Egypt Q&A: What about holidays in the danger zone?
As the summer hots up in Egypt, Simon Calder explains how the turmoil affects travellers
Simon Calder’s career in travel started at Gatwick Airport, where he cleaned aircraft for Laker Airways and later worked as a security officer. He became The Independent’s Travel Correspondent in 1994, and is known as “the Man Who Pays His Way” because he does not accept free travel facilities. He writes across the Independent titles, as well as for the Evening Standard.
Wednesday 03 July 2013
Q Has the Foreign Office issued a blanket ban on travel to Egypt?
A No. While the FCO recommends against "all but essential travel" to most of Egypt, that does not apply to the locations where most British travellers go: the coast of South Sinai, notably Sharm el Sheikh, and the Red Sea resorts on the Egyptian mainland. And it is only advice; travellers to other parts of Egypt cannot be compelled to stay away.
Q What about holidaymakers currently in the "danger zone"?
A "We are not recommending immediate departure," says the Foreign Office, but British nationals are advised to "keep a low profile and pay close attention to their personal safety". Anyone already in Egypt will continue to be covered by their travel insurance, though some policies may exclude claims arising from civil unrest. Travel insurance does not cover emergency repatriation due to conflict, which falls within remit of tour operators and the British Embassy.
Q And those booked to travel imminently?
A Package holidays to the area deemed off-limits will not go ahead while the FCO advice remains in place. Holidaymakers can choose between an alternative holiday or a full refund.
Independent travellers are in a different position. The travel insurance of anyone who goes to the Nile Valley after the advice changed overnight on Wednesday will be invalidated. Yet airlines are continuing to operate normally and have told me they are continuing their schedules as normal. They have no legal obligation to allow changes. However, the main UK carriers to Egypt, BA and easyJet, are permitting passengers to switch to other destinations free of charge.
Q "Peak season" in Cairo, Luxor and Aswan begins in the autumn; will holidays such as Nile cruises go ahead?
A Tour operators are watching the unfolding drama in Egypt closely. Abercrombie & Kent has already cancelled all its small-group trips up to the end of September, and others will be making their judgements in the coming days. The one near-certainty is that the decline of tourism in the Nile will continue, with very serious consequences for the people who depend on the industry.
Q Can holidaymakers booked to the "safe" Red Sea resorts change their plans if they feel unhappy about travelling to Egypt?
A They have no legal right to do so, though it is possible some holiday companies may allow people to switch if they wish.
Q Would you go to Egypt right now?
A No, but only because of the excessive heat. Were I to go, I would be more worried about road safety than the danger of being caught up in the conflict.
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