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.
Last updated: 12 December 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.
There will be no change to the rights and status of EU nationals living in the UK, nor UK nationals living in the EU, while the UK remains in the EU.
Terrorist attacks in Cyprus can’t be ruled out.
There have been reports of an increase in holidaymakers being encouraged to submit a claim for personal injury if they have experienced gastric illness during their stay. You can find more information about the action you can take if you have suffered a personal injury on the Citizens Advice website. You should only consider pursuing a complaint or claim if you have genuinely suffered from injury or illness; if you make a false or fraudulent claim, you may face legal proceedings in the UK or Cyprus
Around a million British nationals visit Cyprus every year. Most visits are trouble-free.
You can use ATMs, debit and credit cards as normal.
If you need to contact the emergency services call 112.
Cyprus has a strict zero tolerance towards drugs.
Driving standards are poor. You should drive with great care. See Road travel
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.
Safety and security
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.
Terrorist attacks in Cyprus can’t be ruled out. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners.
There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.
Local laws and customs
Cyprus has a strictly enforced zero tolerance policy towards drugs. If you are caught with any type of narcotic you will receive either a prison sentence or a hefty fine. The rules against possession of drugs are stricter than in the UK.
Avoid taking photographs near potentially sensitive areas like military establishments.
Although not generally as widely accepted as in the UK, homosexuality is legal in the Republic of Cyprus and legislation passed in 2016 now allows for civil partnerships to be carried out. Homosexuality was also decriminalised in the northern part of Cyprus in 2014, but it is still not very widely accepted and some discretion is advised. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.
British nationals of Cypriot descent, irrespective of whether they hold Cypriot ID papers, may be considered eligible by the Cypriot authorities for military service. If this happens, you may face difficulties when exiting Cyprus, and you may have to prove that you live outside Cyprus.
Under international law, the British High Commission can’t formally intervene with the Cypriot authorities on behalf of those considered by the Cypriot authorities to be dual Cypriot/British nationals. If you think you may be eligible for any local obligations or duties that apply to dual nationals, contact the Cypriot authorities or a local lawyer before you travel.
The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.
The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
Your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay; you don’t need any additional period of validity on your passport beyond this.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Cyprus.
You don’t need a visa to enter Cyprus. If you intend to stay for longer than 3 months, you should check entry requirements with the Republic of Cyprus High Commission in London.
Travelling with Children
See this leaflet on travelling with children produced by the British High Commission in Nicosia.
Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website and by NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.
If you’re visiting Cyprus you should get a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before leaving the UK. The EHIC isn’t a substitute for medical and travel insurance, but it entitles you to state provided medical treatment that may become necessary during your trip. Any treatment provided is on the same terms as Cypriot nationals. If you don’t have your EHIC with you or you’ve lost it, you can call the Department of Health Overseas Healthcare Team (+44 191 218 1999) to get a Provisional Replacement Certificate. The EHIC won’t cover medical repatriation, ongoing medical treatment or non-urgent treatment, so you should make sure you have adequate travel insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment and repatriation.
The EHIC isn’t valid in north Cyprus.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 112 and ask for an ambulance. If you are referred to a medical facility for treatment you should contact your insurance/medical assistance company immediately.
Minor earth tremors are relatively common in Cyprus. In the event of any natural disaster, follow the advice of the local authorities.
The US Federal Emergency Management Agency has advice about what to do before, during and after an earthquake.
The currency of Cyprus is the Euro.
If you’re found with fake euro banknotes the police will be called and you may be prosecuted. Several British nationals have been convicted and imprisoned for possession of fake euros. There are some simple checks you can make before accepting notes:
- The front of a euro note bears the initials of the European Central Bank in five different languages. They should look like this: BCE ECB EZB EKT EKP, in that order.
- They should have a raised print, a watermark, a security thread and a see-through number.
- If you tilt the banknote, you should see a shifting holographic image.
- On the back of €5, €10 and €20 notes you should see a glossy strip and on the larger denominations, a number that changes colour.
The European Central bank’s website has more details.
Travel advice help and support
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCO travel advice
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.