Female readers frequently ask me about safety in Egypt. I’m not sure how to respond to it. After all, all I know is what my female friends tell me. Because I’m not an expert, Monica Chapon of This Rare Earth is going to share her experience and advice for remaining safe as a lone female tourist in Egypt today!
For good reason, Egypt is at the top of many visitors’ bucket lists. It’s easy to see why, with such a vast history, renowned historical sites, and diverse scents, tastes, and noises.
Many, however, never make it here owing to safety concerns. After all, everyone living in a Western country has most certainly seen repeated official warnings and news items in the media.
The US State Department advises travellers to “rethink travel to Egypt due to terrorism.” The Canadian government advises travellers to “exercise extreme caution in Egypt owing to the unpredictability of the security situation and the possibility of terrorism.”
The Australian government advises people to “reconsider their overall need to travel to Egypt.” Furthermore, the British government warns that “terrorists are quite likely to try to carry out strikes in Egypt.”
With so many nations urging travellers not to go, I understand why people, particularly women, are hesitant to visit Egypt – whether alone or as part of a group tour of Egypt.
I received numerous “are you sure that’s a good idea?” stares before going there. I was informed several times that I wouldn’t be permitted to go anywhere without a male escort and that I would almost surely be abducted. (Even after I returned safely, people close to me questioned my decision to undertake it alone.)
While I knew these fears were unfounded, I’ll admit I had no idea what to anticipate when I arrived. After all, with blonde hair and green eyes, I had little chance of passing for a local.
However, I found the Egyptian people to be friendly and welcoming. The women on the street smiled warmly, and the guys I met sincerely wanted me to fall in love with their nation, no strings attached.
Now that I’ve gone over Egypt on my own, I’m here to share my experiences with all the other ladies out there.
Before you go, here’s what you should know about women’s safety.
Scams and hassles
While the majority of Egyptians I encountered were quite welcoming and helpful, Egypt does have a reputation for tourist scams. Some of the most prevalent stories I heard revolved around prominent attractions such as the Pyramids.
For example, the individuals who provide camel rides there are frequently claimed to load people onto the camels first, then charge a grossly inflated price for a brief ride once the ride has begun. Alternatively, sellers will offer you an item as a “present,” but when you begin to walk away, they will harass you for not paying.
Accepting a camel ride, a cab ride, or any other commodity without first agreeing on a fee is unethical.
I’ve encountered a couple of scams and hassles personally, and the underlying thread in all of them was pressure. As a single female, feeling pressed into anything may be terrifying.
One such instance occurred with a local driver. When alternative kinds of transportation were unavailable, I hired him to drive me to a few places (more on those below).
I had a good time with him the entire time. However, as the day progressed, he began to pressurise me to tip more than I already had and then became insistent that I provide a nice review for him.
This carried on for over an hour. His voice was loud, and he was irritated that I was refusing to cooperate. He went so far as to follow me into my hotel lobby, where he sat down to wait “until I left him a review.”
I didn’t feel frightened because it was a public place with multiple staff people buzzing around. But, as a single female, I am never comfortable with a man following me, so I was on high alert.
For better or worse, I held my ground more strongly and refused to cooperate. He ultimately departed without incident, but I doubt he would have done that to a male in the first place.
If you find yourself in a position where someone is attempting to coerce you into doing something you don’t want to do, such as paying or tipping or going somewhere you don’t want to go, maintain your ground. Maintain your cool and, if necessary, solicit the assistance of others. You have the freedom to decline something that you know is erroneous or that you do not want to participate in.
If you are a woman travelling alone to Egypt, you may be concerned about your safety. And I understand that taking public transit alone might be frightening. Here are the finest alternatives, as well as instructions on how to use them securely.
The metro is a cheap and dependable means of transportation in Cairo. Women may choose to use female-only cabins to prevent unwanted attention. These are usually the first and second cars, or the fourth and fifth, as indicated by signage on the platform.
However, while the metro is simple to use, it does not stop at every location where a visitor would need to travel. The subway, for example, cannot take you to the Pyramids or the Cairo International Airport. This is when other choices come into play.
Ride-hailing applications such as Careem and Uber are available in several cities, including Cairo and Alexandria. When hopping about the city’s sites on my own, I found this to be the best and cheapest option. I also enjoy that they have a digital record of every driver that picks me up in case something goes wrong.
Taxis and private drivers are a simple choice if you live outside of major cities or if ridesharing wait times are inconvenient. I thought them to be decently priced for the most part, but make sure you agree on a fee before getting in.
I also walked about Cairo by myself, taking care to dress conservatively. I felt completely safe whether I was walking through the streets of Islamic Cairo or going to the grocery store.
I generally strolled alone during the day, not at night, so I can’t say whether that would have impacted my experience. If you want to be out late at night, I strongly advise you to use a cab or rideshare instead.
Harassment in Egypt
Monica, a solitary tourist, poses for a portrait in Egypt’s desert.
I’d be lying if I said there isn’t harassment in Egypt. It exists, although it may be less prevalent than you believe. I had mentally braced myself for the worst: continuous catcalls from males, being followed and harassed. To be honest, I’ve seen all of these things previously on my trips. Heck, I’ve had every one of them at home.
In Egypt, I was pleasantly pleased to see practically none of this. But I know a lot of ladies do.
So, if it does happen, what should you do?
When confronted with catcalling, I typically find it easiest to ignore, ignore, ignore. When you’re out of earshot, they usually give up. If you are in a public place or feel intimidated, you can go into a business or draw attention to the issue with a loud and firm “No.”
If something severe occurs, such as theft or violence, immediately notify the tourist police. They are safe for ensuring the safety of visitors in Egypt, and they are considerably more likely to speak English than other police. You may reach them by calling 126.
It is also worth noting that police are stationed at several of the major tourist destinations, such as the Pyramids.
You can also request assistance from your hotel’s front desk or a driver. The majority of Egyptians will willingly step forward.
Avoiding Being a Target
I believe that the fact that I felt at ease in Egypt contributed to how well everything went for me. I’ve spent a lot of time in the Middle East, so I’m familiar with the culture.
Here is my top travel advice for ladies visiting Egypt:
1. Be informed of Egypt’s cultural standards.
This should come as no surprise, but you should dress conservatively here, especially in the heat. Consider wearing long pants and exposing tops. I wear tight leggings with a flowy top that conceals my waist and hips when I wear them. Keep a headscarf on hand for religious locations such as mosques. (The only place I’d wear shorts or a tank top would be at a beach resort.) Even if I see other ladies dressed more casually, I consider it a show of respect for their culture to refrain from doing likewise. And I believe this has helped me as a solitary traveller.
2. Carry yourself with assurance.
If you don’t feel completely secure, my recommendation is to fake it a little. Keep your chin up and your eyes up. Before you leave your hotel or hostel, know where you’re going. This is simple to accomplish by either downloading offline maps or purchasing a local SIM card; I recommend Vodafone or Etisalat, both of which can be purchased upon arrival at Cairo International Airport.
3. Don’t be frightened to refuse.
Also, never feel obligated to stop and converse just to be courteous. At tourist attractions, shopkeepers, restaurant proprietors, and vendors will compete for your attention regularly. If you’re not interested, a strong but courteous “Laa, shukran” (no, thank you) as you continue walking is all you need to say.
4. Keep an eye on your bags and cameras.
The majority of petty stealing is a crime of opportunity. Choose cross-body bags, which are more difficult to steal, and never give your camera to someone you don’t trust to return it. Make sure you also get travel insurance.
5. Avoid political protests.
In Egypt, they have a history of getting out of hand. When I was there, it was peaceful, but if you hear of any protests or demonstrations, stay away.
A good combination of respect and self-assurance works wonders for me, and it has kept me safe both in Egypt and throughout the world. It’s also worth mentioning some of the pleasant and welcoming encounters I had in Egypt, which greatly outnumbered the ones listed above.
For example, I was served koshary, Egypt’s national meal, and a popular street snack, in a completely nice and platonic manner. I had the opportunity to visit a Bedouin community in the desert. And while I was heading to the airport for my flight, a hotel employee went above and beyond for me. Without being asked, locals were consistently warm, welcoming, and helpful.
I experienced many more pleasant than negative experiences, with no expectation of anything in return. And, in my perspective, my unpleasant experiences were insignificant.
Egypt exceeded my expectations in every way. I would return again and again without hesitation!
Egypt is a completely safe destination for female alone travellers. I’m not suggesting there won’t be any hassles or problems; there very certainly will be. However, I believe you will find Egyptian culture and, in particular, Egyptian males to be quite welcoming. They truly want you to fall in love with their nation. I believe you will if you come prepared and have your wits about you.