Cyprus travel guide
The legendary birthplace of Aphrodite, Cyprus is every inch the Mediterranean – sandy beaches, ancient monasteries, classical ruins, thyme scented mountains, terracotta houses and, of course, the obligatory party resorts full of sun-seeking twenty-somethings.
Cyprus has always been at the crossroads between Europe and Asia. In ancient times, a succession of empires squabbled over its seaports and mountain fortresses, which guaranteed supremacy over the eastern Mediterranean. These empire-builders left behind an incredible legacy of historical relics: ancient Greek and Roman ruins, Crusader castles, mighty Venetians city walls and towering mosques and minarets left behind by Ottoman invaders.
Until the 1970s, Cyprus was a sleepy backwater, but a devastating civil war saw the island split into Greek Cypriot and Turkish states. In the south, the Greek Republic of Cyprus grew into a modern European state, while the Turkish north half of the island remains isolated, recognised only by Turkey and well off the mainstream tourist radar.
After Partition, tourist development went into overdrive in the Greek half of the island, with the emergence of Ayia Napa, Protaras, Limassol, Paphos and a string of other package holiday resorts along the southern coast. This is one face of Cyprus – whitewashed villas, sunbathers, banana-boat rides, boisterous nightclubs and hordes of young people enjoying blistering summer sunshine.
Inland, the old Cyprus endures, with beautiful villages full of UNESCO-listed churches, peaceful mountain trails and vineyards that have been producing wines since ancient times. A similar old-world atmosphere pervades in the divided capital, Lefkosia (Nicosia), where quiet lanes lined with Turkish mosques and Byzantine churches come to a sudden halt at the Green Line, the de facto border between the two enclaves.
The north is something else again, more Turkish than Greek, even down to the menus on restaurant tables, but studded with ancient ruins and dramatic Crusader castles. While rampant development is taking place along the coast around Famagusta (Gazimagusa) and Kyrenia (Girne), the remote Karpas Peninsula offers a journey back in time, where ancient ruins spill out onto golden beaches that see more sea turtles than human visitors.
9,251 sq km (3,572 sq miles).
1,205,575 (UN estimate 2016).
128.5 per sq km.
Nicosia (Greek: Lefkosia; Turkish: Lefkoşa).
President Nicos Anastasiades since 2013.
South: President Nikos Anastasiade since 2013. North: President Mustafa Akinci since 2015.
240 volts AC, 50Hz. British-style plugs with three square pins are used.
Last updated: 13 March 2017
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. ‘We’ refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
Crime against tourists is not common, but you should keep passports, money and other valuables safe. Room safes and hotel safety deposit boxes have been targeted previously.
Personal attacks, including sexual assaults, are infrequent but they do occur. Be alert to the possible use of ‘date rape’ and other drugs including ‘GHB’ and liquid ecstasy. Buy your own drinks and keep sight of them at all times to make sure they are not spiked. Female travellers should be particularly watchful. If you drink, know your limit; drinks served in bars are often stronger than those in the UK. Avoid splitting up from your friends, and don’t go off with people you don’t know.
It is possible to travel to the north of Cyprus from the south (and back again), including via the Ledra Palace and Ledra Street checkpoints in central Nicosia where you can cross by foot. If you intend to take a hire car to the north, the main crossing in Nicosia is Agios Dometios.
Cyprus immigration authorities have confirmed that EU passport holders with a ‘TRNC’ stamp in their passport will not experience difficulties when re-entering the south. You can take a hired car through some of the checkpoints. Many cars hired in the south are not insured for use in the north. Check with your insurance company – you will not be allowed through a crossing without the correct insurance documents. At some of the crossing points it is possible to buy car insurance for the north. There are controls on the quantities and types of goods that can be bought in the north and brought into the south, including from the bicommunal village of Pyla in the buffer zone. Goods, including cigarettes, may be confiscated at the checkpoint and you may be fined. The Republic of Cyprus currently imposes a limit of 40 cigarettes per person on crossing the Green Line from north Cyprus.
Anyone with documents relating to the purchase of property in northern Cyprus when crossing the Green Line could face criminal proceedings.
British and other foreign nationals who have entered Cyprus through the north are considered by the Government of the Republic of Cyprus to have entered Cyprus through an illegal port of entry. The Government of the Republic of Cyprus reserves the right to fine you for illegal entry if you cross into the south, but in practice, the current policy is not to do so.
Short-term visitors and tourists can drive using a UK driving licence. Cypriot driving regulations are similar to those in the UK and driving is on the left.
Driving standards are poor. In 2015 there were 57 road deaths in Cyprus (source: Department for Transport). This equates to 6.7 road deaths per 100,000 of population and compares to the UK average of 2.8 road deaths per 100,000 of population in 2015.
You may be fined if you drive without a seat belt or ride a motorbike without a crash helmet. Heavy fines also apply if you use a mobile telephone or are under the influence of alcohol while driving. When hiring a vehicle, check that it is roadworthy and that you have appropriate insurance cover and safety equipment.
Bathing is generally safe, but you should be aware of strong seas and undertows. Always comply with warning signs and swim only from approved beaches.
If you intend take part in any adventure sports, water sports or diving, make sure you have the right travel insurance. Only use properly licensed and insured operators and satisfy yourself that adequate safety precautions are in place. Don’t hand over your passport as a guarantee against the return of equipment.
Minor demonstrations have taken place in response to the government’s economic reforms. You should avoid all demonstrations and follow the advice given by local security authorities.
The Republic of Cyprus is a full member of the EU, but the country remains divided by the Green Line which separates the so-called ‘Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’ from the rest of the island. The ‘Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’ is not recognised by the British government.