Apr 26, 2012

Posted by in Blog, Featured, Personal, Postcards | 20 Comments

Is Egypt Safe For Women Travelers?

When I told people I was traveling to Egypt, their first reaction was often surprise. When they found out I was traveling alone, their reaction turned to worry. A 5’1” girl traveling alone? In Egypt?

Girl standing with the pyramids and sphinx

Even if you are less than tall, cheesy tourist photos galore await you in Egypt.

I don’t often travel alone, and as my dad put it, Egypt was not a good place to break them in. Oh well, I’ve always been a fan of trial by fire, and this was no different.

Initially, I wasn’t apprehensive about my solo Egyptian travel plans. I’ve traveled a lot and often in sketchy situations, and I figured that the media was likely blowing the situation in Egypt out of proportion.

Tahrir Square April 2012

Tahrir Square doesn’t look quite as scary as it does in the media, does it?

But, once I got to the Middle East and was traveling in Israel and Jordan and people were STILL giving me that look, I started to get a little nervous. There were times when I thought to myself that I was being foolhardy, and that maybe I should just cancel my trip and go another time.

I’m so glad I went with my gut and didn’t cancel anything.

Because I never felt uncomfortable – not for one second, and I think that, even as a woman traveling alone, it is safe to travel in Egypt.

But, let’s not get cavalier here. I took a lot of precautions and was far more careful than I ever have been, so as not to appear on an Egyptian milk carton, if there is such a thing.

Man standing next to graffiti in Cairo

One of my lovely friends and chaperones, Sherif, looking hardcore.

Here’s what I think you need to do to stay safe as a woman traveler (especially if you are alone!) in Egypt.

1. Cover up

I did see women dressed like complete skank faces, and they weren’t getting mauled or thrown into unmarked vans or anything. But, it’s stupid not to just cover up a little bit.

I wore long pants/skirts and long sleeves, and I even threw a scarf around my head for a portion of the day. This would probably help a lot for women with lighter hair and/or skin.

2. Don’t be a hero.

Sure, I wish I could walk around at night and in any old neighborhood I chose, but I didn’t. It probably would’ve been fine, but I didn’t feel the need to prove anything to anybody.

I only walked in the areas I knew, and I only walked at night when accompanied by other people. It shouldn’t be any problem to meet friends at your hostel, so make nice and then go exploring!

Nile River and Cairo skyline at night

It is definitely worth getting out to see the city at night… with buddies!

3. Spend a little extra money.

When in doubt, I went with the option that felt safer but was a little more expensive. Though normally I stick to my Jew-roots and go with the cheapest option available, I figured that wasn’t the best idea in this situation.

4. Make friends, but don’t be too friendly.

The men in Egypt are very friendly, to say the least. I made friends with several Egyptian men that worked on tours and at my hostels. Though it was sometimes difficult to straddle (no pun intended – I did NO straddling in Egypt, I swear) the line between friends and too friendly, I managed it and assume most women can if they use some common sense.

On the other hand, I saw some girls at my hostels being completely cold to the workers, and they missed out on some great friends and hilarious encounters. I was just careful to keep my new buddies from getting too touchy feely, as it would’ve been a shame not to hang out with them at all. They made my time in Egypt really fun.

Egyptian flags blowing in the square.

Here’s hoping for a peaceful and successful election.

Though it obviously depends upon the comfort of the woman and of her ability to make smart decisions, I would say in general that Egypt is safe for women travelers.

It is actually almost an ideal time to go, because the country is empty. Prices are dropping, and this may be the only time you’ll be able to enjoy Sharm El Sheikh holidays or visit the Great Pyramids in solitude.

While traveling there, I kinda fell in love with the country. Yes, the culture and history are unrivaled, but what I truly loved was the insane energy and vibe of the people.

I don’t know if this is a new, post-revolution quality, but the Egyptians are hungry for change, excited about the future, and generally in love with life. I now feel a deeper connection to this country and their politics, and am hoping for nothing but the best for them in the future.

Please, be smart, and don’t go if you think you’ll be uncomfortable. But, if you’re feeling confident and are looking for a fun and affordable destination that is filled with culture and sun, then head to Egypt! Follow the tips listed above, and I think you’ll have a great time.

Would you have hesitations traveling to Egypt? Have you ever been somewhere that other people thought wasn’t safe?

  1. Still laughing about the “straddle” comment 😉

  2. Another great site for Egypt is Travelreportage. Guilia, an Italian blogger writing in English, was there during the peak of the protests and presents a really balanced view

  3. Very interesting and informative..

  4. Hi. Thank you for the great blog post! Can you be more specific on #3? What did you have to spend more on for you to feel safe? I want to go to Cairo, Luxor, and Aswan during December 2013, but as a solo woman, I wonder if I would be safe wondering alone at even the tourist attractions. I read another blog where a girl wouldn’t ride the metro, always ride taxis, and wouldn’t walk alone except in very few areas. Reading that sort of scared me.

    • Hi Grace! Please note that I went to Egypt in spring 2012, which was more than a year and a half ago. I definitely felt fine wandering around the tourist attractions in Cairo. I also felt fine traveling to Dahab alone. I didn’t ride the metro and did take taxis on occasion. I also made friends with some people at my hostel, so I was able to wander around with them a bit. I walked alone during the day, but not at night. By #3, I just meant that you don’t have to stay at the cheapest hostel, and you should splurge on a taxi or nicer train if you’d feel more comfortable. Please send me an email if you have more questions. Thanks for reading!

  5. So happy I found your blog somehow through facebook 😀 I just might travel to Egypt in April. I kind of have a friend there 😀 but not sure if he’d be able to get off work for whole 2 weeks I’m planning to do. Probably will travel a week alone, which I kind of never did before. This for sure helps, and I also believe common sense “saves” you a lot of times. In other, shit happens everywhere 🙂

    So yeah, hopefully I go and hopefully I have a good time 🙂

    Girl power from Croatia

  6. I’m sorry, dressing as ‘skank faces’? Are you kidding me? Is this supposed to be an empowering or belittling blog? That a woman would chastise the way another woman dresses is completely out of line. I might as well watch mean girls

    • Sorry you took offense, Marin! I think that the way some women dress while abroad is completely inappropriate, and as much as I wish it weren’t so, it puts them at risk for harassment. They have the right to dress however they want, but the post is about how to travel safely — and dressing conservatively is a huge part of that.

      • Men harass women in those countries regardless of how they dress. Studies from some of those countries actually show that for the indigenous women, they are harassed more if they dress uber conservatively.
        You are being a sexist, and following double standards. If tourists come to our countries and wear clothing more suited to their country/religion’s tradition, we’re fine with it. It’s perfectly fair to expect the same back.

  7. I was wondering if you can take a day trip to Luxor from Cairo? Or is it better to stay a few nights in Cairo and then a few nights in Luxor?
    Also… can you buy a train ticket from Cairo to Luxor last minute or on the same day? Or do you have to reserve a train ticket several days in advance?

  8. Morgan L says:

    “Skank faces”and “jew-roots” refering to you being cheap? Wow you are offensive on so many levels!

  9. Heavy traveller says:

    Enjoyed reading despite being egyptian but wanna note that the media exaggerates describing the status of the country about safity and all aspects taking incidental issues and amplifying them to look much more bigger than they actually are

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