Should I change my plans to vacation in Egypt given the recent protests?
January 27, 2011 12:19 PM   Subscribe

I had been planning a vacation to Egypt this year. The news of protests has me a bit spooked; is it unwise to travel to Egypt this April/May? If so, any suggestions for other international destinations as a good alternative?

(I feel like a heel asking this question, given the unrest in Egypt and focusing on how it affects my travel plans.)
  1. Should I go ahead with my travel plans? I'm having a hard time separating hysteria from realistic caution.
  2. Any recommendations on specific (budget) tour companies?
  3. If not, what other international locales would satisfy my desire for:
    • overseas travel
    • not-to-be-missed world treasures (the pyramids, etc)
    • safe for a single woman traveling alone
    • enough of a tourist industry where I can easily find a guided tour and hopefully book online.
I was thinking of Peru and Macchu Picchu as a good back-up, but otherwise I'm a bit in the dark. Thank you!
posted by lychee to Travel & Transportation around Egypt (18 answers total)
The situation in Egypt is extremely fluid and changing rapidly. Things might be back to normal (for a Mubarak-dictated value of normal) in a couple of days, or we might see continued unrest and chaos for some time. Trying to guess ahead to April/May is extremely difficult, especially regarding "will I feel safe when traveling." If it were me, and I had to make a call right now, I'd err on the side of not going.
posted by Tomorrowful at 12:27 PM on January 27, 2011

India's another option. Try Gap Adventures, they have good tours in all kinds of places.

I wouldn't book my trip today, but I would feel comfortable waiting for a month to see what happens.
posted by emkelley at 12:32 PM on January 27, 2011

I would recommend Turkey as another option; much like Egypt, it's most expensive to get there; I traveled with my husband but did not feel unsafe at all. Plus, I know there are lots of package tours, and Istanbul is absolutely gorgeous. Seeing the Hagia Sofia was one of the highlights of my life (better, IMO, than the pyramids were).
posted by mckenney at 12:42 PM on January 27, 2011

I missed a chunk of what I was saying; once you get to Turkey, costs are relatively low.
posted by mckenney at 12:43 PM on January 27, 2011

Go to Peru.
It is awesome. And relatively stable compared to Egypt right now.

Why risk flying into the middle of a revolution?
posted by Flood at 12:48 PM on January 27, 2011

I'd second Turkey, although I disagree that it's cooler than the pyramids. But it's inexpensive once you're there, friendly enough, with very fine Roman ruins, and--get this--the very best absolutely terrific tomatoes I've had anywhere in the world.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 12:49 PM on January 27, 2011

I would think it depends somewhat on where you're going. I would be more cautious of Cairo than I would of one of the resort areas like Sharm-el-Shiekh.

That said, Turkey is absolutely beautiful, relatively safe with plenty of world treasures. And I will agree that the tomatoes - and all other fruit and veg - are incredibly flavorful and delicious. The gorgeous, fresh food was one of the highlights of my trip there.
posted by triggerfinger at 12:59 PM on January 27, 2011

1. Give the situation in Egypt a week or two, if you can afford to wait. I think by that point things will be much clearer. While this is a relatively large uprising, Mubarak's government is not known to sit idly by and watch protests fester. If they come down hard (as expected) things will calm down and return to normal rather quickly (unfortunately). You should be fine to travel if that is the case. If, however, things continue to build, the future of the government may be more in question; and we are entering new territory. Would not recommend going if this happens.

2. I've been asked this question several times for several previous "issues" in the past, and I usually recommend continuing on with plans. All of those that have gone have been happy that they went. The "tourist" part of Egypt is generally well separated from the "people" part of Egypt, and Egyptians always go out of their way to make guests feel welcome.

3. If you nix Egypt, nthing Turkey, for reasons mentioned above (though I disagree with mckenny - Turkey's nice and all, but the Pyramids kick Hagia Sophia's butt).
posted by defenestrated at 1:04 PM on January 27, 2011

If you've already bought tickets, I'd probably still go. It's hard to tell what the situation will be in 3-4 months.

If you were planning on planning a trip to Egypt in April or May, I would find a new destination.
posted by Sara C. at 1:15 PM on January 27, 2011

Oh, and if you are thinking of changing destinations and are attracted by emkelly's suggestion of India, I would absolutely not book a tour. A tour is, I think, the worst possible way to visit India and almost insures that you will hate it, get sick, and all the usual things people who want to bad-mouth India have to say about the place.

If you want to go to India, you should block out two or more weeks, choose ONE region of the country, and do it independently. A million times easier and more rewarding than going for 10 days on a tour.
posted by Sara C. at 1:19 PM on January 27, 2011

I rescheduled a trip to Thailand because of the protests. By the time the trip came around a couple of months later, it had quieted down. And the time I rescheduled it for ended up being right before a new set of protests that I narrowly missed.

It's hard to predict chaos.
posted by smackfu at 1:33 PM on January 27, 2011

I suspect that if you go, you will be fine, for a few reasons: tourism is incredibly important in Egypt, and everyone (government, police, people) know; also, Egyptians don't have a problem with tourists--their issues are with their government.

If you were there right now, you'd have almost exactly the same experience as usual, with a few exceptions: you maybe wouldn't go to the Egyptian Museum because it's on Tahrir Square, the central location of protests in Cairo on Tuesday and later in the week; and you might not go to the big market, the Khan, because it's pretty close to downtown as well. So you'd miss those. But the Pyramids are fine, as are the sites in Upper Egypt, and of course the Red Sea is lovely.

I lived in Egypt for a couple of years and lately have been in touch with lots of expat friends who live in Cairo. A few have been to work downtown (and all have been on regular work and school schedules), right near Tahrir Square, and haven't had any problems. Most of them live outside downtown and have reported no disruptions in their neighborhoods, except for Twitter and Facebook and SMS being offline at times. The US Embassy hasn't, as far as I know, even sent out a warden message to US citizens living there, and I don't think they've issued a travel warning. I've heard they are telling their own staff and embassy families to avoid Tahrir Square and the Khan, but that's it.

However, dictatorships like Mubarak's tend to be stable, and if Mubarak loses power, then there will be less stability, and who knows?

So, I'd say wait a few weeks, as was mentioned above, and see what happens.

One final note: last night I talked to an American friend who is leaving TODAY to go to Egypt. I asked lots of expat friends for their thoughts and talked to her last night. The consensus: It's not the best time, but you'll probably be fine.

Also, my suggestion for another place to do: Ethiopia. The churches in Lalibela are stunning.
posted by bluedaisy at 1:47 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Just thought of one more issue: if you go out to the Sinai Peninsula, you'll probably fly. Right now you couldn't drive because there are big protests in Suez, right near the Suez Canal crossing. But, really, not driving through the Sinai Peninsula is just fine--it's a long, dusty road utterly lacking in charm and amenities.
posted by bluedaisy at 1:48 PM on January 27, 2011

the state department (of the US) has a travel warnings website here. Egypt is not currently on the list. The US embasssy in Egypt has relevent infohere. They say to be aware of where you are and stay away from the demonstrations.
posted by garlic at 2:48 PM on January 27, 2011

Egypt relies on tourists too much to completely fuck themselves over in that respect. The holidaymakers in Tunisia were minimally affected by a full scale revolution.

If you're looking for somewhere else to go you should realise that Macchu Picchu, India's Golden Triangle, Angkor Wat or almost any capital city in Europe (for example) easily fulfil your criteria and piss all over the Pyramids from a great, great height.

Sara C.: "Oh, and if you are thinking of changing destinations and are attracted by emkelly's suggestion of India, I would absolutely not book a tour. A tour is, I think, the worst possible way to visit India and almost insures that you will hate it, get sick, and all the usual things people who want to bad-mouth India have to say about the place."

The same applies to pretty much any foreign country with very few notable exceptions.
posted by turkeyphant at 2:55 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

turkeyphant -- I would agree with one exception -- a tour in a country that has a different alphabet then you, or limitied tourists from your region may make things less stressful. On my trip to China in September, we had much more travel related stress than any of our European travels because we went to places where English speakers don't tend to go.
posted by garlic at 7:07 AM on January 28, 2011

So, my friend who got to Egypt on Friday--she was in Athens a day or two later. They flew almost right back out.

Anyway, since you were planning for April/May, I'd go ahead and choose someplace else. Things *might* be fine there but then, but it's just not the time to plan a trip to Egypt.
posted by bluedaisy at 9:38 PM on January 29, 2011

Update -- January 30, 2011
    The U.S. Department of State recommends that U.S. citizens avoid travel to Egypt due to ongoing political and social unrest. ... U.S. citizens currently in Egypt should consider leaving as soon as they can safely do so....
Of course, what the situation will be in 3 months is anybody's guess.
posted by exphysicist345 at 9:17 PM on January 30, 2011

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