Difference between revisions of "Northern Cyprus"
Revision as of 11:15, 26 January 2012
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 coast.
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 tourist. 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.
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 Square, London WC1B 3EG, UK. Tel: +44 20 7631 1920), Washington D.C. (1667 K. Street, Suite 690, Washington D.C. 20006, USA. Tel: +1 202 887 6198), or New York (TRNC Office of the Representative, 821 United Nations Plaza, 6th Floor, New York, NY 10017, USA. Tel: +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 souvernir stamp in your passport or not.
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.
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. See details on crossing the Green Line below.
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.
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 easily enter TRNC with a rented car from the South at five (see below) border crossing points. You will need to purchase insurance for the North at the border (€20 for tree days €35 for one month), as the companies in the South do not provide coverage in the North. See details on crossing the Green Line below.
It should be noted, though, that some 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.
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.
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) traveling 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:
The most efficient way of travel throughout Northern Cyprus are taxis. For budget travelers who are not willing to pay for taxis everywhere, "dolmuş" or "kombos" are excellent options. These are shared taxis that stop for people who wave them down. The price of travelling between major cities and towns via dolmus are much lower than taxis, however, there are no schedules. A taxi from Nicosia (Lefkoşa) to Kyrenia (Girne) may cost 70-90 Turkish Lira, but a dolmus costs only 3-4 TL. Dolmus run often, and backpackers should be able to locate them in a few minutes. In city centers, there are usually plenty of dolmus options going to many cities. You can also hire a car at a reasonable cost and hiring a car will enable you to visit most of North Cyprus in one day.
The official language of Northern Cyprus is Turkish. English is also widely used, 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 Greeks before 1974 still use Greek as their first language, even though they are ethnically "Turkish" Cypriots.
Although the Turkish Lira is the official currency in the North, Euros and UK pounds are widely accepted in the bigger cities. Credit cards are also accepted in larger shops and supermarkets.
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 huge risk, if the property is indeed legally 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. At worst, if the Cyprus dispute is solved, the property can either be returned or compensated to the original Greek Cypriot owner (that is taken away from the third party without any compensation whatsover).
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).
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..
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.
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.
Locally produced Rakı, which is the national drink of the Turks (similar to Ouzo which is the national drink of the Greeks, as they both have a strong aniseed flavor, but with different proportions) and all internationally imported varieties. Avoid local wine at all costs, also wines from the Turkish mainland; they are expensive. However imported wines from South Africa, Chile, Australia and Argentina are widely available and are fairly reliable and good value. A local lager brand named Efes is ubiquitous, as are some bland European brands such as Carling and Heineken. English ales and Guinness are rare but can sometimes be found.
Accommodation in Northern Cyprus is plentiful. Rooms are typically of lower standard than in Cyprus proper, 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.
All of universities in Northern Cyprus are private.
There are five Northern Cypriot universities holding over 40,000 students:
There is also a campus of Middle East Technical University. Istanbul Technical University is also planning to open a campus in Northern Cyprus.
Atatürk Teacher Academy and Police Academy provide vocational education in related subjects.
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.
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.
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 occupation of the northern and eastern 40% of the island by Turkey, 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:
Homosexuality, long officially banned, was legalized in 2009, but same-sex relationships are not recognized by the government and flaunting your orientation openly is very likely to draw stares and whispers. Nevertheless North Cyprus is considered to be safe for gay and lesbian travelers, and violence against homosexuals is unheard of.
International calls are routed to Northern Cyprus via the Turkish area code 392. When dialing 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.
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.