Find out more about Cathy Toogood
Should I travel to Egypt?
Scenes of protests and news of political unrest in Egypt have been hitting the headlines, and whether you’ve got a trip booked to the country or are considering it as a destination to travel to soon, you may be feeling nervous.
A little more than a year on from President Morsi’s election, the Egyptian president was ousted by the country’s army on July 3, and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has advised against travel to large parts of the country.
While the warning from the FCO includes travel to major destinations such as Cairo and Luxor (but doesn’t warn against the use of Cairo airport as a transit stop), it does not extend to the popular Red Sea tourist resorts in Egypt including the entire region of Sharm el Sheikh, Taba, Hurghada, Marsa Alam, Nuweiba and Dahab, and so holidaymakers heading to these resorts will still be able to travel.
Is it still safe to book a holiday to Egypt?
Currently, if you are planning a trip to Sharm el Sheikh, Taba, Hurghada, Marsa Alam, Nuweiba and Dahab, there are no warnings against booking an Egypt holiday. However, as the situation in the country is changing day-to-day, be sure to keep an eye on the news and the latest FCO advice.
And, as with any holiday, you should ensure your break is covered in case anything goes wrong or the situation in the country changes. If you can, book an ATOL-protected package or flight-plus holiday to receive protection under the Civil Aviation Authority’s ATOL scheme. On these holidays, should the FCO change its advice before you are due to travel and your trip is cancelled as a result, you would receive a full refund.
If, on the other hand, you were already enjoying an ATOL-protected holiday and the FCO advised that British nationals should leave the country, you would receive some compensation for the parts of your holiday affected and your travel company would organise your return home.
What about non-package holidays?
Think very carefully about organising a DIY holiday to Egypt (consisting of separate flights and accommodation) at the moment as you may end up out of pocket should anything go wrong – as you would be reliant on the policies of the companies you book with.
It is not advisable at the moment to book a holiday to any of the areas the FCO has advised against travelling to, including Cairo and Luxor, until the situation has calmed and the FCO revises its policy.
I’ve already booked a holiday to Egypt – what should I do?
If the resort you’re planning to travel to is not included in the current FCO advice, assume your holiday will carry on as planned – but keep an eye on the news, the latest FCO advice and any updates on your travel company’s website so you are fully aware should the situation change. On August 14, for example, a curfew was put in place in destinations such as Cairo and Alexandria between 7pm and 6am, although this has now been lifted in Sharm el Sheikh and changed to between 11pm and 6am Sunday to Thursday, and local authorities in Sharm el Sheikh stopped local excursions on August 14 and 15. In the Hurghada area, tour operators have also requested that holidaymakers stay in their hotels and hotel compounds as a cautionary measure.
Other than this, though, tour operators are reporting that it is business as usual in resorts such as Sharm el Sheikh and that there are enhanced security measures in place – and bear in mind that the resort is an eight-hour drive from Cairo.
Currently, flights, holidays and excursions to Cairo and Luxor have been cancelled for travel today, but holidaymakers due to travel in the coming weeks and months should talk to their travel company and keep an eye on the latest advice should the situation change and the FCO warning be lifted.
I want to cancel my Egypt holiday – can I do this?
If your destination falls under the current FCO restrictions, talk to your travel company about its plans and policies for future holidays. Holiday companies won’t start to cancel holidays scheduled for the coming weeks and months until nearer the time as the situation is so volatile and could easily change.
This means that, if you want to cancel and get a full refund, you won’t be able to do it until nearer your date of travel and will only be able to do so if FCO warnings are still in place. Cancelling before then will incur normal cancellation charges.
As holidaymakers have not been warned against travelling to Sharm el Sheikh, Taba, Hurghada, Marsa Alam, Nuweiba and Dahab, if you have a trip planned here and you wish to cancel, you will be charged your travel company’s normal cancellation fee, which can be anything up to 100% of the price of your trip.
With Thomson, for example, if you wanted to cancel between 15 and 28 days before you were due to travel, you would be charged 90% of the cost of your holiday.
If you are very concerned about travelling to Egypt, it may be worth speaking to your travel company to check what their individual cancellation policy is – some may be more lenient than others at the moment and may suggest alternative options.
Will I be affected by the political unrest while I am away?
While scenes and news stories of violence during protests can be shocking, it’s important to remember that many of the big tourist resorts are a long way from where the protests have been taking place. Sharm el Sheikh, for example, has not been affected by the unrest apart from the temporary curfew (which has now been lifted) and pause on excursions on August 14 and 15. Most of the popular beach resorts are purpose-built and do not have population centres around them other than those working in the tourist industry.
It is important, however, to keep an eye on the news while you are away, as well as any advice from your travel company and the FCO. The FCO also recommends that British tourists should keep valid ID on them at all times. And, should you see any large demonstrations or protests, or hear about any due to take place, avoid them.
Any other advice?
Travel insurance is an essential for any trip but check your policy to make sure it covers you for strikes should any of the protests lead to transport disruption caused by the unrest in Egypt.
It is also sensible to leave buying any currency until nearer your date of departure to prevent you losing any money should you not be able to travel.
Finally, keep a close eye on all advice from the FCO as well as the news so you can travel confidently knowing the latest situation.
Comment from our travel expert, Bob Atkinson
“Egypt is a fantastic destination for tourists, attracting around one million visitors from the UK each year to enjoy the world-famous historic sites, year-round sun and some of the best diving and snorkelling on the planet. It has become a firm favourite for many holidaymakers, yet the Arab Spring of 2011 saw the start of a series of ongoing social and political changes in the country, which have had reverberations to the tourist industry ever since.
“The FCO is advising against all travel to the country except for the beach areas of the Red Sea, similar to advice that came into force two years ago. Many will feel that now is not the time to continue their holiday, however there have been no reports of any trouble or violence in these areas, except for a recent demonstration in Hurghada, and, as a result, airlines and tour operators are continuing to sell and fulfill trips to and from the UK. And wanting to cancel your trip to Sharm or Hurghada will end up with you losing money unless FCO advice changes.
“There is a dilemma for holidaymakers as to whether they feel comfortable travelling to a country where people have died in protests linked to the president and his position of power. However, it must be down to each of us individually to decide whether we can still holiday in comfort in the country, whatever the advice from the FCO.
“The people who work in the beach areas are totally reliant on the industry to support both them and their families, and they have had a very tough few years as business has dipped. Plus, they are assuring people it is still safe to travel. So far we have seen no issues for tourists in the Red Sea resorts, although for the first time we saw a nighttime curfew and excursions being temporarily curtailed on August 14 and 15. The situation may well change or develop, so it really is important that we keep an eye on what is going on.
“If problems persist in Cairo, we will start to see some bargains appearing on last-minute beach holidays tempting those looking for a deal to travel away. And if you are tempted to make a new booking, just ensure you take an ATOL-backed trip, so that you have full protection should anything change and you are prevented from travelling due to government advice.
“Egypt will survive these troubles. The holiday industry will carry on as a major source of income and travellers will continue to enjoy this incredible country and its historic past.”
Please note: All details were correct at the time of writing.