Is it safe to travel on holidays to Egypt?


Protesters under fire

The explosive escalation of violence in Egypt yesterday, as the military moved in to clear protesters from camps around Cairo, shocked a horrified world. The authorities estimate that at least 523 people were killed and 874 injured in the violence. It brings the total dead to more than 700 since the army overthrew President Morsi on 3 July, 2013.

It has led to speculation that the country could be on the brink of civil war, as a month-long state of emergency has been declared. It has also raised questions as to whether it is safe for holidaymakers to travel to Egypt.

Egypt is a huge draw for British tourists, who have precious few days off work and want to spend them with a guarantee of hot sun, sandy beaches and clear blue seas. Right now, according to The Association of British Travel Agents there are 40,000 British tourists in Egypt - mostly in Red Sea resorts.

Are resorts safe?

Travel agents insist that resorts are safe - a view that is backed up by official advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. It has advised against all travel to the Governorate of North Sinai and all but essential travel to the rest of Egypt. However, is has specifically excluded: "resorts on the Red Sea in South Sinai and those resorts on the Egyptian mainland in Red Sea Governorate."

It goes on to list that travel is safe in:
(i) the Red Sea Resorts including those in the entire region of Sharm el Sheikh, Taba, Nuweiba and Dahab;
(ii) the St Catherine's Monastery World Heritage Site;
(iii) road travel between the Red Sea resorts;
(iv) road travel from the Red Sea resorts to St Catherine's Monastery approaching from the east;
(v) transfers between the resorts and the airports of Taba and Sharm el Sheikh.

It has also said it is not advising against using Cairo airport as a transit stop - as long as you don't leave the airport.

What it means for you

It essentially means that tour operators travelling to the affected parts of the country have cancelled all these trips.

The rest of the package holidays booked by Brits are to the resorts, and will still be operating. Local authorities have suspended tourist excursions, so you'll spend more time by the pool, but as long as you don't try to organise your own trips, you should be safe. To be on the safe side the authorities recommend carrying your passport at all times.

Independent travellers who hoped to take in more of the country are clearly advised to steer well clear. The Foreign Office has warned travellers to avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings. It says that demonstrations are not just confined to Cairo, but have spread to Alexandria, Hurghada and Luxor. It added: "Demonstrations in other cities are likely. Train services across Egypt are suspended."

Make sure your holiday doesn't end in disaster – get travel insurance

There are those who will lose out. Anyone who booked travel around Egypt independently and either didn't buy travel insurance, or doesn't have unrest covered by their policy, will have to negotiate individually with each person they booked with to see if they can get any money back.

Those who have booked travel to the Red Sea resorts and are getting cold feet will have no right to cancel. They may try, but they may not get a full refund and they may have to pay a cancellation fee.

There can be no positive news in a news story as horrific as this, but there is a very faint silver lining on this terrible cloud for some travellers. Tourism is already suffering in the region, and recent events will put even more people off travelling to Egypt. It may well mean more bargains available for the rest of the summer and into the autumn.

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