There are three politically distinct areas in the island: the Republic of Cyprus (a member of the European Union) is a state with wide international recognition. However it only controls territory in the south. The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is functionally a separate country, though it receives diplomatic recognition only from Turkey. The British military sovereign base areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia, while legally separate from either republic, have open borders with the Republic of Cyprus.
Cyprus is divided into 6 administrative regions, each named for its administrative capital. Since 1974, the whole of Kyrenia district, most of Famagusta district, and the northern portion of Nicosia district have been under Turkish military control. The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus administers those areas. The Republic of Cyprus administers the following districts:
|Akrotiri and Dhekelia |
British sovereign areas with a primarily military use. Limited in things to see and do, but generally accessible from the Republic of Cyprus districts
Cypriot cities have a variety of historical spellings and writings, all in fairly common use, and which change according to the context, whether it be Greek Cypriot, Turkish or English. The following list emphasizes traditional English spellings, that will most often be encountered by the traveller.
- 1 Nicosia (Greek: Λευκωσία or Lefkosia; Turkish: Lefkoşa) – the divided capital
- 2 Ayia Napa (Greek: Αγία Νάπα or Agia Napa; Turkish: Aya Napa) – in the far east of the Republic, considered by many to be the main party town of Cyprus
- 3 Larnaca (Greek: Λάρνακα or Larnaka; Turkish: İskele)
- 4 Limassol (Greek: Λεμεσός or Lemesos; Turkish: Limasol or Leymosun)
- 5 Paphos (Greek: Πάφος or Pafos; Turkish: Baf)
- 1 Akamas Peninsula (Greek: Ακάμας, Turkish: Akama)
- 2 Troodos Mountains Greek: Τρόοδος, Turkish: Trodos Dağları)
- 3 Lefkara (Greek: Λεύκαρα) – The Lace village, in the foothills of the Troodos Mountains, a charming little town with lots of character, in the heart of Cyprus.
|Population||1.1 million (2013)|
|Electricity||240 volt / 50 hertz (BS 1363)|
|Emergencies||112, +357-1400 (emergency medical services), 199 (fire department)|
|edit on Wikidata|
Cyprus gained its independence from the United Kingdom in 1960. Despite a constitution which guaranteed a degree of power-sharing between the Greek Cypriot majority and the Turkish Cypriot minority, the two populations – with backing from the governments of Greece and Turkey, respectively – clashed vehemently in 1974, with the end result being the occupation of the northern and eastern 40% of the island by Turkey. In 1983, the Turkish-held area declared itself to be the "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus" (TRNC). So far, only Turkey recognizes the TRNC, while all other governments and the United Nations recognize only the government of the Republic of Cyprus over the whole island. The UN operates a peacekeeping force and a narrow buffer zone between the two Cypriot ethnic groups. Fortunately, open hostilities have been absent for some time, as the two sides (now with the growing involvement of the European Union) gradually inch towards a reunification of some sort.
Subtropical Mediterranean with hot, dry summers and cool, wet winters in the lowlands. Continental with warm, dry summers and cold, snowy winters in the mountains.
Central plain with mountains to north and south (often used for skiing); scattered but significant plains along southern coast.
Cyprus is divided between two distinct cultures of Greek and Turkish Cypriots.
Minimum validity of travel documents
Cyprus is committed to implementing the Schengen Agreement although it hasn't yet done so. For citizens of the European Union (EU) or European Free Trade Area (EFTA) (i.e. Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland), an officially approved ID card (or a passport) is sufficient for entry. Other nationalities will generally require a passport for entry.
Travel to/from any other country (Schengen or not) from/to Cyprus will result in the normal immigration checks, although customs checks will be waived when travelling to/from another EU country.
Inquire with your travel agent or with the local embassy or consulate of Cyprus.
Nicosia International Airport (NIC IATA) was the previous main international airport. It is SW of Nicosia is now placed on the Green Line separating the Greek and Turkish parts of Cyprus - it has been out of use since 1974.
Cyprus is served by a variety of carriers, the main one being the Cypriot Cyprus Airways. There are flight connections with most major European cities, e.g. London, Birmingham, Manchester, Frankfurt, Paris, Amsterdam, Rome, Milan) and many Eastern European countries. There are also connections to almost all Middle Eastern capitals. There are no flights to Turkey from the south.
There is a frequent and cheap (€1.50) public bus connection from the airport into central Larnaca, but it is poorly indicated. The bus stop is at the departure hall level (upstairs) and shows a sign with a series of three digit bus numbers. Buses go to "Finikoudes", at the beach in Larnaca where buses to other destinations in Cyprus leave (see "getting around" section).
There is also a direct Larnaca Airport - Nicosia, Nicosia - Larnaca Airport Bus service provided by Kapnos Airport Shuttle. The journey takes around 30-45 minutes (depending on the traffic and the hour), and a one way ticket costs €8 per person. There are bus routes throughout the night. More information about the service and the timetable can be found at the bus service website.
As of 2020 the are no regular passenger ferries to Cyprus from Greece. However, a new service from Piraeus, the harbour next to Athens, will launch sometime during 2021. Until then, services are limited to cruises from neighbooring countries during summer months, from about April to October and they take passengers one way between Israel and Cyprus.
You may also catch a freighter from Italy, Portugal, Southampton and various other European ports. See Grimaldi Freighter Cruises providing you with the opportunity to bring a vehicle to Cyprus throughout the year.
Traveling to and from the north
Prior to Cyprus's accession to European Union, evidence of entry to Northern Cyprus resulted in denial of entry to the Greek part of Cyprus at the very least. After the accession, and according to EU legislation that considers Cyprus to have been admitted in full, an entry to the Turkish part is formally an entry to whole Cyprus and must therefore not result in any disadvantage to travelers from the EU. Travelers from non-EU member states (as, for instance, Turkish citizens) must enter the island via one of the legal - according to the Republic of Cyprus - entry points (i.e. entry points in the southern part of the island) in order to visit the southern part.
Different entities and web pages claim different things. But there are examples (from 2012) of people entering Northern Cyprus from Turkey, crossing the border without any problems, although it was noticed when leaving Cyprus.
The main crossings between the south and north are:
- Astromerits/Zodhia (by car only)
- Agios Dometios/Kermia/Metehan
- Ledra Palace (by car or foot) - the oldest crossing, just outside the walls of old Nicosia to the west of the city
- Strovilia near Agios Nikolaos - at the eastern part of the island
- Ledras Str. (foot only) - a pedestrian crossing at the old dead-end of the most popular street of Nicosia.
In 2012, crossing the green line was very simple. The visa form to be completed is very basic (barely usable as a souvenir!) and requires only the name, the nationality and the passport (or identity card) number to be entered. Then it is stamped, and the whole procedure should take no more than three minutes. Upon return, it is stamped again. As of 2017, passports are not stamped but still required to cross.
Public transportation in Cyprus has been revamped with all new buses in Nicosia. Still, most Cypriots drive. There are no railways in Cyprus.
There is a comprehensive network of bus routes that cover all Cyprus. Use Cyprus By Bus to plan your journey using buses in Cyprus.
Buses by City:
Larnaca Airport Shuttle services:
Paphos Airport Shuttle services:
On the Turkish side, buses are more frequent (and smaller). In Nicosia, they depart from stops at the street north of the northern gate. Prices are similar to prices on the Greek side of Cyprus. Beware that return tickets may not be valid on all buses on the Turkish side.
Services run every half-hour or so from 06:00 or 07:00, but terminate at 17:00 or 18:00 on the dot. You can book a taxi to pick you up anywhere and ask to be dropped off anywhere in city limits; the flip side is that it will often take you longer to get in or out of the city than the journey itself! Figure on £4-6 for a taxi ride on any of these, with an increased price on Sundays and holidays. Also known as a service taxi.
Car hire is the easiest (but the most expensive) way to get around the island. Companies will typically not rent cars for fewer than three days, although some international vendors (Budget) will offer one or two day service for a high fee. Renting in advance can be beneficial as walk-in options are obviously limited to available cars. Cypriots drive on the left side of the road, in keeping with British and British Commonwealth practice. However, driving standards are poor. Drivers attack their art with an equal mix of aggressiveness and incompetence and view road rules as mere guidelines. Some main roads do not even have road markings and people often sound their horn, especially in Nicosia. Take care when crossing the roads, and even greater care when driving on them. Highways are generally of excellent condition and quite traversable, but other roads vary greatly in quality. As with surrounding countries, rental cars frequently use diesel fuel and manual transmission rentals are cheaper than automatic transmission, although not typically only by a few euro.
- The many archaeological and antiquities sites scattered around the island, dating from the New Stone Age through to the Roman Empire
- The beautiful coastline of the island - still quite unspoilt in many places - is well worth exploring
- Nicosia, the capital as it has a wealth of history, preserved Venetian walls surrounding the city, some wonderful bars and restaurants within the old walls of the city and of course the 'green line' - the dividing line with the Turkish part of Cyprus, which cuts through the centre of Nicosia, now the only divided capital
- The Troodos mountains, rising as high as 1952 metres, offering some beautiful trail walks and also quaint little villages such as Kakopetria, Platres and Phini. In winter there is the chance to ski there and the ski resort is being developed
- Paphos harbor and archeological park. Nearby Rock of Aphrodite can be a beautiful scene for picnics
- Hamam Omerye in Nicosia is a 14th-century building restored to operate again as a hammam for all to enjoy, relax and rejuvenate. Dating back to French rule and located in the heart of Nicosia's old town is Hamam Omerye - a true working example of Cyprus' rich culture and diversity, stone struggle, yet sense of freedom and flexibility. The site's history dates back to the 14th century, when it stood as an Augustinian church of St. Mary. Stone-built, with small domes, it is chronologically placed at around the time of Frankish and Venetian rule, approximately the same time that the city acquired its Venetian Walls. In 1571, Mustapha Pasha converted the church into a mosque, believing that this particular spot is where the prophet Omer rested during his visit to Lefkosia. Most of the original building was destroyed by Ottoman artillery, although the door of the main entrance still belongs to the 14th-century Lusignan building, whilst remains of a later Renaissance phase can be seen at the north-eastern side of the monument. In 2003, the EU funded a bi-communal UNDP/UNOPS project, "Partnership for the Future", in collaboration with Nicosia Municipality and Nicosia Master Plan, to restore the Hamam Omerye Bath, revitalising its spirit and sustaining its historical essence. The hamam is still in use, and after a restoration project, it has become a favourite place for relaxation in Lefkosia. In 2006 it received the Europa Nostra prize for the Conservation of Architectural Heritage.
- There are over 60 churches scattered across Cyprus with wall paintings, of which the ten churches in Troodos Mountains are inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List as Painted Churches in the Troödos Region.
- Mixed-religion couples from countries such as Israel, Lebanon and Syria, who do not have access to non-religious marriage ceremonies at home, often choose Cyprus for wedding travel, as they can tie the knot in a same-day civil ceremony.
The official languages of Cyprus are Greek and Turkish. Almost exclusively, Greek is spoken in the south and Turkish is spoken in the north. English is widely spoken by locals of all ages to varying degrees of fluency because of previous British rule. English is less widely spoken in the north. However, one will encounter monolingual Greek speakers and Turkish speakers in rural areas in both parts of the island, especially in the north and most of whom are elderly. Other common languages spoken on the island are French, German and Russian.
Cyprus has always been a relatively expensive destination. Except for some agricultural products, practically everything has to be imported. The cost of living in Cyprus is comparable to Central Europe, especially in the tourist centers. Price examples: National Beer cost €3 to €3.50, a pack of cigarettes €4, a hamburger €5-7, squids about €10, a steak around €20. Away from the tourist hotels and beaches the prices are much more moderate.
Exchange rates for euros
As of 04 January 2021:
Exchange rates fluctuate. Current rates for these and other currencies are available from XE.com
Cyprus uses the euro, like several other European countries. One euro is divided into 100 cents. The official symbol for the euro is €, and its ISO code is EUR. There is no official symbol for the cent.
All banknotes and coins of this common currency are legal tender within all the countries, except that low-denomination coins (one and two cent) are phased out in some of them. The banknotes look the same across countries, while coins have a standard common design on the reverse, expressing the value, and a national country-specific design on the obverse. The obverse is also used for different designs of commemorative coins. The design of the obverse does not affect the use of the coin.
Northern Cyprus uses Turkish lira (TRY). Euros are generally also accepted in the tourist centres, but at the unfavourable rate of €1 buying 2 TRY rather than ~2.4 TRY. There are many ATMs in the north too.
Things to buy
- Cypriot wine - the iconic local variety known as Commandaria is strong, sweet and somewhat akin to Porto wine
- Lacework of an intricate nature - from the village of Lefkara.
- Zivania - a strong spirit based alcoholic drink
- Filfar - the traditional Cyprus orange liqueur
- Leather goods such as shoes and handbags
- Cypriot meze (appetizers akin to Spanish tapas) are an art form, and some restaurant serve nothing but. Meze are available in a meat variety or fish variety but quite often come as a mixed batch, which is rather pleasing.
- Kleftiko roasted lamb with flavours of herbs and lemon.
- Halloumi (Hellim) is a uniquely Cypriot cheese, made from a mix of cow's and sheep's milk. Hard and salty when raw, it mellows and softens when cooked and is hence often served grilled.
- Taramosalata is traditionally made out of taramas, the salted roe of the cod or carp. The roe is either mixed with bread crumbs or mashed potatoes. Parsley, onion, lemon juice, olive oil and vinegar are added and it is seasoned with salt and pepper.
- Shoushoukos is a traditional sweet made out of grape juice. A series of almonds are thread with a needle and they are then dipped into the grape juice several times until it becomes quite thick.
- Palouzes/Kiofterka are both traditional sweets made out of grape juice.
Palouzes is a pudding made with grape juice, flour and different flavorings. Kiofterka are made from any leftover pudding. They cut it into pieces, put them to dehydrate and the final result is a hard but chewy thing.
There are countless hotels and hotel apartments of varying degrees of luxury within Cyprus. Some of the hotels are: Kefalos Beach Tourist Village, Holiday Inn, Le Meridien, Hilton, Elias Beach Hotel. Alternative self-catering accommodation is offered in restored traditional houses in picturesque villages all over Cyprus through the government Agrotourism initiative.
Cyprus' climate and natural advantages mean that there is always a steady supply of travellers seeking employment and residency on the island. Perhaps the biggest change that has occurred has been the accession of southern Cyprus to the European Union on 1 May 2004, opening up new employment opportunities for European citizens.
The burgeoning Cypriot tourism industry, however, means that there is a huge seasonal demand for temporary workers of most nationalities during the summer months, with a definite preference for English-speaking workers in order to service the very large numbers of British tourists. The Greek Cypriot south remains the best overall bet for jobs, as the South is where the majority of the tourist trade is located. The Turkish North is much harder to get work in as a traveler, as the local economy is in a precarious position and high local unemployment means competition for work is fierce.
Seasonal employment will most probably involve working in one of the countless bars, hotels and resort complexes of the south. Such work is usually poorly paid, but accommodation is often thrown in as some compensation and the Cypriot lifestyle usually makes up for low wages. Many holiday companies employ 'reps' (representatives) and marketing staff to assist their operations on the island - this work is usually more financially rewarding.
Teaching English as a Foreign Language (EFL) is another worthwhile option, well paid though often difficult to find.
Finally, Cyprus' ongoing construction boom in tourism infrastructure results in a demand for skilled builders and tradespeople.
If you are considering an extended stay on the island, there are a number of educational courses that you can take. Popular options include Greek language courses and arts courses. Most will have a tuition fee attached, and EU nationals should not have any visa problems. If you are from outside the EU, you will need to speak to individual colleges/organisations about visa requirements. Some popular travel and learn programmes include:
Cyprus is a remarkably safe country, with very little violent crime. Cars and houses frequently go unlocked. That said however, it is wise to be careful when accepting drinks from strangers, especially in Ayia Napa, since there have been numerous occasions of muggings.
Note also that the numerous Cypriot "cabarets" are not what their name implies but rather brothels associated with organized crime.
The hunting season in Cyprus is from November till February. There are around 59,000 hunters with licences. On Sundays and Wednesdays you have to be careful when going for a walk in the countryside. Note that many hunters don't respect the areas where hunting is forbidden. Cypriot hunters are known to drink alcohol before and during hunting. Keep your dogs and children safe.
Tap water in Cyprus is potable, but tastes bad and may give you an upset stomach at first because of all the minerals.
It is best to avoid discussion of the various merits of the Greek-Turkish divide and events beginning in 1963 in some quarters. Any sully of Archbishop Makarios will be looked down upon.
- Internet access is increasingly available in tourist centres in the guise of Internet cafés and side rooms equipped with monitors. Prices vary, so shop about. €2 an hour seems average, but you can do better. Many cafés now offer free wi-fi access and hotels and resorts often offer Internet access to their guests.
Beware that Greek Cyprus celebrates Easter on different dates than Western Europe, in most years. On Easter Sunday, many museums etc. are closed, and buses run reduced services in some places even until Easter Tuesday.
Cyprus operates on a 230 V, 50 Hz electrical system using the BS-1363 3-pin British plugs. Europlug adapters are widely available in local stores.