The Middle East and North Africa is one of the world’s most volatile regions, however the mystery, history and culture of this diverse region is still a draw to many intrepid travellers. From the modern metropolises of Dubai to the untamed deserts of the Sinai peninsula, the region brings a wide variety of dangers that you should be aware of. If you (or someone you know) is travelling to the Middle East or North Africa and you would like comprehensive custom-made travel security advice or access to our advice and support telephone number, please get in touch!


Disclaimer

The information provided by How Safe Is My Trip Ltd (England & Wales registered company number 10953024) is intended to help you navigate a dangerous world, but is not intended to replace common sense or entirely remove the risks associated with travelling. Unforeseen circumstances are an inevitability with travel and as a result not everything can be planned for. While we endeavour to provide you with the most accurate and up-to-date information, we live in a rapidly changing world where not all risks can be predicted or mitigated against. By making use of the information provided to you by How Safe Is My Trip Ltd, you acknowledge that any dangers you are exposed to by travelling are faced at your own risk. The information provided by How Safe Is My Trip Ltd should not be considered a recommendation in favour of any particular destination. As an England & Wales registered company, interaction between How Safe Is My Trip Ltd, the general public, and clients will be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of the England & Wales and shall be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England & Wales.


How Dangerous is Terrorism in the Middle East and North Africa?

While the Middle East and North Africa is often synonymous with terrorism, the reality is much of this large and diverse region remains unaffected. The chances of being caught in an attack depends significantly on which countries you are visiting, and what sort of traveller you are. For the cautious traveller, there are simple steps you can take to better protect yourself and advice to follow in the event of being caught in a situation. Get in touch to find out if our travel safety and security advice is right for you.


How Safe is Travel to Algeria

Medium risk – Travel with caution

Political tensions remain high in Algeria, and the ailing health of President Bouteflika makes this situation increasingly problematic. Protests are common, and travellers should avoid all large gatherings as violence can break out with little notice. Crime is a problem across Algeria and ranges from petty theft in urban areas, through to carjacking and kidnap in remote desert areas.

Terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Islamic State affiliates have been highly active in Algeria in recent years. Terrorist groups in Algeria have a record of targeting foreigners in both attacks and kidnappings.

It should be noted that Algeria is a highly conservative country, and as such lone female travellers and tourists from the LGBT community should seek further advice prior to travel.


How Safe is Travel to Bahrain

Medium risk – Travel with caution

Bahrain has experienced frequent violent protests since the Arab Spring unrest of 2011. Travellers are advised to make note of scheduled protests and to avoid any large gatherings. Protests often involve the use of molotov cocktails, tear gas and road blocks, and as a result overland travel throughout Bahrain should be carefully planned during periods of unrest. Terrorism is also a notable risk in Bahrain, and although historically attacks have been focused against the security forces, foreign visitors may also find themselves targeted.

Crime can pose a problem in Bahrain, and typically involves theft, burglary or scams such as inflated taxi fares.

It should be noted that Bahrain is a somewhat conservative country, and as such lone female travellers and tourists from the LGBT community should seek further advice prior to travel.


How Safe is Travel to Egypt

High risk – Carefully consider necessity of travel

Despite a long history as a popular tourist destination, since 2011 a revolution followed by a military coup in quick succession have dramatically changed the threat landscape of Egypt. Protests are frequent in urban centres such as Cairo and Alexandria, and can often turn violent. Crime is also a common problem, and has dramatically increased in frequency as a result of the country’s economic problems. Armed robbery, sexual assault, and kidnappings have all been recorded against foreign visitors to Egypt in recent years.

The Sinai peninsula is particularly dangerous at present, due to the ongoing armed conflict between the Egyptian military and extremist militant groups. North Sinai is the most risky part of the peninsula, seeing attacks on a daily basis. While resort areas such as Sharm el Sheikh have heavy security, recent high-profile terror attacks have demonstrated that much of this is simply cosmetic.

Western Egypt is also a high risk area, with both a legacy landmine risk and heighten tensions along the Libyan border. A number of foreign tourists were killed in 2015 when their vehicle was engaged by the Egyptian military, having been mistakenly identified as either smugglers or militants.

Terrorism presents a high risk to foreign visitors to Egypt, in both urban and rural areas. The country sees almost daily attacks against both government and economic targets. Kidnaps are also known to have been conducted by terrorist groups, and foreigners have been specifically targeted.

It should be noted that Egypt is a somewhat conservative country, and as such lone female travellers and tourists from the LGBT community should seek further advice prior to travel.


How Safe is Travel to Gaza

High risk – Carefully consider necessity of travel

Protests are a common occurrence in the Gaza strip, and large gatherings should be avoided by travellers. Political tensions both internally, and with Israel and Egypt remain high, and as such travellers are strongly encouraged to avoid all border areas. Conflict with Israel can erupt into violence with little warning, and often involves aerial bombardment and ground battles.

Landmines and unexploded military ordinance also pose a risk in Gaza. It can be extremely dangerous to travel off of paved roads and to enter abandoned buildings in rural areas. Travellers heading to the Gaza strip should familiarise themselves with what explosives and landmines look like prior to their trip, and if in doubt should steer well clear of any unidentified objects. Terrorism also poses a risk in Gaza, and certain nationalities may find themselves specifically targeted by extremist groups.

It should be noted that the Gaza Strip is a conservative place, and as such lone female travellers and tourists from the LGBT community should seek further advice prior to travel.


How Safe is Travel to Iran

Medium risk – Travel with caution*

Iran can be a more welcoming place than many foreign visitors are likely to expect, however travel to Iran is not without risks. Petty crime can be a problem, with pick-pocketing and theft being particularly problematic for tourists. Muggings by taxi drivers are a known problem, and travellers should use a reputable car service. Scams involving fake police officers are also a risk.

Sistan and Baluchistan province should be avoided where possible due to the ongoing insurgency and the presence of armed drug-smuggling gangs. Terrorism is also an increasingly high risk across Iran, including within Tehran.

Iran is a somewhat conservative country, and as such lone female travellers and tourists from the LGBT community should seek further advice prior to travel.

*The risk levels of travel to Iran may vary depending on your nationality. If you are unsure of how safe travel to Iran is, get in touch.

How Safe is Travel to Iraq

Extreme risk – Do not travel

Despite having a rich history and some particularly beautiful regions, Iraq is one of the most dangerous countries in the World. Iraq is currently not recommended for travel due to ongoing armed conflict, terrorism, kidnap and violent crime risks. If you are required to travel to Iraq, you are advised to consider our specialist travel support services.


How Safe is Travel to Israel

Medium risk – Travel with caution

Israel is generally a relatively safe country, although periods of increased militant activity or armed conflict can change the risk level quickly and with little warning. Terrorism poses a more persistent threat in Israel, with several recent attacks having involved crude weapons such as knives and even vehicles.

Landmines and unexploded military ordinance also pose a risk in Israel. It can be extremely dangerous to travel off of paved roads and to enter abandoned buildings in rural areas. Travellers heading to rural areas should familiarise themselves with what explosives and landmines look like prior to their trip, and if in doubt should steer well clear of any unidentified objects.

Israel is considered to be an LGBT-friendly nation, although travellers should be mindful of public displays of affection in more conservative areas.


How Safe is Travel to Jordan

Medium risk – Travel with caution

Despite sharing borders with some of the world’s most volatile countries, Jordan is significantly less dangerous than its neighbours. Unfortunately this is changing somewhat as large refugee populations have moved into Jordan due to the conflict in Iraq and Syria, which has placed strains on the Jordanian economy and contributed to increasing crime rates. Typically crime in Jordan is non-violent in nature, and normally limited to pick-pocketing and bag-snatching. Political unrest is also a concern in Jordan, and protests should be avoided due to the risks posed to bystanders.

Travellers are strongly advised to avoid Jordan’s borders with Syria and Iraq due to the persistent risk of artillery, mortar and gunfire from the conflicts in those countries. Landmines and unexploded military ordinance also pose a risk in Joran, especially in border areas and around military facilities. Travellers heading to rural areas should familiarise themselves with what explosives and landmines look like prior to their trip, and if in doubt should steer well clear of any unidentified objects. Terrorism does pose a threat in Jordan, and terrorist groups have previously targeted foreigners in the country.

While Amman is known to have LGBT-friendly areas, travellers should be mindful of public displays of affection in other parts of Jordan, where norms may be more conservative.


How Safe is Travel to Kuwait

Low risk – Travel

Crime is rare in Kuwait, although petty crime such as pick-pocketing is not unheard of. Scams are somewhat more common, especially those involving fake police officers issuing questionable fines.

Landmines and unexploded military ordinance pose a risk in Kuwait. It can be extremely dangerous to travel off of paved roads in the desert, and off-road trips should only be conducted with a knowledgeable local guide. Travellers heading to rural areas should familiarise themselves with what explosives and landmines look like prior to their trip, and if in doubt should steer well clear of any unidentified objects.

Terrorism is a threat in Kuwait, and several high profile attacks have occurred in recent years. Kuwait is a somewhat conservative country, and as such travellers from the LGBT community should seek further advice prior to travel.


How Safe is Travel to Lebanon

Medium risk – Travel with caution

Lebanon has found itself in a more precarious situation in recent years, sharing a border with the ongoing conflict in Syria and experiencing repeated periods of heightened tension with Israel. Fighting regularly spills over from Syria into Lebanon, with forces from all sides regularly crossing the border, which should therefore be avoided where possible. Celebratory gunfire is a common occurrence in Lebanon, and travellers are urged to seek shelter should they hear gunfire nearby.

Crime is also a growing problem across the country as a result of the deteriorating economy. Armed robberies and kidnappings do occur, and can often target foreigners due to their perceived wealth. Terrorism is also a growing problem in Lebanon, and often specifically targets foreigners.

While Beirut is known to have an LGBT-friendly scene, travellers should be mindful that homosexuality remains illegal in Lebanon, and that the culture remains largely conservative.


How Safe is Travel to Libya

Extreme risk – Do not travel

Libya remains one of the most dangerous countries in the World, and is currently embroiled in multiple armed conflicts between rival government and militia groups. The country is currently not recommended for travel due to ongoing armed conflict, terrorism, kidnap and violent crime risks. If you are required to travel to Libya, you are advised to consider our specialist travel support services.


How Safe is Travel to Morocco

Low risk – Travel

Despite remaining relatively unaffected by the events of the Arab Spring in 2011, Morocco does experience frequent protests, which should be avoided where possible. Crime is a problem in Morocco, although this is typically in the form of petty crimes such as pick-pocketing and bag-snatching. The Jemna al Fna in Marrakesh is a particular hot-spot for petty crime. Muggings have also been reported in urban areas of the country, and travellers should be mindful of where they travel after dark. Scams are very common in tourist areas of Morocco, including inflated taxi fares, counterfeit note exchanges and confidence tricks.

Despite large numbers of foreign visitors, Morocco remains a highly conservative country, and as such lone female travellers and tourists from the LGBT community should seek further advice prior to travel. Female travellers in particular are likely to experience harassment in Morocco, and should understand the best strategies for avoiding this.

Landmines and unexploded military ordinance pose a risk in the Western Sahara region. It can be extremely dangerous to travel off of paved roads and to enter abandoned buildings in this area. Travellers heading to the Western Sahara region should familiarise themselves with what explosives and landmines look like prior to their trip, and if in doubt should steer well clear of any unidentified objects.

A number of terrorist plots have been disrupted in Morocco in recent years, however the risk of attacks remains high. Foreign tourists are particularly likely to be targeted, and should familiarise themselves with what to do in the event of an incident.


How Safe is Travel to Oman

Low risk – Travel

Oman remains one of the safest countries in the region, in part due to a general policy of political neutrality, professional security services and a popular government. Crime is generally limited to petty theft in Oman, and the Royal Oman Police are known as being reliable, helpful and capable.

Road safety is the most significant concern in Oman, and travellers should approach overland journeys with caution. Off-roading trips into the desert should make use of local guides and should not be treated casually.

While Oman is less conservative than many regional neighbours, it remains a very traditional nation and travellers should be mindful of public displays of affection and outward displays of sexuality.


How Safe is Travel to Qatar

Medium risk – Travel with caution

Until recently Qatar was considered to be a safe destination for travel, however a dramatic increase in tensions between Doha and the Gulf Cooperation Council have caused the threat level to be increased. Diplomatic tensions have led to Saudi Arabia and other neighbouring countries to close land borders with Qatar, and to restrict air and sea traffic to the country. This means that travel to Qatar will be significantly more difficult for the time being, and may impact flight transits through Doha’s Hamad International Airport. The recent embargo of Doha has also led to a rush on supermarkets, with local residents frantically stockpiling food and water. This has caused some travellers to encounter difficulties when attempting to buy necessities.

The terrorist threat is elevated in Qatar, especially against “Western” targets such as embassies, hotels and shopping malls.

Despite large numbers of foreign visitors, Qatar remains a highly conservative country, and as such lone female travellers and tourists from the LGBT community should seek further advice prior to travel.


How Safe is Travel to Saudi Arabia

Medium risk – Travel with caution

Although crime rates are low in Saudi Arabia due to a heavy police presence and harsh penalties for criminals, petty theft can be a problem. Political unrest and violent demonstrations, although not common, can occur from time to time and should be avoided.

Terrorism poses a significant threat in Saudi Arabia, especially (but not limited to) in Riyadh, Eastern Province and along the Yemeni border. Previous attacks have targeted foreign workers, embassies, places of worship and security forces. The ongoing conflict in Yemen has also raised the risk profile of Saudi Arabia, with Yemeni-Houthi forces occasionally firing long range missiles into Saudi Arabia. While these missiles are typically inaccurate and limited to Southern Saudi Arabia, travellers should seek cover in the event of an attack. Travellers should also avoid areas adjacent to the Saudi Arabia-Iraq border, where attacks by Iraqi-based militants do occasionally occur.

Saudi Arabia is an extremely conservative country, and as such lone female travellers and tourists from the LGBT community should seek further advice prior to travel.


How Safe is Travel to Syria

Extreme risk – Do not travel

Despite having an abundance of beautiful archaeological sites and some particularly stunning natural terrain, Syria is currently one of the most dangerous countries in the World. Syria is currently not recommended for travel due to the ongoing armed conflict. If you are required to travel to Syria, you are advised to consider our specialist travel support services.


How Safe is Travel to Tunisia

Medium risk – Travel with caution

Prior to the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011, Tunisia was a relatively popular tourist destination. Since then, high-profile terrorist attacks against tourists combined with an increase in political unrest have dramatically damaged the nation’s tourism industry. Violent demonstrations are common in Tunisia, and should be avoided at all times.

Crime is unfortunately very common in Tunisia as a major economic downturn has forced some ordinary Tunisians to find other ways to make ends meet. Scams involving inflated taxi fares, restaurant bills and counterfeit currency are a problem.

Terrorism is a problem in Tunisia, and large-scale attacks targeting foreign tourists have occurred alongside nationwide attacks on the security forces, economic targets and government infrastructure. Travellers should avoid areas adjacent to the Libyan border, as well as the Jebel Chaambi national park, where militant groups are known to operate.

Tunisia remains a conservative country, and as such lone female travellers and tourists from the LGBT community should seek further advice prior to travel.


How Safe is Travel to Turkey

High risk – Carefully consider necessity of travel

Since the attempted coup d’etat in 2016, the security situation in Turkey has changed significantly. Despite a long history of foreign tourists, an increase in terrorist attacks, crime and political unrest has now made the country much more risky for travel. Terrorism is a particular threat, with both the Islamic State and Kurdish nationalist groups conducting frequent attacks across the country. As a result, travellers are likely to encounter frequent police and military checkpoints and patrols throughout Turkey. Travellers should carry their passport with them at all times.

Crime is also a problem, especially in tourist areas, and foreigners have been reportedly targeted by scams such as inflated taxi fares and restaurant bills, as well as counterfeit goods and currency.

Due to ongoing high-intensity armed conflicts, travellers are advised to avoid the Turkish-Syrian border, and the more restive Kurdish provinces of Southeast Turkey.


How Safe is Travel to the United Arab Emirates

Low risk – Travel

The United Arab Emirates, most famous for the twin metropolises of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, are relatively safe for travellers. Crime rates are low, although petty crimes such as pick-pocketing can be a risk in crowded tourist areas. Scams such as inflated taxi fares can be a problem. Counterfeit goods can also be an issue in the UAE, in particular in the Karama area of Dubai, however items bought inside reputable shopping malls are generally safe.

Although the UAE maintains a well funded police force, the terrorism threat is elevated and travellers should be vigilant for suspicious activity.

While the UAE is less conservative than many regional neighbours, it remains a very traditional nation and travellers should be mindful of public displays of affection and outward displays of sexuality. It should also be noted that laws and customs vary between the different Emirates. While Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Fujeira remain relatively liberal, Sharjah and Ajman are considered more traditional. Travellers should also make themselves aware of alcohol-consumption laws in the Emirate(s) they are visiting, and should abide by these laws at all times.


How Safe is Travel to Yemen

Extreme risk – Do not travel

Yemen is currently one of the most dangerous countries in the World, and is not recommended for travel due to the ongoing armed conflict. If you are required to travel to Yemen, you are advised to consider our specialist travel support services.


The author of this article is a former British Army Intelligence Officer with several years experience working and living in Europe, the Middle East and Asia-Pacific in a variety of geopolitical intelligence, travel security and corporate security roles.

If you (or someone you know) is travelling to the Middle East or North Africa and you would like comprehensive custom-made travel security advice or access to our emergency advice and support telephone number, please get in touch!


Disclaimer

The information provided by How Safe Is My Trip Ltd (England & Wales registered company number 10953024) is intended to help you navigate a dangerous world, but is not intended to replace common sense or entirely remove the risks associated with travelling. Unforeseen circumstances are an inevitability with travel and as a result not everything can be planned for. While we endeavour to provide you with the most accurate and up-to-date information, we live in a rapidly changing world where not all risks can be predicted or mitigated against. By making use of the information provided to you by How Safe Is My Trip Ltd, you acknowledge that any dangers you are exposed to by travelling are faced at your own risk. The information provided by How Safe Is My Trip Ltd should not be considered a recommendation in favour of any particular destination. As an England & Wales registered company, interaction between How Safe Is My Trip Ltd, the general public, and clients will be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of the England & Wales and shall be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England & Wales.