Cyprus lies at the crossroads of three continents, Europe, Asia and Africa. As such, it has absorbed influences from all three, making it an absolutely fascinating place to visit. At the eastern end of the Mediterranean, it’s close to both Turkey and Syria and is its third largest island.
Since 1974 it has been divided into the Republic of Cyprus (Greek) which occupies about 60% of its land area. The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus occupies about 35%. The remainder is occupied by the United Nations and the British who have two military bases.
Nowadays it is much easier to travel between the two halves of the island. As long as you carry your passport you can cross at certain designated points. Normally people base themselves in either the Turkish or the Greek sectors and many decide to go to the other sector for a day trip.
Cyprus, long associated with the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite, has been occupied by man since the very earliest times. Greek settlers came here in about 1500 BC to be followed by Assyrians and Egyptians. Later came the Greeks (again), Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, Venetians, Ottoman Turks and finally the British. Independence was achieved in 1960.
Most of these civilisations left their marks and this is what makes Cyprus such a fascinating holiday destination.
The Republic of Cyprus has been part of the EU since 2004 and offers much for tourists to do and see. From magnificent beaches to archaeological sites at the busy city of Paphos and elsewhere, to waterparks, windsurfing, snorkelling and sailing in the warm waters of the Mediterranean, there is everything you could want.
There is even the birthplace of the aforementioned Goddess, the Rock of Aphrodite, near the charming village of Pissouri. There are other large cities like Larnaca and Limassol too. If all this isn’t enough, then a visit to the Troodos Mountains should provide something a little different.
The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is the least comercialised of the two sectors and has arguably the better scenery. Many head for Kyrenia, or Girne, a delightful port on the north coast where there are plenty of hotels and restaurants.
Many Turkish Cypriots live in North Nicosia (Lefkosa) and a visit here is a must in order to experience the delights of this Ottoman city. The landmark Selimiye Mosque, converted from the Norman Cathedral of St Sophia, and the medieval caravanserai of Buyuk Han, are fascinating examples of medieval Islamic architecture.
In the East, there is Famagusta and the wonderful archaeological site at Salamis which will take your breath away, while in the north east don’t miss the Karpaz peninsula.
Cyprus is a year round destination as it never really gets cold even in January and February but the best months, in terms of warmth and lack of rainfall, are from April to November.
At the very minimum go for a week but two or three weeks is the ideal. Although Cyprus is a relatively small island and the roads are quite good it takes a while to get round especially if your trip involves crossing the border.
High season is, as with most European destinations, July and August although June and September can be quite busy in the main resorts. Low season is January and February when the temperatures are at their lowest and the precipitation at its highest.
Temperatures in the Summer months can be very hot, especially in July when they can exceed 40 degrees C (100 degrees F). June, August and September can also be very hot while April/May and October/November are usually pleasantly warm. There is very little rainfall between the the of May and the beginning of October but expect 9 -11 rainy days per month during the Winter months.
Local Events include:
May/June – Bellapaís Music Festival (Northern Cyprus)
June (2nd half of month) – Famagusta Art and Culture Festival (Northern Cyprus)
June (Whitsun) – Feast of Kataklismós Lárnaka (Southern Cyprus)
August 15th – Parish Fairs (Southern Cyprus)
September 1st/2nd Weekend – Limassol Wine Festival (Southern Cyprus)
September/October – Northern Cyprus Music Festival (Keryneia Castle, Bellapais and Salamis)
Cypriot Holidays include:
January 1st New Year’s Day (All of Cyprus)
March 25th Greek National Holiday (Southern Cyprus)
Good Friday and Easter Monday (Southern Cyprus)
April 23rd Day of the Child (Northern Cyprus)
May 1st or the first Monday in May (Labour Day – Southern Cyprus)
May 19th Day of Youth and Sports (Northern Cyprus)
May Whit Monday – last Monday of month (Southern Cyprus)
July 20th Day of Turkish Intervention (Northern Cyprus)
August Seker Bayrami (End of Ramadan) 3 days – timing varies. (Northern Cyprus)
August 15th Assumption Day (Southern Cyprus)
August 30th Victory Day (Northern Cyprus)
October 25th-28th Kurban Bayrami – Sacrifice day (Northern Cyprus)
October 29th Foundation of the Turkish Republic (Northern Cyprus)
November 15th Proclamation of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
December 24th Christmas Eve (Southern Cyprus)
December 25th: Christmas Day (Southern Cyprus)
December 26th: Boxing Day (Southern Cyprus)
Cyprus is located in the Eastern European TimeZone (EET)
Daylight Saving Time (DST) happens in the Spring (last Sunday in March at 1AM) when clocks are advanced one hour. In the Autumn (last Sunday in October at 1AM), clocks shift back one hour to standard time to give more daylight in the morning.
Cyprus, especially the North is not expensive – expect to pay much the same as, or even less, than you would elsewhere. Admission to sites of interest is often surprisingly cheap and eating out, while not exactly inexpensive, is normally very reasonably priced.
Of course the larger cities can be a little more pricey but, if you are prepared to shop around a little, you’ll find something to suit your pocket.
What you can expect is value for money wherever you go. For food shopping try the nearest outdoor market. This will not necessarily be cheaper than the shops but the produce is guaranteed to be local and fresh.
Prices often fluctuate dynamically depending on capacity, seasonality and deals. We don’t want to lead you astray by quoting exact prices that quickly become wrong. To give you a rough idea for budgetary planning purposes, though, we have indicated general price ranges for all points of interest.
Price ranges are quoted in €. (In the North expect to pay in Lira – occasionally the Euro is accepted)
See & Do
N/A => Not applicable
€ => Tickets less than €15 per person
€€ => Tickets €15- €30 per person
€€€ => Tickets €30 per person
Sleep — Out of town/rural
€ => Rooms less than €60 for a double
€€ => Rooms €60 – €100 for a double
€€€ => Rooms €100 for a double
Sleep — Large Cities
€ => Rooms less than €100 for a double
€€ => Rooms €100 – €150 for a double
€€€ => Rooms €150 for a double
€=> €5- €10 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
€€ => €10 – €25 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
€€€ => €25 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
N/A => Not applicable
€ => Tickets less than €25 per person
€€ => Tickets €25 – €50 per person
€€€ => Tickets €50 per person
Fly the Friendly Skies
Airfares are a fickle thing. When you need it to be low, it’s high. And when prices dip, what happens? You can’t get off work to travel. Sigh.
But you can get notifications from companies like Kayak, which will email you when airfares drop. Type your destination and the dates you are watching and boom, when there’s a deal, you’ll hear about it immediately via your inbox.
Sites like Momondo also display prices for multiple airlines, so you can compare rates without visiting individual airline sites.
That said, there is an advantage to visiting an individual airline’s site. Why? Because some of their really great deals don’t show up on the aggregator airfare sites. Most airlines share limited-time, super-specials via their Facebook pages or email blasts. So it pays to be their ‘friend’ or subscribe to their e-mailings. European operators such as easyJet, Ryanair, Air France-KLM, Jet2, British Airways, flybe and Lufthansa offer an extensive range of routes in Europe.
Have Car, Will Travel
Like airlines, car rental rates are all over the map. Companies like Expedia and Hotwire offer comparison price shopping.
Zipcar is another choice for rentals. Available in many major cities, Zipcar is a great alternative for super-short term rentals. Picture this scenario: you are in a big city with terrific public transport, so you don’t need a car. But then you hear about an amazing restaurant 20 miles away in the suburbs. You can’t go home without trying it. A taxi would cost a fortune. You’d have to wait a long time to get a return taxi. Download the Zipcar app; search for a nearby Zipcar locale. Memberships cost about €8/£6 a month; rentals are about €8-13.50/£6-10 per hour; fuel and insurance are included.
Ride-sharing companies, such as Uber, are also ubiquitous in major cities. Through a smart phone app, you can line up rides all over town. It’s convenient because no money changes hands (payment is made through the app) and it’s usually cheaper than a taxi. Another bonus? After requesting a ride, you can see where the driver is on a map, so you know that they are on their way and how long it will be. Try that with a cab.
All the major car rental companies such as Avis, Sixt, Hertz and Europcar operate throughout Europe. It is not normally possible to rent in the UK and take the vehicle to mainland Europe or vice versa.
Hopefully, your trip to (or within) Europe goes without a glitch. But what if an unexpected situation arises? Will you lose the money you invested in the trip? Will you need quick cash to cover sudden costs?
Travel insurance policies are meant to cover these unexpected costs and assist you when problems arise. The fee is typically based on the cost of the trip and the age of the traveler.
Most travel insurance providers offer comprehensive coverage that usually includes protection for the following common events:
Trip Cancellation — About 40 percent of all claims fall in this category.
Medical — Travellers within Europe from European Union member states should obtain an EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) card which entitles them to healthcare on the same terms as citizens from the country they are visiting. This is a reciprocal agreement which means for example that EEA visitors to the UK will receive free care in NHS hospitals in the same way that UK residents do. Some countries e.g. France make a charge known as a patient contribution for GP visits or stays in hospital for both their own citizens and visitors from the EEA. Even so, travellers are well advised to have additional medical insurance to cover for example the cost of repatriation, mountain rescue in ski resorts and other emergencies.
For travellers from outside the European Union the cost of health services in Europe, while not as high as in the US for example, can be relatively expensive for the uninsured. For this reason it is essential to consider purchasing medical insurance. If you have a Health Care Plan back home it may cover you for most situations which arise abroad but you need to check this out and in any case additional medical travel insurance will cover you for private health care or other expenses.
Some countries outside the European Union have a reciprocal agreement for healthcare with certain European countries. For example Switzerland has an agreement with all European Union countries and Australia has agreements with the UK, the Netherlands, Italy and others. It pays to check before leaving home.
Trip Interruption — For example, if you become ill during your trip or if someone at home gets sick, and you have to get off the cruise ship or abandon a tour. The insurer will often pay up to 150% of the cost of your trip to get you home.
Travel Delay — Insurance usually covers incidentals like meals and overnight lodging while you wait to travel home.
Baggage — Insurance will typically cover lost and mishandled baggage.
Some insurance companies allow you to purchase a policy that allows you to cancel for any reason. This may cost more (often 10% or more), but it is worthwhile for certain travellers.
Do I need travel insurance?
If your trip is expensive it’s essential and even if it isn’t it’s certainly a good idea. Your age and health are important factors. Your English or other European language skills are also crucial because insurance policies often include concierge services with 24-hour hotlines that can connect you quickly with someone who speaks your language.
How do I choose an insurance provider?
Do your homework — check around.
The largest insurers in the U.S. include Travel Guard, Allianz and CSA Travel Protection. Smaller reputable companies include Berkley, Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection, Travel Insured International and Travelex. You may also find deals through aggregates like Squaremouth and InsureMyTrip.
Many airlines and travel companies also offer travel insurance when you book your flight (often contracted with the above major players).
In Europe the largest insurers are Allianz, Axa and Zurich but there are many smaller providers such as insureandgo and Direct Line.
Pre-existing health conditions — Many policies have exclusion policies if you have a pre-existing medical condition or charge an additional premium related to the condition. Some companies also offer waivers that overwrite the exclusion if you purchase the policy within a certain time frame of paying for your trip (e.g., within 24 hours of buying your cruise package). Again, it’s best to check the fine print.
Credit card insurance — If you buy your airfare or trip with a credit card, you may be partially covered by the credit card’s issuing bank. Check directly with the company to find out exactly what’s covered, as many have “stripped down” coverage and restrictions.
The Republic of Cyprus (the South) uses the Euro while the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus uses the Turkish Lira.
Both are decimalised and have 100 ‘pennies’ in each main unit.
Euros come in €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200 and €500 notes. They vary in size, from 120mm x 62mm (€5) to 160mm x 82mm (500), and colour, so it is easy to differentiate between them. All feature European architecture throughout the ages. (Smaller businesses may not accept the larger notes, so plan to have €20s or smaller notes in hand)
There are eight denominations of euro coin: 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cent plus a €1 and €2 coin. All have a common side and a national side. Remember to spend all coins before you leave – they can’t be exchanged!
The Lira is available in the following denominations: TL1, TL5, TL10, TL20, TL50, TL100 and TL 200. The Lira is divided into 100 Kuros (pronounced kooroosh).
Many travellers like to have a small amount of local currency when they arrive in a country but this is becoming less and less important as ATMs and Bureaux de Change appear everywhere especially in transport terminals.
The good news for travellers in Europe is that you don’t need to get stressed about tipping – you don’t have to do it and when you do it really should reflect good or excellent service rather than be something you are expected to do. On the whole workers in tourism are reasonably well paid and don’t depend upon tips to make up their wages. In some cases over-tipping can be embarrassing for all concerned.
Many restaurants include a ‘service’ charge in the price so check and, if it isn’t mentioned, then a tip of between 5 – 10% is quite enough. Even where it is included but you feel that you’ve had really excellent service then the same amount is adequate but ensure that your server receives this by handing it directly to them.
Other methods are to add a euro/pound for each member of the party or round up the bill to the nearest 5 or 10 euros.
In the UK many restaurants add an ‘optional’ amount to the bill when you are paying with plastic, but in many cases the servers don’t receive any of this and it simply becomes an extra profit for the owner. The server won’t mind if you decline to do this!
With taxis, just round up to the next euro or pound for a short journey or, for a long ride, to the nearest ten. Again 10% is the maximum you should consider unless of course the driver carries your bags into the hotel or airport when a little more will be appreciated.
You may wish to give the porter a euro for each bag he carries but, while it will be appreciated, it is not normally expected. Similarly you may wish to leave a small tip for the housekeeping staff, especially if they have been particularly helpful, but this is completely up to you.
Invariably, there are incidental costs associated with being on the road. Make sure to budget between €10 and €40 per day for batteries, lost phone chargers, insect repellent, headache medicine, sunburn relief and other personal items you might have forgotten. If you’re traveling with kids, consider the snack budget. Local grocery, super/hypermarkets and pharmacies will be cheaper than tourist shops for all of the above.
The first language of the Greek Cypriots in the South is unsurprisingly Greek but everyone speaks English too largely because the UK occupied Cyprus, first of all as a Protectorate (1878-1914) and later as part of the British Empire (1914-1960). The British still have sovereign military bases at Akrotiri near Limassol and Dhekelia near Larnáka.
The Cypriots of the North speak a dialect of Turkish which includes some English words and, in fact, many speak English which is considered to be the country’s second language. Most road signs in the North are dual language but in the remoter parts such as the Karpaz Peninsula they may be only in English. As always it is polite to have a few words of Turkish if you are headed for the North and some useful words and phrases can be found here.
Cypriots of both persuasions are very friendly and open people but you must always bear in mind that there is still a great deal of animosity between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots following the Turkish invasion of the North in 1974. It is best to avoid discussing these issues unless the subject is initiated by the person you are speaking to but even then remain neutral at the very least! Things are getting better but generally speaking if you are based in the Republic of Cyprus and intend to visit the North don’t ask for advice in the South – you will probably be met with an unfriendly silence. I once made the mistake of asking about visiting Famagusta while I was in the Tourist office at Larnaka – suffice to say I won’t make that mistake again!