I don’t usually get nervous before a trip, but I was admittedly hesitant before hopping on a plane to Cairo. Like everyone else, I’ve watched the news in recent months as certain areas in the Middle East have imploded amidst bullets, bombs and kidnappings. I’ve also watched as Egypt has gone through its own revolution, throwing out one leader, replacing it with another even more dubious one and finally settling on a new government. Things have been quiet in Egypt recently, but it’s hard to know what that really means. Sure, everyone told me it was safe, the State Department told me it was safe but I still couldn’t help but wonder and I don’t think I’m alone.
Before I leave for any trip, I get a lot of questions via social media about whatever destination I’m visiting. When it came to Egypt though, safety and security dominated the inquiries. And with good reason; it’s confusing to know which countries in the Middle East are ok to visit and which ones aren’t and honestly, most travelers err on the side of caution and just skip the whole region. And just like my experience in Jordan, skipping Egypt is a mistake no one should make.
Egypt has depended on tourism for a long time and for well more than a century, traveling to the land of the pharaohs and visiting sites like the Pyramids, Sphinx, Luxor and others has been at the top of bucket lists for people around the world. For many of us it was pictures of those amazing pyramids that first fueled our wanderlust as kids, never letting up until we get that chance to see them in person. The revolution of 2011 changed all that.
The revolution was one of those moments that has and will continue to define Egypt for generations, but with it came a lot of uncertainty and political change that they’re still frankly trying to figure out. The violence we all saw on TV put a quick end to tourism in the short term in Egypt, and it’s only now that it has started up again.
I traveled to Egypt with Insight Vacations, a luxury tour operator that has run trips around Egypt for years. Like everyone else, they were forced to temporarily halt their operations, waiting until things calmed down. Last week I joined their first trip back to Egypt in two years, a signal that they believe the time is right once again to introduce people around the world to the wonders of ancient Egypt.
They’re not alone either, several other tour operators and cruise lines have once again started offering trips, but it begs the question: Is Egypt ready for tourists?
When it comes to safety and security, I always make sure that I keep up with current events, monitor State Department warnings and so on. The fact is that the mainland of Egypt has been fine and hopefully it will stay that way. The Sinai Peninsula next to Israel remains a region of uncertainty, and is frankly to be avoided. But the tours aren’t visiting Sinai, they’re visiting the classical tourist sites of Egypt and after visiting, I can see why.
To say that visiting Egypt is a once-in-a-lifetime experience is accurate I think. The numbers of ancient and incredible sites need to be seen to be believed. And guess what? There’s no one there. On the first day we pulled into the parking lot of Karnak Temple, one of the most famous temples of ancient Egypt and a definite tourist hotspot. We were the only coach bus there. The only one. Five years ago, that parking lot would have been full our guide said. It was a preview to a recurring theme throughout the trip – Egypt is open, but no one has noticed.
Two years is a long time to go without a job, or at least not much of one, but that’s exactly what the millions working in Egypt’s tourism industry have had to endure. From our tour director, who holds a Master’s in Egyptian History and Archeology, to the hawkers begging us to give them $1 for some postcards. Everyone has suffered and everyone is ready to return to normal.
So how did I feel traveling through Egypt? Fine actually, with not one hint of problems anywhere and that’s the truth. From chaotic Cairo to the southern city of Aswan and places in between, I met plenty of people, ambled along streets and alleyways but not once did I fear for my safety. I’m not saying this for the heck of it and of course I can’t guarantee it for everyone into the future, but it was my personal experience in Egypt.
For visitors, you will never see Egypt like you will today and in the months, and probably year or two to come. Instead of battling hoards of tourists, you will have the chance to slowly explore some of the most important sites in the history of the world practically alone. I stood in front of the mighty Pyramid of Cheops and I counted maybe 50 other people in the general vicinity of the pyramid. You know, the massive pyramid that’s bigger than Westminster Abbey or St. Peter’s Basilica? That’s unheard of and makes the experience very special for those who venture out to Egypt.
So yes, from my point of view I think that now is indeed a great time to visit Egypt. It seems to be safe and stable, deals can be had and more importantly, it’s a chance to live out that childhood fantasy I mentioned before. It’s also good for Egypt. Those millions working in tourism need money. They’re getting more and more desperate, and that’s never a good thing. They need to once again earn money so they can support their families and help everyone return to as normal a place as Egypt can get.
On my last day in Cairo I was walking through a market and a municipal worker, a street cleaner, looked up at me, grabbed my hand and said, “Thank you. Thank you.” That was it, but nothing else had to be said and that more than anything confirmed everything I had started to think about beautiful Egypt.
33 thoughts on “Egypt With Insight Vacations: First Thoughts About Safety and Tourism”
I recently read another blogger’s account of visiting Egypt, and she said the same thing, that no one was there. I’d love to get over there before things start to pick up again, as there’s nothing worse than dealing with hordes of tourists at major attractions. A few weeks ago I was at Chichen Itza and we had to wait 1.5 hours to buy our ticket and then once inside it was so crowded with tour groups that it was hard to hear our guide!
Quite the difference!
Thanks for sharing Matt. Egypt is #1 on my bucket list, but I’ve had two trips booked there in the last few years that had to be cancelled when the unrest flared up. Sigh. I’d love to go, but it’s frustrating to get my hopes up and then have my dreams dashed! Perhaps a last minute trip is the way to go.
Now is definitely the best time
So glad you went – and I’m quite jealous of the experience! I didn’t realize tour companies had waited this long to start going again. I went in 2008 around this same time and while it wasn’t super crowded due to the time of year, there were definitely crowds to compete with most places we went. I’m thankful I was able to go to Sinai then as well – climbing Mt. Sinai to watch the sun rise and hiking in the Coloured and White Canyons near Dahab were incredible experiences.
Wow sounds amazing and yes, it was a great trip and no doubt it’s the best time to go.
Thanks Matt! I was gearing up to visit Egypt just as the revolution started and I’m eager to finally go. I’m definitely concerned about safety and infrastructure security so I’m glad you addressed it first! Glad to hear you had a good time and I’m eager to hear more about your experience (and see photos of these empty sights!)
Definitely NOW is the time to go :)
Thanks for writing this. I travel to Egypt three times a year, only since 2011 and never I felt unsafe. Three weeks ago I did a Nilecruise (from Luxor to Aswan v.v.), spent some time at the Red Sea and visited Cairo for some days. Again there was never a moment I was uncertain about my safety. At Khan al Khalilli, a big bazar, I was wondering if I should walk into the narrow streets. Ofcourse I did and I laughed at myself, how could I think I could be not safe, I am in my beloved Egypt. Most people are really friendly and they welcome all tourists. Please go and visit Egypt.
You never know when violence will break out in that area, and an example of this was a few weeks ago.I saw a news item about how a bus with German tourists was bombed while parked outside of the Cairo Museum, which is part of every itinerary offered by tour groups such as Insight and Uniworld. So when you say that it is safe and that most people are really friendly and they welcome all tourists in Egypt, that is really not true. There is always a risk when you travel but the risks seem higher in Egypt.
That actually happened in 1997, so you were reading an old article. And every place has a potential for danger, even Copenhagen as we’ve seen. All I said is that the old threats aren’t there anymore. What is true is that anything can happen anywhere and situations are always changing. All I offered was my own opinion.
I’m actually going at the end of this week. Cairo luxor and a day trip to aswan so this is great news for me. Thanks for the info. Do you have any tips for a day trip to aswan we are doing a tour that drives from luxor to Aswan. I’ve been told it’s safe.
Thanks for sharing this. My husband and I were planning to take a vacation to Egypt in May but now we are having 2nd thoughts since there has been 2 bombings in Greater Cairo in the past week or so. These were at govt buildings but part of me is wondering if its still worth going. What are your thoughts?
Thank you for this writeup. I leave at the end of the month. Booked the trip spontaneously and then, of course, some new warnings popped into my inbox. Then I googled a few articles about ISIS. But my travel group (Intrepid) has offices on the ground in every single country they have tours in and they assured me that they have a constant feedback loop on safety. They stated that the lawsuits that would result in just letting the tour happen to get my “little bit of money” (in the scheme of things) would far supass any monetary loss they would feel in the short-term….and their reputation in the industry would be impaired drastically. They said they would (and have) cancelled trips before but now is not the time to cancel Egypt…so I am going. I look forward to avoiding the hoards of tourists, as you mentioned above. Again thanks for the article. Can’t wait for my trip! Just gonna hold off on telling my family I will be going there quite yet to avoid the drama. :)
I’d love some feedback on Intrepid after your trip.
I’m planning on going on the Egypt and Jordan Uncovered tour in November!
Let me know what you think!
I just got back from a two week vacation. I spent a lot of time in Alexandria and a couple of trips to Cairo. I am a single anerican woman although I had local friends with me, I was fine. I will admit I felt uneasy the first day in and maybe a little into the next as a precaution. After I heard a massive amounts of “Welcome to Egypt” I relaxed and enjoyed. I did the Giza and the Museum in Cairo.. the only worry you need is traffic. I suggest if you feel out of sorts, hire a guide. Welcome to Egypt ..my travel was the end of Feb 2015 threw March 2015. Go and enjoy…
Completely agree and thanks for adding your personal experiences!
I’m actually planing to go to Egypt this summer (2015) with my family. A lot of people were telling me it might not be safe to go just yet because of what’s going on in the Middle East, but after reading your blog, I’m hoping it’ll be totally safe!
All I can say is that is safe when I was there, I certainly and sadly predict what will happen but hopefully it will stay that way. Just make sure to keep up with all updates.
I’ve been visiting website that offers good deals for a Tour to Egypt. It’s been in my bucket list since childhood. Me and my other companion are aiming to go in Sept 2015. We are both girls. Do you think it’s safe? Well anyway when I read your blog, it’s nice to know that it’s now safe and I hope it’ll continue that way. During your tour have you gone to ride on a sleeper train. Do you think it’s safe? Again, thanks for sharing your Egypt experience.
Egypt is safe, I am going to Cairo in october. But take care if you are blond and young. Remember it is
a muslim country. And dress properly. May be you will meet egyptian men who want to go with you to your country. Again: take care.
Hi Matt, appreciable share. The first time when I visited the place by Mantis Tourism & Attractions, my first impressions of Cairo were of super busy streets, loud honking cars, bombed out looking buildings, and nice locals. I never felt unsafe or in particular danger. For more safety it’s that simple – Research, plan, prepare and book – then come to Cairo and have an absolutely wonderful time! Enjoy the temples, tombs and monuments, enjoy looking at the everyday life which in many ways has not changed for thousands of years and relax! There has not been and probably will not be a better time to come to Cairo.
I travelled recentely to Morocco and although lots of things bad happened I would have gone again.
This July I will be going on a bucket list organized tour to Egypt. I am hoping that the extreme heat will frighten away the hoards of tourists and terrorists and let me explore the ancient sites at will and let my wife battle through the souqs! I still will be taking antibiotics just in case, because I can’t and won’t get sick (love to indulge in all the strange food)
My husband And I went in January 2011 and the day we arrived was when the revolution happened. We were there for a total of five days and In sight took care of us and made sure we got home safe and sound. We did not see much so we are planning on going back this coming October so we can see the sights we did not see and plan to take the same trip.
Am planning to visit jordan , take a trip to Israel and this trip ends in cairo where we will spend 3 days. Travelling from the USA. Is it safe
Wow, thanks for writing this. I had been unsure about Egypt but it sounds great. And avoiding heaps of tourists is definitely a bonus!
Happened across your blog while planning my 2nd trip to Egypt, My daughter and I went this past April for 14 days and I can’t wait to go back. I loved this country; the smells, the food, the wonderful people. To all who are hesitant, things happen everywhere, can’t worry about it all. I did feel very safe. Stayed partially at the Mena House, and partially cruising the Nile. It felt like a private oasis, I do not enjoy crowds. Don’t miss this coming season if you have toyed with the idea, it is time! Traveled with Time of a new Era Tours with Graham Hancock and Zahi Hawass, just a small bonus!
Thanks for sharing your experiences Matt! I’m a solo female backpacker and am planning to visit Egypt this winter for about a month or so. Mostly Cairo, Luxor, Aswan, and South Sinai. I ended up not booking with a tour group, but am hoping to find other solo backpackers (in hostels,etc) and travel together. How safe would you say I’d be in Egypt (based on your experiences), and because I guess it’s too late to cancel my trip now haha, are there any safety precautions you would recommend?
Egypt is a multi-faceted land that has history, adventure, and relaxation, all in one place! One, who has been to Egypt more than 15 times, still can keep returning to see something new! But of course for all first thing is always safety. I had visited there with my family through a well known travel agency”askaladdin.com” and spent 20 days there. Really the security system was amazing there. That’s why I bet that Egypt is one of the safety places in the world.
Awesome trip of Egypt I love pyramids, architecture and many more places looks very nice. I also visit cairo, It is one of the most beautiful cities in Egypt.
My husband and I are going to Egypt for 11 days on November 23, 2016. I went in 2006 and LOVED it. Now I want my husband to experience it as well. I’m reading all of the posts and enjoying all of the information. Does anyone know what it’s like now in 2016? I am trying not to worry but I keep reading about bombings in Cairo (we’ll only be there 2 days before flying to Luxor) and kidnappings, etc……I’m an American but I lived in Durban, South Africa for 6.5 years so I know what it’s like to live in a dangerous country. However, This terrorism thing has me worried but I really want to go again. There’s nothing like Egypt! So any recent news firsthand will be much appreciated.
Have booked a Nile Cruise for Jan 2017. We did the same trip in 2000 and vouched we would go back. There is so much to see and take in, on one trip. This will be our 5th visit to Egypt. Security is always a concern now wherever you go in the world not just the middle east.
Its Nice. I wish i could go there. Thank you for sharing this kind of post. It is useful to many.
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