Egypt

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Thursday, 03 April 2014.   It contains new information in the Summary and under Safety and security: Terrorism (on 2 April, at least one person was killed and several injured by bomb explosions near Cairo University). Australians in Egypt should avoid all demonstrations, protests and large crowds as they may turn violent and closely monitor the media for information on events and developments that may affect your security and safety. In the lead-up to presidential elections scheduled for 26 and 27 May 2014, the situation is likely to remain tense and political violence could occur at short notice. We advise Australians to reconsider their need to travel to Egypt overall due to ongoing civil unrest and not to travel to the Governorate of North Sinai. Australians in Egypt who are concerned for their safety should consider leaving by commercial means.

Egypt overall

Governorate of North Sinai, including the Taba-Suez Road

Summary

  • We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to Egypt due to ongoing civil unrest and the threat of terrorist attack. Australians in Egypt who are concerned for their safety should consider leaving by commercial means.
  • On 2 April, at least one person was killed and several injured by bomb explosions near Cairo University (Giza). Several fatal explosions, including a large explosion in front of police headquarters, occurred in Cairo and other governorates on 24 and 25 January 2014. Australians in Cairo should exercise particular caution in the vicinity of Government buildings.
  • Since the political upheavals in early 2011, protests have occurred across Egypt, including in Cairo, Alexandria, Ismailia and Port Said. Protests can turn violent with little warning.
  • A large number of deaths and injuries have been reported in clashes between rival protesters and/or the security forces throughout Egypt. In the lead-up to presidential elections, scheduled for 26 and 27 May 2014, the situation is likely to remain tense and political violence could occur at short notice. If required, a presidential run-off vote has been scheduled for 16 and 17 June 2014.
  • Australians in Egypt should avoid all demonstrations, protests and large crowds. You should closely monitor the media for information on events and developments that may affect your personal security and safety. See under Safety and security: Civil unrest and political tensions for further information.
  • Foreign journalists have been increasingly targeted by security forces in recent months and several have been arrested, detained or questioned by Egyptian authorities since late 2013.
  • You should follow the instructions of local authorities and any curfews should these be reimposed.
  • There remains an ongoing threat of terrorist attacks throughout Egypt, including in Cairo and in the Sinai Peninsula.
  • On 16 February a bomb explosion on a tourist bus in Taba, South Sinai, close to the Israeli border, killed four people and injured many. The extremist group which claimed responsibility for the attack may continue to target tourists and tourist infrastructure in South Sinai. You should reconsider your need to travel to South Sinai, including to the resort area of Sharm el Sheikh.
  • Travellers to Sharm el Sheikh are strongly encouraged to travel by air and avoid unnecessary road travel outside of Sharm el Sheikh. There have been a number of abductions involving foreign nationals in South Sinai, including on the road to St Catherine’s Monastery, with foreign tourists being held by gunmen before later being released.
  • We strongly advise Australians not to travel to the Governorate of North Sinai, including the Taba-Suez Road, due to the high threat of terrorist attack and risks posed by violent criminals. See under Safety and Security: Terrorism for further details.
  • Terrorist attacks could occur at anytime, anywhere in Egypt, including in tourist areas. For a list of possible targets, see Safety and security: Terrorism. Some past attacks have coincided with local holiday weekends.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
    • organise comprehensive travel insurance and check what circumstances and activities are not covered by your policy
    • register your travel and contact details, so we can contact you in an emergency
    • subscribe to this travel advice to receive free email updates each time it's reissued.
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Entry and exit

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) change regularly. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Egypt for the most up-to-date information.

Immigration authorities may require proof that children of Egyptian fathers have their father's approval to leave Egypt before the children are allowed to depart.

Only EGP 5,000 can be brought into or taken out of Egypt at any one time. Reports have been received of travellers having problems with carrying or transferring amounts of hard currency over US$10,000 (or its equivalent) out of Egypt. Travellers should consult their financial institution and contact the nearest Egyptian Embassy or Consulate for further information.

Vehicles may be subject to pest control measures. You should comply with instructions from local officials.

A valid yellow fever vaccination certificate is required for entry into Egypt if you have come from or transited an area where there is a risk of transmission.

Make sure your passport has at least six months validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.

Safety and security

Civil unrest/Political tension

We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to Egypt due to ongoing civil unrest and the threat of terrorist attack. Australians in Egypt who are concerned for their safety should consider leaving by commercial means.

Protests can turn violent with little or no warning. A large number of deaths and injuries have been reported in clashes between rival protesters and/or the security forces throughout Egypt, including during protests held in late January 2014. The political and security situation remains tense and further violent clashes are likely in the lead-up to presidential elections scheduled for May 2014. If required a presidential run-off vote has been scheduled for 16 and 17 June 2014. Foreign nationals have also been killed and injured during demonstrations.

Since the political upheavals in early 2011, protests have occurred across Egypt, including in Cairo, Alexandria, Suez, Port Said and Ismailia. In central Cairo, Tahrir Square, surrounding streets, including the nearby US Embassy and Garden City area, remain a focal point for demonstrations. Protests have occurred near the al-Ittihadiya (Presidential) Palace in Heliopolis, Giza and the area of the Raba Al-Adawiya Square in Nasr City, but also in many other locations. Across Egypt, many protests occur on Fridays following midday prayers, but protests may occur at other times.

You should be aware that curfews and restrictions on movement may be imposed by Egyptian authorities at short notice. You should obey any curfew and follow the instructions of local authorities.

Protests can turn violent with little or no warning. A large number of deaths and injuries have been reported in clashes between rival protesters and/or the security forces throughout Egypt. The political and security situation remains tense and further violent clashes are likely. Foreign nationals have also been killed during demonstrations.

Australians in Egypt should avoid all demonstrations, protests and large crowds and closely monitor the media for information on events and developments that may affect your security and safety.

Foreigners are prohibited by law from participating in demonstrations. Those who do so may be arrested. Foreigners, including journalists, have been assaulted during protests.

Serious sexual assaults on women, including foreigners, have occurred during demonstrations in Tahrir Square.

Sectarian tensions in Egypt have from time to time resulted in violent clashes and attacks on Coptic Churches, including in August and October 2013. Australians should be aware that extremists have made threats against Coptic churches.

Terrorism

We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to Egypt due to ongoing civil unrest and the threat of terrorist attack.

There remains an ongoing threat of terrorist attacks throughout Egypt, including in Cairo. On 11 May 2013, Egypt’s Ministry of Interior announced the arrest of alleged terrorist suspects planning attacks on a number of targets, including foreign embassies in Cairo. On 31 October 2012, the Egyptian Ministry of Interior reported that members of a terrorist group, with cluster cells in Egypt, had plotted several terrorist attacks against multiple targets in Cairo.

Terrorist attacks could occur at anytime, anywhere in Egypt. Tourist areas throughout Egypt are potential terrorist targets. Past terrorist attacks have targeted foreign tourists and places of worship. They have often coincided with holiday weekends. There is a significant security presence at most places frequented by tourists and places of worship.

On 2 April, at least one person was killed and several injured by bomb explosions near Cairo University (Giza). Several fatal explosions, including a large explosion in front of police headquarters, occurred in Cairo and other governorates on 24 and 25 January 2014. This follows terrorist incidents in December 2013, including a car bomb in Mansoura in the Nile Delta which killed 12 people and injured 134, and a bomb in Nasr City, Cairo, that injured at least five people.

In planning your activities, consider the kind of places known to be terrorist targets and the level of security provided. These include places frequented by foreigners such as embassies, hotels, holiday resorts, clubs, restaurants, bars, cinemas and theatres, schools, banks, markets, shopping centres, supermarkets, places of worship, public transport and transport infrastructure such as the Cairo Metro system and its stations, outdoor recreation events, and commercial, public and tourist areas. Shipping, ports and symbols of the Egyptian government, including government buildings, polling places, police and security forces, are also potential terrorist targets.

Governorate of South Sinai (including Sharm el Sheikh): On 16 February 2014 a bomb explosion on a tourist bus in Taba, South Sinai, close to the Israeli border, killed four people and injured many. This is the first direct attack on tourists in Sinai since 2006. The extremist group which claimed responsibility for the attack may continue to target tourists and tourist infrastructure in the Sinai Peninsula. You should reconsider your need to travel to South Sinai, including to the resort area of Sharm el Sheikh.

We strongly advise you to avoid travel by road through South Sinai, as there is a high threat of terrorist attack, kidnapping and banditry. There have been a number of abductions involving foreign nationals in South Sinai, including on the road to St Catherine’s Monastery, with foreign tourists being held by gunmen before later being released. Travellers to Sharm el Sheikh are strongly encouraged to travel by air and avoid unnecessary road travel outside of Sharm el Sheikh.

Australians could be inadvertently caught up in terrorist attacks directed at others, including kidnapping. For more information about kidnapping, see our Kidnapping threat travel bulletin. The Australian Government's longstanding policy is that it does not make payments or concessions to kidnappers. The Australian Government considers that paying a ransom increases the risk of further kidnappings, including of other Australians. If you do decide to travel to an area where there is a particular threat of kidnapping, you should ensure you have personal security measures in place, seek professional security advice and take out kidnapping insurance.

Governorate of North Sinai: We strongly advise Australians not to travel to the Governorate of North Sinai, including the Taba-Suez Road, due to the high threat of terrorist attack and risks posed by violent criminals. The Egyptian military have launched a crackdown on extremist groups in the Sinai. Militant attacks utilising firearms and improvised explosive devices have caused a number of fatalities in 2013.

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. You can find more information about this threat in our General advice to Australian travellers.

Crime

Since early 2011, there has been an increase in crime in Egypt, including violent crime such as armed robbery, carjacking, sexual assault, and burglary. Firearms have been used during some crimes.

Valuables including cash, jewellery and electronic items should not be left unsecured in hotel rooms or unattended in public places. You should be alert to pickpockets and bag snatchers in tourist areas, particularly after dark. Victims of crime should report the incident to the tourist police immediately. Failure to do so before you depart Egypt may make it impossible to seek prosecution at a later date. The police contact number is 122.

You should be aware that taxi drivers have assaulted passengers, including foreigners.

Women travelling on their own, including when using taxis and walking in public areas, may be physically and verbally harassed or assaulted.

Money and valuables

Before you go, organise a variety of ways to access your money overseas, such as credit cards, travellers' cheques, cash, debit cards or cash cards. Australian currency and travellers' cheques are not accepted in many countries. Consult with your bank to find out which is the most appropriate currency to carry and whether your ATM card will work overseas.

Make two photocopies of valuables such as your passport, tickets, visas and travellers' cheques. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone at home.

While travelling, don't carry too much cash and remember that expensive watches, jewellery and cameras may be tempting targets for thieves.

As a sensible precaution against luggage tampering, including theft, lock your luggage. Information on luggage safety is available from Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

You are required to pay an additional fee to have a lost or stolen passport replaced. In some cases, the Government may also restrict the length of validity or type of replacement passports.

Local travel

Australians are urged to take the current security situation into consideration when moving around Egypt. Foreigners have been detained and harassed at military and civilian checkpoints. You should be aware that protests and labour disputes throughout Egypt continue to disrupt transport. You should monitor local media and check with your tour operator, airline or travel agent for information on any transport disruptions.

Local driving practices and poor road conditions contribute to a high rate of road accidents in Egypt. Road travel, particularly outside the major cities, can be dangerous as cars, buses and trucks frequently drive at high speed and without headlights illuminated at night. Two major bus crashes in January 2006, in which Australians were killed and injured, highlight the risks. For this reason, tourists are advised to enter regional destinations (including Luxor) by air. For further advice, see our road travel page.

The Cairo Metro (subway) system is reliable, but the maintenance and safety standards of other public road and rail transport are poor.

The safety standards you might expect of transport and tour operators, including adventure activities, are not always met. Sufficient safety equipment may not be provided and recommended maintenance standards and safety precautions may not be observed. Tourists should ensure that expeditions are well equipped with adequate food, medical supplies and emergency communications.

On 26 February 2013, 19 people died and two were injured in a hot air balloon accident near Luxor.

There are landmines in some areas, notably in the desert areas around El Alamein, stretches of coastline near Mersa Matruh, and the western shore of the Gulf of Suez, and the Sinai peninsula. Talk to local authorities for advice on landmine locations.

Tourists travelling to Egypt's frontiers, including the borders with Libya, Sudan, and Israel and parts of the Sinai off the main, paved roads, must obtain permission from the Travel Permits Department of the Ministry of the Interior.

Tourists should check with local authorities for advice on local travel precautions. If you travel to Abu Simbel by road (40kms north of the Sudanese border), you should do so on an organised tour guarded by police escorts.

Piracy in the southern Red Sea and Gulf of Aden is increasing in frequency. All forms of shipping are attractive targets for pirates, including commercial vessels, pleasure craft (yachts etc) and luxury cruise liners. We strongly advise Australians to maintain a high level of vigilance and to exercise extreme caution when anywhere near these waters. See our piracy bulletin for further information. The International Maritime Bureau issues piracy reports on its website.

Travel to the Gaza Strip: We strongly advise you not to travel to the Gaza Strip because of the extremely dangerous and unpredictable security situation. If, in spite of our advice not to travel to the Gaza Strip or the West Bank, you decide to do so, you should be aware that the ability of the Australian Government to provide consular services to Australians in these areas is extremely limited. You should also read our travel advice for Israel, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Regulations and restrictions governing the border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip are subject to change. Crossings may open or close at short notice. Contact your nearest Egyptian Embassy or Consulate for up-to-date information.

You must receive permission from Egyptian authorities to enter and exit the Gaza Strip using the Rafah border crossing. People who enter the Gaza Strip through this border must leave the same way. You may be delayed in the Gaza Strip for an extended period (possibly weeks) while waiting for approval to return. The Australian Government cannot influence the granting of approval or when the crossing will open.

Airline safety

Please refer to our air travel page for information about aviation safety and security.

Laws

When you are in Egypt, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.

Foreign journalists have been increasingly targeted by security forces in recent months and several have been arrested, detained or questioned by Egyptian authorities since late 2013.

Australians who might engage in activities that involve local legal matters, are strongly advised to seek professional advice and ensure they are aware of their rights and responsibilities. You should be aware that Egyptian family law, particularly with regard to matters such as divorce, child custody and child support, differs from Australian law. See also the Entry and exit section.

Possession of even small quantities of illicit drugs in Egypt can lead to the death penalty, long prison sentences or deportation.

Under Muslim custom, homosexuality and sexual relations outside of marriage are considered immoral. Penalties for immorality include imprisonment. See our LGBTI travellers page.

Taking photographs of bridges and canals (including the Suez Canal), military personnel, buildings and equipment is illegal.

If you want to get married in Egypt, you should check the legal requirements before you travel, either through the Australian Embassy in Cairo or the Egyptian Embassy in Canberra.

If you are considering preaching, you should seek local advice beforehand and exercise considerable care.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money, laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australian overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.

Local customs

There are conservative standards of dress and behaviour in Egypt, particularly for women. You should dress modestly with your legs and upper arms covered. You should take care not to offend. If in doubt, seek local advice.

During Ramadan, eating, drinking and smoking between sunrise and sunset is forbidden for Muslims.

Information for dual nationals

If you are an Australian/Egyptian dual national and you travel to Egypt on your Egyptian passport you will be treated as an Egyptian by the local government. This may limit the ability of the Australian Government to provide consular assistance if you are arrested or detained.

Dual nationals living in Egypt for extended periods require proof of Egyptian citizenship, such as a family identification card.

Male dual nationals who have not undertaken military service are not generally required to enlist in the armed forces. They must, however, obtain an exemption certificate either from the nearest Egyptian Embassy or Consulate, or through the Ministry of Defence Draft Office before they can leave Egypt.

Our Dual nationals page provides further information.

Health

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

The standard of medical facilities in Cairo is adequate for routine conditions, but outside of the capital facilities can be very basic. Treatment may be expensive and payment in advance may be required. In the event of a serious illness or accident, medical evacuation to a destination with appropriate facilities would be necessary. Medical evacuation costs would be considerable.

Water-borne, food-borne, insect-borne and other infectious diseases (including hepatitis, filariasis and rabies) are prevalent with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time. There is a very limited risk of malaria in El Faiyum governorate from June through to October. We encourage you to take precautions against being bitten by insects such as using insect repellent, wear long, loose-fitting, light coloured clothing and ensure your accommodation is mosquito proof.

The WHO has confirmed that wild polio virus was recently identified in sewage samples collected at two locations in greater Cairo. Travellers may wish to seek medical advice if they have concerns.

We advise you to boil all drinking water or drink bottled water, avoid ice cubes and raw and undercooked food. Do not swim in fresh water, including the River Nile, to avoid exposure to certain water-borne diseases such as bilharzia (schistosomiasis). Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.

Avian influenza: The WHO has confirmed human deaths from avian influenza in Egypt. See our health page and Avian Influenza bulletin for further information on influenza.

Where to get help

The security situation may affect Embassy opening hours.

Australians in Egypt who require emergency consular assistance should in the first instance contact the Embassy directly on +202 2770 6600 or the Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305.

Embassy address and contact details:

Australian Embassy, Cairo

11th floor, World Trade Centre
1191 Corniche el Nil
Boulac, Cairo
EGYPT
Telephone: (20 2) 2770 6600
Facsimile: (20 2) 2770 6650
Website: www.egypt.embassy.gov.au

If you are travelling to Egypt, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency – whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.

In a consular emergency if you are unable to contact the Embassy you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

Egypt, particularly Cairo, is subject to earthquakes. Earthquakes most frequently occur in coastal areas.

Sand and dust storms can occur between March and May.

If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities. Information on natural disasters can be obtained from the Humanitarian Early Warning Service.

Wildlife

Australians are advised to respect wildlife laws and to maintain a safe and legal distance when observing wildlife, including marine animals and birds. You should only use reputable and professional guides or tour operators and closely follow park regulations and wardens' advice.

For parents

For general information and tips on travelling with children see our Travelling with children page.



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.