Bustling Cairo is a city that captures the imagination. Pyramids that are thousands of years old rise out of the city chaos, next to modern skyscrapers. Warrens of medieval streets lead people to lively souks.
Many people come to Cairo to explore the archeological legacy of Ancient Egypt and to learn more about Egypt’s more recent history. Others love the feeling of the modern metropolis, which is one of the biggest cities on the African continent.
Most visitor guides to Cairo advise that the city is beautiful, but that it is overwhelming for many first-time visitors. You might also be wondering if it is safe.
But don’t worry — our travel experts have done the hard work for you. We’ll show you whether or not Cairo is safe, common safety concerns and how to avoid them, and more. Let us be your guide!
Is Cairo Safe to Visit?
If you’re visiting Cairo, you’ll want to be on higher alert than you normally would at home. Tourists in this large city are at high risk for theft and scams, especially in busy tourist attractions.
Many governments also advise caution in case of terrorism, political demonstrations, and sexual harassment. That being said, if you take the right precautions, you will still have a great time in Cairo.
It’s difficult to talk about the security situation in Cairo without talking about Egypt as a whole, as the situation in the country obviously affects what goes on in the capital.
The United States has a “Level 3: Reconsider Travel” advisory in place for Cairo. It warns tourists against dangers such as terrorism, civil unrest, and government repression. That being said, Cairo is one of the safer places to visit.
When governments issue regional advisories for parts of Egypt where you shouldn’t travel, they include the more remote regions such as North Sinai and the Western Desert, not Cairo.
Nobody can predict with certainty where events such as terrorist attacks will occur, and they have happened in Cairo in the past.
Cairo is one of the places that is safest from terrorism due to the high security presence around town, including a dedicated Tourism Police force whose only job is to protect foreigners. However, Cairo has some other things you should watch out for.
Many political demonstrations and protests occur in the capital, often unauthorized. The Egyptian government is very strict about unauthorized demonstrations and has come under attack for infringing on people’s civil liberties.
If you’re caught nearby, your embassy might not be able to help you. These are all extreme examples of what could happen in Cairo. Most visitors to Cairo are most endangered by petty theft and scams.
The city has many popular tourist sites which get crowded, creating excellent conditions for pickpockets. Scams targeting tourists, from gold scams to fake tour guides, are also very popular. Female visitors are at a higher risk than male visitors.
Egypt is a very patriarchal society, which is reflected in the high levels of catcalling and street harassment. Most incidents stay at this level, which is uncomfortable but not dangerous, but sexual assault against visitors has occurred.
To recap, here are the primary threats that concern tourists when they visit Cairo:
- Hotel break-ins
- Sexual harassment and assault
- Civil unrest
We’ll go into detail about the most important of these threats in the rest of the article.
Crime in Cairo
English-language crime statistics for Cairo are not always the easiest to find. However, the ones we could find are optimistic. For such a big city, Cairo has a pretty low violent crime rate.
The yearly gun death rate in Cairo is 33 incidents per 100,000 people. This matches up with the overall violent crime rate for Egypt, which is only 2.55 incidents per 100,000 people. Crime statistics do not paint a complete picture of the risk of violence in Cairo.
For one, these statistics don’t include state violence, such as dispersing protests with weapons and imprisoning dissidents, something that has become more common in Egypt in later years.
Most homicide and violent crime rates don’t include mass casualty events such as terrorist attacks, which do happen in Cairo. Outside of violent crime, the crime statistics for Cairo are a little less optimistic.
According to an informal survey of Cairo residents by the site Numbeo, 50.36% of residents worry about being mugged or robbed. Petty theft and scams are common, and it is hard to get an accurate count of how often these incidents occur as people don’t always report them.
Another crime that is even harder to provide accurate statistics for is sexual harassment and assault. Anecdotal evidence shows that women face a lot of harassment while walking in Cairo.
But official statistics underreport the problem, both because women are ashamed to report the situation and because Egyptian officials take sexual harassment and assault less seriously than they should.
According to the international NGO RAINN, 90% of Egyptian women report experiencing sexual harassment. In some ways, tourists are both more exposed and more protected than locals.
Your foreign appearance will single you out for potential scammers, but tourists also get additional protection in the form of Tourism Police.
Most popular tourist sites in and around Cairo are under heavy security protection, which deters violent crime or terrorist attacks. Unless you are politically active or in a demonstration, you are more protected from any government overreach (unless you are a dual Egyptian citizen).
Basic precautions can help you protect yourself from petty theft and scams, the most common problems that visitors to Cairo encounter.
Petty Theft and Scams
The most common crime that visitors to Cairo will encounter is petty theft. This can come in a few different forms, including pickpocketing, bag snatching, and scams.
Pickpockets and bag snatchers are present in most of Cairo’s major tourist attractions, including the Pyramids at Giza. One of the most popular destinations for pickpockets is the Khan Al-Khalili Bazaar due to its crowds and confusing warren of streets that make pursuit difficult.
Whenever you are in a crowded place in Cairo, you are exposed to crimes of opportunity where someone can snatch your bag or pick your pocket.
Some thieves even carry around RFID-scanning devices to scan card information. Since these are crimes of opportunity, you can make sure that thieves realize you are not a good opportunity for theft.
Stay alert and keep your valuables in a secure travel bag or in your front pocket, somewhere where you can put your hand over them. Don’t flash a lot of money or cards.
Always leave some money in another pocket or in your sock so you can get back to your hotel if you do get robbed. A lot of people trying to take advantage of tourists in Cairo aim for the indirect route.
The city is rife with scammers looking to take advantage of tourists. You’ll see a lot of them at tourist sites such as the Pyramids at Giza. People will come up to you offering to be your tour guide or some other service.
The best way to minimize the harassment, especially if you are traveling alone, is to book your own reputable tour guide ahead of time.
Then people usually back off. Another common scam in Cairo is the gold scam. Egypt is famous for the quality and affordability of its gold, making it a popular souvenir for tourists.
Unsavory sellers take advantage of this by selling people overvalued gold or gold that isn’t as pure as it is advertised.
To avoid being scammed, never go gold shopping with your tour guide as they will guide you to a place where they get commission, not necessarily the best one in town. Check the price of gold ahead of time and look for reputable sellers.
Another crime people often worry about when visiting Cairo is terrorism. Egypt is in a dangerous neighborhood, and parts of the country such as the Sinai Peninsula and Libyan border are home to terrorist groups.
This violence sometimes bleeds into the capital, Cairo, despite the enhanced security. The UK government warns its citizens to be careful in all of Egypt, including Cairo, due to the possibility of terrorist attacks.
Recent attacks targeted popular tourist destinations, such as the August 2019 attack in Cairo’s Manial district and the May 2019 attack on a tourist bus in the Cairo pyramids. Terrorist attacks are by definition random, so there’s not much that you can do to protect yourself.
You can choose your travel time wisely as terrorist groups operate more often during Ramadan, around Coptic Christmas as they often target the Coptic Christian minority, and during public holidays.
Keep a close eye on any local government advisories and make sure you follow any regulations. Avoid demonstrations, as they can attract terrorists or turn violent on their own.
Avoiding Bad Areas
You can also minimize your risk of being the victim of a crime in Cairo by avoiding bad areas. Haram near the pyramids is actually not that safe. It makes sense since pickpockets are attracted by nearby tourists and the potential of a quick buck.
Manial, a district in downtown Cairo, is another spot to avoid as previous visitors say that female travelers experience a lot of street harassment there. Cairo is also home to many slums. Some of the biggest ones are Ezbet El Haggana and Imbaba.
These places don’t have massively high crime rates, but the risk of pickpocketing will be higher — and your chances of appealing to an authority figure lower. Your tourist explorations probably won’t take you to those areas anyway.
Things to Consider
Here are a few things to keep in mind when visiting Cairo:
- Avoid all political demonstrations and discussions. The Egyptian government is cracking down on dissent and your home government may not be able to help you, especially if you are a dual citizen.
- Travelers should dress modestly to blend in and avoid attracting unwanted attention. Shorts are frowned upon for women and men. Opt for loose, long clothing outside of your hotel or resort.
- Be careful when exchanging money and only use accepted money exchange offices as you don’t want to get scammed or caught passing counterfeit bills.
- The most dangerous parts of Cairo might be the roads. Cairo drivers are notoriously ill-tempered and have a loose relationship with the rules, so cross the streets carefully and avoid driving in the city.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the most common questions other travelers to Cairo wanted to know:
Is Cairo safe to visit in 2023?
There’s definitely an elevated risk when visiting Cairo in 2023. Terrorist attacks are still happening, and political repression is tightening. However, if you stay alert, you can have a great time in Cairo.
What should I avoid in Cairo?
Following the rules of politeness will help you blend in better in Cairo. The locals here are fairly conservative, so dress modestly to avoid sticking out. Avoid talking about politics as you don’t know what opinions might get your local colleagues in trouble.
Is it safe to visit the pyramids in Cairo?
Yes, it is safe to visit the pyramids in Cairo. Just be ready for the higher concentration of scammers trying to sell you something. If you’re traveling alone, the best way to protect yourself is to book a tourist guide ahead of time.
Is it safe to walk around Cairo?
It is safe to walk around Cairo if you make sure your valuables are secure and out of sight. However, due to the traffic and sometimes dangerous drivers, walking around Cairo isn’t always the most pleasant way of getting around.
Is it safe to walk at night in Cairo?
Cairo is not much more dangerous at night than during the day — for men. Women feel nervous and get a lot of harassment when walking around at night. Even men feel more comfortable walking with at least one other person.
So, Is Cairo Safe to Visit in 2023?
Cairo can be challenging due to the crowds, traffic, and pickpockets. You will have to take additional precautions such as wearing a travel bag or traveling with a guide, but Cairo can be a great place to visit. So what are you waiting for — book your trip today!