Cairo is a vibrant and bustling city that offers unique experiences, interesting culture and incredible cuisine. It is easily described as noisy, vibrant and colourful chaos. You’ll need to look beyond the dirt to see it’s true colours and learn to hear the music in the collective noise of car horns and the distorted roar of the muezzins’ call to prayer.
Common sense will take you a long way in Cairo where some parts feel very Western, but a lot of it remains heavily Arabic.
To join the many travellers who come home with nothing more than happy stories and a tan (okay, probably a sunburn) it is strongly advisable to do your research beforehand. Learn what to wear, what not to eat and how to go around this incredibly busy city.
Is Cairo Safe (Our Take?)
Egypt is still a largely unsafe country to visit. Although Cairo is becoming safer and more Westernised, there are a few things that visitors need to be aware of.
Petty crime is quite prevalent in Cairo, to the point where there is dedicated police that deals with it. Road safety is not highly regarded by locals so driving or walking around requires extra caution. Public transport requires extra research and may be unsafe – especially for women. Solo females travellers will need to either buddy up or be extra safe, as Cairo is still experiencing a large volume of sexual harassment cases against women, including tourists.
LGBTQ+ travellers should be conscious of displaying affection publicly as it could attract negative attention from locals.
Is Cairo Safe (The Facts?)
Egypt, and Cairo included, are still the object of an increasing amount of terrorist attacks. In 2019 Cairo was the place for at least three organised terrorist crimes.
Kidnappings are another relatively common threat in Egypt, however less prevalent in Cairo than in other places.
Everyday tasks when visiting like crossing the street, taking public transport and drinking water will require a bit more research and some additional preparations.
It is advisable to try and avoid areas that are packed with people – especially tourist areas, and try to visit areas that have known security procedures in place.
Is Cairo Safe For Solo Travellers?
Cairo is a safe place for solo travellers. It is still safer for males and it is for female travellers, however, there are plenty of women who visit Cairo by themselves every year and enjoy their trip.
While you might experience minor harassment, especially as a solo female traveller, physical assault is much rarer than in many ‘Western’ countries. After 11 pm women walking around by themselves may attract more unwanted attention and it’s advisable to buddy up.
You may want to avoid large groups of men, political demonstrations of any kind and sports-related gatherings. Be wary of men who offer to escort you across the street or accompany you to a specific, undisclosed, location.
It all depends on the area, of course. Places in New Cairo like Nasr City and Masr El-Gedida is where a lot of foreigners move to and the areas feel rather Western, without losing the charm of Cairo. Tagamoa is where the American University is and it’s another pretty safe area.
Is The Tap Water Safe To Drink In Cairo?
Water in Cairo is safe to drink, however, it is very chlorinated. Bottled water is cheap and readily available around most tourist spots if you find yourself in a pinch. Consider bringing a portable filter (Steripen, Lifestraw etc) to reduce the use of plastic, especially if you are going on a longer trip.
It is worth mentioning that while water is drinkable in Cairo, it is considered unsafe in most other places in Egypt.
Is The Food In Cairo Safe?
Eating out in Cairo is not unsafe, however, you will most likely feel unwell at some point or another depending on where you are visiting from. Bring some medication from home for your stomach to be prepared for any scenario.
If you can buy your food then make sure you wash it really well (preferably with purified or bottled water) and cook it at high temperature. Even those with the strongest stomachs are not safe from a stomach bug so prepare yourself both mentally and with enough medication.
Is Driving Safe In Cairo?
Driving in Cairo is not the safest and the traffic is pretty hectic, although, still safer than other parts of the country. Avoid night driving at all costs and be aware of pedestrians who are known for crossing without warning in the middle of the road.
That being said, many tourists find that driving is a unique way to explore the city and leave the sight bus behind.
Renting a vehicle in Cairo is not advisable – cheap, local agencies are practically non-existent. If you need to rent a car look for international agencies and make your arrangements before arriving. Remember to read insurance terms carefully to see whether lower-quality roads are ruled out.
Petrol and diesel are usually readily available (there are occasional critical shortages) and very cheap.
Bringing your own car is another option, however, not a very safe one. You’ll need to stock up on crucial spare parts and tyres and carry a fire extinguisher at all times. Additionally, registration papers, liability insurance and an International Driving Permit, in addition to your domestic driving licence, are also required.
Are Taxis Safe In Cairo?
Taxis in Cairo are safe, however, you may be expected to negotiate with the driver on the fare and you might be charged the more expensive ‘tourist tariff’. To avoid those inconveniences book your ride through an app – Uber and Careem are the two services alternative to the local taxis. The apps let you follow the route your driver is taking which adds an extra safety benefit.
If you are a female travelling alone it is advisable to sit on the back seat. If you feel unease around male chauffeurs and you’d like to book a female cabbie, call Nour Gaber.
Is Public Transport Safe In Cairo?
Public transport in Cairo is not unsafe, however, you need to be cautious. Buses are not safe for solo female travellers where they might experience harassment and unwanted physical attention. Rush hour is to be avoided at all costs!
Buses, in general, are not a pleasant experience for any tourist visiting Cairo. The sardine-packed vehicles lack air conditioning andyou might get gassed with diesel fumes. Not speaking Arabic will make it that much more difficult to navigate and buy a ticket.
The metro is an easier option to get around and it’s safer, however, doesn’t go around the whole city. You’ll need to rely on a taxi after getting off at some stations if you’re on your way to the pyramids, for example.
If you are a female use the women-only carriage, there are overhead signs and painted markings on the platform to indicate the spot that the carriage will stop at.
Is Cairo Safe To Live?
One of the biggest problems for those living in Cairo is pollution. Known as one of the most polluted cities globally, the air quality in Cairo poses a serious threat to its citizens.
Crime rates are considerably low in Cairo, despite a rise in petty crime following the 2011 revolution. Of course, it depends on which area you choose to live in.
Downtown Cairo is a popular option for those wanting to feel like they really live in a city. You’ll get breathtaking views of the Nile but there will also be a lot of noise, a mixed bag of people living around you and serge in crime rates.
Maadi is the area of choice for expats. You trade the city living for the feeling of community. Check out the Community Service Association (CSA), it is a wonderful resource for newcomers on everyday life needs. It is full of advice on local shops, hairdressers and much more. Equally helpful is the Women’s Association, which welcomes new members, meets once a month, and frequently holds more intimate coffee mornings in three or four parts of town at the homes of members.
Top 10 Safety Tips For Travelling to Cairo
- Be extra cautious when crossing the road– if you need to do it position yourself so that one or more locals forms a buffer between you and oncoming traffic, then cross when they do – they usually don’t mind being used as human shields. Never ever hesitate or turn back once you’ve stepped off the pavement, and cross as if you own the road. But do it fast!
- Be very careful when booking tours– the best thing to do is to book your tours in the place you’ll be taking them. Make sure you stick with reputable agencies; even your hotel is not a good place to book anything except typical day trips from Cairo. Never book with a random office Downtown or with the help of someone you meet on the street.
- Make a note of the tourist police– keep your items close to you, but if anything does get stolen, go straight to the tourist police rather than the normal police. The main Tourist Police Officeis near the main Tourist Office in Downtown Cairo – go there first for minor emergencies, including theft.
- Keep your valuables safe– pickpockets and bag-snatchers are rare but do sometimes operate in crowded spots such as Khan Al Khalili, the metro and buses.
- Come prepared – bring stomach medicine, mosquito repellents and sun cream with a high SPF factor.
- Dress sensibly – unfortunately, for female visitors, sexual harassment continues to be a problem. To stay safe dress modestly and choose to favour more modest, loosely fitting shirts that don’t show any cleavage and, again, some loosely fitting trousers or long skirts.
- Get a SIM card– access to the internet is going to save you a lot of trouble when booking taxis or researching tours, for example. Even if you’re provider offers international plans you might still have issues with accessing quick data. SIM cards are affordable in Cairo and offer large data packages.
- Stay away from political gathering and religious demonstrations.
- Bring an extra layer– always bring around a scarf or a jacket in case you want to go to a religious place even a church or synagogue or a mosque – covering your skin is considered to be the respectful thing to do and it’ll make sure you don’t stand out or attract any unwanted attention.
- Bring a form of ID with you everywhere– you might be asked by local police to show one at any time.
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