Egypt is actually pretty safe in my experience. Safe, in this context, meaning safe from physical assault, not necessarily safe from stares, harassment, and never-ending catcalls .
The truth is Egypt is the most tiring place I’ve ever traveled as a woman, both in a group and solo.
Does that mean I think women shouldn’t go? Absolutely not!
Traveling in Egypt was an incredibly rewarding experience… but a difficult one.
Keep reading for 9 safety tips I think any woman traveler should know before going to Egypt.
Safety Tips For Women Traveling To Egypt
1. Dress Respectfully, But Know It Doesn’t Really Matter
Do you have to be 100% covered up? No! We saw tourists wearing all kinds of things, and if you’re on a multi-day guided tour where you’re just being shuttled from one touristic location to another It matters what you wear a lot less.
But, even if you’re only on your own during transit to and from Cairo airport, it really helps to be covered up as much as possible.
Unfortunately, there is no amount of clothes you could wear in Egypt that would protect you from harassment.
You could be an amorphous blob of oversized sweatshirts and sweatpants (which I wouldn’t recommend in the Egyptian heat) and still receive a few marriage proposals a day. That’s because sexual harassment isn’t about the clothes, it’s about the men choosing to act like that.
I know this for a fact because when I first got to Egypt I had a few days before my friends arrived and I didn’t want to see Cairo without them so I went straight to the seaside town of Alexandria while I waited.
Alexandra is a lot cooler than other parts of Egypt, since it’s got a breeze coming in from the Mediterranean sea, and I was bundled up in a big white sweater I had brought with me from the Andes in Peru.
Did that stop men from harassing me there? Nope. If you’re a woman simply existing, you’re fair game.
BUT what you choose to wear does help a little bit! I made sure to cover my arms, shoulders, midriff, and legs every day in Egypt. I have some lightweight joggers and long-sleeved linen shirts that helped me stay cool while being covered in the heat.
My friends were less strict about it and wore a few short dresses and tank tops. The level of harassment when we were all together and dressed a bit more skimpy was much worse than the treatment I received when I wore long pants and a long-sleeved shirt.
Tip: Even if you’re covering the same amount of skin with a long-sleeve maxi dress vs pants and a shirt, you’ll receive less attention the less feminine you’re dressed.
2. Know How To Deal With Harassment In Egypt
It wasn’t until I went to Egypt that I learned why we call them “catcalls”. My friends and I were walking down the street in Cairo to get some Koshari around 6 or 7 PM, and all we heard echoing down the street with us was “Pspspspspssss”. Just like you would to call a cat .
I had never experienced that in my entire life, but in Egypt, it’s pretty common. Expect a never-ending chorus of “Shakira” (the most popular catcall in Egypt. Old, young, blonde, brunette, it doesn’t matter. All women are Shakira in Egypt) to greet you on every street.
It got so ridiculous. The men would say “Shakira come here” and we would say “La, Shukran”, which means “no, thank you” 100 times in a day we developed a joke where we would just say it right back.
We started saying “La, Shakira” to all the street vendors trying to sell us stuff instead of “Shukran” and no one ever called us out on it.
Another common catcall is “Habibi” or “Habibti” which means “dear” in Arabic.
3. Don’t Take Photos With Men!
I wrote about the harassment my friends and I experienced at the Great Pyramids of Giza complex. One of the worst experiences we had was at the Great Sphinx when some teen boys asked to take photos with us.
Yes, I said with. In a lot of the world, it’s common to ask to take a photo with people – especially foreigners, it’s not considered weird and in the right circumstances can actually be pretty cute!
I took a bunch of photos with little kids in Egypt. But if you’re a female traveler it’s advisable to not take any pictures with men or boys.
We were told not to by a tour guide. It’s not common to touch women you don’t know pretty much anywhere in the world, but especially in Egypt. Some guys will use the photo as an excuse to put their arm around you or get grabby (I know, gross).
While that didn’t happen to us, per se, more and more boys kept coming up and asking for photos until we were jostled around in a kind of mob situation .
So, while I do still take photos with people if they ask, never boys or men!
4. Tell Everyone You’re Married (& Wear A Fake Ring!)
The first question I get asked while traveling as a woman without a man is “are you married?”. While it would be a bit of a forward question where I’m from in America, it’s not considered a weird thing to ask in more conservative countries.
However, in Egypt, if a man is asking you this, assume they’re not just trying to make small talk. I learned fast, like on my second day, to tell everyone I was married (even before they asked it!) I just snuck it into the first sentence with every tour guide, Uber/bus driver, waiter, any man I had to interact with:
“Salam Alaikum! (Hello), My name is Katie and I am married.” (lol)
It saved me a lot of trouble! Every guy in Egypt, regardless of age or marital status themselves, seems hellbent on shooting their shot. And unfortunately, they don’t pick up on signals, or care, that you’re simply not interested.
I’m being brutally honest here, Egypt is difficult for female travelers! I don’t want to sugar-coat it. Even now, months after my trip, I still get guys in my DMs who saw that I visited Egypt from Instagram commenting insulting things on pictures because I wouldn’t go out to dinner with them .
When my friends came to Egypt they brought some rings with them and we all decided to wear them on our marriage-ring finger as a deterrent.
Did it help? No, I never experienced someone checking our ring finger before going full-bore creepy, but it was nice to be able to hold up my hand and show them the ring “as evidence” every time I lied and said I was married.
5. Choose Your Tour Guides Wisely!
I knew I wanted to visit the West Desert while in Egypt, a magical alien-looking place you can only access by driving out in an off-road vehicle and camping, usually in private small groups.
Even though my whole thing is “solo female adventuring”, the idea of camping in the desert, completely away from civilization with male tour guides in Egypt gave me a pause.
This fear was intensified when I told the first company I contacted, Western Desert Tours, that we were three females. I was going to ask if they had any other all-girl groups we could meet up with (strength in numbers!) or if they received groups like this a lot, and they responded like … well like this:
Not the response I wanted from people taking us to the desert!
Maybe I’m overly cautious, but my friends all agreed this was a pretty creepy way to act from a tour company and we decided to go with Egypt Western Desert Tours (not to be confused with Western Desert Tours ) instead.
We had a great time with Egypt Western Desert Tours, the guide and cook we traveled for three days in the desert with acted like perfect gentlemen, but definitely be cautious!
Especially if you’re traveling alone, what kind of tour guide and company you go with. Make sure there are positive reviews online from other female travelers if you plan on going anywhere remote.
6. Be Aware That The Guys Just Can’t Seem To Help It
The “it” I’m talking about here is being creepy. Even though we had a fantastic time camping in the desert with our guide and cook, after we returned the owner of the company found us on Instagram and slid into my friend’s DMs and mine.
We had snuck off alone while we were camping and took photos, some a lil’ risky, a lil’ skimpy… but we were 100% alone in the desert. We didn’t tell anyone we did this, let alone our tour guides, and I posted them on Instagram after we had left Egypt.
And THIS is what the owner of the tour company sent me like, months after we had left .
They just can’t help it! Even knowing I was writing a review of the tour, he just had to be a little bit… creepy about it. I was totally grossed out by the DM and deleted the photos from my Instagram.
4. Expect A Marriage Proposal (Or 5)
I was reading a lot of negative reviews for things in Egypt, like tour companies and hotels, with westerners saying something along the lines of “they offered me 5 camels to buy my wife! What kind of business is this!” (lol).
Rest assured, no one is trying to trade you for a camel. It’s a long-running joke in Egypt. A joke which doesn’t have the same charm in 2023 as it did in maybe 1922, but it’s a joke.
You’re going to get a lot of casual marriage proposals, it’s just another way to catcall and it’s not that serious.
5. You Need To Feel Comfortable Saying “La!”
“La” means no in Arabic.
If you’re a woman traveling either alone or in a group, you will probably experience more harassment than the typical male tourist in Egypt.
It’s a littttttle bit assumed that women are more impressionable and easy to get to do things.
I’ve been traveling a lot, so I’m used to it and can shut this stuff down fast, but more than once I had to swoop in and help my friends who were being crowded and yelled at by taxi drivers or random guys trying to get a date or a photo from them.
Egypt is bonkers – I’ve never been anywhere else where upon hearing “no” to a date a guy will just go straight to asking for some cash .
The point is – that a lot of people are trying to “get” something from you because they think they can, and a firm “La” (no) is the only thing that will get them off your back.
If you’re not comfortable saying “no” to people, I wouldn’t recommend traveling to Egypt!
6. Don’t Go Out (Walking) At Night
Even though Egypt is a majority Muslim country where alcohol is technically restricted, Cairo and the tourist locations by the beach have a fun nightlife scene.
We were out at a nice sushi restaurant on the outskirts of Cairo on a Friday night when girls in heels and skimpy black dresses (articles online make it sound like these types of clothes are forbidden in Egypt and they’re totally not!) started showing up for the bar. Everyone was dancing and drinking and it was no different from a bar in the United States.
So, going out at night in Egypt is fine (and fun!) but I wouldn’t ever recommend walking around at night.
Always take an Uber, or hire a car. People who go out to the bars and clubs at night are totally different than the majority conservative population – Even at just like, 8 PM in Cairo outside of Tahrir Square, there are barely any women out and about.
I didn’t feel the safest, being the only woman on the street, and I just went right back inside .
7. Take Uber Everywhere If You Can!
I know that people do sometimes have bad experiences with Ubers but, in my opinion, it’s a lot safer than just trusting a random cab driver.
Uber rides are tracked via GPS, you can share your location with friends in live-time, and you rate your driver at the end (which is an incentive against them acting creepy).
In some places where Uber doesn’t exist, like when you arrive at Cairo airport, it’s better to arrange a pickup from your hotel than try to hail a taxi there.
8. When In Doubt, Make A Fuss
On a couple of occasions when my friends and I were being mobbed by people ganging up on us and trying to take photos with us, get us to take a carriage ride with them, or let them carry our luggage, the only way out of it was to literally YELL “La!!!! LA!!”. (No in Arabic).
Not to be nasty back, but to attract the attention of cops or other people nearby who will come and get the group to back off for us.
Harassing tourists, especially women, is NOT allowed in Egypt. It happens, but it’s not allowed, and if people (especially cops) are made aware of it they will come help.
9. Know That People Are Looking Out For You
I feel like I’ve said this so many times on this blog but even though Egypt is the most difficult country I’ve traveled in (so far), Egyptian people are SO kind!
If someone is made aware that you’re having a hard time or you’re lost – they will help you! Never feel like you can’t ask for help or directions. Pretty much everyone I met in Egypt (who didn’t work in the tourism industry) was the nicest person I’ve ever met.
Overall, I did find traveling in Egypt to be very safe as a female traveler, and I enjoyed my time there. You just need to take extra precautions dealing with the harassment and touts. Hopefully, these tips will help you have a great time on your next trip to Egypt!
What You Need To Know To Prepare For Your Trip To Egypt
- You Need A visa! You can get a visa on arrival at Cairo Airport at a money exchange counter before you reach the baggage claim. The kiosk doesn’t accept cards, so you need to have $25 dollars cash.
- You Will Likely Need An Egyptian SIM card: These can be purchased after you exit customs at Cairo airport, it was very inexpensive at around 1 USD per GB of data. All of the kiosks should accept credit cards, I recommend going with Orange.
- Egypt Runs On Cash! Cash is definitely still king (or Pharoah) in Egypt. Our organized tour to the West Desert was paid for in cash, as were most of our hotel stays in Egypt.
- No Toilet Paper: Very few public bathrooms in Egypt will have toilet paper (or even a toilet seat). Instead, they use a Shatafa, which is an Arabic bidet. A lot of westerners don’t feel comfortable using a Shatafa, so it’s recommended to carry your own TP.
Traveling to Egypt?
Here’s a quick list of what to pack!
Water Purifier: For Egypt, I recommend having a travel purifier so you can drink the tap water wherever you go!
= Sunscreen: Self-explanatory, but since I was covered up (for modesty) during most of my trip in Egypt I really just used this on my face/neck and didn’t need to use too much.
Sunhat: Necessary, the sun is so strong!!! If you don’t have room for a proper sunhat I just always pack a baseball cap in my big bag because it takes up almost no room.
Sunglasses: Self-explanatory but really necessary for visiting all the ruins!
Bugspray: Lots of mosquitos around the banks of the Nile / bodies of water in Egypt. I love these little mini applicators so I can always have it with me.
Travel Pillow: I love this travel pillow by Coop Homegoods. It’s seen me through so many overnight bus/train trips, and it packs down pretty small (but I usually just hang it on the outside of my bag with a carabiner).
Wet Wipes: Toilet paper isn’t the norm in Egypt, usually they use a Shatafa which is a type of bidet
A Travel Adaptor: I originally bought this exact adaptor for my first trip to Morocco in 2019 and it’s still going strong with 3 years of nearly daily use.
Basic Arabic Words To Know For Egypt
Thank you: Shukran
No Thank You: La, Shukran
Sorry/Excuse me: Asf
Salam Alaikum: Literally translates to “peace be upon you” but it is used as a greeting. In response to Salam Alaikum, some will respond with the same – or shortened to just say “Salam”.