One of the most common question I hear about Egypt is – Is it safe to travel to Egypt after everything that has been going on in the country in recent years. The short answer is yes – it is fairly safe for a tourist to travel there, as long as you use your common sense and stay away from trouble. The resort, like Hurghada and Sharm el Sheikh are quite packed with tourist police and great measures have been taken to keep the airport safe. In fact, I haven’t experienced such strict control like in Hurghada airport – we were checked at least 5 times!
Is it safe to travel to Egypt? Safety in Hurghada
During my latest visit I had no problem going outside my hotel (located in Hurghada city center), even during night time. The streets are lively and we met many other tourist wandering the streets, looking for cheap souvenirs and exploring local life. Hurghada, unlike Sharm, is a real city with almost 100.000 residents – also expats. Locals are friendly and eager to strike a conversation. In fact, you can even make friends if you can stand to their constant attempts to sell you something.
The city is hard to get into, as there are numerous police checkpoints along the main roads. Tour buses usually travel in groups accompanied by police escort.
During our latest stay we ate at three local cafes with no problem in terms of food poisoning. The food prices are actually quite high and comparable to East European. For example, grilled chicken plate with fries or pasta costs around 4-5$, fresh mango juice 1,5$. The food was okay, but nothing special. In fact, we didn’t have a single meal in Egypt that we could say was exceptional. Although the variety seems quite high, with different world cuisines (Italian, Greek, Chinese), in the end they all seem to taste the same and lack in spices.
Excursions and tours
Excursions and tours can be purchased from both tour guides at the hotels and from street agencies. You should not worry about buying tours outside the hotel – usually these are the same agencies. In fact, when buying from local shops you can negotiate the price and get a better deal (especially when buying more than one tour). Another option is book online through local agencies. You can contact them via Whatsapp or Viber messaging app. That’s how we booked Luxor, snorkeling tour and desert safari.
Tour guides in the hotels will try to scare you off from buying from local agencies because this is their bread. They will force you to meet them the same day you arrive in order to activate your return ticket (what?). Some lies they will tell you, if you book from street agencies, include:
-Your insurance will stop working.
-You will be robbed and killed.
-You won’t be allowed on the flight.
-You are not allowed to tell anyone your room number.
They will usually sell for at least 30% more, which they take home as commission. In return, you will get a sense of “security”. The truth is, once you get in the bus, you will meet people who paid much less than you.
Souvenirs and shops
Haggle, always haggle! You might be tempted to go on a free city tour. These tours take place daily and may or may not be a good idea. Personally, I think they are waste of your precious holiday time. We went on such tour and enjoyed the first part – Hurghada Marina area and the grand Mosque with brief tour. After that we were taken to two souvenir stores (Nefertiti and Memphis) – one with oils and the other one with souvenirs. These big stores are usually located outside the tourist zones and serve just one purpose – to rip off naive tourists. For example – famous black seed oil cost 45$ in Nefertiti and only 10$ at a small shop next to our hotel.
If you really don’t enjoy haggling, consider visiting a store called Cleopatra Bazar – this is fixed prices store. You can buy all kinds of souvenirs there as well as gold/silver jewelry. Ground floor is usually occupied by groceries store with quite cheap lukum (local sweets), honey etc.
Most of the tours that you will go on (boat tours, safaris) will be offering photos/videos of your adventures. I never agreed to buying those as I have my own equipment. However, if you don’t own an action camera or waterproof case and would like to have some underwater snaps, agree on the price and always check the files before buying. Never leave deposit until you see the actual footage. I have heard of many disappointed customers who received broken CD-s. Ask them to bring the picture on memory stick and check in your laptop. The prices for underwater videos and photos are really high (usually 25$), you will be much better off buying a waterproof case for your phone.
Many photo scammers can be found near famous tourist attractions, such as Pyramids in Giza, Luxor temples etc. Be very careful taking pictures of camels, as their owners will surely demand payment afterwards. You will hear “It’s for free”, but in fact it never is. Even if someone recommends you a good photo spot, they will usually ask money for it. All of these tiny details may seem like a lot of stress, but you will get used to this after a few days and just ignore all the “helpers”.
Taxis and Uber
Hurghada’s traffic is 70% taxis. These blue and orange cars can be found everywhere and are very good at spotting your interest in them. We have never used any of them, as everything was in walking distance from our hotel. However, if you are staying in bigger hotels south of the city, you will probably need to use one sooner or later. Here is a tip – always agree on price before you begin your journey. Simply jumping in will cost you a lot more. Good news – you can use Uber in Hurghada. If you buy a local sim card, you can have the freedom of ordering a ride anywhere. Another big (and cheap) taxi app is called Careem.
Have you ever been to Egyptian resort towns? What are your best tips?