souvenirs, etc. Naturally, some problems may arise when it comes to exchanging money for goods and services.
A few things to prepare when it comes to money:
- You will have to tip. Often. Keep small bills with you at all times.
- Even after giving a tip, you may be told that it is too little or that you are being asked for more. Tip: of course, but do not let yourself be mis-word.
- Pay special attention to the fees and prices displayed. I had a matter when someone tried to charge me an entrance fee twice — on purpose.
- Count the change that is given to you after any purchase to make sure that it is the right amount.
- Many local hotels are cash. If you stay in the big chains, this will not be the matter.
- Keep cash hidden in purses or bags — don’t flash large bills in busy areas