The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC, Turkish Kuzey Kıbrıs Türk Cumhuriyeti) is a self-proclaimed republic on the northern and eastern side of the island of Cyprus. Turkey is currently the only state which recognizes the TRNC. Cyprus itself is an island in the Mediterranean Sea, south of Turkey. After Sicily and Sardinia, Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.
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 36.7% 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 ethnic groups.
Temperate; Mediterranean with hot, dry summers and cool winters.
Central plain with mountains to north and south; scattered but significant plains along southern area.
Cyprus is divided into 6 administrative regions, each named for its administrative capital. The southern districts of Larnaca, Limassol, and Paphos, the southern portion of Nicosia district, and a small part of Famagusta district are administered by the Republic of Cyprus. Since 1974, the Turkish Republic of Northern 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. The following list emphasizes traditional English spellings, that will most often be encountered by the traveller.
As Northern Cyprus is not an internationally recognized state, the rules for entry are a little confusing, but far more relaxed than they were just a few years ago, and entry is certainly not difficult.
All visitors to Northern Cyprus will need to pass through TRNC immigration, which is fairly painless. Citizens of the European Union, the US, Japan and most other industrialized countries get a visitor visa issued free of charge at the border or green line crossing point. Others will need to apply at "representative offices" (the TRNC has no embassies outside Turkey) in London (29 Bedford Sq WC1B 3EG. ☎ +44 20 7631-1920), Washington D.C. (1667 K. Street, Suite 690, Washington D.C. 20006, USA. ☎ +1 202 887 6198), or New York (TRNC Office of the Representative, 821 United Nations Plaza, 6th Floor, New York, NY 10017, USA. ☎ +1 212 687 2350).
When passing a Green Line checkpoint between the Republic and TRNC or entering via air or sea, TRNC immigration will stamp either a piece of paper (which seems to be the norm at the Green Line) or your passport (which seems to be the norm at air and seaports). You can usually get the officer to stamp the other document if you so wish. As TRNC stamps are no longer a problem for later visits to Greece or Cyprus, at least for EU citizens, you may choose whether to have that souvenir stamp in your passport or not.
Providing you have the right to enter TRNC, you will get a 90 day visa for most passport holders (EU/US etc) and less for other passport holders. The one day visa used to be granted back in the days when the north would not let in Greeks or Greek Cypriots or anyone with a Greek sounding name and as a result the South would only allow day trips to the North for everyone else. There was also a reason given from the Greek Cypriot point of view that you would be using stolen property if you stayed overnight in a hotel in the north. You could only cross at the Ledra Palace crossing, only on foot, only between 8am and 1pm, and you had to be back by 6pm. The day trip visa was issued at the TRNC checkpoint for the cost of one Cypriot pound. It hasn't been used for 10 years now.
Beware that if you are not a European citizen and you enter the island at the north, the officials in the south may deny you the entry, though there have been reports that this rule is not strictly implemented, especially for Canadian and US citizens. For European citizen, entry to both sides constitutes no problem.
EU citizens can cross at any of the border crossing points, the main ones being in Nicosia. The Ledra Palace crossing used to be used for official cars and UN vehicles only. Now UN vehicles are prohibited from using it as a crossing, and for ordinary mortals it is strictly pedestrian only. The road is wide enough for a vehicle and might be used for example if diplomats from either side were going to a UN meeting in the middle). EU citizens are given a separate paper as a visa, and this is valid for 3 months and can be used as often as you like, so it is possible to wander between south and north Nicosia at will, providing you are prepared to queue up to get your visa stamped each time. This was certainly the situation in late December 2013.
Citizens of Armenia and Nigeria require an entry visa to enter TRNC through Ercan airport, Kyrenia or Famafusta ports. Failure to present visa upon arrival leads to detention and deportation. Visas can be obtained at TRNC consulates Mersin or Istanbul. Entrance through checkpoints between TRNC and the Republic of Cyprus is visa free.
As the state is not recognised by any international organisation, its Ercan Airport is not recognised by the IATA. This means all flights (including charters) must touch down in Turkey before continuing to Ercan. Scheduled flights on Turkish Airlines, Atlasjet and Pegasus connect via various destinations in Turkey, and countries such as the UK, Germany and Iran.
It is also possible to fly to airports in southern Cyprus (Larnaca is the closest) and take a taxi to the north, crossing the Green Line near Nicosia. It is best to have a travel operator arrange for a taxi from the north to collect you, since Greek Cypriot taxi drivers may not be willing to take tourists to the north.
Alternatively - to avoid paying a "travel operator" - you can walk across the border at Ledra Street. There is a small tourist information "kiosk" on the left as soon as you cross.
It is also possible to take a taxi to the Ledra Palace crossing and arrange for a rental car to be delivered to you on the northern side.
Frequent ferry services operated by Fergün Shipping  connect Kyrenia to Alanya and Taşucu in Turkey. The only car ferry service is via Taşucu, and the fast ferry to and from Alanya only operates in the summer. There are occasional ferries to other destinations in Turkey as well.
You can enter northern Cyprus (TRNC) with a rental car from the South at six of the eight(see below) border crossing points. However, you will need to purchase car insurance for the North at the border (€20 for three days €35 for one month); this is due to the fact that the insurance companies and police departments of both sides do not co-operate. See details on crossing the Green Line below.
Since you need to have Turkish Cypriot car insurance to drive in the north (Cypriot (south) car insurance is not acceptable), it is important to know the working hours of insurance people at the border crossing points. Being the busiest crossing point, Agios Dometios/Kermia/Metehan crossing point in Nicosia offers the most extended hours. Here, the insurance people work 7 days a week from 08:00 to late at night usually till 24:00. At the rest of the crossing points, insurance people work from 08:00 to 17:00 7 days a week. On the other hand, immigration officers of the north and south work 24 hours a day all year long. So as long as you have Turkish Cypriot car insurance and your passports (IDs are acceptable for EU countries, Schengen Area countries, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Turkey) with you, you can enter north Cyprus (TRNC) any time.
It should be noted, though, a few of the Cypriot (south) car rental companies can refuse to hire a car if they know that it will be driven to the north. In one reported case (admittedly in 2005 or 2006), a rental company refused to release a pre-booked car because the tourists had a hotel address in north Cyprus.
While driving in north, one should also be very careful about stationary speed cameras. The cameras work both ways on single lanes and work only one way on double lanes. There are 4 blue camera signs warning you before each camera and the signs are 100 metres apart. The fines range from €50 to €150 depending on excessive speed. Almost all main intersections on the highway between Nicosia and Famagusta have fixed speed cameras.
You can cross by foot at Ledra Street in the old town, and at the Ledra Palace crossing point to the west of the old town. Both crossings are for pedestrians only, so if you are travelling by car, you will need to use one of the other crossing points. See below for details on crossing the Green Line.
It is possible to get a taxi or tourist bus to take you to the Ledra Palace crossing. Ledra Street is pedestrianized and would be a long walk hauling your luggage.
Going to and from the Republic of Cyprus
After the accession of Cyprus to the European Union, the restrictions on travel to the north from the Republic have been lifted. From the EU's point of view, the entire island is a part of its territory and thus, there can be no restrictions on EU citizens (including Cypriots) travelling across the Green Line.
EU citizens may thus now cross the Green Line provided that they have entered Cyprus from a legal point of entry (airport or port declared open by the Republic of Cyprus) Other nationalities may be arrested and deported by Greek-Cypriot authorities if they entered the island via the north.
The main crossings between the south and north are:
Public transport is in a pathetic state in Northern Cyprus. The main cities (Nicosia, Famagusta and Kyrenia) are connected by buses run by the İtimat company, but these services stop after 18:00. You can check the bus terminals of these cites for other buses, and there are usually buses that run once a day to and from rural areas (though these tend to bring commuters to Nicosia in the morning and leave at night). Bus services within cities are in a better condition, though these stop at late hours as well. Ercan Airport is rather well-connected to the main cities with buses.
"Dolmuş" or "kombos" are excellent options for budget travellers. These are shared taxis that stop for people who wave them down. The price of travelling between major cities and towns via dolmus (around TRY4-5) are much lower than taxis, however, there are no schedules. Dolmus run often, and backpackers should be able to locate them in a few minutes. In city centres, there are usually plenty of dolmus options going to many cities, though late hours are still problematic.
There are many taxi stations in Northern Cyprus, but you won't able to see many taxis around to wave them down, so make sure to get some numbers. There are taxi services in the Ledra Palace and Kermiya crossings, and at the Ercan Airport. Taxis are rather expensive though, with a journey from Nicosia to Kyrenia costing around TRY70-90.
Renting a car is by far the most effective way to travel around Northern Cyprus. There are several rent-a-car services in Nicosia, Kyrenia and Famagusta. It seems that the main rental companies in the north are based in Kyrenia or (fewer) in Famagusta. Only few car hire firms have offices at Ercan airport but almost all of them deliver cars to Ercan Airport. If you are arriving from the south via Larnaka/Nicosia and want to pre-book a car, it is possible to use the internet to find a northern rental company willing to have a car waiting for you at the Ledra Palace crossing point in Nicosia. Rental costs in the north are much higher than in the south but the quality of the cars is good. Note that rental cars are normally rented with an empty tank, so the first task is to find a petrol station. The second task is to calculate how much fuel you are likely to use, as no credit is given for unused fuel.
The official language in north Cyprus is Turkish although a distinct Turkish Cypriot dialect is used in conversation. English is much least popular then in south Cyprus but still could be well understood, especially in the resort town of Kyrenia. However, the entire island is somewhat of a cultural melting pot and in villages off the beaten track, some elderly locals who lived among Greek Cypriots before 1974 still use the Greek Cypriot dialect as their first language, even though they are Turkish Cypriots.
Learning a few Turkish words and phrases, and especially those indigenous to the Turkish Cypriot dialect, will be very much appreciated by these warm people who are proud of their culture.
Here are a few phrases in the local dialect. For more phrases in standard Turkish, see the Turkish phrasebook.
Northern Cyprus is home to many fascinating sights, below is just a selection:
The above list of beaches is not exhaustive, there are many more beaches with good facilities, and many more unspoilt ones which are up to the traveller to discover.
Northern Cyprus has been dubbed as the Turkish Las Vegas. Casinos attract many visitors from not only Turkey and southern Cyprus, where they are banned, but also from foreign countries. Turkish Cypriot citizens are not allowed to enter the casinos, but you will find that the casinos are a bit relaxed about this rule.
You will find casinos everywhere in the country apart from the remote Morphou region. Every luxurious hotel has one, and there are a lot of those.
Naturally, formal dressing is expected at the casinos.
Do NOT get into quarrels in the casinos, even though they are very rare. The mafia is involved in them. You will find that many locals, especially the conservatives, are upset about casinos as they are a way of money laundering. Also, as a general piece of advice, it is advisable not to gamble with a lot of money.
Kyrenia and Famagusta have a vibrant nightlife, with numerous dance clubs and concerts in the summer. Nicosia may be a disappointment for the seekers of such activities. YouCyprus.com is a useful nightlife guide for Northern Cyprus.
The places marked as "night clubs", especially just outside Nicosia on the Nicosia-Morphou highway, are prostitution centers. Even though prostitution is illegal in Northern Cyprus, the government turns a blind eye to such activities, so the risk of prosecution is almost non-existent. Many local men frequent these "night clubs".
Scuba diving in Northern Cyprus is a spectacular experience. Scuba diving is not allowed individually, but a quick Google search will reveal the companies who organize dives and Kyrenia Harbor is a good place to find them. Shipwrecks, sea turtles, soft corals, colorful sponges, stingrays, octopuses, scorpion fish, and countless others are there to be discovered. There are around 20 different sites for diving around Kyrenia.
Water sports such as windsurfing, jetskiing, waterskiing and sailing are also available at beaches throughout the coastline. Sailing is especially found at Escape Beach Club, near Kyrenia.
Concentrated in the summer season, numerous festivals take place throughout Northern Cyprus, organized by almost every municipality. Make sure to check the festival dates before going to Northern Cyprus. Concerts by local, Turkish and international bands and musicians, folk dance and modern dance shows and many other activities take place during these festivals. Alternatively, classical music lovers can visit the Bellapais Classical Music Festival in the historical atmosphere of the Bellapais Abbey.
Though the Nicosia Turkish Municipality itself does not organize festivals, for the festivals in the city, check Nicosia (North)#Do.
Although the Turkish lira (TRY) is the official currency in the North, euros and English pounds sterling are widely accepted in the bigger cities. Credit cards are also accepted in larger shops, supermarkets, and the more upmarket restaurants. Scams at the exchange offices are unheard of.
Those looking for traditional items to buy may find them especially at the Great Inn (Büyük Han) in Nicosia. Souvenir shops are available in all major cities, especially at the Kyrenia Harbor and the Arasta region of the walled part of Nicosia. Lefkara lace, originally produced in the Lefkara village which remains in the southern side of the Cyprus, then carried on by the displaced Turkish Cypriots, is now a widespread item to buy. Sele and sesta are traditional items made of straw.
There is currently one shopping mall in Famagusta, the Lemar AVM, with many international brands. International brands can also be found in the thriving and vibrant Dereboyu region in Nicosia, a 15-minutes walk from the walled city.
There is also a bazaar called "Big Old Bazaar" located in the middle of the main road from Bogaz To Gastria 15 minutes from the hotels Kaya Artemis and Noha`s Ark Deluxe, this shopping mall is partly opened and has already several stores in it.
North Cyprus property is low cost in comparison to property in the south of Cyprus. However, potential buyers should be wary of title disputes, as title insurance is not generally available. Accordingly, it is very important to understand the various types of title deeds available in North Cyprus. See North Cyprus Title Deeds.
Also be sure and check thoroughly that the property (whether a house or land) intended for purchase in North Cyprus, was not originally (and still legally is according to international law) owned by a Greek Cypriot (prior to the war in 1974 and abandoned as a result).
There is a risk, if the property was once owned by a Greek Cypriot, that the buyers could face legal action in the Republic of Cyprus and elsewhere in the EU, including the United Kingdom, from where most foreign buyers come from. The buyer could likely be ordered by the (Greek) Cypriot, British or other EU member courts to pay legal fees to their legal Greek Cypriot owner. There has only ever been one case where this has in any way happened, however, known as the Orams case , where no money was ever paid to the plaintiff. More recently, the Demopoulos  case of 2010 led to the European Court of Human Rights recognising that the current owners of property in Northern Cyprus have rights over their land and ruling that the Immovable Property Commission of Northern Cyprus is the correct place for future disputes to be settled.
Turkish-Cypriot cuisine is a fine blend of Turkish, Greek and Middle Eastern cuisines featuring mouth watering seafood to kebabs, numerous mezes to delicious home made fruit preserves called macun (pronounced ma-joon). Go to any traditional restaurant and ask the local foods they serve.
Some of the key foods featured in the Turkish-Cypriot cuisine, and some of whom do not exist in mainland Turkish and Greek cuisines, include Molehiya, Enginar Dolması, Kolokas, Bullez, Çiçek Dolması, Magarina-Bulli, Pilav, Bulgur Köftesi, Mucendra, Hummus Çorbası, Hellimli and Pirohu, etc.. Some special meals are explained below:
And here are some local desserts. Turkish Cypriot cuisine offers a huge variety of desserts so this list is far from complete:
Of course, traditional European restaurants exist too, from the basic fish and chips providers up to expensive haute cuisine. More recently, Indian curry houses have been opening and there are some good Chinese and Thai restaurants also. The fast-food chain Burger City, directly linked to Burger King, has restaurants in all district capitals apart from İskele. Turkish food, such as döner, adana kebap and tantuni is also widespread.
For those self-catering, food of many types and nationalities can be found in the many supermarkets. Even pork cuts can now be found from specialist retailers.
For vegetarians and vegans, Northern Cyprus can be a tough place, but virtually all restaurants and cafes serve salad varieties in the cities, though the traditional restaurants in less touristy areas may not.
As for non-alcoholic drinks,
Accommodation in Northern Cyprus is plentiful. Rooms are typically of lower standard than in South Cyprus and are correspondingly lower priced. The Northern Cyprus Hoteliers Association  maintains a list of virtually all accommodation. Whether visiting Northern Cyprus or Cyprus proper, it is customary (and recommended) to thoroughly inspect the room you are considering prior to renting it. Levant Villas  offers premium holiday villas for international travellers.
Working is forbidden to anybody not in possession of a permit, which is not easily obtainable for visitors.
The electricity is 240volt and the UK style 3 rectangular pinned plugs and sockets are used. Be warned that power cuts are fairly frequent and that the proper voltage is frequently over- or under-shot, which can be damaging to anything plugged in.
Dial 155 for police, from any phone without charge. Alternatively, here are numbers of district police offices for more non-emergency calls:
Northern Cyprus is a relatively safe place, as tourists do not have to worry much about crime. In Kyrenia, British retirees often speak of how safe they feel there, and that they can walk down dark streets at any time of night and feel safe. Crimes such as pickpocketing are unheard of, even in the bigger cities and lively areas, such as the Dereboyu quarter of Nicosia.
However, there are a few exceptions to this. The walled town of Nicosia, inhabited mostly by Turkish mainlanders, is known as an unsafe place among locals and most refrain from going there apart from the main streets at night. While during daytime it is as safe as anywhere in Northern Cyprus, be careful during the night, especially if going through dark streets, and exercise common sense. Catcalling for female travellers is sometimes encountered when the Turkish mainlanders are involved, though this by no means should cause limitations. Violent crime is very rare, and even though Kyrenia has the highest rate of violent crime in Northern Cyprus, it is still rare and it is safer than most cities throughout the world.
The police is reliable and helpful, often described as friendly, with corruption being rare. Offering bribes to a police officer is a very risky act.
Although 99% Turkish Cypriots are Sunni Muslims, the vast majority of Turkish Cypriots are overwhelmingly secular. Unlike mainland Turks and Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots are not conservative and many do not actually practice the religion. For example, alcohol is frequently consumed by Turkish Cypriots and women dress casually (Headscarves and veils are very rare and are limited to very few deeply religious women and some elderly women). Religion only plays a limited role within the community, for example, with the circumcision of Turkish Cypriot boys at a young age due to religious reasons, as well as with funerals, and occasionally religious weddings by an imam, which is symbolic, as only civil weddings are recognized by the strictly secular Turkish Cypriot state.
However secular and liberal the Turkish Cypriots are on religion, it is extremely rude to insult or mock some of its traditions, and ensure that you do not speak badly of the Islamic religion. In regard to the Call to Prayer, which is read 5 times a day from the speakers of mosques throughout North Cyprus. Do not mock or mimic these calls, as Turkish Cypriots will be very offended.
It is best to avoid discussion of the various merits of the Greek-Turkish divide and the violent events beginning in 1963 to 1974, with the end result being the partition of the northern and eastern 40% of the island, as the vast majority of Turkish Cypriots are very nationalistic and sensitive on this issue.
Openly denigrating or insulting symbols of the state, especially the flag or Kemal Atatürk are liable to cause deep offense and possibly result in charges.
One should also show respect in approaching people of the opposite sex or be mindful of any gestures which are regarded as very offensive, such as staring and addressing the locals in a loud voice (because it is regarded as condescending).
Gay and lesbian travelers:
Until 2014 Homosexuality was considered a crime by a law which was enacted during the British control of the island however, the law was not enforced. As of 2014 homosexuality has been legalized and there are no problems for homosexual couples travelling to the country.
Dial 112 for medical emergencies 155 for police, 199 for fires and 177 for forest fires. All these numbers are free of charge and can be called from a telephone booth without inserting a calling card, or any phone including cell phones.
Public pay phones are extremely rare in Northern Cyprus, you will find that they are non-existent in main tourist stops and main avenues. In rural areas, traditional coffee shop owners will allow you to use their phones for emergency calls.
International calls are routed to Northern Cyprus via the Turkish area code 392. When dialling from Turkey, the usual domestic format of 0 + 392 + 7-digit local number is used. When calling from other countries +90 + 392 + 7-digit local number is used.
On the other hand, calls from (southern Greek part of) Cyprus can be made by dialing the 0 + 139 + 7-digit local number format which charges at local rates as well as the international +90 + 392 + 7-digit local number format which charges at international rates.
Numbers beginning with 0800 are pay-free, 7-digit numbers starting with 444 (mainly used by companies) are charged as local calls, though you might have to add a 392 before and use it as 0 + 392 + 444.
The two local mobile phone networks will allow you to make and accept international and local calls on your mobile phones, however the connections are expensive. Far better to buy a local pay-as-you-go SIM-card from either TelSim (Vodafone) or Turkcell which offer the usual facilities at much cheaper rates.
Be aware that mobile phones with Greek Cypriot SIM cards will not work in Northern Cyprus as there is no agreement between the companies (CYTA and MTN) and the Turkish operators. Similarly, your SIM card purchased for use in North Cyprus will not work south of the border.
The better hotels all offer internet connections of some sort, and there are numerous internet cafes, easily found in the main cities. Most cafes also offer free Wi-Fi spots, some even don't have a password.
Northern Cyprus has a 3G mobile data network, do check the prices if you are planning to purchase an SIM card.