How to travel safely in North Africa

North Africa is a melting pot of sensory experiences. The colours, the sounds, the heat, the history, the achingly beautiful landscapes. In its vast, wide reaching capacity, North Africa is amongst the most sensual travel experiences and now’s the perfect time to go.

That said, parts of it are contentious when it comes to safety, so being informed is the key to having the best experience. Here’s a quick guide to travelling safely on your next holiday in North Africa:

Travel safely in Egypt

Guaranteed heat and beaches breaks are part of what makes Egypt a tourist hotspot. However, there are some travel warnings from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). Most of them are region dependent and resorts are always warm, welcoming and keen to keep tourism alive. There are also some basic health rules to keep in mind.  So here’s the advice:

Guaranteed heat and beaches breaks are part of what makes Egypt a tourist hotspot. However, there are some travel warnings from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). Most of them are region dependent and resorts are always warm, welcoming and keen to keep tourism alive. There are also some basic health rules to keep in mind.  So here’s the advice:

While you might be an adventurer looking to travel the road less travelled, it’s best to stick to popular travel spots. Cairo, Alexandria and tourist areas along the Nile and the Red Sea are largely considered ok.

  • Don’t make political statements in person or on social media.
  • Avoid being the last passenger on a bus and don’t travel alone in taxis.
  • Avoid eating uncooked food including raw fruit and veg.
  • If you see a red flag in the sea, don’t swim. It’s a shark warning.

Travel safely in Morocco

While there have been some terrorism warnings in Morocco, this beautiful part of the world is essentially considered to be safe, as long as you use a bit of common sense:

  • Hustling is a nuisance in Morocco so be aware of unofficial tour guides and set a price and expectations of what’s included at the start of a tour.
  • Hassling is the other problem. Everyone will want to sell you something and they can be quite persistent. Take a ‘thanks but no thanks’ approach, be firm, try to appear confident and if they’re being too persistent take cover in a cafe or restaurant.
  • It’s easy to lose your way, especially in the medinas. If you feel like you’re getting lost, stick to the main streets. The country is still renaming a lot of them, so asking directions will likely give you three different names for the same place.
  • Keep a business card from your hotel on you when you go out. If you do get lost, try to find a corner shop where you can present it and ask for help.
  • In Marrakech, as in most cities, petty crime is prevalent. Keep valuables to a minimum when you go out and don’t go flashing your Rolex or anything.
  • Be careful getting money out of ATMs and wear a money belt under your clothes instead of carrying a purse or wallet.
  • Leaving anything in a car is asking for trouble.
  • Don't walk alone at night and keep to well-lit, busy areas.
  • Be respectful of the culture - keep arms and legs covered unless you’re within the confines of a resort.

Travel safely in Sudan

Sudan is not a holiday destination that you often hear about, but people who visit passionately talk about the warm and welcoming hospitality. Lonely Planet says that while there are no go areas, Sudan is actually considered one of the safest travel destinations in Africa.

  • Watch out for scorpions in the desert. They’re not generally life threatening but their bites are painful.
  • Avoid the Nuba Mountains, Darfur and the borderlands with South Sudan.
  • Crime is minimal but keep an eye on your wallet in crowds.
  • Keep car doors locked when travelling.
  • If you do encounter demonstrations anywhere then move away from them as soon as possible.

Travel safely in Tunisia

Tunisia is expected to reclaim its status as a travel hotspot this summer after the 2015 terrorist attack in Sousse. The FCO lifted its travel ban last year and measures have been made to improve security.  So we’re all flocking to the beaches once again and advice is pretty broad:

  • Avoid the Chaambi Mountains National Park, military operations zones, Ben Guerdane and anywhere near the Libyan border.
  • Be aware of theft in city centres, at festivals or religious sites.
  • Be discreet about using your phone outside resorts.
  • If you use taxis then insist that the driver uses their metre or sets a fixed fee before driving off.  If they won’t, then find another one.

With so much to be seen and enjoyed in these amazing locations it would be a real shame for them to go unvisited. That said, while this time of year is ideal for travel to North Africa, parts of it do have their concerns, so make sure you check out the latest FCO advice before you book.