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Introduction to Cyprus

Immerse yourself in a culture that draws on Europe, the Middle East, and 9000 years of constant invasion. Crusader castles rub shoulders with ancient vineyards, frescoed monasteries overlook citrus orchards, and sandy, sun-soaked feet tread Roman mosaic floors.

If you could sneak your way past the Green Line, Cyprus would be two countries for the price of one. Unfortunately, this really is a country divided - since 1974, visitors have had to choose between the Turkish experience of the north and the Greek experience of the south.

Full country name: Republic of Cyprus

Area: 9,250 sq km

Population: 772,000

Capital City: Nicosia

People: Cypriot (Greek 78%, Turkish 18% - including 141,000 in North Cyprus)

Language: Greek, Turkish, English

Religion: Greek Orthodox 78%, Muslim 18%, Maronite, Armenian Apostolic and Christian 4%

Government: republic

Head of State: President Tassos Papadopoulos

GDP: US$10 billion

GDP per capita: US$15,000

Annual Growth: 3%

Inflation: 1.7%

Major Industries: Tourism, fruit & vegetables, wine, cement, clothing, shoes

Major Trading Partners: Russian, Bulgaria, UK, Greece, Japan, Germany, Turkey (North only)

Member of EU: Yes

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Traveler Facts

Visas: Nationals of the USA, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore and the EU can stay in the Republic of Cyprus for up to three months without a visa. The UN Green Line, which separates the Greek and Turkish Cypriot regions, is currently open and travel between the regions is legal and straightforward; however, travellers must present their passport, complete a 'TRNC Arrival Card' and must return to their side by midnight. It's also illegal to travel from the Republic to the North and to then continue to Turkey - you cannot take luggage with you across the Green Line, and you will be placed on the Republic's black list, which will most likely prevent you from ever entering the Republic again. Travellers may enter the Republic only through the legal ports of entry: Larnaka and Pafos international airports, or the seaports of Limassol and Pafos.

Time Zone: GMT/UTC GMT +2

Dialling Code: 357

Electricity: 240V ,50Hz

Weights & measures: Metric

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The Republic celebrates basically the same festivals as Greece. Easter, more important in the Greek Orthodox Church than Christmas, is the biggest celebration of the year - expect candle-lit processions, fireworks and feasting. The date changes every year, but it's 50 days after the first Sunday in Lent, which is occasion for a carnival of its own. Cyprus Independence Day is celebrated on 1 October.

The North observes Muslim holidays. Foremost among these is Ramadan, a month where everyone fasts between sunup and sunset to conform to the fourth pillar of Islam. Ramadan ends with a huge feast, Eid al-Fitr, where everyone prays together, visits friends, gives presents and stuffs themselves. The Proclamation of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is celebrated on 15 November.

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Best time to Visit

The shoulder seasons - April/May and September/October - are the most pleasant times, climatically, to visit Cyprus. Summer - June to August - can be very hot, and winter is sometimes wet but still pleasant.

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Currency / Costs / Approx. Spending

Currency: Cyprus pound


Budget: €3-10

Mid-range: €10-14

High: €14-20

Deluxe: €20+


Budget: €7-12

Mid-range: €12-35

High: €35-60

Deluxe: €60+

Compared with Western Europe, travel in southern Cyprus is moderately inexpensive; compared to the Middle East, you'll find it pricey. You'll need to budget around $35 a day if you're going to stick to public transport, stay in very cheap rooms and live mostly on food from shops rather than from restaurants. Around $70 a day will let you stay in a mid-range place, eat out twice a day, and get about in a hire car. The cost of tourist commodities in the Republic and in the North are similar, though the North is better value when it comes to eating out and at the budget end of accommodation options. Accommodation is more expensive in July and August on both sides of the Green Line. Due to the collapse of the Turkish lira in early 2001, the North offers much better value for your hard currency.

Banks throughout Cyprus will exchange all major currencies in either cash or travellers' cheques. Most places in the North will accept Cyprus pounds and other hard currencies as well as Turkish lira. In the Republic you can get a cash advance on Visa at most banks, and in the North a couple of banks will do one for you. There are ATMs in most towns and even some villages throughout the Republic. In the North there are ATMs in Nicosia, Famagusta and Kyrenia.

In both parts of the island, a 10% charge is tacked on to most restaurant bills; if not, then a tip of similar percentage is expected. Taxi drivers also expect a tip.

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Lefkosia (Nicosia)

The Greek Cypriot capital was enclosed by a star-shaped city wall but the boundaries today are dictated by the UN-patrolled Green Line, which separates the Republic from Northern Cyprus. Lefkosia remains a friendly, laid-back place, with good restaurants, museums, and a lively art scene.

A visit here should give you a less touristy view of the country than you'll get if you stick to the coastal towns. The old town, inside the 16th-century Venetian walls, is the most interesting part of Lefkosia, with the city centre and municipal gardens just outside the wall on the south-west side.

Famagusta (Gazimagusa)

Once the richest city in the world, and often mistaken as the setting for Shakespeare's Othello, Famagusta has now gone romantically to seed. The decaying old town is surrounded by a Venetian city wall, while the new town sprawls outside its boundaries.

Just north of the Green Line in the country's east, Famagusta sits at the base of the eerie, desolate Karpas Peninsula. Wealthy to the point of vulgarity in the 13th century, levelled by the Ottoman Empire in the 16th, the old city is now mostly notable for its few remaining churches.

Kyrenia (Girne)

Kyrenia, in the middle of the north coast, is, despite some nasty developments, the most pleasant coastal resort on the island. As is the norm in Cyprus, the old quarter is the most atmospheric place to be, but most of the hotels are in the newer resort strip.

If Mediterranean atmosphere and outdoor cafes aren't enough to keep you entertained, have a look at the Kyrenia Castle. Originally built in Roman times, the mostly Venetian building includes a Byzantine chapel and a museum of shipwrecks, featuring the world's oldest shipwreck and its cargo.


In a country of crassly commercial, ill-planned resort monstrosities, Pafos seems to be hanging on to its identity while still pulling the tourist dollar. Kato Pafos, the lower town, has committed some nasty developmental sins, but Pafos itself, slightly inland, is much more pleasant.

Among the souvenir shops you'll see Saranta Kolones, a Lusignian fortress destroyed by an earthquake in the 13th century; it's mostly fallen columns and sewer tunnels. The Tombs of the Kings, just north of Kato Pafos, are a warren of more fascinating tombs carved into the soft rock of the sea-cliff.

Troödos Massif

The Troödos region mountains, in the country's south, are unforgettable and may be the one place where you're free of package tourists. Popular with skiers, hikers and the heat-intolerant, Troödos is littered with 15th-century frescoed monasteries, wine-making villages and pleasant walking trails.

Kykkos Monastery, in the western Troödos, is the best known but most touristy monastery. Built in the 12th century, it's been completely renovated and contains a museum of religious icons. Asinou is probably the most beautiful of the area's monasteries, but it's a bit of a trek to get to it.

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Disclaimer: We've tried to make the information on this web site as accurate as possible, but it is provided 'as is' and we accept no responsibility for any loss, injury or inconvenience sustained by anyone resulting from this information. You should verify critical information like (visas, health and safety, customs, and transportation) with the relevant authorities before you travel.

Sources: CIA FactBook, World FactBooks and numerous Travel and Destinations Guides.

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