Is it safe to travel to Egypt? As Red Sea crisis escalates

Most parts of Egypt, including the major tourist attractions, are accessible to travellers (Ben White/Unsplash )
Most parts of Egypt, including the major tourist attractions, are accessible to travellers (Ben White/Unsplash )

The UK government has shared an update to its foreign travel advice for Egypt as tensions continue to escalate in the Middle East.

The global community has been on high alert after Israel bombed the Iranian embassy in Syria, leading to a response from Iran.

Despite world leaders urging Benjamin Netanyahu to maintain restraint, Israeli officials have suggested they plan to strike again – adding to further instability in the region.

Egypt is a hugely popular travel destination for Brits; however, its geographical location may cause doubts about whether travel is safe right now.

The North African country shares borders with the Gaza Strip as well as Israel, and it has a long coastline along the Red Sea.

Israel has been accused of carrying out a genocide just beyond Egyptian borders, massacring more than 33,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, in the past six months. Millions of Palestinians are also seeking refuge close to Egypt in the border town of Rafah.

Travel to Egypt so far remains unaffected by regional tensions and most tourist hotspots, such as Sharm El-Sheikh and Hurghada have been unaffected by recent travel guidelines.

Flights remain in operation, and major tourist destinations in Egypt are open. Here’s what you need to know about travelling to Egypt in the coming months.

Is it safe to travel to Egypt right now?

Recent travel warnings do not affect Egypt's main tourist hubs, including Cairo, Sharm El Sheikh, Luxor, Hurghada, and Alexandria.

Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO) travel guidance for these tourist hotspots has not changed, and most visits to Egypt are incident-free.

However, regional experts are keeping a close eye on the evolving situation in Gaza.

Following Iran’s retaliation against Israel, the UK Government told people to “Monitor this travel advice and other media as the situation is changing fast.”

According to the FCDO: “In response to events in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, a number of demonstrations have taken place in Egypt and protests have been planned, including after Friday prayers. Demonstrations could take place at short notice, with a heavy security presence in place. You should avoid large gatherings, demonstrations and protests.”

According to advice, travellers should avoid going within 20km of the Egypt-Libya border, except for the town of El Salloum (where only essential travel is advised).

It’s worth remembering that your travel insurance might be invalidated if you visit an area that the FCDO has advised against travelling to

Is it safe to travel to the Red Sea?

Yemeni-backed Houthi rebels have attacked a number of cargo boats heading toward the Suez Canal in the past few months, which has prompted a response from the US and UK.

Some of Egypt's most popular beach locations, Sharm El Sheikh, Hurghada and Dahab, sit on the Red Sea and welcome thousands of UK holidaymakers yearly.

However, Egypt’s popular tourist destinations have so far been unaffected.

While tourists are always urged to exercise caution when travelling abroad, the majority of visits to Egypt's Red Sea are relatively safe and enjoyable at this time.

What is official UK Government advice on travelling to Egypt?

The situation is constantly evolving, and things can change pretty quickly.

However, tourists who keep to Egypt’s popular tourist destinations are unlikely to be affected by regional tensions at this time.

According to the FCDO: “The authorities in Egypt have a significant security presence across the country, including armed security officers at important sites, critical infrastructure and road checkpoints. Extra measures are in place at tourist sites.”

However, the FCDO does advise against travel to certain regions, including:

  • Within 20km of the Egypt-Libya border and the Governorate of North Sinai.

  • Parts of the governorate of South Sinai, beyond the St Catherine-Nuweibaa Road, unless essential.

  • Ismailiyah governorate east of the Suez Canal and for certain locations in the western desert.

Check the official advice before travelling.

Do I need a visa to enter Egypt?

UK visitors can get a one-month visa on arrival when entering Egypt. Tourists will need to pay $25, preferably in that currency, at whatever port they enter the country.

Alternatively, those travelling in the Sinai peninsula (such as Sharm El-Sheikh) can get a free 15-day visa that covers that region. However, if you travel to mainland Egypt, you will need to get a new visa.