A bomb on a popular tourist route on 19 May injured 17 tour bus passengers – the second tour bus to be hit by terrorism in the past six months.
Fortunately there were no fatalities this time, but an attack close to the new Grand Egyptian Museum and the Giza Pyramids has alarmed many who are planning to visit.
The pyramids, Nile river and Red Sea resorts are on so many “must-see” lists, but is Egypt safe to visit? There have been a number of warnings, but many experts and journalists still say, “Yes, go, but only with due diligence.” (The Week – 19 May 2019)
Terrorism In Egypt
We don’t always see attacks in the news as many have taken place in the North Sinai Peninsula. The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has advice against travel in place for that North Sinai region, and it’s not generally somewhere travellers would want to visit, but does have road and rail links to Cairo and the tourist-friendly resort areas.
The 2018 Global Terrorism Index listed Egypt as no. 9 – one of the countries most affected by terrorism – and the FCO advises that terrorists are “very likely” to try to carry out attacks.
The FCO notes: “You should avoid crowded places and gatherings (including in or around religious sites) during religious festivals or times of heightened tensions. Terrorist groups have sometimes called for attacks at these times. Take extra care over local holiday weekends, as some terrorist attacks have occurred during these times. You should follow the advice of the Egyptian authorities and your travel company, if you have one. The authorities in Egypt maintain a significant security presence across the country, including armed security officers stationed at important sites, critical infrastructure, and road checkpoints. Extra measures are in place at tourist sites.”
The FCO also advises travellers to ensure they have the appropriate travel insurance before they depart.*
Attacks on tourists prior to the recent Giza bomb include:
- June 2015 – Luxor (no deaths)
- October 2015 – Flight from Sharm-el-Sheikh downed by explosive device (224 deaths)
- January 2016 – Hurghada (no deaths)
- July 2017 – Hurghada knife attacks (3 deaths)
- December 2018 – Bomb hits tourist bus near Giza (4 deaths)
The day after 2018’s Giza bombing, Egyptian forced carried out raids which resulted in the death of 40 alleged terrorists.
Strict anti-terrorism laws are in place, but concerns have been expressed that some of these laws infringe on human rights or are used as an “excuse” to go after political opponents. The FCO warns against expressing anti-government sentiment while you’re in Egypt.
By all accounts though, high levels of security are in place at hotels, resorts and tourist attractions. As is the case anywhere, it’s roads and public areas that are more difficult to monitor.
Make Your Journey Safer
In addition to being vigilant, reporting any suspicious items or activities, having the appropriate travel insurance*, and remembering the Run, Hide, Tell emergency plan (see our Easter safety guide for the most recent version), we’ve found a few extra tips to give you greater peace of mind.
The Broke Backpacker advises that, “Safety in Egypt depends greatly on where you want to go and what you want to do.” They state that they don’t consider all of Egypt to be safe. “This is a big country though. Taking certain precautions, i.e. only going to where it’s recommended to travel, is the best way to stay safe in Egypt. The Valley of the Kings in Luxor, a boat trip on the Nile, various ancient wonders and desert oases are still definitely on the agenda.”
Their website also has some important recommendations relating to the previously mentioned terrorism laws:
- Don’t be stupid in front of armed security – ANYTHING that looks suspicious could get you shot. We’re being serious.
- And don’t take photos of military installations or public buildings – it is strictly prohibited. People have even been arrested for taking pictures of train stations.
- Don’t use a drone – could seem VERY shady to people in charge, even if you’re just doing something for your blog. It’s also prohibited without the right authorisation, anyway.
We believe it’s important to be aware that terrorism is a risk, but also that it affects a small percentage of visitors to Egypt on the whole. Taking extra care and being prepared in case of an emergency is important wherever you go, but even more so if you’re visiting a destination with a known high risk such as Tunisia or Egypt. Choose your accommodation and transport carefully, and remember that being alert doesn’t mean you can’t have fun too!
*It’s easy to top up any policy with Safe Journey terrorism travel insurance – one of the only policies that includes the option to cancel if there’s an attack within 40 miles of your destination (and within 6 weeks before you depart). Read the full details, Ts&Cs and exclusions in our Policy Wording.