Europe : Cyprus
Cyprus (Greek Κυπρος, Turkish Kıbrıs, ) is an island in the Mediterranean Sea, south of Turkey. After Sicily and Sardinia, Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Although the island lies close to the Middle East, it is considered to be a European country and is a member of the European Union.
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 the "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus". 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.
Temperate; Mediterranean with hot, dry summers and cool winters.
Central plain with mountains to north and south; scattered but significant plains along southern coast.
Cyprus is divided into 6 administrative regions, each named for its administrative capital. Since 1974, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus administers the whole of Kyrenia district, most of Famagusta district, and the northern portion of Nicosia district. The Republic of Cyprus administers the following districts:
Note that 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 tourist. The following list emphasizes traditional English spellings, that will most often be encountered by the traveller.
- Nicosia (also Nikosia, Lefkosia "Lefkosa") - the divided capital
- Larnaca Larnaka
- Limassol Lemesos "Limasol"
- Paphos Pafos "Baf"
- Akamas Peninsula
- Ayia Napa - in the far east of the Republic, considered by many to be the main party town of Cyprus
- Troodos Mountains
As Cyprus is a member state of the European Union most travellers from European and North American countries won't need a visa for entry. European Union citizens can enter with a valid identity card, too.
Cyprus' main airport is Larnaca International Airport (LCA) and is located on the outskirts of Larnaka.
The previous main international airport located SW of Nicosia is now located on the Green Line separating the Greek and Turkish parts of Cyprus - it has been out of use since 1974.
Cyprus is serviced by a variety of different carriers, the main one being the Cypriot Cyprus Airways. There are flight connections with most major European towns, e.g. London, Birmingham, Manchester, Frankfurt, Paris, Amsterdam, Rome, Milan) and many Eastern European countries. Unfortunately almost all non-Cyprus Airways scheduled flights arrive and depart in the middle of the night (2/3 o'clock). There are also connections to almost all Middle Eastern capitals. There are no flights to Turkey from the south.
There are also charter flights to the western airport of Paphos.
Occasional ferries connect Cyprus to Greece. Services to Israel and Egypt have been terminated for time being, however there are 2 and 3 day cruises running in the summer months from about April to October. See CruiseCyprus . These mini cruises also run to Syria, Lebanon, Rhodes, the Greek Islands, The black Sea and The Adriatic. The ferry service from Greece runs from Piraeus, Rhodes and Ayios Nikolaos in Crete to Limassol. See the itinerary here:  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.
Travelling 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 travellers from the EU. Travellers from non-EU member states (as, for instance, Turkish citizens) must enter the island via one of the legal entry points (i.e. entry points in the Southern part of the island) in order to visit the Southern part.
The Cyprus embassy in Washington on the phone (June 2006) when asked if the border is open to U.S. citizens, didn't give a 'No', but said that they recommend entering from the "legal" points in the Greek side.
Different entities and web pages claim different things. In June 2006, 4 U.S. passport holders (the writers herein) took a boat from Turkey to Northern Cyprus. On the boat there were other casual travelers planning to cross the border to take a flight back home. We were needing to get to Limassol to catch another boat. The local who gave us a ride to Ledra Palace thought we wouldn't be able to cross. The person at the gate told him that it is ok. We passed with no problems, noticing the sand bags and bullet holes on the deserted buildings. The Greek side let us in without stamping our passports and no questioning. In Limassol the woman in the passport control made a little fuss about entering from the north, but after a few minutes we got our passports back and boarded. I am not sure what this means... it is possible that Greek side won't let us in in the future. You don't have problem entering from the check points from south to north and vice versa.The only problem is that the Turkish side in the north wants to stamp the passports , as it is like you are entering a different country. The only country that is recognised by the UN is the Republic of Cyprus. The "Turkish Republic of Cyprus" is only recognised by Turkey , which actually controls the northern territory of Cyprus.
Update: As of October 2007, We (two Canadian passport holders) travelled from Tasucu Turkey to Larnaca Cyprus in the North. The plan was to travel to Israel which necessitated our cross from the North to South in Cyprus. While our internet research suggested that we could catch a bus, we were advised by taxi drivers at Larnaca that this was not possible. In the end, we took a taxi from Larnaca to Limassol. This took approximately 1 1/2 hours and cost 90 Cyprus pounds. Our taxi driver advised us that it could have cost up to 120 Cyprus pounds.
Our real concern was whether we would be allowed to board to boat from Limassol to Haifa, Israel. It is possible to take a boat on Louis Cruise lines which offers a 3 day cruise to "the Holy Land" that lands in Haifa. It is also possible to take this cruise one way for 178 Cyprus pounds for two people.
At Limassol, the woman at passport control was a bit confused and went into the back office but we were allowed to board the boat with no trouble and little fanfair. This is, of course, subject to change. There is no need to have the stamp in Northern Cyprus on a separate piece of paper instead of your passport as you will need to advise passport control in the south how you got into the country.
The main crossings between the south and north are:
- Astromerits/Zodhia (by car only)
- Agios Dometios/Kermia/Metehan
- Ledra Palace (by foot only) - the oldest crossing, just outside the walls of old Nicosia to the west of the city
- Strovilia near Agios Nikolaos - located at the eastern part of the island
- Ledras Str. - the new crossing opened in 2008. Located at the old "dead-end" of the most popular street of Nicosia.
Public transportation in Cyprus is surprisingly poor, and most Cypriots drive.
As of July 2005 Cyprus' on-again, off-again intercity bus services appear to be running again. Enquire locally. It will cost CYP 0.80 for few KM ride and frequency is 30 minutes to 1 hour in limassol city.
By shared taxi
Services run every half-hour or so from 6 or 7 in the morning, but terminate at 5 or 6 PM 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. Provided only by Travel & Express .
Car hire is the easiest (but the most expensive) way to get around the island. 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.
- 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 3,000 metres, offering some beautiful trail walks and also quaint little villages such as Platres and Phini. In winter there is the chance to ski there and the ski resort is being developed
- Hamam Omerye  in Nicosia, Cyprus is a 14th Century building restored to operate once again as a hammam for all to enjoy, relax and rejuvinate - it is indeed a place to rest. 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 today and after its recent 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.
The official languages of Cyprus are Greek and Turkish. Other common languages spoken on the island are English, French, German, and Russian
Since 2008, the official currency of Cyprus is the euro (€). If you have any old Cypriot pounds lying around, the Central Bank of Cyprus in Nicosia will exchange them at a rate of CYP 0.585274 per €1 until 2017.
Things to buy
- Cypriot wine - the iconic local variety known as Commandaria is strong, sweet and somewhat akin to port wine
- Lacework of an intricate nature - from the village of Lefkara.
- Zivania - is a strong spirit based alcoholic drink
- Leather goods such as shoes and handbags
- Jewellery - especially silver is cheaper than UK
Cypriot food bears a distinct resemblance to Greek cooking, and uses lemons and olives extensively.
- 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.
- Halloumi (Χαλλουμι) 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.
There are countless hotels and hotel apartments of varying degrees of luxury within Cyprus. Some of the hotels are: Holiday Inn, Four Seasons, Le Meridien, Hilton, Elias Beach Hotel.
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 in recent years 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 traveller, 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 tradesmen.
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:
- Theatre Cyprus - A Gap-Year Theatre Training Programme , a Gap-Year drama programme that offers a 10 month course in Cyprus and also allows time to explore the surrounding continents (Europe, North Africa and the Middle East).
- Tekni Art , also run a one year visual arts programme between September and July.
Cyprus operates on a 240 V, 50 Hz electrical system. They use the British plugs
Cyprus is a remarkably safe county, 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. There's also some residual hostility towards people of Turkish origin or appearance.
Note also that the numerous Cypriot "cabarets" are not what their name implies but rather bordels associated with organized crime.
It is best to avoid discussion of the various merits of the Greek-Turkish divide and events beginning in 1974 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 cafes and side rooms equipped with monitors. Prices vary, so shop about. 2 pounds an hour seems average, but you can do better.Many cafes now offer free wi-fi access. Most hotels and resorts now offer internet access to their guests under various arrangements.
This page was last edited at 00:16, on 23 March 2009 by Peter Fitzgerald. Based on work by Jani Patokallio, Wikitravel user(s) Travelbird, Sailsetter and Porzechowski, Anonymous user(s) of Wikitravel and others.