Difference between revisions of "Northern Cyprus"
Revision as of 17:25, 4 December 2019
The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC, Turkish Kuzey Kıbrıs Türk Cumhuriyeti) is a country 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 between 1963 and 1974, with the end result being the intervention of the Turkish army into the northern and eastern 36.7% of the island by Turkey. In 1983, the Turkish-held area declared independence as 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 (known as the 'Green Line') 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 1983, 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 Cypriot 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-recognised 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.
For stays of up to 90 days, visas are not required for any nationality except for citizens of Armenia and Nigeria. Visas may be obtained 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).
All visitors to northern Cyprus need to pass through TRNC immigration. At land border crossings, travel documents are not stamped. At TRNC sea/airports, foreign passports are issued with an entry stamp valid for 90 days, while foreign ID card holders fill out a white form (giris-cikis formu), which is then stamped.
TRNC stamps are no longer a problem for later visits to Greece or South Cyprus for EU citizens.
Beware that if you are not an EU/EFTA citizen and you enter the island at the north, the officials in the south may deny you entry, although they only perform spot checks that may be cursory (i.e. they may not check your stamps).
The Ledra Palace crossing, previously a pedestrian-only crossing for non-diplomats, can now be used by ordinary cars.
Northern Cyprus main airport is called Ercan Airport. All flights are connected from Turkey. 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. Also you can check airport informations from Ercan Airport
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 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 nationals of EU countries and Turkey) with you, you can enter north Cyprus (TRNC) any time.
It should be noted, though, a few of the Cypriot 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 freely regardless of where they entered the island. 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 cities 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, Girne 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 northern Cyprus is Turkish although a distinct Turkish Cypriot dialect is used in conversation. English is much less popular than in south Cyprus but could still 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.
Girne 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.
Tourist SIM Cards
Visitors entering Northern Cyprus via the Ledras Street Crossing in Nicosia may wish to purchase a mobile SIM card with a special, particularly economical offer for tourists for one week that is advertised and sold in the Girne Road (Girne Cadessi) of the northern part of the old city of Nicosia but not even available by request in other shops belonging to the same company in other parts of the island. Right now it offers one week with 10 GB for €10, half the price of equivalent offers in other shops of the same company.
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 unoccupied area, it is customary (and recommended) to thoroughly inspect the room you are considering prior to renting it.
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 Girne, 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 at night apart from the main streets . 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 are 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, 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 funerals, and very 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 considered rude to insult or mock some of its traditions, and also ensure that you do not speak badly of the Islamic religion in the areas where the majority of the population is made up of immigrants from Turkey as they are likely to be much more conservative and intolerant about this particular situation than the Turkish Cypriots. 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 some Turkish Cypriots might get offended.
In the last decade a large number of Turkish citizens from the mainland have moved to north Cyprus, rendering Turkish Cypriots a minority. These new settlers may have more conservative attitudes typical of Islam in rural Anatolia.
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 some 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 police 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 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 Cypriot operators. Similarly, your SIM card purchased for use in north Cyprus will not work south of the green line
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.