Home » What it’s really like to visit Egypt as a solo female traveller

What it’s really like to visit Egypt as a solo female traveller

written by Sarah Reid June 16, 2017
Author at the Pyramids in Cairo

Having traversed nearly 100 countries, many of them alone, I like to think I’m a pretty fearless traveller. But I won’t deny I was a little apprehensive about travelling to Egypt on my own – the ongoing threat of terrorism in the region combined with Egypt’s political instability and reputation for sexual harassment doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in a lone female traveller.

But, Egypt! With its awe-inspiring ancient relics and endless opportunities for adventure and cultural immersion, it’s the ultimate travel destination. And with visitor arrivals so low at the moment, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to explore the sights without the crowds.

So, off I went! Here’s my advice for other solo ladies considering a trip.

Come prepared…for Egypt to challenge your perceptions

I was blown away by how incredibly welcomed I felt in Egypt – indeed, the first word most locals learn in English is “welcome,” which you can expect to hear often. Travelling alone as a woman, however, is an unfathomable concept to most Egyptians, so you can expect to receive more attention than most women will be used to dealing with in their own country.

While some of this attention will be unwelcome, most of it will be the opposite – as a lone female you’re more likely to be befriended by Egypt’s naturally hospitable locals, and you’ll miss out on some memorable moments if you’re too scared to speak to them or indulge requests for selfies.

Consider taking a tour

Luxor Temple in Cairo

Luxor Temple is exquisite at night.

I’ve met plenty of women who have travelled to Egypt independently and had a good time, but I felt more comfortable signing up for a small group tour taking in Cairo, Aswan and Luxor for the first part of my trip, then staying on for a few days in Luxor, and then in Cairo, on my own. This allowed me to ease into the destination in the comfort of a group before tackling it on my own.

READ MORE: WHY A GROUP TOUR IN THE MIDDLE EAST WAS THE RIGHT DECISION FOR ME

I’d feel comfortable returning solo, but some women might find travelling here independently for the first time a little challenging, due to…

The hassle factor

Google ‘Egyptian men’, and you’ll find plenty of online stories from women about their negative experiences with local men. And while sexual harassment and catcalls (ranging from “hello, my future wife!” to more sleazy lines) are unfortunately common, as they are in many countries, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a far lower volume of unwanted attention than I expected.

The most daring line used in an effort to lure me into a Luxor souvenir shop was “show me your beautiful eyes” (I kept walking). As a tall, blonde, decidedly un-Egyptian-looking woman, I was bracing for more hassle in Cairo. To the contrary –  aside from a few curious stares, I didn’t have any problems exploring the downtown area, where I stayed on my own. The streets buzzed with families into the wee hours, and I loved soaking up the atmosphere – and posing for a few family photos – as I strolled between kushari (the national dish) restaurants, museums and galleries.

Local Egyptian specialty kushari

Don’t leave Cairo without eating at one of its famous kushari restaurants.

READ MORE: WHAT TRAVELLING THE WORLD SOLO HAS TAUGHT ME ABOUT LIFE

Getting around

I hired a driver in Luxor for an afternoon to explore the sights of the west bank that weren’t included in my tour (don’t miss Nefertari’s tomb!), which was well worth the E£250 (about US$20) to avoid the hassle of negotiating with taxi drivers at each stop, and I recommend this option to other solos who aren’t keen to fork out for expensive organised day trips.

I also signed up for several excellent Urban Adventures in Cairo, and I don’t feel like I could have explored Egypt’s cosmopolitan capital in anywhere near as much depth, or as easily or comfortably, if I’d opted to go it alone.

Street art in Cairo

The street art of downtown Cairo hints at the city’s troubled past.

As for travelling between tourist areas, solo women may find it more comfortable to fly, which costs about the same as first-class train tickets (the safest option).

CAIRO VS ALEXANDRIA: A GUIDE TO EGYPT’S TWO LARGEST CITIES

Tips for solo women travellers to Egypt

  • Dress appropriately. While baring your shoulders and knees doesn’t imply a woman is ‘asking’ for anything, it can be interpreted as such by some men. Covering up (a long skirt or pants and a t-shirt is fine, though a long-sleeved shirt is ideal) also conveys your respect for Egyptian culture. Keep a scarf handy for visiting mosques.
  • Always sit in the back seat of taxis, and stay alert, as there have been reports of assaults. Arrange drivers and taxis through your hotel where possible, or use Uber, which many local women say is safer.
  • Even friendly conversation can sometimes be interpreted as flirting; avoid engaging if you don’t feel comfortable, even if it feels impolite. Likewise, politely decline selfie requests if you’re not comfortable.
  • Do not accept invitations from friendly strangers to show you around or take you for a meal unless you feel 100% safe. Most have good intentions, but some don’t.
  • If you’re using Cairo’s metro, seek out the women’s carriages. I felt comfortable travelling in mixed carriages with a guide, but there have been reports of groping.
  • Resist the ‘assistance’ of staff or unregistered guides at tourist sights. All will expect a tip, and some may try for more.
Egyptian mosque

Egypt is not all about ancient relics. It’s also home to some spectacular mosques.

  • Do not eat, drink (even water) or smoke in public during Ramadan, which is considered impolite (and sometimes an offence).
  • Egypt has been brewing beer for 3000 years and drinking is not taboo (even for some Muslims), but you will attract attention if you go to a public bar on your own.
  • Trust your instincts. If you enter a hotel, restaurant or cab and get a leery vibe, don’t brush it off. Get out of there.
  • Wearing a wedding ring and/or inventing a husband (and children) may help you to avoid unwanted attention.
  • Bring your own sanitary products; tampons can be expensive and difficult to find in Egypt.

Whether you’re travelling solo or with friends, Intrepid’s range of small group trips in Egypt are a fantastic way to see the country. 

All images c/o Sarah Reid. 

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15 comments

Kirsten August 14, 2018 - 5:28 am

Hi Sarah,

Do you have any recommendations for private drivers in Luxor (or elsewhere)? I’m planning on travelling solo to Egypt later this year; this article was helpful! Also, for group tours, is it possible to join an existing group as a solo traveller? I haven’t found the right info on this yet.

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Rebecca Shapiro August 18, 2018 - 5:24 am

Hey Kirsten, just piping up to say that over 50% of travellers on Intrepid trips are solo travellers! We have trips just for solo travellers (https://www.intrepidtravel.com/about/solo-travel) but all our Egypt tours tend to have plenty of solo travellers on (https://www.intrepidtravel.com/egypt).

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Bryanna August 13, 2019 - 2:55 pm

What dates are you going from?

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Janet July 12, 2018 - 4:45 am

Thanks for all your advice. It really helped me plan my trip!

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Tania April 6, 2018 - 8:50 am

Awesome text. Awesome Help! Thank you so much. I’m planning my trip for this final days of April. I have Cairo in my mind for more than 20 years, and I’ve traveled a lot and never to Egipt! Now is the time. I’m going to documental photography, do you think it’s risky?

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Becky January 28, 2018 - 10:09 am

I waz in Egypt as a single woman on a small group tour – 5 of us in September. I had the most incredible and safe journey. Would highly recommend it to anyone.

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Bolbol January 28, 2018 - 8:09 am

Sometimes people could be scared or think about Egypt as not a safe country. Egypt from along time ago is distinguished for its variety. Few tips you can follow and then a have great time without to be bothered by anyone or make your holiday be spoiled. one of them to read enough before going about their culture and how to respect their rules whatever they are. Second having a strong personality could avoid you from getting involved in side arguments which could affect your mood. By this way you will be able to get unforgettable experience, enjoy the kindness of Egyptians & explore the magic of Egypt.

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Tanya January 27, 2018 - 4:14 pm

I also was a single female traveller to Egypt and my experience was very similar to yours
I too did a small group tour used local guides in Cairo and went out with fellow travellers that i met along the way. A country not to be missed.

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Jaime March 3, 2019 - 12:54 pm

I had a friend lined up to go and my husband didn’t want me to go with another male friend, nor does he want to go to Egypt. I’m afraid to travel here as a single female, And although guided tours are a little pricey, I think I’ll feel safer that way. I also want to cross over to Israel so I think I’ll feel safer with a tour during that. Did you only book tours once you arrived there?

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Tanya January 15, 2018 - 12:05 am

Sarah,
I was so happy to read this post! We just signed up for a group trip to Egypt for the summer of 2018 and I was super nervous. You have totally put me at ease! Thank you!

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Anna August 16, 2017 - 11:40 pm

I was in Cairo as a solo female traveller in May and I have to say I felt safe the whole time. The locals are super friendly and at no time did I feel disrespected. I will definitely go back.n

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Caroline Middlebrook August 16, 2017 - 7:00 pm

I could have done with this post 4 years ago! Back then I didn’t even read travel blogs, but I went to Egypt on my own (first time traveling to a foreign country solo) because my partner couldn’t afford to come with me. I was really disturbed by the male attention I got! In the UK, I’m tomboyish and I never get attention from men. I was not expecting it and didn’t know how to handle it. Saying that, the fact that the Scuba instructor rather liked me turned out very handy as he took me out to waters that would have been too dangerous to go to on my own and in the end I had a fabulous time!

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Suzanne July 2, 2017 - 3:23 am

I was there 15 years ago with a group and I felt safe then. Glad to hear there are some brave and adventurous women out there willing to travel to Egypt at this tumultuous time. Loved the article. Thank you.

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Jaime March 3, 2019 - 12:52 pm

Did you find a group to go with? Do you feel guided tours would be a safe option?

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rick be June 16, 2017 - 10:58 pm

Very good advice,as pertinent today as it was when I was there 25 years ago.Especially small group tours to acclimate before doing a little more on your own.I stayed in hostels with four female friends,the ‘Gypts called me Rambo & just ogled my friends. Kushari & Fuul was a daily meal,what a deal,cost less than a quarter each.

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