My Experience Traveling to Egypt as a Woman
Five questions I asked myself before visiting Egypt, and five things I learned while traveling there solo.
by Emma Topp
“Egypt outfit ideas. What to pack for Egypt. Do I have to have my shoulders covered in Egypt? Modest Outfit Ideas. Do I have to have my head covered in Egypt? Female solo traveler Egypt. Egypt OOTD’s. Is Egypt actually safe to visit as a woman?”
These searches littered my web browser for the weeks leading up to my trip. Packing advice ranged from “Wear whatever!” to “It’s customary to respect the culture and adhere to modest outfits.” I wasn’t sure which advice was over-cautious, ignorant, or the truth. Here are five questions I asked myself before visiting Egypt solo.
Is it safe to go alone?
There’s always a risk when you’re out anywhere in the world completely and utterly alone. I always advocate for traveling “solo” in a group, which can completely transform your experience. Traveling in a group allows you the freedom of choosing where to branch off, and where to regroup depending on personal preference and comfort level. I extra appreciated the group dynamic in Egypt, not because I ever felt unsafe, but because the massive amounts of information that you’re processing as you experience ancient temples and thousand-year-old sculptures lead to runaway conversations and unhinged conspiracies. Sure, you can text your mom about the theory that the Pyramids were built by aliens, but it’s way better to freak out about it over dinner with new friends.
Do I have to cover up?
The most surprising thing I learned during the entire tour was it doesn’t really matter what you wear. Modesty is a preference for locals, based on religion and culture, but your level of coverage is entirely up to you. The exception is mosques, which require shoulders, knees, and hair to be covered. Pro tip: always keep a scarf handy. Now, I’m not saying throw on a tube top and flick up in front of the Sphinx…but you honestly probably could. Personally, I’d recommend loose, flowy pants or skirts, and a shirt paired with a scarf. It doesn’t hurt to be extra respectful, and with sun exposure, you’ll want a layer of protection, anyway.
Do I really need a tour guide?
As a champion advocate for “I can just walk around with this podcast I found online”—you need a tour guide. Better yet, a Tour Director. Out of all the trips I’ve taken in my life, I have never felt such appreciation and admiration for our Tour Director as on this one. To be so incredibly passionate about history, and to capture the attention of an audience with true storytelling, our TD sparked something in my entire group. To rediscover a passion for learning is an indescribable feeling. To become a tour guide in Egypt, you must first become an Egyptologist, and to become an Egyptologist, you must pass six years of schooling. These guides are dedicated above all else and will transform your experience. They also know allllll the best spots for non-crowded Pyramid photos, excellent coffee, and somehow, exactly when to reapply sunscreen.
What about the whole bathroom sitch?
One of the scariest things about visiting a new place? The horror of an unknown bathroom. I came prepped, simply because you. never. know. My mom has been to Egypt before and told me to pack toilet paper—and I was scared—but I was honestly impressed with the sanitary infrastructure. Everything was equipped with stalls, sinks, toilets, and paper. But I also can’t speak for every single bathroom in Egypt. As a woman, I’d come prepared for any week of the month, juuust in case, as there’s not exactly a CVS you can run into. If you’re an extreme planner, consider a roll of toilet paper or some wipes. It never hurts to be over-prepared.
Can I just call an Uber?
Well…technically you could. But after one glance at the 16 lanes, yet 16 nonexistent lanes on the highway, you’ll think twice about getting into a random car. Traffic in Egypt is like trying to merge left, right, forward, and backward all at once. Transportation is half of the stress in a new location due to timing and safety, so having a bus or van always ready for you instantly eliminates a huge chunk of anxiety. The sheer number of transfers we took throughout the trip was wild—two boats, a van, two buses, then a plane, all in one day. There’s just no way to achieve that level of efficiency on your own. The buses also almost always had bottles of water, and nothing hits harder than a well-hydrated, that-fact-just-blew-my-mind, back-of-the-bus nap.
As someone who has a hard time recruiting a group trip to Florida, Egypt seemed wildly out of the picture.
And as someone who prides themself on being a female solo traveler, Egypt somehow still seemed out of the picture.
Yet as someone who read the Red Pyramid novels growing up, Egypt was a place I needed to be in the picture.
EF Ultimate Break introduces the unique opportunity to travel solo, but never alone. Could I have visited Egypt alone as a woman? Sure. Would I have left with the friends, the sheer knowledge, and the shared experiences that I collected? Not at all. As women, we have to toe the line between being curious and being cautious. When we create a space where caution can become confidence, and curiosity has the freedom to be explored, the entire game changes. So, watch The Mummy, pack your best linen pants, grab a scarf (or six), and book that trip to Egypt.
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