Egypt Will Stop Issuing Visas On Arrival

Egypt’s got 99 problems. Too many tourists ain’t one of them, post revolution.

Pyramids-Egypt
Pyramids of Giza

That being said, I do love visiting Cairo for a day at a time for the purpose of positioning myself for cheap paid premium cabin tickets (after having gotten a glimpse of the country, I’d actually like to visit for longer). Among the cheapest paid first & business class tickets are out of Cairo:

While Cairo Airport is an absolute dump (though the airport’s VIP service makes it a bit more tolerable), at least up until now you could get visas on arrival. In other words, when you land you go up to a window and pay money for a visa, so you don’t have to apply for it in advance or go to a consulate.

Cairo-Airport-VIP-Lounge-01
Cairo Airport Terminal 1 exterior

Well unfortunately there’s bad news on that front. As of May 15, 2015, visas on arrival will no longer be issued in Egypt — tourists to Egypt will have to get a visa from an embassy before arrival. The only published exception is tour groups. If you’re traveling as part of a tour group you can continue to obtain a visa upon arrival.

Via Reuters, Egypt’s tourism ministry thinks the change will have a small effect:

The changes will take effect on May 15, said Rasha Azaizi, the tourism minister’s media adviser. “The decision will have a small effect… The industry depends on the large groups brought in by tour operators,” she told Reuters.

Why is Egypt now requiring visitors to get visas in advance?

Security sources, however, said the decision arose from a need to give intelligence services more time to assess individuals who want to visit Egypt, where security has suffered from an Islamist insurgency centered in the Sinai region.

Security sources said another reason for the change in visa rules was to put stronger controls on visits by Western human rights activists who have been highly critical of Egypt’s tough crackdown on Islamists and liberal activists.

Oddly they make this change at the same time that they’re trying to grow the amount of tourism to the country, as they’re hoping to attract 20 million visits by 2020, which is roughly double their current tourist numbers. Good luck with that!

What remains to be seen is:

  • Whether multi-entry visas will be issued
  • Whether it will still be possible to transit without a visa

My hope is that either/both of those are possible. Ultimately if they only offer single entry visas and don’t allow transit without visa, I’m done booking tickets out of Cairo as it’s not worth the hassle. However, if you can transit without visa or get a multi-entry visa, then that’s just a reasonable inconvenience for getting cheap airfare, in my opinion. šŸ˜‰

It would be a shame if I couldn’t visit one of my favorite airport hotels, Le Meridien Cairo, anymore.

Le-Meridien-Cairo-Airport-16
Le Meridien Cairo Airport Panoramic Suite living room

Comments

  1. Do you think a lot of people from the states will go to CAI for these fares? I ask because, they might be pulled. Maybe.

  2. It doesn’t really matter. Largest tourists origin of Egypt are never those countries that have visa waiver but countries required visas in advance, such as China.
    Somtimes, it is hard to believe that majority of American never had chance to fly…

  3. As of now, you can transit without a visa just staying airside… as you know. So I’d expect that would continue.

    I’d be a “transit” where you exit immigration and go landside will require a visa for sure.

  4. It’s EXTREMELY easy to get an Egyptian visa at the consulate in NYC (midtown east). Drop off your passport by 10am, go for a stroll, have lunch and pick it back up after 2.

    Have done this twice, really not so bad.

  5. I suspect that the Sinai resorts permission stamp (free entry for 15 days) will remain in tact, but none of the big 3 middle eastern carriers service SSH.

    So you’ll be limited to the cheap fares on European carriers.

  6. I’ve been to Cairo many times but haven’t transited the airport. I’ve got my first upcoming Cairo turnaround on Qatar Airways, connecting to another QR flight back to Doha 2h25m later. I don’t remember the geography of Cairo airport — are there desks where transit passengers can check-in and get boarding passes without clearing customs? Or might I be funneled from the plane to a customs area where I’ll need a visa?

    (On a related note: will the check-in agents on my flight to Cairo let me board the plane without a visa, if all I have is an outbound flight on a separate reservation two hours later?)

    This visa nonsense is poopy. Help requested.

  7. FWIW, I’d read elsewhere there are doubts that this measures will go into effect or stay in place for long.

  8. @ Josh — When you enter the terminal there’s a hallway to the left that serves as a “transit” area. You walk through a metal detector and present your passport to a border agent who calls someone on his cell phone. This person will take your passport and send you off to the lounge/retail areas, and apparently goes to the airline desk to get your boarding passes for you. You return to the transit zone about an hour before your flight to collect your documents.

    It’s freakin’ terrifying, but somehow works.

  9. I don’t understand the whining. For longer than most of us can probably remember, both Canada and the USA have required Egyptian citizens to have a visa for entry. What’s the difference? Some sense of entitlement?

  10. I’m pretty sure that this is just a case of the right arm not talking to the left arm. In this case the right arm is the Interior Ministry (responsible for security and immigration) and the left arm is the Finance Ministry (responsible for revenue). Ultimately, either the measures will be pulled (or not implemented) or there will be enough exceptions that they will only be symbolic (such as a list of waiver countries, maximum stay, etc.). I have serious doubts that this measure will be permanent. The security concerns mentioned in the article have existed for decades and the Visa on Arrival scheme was still implemented, so there is nothing new here to truly warrant the change.

  11. Well over 90% of Egyptian tourists enter as part of organised tour groups, or as independent tourists to the Red Sea resorts (which have a separate visa policy). I would not be surprised if they found a not-insignificant number of “independent tourists” to Cairo fall under the category of “undesirables” for the reasons enumerated. Egypt is quite the tinderbox at present with both international and domestic security issues threatening its stability.

  12. I immediately thought of you when I heard this in my local news.

    Transit will remain visa-free but no word on the multi-entry ones. I’ll ask for you!

  13. And when you finally do spend more time in Egypt – I HIGHLY recommend a few days in Dahab which is a MUCH MUCH MUCH more subdued chill version of Sharm El Sheikh. Mostly chill backpacker hotels but there’s a Hilton and a lovely Le Meridian a few km south of town. Was there in the summer of 2010 and a week stay at Le Meridian ran ~$400 plus tax.

  14. Understandable, but it is still well unsympathetic considering if you do not live near an embassy. I hope they can generate a system similar to Australia or India, electronic and without the headaches of gathering documents and send via email.

    @ Alex Dahab is amazing, no? I was two months in Egypt and ended up going 4 times the Dahab: quiet, cheap and the people are friendly.

  15. So I already booked a fight for next week… it’s good then this isn’t in effect until may right?

  16. I got visas on arrival with no trouble whatsoever in both May and September. No sign of anything changing.

  17. Just wondering if anyone has some recent news on this as I have flights booked for the end of the month and am wondering if it actually went into effect or not

  18. Any update on this? Looking at tickets where I have to transit Cairo enroute to Copenhagen (from Johannesburg). Is it still possible to transit without a visa? Do you need to have blank pages in your passport?

  19. I need to enter Cairo to obtain my Macedonia visa enroute Skopje in Macedonia, I won’t spend more than 24-72 hrs in Cairo.
    Which type of visa do I apply for,? Transit or tourist? and how many days to process before collection?

  20. This article is out of date. Certainly as of May 2017 you can obtain visa on arrival . You can confirm this by checking government websites such as UK government or the US State Department

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