Questions and Answers
Political Situation and Crime in Cyprus
I can assure you that Northern Cyprus is one of the safest Holiday Destinations worldwide. There is no military presence to speak of and no conflict in the streets. On a personal level people in the South and North get on well with each other, some are even close friends. As this is a small Island the crime rate is very low, and if you just act as if you were at home with the same precautions, you can feel as safe as at home, if not safer.
Culture and language
As far as Religion is concerned most Cypriots are not strict Muslims. Many of the old Cypriots still have ancient British passports. Their culture is as influenced by the British as it is by the Turks. They drive on the left and usually you will find people that speak English. Even if you get unstuck in some of the small villages you then just resign to good old fashioned sign language. On the Karpaz peninsula you also stand a good chance of getting along in Greek. In the village of Dipkarpaz for example 1/3 of the population is Greek (about 500 people). The colonial influence shows in pretty much all walks of life; the Cypriot women do not wear head scarves, and outside the mosques there is no dress code. However in the small village where a lot of the mainland Turks live, they hold on to their Turkish Traditions. The women wear headscarves and the main income is in farming. But even during the holy month of Ramadan there will be no major inconveniences; apart from maybe some of the very small restaurants being closed during the day.
Since the country is still under economic embargo there are mainly Turkish or local products on offer. So there is no big emphasis on shopping, nobody will call after you as you walk down the street to offer you apple tea and call you into their shop. Local product and famous in Cyprus is the straw weaving and the crochet work of the village women as well as our local cheese the Helim, Halloumi as you might know it. Apart from that you can buy cheap cigarettes and Raki and other local Spirits.
The since 1974, isolated North Cyprus is still not internationally recognized and therefore still suffers some problems especially as flights are concerned. For example there are no direct flights to Ercan (ERC); all the planes are made to stop over in Turkey. The charter flights now get away with only a 45 minute stop-over, but why not use the chance to have a 2 or 3 day city-break in Istanbul which most of the time is possible without ticket price increase. On the other hand, you can fly in through the south where the closest airport would be Larnaca and from there you can then cross over into the North at Famagusta
Weather and diving conditions
Cyprus is worth a visit all year round, where as admittedly January and February are not the best months for Diving.
If you are an experienced diver and are well accustomed to the occasional bad weather, diving is an all year round sport here in Cyprus.
While for courses it is even more pleasant to do them in the summer when the sea is both warmer and calmer.
The border crossing is now problem free, on showing your Passport it is recommended to fill out a little slip which will then be stamped rather than your passport. There are few controls on the borders especially crossing from the South to the North. But please do keep to international laws. On crossing from the North to the South they sometimes check for alcohol and cigarettes, Helim as well as other foodstuff is one of the things you are not allowed to take across.
There is no public transport to speak of. Every village got one or two buses that leave the villages in the morning and come back after school or after work. Between the North and the South there is no transport link at all. I strongly recommend hiring a car to get around, as Taxis are expensive especially if you are going all the way to the Karpaz.
Flying into the North: You may find your hire car, sometimes, with the key on one of the tires at the airport and you leave it the same way. Most of the time the hire car company asks you to pop by their office on one of your excursion tours to pay the bill. Credit cards will be accepted there. They might even wash the car for you while you are there. Credit cards are now widely accepted how ever some times like in the dive center a 3% surcharge is required.
By now, with some Hire car companies based in the North, it is even possible to take the car over to the South.
Flying into the South: Here you can choose between hiring a car in the South and paying the extra mandatory insurance upon entering the north of approximately 30 euro a week. This means that in case of an accident you will be covered by the Turkish insurance, since the hire company from the South will accept NO claim for any accident in the North. Pretty much all companies let you take the car to the north, but please do check before booking your car.
There is also the small possibility that the insurance office at the border is not manned, especially if you do arrive during the night. (However I have the phone number of the office, so we can arrange that as well.) Your safest bet is to hire the car in the north and have yourself picked up by the hire car company at the airport in Larnaca. Extra costs will be about 70 Euros one way. They are happy to pick you up any time and you can then organize hire car papers and other details in peace and quiet in their office.
Roads and distances
The main roads Nicosia to Famagusta (about 40 min), Nicosia to Kyrenia (about 15 min without the city traffic) and Kyrenia’s northern coast road to the the Karpaz (1 hour 15 min to the Dive Center) are very good. From Nicosia to the Dive Center it takes 1 hour 15 min, from Ercan airport just over 1 hour, from Larnaca airport about 1 hour 30 min.
Most of the minor roads are good too and if you don’t intend to check out every last corner of the Karpaz Peninsula it is not necessary to hire a Jeep. But if you do, you will be able to see the wild side of Karpaz too.
Once in Cyprus it would be a shame not to go sight-seeing. From the Dive Centre you can get to Famagusta in approximately 50 min and to Salamis-Bogaz in about 40 min. Not far off that route is the amazing crusader castle of Kantara from where, on a good day you can see the sea on 3 sides, but always a minimum of 2.
Driving east from the Centre you get to the tip of the peninsula with its long golden Turtle Beaches and the wild donkeys (about 45 min).
To Kyrenia it will be a just over an hours’ drive. To the far west another 2 hours where you will get to see the ancient Vouni and the antique ruins of Solis. To do all these excursions you should have a minimum of 2 weeks. I am always happy to give you more recommendations and tips once you get here.
Cyprus, especially the Karpaz is the ideal destination for everybody that is looking for that ‘special’ holiday with a difference….. Nature and Peace, with loads of culture is what you will be finding here. The evening entertainment is made up by ‘sun-downers’ with sunset views next to the sea in the Marina’s own Facilities or in small restaurants which I can recommend to you. Please do not expect a lot of distractions and lots of people, if you are the kind of person – or group - that can organize their own fun and distractions, you will find your own personal paradise on the Karpaz peninsula.