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When I first booked my flights to Egypt I didn’t really hesitate – the ticket was cheap (around $500 round trip from New York) and I’d always dreamt of seeing the pyramids! But then I started to do some research and I came across all sorts of horror stories on Reddit and YouTube and I started to get a bit nervous.
There were tales of hassle at airports, scams and sexual harrassment. YouTubers and vloggers told stories of major issues with bringing in camera equipment and filming in the streets.
Lots of Reddit users advised not to travel to Egypt solo (see this one) as a woman and many people talked about how stressful and exhausting it was to travel there. My friends were concerned for my safety and I started to consider changing my flight to somewhere like Italy or Greece.
I asked people I know whether Egypt was worth visiting and the responses I got were a mixed bag. It really seems to be a ‘love it or hate it’ type of destination.
In the end, I decided to take the trip. I’m a naturally adventurous and curious person so when people tell me not to go somewhere, it makes me all the more intrigued to see it for myself.
Initially I was going to book hotels through Booking.com and then just organize day trips through Viator and GetYourGuide. I’m not a “tour” person really just because I like to set my own schedule and it’s cheaper to do it yourself.
But since I was feeling quite apprehensive, I decided to book my trip through a company I found on Instagram that creates custom itineraries. Lots of influencers have used them and I figured perhaps it would be safer to have a contact on the ground who could help.
In hindsight though. I wouldn’t book a packaged tour again. I’d much rather arrange my own travel and I felt like I was being overcharged.
I’ll discuss that later in this article but first I want to share with you some of my general observations of traveling solo in Egypt.
In all honesty, I had a terrible start to my trip. Within the first hour of arrival I lost my wallet containing all my credit cards and my green card. On days 1 and 2 in Cairo I barely got any sleep and considered just giving up and going home, but I’m glad I didn’t.
I completely fell in love with the country and I actually found it to be MUCH easier to travel there solo than people led me to believe. Despite what happened at the beginning I ended up having a great time and I would 100% go back to see more of the country.
If you’re considering traveling to Egypt as a solo female then definitely do it! Don’t wait around for your friends. But do read as much information as you can before you go so you’re well prepared.
Here are my top tips for solo female travel in Egypt:
Egypt Solo Female Travel: Observations and Tips
Take Care of Your Belongings
While I loved Egypt, my trip didn’t get off to the best of starts and that was mainly down to my carelessness on my part.
The company I organized my trip through had a driver pick me up from the airport. It was 1am, I was exhausted from the long flight and was feeling overwhelmed with things like purchasing my tourist visa on arrival and getting cash out of the ATM.
Instead of putting my passport and my wallet away immediately when I got in the car, I sat in the back seat holding them in my hand.
At some point I decided to check my bag to get some cash to tip the driver and I must’ve put the wallet and passport down on the seat. Stupidly, I didn’t check to see if I’d left anything in the car when I got out. It was also just very dark and I was overwhelmed with trying to figure out where my accommodation actually was.
It was only when I got to my hostel and they asked for my passport that I realized I’d left my wallet and passport behind. Doh!
Luckily they knew the driver and called him, but he said he could only find my passport and not my wallet. Supposedly he found my passport wedged between the car door and the car seat, so he suggested perhaps the wallet fell out onto the floor. While I want to give him the benefit of the doubt because he seemed like a nice guy, I’ll never know whether he took it, or whether it truly did fall out and someone else took it.
Unfortunately my wallet contained ALL of my credit cards and my green card, which I needed to get back into the United States. Usually I don’t keep all my credit cards in one place. I also wouldn’t usually keep my green card in my wallet but I was in such a rush packing for the trip that I wasn’t particularly organized.
Luckily I’d withdrawn quite a bit of cash to pay for my tour and trip expenses, so I had just enough money to get me through the entire trip. I canceled the credit cards immediately.
The green card issue, however, was a nightmare since airlines won’t let you on a flight to the US without it. In the end I had to beg the airport staff in Cairo to contact US Customs & Border Protection to verify my identity and authorize me to fly.
If there’s one piece of advice I can give you; make sure you have a spare credit card and ATM card stored somewhere else in a separate pocket or bag. Always put your belongings away and check the taxi seat before you get out! Of course, travel insurance is also a must.
Dealing with the Authorities is a Nightmare
I searched all over the street for my wallet, but no luck. So, in the middle of the night, a worker from the hostel gave me a ride on the back of his moped to the nearest police station, which was quite the experience.
The police station was located inside a crumbling mansion with cats wandering around the hallways. All the men seemed to be sitting around smoking cigarettes and doing not very much. There were lots of dramatic pauses as they examined my statement, and at one point I couldn’t help but feel like I was at a poker table in a Bond movie.
Having just come off a 19-hour flight all bleary eyed I was definitely starting to lose my patience. It felt like an eternity as I was sent from one person to the other trying to get the police report signed off.
The next day I made my way straight to the embassy as soon as it opened, but there was an enormous line outside and they wouldn’t let me in without an appointment. The staff outside didn’t speak much English and couldn’t seem to understand why I would be at the US embassy if my passport was British.
I explained the green card situation to numerous people but eventually they just told me to go away and send them an email. When I finally received an automated response, it said they don’t even check the email.
Feeling completely defeated and exhausted, I went back and explained my situation all over again to about three different people. It’s like Fort Knox to get even close to the embassy, yet alone inside it.
Eventually someone put me on the phone to a person inside the embassy. I could send some info over and get an appointment for a special travel document…in about two weeks. My trip was only supposed to last 7 days! I didn’t want to stick around in Cairo, so I decided to wing it and just try my luck at the airport.
I’m glad I did because Aswan and Luxor were amazing and definitely worth the visit.
The Hassle Isn’t That Bad
I felt like the hassle really wasn’t as bad as people say.
Yes, when you get to the tourist sights there are people selling all sorts of souvenirs like scarves and ornaments. That happens in many places all over the world. I found that a simple “no thank you” was enough and I just kept walking.
One of my guides in Luxor advised me to just say “no” once to be polite, but don’t say anything more after that. If you keep saying no then you’re engaging with them, so it’s better to just be firm and keep moving. Another good trick is to wear sunglasses and refrain from making eye contact.
If you start looking at the goods they’re selling, then the sellers will get pushy and will try to keep you there as long as possible. If you want to buy something, be prepared to haggle and have a price in mind that you’re willing to pay. Be firm and if you can’t strike a deal, just walk away.
Hiring a Guide is the Way to Go
Hiring a guide will help to keep your trip stress-free. You can book plenty of day trips on Viator and Get Your Guide and you’ll usually have the option to pay for add-ons like camel rides and entrance fees up-front so it’s already included in the price of your tour. I love booking through these two companies because you can use a credit card and pay online in your home currency.
Visiting the major tourist attractions with a guide will mean that the sellers and scammers will usually leave you alone. Scams usually involve things like overcharging you for things or telling you that the entrance is closed and you need to go a different way.
If you arrive with a guide they just don’t bother approaching you. Plus, your guide will also be able to help you take amazing photos!
One thing worth noting though is that experiences with tour guides can really vary. Some are patient and full of information, while others will rush you and not go into much detail. I wasn’t really happy with my guide in Cairo because he was just really impatient, always walked far ahead of me and seemed to have his thumb over the camera whenever he took a photo of me.
On the flip side I absolutely loved the guide who showed me around Abu Simbel. She was so patient, took great photos and explained everything in a really engaging way.
It’s really a mixed bag so if you find one that comes highly recommended, then go with them!
Don’t Worry About Having Blonde Hair
When I told people I was going to Egypt a lot of them warned me that I’d attract a lot of extra attention with my blonde hair. I didn’t find this to be the case at all. The locals didn’t really bat an eyelid and there are so many tourists in Egypt that I think they’re pretty used to seeing women with blonde hair. So don’t feel nervous because of your hair color!
Uber is Cheap and Safe for Solo Females
While you’re in Cairo I would highly recommend getting around by Uber. It’s ridiculously cheap (most rides seemed to be around $1-$3 USD) and I always felt safe because the ride is tracked in the app. Plus, you can even share your location with a friend so they can track you for safety! Uber is much easier than hailing taxis and negotiating fares, plus it charges your card so you don’t have to worry about having cash.
When you arrive at the airport in Cairo, you can book transportation through your hotel or use Cairo Shuttle Bus, which has its own office inside the airport arrivals hall.
Crossing the Street, However, is a Bit of a Death Wish
When I got to Cairo one thing I wasn’t prepared for was the chaos of the traffic. There aren’t really proper crossings and lights so you just sort of have to walk into oncoming traffic and hope for the best. It was the same in Ho Chi Minh City too, except in Cairo I just felt like the vehicles weren’t going to stop! All I can say is; try to walk with other people so that you have someone to follow!
Egyptians Are Kind and Friendly
On the whole I found the Egyptian people to be warm, welcoming and friendly. When I lost my wallet the hostel worker gave me a ride on his moped to the police station. The following day, my guide bought me food to cheer me up and helped me get to the embassy.
When I froze in terror trying to cross the street in Cairo, an elderly gentleman helped me cross. In the Nubian village, the locals had learnt British phrases like “lovely jubbly” so they can at least make you laugh when they’re trying to sell you something.
Wherever I stayed I found that the staff gave me a warm welcome and were really helpful. So in general I found Egypt to be a great place for traveling solo.
Consider Hotels, They’re Cheap!
Hotels in Egypt are pretty inexpensive and in Luxor you can get a 5-star hotel for less than $60 a night.
While I sometimes recommend staying in hostels to meet people (especially in expensive cities), I’d suggest booking hotels in Egypt and then perhaps booking the odd shared tour to meet other travelers.
I stayed in a hostel in Cairo and although it was nice to meet people, I realized at 35 I just really can’t do hostels any more. I need my privacy and I like my comforts. I don’t want to be tiptoeing into the room with a flashlight to avoid waking other people up and I don’t want to freeze my butt off because someone turned the AC down!
After Cairo I spent the rest of my trip in hotels and it was so much more relaxing.
If you’re young and down for budget travel then by all means, try a hostel, but the hotels in Egypt are so affordable that it’s worth booking your own room. Egypt is chaotic as it is, so it’s nice to have a quiet, comfortable room to come back to.
You Can Totally Do a DIY Trip
So as I mentioned previously, I initially planned to just book nice hotels and day tours online. But as I started to plan my itinerary I got a little bit overwhelmed and was worried about my safety. I looked at shared tours with companies like Intrepid Travel and G Adventures but they only departed on specific dates and were too long, plus they were kind of expensive.
The company I eventually found creates custom itineraries/tours; you just tell them your approximate budget and what you want to do and they’ll try to work something out. Once you’ve agreed on the itinerary they add you to a Whatsapp group so you can ask questions and discuss arrangements with your guides. If there are any issues you can just message the Whatsapp group and they’ll take care of it, which is nice.
If you’re the type of person who doesn’t want to deal with logistics and you’d rather have someone just take care of things from start to finish then it may totally be for you. The owner is really cool, fun and awesome and the tours are really popular with young people who want to have fun. If you’re interested, you can message me using the contact page to find out more.
In all honesty though, I would have preferred to organize everything myself and it wasn’t for me.
I had originally priced everything up with domestic flights, nice hotels, taxis and day trips and had a rough idea of what that would cost. When I gave them my budget, they wanted to put me in budget accommodation (hence the hostel in Cairo) and included various trips as “optional extras” so in reality it came to a few hundred dollars more than what it would’ve done to book it all on my own.
In the end I went along with it because it was so last minute but ended up doing a sort of hybrid trip where I booked some of my own accommodation using Booking.com credits and did the tours and pick-ups/drop-offs through them.
I realize that companies have to make a profit on their tours and you’re paying for convenience but I felt that Egypt is actually safe enough to just do a DIY trip. So if you’re traveling solo to Egypt as a woman, don’t feel like you have to do an organized tour.
What to Wear in Egypt as a Woman
Egypt is a predominantly Muslim country so you’ll need to dress appropriately. Definitely pack lots of long dresses or loose pants so that your knees and legs are covered. Leave the booty shorts and the mini skirts at home for sure. This is not the place for those.
While you do need to dress conservatively in Egypt, it’s not quite as conservative as I thought. When visiting places like the pyramids or Abu Simbel there were quite a few tourists with their shoulders exposed so I felt comfortable just wearing my long dress without a jacket.
It gets very, very hot in Egypt so it just got to a point where the jacket felt too hot. However, if you visit places like mosques and religious sites, you’ll need to have your arms and perhaps even your head covered. For that reason I’d suggest bringing a pashmina and a light jacket or cardigan.
At the hotel pools you can wear a bikini, just make sure you don’t walk around the hotel grounds in your swimwear. Cover up once you leave the pool.
Is Egypt Safe for Solo Female Travelers?
In the past there have definitely been some safety concerns in Egypt, but these days things are a lot safer.
A Final Word…
I’m speaking from my own personal experience here but obviously everyone’s experience is different. From the various accounts online, there clearly have been women who’ve had issues with things like sexual harrassment. That’s just not what I experienced. I felt quite safe in Egypt and in many ways, safer than I do when I’m riding the NYC subway sometimes.
Obviously make sure you are respectful of the culture by dressing appropriately. Make sure you pack plenty of long dresses or loose pants to cover your knees and cover your shoulders if you go inside mosques etc.
But aside from that, it’s not much different to visiting any other country. If you haven’t done much traveling then perhaps you’d find Egypt to be a bit of a culture shock but if you’ve visited other countries in the Middle East or Southeast Asia you probably won’t find it that intense.
I walked around some of the busy streets in Cairo at night on my own and didn’t experience any issues. I also did the same in Aswan and went to dinner in a local restaurant on my own. Don’t feel like you have to only stick to the hotel restaurants.
Egypt is an amazing country with a unique history, so I definitely urge you to see it for yourself! The sheer size of the temples left me awestruck and the River Nile is magical. I’ll never forget the feeling of standing between the columns at Karnak Temple or gazing up at the statues outside Abu Simbel. I thought I would only visit Egypt once in my life but I’d definitely go back to see Siwa Oasis and the Red Sea.
With so many incredible attractions, Egypt attracts many tourists from all over the world. When I got there I couldn’t believe I’d been so apprehensive and I’m very glad I didn’t skip it. I hope you feel the same!