As part of my big trip this year I spent almost two weeks travelling through Egypt. Most of this was by fairly uncomfortable bus rides, as I wrote about recently.
I’ve had several people contact me since then asking about how safe Egypt was, especially as I chose to travel by what they considered to be some relatively unsafe means.
Some people specifically said to me that they would never feel safe travelling by bus if they were to visit Egypt, especially outside the major cities.
So here are some general thoughts of my experience with safety in Egypt as a tourist, if you are considering visiting yourself.
Security is everywhere
I’ve visited a lot of countries but I’ve never seen so much security as I did in Egypt. You can’t even get into the carpark of your hotel without your vehicle being checked by sniffer dogs, and security guards checking the underside with mirrors.
Then to even get into your hotel you need to go through x-ray and metal detector checks. There are also plenty of security checks on roads, especially in rural areas.
These security checks, while sometimes feeling excessive, did not appear to be particularly thorough — we often were waived through metal detectors with our luggage at hotels when it was busy.
I’ve experienced some of these checks in other countries, but until Cairo there was nowhere that did all of them in so many places.
We travelled with an armed guard at all times
It took me several days to realise this but we had a plain clothed armed guard with us on the bus at all times. He wasn’t introduced to us, didn’t speak to us and sat at the front in a plain suit, but after a while I realised he came with us wherever we went.
He was always close by but never in our way — it was very professional how he did this. I imagine this is what having a personal bodyguard would be like.
He never took his suit jacket off and it wasn’t until the last few days that I caught a glimpse under his suit jacket of the impressive looking machine/automatic gun he was carrying (I know very little about guns but it was bigger than a handgun).
I asked our tour guide whether his purpose was simply to give the group peace of mind or whether there was a real danger he was protecting us from. Our guide was cagey with his answer, only indicating it was more peace of mind.
We had military escorts between towns
We travelled up and down the Nile between Cairo and Aswan. There were incredibly long rides, often at night. There were three different groups doing our tour (on three different buses) and we often travelled as a convey together. In between the towns we would have to wait for the other buses after we departed from stops for snacks or to use the bathrooms.
I didn’t initially think much of why we had to wait for them as we were completely separate groups, until at one stop I noticed there was a military jeep with several soldiers with machine guns in full camouflage uniform.
When we left, they followed.
And again at the next stop they waited with us, and then followed us. I asked our guide, who told us it was compulsory for them to accompany us along dark stretches of highway between towns at night.
I wrote about how we decided to skip the bus from Cairo to Dahab and fly into Sharm El Sheik instead. We organised for the Dahab hotel we were staying at (with the rest of the group who took the bus) to collect us from Sharm airport to drive us the rest of the way to Dahab.
We were stopped at a security check point road block just outside Sharm. We were required to show our passports, and the hotel transfer driver argued with the security guard for quite some time (it became quite heated).
Eventually, they let us through. We asked the driver what the argument was about and he explained that he was not supposed to drive tourists between Sharm and Dahab without an armed guard in the car. We nearly weren’t allowed to proceed at all but the driver talked the security checkpoint into letting us through.
I never felt unsafe
The simple answer to the question posed in the title of this post is yes, it felt safe. To be honest I felt more uncomfortable walking the streets of Marrakech in Morocco at night because I would be constantly approached by locals asking for money and they would often follow me if I did not give them any.
I had no problems walking the streets of Egypt at night by myself.
We were definitely approached to purchase things everywhere we went, but a simple no got the answer across and I found the locals to be quite grateful we were visiting their country. Ben and Tiffany had a similar experience when they visited a few years ago too.
If there was a specific security threat there I didn’t feel it, and if the additional security was to keep my mind at ease it worked perfectly.
I had a great time in Egypt and appreciated the lengths the country went to ensure tourists felt safe, even if it did hold us up at times and seem a little excessive. Better to be safe than sorry!
It’s a country that I think many people may only feel the need to visit once (I don’t feel the need to return), but if you haven’t been I would highly recommend visiting.
Just have some patience for the endless security checks!
Have you been to Egypt recently? Did you feel safe?