I know, every one is wondering, is it safe to travel to Egypt? Should women travel to Egypt?
In short, this is likely the only time in modern history that one can visit the pyramids without the crowds, but Egypt has a long way to go before their tourism industry returns to its glory days. We found an unfortunate lack of updated travel information available to us on this subject, so we hope you find this post helpful.
(See photos toward the bottom)
We’ve included some specific recommendations (at the bottom) that will ease the “stress” of traveling in North Africa.
We were admittedly apprehensive to visit Egypt, but after our short (and intense) day-trip to Morocco, we decided to go for it. (read about our day-trip to Morocco here)
Both of us have wanted to visit Egypt since we were kids. Jenny had an obsession with Egyptian Mythology as a teenager and had a Luxor, Las Vegas key chain on her keys because it had the sphinx on it (so dorky). Egypt is the only remaining Wonder of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World, so we had to go!
Prior to 2012 almost 40,000 tourists a day visited The Pyramids. Today, the pyramids are lucky to see 1,000 people a day. Meaning you can visit the highlights of Cairo and Giza without the crowds, or lines and take photos virtually alone. Step inside a pyramid without anyone else, selfie with a camel, and enjoy the views unhindered.
The Egyptian tourism economy has basically come to a halt due to the fear of terrorism. We agree this is a threat to take seriously, Egypt is a poor Middle Eastern Muslim country with a democracy overwhelming agreeing to vote-in sharia law.
Additionally time and again, Cairo has been named the worst city for women, as sexual assault and harassment continues to increase. The overwhelming majority of women wear a head scarf and are covered from wrist to ankle. Both to show their devotion to their faith and to avoid unwanted attention or advances. Still, the sexual assault statistics increase. As a woman (and hardcore feminist) this has not been my favorite place to visit.
Cairo is a very poor, but bustling city. This apparent immediately in your surroundings. Unfinished buildings litter the skyline. These skyscrapers, in the heart of the city, reserve their unfinished open aired top-floors for herds of sheep, chickens and goats. The urban-farmers can be seen crossing traffic ridden streets with their flock in tow, allowing them to graze on the great garbage piles that line the busy streets and sidewalks. Traffic is chaos, which is to be expected in a city of 20M people, with little to no transportation infrastructure. This all makes for a very startling pedestrian experience, making Uber a welcome transport option (more on Uber, below).
The lack of infrastructure makes the city an unfriendly visit for tourists. Walking to cafes or highlights is basically out of the question, and the unrelenting traffic turns 1 mile into 20+ minutes via car. Most foreign visitors remain at their resort hotels to avoid the hassle of finding a restaurant off-site. Even then, the hotel restaurants are barren at all hours of the day and night as there are so few visitors. We found most meals took an unusually long time as staffing as declined in response to declined tourism.
Cairo has gone to great lengths to make the visitors feel safe, but it might cause the opposite affect for westerners. Arriving at the towering gates of our 5-star resort, our car was checked out by a large bomb-sniffing German Shepard. Metal detectors or machine gun wielding men welcome you through the doors of hotels, malls, and all large gathering areas.
Enjoying Egypt proved very difficult. While we’ve travelled to many “challenging” destinations, Egypt tops the charts. We tried harder than one should to feel comfortable in Cairo. I wouldn’t discourage anyone from visiting, but I fear we may be some of the last travelers to visit this nation as it struggles to regain its glory and as the country continues to take steps to further Sharia and distance themselves from western values.
Here are some photos from our trip. Some unseen.
Scroll past the photos for our trip specifics and safety tips.
Egypt Travel Tips
Thankfully Uber is available in Egypt. Most rides cost between $1-2. Our 1 hour+ ride from the airport cost $5 USD. Note that while Uber is the most convenient mode of transport, it’s still not very convenient. Parking or stopping road side is nearly impossible in most places, so be ready to jump into your ride as it arrives.
Taxi cabs are widely available, but they do not use the meter system. Rates will need to be pre-negotiated, and most drivers only speak Arabic. Additionally taxis are known to be extremely dangerous. I would advise against using taxis, if possible.
There is practically no public transportation. No metro, and the public bus system is remarkably overcrowded and not tourist friendly.
We’re not typically tour-goers, but Egypt proves difficult to do much of anything without a guide. On our first day we booked a full-day tour. We visited The Great Pyramids of Giza, The Ancient City of Memphis, the First Pyramids of Sakkara, and the Sphinx. Our tour was through Emo Tours Egypt, as they came highly recommended by Trip Advisor. This was our most fun in Egypt!
There are very few tourist vendors at the highlights of Giza and around Cairo. As tourism has declined, so have tourist vendors. You will rarely be hassled by vendors, even less so if you have a tour guide. We found this to be a nice perk.
Where to Stay:
While not our typical way to travel, we suggest the tourist hotel zone in Cairo called Zamalek. This is literally an island on The Nile, full of Hiltons, Marriots and national embassies.
Be sure to choose one with a pool and multiple restaurants as you might spend a lot of time there.
We stayed at the Marriot Zamalek and the Hilton Zamalek. Both were nice, but felt empty of tourists making it slightly eerie.
Visiting Cairo can be done in 2 full days. Unfortunately we did not have the opportunity to see other cities on this trip.
What should women wear?
To be very honest, I didn’t feel comfortable in most any of the clothing I brought. The sexual assault statistics and my knowledge of their political and gender practices made my desire to sink into the background very prevalent.
At the pyramids, there is no drsesscode, and you’re mainly in the presence of other tourists. I saw people in shorts and girls in dresses. I wore a long dress with short sleeves and no plunging neckline. In the city I did my best to be covered up and dress modest. Eighty degrees on a cool day but most Egyptian women are covered head to toe, many wearing full niqabs.
I’d recommend long loose pants and a long sleeve light weight shirt, or a long modest dress. Personally, I wouldn’t be comfortable in tight fitting clothing. Foreigners are not expected to wear head coverings and I didn’t. However, bring a scarf for entering mosques.
Feel free to email or comment with questions about traveling to Egypt.
We’re happy to help!