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Is It Safe to Cruise the Nile River?

Sue Bryant
Carolina Pirola

Aug 23, 2023

Read time
5 min read

Egypt had a tough time throughout the Arab Spring uprising and in its wake. Tourism figures plummeted from 14.7 million in 2010 to around 5.4 million in 2016, bringing Nile River cruises almost to a standstill. Then came COVID-19, which brought the entire tourism industry to a halt. Now, visitor numbers to Egypt -- including Nile river cruisers -- are on the increase again.

Some seven million visitors came in the first half of 2023, and it is projected that an impressive 15 million will have visited by the end of the year. So, what's changed and is it safe to cruise the Nile River again?

Security Measures Before, During and After a Cruise on the Nile River

It's important to note that, as of July 13, 2023, The U.S. Department of State advises to "Reconsider travel to Egypt due to terrorism." Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade says "terror attacks could occur at any time," suggesting Australians "reconsider the need to travel" to Egypt. The U.K.'s Foreign Office gives the most popular stretch of the Nile, Abu Simbel and Cairo the OK to visit, with caveats.

You'll see high levels of security everywhere along the Nile, but this is reassuring rather than intrusive. Airport-style metal detector gates are positioned at the entrance to every attraction, hotel and cruise ship. Prepare for bag searches, too; it's best to travel light on day trips. You'll see guards standing around all the temples, too.

At the airports themselves, security is extremely tight, and you'll go through multiple X-rays and checks, including extra random checks at the boarding gate, so allow plenty of time and be patient.

Nile River Security and Newfound Optimism for Nile River Tourism

There's certainly a buzz on the Nile; you can really feel the optimism in the air. Ancient temples are being spruced up, souvenir vendors appear more relaxed and, once again, the banks of the river at Luxor are stacked four deep with riverboats. Now, in fact, is a good time to visit, security advice permitting.

The temples and historic sites are getting busy again but aren't under the same pressure currently as in years gone by, when you had to push through a sea of selfie sticks to get a good photograph.

New River Ships to Cruise the Nile River

While there are still a lot of older Nile cruise ships laid up, operators are investing at the top end with new confidence.

Viking River Cruises, for example, launched the 52-passenger Viking Ra in 2018, having stripped the ship down to its hull and rebuilt it as a high-end vessel.

More recently, the elegant Viking Osiris was launched in 2022 and specifically built to navigate the Nile while featuring spacious cabins, modern public spaces and excellent service. Viking Aton, sister-ship to Osiris, was launched in August 2023 as well.

Viking's new ships destined for the Nile River don't end there. Viking is set to release Viking Hathor in 2024, becoming the line's fifth Nile River ship, and Osiris' and Aton's sister-ship.

Sanctuary Retreats' luxurious Sanctuary Sun Boat IV underwent complete renovation in 2018. Its contemporary interiors have Art Deco elements, while teak floors throughout give public spaces a touch of elegance.

Uniworld debuted its S.S. Sphinx in 2021, which now sails alongside sister ship River Tosca. The new ship features decadent staterooms decorated with custom furniture made by Egyptian artisans, and a sleek top-deck pool with cabanas and padded loungers.

AmaWaterways released the 68-passenger AmaDahlia on the famous river in 2021, a ship specifically designed and built for Nile River sailing. Sister vessel AmaLilia is set to debut on the Nile in 2024 as well.

Avalon Waterways charters two ships on the Nile as well: MS Farah and MS Sonesta St. George.

New Investment in Tourism to Make Cruises on the Nile River Even More Enjoyable

The Egyptian government is investing in tourism infrastructure to woo visitors. Monuments and archaeological sites are being restored, and the Central Egyptian Bank is facilitating access to financing for hotel renovations.

The long-awaited Grand Egyptian Museum, a billion-dollar display of antiquities near the Pyramids of Giza, opened in 2023 after many delays. The museum is spectacular; it's five times the size of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo and documents 7,000 years of Egyptian history, with one exhibit showing the entire collection of 5,400 objects recovered from Tutankhamun's tomb.

Additionally, the government is developing new moorings along the banks outside of Aswan to avoid congestion. Everybody wins here; locals will be able to see the river again and passengers won't have to clamber across three other ships to get to their own.

Tips for Staying Safe while Cruising the Nile River in Egypt

Although visitor numbers are looking healthy again, travelers to Egypt should still heed the mass of safety advice; ultimately, it's up to you to decide whether to travel. If you do, avoid political gatherings, places of worship and large crowds. Always carry ID. Only visit the areas deemed safe; avoid the Sinai Peninsula, for example, or any land borders.

Road trips across the desert between the Red Sea beach resorts and Luxor will involve traveling in convoy and there will be military checkpoints. Road travel in general is discouraged by most international embassies in Egypt.

There are other threats, too. Be careful what you say on social media; strong criticism of Egypt and its government can lead to arrest. But having said all this, the vast majority of visits are trouble-free and the biggest issue facing tourists is stomach upsets.

Take the usual precautions if you decide to cruise the Nile River. No ice in drinks, unless you're absolutely certain of its provenance. Bottled water only. No salad, no unpeeled fruit and a great deal of hand-washing. Nobody wants their vacation ruined by "pharaoh's revenge."

Updated August 23, 2023
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