Visiting Egypt as a solo woman traveler is both challenging and rewarding. Egyptian culture is vastly different to the West and you’ll need to respect this to stay safe during your trip. My first trip to Egypt was part of an organised tour but my second was unexpectedly solo. These travel tips for women traveling to Egypt include the things I wish I’d known before I ended up in a Cairo hotel without my travel buddy or my luggage!!
I wouldn’t recommend Egypt for your first solo trip. If, however, you enjoy solo travel and you follow these travel tips, your adventures in this most eye-opening country will enrich you.
10 Top Travel Tips For Women Traveling Solo To Egypt
With my pale Northern European skin, blue eyes and (at the time) chestnut hair, I stood out like a sore thumb from the moment I arrived at Cairo airport. Fortunately, I’d been there before and I knew how Westerners and Western women, in particular, can be magnets for unwanted attention. This ranges from the irritating (constant offers of taxi rides, to change money or buy things, and catcalls. Never ending catcalls) to the offensive (blatant staring and leering, creepy handshakes, touching and ‘accidental’ brushing up against your breasts or bottom).
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I still remember stopping to look at handmade rugs in the very crowded souk at Khan el-Khalili, only to realise that the man stood behind me was rubbing his erection against my bum! Plenty of people saw but no one did anything…
Pro Tip: If anyone talks to you about ‘Egyptian bananas’, they’re not talking about fruit!!
Think About Your Appearance
You’ll need to rethink your traveling wardrobe for Egypt, to avoid being harassed. If you’re going anywhere outside the main “beach” resorts (Sharm/Hurghada) this is doubly important. Don’t take anything tight, revealing or form-fitting. Think conservative, loose and floaty, with everything covered up from your neck to below your knees.
Flashing bare flesh or “showing off” the shape of your body is like having a sign around your neck that screams “I’m available big boy!” Covering up shows respect for the local culture and will help you to avoid attracting unwanted attention.
While I found the unwanted attention annoying, I never felt unsafe and most of the local people I met were delightful, welcoming and kind.
Wear a Hat/Headscarf and Sunglasses
As many Egyptian women cover their hair, you’ll attract less attention by wearing a long, lightweight long scarf that covers your hair and neck. If you forget to pack one, you can buy them cheaply and easily in local markets.
Sunglasses help to disguise the colour of your eyes (not many Egyptians have blue eyes) and, like a mask, they can help you avoid eye contact.
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Buddy Up With Other Travelers
The first time I visited Egypt I was in a group tour but the second time I was on my own and the two experiences could not have been more different!
I was delighted to meet three friendly Aussies who invited me to join up with them. My hilarious travel buddies made the trip for me! We made democratic decisions about where to go and what to see, plus I still got to satisfy my inner history nerd and to indulge as only a foodie can. Best of all, there was much less harassment and I was confident to travel well away from the beaten tourist track.
Respect Local Customs and Laws
I managed to get arrested in Siwa Oasis for swimming at the wrong time of day!! Fortunately, it was sorted out very quickly, but it was frightening at the time and it made me realise how important it is to be aware of local customs and laws to stay safe.
Pro Tip: You can’t share a room with someone of the opposite sex other than your spouse. Sex outside of marriage is illegal! Don’t be surprised if your host(s) conduct room checks….
Look After Your Valuables
Top of my travel tips for women traveling solo is to leave valuable jewellery at home and to be careful with your camera, phone and other valuables. I use an ancient Kipling cross-body bag and a Pacsafe rucksack with a zip closure and a clip. When I’m somewhere crowded, I switch the rucksack to my front and I always wear the cross-body bag with the strap across my body. I also feel safe wearing a travel belt where I can stash cards, cash, passport and important documents.
Be Careful with Your Cash
I’ve always found that the cup-sized wallet works a treat. (hide cash in your bra!) Just remember that if you need the cash stashed in your bra, you’ll need somewhere discreet like a public loo or changing room to extract it. It’s also worth thinking about a travel wallet (aka a dummy wallet).
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Pro Tip: Never put valuables in your pockets, even if the pockets have a zip! It’s much too tempting (and easy) for pickpockets and thieves and you don’t want to attract that sort of attention.
Security has been a problem for tourists in Egypt, however there is a strong, visible police presence. You’ll also see special ‘tourist police’, hired specially to protect tourists. Bag checks and scans at tourist sites and hotels are also there to keep you safe, although these can be a bit haphazard.
Note: Egypt is still a volatile country, with some areas not safe to travel to. Other areas are safe and almost 320,000 British tourists visited the country in 2017, mostly without any problems.
Check the latest travel advice for Egypt here and make sure you take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before you travel. I always use World Nomads because their rates are competitive, you can extend cover if you decide to travel for longer and it’s easy to make claims online.
Learn a Few Words of Arabic
It’s not difficult to learn a few basic words of Arabic as a courtesy and to summon help. While Google Translate will get you by most of the time, I always feel safer when I have a few local words imprinted in my brain for emergencies.
Copy Important Documents
Before any trip, make copies of all important travel documents. Think about leaving copies with trusted contacts at home and take one copy in your carryon bag. If there’s a safe in your hotel, use it for your important documents.
Pro Tip: Save a scanned copy of the documents online so you can access them while traveling if necessary. Just in case!
Make a contacts list! What would you do if your phone gets lost or is stolen? Save a contacts list online and take a paper copy. Check the contact details for the British Embassy, adding their number to your contacts list. Hopefully, you’ll never to need it, but it’s good to be prepared.
Have you been to Egypt? What are your top travel tips for women traveling to the land of the Pharoahs? We’d love to know.
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