I just returned from a one week trip and I’ll share my honest opinion of traveling to Egypt as a woman. I’ve visited over 70 countries, with about a dozen being Muslim-majority countries. I mainly travel solo and have always been incredibly fond of countries throughout the Middle-East, constantly dispelling misconceptions in my blog posts and Instagram of traveling in this region. And with all due respect to the wonderful Egyptians, tour guides and hospitable locals I encountered, I will say that my experience walking around anywhere was often annoying. Partially it had to do with the staring from men and the very aggressive touts which happens to all tourists. I was only in Cairo, Giza, Luxor to Aswan, with the most annoying being Cairo (so I can’t speak for the other parts of Egypt).
I would hate if a woman’s first visit to the Middle-East was Egypt, experienced the annoyances, and lead her to categorize all countries in the Middle-East this way. Because it’s simply not the case. I’ve had amazing experiences traveling throughout Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, UAE, Israel, where I didn’t feel creeped out. And there are countries like Morocco and India who have similar bad raps as Egypt but I didn’t feel as unsafe or annoyed there.
I don’t want my experience as a discouragement for anyone not to travel to Egypt, as there are so many fascinating ancient sites to see. And I do plan to visit again to see more of the country. Those traveling to Egypt will most definitely enjoy the fascinating sites of the Giza Pyramids, Museums of Cairo, Alexandria, Nile Cruise between Luxor and Aswan, and enjoy a few days Snorkeling in the Red Sea at Hurghada or Marsa Alam.
Here are some quick tips traveling to Egypt as a Woman:
- Expect to be stared at. Some are sleazy men, and some are locals who are simply curious of their new country guests. We as travelers are not there to change a culture within a week of traveling. So we just have to do our best to protect our safety and sanity, while being respectful to those respectful to us.
- Hire a Walking Tourguide the first day to familiarize with the lay of the land. And to have a new local friend.
- Pre-arrange Airport pickup
- Dress more conservative. Though you will still be stared at because you are an “exotic looking foreigner”.
- Use Ubers, and never local taxis. Sit in the back with windows down.
- Many children, teens and adults may ask for selfies out of the blue. It’s up to you if you want to take it.
Is it safe overall for Solo Female Travelers in Egypt?
The most important safety question as a solo female traveler, in any country I travel to, is: Will I get raped, kidnapped or killed? The answer for Egypt is very likely NO. So is Egypt safe to travel as a female? Yes on those terms. Most women I talked to had similar sentiments about the staring and catcalls, but it’ll rarely go beyond that. Women I’ve spoken to rarely felt their life in danger. Because the government and local tourist police take crimes against tourists very seriously. Partly because the economy and local people rely heavily on tourism for their livelihood. And also because Egyptians, as the case with most of the Arab world, are overall very hospitable people. If traveling to Egypt as a woman were not safe, then we would have heard it on the news and from female travel bloggers in the past decade.
A useful phrase to use is: ‘ayb aleik’ which means “shame on you”. This should often embarrass a Cat-caller around them.
Tips for Women Traveling to Egypt
Hire a Local Tourguide (also referred to as “Egyptologist”)
As with any new country and city you travel to, I always advise hiring a tour guide on your first full day. This will give you a lay of the land with a trusted local. It’s a way to make a new friend that you could potentially hire for more days. And if it’s a group tour, you have the opportunity to make friends with other travelers who you can have dinner/drinks with after. And especially in Cairo, which will be most people’s first stop in Egypt, hiring a tour guide is crucial.
TRUSTED TOURGUIDE REFERRALS:
- Cairo Tourguide: Ragab Salah
- WhatsApp +20 128 894 9757. Instagram.com/RagabSalah. He can assist in arranging all your travel plans and logistics in Egypt: airport pickup, walking & food tour in Cairo, Pyramids tour, restaurant/hotel recommendations. On my first day, we ate at a local eatery and did a 5 hour walking tour of Old Cairo through Khan el Khalili & Mo’az Street. Since he was super responsive and friendly, I asked him to help plan a last minute 4-day Nile Cruise, with local private tour guides in each stop in Luxor down to Aswan.
- Luxor Tourguide: Hamdy Bolbol
- WhatsApp +20 100 309 7040. E-mail: HamdyBolBol274@gmail.com. His English is excellent, a very friendly, trusted face who can take you through the ancient sites in the West and East Bank of Luxor, such as: Karnak, Luxor Temple, Abu Simbel and anywhere else.
Some people may want to arrange tours once they arrive to save a few bucks,
but many friends of mine got scammed through local agencies. Sales people can also be very aggressive and pushy to deal with. So it’s best to pre-arrange your tours prior to arriving in Egypt or through a trusted tour guide, agency or hotel.
Taxi & Uber Situation in Cairo
Avoid using local Taxis as they will often rip off tourists and can potentially be unsafe, especially for women. Uber is available throughout Cairo and some major cities and typically arrive within minutes.
Some nuisances to look out for with Taxis & Ubers:
- Taxi drivers may decide halfway through the ride that they do not want to take you all the way to your destination if there is too much traffic. This happened twice in just 2 days in Cairo. This can be unsafe for passengers so stand firm on making them take you all the way.
- There is a charge for all vehicles entering the Cairo airport of 20 (EP) Egyptian Pound. This charge will be included in your total uber payment. You DO NOT need to pay the driver separately (as my driver insisted I did – which I later requested refund from Uber).
- If you are alone, sit in the back seat of the Taxi as there have been some reports of drivers harassing women (and also my male friend). Leave your windows down (which I do in any taxi’s on unfamiliar grounds).
Pre-Arrange your Airport Pickup: If you will have phone service, then you can order Uber from the airport. Though I would advise to pre-arrange airport pickup either from your Hotel/Airbnb or trusted tour guide. An Uber ride to Downtown Cairo or Zamalek should cost no more than $10 USD. Or a pre-arranged airport pickup can cost about $25 which is well worth the cost.
Metros are another option to get around Cairo. If you opt for this mode of transportation, it’s best to ride in the women-only carriages.
What to Wear as a Female Traveling in Egypt?
- You do not need to wear a Hijab or cover your hair as there are no laws regarding this. Though it’s best to pack a scarf for visiting mosques.
- It will always be better to dress more conservative than less. But if it is hot out, and you feel like wearing shorts, then do it. I did to the pyramids. You will be stared at either way.
- Wearing Sunglasses will further blend you in and to avoid eye contact with anyone.
What type of Clothes & Things to Pack:
- Comfortable walking shoes, sandals for the beaches
- Tops that cover shoulder and don’t show too much cleavage, bottoms that go below the knees
- In resort beach areas, you can wear whatever you want
- Egypt is sunny almost all year round so pack sunblock! European plug converter
What to Do if you Experience Serious Annoyance or Danger?
- Find a local security or tourism police.
- Find a trusted looking local, typically older men will be safer than younger. You can run into any stores to report serious annoyances and they will likely yell at the men bothering you.
- Shout, make noises to catch attention to the perpetrators.
- A resting bitch face is better than a friendly, naive face. Some men may take it the wrong way if you smile at them. So just don’t do it.
- In regards to hollering and catcalls, it’s probably best to ignore. But there are times where I just stare back. Initially, that may give them the impression that they have a chance with you. But do smile at women and children 🙂
- Once in Cairo as I was walking alone, 2 young men said something clearly disrespectful in Arabic and made noises. So I made the same stupid noises back (LOUD). It brought attention to those around them and they seemed confused. It won’t change their behavior for the future but I felt satisfied at that moment.
What Areas to Stay in Cairo for Female Travelers
The most popular and safe areas to stay in Cairo is Zamalek (an island that is the most central area) and Downtown Cairo around the major hotel chains. For those just visiting Cairo & the Pyramids for 1 night may opt to stay at a hotel in Giza. Note that the time between Giza and Cairo are within only a 30 minute distance. So you can’t go wrong staying in either of the 3 areas. The perk of staying in Giza is having a stunning view of the Pyramids at night as well as being able to see the evening light show. But the nightlife won’t be as vibrant as if you were in Zamalek or Downtown Cairo.
Zamalek is a charming neighborhood framed with beautiful green trees, adorable cafes, that is an island sitting in the center of Cairo. It reminds me of tropical villages in India. This use to be the hippest and wealthiest area of Cairo a few decades back. Today, Zamalek is still a popular place, where all the international embassies and private schools are (with 24/7 security everywhere). Hence, it is a safe place for Expats and Tourists to stay. And Zamalek has a variety of bars, clubs and restaurants that serve alcohol. This is not the case in most neighborhoods throughout Cairo and Egypt as alcohol can be hard to come by.
Hilton Zamalek is where I stayed for 3 nights and would recommend it if your budget is around $175 a night. It’s a 4 star hotel, that sits right on the Nile so choose a room with a Nile View! The breakfast buffet is abundant and has a beautiful outdoor seating with a pool to lounge at. The staff is professional and provides excellent customer service. To add a cherry on top, there is a Sushi restaurant inside called Makinos.
Another popular Hotel Chain in this price range that has many great reviews throughout Egypt is Steigenberger.
Most of the popular luxury hotels are lined along the Nile River in Downtown Cairo. You would pretty much spend most your time between the resort and to the touristic sites. But Downtown doesn’t feel as comfortable to walk around as Zamalek as it’s crowded and filled with traffic.
Other areas to be Potentially Stay at is Maadi and New Cairo:
Maadi: A modern, clean, green, international, educated, more liberal neighborhood in south Cairo. It’s not as central as Zamalek or Downtown but if you are staying more than 2 days, you can consider changing it up and staying there to experience a different neighborhood. In fact, this boutique hotel was my favorite among all my searches: Villa Bella Epoque, which I will definitely stay the next time. You can also just visit the villa for dinner.
New Cairo: The name “New Cairo” hints at the modern luxury development that’s been happening in the last decade. Think of it as a mini Dubai with brand new housing and commercial communities within securely gated compounds. Some may want to stay here for for a few nice resorts, safety and quitter neighborhoods. My friends referred to it as “the Orange County” of Southern California (referring to the organized, superb life). Personally, I found the area lacking in charm for tourists to stay if only for a few days and it’s also too far from most of the attractions (at least 1 hour to go anywhere else). I do recommend visiting at least once for dinner, drinks and club to experience a modern and different kind of life in Cairo. Try Taps East for a restaurant/pub scene that turns into a party at night.
Other Tips for Traveling in Egypt
- For eligible countries, such as American or EU citizens, you can purchase your Visa on arrival for $25.
- You can purchase Sim Cards for about 210 EP or $15 USD that is valid for 3 months. Vodafone and Orange are the most popular carriers.