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Saturday,  May 18, 2024 6:59 PM 

“There’s nothing official”: Agents, tour ops left in dark about Egypt’s new visa process


“There’s nothing official”: Agents, tour ops left in dark about Egypt’s new visa process
Starting on Oct. 1, Canadian passport holders will no longer be able to obtain a visa online before travelling to or upon arrival in Egypt. (Ruben Hanssen/Unsplash)
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and DailyXtra.ca. Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

New visa restrictions that Egypt has imposed on Canadian travellers could derail vacations for many this fall season.

Starting on Oct. 1, Canadian passport holders will no longer be able to obtain a visa online before travelling to or upon arrival in Egypt, as per an update posted to the Government of Canada’s travel page.

“If you travel to Egypt on an electronic visa on or after October 1, 2023, your visa will be considered void, and you will be denied boarding and/or entry into Egypt,” the notice reads.

Before, travellers could simply obtain visas upon arrival at Cairo airport, or obtain an e-visa before departure through an online portal.

Canadians heading to Egypt are now instead being instructed to contact their nearest Egyptian embassy or consulate before they travel.

In Canada, there are just two locations for this: the Egyptian embassy in Ottawa and the Egyptian consulate in Montreal.

“The phones are never answered”

For travel advisor Jayne Mandic of Marlin Travel in Peterborough, ON, navigating the sudden change – and the lack of details surrounding it – has been nothing short of a headache.

Mandic told PAX that she has clients travelling to Egypt in October – just more than one month away – and that she’s had no luck in connecting with the Egyptian embassy or consulate for information about the new visa policy.

“I’ve been trying to call and email them. The phones are never answered, the mailboxes are full,” Mandic said.

What she has seen are “travel agents with opinions” online, suggesting that visa applications could be mailed in, which she isn’t relying on.

“Fred on Facebook says this is OK, but that’s not official. There should be official statements on the Egyptian consulate’s website,” she said.

Mandic made some headway on the Egyptian consulate’s website, where she was able to connect to an online chat function and type questions to a representative, who said visa applications must be done in person. 

But even that has left Mandic skeptical. “I don’t know who I was chatting with,” she said.

"Principle of reciprocity"

According to a CBC News story, an email from the Egyptian embassy in Ottawa outlining the new visa application process for Egyptian nationals was sent Monday.

The change cited a "principle of reciprocity" and claimed the new rule is a response to Canadian measures that deny visas to Egyptian citizens, CBC reported.

It claims those measures are "offensive in nature to the dignity of the Egyptian state."

Worst-case scenario

Mandic said the worst-case scenario for her clients, who live in Peterborough, would be for them to travel to Ottawa or Montreal, and apply for a visa in person.

But even that, as of now, offers no guarantee. The Egyptian consulate in Montreal, for example, only operates for a few hours in the morning. The embassy in Ottawa also has limited hours in the morning and afternoon. 

“You can’t call to see if you need to make an appointment. You could show up, but still, nothing could happen,” Mandic said. “I understand that situations change, but I feel there should be some official information on what the new procedure is.”

There’s also the question of whether Egypt’s offices have enough staff to handle a sudden influx in visa applications.

“How long is it going to take?” Mandic asks.

The situation may be inconvenient (and costly) for clients in Ontario who live three, four (or more) hours away from Ottawa or Montreal.

But what do Egypt-booked people who live in the rest of Canada do?

“I feel very sorry for people who live out West,” Mandic said. “I’m not sure if travel insurance would cover people for cancellations if they can’t get a visa.”

Requests for comment

PAX has reached out to Global Affairs Canada for comment. We received a response Monday night (Sept. 4), stating that the matter was being looked into.

We have also contacted the Egyptian embassy in Ottawa and the consulate in Montreal for further clarification, and have reached out to tour operators that sell Egypt, such as Exoticca, G Adventures, Goway and Intrepid.

Based on the few responses we have received so far, companies appear to be just as much in the dark as everybody else.

PAX will post any updates we receive as they are shared.

“I’ve been to Egypt, and I love Egypt,” Mandic said. “I sell a lot of it, and we’ve always been able to get a visa on arrival. It was always super easy.”

Now, not so much, it appears. Which is disappointing, given how popular Egypt has become, Mandic said.

“I’ve sold more Egypt this year than any other year,” Mandic said. “It’s a bucket list destination. Post-COVID, everybody is realizing they won’t live forever, and they want to check it off their list.”


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