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Karnak Temple, Luxor, Egypt     Photo: EvilJohnius/Flickr

Q:

Is backpacking in Egypt safe?

I’m thinking of backpacking through Egypt. Is it safe there?

A:It depends on how you define “safe.” The safety conditions in Egypt today are pretty much no different than they were before the Arab Spring. Meaning, the drivers are still as crazy as ever, you’ll still get hassled by street vendors and hustlers, and police are still everywhere.

Jim Berkeley, owner of California-based tour operator Destinations & Adventures International, just returned from two weeks of leading travelers throughout Egypt. “There’s no reason not to go to Egypt,” he says. “Not once did I ever feel there was an issue with security. As you might expect, the tourism industry is decimated right now. Egyptians are a lovely and welcoming people anyway, and they’re more so now.”

Philadelphia-based Friendly Planet Travel just resumed its tours in Egypt. “Egypt has a very experienced and professional special tourist police that is on guard to protect tourists wherever they are in the country. They are even more vigilant now than they have been in the past, trying to regain confidence for the destination,” says company president Peggy Goldman. 

So why go now? The absence of the normal throngs of tourists is creating opportunities for frugal travelers. Berkeley says that the low-season rates at most hotels and Nile cruises usually expire at the end of September; this year, however, they will likely be extended beyond the end of December. The famous never-ending lines at the country’s top attractions are nonexistent right now, too.

Of course, conditions can change in an instant: parliamentary, presidential, and constitutional elections will be held this fall, and bear watching. But potential instability is an inherent risk in any developing country, from Thailand to Venezuela. The greatest threats in Egypt come from being caught in the middle of spontaneous protests, even peaceful ones. So be alert when visiting the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square in Cairo, and avoid the Israeli embassy in the Giza district, given the unrest there. The Nile destinations of Luxor and Aswan, and the Red Sea resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh are among the calmest places in the country.

While you’re there:
Head to Egypt, and you'll inevitably find our way to the old fishing village of Dahab, about 90 minutes north of Sharm el Sheikh on the Sinai Peninsula. Dahab is the country’s top trekking, windsurfing, and diving destination (it's the jumping-off point for the impossibly deep, narrow, and dangerous Blue Hole). Rooms at Dahab Paradise (dahabparadise.com) start at less than $50 a night—which, given its style and service, is a steal.

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