Is it safe to travel to Egypt? The latest Foreign Office advice amid Israel-Hamas conflict

​Egypt is a popular destination among UK travellers, particularly over the British winter, with Red Sea resorts and the pyramids of Giza among the main attractions.

However, political tension and security concerns affect travel to the country. The UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) advises against all, or all but essential, travel to some parts of Egypt.

Travellers should also check FCDO advice on travel to the remainder of the country before booking and ahead of departure.

On Sunday morning, two Israeli tourists and their Egyptian guide were shot dead in the city of Alexandria, which is not within the areas included in the FCDO advi​sories against travel. The incident followed the start of the outbreak of fighting in Israel and Gaza.

Here is what you need to know about travelling to Egypt.

The Nile River at Cairo (Photo: Getty)

What is the UK Government’s advice on travelling to Egypt?

The FCDO is not warning against travel to areas that tend to be popular with tourists from the UK, such as the Red Sea resorts of Sharm el Sheikh and Hurghada or the city of Cairo.

In its latest update, the FCDO includes a reference to the incident in Alexandria in which two tourists and a tour guide were killed and a third tourist was injured.

It advises travellers to: “Remain vigilant and exercise caution at tourist and religious sites, as well as public gatherings.”

There are parts of Egypt where travel advisories in place. The FCDO advises against all travel to:

  • Within 20km (12.4 miles) of the Egypt-Libya border, except for the town of El Salloum, where it advises against all but essential travel;
  • North Sinai;
  • The northern part of the Governorate of South Sinai, beyond the St Catherine-Nuweibaa road, except for the coastal areas along the west and east of the peninsula;
  • The eastern part of Ismailiyah Governorate.

The FCDO also advises against all but essential travel to Hala’ib Triangle and the Bir Tawil Trapezoid and to the area west of the Nile Valley and Nile Delta regions, except for:

  • Luxor, Qina, Aswan, Abu Simbel and the Valley of the Kings;
  • the Governorate of Faiyum;
  • the coastal areas between the Nile Delta and Marsa Matruh;
  • the Marsa Matruh-Siwa Road;
  • the oasis town of Siwa;
  • the Giza Governorate north-east of the Bahariya Oasis;
  • the road between Giza and Farafra (advises against all but essential travel on the road between Bahariya and Siwa);
  • Bahariya Oasis, Farafra, the White Desert and Black Desert.

Terrorists are likely to carry out attacks in Egypt, according to the FCDO. Most attacks occur in the North Sinai region, although terrorism is a risk across the country.

The FCDO advises: “There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. You should remain vigilant at all times.”

What has been the affect of the Israel-Hamas conflict?

Israel neighbours Egypt. However, the Israel-Hamas conflict is not referenced on the FCDO advice page for Egypt.

Two Israeli tourists and their Egyptian guide were killed after a police officer opened fire on a group of Israeli travellers on 8 October. The incident occurred following the current outbreak of fighting in the Israel-Hamas conflict.

What other safety advice is there for travellers in Egypt?

General safety

Be vigilant while travelling in Egypt. Protests, marches and demonstrations can occur across the country. The FCDO advises to avoid protests, marches or demonstrations. Crowd-control methods have included water cannons, tear gas, birdshot and live ammunition.

The FCDO advice says: “The authorities may close public spaces, including parks and beaches, at short notice, particularly around the holidays. Follow the guidance of the local authorities. You could be fined or arrested if you do not do as you are told.”

Tourist sites

Tourists may be confronted for money or business at popular sites, even when travelling by car or taxi. Using a pre-booked guide or travelling as part of an organised tour can help to avoid difficulties.

Adventure activities

Travellers taking part in activities such as diving should ensure that their travel insurance, or the company they have booked with, will cover the cost of air or sea rescue. Egyptian authorities will only undertake rescue operations when there’s a guarantee of payment.

Book excursions for activities at your resort or through approved agents or tour operators. The safety standards of diving operators can vary and the FCDO advises booking through your tour operator. Caution is also advised when booking quad bike excursions, and those taking part in such excursions should wear a crash helmet.

Sexual harassment

In general Egypt is safe for female travellers. However, the British Embassy has received a number of reports of sexual assaults in the country, including cases involving minors.

Most reported cases took place in tourist resorts in the Red Sea region. These incidents often involved someone the victim had already met, including hotel workers and excursion staff.

The FCDO says: “female travellers should exercise caution when travelling alone, particularly at night, in buses, taxis and microbuses.

“If you are travelling on public transport including microbuses, avoid being the last passenger left on board”.

LGBTQ+ travellers

There is limited public acceptance of homosexuality in Egypt and the FCDO advises that public expressions of homosexuality or displays of affection between same-sex couples are likely to get negative attention.

People have been arrested for flying rainbow flags at public events. Travellers have also been imprisoned for sharing content or having discussions of a sexual nature on social media.

Is there anything else I should know while in Egypt?

A few other rules to remember:

  • Drinking alcohol anywhere other than a licensed bar or restaurant is illegal and can lead to arrest;
  • Possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs, even in small amounts, is a serious criminal offence;
  • Making negative comments about the Egyptian government can cause trouble with authorities; 
  • All public displays of affection could receive negative attention;
  • There are rules around both professional (you need a permit) and amateur photography;
  • You need the written permission of Egyptian citizens before you take their photograph;
  • Do not take photographs of officials without their consent;
  • Taking pictures of children is not permitted;
  • Photography of, or near, military property is strictly banned;
  • British nationals have been arrested for photographing churches, electricity stations, railway stations and bridges.