Is it safe to travel to Egypt? Latest advice on holidays to Sharm El Sheikh, Cairo and Luxor

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EGYPT used to be one of the most popular holiday destinations in the world, but it’s tourism industry has been turned upside down of late.

The country was particularly popular with Brits, and many will be wondering – with the many dangers facing the country – is it OK to return to the picturesque land of pyramids?

A Sharm el Sheikh beach

Is Egypt safe?

In recent years the country has been rife with political turmoil, violent protests and terrorism attacks.

The number of tourists visiting has decreased dramatically by a third since 2011 due to the revolution, attacks on foreign journalists and governmental advice not to go there – and their tourism is in bits.

Israel’s counter-terror agency on March 29 suggested its nationals in the region leave and advised them against travelling there over summer due to fears of an imminent ISIS attack.

The agency chief, Eitan Ben-David, added: “We don’t want to cry wolf, wolf, we really believe that the threat is serious,” The Telegraph reported.

The FCO believes that terrorists continue to plan attacks and these is also a threat of kidnapping, particularly in remote desert areas.

An elevated view of the city of Cairo, Egypt

An elevated view of the city of Cairo

More than 900,000 British nationals visit Egypt every year and most visits are trouble-free.

But there is a high threat from terrorism in Egypt and the FCO advise against all travel to the Governorate of North Sinai due to the significant increase in criminal activity and continued terrorist attacks on police and security forces.

GOV.UK says on their website: “There is a high threat from terrorism in Egypt. Terrorists continue to plan and conduct attacks. Further attacks are likely.

“Most terrorist attacks target the security forces, their facilities and other government buildings. You should take great care near these places.

“It’s also likely that foreigners, including tourists, will be targeted.

“Attacks could be indiscriminate and occur without prior warning.”

Safety levels for holiday spots around the Mediterranean

Safety levels for holiday spots around the Mediterranean

The website also states there is a heightened risk of terrorism against aviation and advice “all but essential” travel to or from Sharm el Sheikh.

The Foreign Office also says Brits should not fly into or out of Sharm el Sheikh, and travel companies will not insure travellers who use that airport.

Brits recently began flocking to the resort of Hurghada instead, which was originally mainly used by German holidaymakers.

In May 2016, the Egypt Air flight went missing en route from Paris to Cairo. And although it hasn’t been confirmed, authorities said it was highly likely that the plane was taken down by a terrorist attack rather than a fault with the plane.

In October 2015 a flight from Sharm el Sheikh to St Petersburg was targeted by terrorists and crashed in North Sinai killing 224 people.

Nine tourists were killed in September 2015 in the Western Desert when they were mistakenly attacked and killed by the Egyptian military who thought they were terrorists.

A bomb explosion in Cairo

EPA

A bomb explosion in Cairo

A Croatian man was kidnapped and killed by ISIS in July 2015 in the western desert near Cairo.

And in June 2015, terrorists tried to attack Karnak Temple in Luxor – the first attack in nearly 20 years – but were stopped by police.

One Brit tourist recently told of his terror after he was detained for three days by Egyptian security forces because they thought he had a bomb made out of a tin of breath mints.

Robert Lapham said he had “visions of being handed to ISIS” after he was detained for 75 hours and driven 240km through the desert when his novelty headphone amplifier sparked a security alert.

Although terrifying, the UK Government says over 900,000 Brits visit Egypt yearly and most are OK.

If you are in Egypt, the website urges to keep updated on news revolving the country and take advice from authorities, hotels and tour operators.

They advise to stay away from demonstrations, protests and large gatherings and to leave immediately.

The aftermath of the explosion in Sharm El Sheikh

Epa

The aftermath of the explosion in Sharm El Sheikh

How bad is the crime?

GOV.UK say it’s ‘generally low’, but over the years expatriates have been targeted and crimes committed including armed robberies, muggings, sexual assaults, rapes, break-ins and car-jackings at gun and knife-point

They are more likely to take place in areas popular with expatriates, including during the daytime and they target four-wheel drive cars especially, while muggings have also happened in taxis.

In 2015, the British Embassy responded to 22 cases of rape and sexual assault against British nationals in Egypt, some on children, in places believed to be safe like hotels, taxis and microbuses.

It’s advised not to be the last person to travel on a microbus and to take great care when travelling alone. Always use hotel safes and watch out for bag snatchers and pickpockets.

If something happens, then report it to the Egyptian police immediately or you won’t be able to seek a prosecution.

The Russian plane that crashed in Egypt

AP:Associated Press

The Russian plane that crashed in Egypt

Where not to visit

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office advise against all travel to the Governorate of North Sinai where the Egyptian armed forces are conducting military operations against extremist groups and regular bomb attacks occur.

The region is at risk and a state of emergency has been declared.

The FCO advise against all but essential travel by air to or from Sharm el Sheikh and security measures are in place in the Sharm el Sheikh and Hurghada resort areas.

Flight MS804: Egyptian army claim plane debris has been found 290km north of Alexandria

Security forces are situated at airports, at checkpoints around the perimeter of the towns and throughout the South Sinai and Red Sea Governorates.

Routine security checks are being performed on entry into the airports and police are carrying out vehicle checks in towns.

Tourists are often targets of crime at places like Cairo’s Giza Pyramids and may be confronted aggressively for money or business and it’s advised to take an organised tour to visit the pyramids to avoid trouble.

Cruise ship on the Nile

Cruise ship on the Nile

Political protests and attacks are common in many Delta towns which often happen at security checkpoints.

The FCO advise against all but essential travel to the area west of the Nile Valley and Nile Delta regions, excluding the coastal areas between the Nile Delta and Marsa Matruh.

The tourist areas along the Nile river (including Luxor, Qina, Aswan, Abu Simbel and the Valley of the Kings) and the Red Sea resorts of Sharm el Sheikh and Hurghada aren’t included in the areas to which the FCO advise against.

How safe are the roads?

Road accidents are rife due to poor road conditions and dangerous driving.

Road accidents killed almost 16,000 people in Egypt in 2011 and it’s advised to avoid independent road travel outside main cities and resorts at night.

Buses aren’t too much safer either and there have been a number of fatal bus crashes in recent years involving tourists.

Are the railways safe?

Again, there are many fatalities in recent years.

Suspect devices have been on trains and at train stations and you should remain on guard, especially on the Cairo-Alexandria line.

How severe is the terrorism threat?

According to the FCO there is a ‘high threat from terrorism in Egypt.’

The website states: “Terrorists continue to plan and conduct attacks. Further attacks are likely. Most terrorist attacks target the security forces, their facilities and other government buildings.

“You should take great care near these places. It’s also likely that foreigners, including tourists, will be targeted. Attacks could be indiscriminate and occur without prior warning.”

The Pyramids of Giza

The Pyramids of Giza

And there is also a great risk of kidnapping, particularly in remote desert areas.

FCO says: “The long-standing policy of the British government is not to make substantive concessions to hostage-takers. The British government considers that paying ransoms and releasing prisoners increases the risk of further hostage-taking.

“Daesh-Sinai is the most active terrorist group in Egypt. Their main area of operations is northern Sinai, but the group has claimed responsibility for attacks in other areas including South Sinai, Cairo, the western desert and Nile delta cities.

“In North Sinai, terrorists seek to prevent the Egyptian authorities from exercising control.

Military soldiers carry the body of a terrorist after a shoot out

Reuters

Military soldiers carry the body of a terrorist after a shoot out

“There have been frequent, almost daily reports of attacks since the change in government. Most attacks are against the Egyptian government and military installations and personnel.”

If travel can not be avoided, they advise to be ‘vigilant, monitor media reports and keep up to date with the travel advice covering your location.”

Particularly dangerous times include local ‘holiday weekends’ as seen on the British Embassy, Cairo website. 

They continue: “There is considered to be a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria.

“You should be vigilant at this time.”


 



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