International hospitality from Iceland to Bosnia
After days of escalating political protests in Egypt, calling for president Hosni Mubarak to step down, Cairo International Airport is a chaotic scene of thousands of tourists trying to get out of the country. And with the US State Department, the British government and other countries warning against all but essential travel to Egypt, the transportation situation is getting increasingly difficult to navigate.
With Delta Airlines, the only airline providing nonstop service from the US to Cairo, suspending service after Saturday, the US Embassy arranged for charter flights from Cairo to nearby cities like Athens, Istanbul and Frankfurt. It has evacuated more than 2,000 people in the past two days already. Americans are urged to contact the State Department about leaving on a charter flight by emailing EgyptEmergencyUSC@state.gov or calling 01-202-501-4444. Americans can also register for a flight online. Note that in order to board one of these flights, you must sign an evacuation agreement stating that you will reimburse the US government for flight costs (equivalent to commercial flight costs). The US Marines have ships standing by in the Red Sea in case they are called upon to help as well.
Canada, several European and Asian countries, and even Iraq have also been sending planes to evacuate their nationals. The German government has issued a warning against all travel to Egypt but is not evacuating citizens, with Lufthansa Airlines operating extra flights in an effort to fly home about 700 people a day. The UK has also said that it is not ordering evacuation at this time.
While some airlines have suspended services, Egypt Air and British Airways are operating on reduced schedules. Additionally, most Middle East air carriers, including Turkish Airlines, Royal Jordanian Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines and Emirates Airlines, have not discontinued service so far.
The Egyptian Government has imposed a curfew from 4 pm to 8 am in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez, which tourists should obey for their own safety. The death toll from the protests so far is hard to assess but is thought to be at least 100. The US and British governments warn that tourists should stay in their hotels or residences, especially if they are near areas of violent demonstrations. US citizens should not go to the embassy, their government advises, because the route may be blocked by local security forces.
In Cairo, the largest demonstration is taking place in Tahrir Square, but there are also protests around several tourist areas, including Ramses Square, the Egyptian Museum and Parliament. Take a look at this BBC map if you are currently staying in Cairo.
In Alexandria, the Ibrahim Mosque is the centre of protest.There are also demonstrations in the cities of Suez, Mansoura, Assiut and Luxor. If you are in any of those cities, you may have to sit tight in your hotel, since access to the capital has been restricted and there are disruptions with road travel and trains. The famous pyramids in Giza have also been closed to tourists since the mass demonstrations began.
If you have been planning a trip to Egypt, your flight will probably be cancelled, if it has not been already. If so, you should receive a full refund but often travel insurance usually does not cover civil unrest. Be sure to check your policy if you have insurance or are planning to purchase it for an upcoming trip.
Travelwise is a BBC Travel column that goes behind the travel stories to answer common questions, satisfy uncommon curiosities and uncover some of the mystery surrounding travel. If you have a burning travel question, contact Travelwise.