Egypt – what travellers need to know

Egypt is one of the most popular winter-sun destinations for British holidaymakers. How much danger are they in – and what are the options for people planning to go? This updated advice was compiled on Monday 7 February; all information was checked and correct at that time, but will no doubt change.

Q What is the Foreign Office saying?

“We continue to advise against all but essential travel to Cairo, Alexandria, Luxor and Suez. We recommend that British nationals without a pressing need to be in Cairo, Alexandria or Suez leave by commercial means, where it is safe to do so. Respect the curfew and listen for announcements about any changes to the curfew requirements. The internet is currently not working and mobile phone coverage is intermittent. There are many unofficial checkpoints throughout Cairo which have been set up by gangs who are searching bags and stealing valuables. There are reports of some cars carrying foreign passengers having been attacked with rocks.”

Many other countries are urging their citizens to defer non-essential travel to Egypt, regardless of destination.

Q How many British travellers are in the areas the Foreign Office has put off-limits?

There is a handful in Luxor, at the start or end of a Nile river trip, and some in Cairo - which is the main starting point for many travellers on trips through Egypt. The other two cities on the Foreign Office warning list - Alexandria and Suez - have very few tourists. By going into an area against Foreign Office advice, most travel insurance policies are invalidated.

People booked on a cruise through the Suez Canal from the Red Sea to the Med have been told the stop for Cairo has been axed, and they will be going to Eilat in Israel instead. And British Airways is saying that any passengers booked to Cairo can switch at no extra cost to Sharm El Sheikh instead.

Q Most British holidaymakers in Egypt are at Red Sea resorts. Are they at risk?

Not according to the Foreign Office and Britain's biggest holiday companies, Thomson and Thomas Cook. Most are on the Sinai Peninsula, a very different region to the rest of Egypt.

Given the bloody history of terrorist attacks on tourist resorts in the Sinai, it would be rash to suggest there's no danger - but certainly it's extremely unlikely that the present insurrection would spread to somewhere like the main resort, Sharm el Sheikh, where there's a very high security presence and no unemployment because Egyptians aren't allowed to live there unless they have a job in tourism.

For the past week, Thomas Cook has maintained: “Our experienced teams on the ground assure us that no tourist areas at the Red Sea have been affected in any way by the recent demonstrations. They are fully operational and holiday makers are continuing to enjoy these popular resorts.”

Thomson says: “There have been no reports of any related incidents in Sharm el Sheikh or any other popular Red Sea tourist areas, where the majority of our customers are based. No curfews are in place and business is as usual. Its holidays to Sharm el Sheikh, Hurghada, Taba, and Marsa Alam is safe and is operating business as usual.”

Q Are flights still operating?

Most, though services to Cairo and Luxor are seriously disrupted because of the need to arrive before the curfew begins. Strangely, Thomson has cancelled its entire programme of flights to Aswan – which isn’t on the “don’t go” list. The company says:

“As a precautionary measure, we have taken the decision to cancel all outbound flights to Aswan up to and including 25 April.”

The company also says

“many customers visiting Aswan combine it with a Nile Cruise, and these cruises have been disrupted by the demonstrations”.

Yet the other departure point for those cruises, Luxor, has only seen cancellations up to 16 February.

Q Hundreds of thousands of people are booked or planning to travel to Egypt this year. What are their options?

If you haven't yet booked, of course you can simply change destination. If you've paid a deposit on a trip at Easter and are being asked to settle the balance - you could decide to forfeit the deposit. But there's no sign of the package holiday companies relaxing their attitude and letting travellers switch to other destinations. That would happen only if the Foreign Office advice hardens to warn against travelling anywhere in Egypt, which itself would mean an evacuation on a far bigger scale than Tunisia, where there were perhaps 5,000 British holidaymakers; there are six times as many in Egypt, spread out all over the country, and twice as far from the UK. But Egypt is a fantastically welcoming country, and the people know how important tourism is to the economy; after the terrorism attacks over the years, it's taken time to build it back. And when it all calms down, you can bet there will be some real bargain holidays.

Q What’s the long-term outlook?

Bleak, at least for the millions of Egyptians who depend, directly or indirectly, on tourism. Carrol Flowers, a long-term Sharm resident: “We are still fine here and in fact the beaches in Naama Bay were quite full today. My colleagues and friends are very sad with the situation going on in Cairo especially and are very sad that due to this the tourists may not come and they will lose their jobs. They love working here with the tourists and especially in such an amazing environment, with a beautiful sea, with the fabulous mountain and desert backdrop, also great hotels and they are such a friendly, innovative, hard working, helpful people. The foreigners here feel so sad for them. We have a great camaraderie amongst us all here, foreigners and Egyptian. There are not many places you can walk down the street at 2am in the morning and feel safe and I do here. For all my friends here, I hope the situation in Cairo will be concluded soon with the best outcome for them.”

This advice was compiled on the morning of Monday 7th February; all information was checked and correct at that time, but will no doubt change.

Suggested Topics
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
tvThe Apprentice 2014 final
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Day In a Page

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'