Addresses in the south use the same basic pattern as you’ll find in the UK: after the name of the person or business, there’s a street number and name (usually in that order but, if in Greek, sometimes reversed). This is followed by a four-digit postcode and a region. The first digit of the post code teflls you the region – 1 or 2: Lefkosia District; 3 or 4: Lemesos District; 5: Ammochostos District (also sometimes called “Free Famagusta” and included in this guide with Larnaka District); 6 or 7: Larnaka District; 8: Pafos District and 9: Keryneia District.
Addresses in the north are often given in English as well as Turkish, and therefore are easy to understand. As they are sometimes given only in Turkish, it’s useful to know some of the more common words you’re likely to come across – Avenue: Caddesi (abbreviated to Cad); Cul-de-Sac: Cikmazi (abbreviated to Cik); Boulevard: Bulvan (abbreviated to Bul); Square: Meydani (abbreviated to Meyd) and Street: Sokak (abbreviated to Sok, or even SK).
Many visitors to Cyprus have prepaid for almost everything before they arrive – flights, accommodation, car rental, trips, even, in many cases, meals. For independent travellers, it should be possible to get by on €75 per day (though €100 is more realistic) during high season, less in the winter. It does, of course, depend on what activities you take part in, and how you travel around. Typical costs might include breakfast (continental) €4–6; fixed-menu lunch €12–15; dinner (mezé, including drink) €22; single bus ticket €1.50; glass of beer €5; cinema ticket €7; theatre/concert ticket €25–35.
VAT and local taxes are included though non-EU residents can have VAT refunded on certain goods.
In the north costs are lower for goods imported from Turkey, higher for goods imported from the rest of the world.
Crime and personal safety
Despite a recent spike in the crime rate, Cyprus is still a relatively safe place for visitors. There’s not much in the way of burglary or theft, and you’re unlikely to see violence on the streets (except, perhaps, that caused by drunken visitors in places like Agia Napa). However, organized crime, especially from Russia in the south and Turkey in the north, has made inroads, and there is now a considerable amount of vice and prostitution. This is confined to bars, clubs and “cabarets” in clearly defined parts of the larger towns, particularly Lemesos, and as long as these areas are avoided there should be no problem. Women on their own can find themselves the subject of unwanted male attention, but Cypriot males are far less persistent than those in some other Mediterranean countries.
A brush with the law rather than criminals is a far more likely scenario. Speed limits are strictly enforced and driving with above the (low) permitted levels of alcohol in blood or breath carries severe penalties. Be cautious around military areas. Where access is denied to civilians, stay away and take “No Photography” signs seriously.
Electricity supply across the island is 230 volts supplied through 13 amp, three-square-pin plugs. Brits therefore need no adaptors, and can use equipment that they use at home. Others will need adaptors, and though they’re readily available, it makes sense to bring your own.
All that is needed by most foreign nationals to enter north or south Cyprus is a valid passport. There are no restrictions on length of stay for EU nationals in the south; in the north they can stay for up to three months. Nationals of the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore can stay in the south or north for up to three months without a visa. The main complication likely to face visitors is if they want to cross into or out of Turkish-occupied north Cyprus. The republic’s position is still that anybody entering the north through what they consider illegal ports or airports, or staying in hotels in the north that were owned by Greek Cypriots, might face legal sanctions, though the reality is that this is extremely unlikely. Visitors can cross from south to north Cyprus at any of the (currently seven) official crossing points. If using a car rented in the south, a separate insurance policy will be needed for the north.
The main medical inconveniences are likely to be from sunstroke, insect bites, and the odd sting from a jellyfish. All General Hospitals (found in most major towns), and some private ones, have Accident and Emergency Departments, which provide free emergency treatment to all. More routine treatment may have to be paid for so travel insurance is recommended. That said, EU citizens may be able to receive free or reduced-cost treatment in the republic on presentation of a European Health Insurance Card. In the north, all visitors are entitled to free emergency medical treatment, but beyond that it must be paid for, so, again, private insurance is strongly recommended. Pharmacies, ubiquitous throughout the island, can help with common minor complaints and ailments. A good source of information is dh.gov.uk/travellers. Tap water in Cyprus is safe to drink and doesn’t have any noticeable chemical taste. Bottled water is cheap.
Travel insurance, covering medical expenses, personal property, third-party liability, cancellation and so on is recommended. If you intend to try any dangerous or extreme sports, you should check to see whether they’re covered, and if not, extend the cover accordingly. Bear in mind that some credit cards carry complimentary insurance. If you have anything stolen, report it to the police in order to get a crime or ID number for inclusion in your claim.
In the south, free internet access is widely available. Most hotels now offer guests at the very least a dedicated machine, more commonly wi-fi in a restricted part of the hotel (bar or foyer), and increasingly wi-fi throughout. Some cafés, restaurants and bars also offer free wi-fi. If you can’t find a wi-fi signal you may need to visit an internet café, found in most major towns (and usually packed with teenagers). Though lagging behind the south, wi-fi is becoming more common in tourist areas in north Cyprus.
Most large hotels offer laundry services, or are happy to arrange them through reception. Dry cleaners will be found in town centres, with normal turnaround being two days – ask for a fast premium service if that’s too long. There are also launderettes (laundromats) in the main towns.
The Cypriot postal system is relatively reliable. Postcards sent home do arrive, though it can take a week or more. Stamps can be bought at newsagents, which is fine if it’s for a standard item like a postcard, but anything more complicated should be paid for at a post office. In the south district post offices are open from Monday to Friday 8am–5.30pm; all others are open 8am–2.30pm. Some offices which deal only with parcel post have the same morning hours, but are closed in the afternoons except Wednesday.
In the north post offices are open from Monday to Friday 7.30am–2pm and 4–6pm, and Saturday 8.30am–12.30pm, with later opening and earlier closing in winter. When writing to north Cyprus, the destination, significantly, is “Mersin 10 Turkey” not “North Cyprus” – this is to circumvent an international postal union boycott.
The CTO produces a range of excellent free maps – one of the whole island (A Visitor’s Map of Cyprus) and separate ones for Agia Napa, Larnaka, Lemesos, Pafos, the Troodos Mountains and Lefkosia which include useful area and town-centre maps. These are in the process of being updated – check the date given in the bottom left-hand corner of the map. There are also special interest maps such as the Rother Walking Guide Cyprus – South and North, and Cyprus: Car Tours and Walks in the “Landscapes” series. In the north, the Office of Tourism Promotion and Marketing Department produces a good general tourist map on which are marked bathing beaches, water sports, sailing, petrol stations and a lot more, together with street maps for all the main towns and some excellent walking maps.
The Republic of Cyprus uses the metric system. Distances are in kilometres, areas in square kilometres or hectares, petrol is sold by the litre, weights are in grams and kilos, speed is in kilometres per hour (km/h). In the north the situation is more complicated, with some distance markers in miles and survivals from Ottoman times such as the “okke” (just over a kilo) often used for selling fruit and vegetables.
In the south, the currency is the euro (€), and it is very easy to access your money – there are numerous banks and ATMs, so much so that travellers’ cheques are an endangered species. Credit cards are widely accepted. Banking hours are May–Sept Mon–Fri 8.15am–1.30pm; Oct–April Mon 8.30am–1.30pm & 3.15–4.45pm, Tues–Fri 8.30am–1.30pm. There are 24hr exchange facilities at Larnaka and Pafos airports, and in Lemesos port. In the north, the Turkish Lira (¨) is the official currency, though euros, pounds sterling and US dollars are widely accepted.
Museums, archeological sites and places of worship
Most regional museums in the south are open every weekday morning from 8am, with closing times varying from 2.30pm to 5pm. At weekends, many museums are closed, though some open on Saturdays from 9am (usually to 3pm). The most important variation is the Cyprus Museum in Lefkosia, which is open on Sundays from 10am to 1pm, but closed on Mondays. Museum opening times in the north are similar, though sometimes with additional afternoon hours on Thursdays.
Archeological sites usually open daily at 8am, with closing hours varying according to season, from 5pm in winter to 7.30pm in summer. There is an almost universal admission charge for museums and archeological sites of €2.50 (though some of the most popular – the Cyprus Museum, for example, or the Pafos mosaics – are €4.50). In the north, the charge is usually around 5TL, though more for the more famous sites such as Girne Castle, Bellapais Abbey and Salamis.
Churches and mosques tend to be kept locked, with those who wish to visit needing to find the keyholder. However, the more heavily visited sites will often have a custodian hovering around. There are no fixed entrance charges, though all welcome donations. In both churches and mosques, modest dress is insisted upon for both men and women.
Most of the major UK and US newspapers can be bought in Cypriot newsagents, at the foreign issue cover price, though a day late. The emphasis tends to be on UK tabloids such as the Daily Mail and Express. There are two Cypriot newspapers published in English in the south: the Cyprus Weekly (Fri; incyprus.com.cy) and the excellent Cyprus Mail (Tues–Sun; cyprus-mail.com), while in the north Hurriyet Daily News (hurriyetdailynews.com) and Cyprus Today cyprustoday.net) are in English.
Opening hours and public holidays
In the south, shop opening hours vary depending on season, type of shop and location, but are usually within the range 7am–9pm, with early closing likely to be on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Most shops are closed on Sundays. Closing times are quite late – often 7.30pm or 8pm. During the holiday season, and in holiday areas, the types of shops that tourists are most likely to use can be open for enormously long hours. The main public holidays, when banks and shops are usually closed, are as listed in “Festivals and public holidays“. In north Cyprus opening hours are continuous from 8am–5pm in winter, but in summer shops close during the heat of the day, and so are open 8am–2pm and 4–6pm.
There are two types of public phones – coin operated, and card operated. Cards for the latter are available from banks, post offices, kiosks and some shops. To phone within Cyprus, simply dial the eight-digit number (in the south) or seven-digit number (in the north). In the north public phones are not common, but can usually be found in or around the local post office; all are card operated, with cards on sale from the post office or some kiosks.
For mobile phones, depending on the provider the codes are 0533 or 0542. If calling a mobile in north Cyprus from outside the island, 0090 needs to be dialled, followed by the mobile number (without the initial 0). If you’re already in north Cyprus there’s no need to dial 0090.
If intending to use your mobile/cell, consult with your provider as to roaming arrangements and costs. It is often cheaper to buy a local SIM card if you’re planning to make calls within Cyprus (though you may need to get your phone “unlocked” at a specialist phone shop – a widely available service in the south, but confined to Girne and Lefkoşa in the north).
Photography is prohibited within military areas in both the south and the north, and this is strictly enforced. Many monasteries, churches and museums also ban photography, partly because of the intrusive nature of flash, but also because it can harm delicate paintings, artefacts and fabrics.
Serious shopping for Cypriots is dominated by the malls and boutiques of Lefkosia (South Nicosia), which far outrank anything on offer in Larnaka, Lemesos and Pafos. Nevertheless, you’ll find the usual souvenirs – leather goods, especially bags, belts and shoes, ceramics, copper, silver and gold jewellery, woven basketwork, embroidery and lace – in resorts across the island. Wines and spirits, loukoumi (aka Turkish Delight), various Cypriot sweets, nuts and olives, also make good-value gifts. Non-EU residents can claim VAT back on items carried home in their hand luggage as long as the overall value is €50 or more – shop where there’s a tax-free shopping sign and ask for a tax-free receipt and get this stamped by customs officials as you leave Cyprus. When crossing the Green Line north to south you are restricted to 40 cigarettes, 1 litre of alcoholic beverage and no more than €100/¨300 worth of other goods. And take this restriction seriously – border staff often do spot checks on cars passing through the crossing points.
Cyprus has good open-air and covered markets which are worth visiting for both atmosphere and purchases, and large towns also have American-style shopping malls.
Haggling isn’t really a part of the Cypriot culture (north or south), and you will usually be expected to pay the marked price. However, it might be worth trying to get the price down when chancing on a hotel off the street, or when renting a car. Souvenirs, too, might be subject to haggling if prices are not marked. Even then, reductions are likely to be relatively modest.
Cyprus is two hours ahead of GMT, seven hours ahead of EST. Daylight Saving Time starts at 1am GMT on the last Sunday of March, when clocks go forward by 1 hour (ie GMT +3), and ends with a return to Standard Time at 1am GMT on the last Sunday in October. Cyprus is, therefore, usually two hours ahead of the UK.
Public toilets are uncommon, though where they exist they are usually free, and are well kept. Otherwise, most convenient are toilets in bars, restaurants, cafés and hotels. If you’re not a customer, it’s polite to make a small purchase, or to ask permission and leave a tip.
The major source of information about the Republic of Cyprus is the Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO; visitcyprus.com). Click on “about us” at the bottom of the home page for a list of offices in Cyprus and abroad. The CTO produce a variety of extremely useful maps and pamphlets, and the invaluable Travellers Handbook. It’s also worth checking out the regional tourist board websites including: larnakaregion.com, visitpafos.org.cy and agianapa.org.cy.
For northern Cyprus, three publications are particularly useful: The North Cyprus Tourist Guide, available from tourist offices and online at cyprustouristguide.com, the North Cyprus Hotel Guide produced by the North Cyprus Hoteliers Association KITOB, and the Restaurant Guide of Northern Cyprus produced by the Cyprus Turkish Restaurateurs Association. All are well-produced and informative, if rather dominated by adverts and sponsorship. Other useful websites include northcyprus.net, turkishcyprus.com, northerncyprus.com and welcometonorthcyprus.co.uk.
Travelling with children
Cyprus is a great destination for families, as Cypriot culture is so child-friendly. You’ll find your own children smiled at, tickled under the chin and otherwise bathed in approval. You’ll even get Cypriot teenagers making a fuss of babies – not something you see every day in Anglo-Saxon cultures.
All the paraphernalia of baby care – baby food, nappies/diapers, creams, powders and medication – are available in pharmacies and supermarkets, in international as well as local brands. Discreet breast-feeding is accepted. High chairs and books/toys in restaurants are increasingly available. Large hotels usually have a wide range of child-friendly services – kids’ clubs, amusement arcades, playgrounds and so on – as well as baby-sitting services.
Travellers with disabilities
Provision for disabled visitors in Cyprus is patchy, though it’s better in the south than in the north. The old towns of many resorts have winding, cobbled streets to negotiate and lots of steps. Some ancient sites are also difficult – check the Department of Antiquities website (mcw.gov.cy) which gives detailed accessibility information for all monuments, sites and museums. Otherwise check out expat site cyprus.angloinfo.com which has a useful section for people with disabilities.
TV and radio
The two main radio stations with English-language programmes are CyBC Radio 2 (on 91.1FM) in the south and Bayrak (on 87.8 and 105FM) in the north, together with numerous commercial stations, all on FM. English-language speakers might also try British Forces Broadcasting Services in Lefkosia (89.7FM) west Cyprus (92.1FM) east Cyprus (99.6FM), the BBC World Service (1323AM), and Voice of America (0100-0130kHz). CyBC also run the principal TV stations in the south (1 and 2), and in the north provision is by Kibris TV and BRT2. In the south people also tune in to Greek TV, as in the north they do to Turkish TV. Most hotels and many apartments and villas have major US and UK digital channels.