Aug 15, 2013

Posted by in Destinations, Features, Travel News, Trip Advice | 32 Comments

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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.

Red Sea

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
Bob Atkinson

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.

  1. Maggie Whitbread says:

    Thank you for a very interesting factual report on Egypt. I have booked to travel to Sharm El Sheikh on August 6th.

    Your report has made me feel comfortable and happy that our family holiday will go ahead.

    Obviously it is a sad time for the Egyptian people. I sincerely hope the situation will be resolved soon.

    • Jamie Humphreys says:

      Have just returned from another amazing week in sharm.it is a bit quieter than usual, as ive been a number of times.but no signs at all of what is going on in Cairo. .have some good friends in sharm and the trouble in Cairo is NOT refected in sharm, and never will be.

  2. Ace of Herts says:

    Most informative and helpful article!
    Good to read a straightforward piece, with very sensible advice, without any spin! – Thank you

  3. amelia says:

    Can anyone help? i booked a holiday to luxor in September and feel very unsafe going i asked my travel agent for a refund but they said it was too early and even if my holiday is deemed unsafe nearer the time they said i wasn’t allowed a refund but only allowed to switch holidays, is that correct?

    • I am also booked to go to Cairo and Luxor early Sept. My agent tried to get a refund for me but was told that the flight part of the package was already ticketed and therefore I couldn’t get a refund or even transfer to a different holiday. I have to wait until 4 weeks before the travel date. My argument/question is that if FCO advice says no travel then surely I must be entitled to a full refund? But is there any regulation on how far in advance of travel I can demand the refund. My insurance doesn’t cover me for civil unrest so I can’t use that either.

    • Anonymous says:

      I went to Luxor and along Nile last year and although we had a good time there was a time when we decided not to get off the ship due to a protest that kicked off. I believe that going to Egypt would be a bad idea apart from maybe the Red Sea area and then I would be anxious.

  4. Jules says:

    We have booked a cruise for the 26th December flying to Sharm and visiting egypty, Jordan and Isreal. Do you think it will be safe, could we change the cruise or would the cruise operator change the itinary if there is danger?

  5. Lynne says:

    I’ve booked a holiday to sharm and have been before, I was worried about my holiday and have now been put at slight ease, I will be leaving on the 25th July

  6. Teresa (Terry) Taylor says:

    And this is why I love being British!! Thank you a thousand times over. I have been so bored with explaining both the political situation in my chosen second home and nationality, Egypt, particularly Sharm el Sheikh, where following the death of my mother after a long gruesome death by Altzheimers, I chose to recouperate. I bought a 2 bedroomed flat for 52,000£. This was my memorial to my mother who loved to travel and go on adventures by herself.
    As a single lady of 57 years, I returned to Sharm every school holidays to watch my flat being built. I fell more and more in love with the Egyptian people. I always like to spend my time with local people, rather than the Brits. After all, I can chat to them in England. I have wonderful Egyptian friends, ranging from the biker boys, with whom I go storming through the glorious valleys of The Sinai Mountains, my clever, erudite Doctor, my gorgeous hotel manager just to name a few.
    I would like to urge anyone who reads this that Egypt for the single ladies is the safest place in the World. I can walk the streets of Naama Bay or Nabq, in the middle of the night, feeling 100per cent safe. They are the friendliest, kindest people who would do anything for you!! At my flat, guarded at each corner, I hold long conversations (sometimes in mime!) with the guards. if they could, they would carry me up the three flights of stairs to my flat.
    Also, the Egyptians love The Brits!! We are indeed their favourite tourists. I would like to let your readers discover this for themselves!! I beg you to leave the so called safety of the all exclusive Hotels. Do not go home thinking you have seen Egypt!! Talk to the locals, they love to practise their English and ask you about strange words!! Indeed, most of them speak several languages. Such a clever race of people.
    If you do get into any worrying situations, just look out for the white uniformed Tourist Police. They are there for you!! and woe betide any naughty Egyptian worker who steps on your toes (metaphorically speaking) If you report anyone, they can be shipped out of Sharm and returned to their home city. So please take care about complaints.
    well done for such a truthful and knowledgeable article, I will be proud to copy and paste it to my friends in Egypt!

    • beryl briscoe says:

      what a brilliant comment. I couldn’t agree with you more. love the Egyptian people and there country. I certainly will be going again. went last march 2012 and just come back july 2013.. unrest or not sharm you will be seeing me again and again. it is sad to hear whats happening in cairo and I hope they solve there troubles as cairo is fascinating and worth a visit.

    • Margaret Mitchell says:

      What an excellent letter! I am so pleased that some other lady has had similar experiences to me. I was travelling to Egypt on business 25-30 years ago, based mainly in Cairo. My English friends and family were worried about how I would be treated but I was able to assure them that I was treated with the utmost respect and felt more threatened in London than I did in Cairo. I sincerely hope the troubles there can be solved because the Egyptians are truly lovely people.

  7. Dave Wright says:

    With the present situation in Egypt deteriating by the day I am naturally concerned about my scheduled family holiday to Sharm El Sheik with my 2 young daughters.

    The FCO website advises against all “essential” travel throughout EGypt including the red sea resorts…..since when has a holiday been classed as “Essential” travel?

    On 14 August a curfew was applied to the whole country including the resorts of Sharm El Sheik.

    The hotel I am due to spend my up and coming 14 day holiday is a new resort which opened in March 2013. With just 3 weeks before I travel I have been informed by the holiday provider that many of the facilities of this new hotel are not available. Furthermore most holiday makers are reporting that there is no evening entertainment. As of 14th August all day trips have been cancelled, there is the threat of food shortages, a high state of alert for acts of terrorism and a curfew imposed between the hours of 7pm and 6am………and this is supposed to be a holiday!

    My holiday provider will not allow me to cancel my holiday unless I uncurr a 100% cancellation fee!!

    I am of the opinion that the FCO is “looking after” the holiday companies and to hell with the holidaymakers.

    • Hi Dave,

      Thank you for your comment. The most up-to-date advice from the FCO is that travel to the Sharm El Sheikh area is still permitted. The main reason for this is that the holiday resorts of the Red Sea areas are purpose built and well away from areas of local populations, so there is a very low chance of the kinds of trouble we are unfortunately seeing in the major cities of Cairo and Alexandria in the media.

      The current advice says: “In the governorate of South Sinai the FCO advise against all but essential travel, with the exception of (i) the Red Sea Resorts including those in the entire region of Sharm el Sheikh, Taba, Nuweiba and Dahab.” The curfew, which was put in place each evening from last night, is not country wide, although Sharm el Sheikh was one of the areas covered dues to its location in the South Sinai. This will be for the protection of tourists, something that the Egyptians take very seriously due to the importance that the country puts on this part of its economy and in direct response to yesterday’s events in the capital. Experience has shown that restrictions tend to be lifted fairly quickly – although it is important to keep an eye on the FCO advice on a daily basis while events are fluid.

      Since the beginning of the Arab Spring, travel has never been restricted for Brits going to the Red Sea and nearly three quarters of million people have travelled there on holiday in the last three years with no reported problems related to troubles in Cairo and wider Egypt. There have been no shortages reported during this time and hotels have operated as normal.

      While I completely understand your concerns about your upcoming holiday, please be assured that, if the situation in Sharm became dangerous to tourists, the FCO would change its advice and, should this happen, you would be entitled to a full refund on your holiday from your operator (if you have booked an ATOL-backed package).

      You also mention a number of issues around the hotel and its facilities. These should be raised with your tour operator/booking agent for you to discuss alternatives or options which they may be able to move you to. Occupancy rates in the area would make it easy for them to move you to one of their other properties, subject to availability and the booking conditions of your holiday. Have you spoken to your holiday provider about this? It may well be worth the call in order to set your mind at rest.

      • Dave Wright says:

        Hi Cathy, thank you for comments regarding my concerns with my imminent holiday to Egypt. I have today attended a main Thomas Cook holiday shop and can confirm that they are not in a position to offer alternative holidays or refunds, even though their stance is in breach of consumer law. The branch manager confirmed that a senior management meeting was taking place at TC head office in light of the present situation in Egypt and a statement will be released in due course although I am not holding my breath.

        It is inadmissible that as customers our consumer rights are ignored and only acted upon by travel operators once legal proceedings commence. If the truth be known the decisions made by the FCO appear to be influenced by the big three holiday companies. How is it possible to contemplate an holiday with so many unknown risks, near anarchy in the resort vacinity, curfews, the potential for food shortages, inability to travel outside the hotel and most recently a severe restriction and cuts in gas supplies to hotels. How can it be possible to enjoy a holiday under these circumstances?…….and the response from the travel companies is it is still OK!

        • Thank for your comments.

          There are two issues for you with Thomas Cook.

          The first is the actual hotel itself and the non-availability of features and facilities at the property compared to the description that you had at the time of booking. Any changes to these are covered by the booking conditions of the tour operator concerned which are governed by the CAA under the ATOL scheme. If the tour operator is in breach of those conditions then you have a case against them either to resolve the issue prior to travel or for you to take action through their customer complaints department followed by the ABTA arbitration scheme and as a last resort the small claims court.

          The second issue is on whether or not companies are allowed to continue operating to a destination. This decision is made by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office. Package holiday companies follow the advice to the letter and will evacuate customers from a destination where the advice is for no travel and will stop all new people going giving them alternative holidays or refunds as appropriate. These companies do NOT dictate the advice to the FCO. The legal liabilities on package companies taking tourists to a destination are taken very seriously and Thomas Cook will not take you somewhere where they believe it is unsafe or where a holiday is going to be seriously affected. However I do understand your concerns, but I must point out that having travelled extensively in Egypt, the Sharm area is a world apart from what you are seeing on the news in Cairo and Alexandria. I appreciate I may not have set your mind at rest and this is an issue between you and Thomas Cook, however it has to be your decision whether you wish to continue with your trip or whether you wish to cancel with any relevant cancellation charges you then choose to incur.

          Bob Atkinson

          • Amy Hudson says:

            We are due to fly out to Hurghada on Monday from Birmingham Airport with Thomson to the Iberotel Aquamarine Hotel. I see the Foreign Office are advising that guests do not leave their hotels in Hurghada due to someone being killed in violent clashes in Hurghada on Wednesday. Where do we stand with regards to this situation as obviously you do not book a holiday to stay the whole two weeks on site without be able to go off and visit the local area and places of interest?

            We are really looking forward to our holiday and want to support the tourism trade in Egypt however we do not want to be stuck in the hotel for two weeks. Obviously it is for own safety but we would rather go to a country where we can go out and experience the locality.

          • Dave Wright says:

            Thank you for your comments the contents of which I note.

            It appears that the situation within Egypt is becoming increasingly intense and worsening by the hour. Most EU governments with the exception of the UK have postponed and withdrawn ALL travel to Egypt, including the Red Sea resorts until 15th September as it is deemed unsafe. I have just checked with my travel insurers to ascertain my insurance cover given the present predicament in Egypt. They have confirmed that although my policy covers my family for all eventualities at present should any disturbances occur within the resort and we become embroiled or caught up in any escalation of the present unrest then our policy will become void should we have reason to make a claim on our policy. The given reason being that we are aware of the present situation of unrest prior to departure!……..how many more people/families will be caught up in this scenario of having inadequate or no insurance cover?

          • Insurance should remain valid UNTIL the FCO advises against all travel to the Red Sea areas as long as you are following the advice laid down by your tour operator and the FCO on their website. If you can be shown not to have followed that advice then your insurance would be rendered invalid. Therefore I would check with your insurer again as the wording in your reply suggests different.

            If the advice changed while you were in resort and FCO stopped all travel, then you’re your operator would put into effect a program to evacuate their clients in the same was as happened to those caught up in Tunisia back in the winter of 2011. The evacuation was swift and ensured that Brits were not put in danger and showed a great level of care from both the FCO and the tour operators involved, including Thomas Cook.

  8. lindsay says:

    I am going to hurghada on the 9th of September, how far away fRom all the demonstrations are we???

  9. I am also booked for Hurghada (note most discussion mention Sharm area) at the end of Aug, and agree with comments of not wanting to stay inside the grounds of the hotel, or be curfew.

    As Germany are now advising against ALL travel to Egypt, why is the FCO not following the same line?

  10. Jamie says:

    Hi there,

    We have just returned from holiday in Egypt . 7 days in sharm el sheikh and 3 in Cairo . It was our 7th holiday to Egypt in the last 14 years. Sharmy is no different at all. Business as usual. No underlying threat. Bustling and happy as ever. As for Cairo. What a transformation. Armed military escort on coach tours to the sites and museum. Not allowed to leave hotel at night. Not that we wanted to as the gun fire and screaming in the distance was quite horrific. I warn you all to not go to Cairo. It is an area of great unrest and is quite disturbing to see what was such a wonderful city in such despair.

  11. There are a number of comments on here around refunds and booking conditions, so I thought it would be worthwhile just re-emphasising our advice

    If you have booked a package holiday sold under an ATOL licence, the tour operator will generally follow the advice of the FCO in whether or not they operate a holiday to Egypt or any individual part of it. As the Red Sea areas are currently deemed as ‘safe’ to travel to unless the tour operator decides to soften its stance (their decision) then normal booking conditions will apply for either a cancellation (and subsequent refund or for administration fees to change your holiday to another date or destination. Therefore anyone who currently does not wish to go on their holiday to the affected area will be liable for charges. If the holiday program is still operating then you will not be able to get a refund is the general advice.

    For anyone booked on an ATOL package to travel to other areas of Egypt, tour operators are cancelling trips on a rolling basis. Each one will make their own decision on how far out from the departure date they allow cancellation and a full refund, although most are doing this on anything from one to two months out from today. Do check with your tour operator for details.

    Anyone who has booked separate arrangements of a flight plus a hotel you are totally at the mercy of who you have booked with as they are not backed by ATOL and therefore do not follow the same general advice that ATOL holders follow as above. You will need to speak to your individual airline/hotel booking company to understand what their policies are on cancellation/refund. Mot will have some flexibility to delay or change your trip, however you do need to speak to them direct.

    I should also state that there is no legal obligation to offer a full refund to anyone in any of the situations above, it is just accepted practice that if the FCO were to advise against all travel to the Red Sea area, then ATOL covered holidays would be halted and full refunds permitted. Non ATOL backed trips do not have this as accepted practice, it is down to the discretion of the airline/hotels.

    Importantly ensure you keep in touch with the FCO advice on a daily basis and also to follow your own tour operators latest position on any changes to your holiday.

  12. Dave Weight says:

    It is a shame you dont get the full facts, Egypt is getting worse and the crime rate is soaring, I lived there until recently and returnedto the UK as it is getting very bad, the Egyptian peole dont want Foreign Visitors and openly tell holiday makersto go home they are not wanted.

  13. Jen Linford says:

    We’ve just returned from our 4 th visit to Sharm and were there when the curfew was in place. We felt very safe at all times and did leave the hotel to go on snorkelling trips and to meet up with friends in Soho Square.
    We were the first fare our taxi driver had had in two days as business has been so badly affected since the uprising. He sent his heavily pregnant wife to live with her family near Cairo as he couldn’t afford to look after her.
    The staff in the hotels are worried for their families in Cairo but also rely on their jobs to be able to send money home. To see these lovely people in such despair is so sad. Follow FCO advice by all means but don’t desert this beautiful part of Egypt . British tourists are so respected as they treat the Egyptians so well. Talk to them and find out about their lives. You will be very humbled.

  14. patricia yates says:

    Can you confirm the FO are checking Luxor with a view to removal of travel ban.

    Thanks

  15. patricia yates says:

    Re Luxor, we have not yet heard from the FO regarding any changes. However I and my husband have been to Egypt for nearly 15 years, and intend to travel in November to Luxor to our own flat and will be away till New Year. We do not anticipate any problems at all, the people are lovely, overall honest and eager to see tourist back as soon as possible. In the larger picture the small unrest that there WAS in Luxor a few months ago does not compair with Cairo,Alexandria and Suez No way.

  16. Andrew Mason says:

    We are booked on a package to fly to Cairo on Jan 5th for a 3 day stay and then to Fly to Luxor for a 7 day Nile cruise. The FO states clearly that travel for this holiday is not advised and this advice appears open ended. The travel company currently cancelling all these holidays up to Nov 5th. After this there is no decision. At what point do I have the right to say I want to cancel and either get a refund or re-arrange?

  17. Graham says:

    Hi all, I see loads of references to Sharm but what about impending Nile cruises? According to FCO its in an all but essential area, however my travel company is not showing any signs that it will allow me to cancel. Anyone have advice there?

  18. Guys, I live in Egypt and until now it’s safe so if you wanna come;We will be very welcome, but if the situation became worse you should cancle it or at least do not enter Cairo or ElGiza or Alexandria cause its not safe in there.
    Greeting from Egyptions.

  19. Egypt is a very interesting place to visit and see a pyramid up close :)

  20. Should I travel to Egypt? | The TravelSupermarket blog

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