Many readers contacted The independent with concerns about their travel plans to the Middle East as well as the Eastern Mediterranean.
These are the key questions and answers.
Is travel to and from Israel still possible?
Yes, commercial flights continue, with El Al connecting London Heathrow and Luton to Tel Aviv. But the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) is warning against travel to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. Standard travel insurance will be invalidated if you choose to travel there – and any form of tourism would be completely inappropriate in the current circumstances.
What other places in the Middle East are also officially no-go zones?
THE Ministry of Foreign Affairs warns against travel to:
The FCDO warns against travel to certain regions of these countries:
- Egypt: Most of the country is off limits. But importantly, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs does not warn against travel to tourist areas, including the entire Red Sea coast and the Nile Valley, from the Sudanese border to the Mediterranean, including Abu Simbel , Aswan, Luxor, Cairo and the pyramids and Alexandria.
- Jordan: only a 3 km strip of territory along the Syrian border is prohibited.
- Saudi Arabia: Only a 10 km strip of territory along the Yemeni border is prohibited.
Terrorist attacks have taken place in these countries and the FCDO warns that more attacks are likely. But without warning, travel companies can continue to send holidaymakers – and are not required to offer refunds to people who do not want to travel.
I have a tour in Jordan in three weeks. What are my options?
You can choose to cancel, but if you do, you may lose most or all of your money.
The terrible events in Israel and Gaza are extremely worrying for the Middle East, but at present the Ministry of Foreign Affairs believes that Jordan is safe enough for UK visitors. I also checked the travel advice issued by the Australian and US governments – both of which mirror the UK line.
Jordan is a fascinating and welcoming nation, which I have had the chance to visit several times in recent years. Based on my experiences, I would not hesitate to travel to the Jordanian capital, Amman, or to any of the main tourist sites: Jerash, the Dead Sea, Petra, Wadi Rum and Aqaba.
If the Foreign Office advice changes to warn against travel to Jordan, package travel companies will automatically cancel trips and refunds. Airlines are likely to offer flexibility.
Planes flying to and from Amman avoid Israeli airspace. The British Airways plane from London Heathrow on Monday took an extended flight path to reach the Jordanian capital, flying over the south Egypt towards the Red Sea before turning north once in Jordanian airspace.
Is Egypt a safe prospect?
The overall risk level has not changed since the start of the new conflict in Egypt, and anecdotal evidence suggests that the conflict has had no impact on the tourist experience at resorts, towns and archaeological sites.
Flights from the UK to Cairo, Sharm el-Sheikh and the other main Red Sea airport at Hurghada do not come near Israel. The number of routes between the UK and Egyptian airports is expected to increase sharply in late October and early November, and there is currently no reason to avoid the country.
I booked an Eastern Mediterranean cruise, transiting the Suez Canal to the Red Sea. Is this likely to go ahead?
Yes. As the conflict continues, cruise lines are avoiding stops at Israeli ports. But cruises in the Eastern Mediterranean, Suez and the Red Sea continue. The only specific warning from the Foreign Office is: “Photography of or near military properties is strictly prohibited. This includes the Suez Canal.
Cruise lines are good at responding to geopolitical crises, and if there is a perception of significant threat, the itinerary will be adjusted. For the coming weeks, all calls to Israeli ports have been canceled. Some cruise lines have added additional stops elsewhere.
All excursions booked for Israel will be refunded.
What happens if I cancel to a currently “safe” country – and the travel advice later changes to warn against visiting?
You will still lose most or all of your money, even if the Foreign Office subsequently advises you against traveling.
Should I be concerned about the attitude towards Western visitors in other Arab countries and the wider Islamic world?
Since the start of the assault on Israel, the FCDO has warned of the risks associated with protests and unrest in a number of Arab countries, including Morocco and Oman.
- For Morocco, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs warns: “There remains a potential for demonstrations across the country. You should avoid these gatherings and be aware of the risk of spontaneous protests occurring.
- For Oman, the warning is: “Be alert to local and regional developments, which could trigger public unrest.”
But there is no indication that tourists have been victims of harassment since the start of the latest conflict.
Are flight paths between the UK and Asia affected?
Airlines constantly monitor threats and adjust their trajectories accordingly.
For example, Virgin Atlantic flight VS250 from London Heathrow to Shanghai would normally pass through Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Russia on its way to eastern China. But due to the exclusion of European planes from Russian and Ukrainian airspace, it is following a more southerly trajectory. The final flight flew over the Balkans, the Black Sea and the Caucasus before turning northeast over the Caspian Sea.
On the hugely popular UK-Dubai route, Emirates currently flies over Turkey, Iraq and Kuwait, avoiding Syria, Lebanon and Israel.
Between London Heathrow and the Saudi capital, Riyadh, the standard route passes through Egypt.