A former British colony, Cyprus became independent in 1960 following years of resistance to British rule. Tensions between the Greek Cypriot majority and Turkish Cypriot minority came to a head in December 1963, when violence broke out in the capital of Nicosia. Despite the deployment of UN peacekeepers in 1964, sporadic intercommunal violence continued forcing most Turkish Cypriots into enclaves throughout the island. In 1974, a Greek Government-sponsored attempt to seize control of Cyprus was met by military intervention from Turkey, which soon controlled more than a third of the island. In 1983, the Turkish-held area declared itself the "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus," but it is recognized only by Turkey. The latest two-year round of UN-brokered talks - between the leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities to reach an agreement to reunite the divided island - ended when the Greek Cypriots rejected the UN settlement plan in an April 2004 referendum. The entire island entered the EU on 1 May 2004, although the EU acquis - the body of common rights and obligations - applies only to the areas under direct Republic of Cyprus control, and is suspended in the areas administered by Turkish Cypriots. At present, every Cypriot carrying a Cyprus passport has the status of a European citizen; however, EU laws do not apply to north Cyprus. Nicosia continues to oppose EU efforts to establish direct trade and economic links to north Cyprus as a way of encouraging the Turkish Cypriot community to continue to support reunification.
The Republic of Cyprus has a market economy dominated by the service sector, which accounts for 76% of GDP. Tourism and financial services are the most important sectors; erratic growth rates over the past decade reflect the economy's reliance on tourism, which often fluctuates with political instability in the region and economic conditions in Western Europe. Nevertheless, the economy grew a healthy 3.7% per year in 2004 and 2005, well above the EU average. Cyprus joined the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM2) in May 2005. The government has initiated an aggressive austerity program, which has cut the budget deficit to below 3% but continued fiscal discipline is necessary if Cyprus is to meet its goal of adopting the euro on 1 January 2008. As in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots, water shortages are a perennial problem; a few desalination plants are now on line. After 10 years of drought, the country received substantial rainfall from 2001-03 alleviating immediate concerns. The Turkish Cypriot economy has roughly one-third of the per capita GDP of the south, and economic growth tends to be volatile, given north Cyprus's relative isolation, bloated public sector, reliance on the Turkish lira, and small market size. The Turkish Cypriot economy grew 15.4% in 2004, fueled by growth in the construction and education sectors, as well as increased employment of Turkish Cypriots in the Republic of Cyprus. The Turkish Cypriots are heavily dependent on transfers from the Turkish Government. Under the 2003-06 economic protocol, Ankara plans to provide around $550 million to the "TRNC." Agriculture and services, together, employ more than half of the work force.
Cypriot natural resources include copper, pyrites, asbestos, gypsum, timber, salt, marble, clay earth pigment
the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea (after Sicily and Sardinia)
Cypriot religion is Greek Orthodox 78%, Muslim 18%, Maronite, Armenian Apostolic, and other 4%.
Natural hazards in Cyprus include moderate earthquake activity; droughts.
Travel Advice for CyprusCyprus
This advice has been reviewed and reissued with amendments to the Health section (EHIC) and General section (EU Aviation Regulations). The overall level of the advice has not changed.SUMMARY
SAFETY AND SECURITY
- Cyprus shares with the rest of Europe a threat from international terrorism. Attacks could be indiscriminate and against civilian targets.
- Around 1.5 million British nationals visit Cyprus every year. Most visits are trouble-free. The main types of incident for which British nationals require consular assistance in Cyprus are for replacing lost and stolen passports, thefts, arrests, serious and sexual assaults, road traffic accidents, deaths and hospitalisations. Most of our consular cases occur in the coastal resorts of Ayia Napa, Paphos and Limassol.
- Cyprus has a strict policy of zero tolerance towards drugs.
- Driving standards are poor. You should drive with care and caution.
- Beware of strong seas and only swim at approved beaches.
- Before purchasing property anywhere in Cyprus you are strongly advised to seek independent qualified legal advice.
- We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling. You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake. Please see Travel Insurance.
The partial lifting of restrictions on crossing the “Green Line” allows Cypriots and non-visa nationals to cross in both directions at designated crossing points. It is possible to travel to the north of Cyprus from the south by crossing at several checkpoints, including the Ledra Palace checkpoint in central Nicosia. You may take a hired car through the checkpoints, except at Ledra Palace, which is for pedestrians only. You are strongly advised, however, to check the insurance implications with your car hire company before doing so. It is possible to hire a car once you have crossed into the north and to purchase appropriate insurance. There are controls on the quantities and types of goods that can be purchased in the north and brought into the south. Goods, including cigarettes, may be confiscated at the checkpoint and heavy fines imposed. The Republic of Cyprus currently imposes a limit of 40 cigarettes per person on crossing the ‘Green Line’ from northern Cyprus.
On 20 October 2006 a criminal code amendment relating to property came into effect. Under the amendment, buying, selling, renting, promoting or mortgaging a property without the permission of the owner (the person whose ownership is registered with the Republic of Cyprus Land Registry, including Greek Cypriots displaced from northern Cyprus in 1974), is a criminal offence. This also applies to agreeing to sell, buy or rent a property without the owner’s permission. The maximum prison sentence is 7 years. Furthermore, the amendment to the law states that any attempt to undertake such a transaction is a criminal offence and could result in a prison sentence of up to 5 years. This law is not retrospective, so will not criminalise transactions that took place before 20 October 2006. Documents relating to the purchase of property in northern Cyprus will be presumed by the Cypriot authorities to relate to the illegal transfer of Greek Cypriot property and may be subject to confiscation when crossing the Green Line. Anyone in possession of these documents may be asked to make a statement to the Cypriot authorities and may face criminal proceedings under the 20 October 2006 amendment. The full implications of this legislation are not yet clear. Any enquiries about its scope should be made to the Republic of Cyprus High Commission in London (tel: 020 7499 8272).
British and other foreign nationals who have entered Cyprus through the north are considered by the Government of the Republic of Cyprus to have entered Cyprus through an illegal port of entry. The Government of the Republic of Cyprus reserves the right to fine EU (including British) citizens for illegal entry if they cross into the south. In practice, their current policy is not to do so.
Short term visitors and tourists are permitted to drive on UK driving licences. Cypriot driving regulations are similar to those of the UK and driving is on the left-hand side of the road. However, driving standards are poor.
You may be heavily fined if you drive without wearing a seat belt or ride a motorbike without wearing a crash helmet. Heavy fines also apply if you use a mobile telephone or are under the influence of alcohol while driving.
When hiring a car, moped, boat, jet ski or other vehicle, you should check that it is road or sea worthy and that you have appropriate insurance cover and safety equipment.
Bathing is generally safe. But you should be aware of strong seas and undertows. You should always comply with warning signs and swim only from approved beaches.LOCAL LAWS AND CUSTOMS
Cyprus has a strictly enforced zero tolerance policy towards drugs. If you are caught in possession of any type of narcotic you will receive either a prison sentence or a hefty fine.
You should not make fraudulent claims on your insurance policy. The police investigate such claims and if proven you will receive either a prison sentence or a heavy fine.
You should avoid taking photographs near potentially sensitive areas such as military establishments in order to avoid any misunderstandings.
Homosexuality is legal in Cyprus, although it is not generally as openly accepted as it is in the UK.ENTRY REQUIREMENTS
Cyprus is a full member of the European Union. Holders of full British passports do not, therefore, require visas. British nationals may stay in Cyprus as a visitor for up to 90 days and you should ensure that your passport is valid for the duration of your proposed stay. For longer stays, you will need to apply for a residence permit by contacting the Civil Registration and Migration Department.
Single parents or other adults travelling alone with children should be aware that some countries require documentary evidence of parental responsibility before allowing lone parents to enter the country or, in some cases, before permitting the children to leave the country. For further information on exactly what will be required at immigration, please contact the High Commission of the Republic of Cyprus in London on +44 (0)20 7499 8272.HEALTH
We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling. You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake. Please see Travel Insurance.
The Form E111 is no longer valid. You should obtain a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before leaving the UK. The EHIC is not a substitute for medical and travel insurance, but entitles you to emergency medical treatment on the same terms as Cypriot nationals in public sector hospitals only. Medical treatment received in private hospitals and clinics is not covered by the EHIC. You will not be covered for medical repatriation, on-going medical treatment or treatment of a non-urgent nature. For more information about how to obtain the EHIC please see: Europe and the EHIC.
There are a good number of public and private sector hospitals and clinics throughout Cyprus. In general, the care and facilities in private hospitals and clinics are better than public hospitals, where standards are sometimes lower than those found in the UK. However, a brand new public hospital, boasting many of the most up to date facilities, opened in Nicosia in October 2006, and this is where most seriously ill patients on the island are now treated.
You should seek medical advice before travelling and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up to date. For further information on health, check the Department of Health’s website at: www.dh.gov.uk.
Avian Influenza (Bird Flu)
On 29 January 2006, the Cypriot authorities confirmed that samples taken from domestic poultry found on a farm close to the village of Makrasyka (Turkish name Incirli) in north Cyprus had tested positive for avian influenza. There have been no further cases reported and no human infections.
The risk from Avian Influenza is believed to be very low, provided you avoid visiting live animal markets, poultry farms and other places where you may come into close contact with domestic, caged or wild birds; and ensure poultry and egg dishes are thoroughly cooked.
You should read this advice in conjunction with the FCO’s Avian and Pandemic Influenza Factsheet which gives more detailed information.
Cyprus occasionally experiences earth tremors, but these are almost invariably very mild.GENERAL
If things go wrong when overseas, please see What We Can Do To Help.
EU Aviation Regulations
The revised EU-wide security measures that came into effect for all passengers departing from UK airports in November 2006 are also being implemented in Cyprus. For more details about this please see: DfT - Airline Security Update.
Before purchasing property anywhere in Cyprus you are strongly advised to seek qualified legal advice from a source that is independent from the seller.
Property issues are closely linked to the political situation. There are a number of potential practical, financial and legal implications, particularly for those considering buying property in the north. These relate to the non-recognition of the "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus", the suspension of EU law in northern Cyprus, the possible consequences for property of a future settlement, and the many thousands of claims to ownership from people displaced in 1974. There is also a risk that purchasers would face legal proceedings in the courts of the Republic of Cyprus, as well as attempts to enforce judgments from the courts of the Republic of Cyprus elsewhere in the EU, including the UK.
Separately, potential purchasers should also ensure that they are fully aware of the specific rules imposed by the administration on foreigners purchasing property in the north including the requirement to obtain consent to the transfer of property.
Time share and property salespersons tout for business in Cyprus, especially in the Paphos area. You should read the fine print very carefully and seek legal advice before signing any kind of contract. Under Cyprus law, purchasers of time shares are entitled to a 15-day “cooling off” period during which they should receive a full refund of any money paid if they change their mind.