Britain is preparing to deploy aircraft carriers to the Red Sea as tensions continue to escalate with Yemeni Houthi rebels, sparking concern among British holidaymakers set to travel to Egypt’s Red Sea resorts.
This month, after a series of attacks on shipping vessels transiting through the Suez Canal, the UK and the US have launched airstrikes against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.
Regarding travel to Egypt, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) advises: “Military activity is currently underway in response to attempts by Houthi militants to prevent movement of international shipping in the Red Sea.
“While the area of activity is limited to the Red Sea and Yemen, there is a possibility that travel advice for nearby countries could change at short notice. You should continue to monitor travel advice and follow any relevant instructions from local authorities.”
As well as having a Red Sea coastline, Egypt also shares a border with Israel and Gaza, which remains a conflict zone following the events of October 7 2023, when Hamas launched a series of bloody incursions in Israeli territory, killing more than 1,000 and prompting a backlash from the Israeli Government.
With the above in mind, holidaymakers scheduled to fly to the popular Egyptian resorts of Sharm El-Sheikh and Hurghada, or indeed to the capital of Cairo, might be feeling nervous about travelling to the region. Here is everything you need to know about whether it is safe to visit Egypt, if flights have been disrupted, and your options if you wish to cancel your holiday.
Is it safe to visit Egypt?
Despite sharing a border with Israel and Gaza, and having a Red Sea coastline, Egypt is not directly involved in any of the regional conflicts in the Middle East.
Egypt’s border with Israel and Gaza sits on the eastern end of the Sinai Peninsula, and the FCDO warned against travel to the entire Egyptian border region of North Sinai before the events of October 7 2023.
Last year the FCDO updated its advice to read: “The FCDO advises against all but essential travel to the northern part of the Governorate of South Sinai, beyond the St Catherine-Nuweiba road, except for the coastal areas along the west and east of the peninsula.”
The FCDO also warns against all but essential travel to the Ismailiyah Governorate east of the Suez Canal, much of the Western Desert and the Hala’ib Triangle and Bir Tawil Trapezoid.
The Foreign Office says: “Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Egypt” and lists six recent attacks between 2018 and 2022 which were carried out in Cairo, the Minya Province and near the Suez Canal. The FCDO also warns about political protests, which have occurred more frequently since the outbreak of war in Israel and Gaza.
As for Yemen, the popular Red Sea resorts in Egypt are more than 1,000 miles away from the Houthi airfields that have been subject to the airstrikes by the UK and US militaries. By way of comparison, this is around the same distance as from England to Russia. Most of the Houthi attacks on shipping vessels have been in the southern part of the Red Sea, around the Bab al-Mandab Strait, although there have been a small number of incidents in the waters closer to Egypt and Jordan.
Crucially, for British holidaymakers, the FCDO lists Sharm El-Sheikh, Cairo and Hurghada as “green”, which means there is no advisory against travel to these areas.
Are flights still operating?
Airlines and tour operators continue to run flights into and out of Egypt. The typical flight path does not pass through Israeli airspace, but rather crosses over Italy and across the Mediterranean Sea. Likewise, flights from the UK will not fly over the conflict zone around Yemen.
What if I want to cancel my holiday?
If you have booked a package holiday and want to cancel your trip, contact your tour operator and they might offer flexibility with alternative dates. But be aware that, because the Foreign Office has not issued blanket advice against travel to Egypt, you will not be guaranteed a refund, nor will you be able to claim money back with your travel insurance company.
If you have booked flights and accommodation independently, and wish to cancel, contact your travel providers to see if you can rearrange plans. Note, however, that given the circumstances they will not be obliged to issue refunds.