If you’ve been pondering whether to take a holiday to Egypt in recent months, the biggest question you’ll no doubt have been asking is, is it safe to go there? Political unrest in the country has deterred many tourists from heading to Egypt, but the good news is The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) has updated its travel advice for the country, once again opening up the classic stretch of the Nile from Luxor to Aswan and the surrounding area. This means that cruise boats will soon be full of Brits enjoying the beautiful voyage between these two Egyptian towns, and more people will be flying in to stay in hotels and visit world-class sites such as the temples at Karnak, the Valley of the Kings, and the Aswan Dam holding back the mighty Lake Nasser.
The changes could not have come quickly enough for the many Egyptians who rely on tourists for their business. Arrivals into the Luxor area have been down by as much as 80%, according to the tourist authorities, and it is not the only area that has suffered. The Red Sea is a huge favourite with holidaymakers from the UK, and despite the fact that travel has NOT been restricted to this popular part of the country at ANY TIME since the political unrest began, the resorts are quiet as many tourists from around the world have stayed away.
So what’s really going on and is Egypt safe for a winter holiday? Current FCO advice is that tourists from the UK can head to the Red Sea resort areas around Sharm el Sheikh and Hurghada, and also the Luxor to Aswan area, with no problems envisaged. Travel to the rest of the country, including Cairo, is advised against, however, (unless there are exceptional circumstances) due to continuing street protests and occasional unrest. The resort areas have plenty of security and the Red Sea resorts, in particular, have road blocks on the approaches to the resorts to improve the overall safety of tourists. These have been in place for years and have ensured that there has been no trouble in the holiday resorts. Additionally, the Egyptian Tourist Office is to install webcams in the resorts, so that you can tune in and watch what is actually going on, in an effort to reassure potential holidaymakers.
Of course, if you are thinking of heading to Egypt, you should still keep an eye on FCO updates in case anything changes. What can I expect when I get there? One of the WTS team, Laura Pepper Ives, has recently been on holiday to the Sharm El Sheik area for the third time in two years and has given us her view on what she found. She said: “Having recently returned from a holiday at the Sharm Plaza Resort, I can confirm that the Red Sea is open for business, the sun is still shining, the sea is still ready for diving and snorkelling, and the Egyptians really do want us to holiday in their fantastic resorts. “I travelled with my husband and whilst we have kept an eye on the news for what was going on in Egypt, we knew from our last trip that there were no issues in the resorts and we would be able to have a holiday free from worry. “It’s true that you get hassle when you leave the hotels, from people wanting you to take excursions, go into shops and bars and so on. However, this touting for business happens in Egypt anyway and is part of the experience. We found that whilst the touting is more persistent than before, due to the drop off in tourist numbers, if you are firm and polite they soon leave you alone.
“The hotel and resorts were definitely quieter, but the standards were still great, the food was excellent, we could easily get tables in bars and restaurants, and there was no need to rush for a place by the pool or on a sunbed. And we came back from our holiday with a tan, lots of happy memories, and knowing it had been great value. “ Despite the concerns that some people may have, we felt that this was a great choice for a holiday and we will definitely go back again. The locals want the Brits back as they love looking after us and having us there on holiday, and those we came into contact with at the hotel and outside were great fun as ever. I would definitely recommend it.”
So are there bargains? Tourist numbers to Egypt from the UK are pretty level year on year, but arrivals from many other countries have dropped significantly. The result is that the hotels have many fantastic offers, while the airlines have trimmed capacity to ensure planes go out busy. A quick search online this morning (28 October) found last minute deals to Sharm El Sheikh for £299 per person departing on 05th November 2014 from Newcastle airport for a one-week break All Inclusive to the Sharm Resort, a 3*+ hotel including a 20 kilo suitcase allowance and transfers. And there are plenty of other offers if you are flexible with dates, allowing you to easily holiday in Egypt for less this winter. So why not reconsider the Red Sea as a destination for your winter sun break? It’s open for business and ready to welcome you.