What makes Egypt a unique country to travel to?
Egypt is a republic with a developing economy. It has extensive facilities for tourists.
Following the Revolution in January 2011, the incidence of crime, including attacks on foreigners, increased throughout the country. Travelers should apply common sense personal security measures when moving about, particularly in urban areas after dark, to avoid becoming a victim. While the majority of incidents reported are crimes of opportunity, such as purse snatching and theft, there is growing and serious concern of incidents that involve weapons, including car-jackings. There have been multiple reports of men on motorcycles or in cars grabbing purses or other valuables in drive-by assaults. U.S. citizens are advised to carry mobile phones in pockets rather than on belts or in purses. Avoid wearing headphones, which make the wearer more vulnerable and readily advertise the presence of a valuable item. Limit or avoid display of jewelry as it attracts attention and could prompt a robbery attempt. Limit cash and credit cards carried on your person. Be sure to store valuables, wallet items, and passports in a safe place. Travelers are strongly cautioned not to leave valuables such as cash, jewelry, and electronic items unsecured in hotel rooms or unattended in public places. Women are vulnerable to sexual harassment and verbal abuse; the Embassy has received numerous reports of foreigners being groped in taxis and while in public places. Travelers are cautioned to be aware of their surroundings and to be cautious going anywhere with a stranger alone.
While you are traveling in Egypt, you are subject to its laws. The Egyptian legal system is different from the legal system in the United States. If you break Egyptian laws, your U.S. passport will not prevent arrest or prosecution. Punishments often are harsher in Egypt for comparable crimes than they are in the United States. You may be detained and taken in for questioning if you do not have proper identification, such as a passport. Although the enforcement of traffic laws generally is lax, foreigners are subject to extra scrutiny and driving under the influence could result in arrest or detainment.
Be aware that you can also be prosecuted for violating U.S. laws while in Egypt. Do not purchase counterfeit or pirated goods, such as DVDs. They are illegal in Egypt and in the United States. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States.
While some countries routinely notify the U.S. embassy or consulate if a U.S. citizen is detained or arrested, others do not. If you are arrested or detained in Egypt, you should immediately ask authorities to notify the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.
Arabic is the official language in Egypt, although English and French are used in business and education. The written language differs from the spoken Egyptian dialect used in daily life. The Cairene dialect is the standard for spoken Egyptian; the people are extremely proud of it. They like to use it for wordplays, jokes, clichés, and riddles. Cairene is therefore both the spoken language and an integral part of Egyptian culture.
Medical Facilities and Health Information
Medical care in Egypt falls short of U.S. standards. The U.S. Embassy in Cairo can provide a list of local hospitals and English-speaking physicians. Emergency and intensive care facilities are limited. Most Nile cruise boats do not have a ship's doctor, but some employ a medical practitioner of uncertain qualification. Hospital facilities in Luxor and Aswan are inadequate, and they are nonexistent at most other ports-of-call. The Egyptian ambulance service hotline is 123, but Egyptian ambulance service is not reliable.
Beaches on the Mediterranean and Red Sea coasts are generally unpolluted. However, persons who swim in the Nile or its canals, walk barefoot in stagnant water, or drink untreated water are at risk of exposure to bacterial and other infections and the parasitic disease schistosomiasis (bilharzia).
It is generally safe to eat freshly prepared cooked food in hotels, on Nile cruise boats, and in mainstream restaurants. When selecting a restaurant, select a clean and reputable place,eat only freshly prepared, cooked foods, avoid all uncooked food including raw fruits and vegetables. Tap water in many locations is not potable. It is best to drink bottled water or water that has been boiled and filtered. Well-known brands of bottled beverages are generally considered to be safe if the seal is intact.
Safety and Security
Political protests occur often throughout Egypt. We remind U.S. citizens that even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence. Demonstrations have led to frequent violent clashes between police and protesters, resulting in deaths, injuries, and property damage. In some areas, protesters have blocked major streets and bridges, burned tires and debris, established unofficial checkpoints, and thrown rocks and Molotov cocktails. Security forces have responded with tear gas, crowd-control measures, and firearms to disperse demonstrations. Protests can occur with little to no warning in any area, but Cairo's Tahrir Square; Nasr City near Rabaa Aladawiya; Dokki near Cairo University; and Salah Salem Road, as well as the AlQaed Ibrahim, Sidi Gaber and Sidi Beshr areas of Alexandria have been favored locations for rallies and demonstrations, particularly on Fridays. Protests and incidents of political violence have occurred with greater frequency at universities. Although the state of emergency and curfew imposed in August 2013 were rescinded in November, armed security forces remain heavily deployed in many areas.
On June 28, 2013, a U.S. citizen was killed during a demonstration in Alexandria. Women in particular are advised to avoid demonstrations as there have been multiple reports of gender-based violence and sexual assaults against both foreign and Egyptian women. U.S. citizens are advised that it is illegal to photograph certain facilities in Egypt, and enforcement of this law is particularly strict at demonstrations. U.S. citizens have been detained, questioned and in some cases deported for taking pictures or videos of protests or military and police personnel, facilities and equipment.
Protests and public disorder are not confined to Cairo and Alexandria. Sohag, Suez, Port Said, Fayoum, Minya, Qena, Asyut, and the Sinai Peninsula have also witnessed incidents of political violence. U.S. Embassy personnel traveling to these areas require advance approval. Egyptian authorities also restrict the travel of foreigners to certain locales. U.S. citizens planning to travel beyond Cairo and Alexandria should contact the Embassy prior to travel. Large gatherings in Egypt, including sporting events such as soccer matches, can cause major traffic disruptions and sometimes turn violent. U.S. citizens should exercise extreme caution if attending soccer matches in Egypt, be aware of the potential for snarled traffic and agitated crowds after sporting events, and avoid venues--such as bars and coffee houses--where large numbers of people gather to watch sporting events on television. We strongly urge you to avoid crowds, to exercise extreme caution if within the vicinity of any large public gatherings, and to stay well away from demonstrations.
U.S. citizens are urged to remain alert to local security developments and to be vigilant regarding their personal security by knowing the locations of police and fire stations, hospitals, and other places to relocate to feel secure. If you are concerned for your security, you should exercise personal responsibility, remove yourself from the situation, and relocate to an area where you feel secure. U.S. citizens are advised to avoid urban areas after dark. U.S. citizens should also carry identification and a cell phone or other means of communication that works in Egypt. U.S. citizens are encouraged to make common sense plans to deal with security situations and to investigate alternate means of communication in country, evacuation insurance, and alternative destinations both within and outside the country in case of emergency.
Terrorism: Egypt witnessed several terrorist incidents in 2013. A large number of these incidents specifically targeted Egyptian security forces and infrastructure, including the attempted assassination of the Minister of Interior, attacks on police stations, and the discoveries of explosive devices in Cairo and elsewhere. The authorities have made several arrests and responded with heavy police and military presence throughout the country. Responsibility for these attacks has been attributed primarily to jihadist elements operating out of the Sinai Peninsula, which remains a particularly restive region. Foreign tourists, including U.S. citizens, were kidnapped in the Sinai in 2012 and 2013. U.S. citizens who plan to visit there in spite of the persistent threat of kidnapping and terrorist attacks should exercise extreme caution. U.S. citizens should be especially vigilant in crowded tourist areas, practice good personal security measures, and be alert to their surroundings. Travelers should avoid resorts and hotels that lack significant physical setback from roads and adequate security procedures. U.S. citizens are encouraged to visit the U.S. Embassy in Cairo website for the most up-to-date security information.
Alexandria: The State Department lifted ordered departure status for employees of the U.S. Consulate General Alexandria and their family members on December 16, 2013. Even though ordered departure status has been lifted, security upgrades required for U.S. government facilities in Alexandria mean that U.S. Consulate General personnel will be based out of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo while these upgrades are made.
Restricted Areas: The U.S. Embassy restricts its employees and their family members from traveling to specific areas and advises all U.S. citizens to do the same. U.S. Embassy personnel in Egypt are currently prohibited from traveling to the Sinai, except by air to Sharm El Sheikh. Overland personal travel by U.S. government employees anywhere in the Sinai outside of Sharm El Sheikh is prohibited. In addition, travel by road by U.S. government employees west of Marsa Matruh on the north coast is prohibited. Travel between Fayoum, Asyut, Sohag, and Qena is only approved on a case-by-case basis. Reports indicate that the security situation in the northern Sinai area, which is generally defined as the area north of the Cairo-Nekhl-Taba and Sheikh Zeid road, remains difficult due to the continuing potential for violence. Travelers should be aware of the possible dangers of overland travel.
Safari travelers must obtain permission and a travel route from the Egyptian Military Intelligence and the Tourist Police Headquarters via a local or overseas travel agency to access Egypt's frontiers, including the borders with Libya, Sudan, Israel, and parts of the Sinai off paved roads. Police escorts are assigned to accompany foreigners during their tour.
Travelers should be aware that landmines have caused many casualties in Egypt, including deaths of U.S. citizens. All travelers should check with local authorities before embarking on off-road travel. Known minefields are not reliably marked by signs, but are sometimes enclosed by barbed wire. Heavy rains can cause flooding and move landmines, and travelers should be exercise caution when encountering sand drifts on roadways. Though mines are found in other parts of Egypt, the highest concentrations are in World War II battlefields along the Mediterranean coast west of Alexandria, the Eastern Desert between Cairo and the Suez Canal, and much of the Sinai Peninsula. Travelers are urged to be especially prudent in these areas.
Traffic Safety and Road Conditions
While in Egypt, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Egypt is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Driving in Egypt, a country with one of the world’s highest rates of road fatalities per mile driven, is a challenge. Even seasoned residents of Cairo must use extraordinary care and situational awareness to navigate the hectic streets of the capital. Traffic rules routinely are ignored. Any visiting U.S. citizens thinking about driving in Cairo should carefully consider their options, take the utmost precautions, and drive defensively. Drivers should be prepared for motorists not using their headlights at night; few, if any, road markings; vehicles traveling at high speeds; vehicles traveling the wrong way on one-way streets; divided highways and connecting ramps; pedestrians dodging in and out of traffic; and a variety of animals on the roads. Traffic lights in Cairo are not functional. Instead, major intersections are staffed by police who gesture to indicate which cars may move. Pedestrians should exercise extreme caution when traversing roadways, especially in high-volume/high-velocity streets such as Cairo's Corniche, which follows the east bank of the Nile River. Motorists in Egypt should be especially cautious during the rare winter rains, which can cause extremely slippery road surfaces or localized flooding.
Accidents involving public mini- and microbuses are frequent, including serious incidents involving fatalities. Riders also are subject to pick-pocketing and other crimes. For these reasons, the Embassy strongly recommends that its personnel not use them. Intercity roads are generally in good condition, but unmarked surfaces, stray animals, and vehicles that halt or turn without warning are among the many hazards that can be encountered on highways. Disabled vehicles or motorists who do not use their lights after dark pose additional dangers. U.S. Embassy personnel in Egypt are prohibited from traveling by road outside Cairo after sunset. In addition, some roads, especially in the Sinai and southeastern part of the country, are off-limits to foreigners. Traffic warning signs should be respected. Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. Visit the website of Egypt’s national tourist office and national authority for road safety.
Trains are usually a safe means of transportation in Egypt. However, there have been several collisions of trains and traffic accidents on railway tracks between 2009-2013 in the greater Cairo and Upper Egypt areas where a number of Egyptian nationals were killed or injured.