A relaxed lifestyle in a Mediterranean atmosphere has established Cyprus as not only a popular tourist destination, but as one of Europe’s top spots for expats, business professionals and retirees.
Located in the Eastern Mediterranean at the crossroads of Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Africa, Cyprus’ strategic position has played a key role in shaping its history and in developing the island into a centre for trade and international business. Cyprus enjoys around 340 days of glorious sunshine a year and boasts a coastline teeming with endless stretches of golden sands, secluded bays and rocky coves. Surrounded by the crystal-clear waters of the Mediterranean Sea, the island is dotted with the fascinating remains of history from Neolithic settlements and ancient city-kingdoms to exquisite Byzantine art and magnificent Venetian architecture.
Cyprus has been coveted, conquered and colonised numerous times during its 10,000-year history. The island attracted the interest of a succession of dominant powers in the region, which battled for it through the millennia. The first of these are believed to have been the Achaean Greeks who arrived in around 1200 BC introducing their language, religion and customs to the island. Cyprus was subsequently colonised by the Phoenicians, the Assyrians, the Egyptians and the Persians. In the 4th century BC Alexander the Great claimed the island, which remained part of the Greek-Egyptian kingdom until 30 BC, when the Romans arrived and Cyprus became a senatorial province. It was during this period that Saint Paul was said to have visited the island and converted the Roman governor to Christianity. Cyprus remained a Roman possession until the empire began to disintegrate in 330AD, when it became part of the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire. In 1191, Cyprus was conquered by the English king, Richard the Lionheart, while on his way to take part in the Third Crusade. He later sold the island to the Knights Templar, who consequently sold it on to the Franks or Lusignans, a dynasty which went on to rule Cyprus for almost 300 years, until the last of the Lusignans ceded the island to Venice in 1489. Despite building heavy fortifications around the island’s major cities of Famagusta and Nicosia, the Venetians were not able to withstand the invading Ottoman troops who conquered the island in 1571. Cyprus remained under Ottoman rule until the arrival of the British in 1878.
The island’s long history offers visitors a journey of discovery paved with ancient archaeological treasures. The ancient city-kingdoms of Kourion and Amathus, and the Mosaics of Paphos, are considered among the finest mosaic floors in the Eastern Mediterranean. Other must-see historic sites include the Neolithic settlements of Choirokoitia and Kalavasos-Tenta, the Tombs of the Kings and the famous Sanctuary of Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love, who legend claims was born on this island. In more recent times, Cyprus gained independence from Britain in 1960, however a Greek sponsored coup d’etat in 1974 was swiftly followed by an invasion of Turkish forces which occupied the northern one-third of the island. Despite numerous efforts over the intervening decades, the island remains de facto divided, and the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) remains unrecognised by the international community. The Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders continue to look for a solution to end the division of the island, but while negotiations have been slow, some progress is being made. The capital city, Nicosia, is still split between the two sides, though visitors can access either side from checkpoints at Ledra Palace and Ledra Street, and today Nicosia is the last remaining divided capital city in the world.
Cyprus enjoys a Mediterranean climate, with long, warm, dry summers from May to October and mild winters with occasional rain, lasting from December to February. Summer and winter in Cyprus are separated by short autumn and spring seasons. The average daytime temperatures during summer range from +21.C to +34.C, although in high summer temperatures can reach as high as +40.C. During the cooler months, temperatures can range between +7.C and +15.C although even during the height of winter there are generally six hours of bright sunshine during the day.
Cypriots are highly educated and multilingual. The official languages of Cyprus are Greek and Turkish, however English is widely spoken and written and is the language of international business. German, French and Russian are also widely spoken in commerce, due both to the number of Cypriot graduates from overseas universities and the island’s commercial ties with the global business community.
Popular since the early 1980s with British and other European holidaymakers, Cyprus is well connected to Europe’s main cities, as well as to Asia and the Middle East. Flights from mainland Europe are quick, frequent and increasingly low cost. By air, Cyprus is 1.5hrs away from Athens, 4hrs from Frankfurt, 3.5hrs from Dubai and 5hrs from London.
Hotels / Accommodation
When it comes to a place to stay, Cyprus offers every conceivable type of accommodation, from budget-priced two and three-star hotels to a large range of upmarket and boutique hotels with four and five-star status. Agro-tourism houses are available for rent all over the island, often in the most picturesque villages, and give the traveller a unique opportunity to experience authentic Cyprus village life.
Culture & Entertainment
More than a place just for lounging in the sun, there are lots of things happening in Cyprus all year round. From music concerts and cultural performances with big name stars, sports events, religious festivals with all the pomp and circumstance of the Greek Orthodox Church, to informative conferences where you can meet like minds. The Cyprus Rally has been held every year since 1970 and forms part of the World Rally Championship and the FIA Middle East Rally Championship, and attracts hordes of car enthusiasts, while the annual Historic Cyprus Rally draws crowds of vintage car enthusiasts. Cultural events such as the Pharos Chamber Music Festival, the Kypria International Festival, which comprises music, dance and performance arts, and the Thalassa International Festival, which includes photographic exhibitions, movie screenings and music performances, ensure there’s something to interest everyone on the annual calendar of events. 2017 also brings with it an additional programme of top-tier cultural events in the coastal town of Paphos, the legendary birthplace of Aphrodite and UNESCO world heritage site, following the town’s win for the bid of the European Capital of Culture this year.
In Cyprus you can shop till you drop. The island is supplied with stores catering for all tastes and requirements. Most major British and European chains are represented on the island and there is a plethora of fashionable boutiques and big malls in Nicosia, Limassol and Paphos, selling designer brands including Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, Roberto Cavalli, Calvin Klein, Kenzo, Gianfranco Ferre and many more.
Sports & Outdoor Activities
Cyprus offers a host of energetic pursuits to engage the visitor. Becoming increasingly popular as a destination for golfers, Cyprus offers first-class facilities with four professional courses on magnificent locations, and the development of several new courses in the pipeline. Spectacular pine-clad mountains in the centre of the island offer walkers and cyclists welcome respite from the heat. Breathe in the bracing pine scented air, whilst admiring the series of Venetian stone bridges and waterfalls that pepper various hiking trails in scenery that looks as if it has been lifted from a book of fairy tales. In winter months, skiers can test the slopes on Troodos whilst the rest of the island wear short sleeves and bask in winter sun. The island provides excellent opportunities for water sports, such as windsurfing and kitesurfing. There are also excellent dive sites and facilities, with one of the best wreck dives in the world, the Zenobia, situated off Larnaca. Other popular dive sites include Ayia Napa, Paphos and the Akamas Peninsula, where divers are often able to see artefacts such as Roman pottery on the seabed.
It is of course impossible to talk about Cyprus without mentioning the food. As with most Mediterranean countries food plays an important role and is to be enjoyed at a leisurely pace with friends and family. One of the first Greek phrases to learn in Cyprus is ‘siga siga’ which means ‘slowly’, and is a mantra one will hear almost daily. The fabulous Cypriot food is to be savoured unhurriedly, usually al fresco with friends and family. Even a cup of coffee can be a two hour past time. Cypriot food bears a distinct resemblance to Greek cooking, but also has Turkish and Lebanese influences. As in other Mediterranean countries, eating is an activity to be savoured and enjoyed and is certainly not to be rushed in any way. Which is a good job as a traditional Cypriot meze – a meal of small plates similar to tapas – can consist of up to 30 dishes. Cypriot cuisine features lots of fresh fish, meat, beans, pulses and vegetables flavoured with lemon, fresh herbs and spices. Cyprus is also one of the world’s oldest grape-growing and wine-making regions, with its fruits of the grape ranging from delicate whites and full-bodied reds to the rich sweet amber-coloured dessert nectar known as Commandaria. This is one of the oldest wines in the world, representing an ancient wine style documented in Cyprus back to 800 BC and has the distinction of being the world’s oldest named wine still in production, with the name Commandaria dating back to the crusades in the 12th century.
Within urban areas, buses run on fixed routes roughly every half hour, with services ending in the evenings at about 18:00 Monday to Friday and earlier on Saturdays. Some routes have no service on Sundays. Hours are extended until midnight during the tourist season and some urban routes now offer a night bus service on Fridays and Saturdays. Timetables are available from tourist offices or directly from the bus companies. Rural buses connect towns and villages and make frequent stops. The service is infrequent with schedules limited to one or two routes per day. These buses can often be smaller mini-buses. There are also buses providing a service linking all major towns. These are generally very regular and all buses are modern and comply with European standards. A private company, Kapnos, provides a regular daily airport shuttle service between Nicosia and both of the island’s airports. There are no trains in Cyprus.
Car Hire & Taxis
Car and motorcycle rental firms have offices in all towns, as well as at Larnaca and Paphos International Airports. Their rates vary according to the rental period, season of the year and extras. They usually offer unlimited mileage and their cars can be delivered and collected at the airports by prior arrangement. Rental cars and bikes are usually delivered to the customer with a full tank of fuel paid for by the customer. When the car is returned, the customer receives a refund for any remaining fuel, unless stated otherwise in the contract. Drivers under 25 years of age holding a driving license for less than three years must inform the car rental company so special insurance cover can be provided. Foreign visitors are strongly advised to read the rental agreement carefully and demand fulfilment of all their rights. Taxis are also very common, but before setting off on your journey discuss the pricing with the driver and ensure the meter is functioning. TravelExpress is another good option, as a private company, which provides a shared taxi service between cities in Cyprus.
Roads are well maintained in and between the main towns, and there are four-lane motorways connecting Nicosia with Limassol and Larnaca. Driving is on the left in Cyprus and the maximum speed limit on motorways is 100 kph (60 mph). Cyprus accepts the driving licences of all EU Member States and any person with a valid licence may drive legally in Cyprus. According to EU rulings, driving licences issued before 1996 do not have to be exchanged for the new Community Model and remain valid until their expiration. Non-EU citizens may drive on valid foreign licences for a certain period (for those with a US licence the period is six months). Relevant Consular authorities can provide further information.
Office hours are generally 8:30am-1:00pm and 2:00pm-5:30pm, though in summer some offices take a long lunch break or finish early. Government offices are generally open from 7:30am-2:30pm, from Mondays to Fridays and until 6pm on Thursdays. Banks typically open at 8:30am and close at 1:30pm. International banks are open from 8:30am to 5:30pm. Shops are generally open from Mondays to Saturdays from 9am- 7pm, with larger supermarkets, malls and tourist areas open all day on Sundays as well.
Buying & Renting Property
Cyprus offers a full range of properties for both commercial and residential use, situated in key locations across the island. While the exclusive, top-level market is currently the most sought after, the island has a good stock of properties available, from townhouses and apartments, to villas and sea-side bungalows in five-star developments. Nicosia and Limassol are the main business centres. Office space is available in purpose-built office blocks, in converted houses or flats. A number of business centres also offer ready-to-move into serviced offices. They usually include fully-equipped offices that are available on demand with flexible terms, meeting rooms and a receptionist service. Overall, rentals are around two-thirds of those charged for comparable commercial spaces in continental Europe, and offices, retail or other commercial space is widely available for purchase or for rent.
There is a wealth of excellent private schools on the island, the majority of which are English speaking, but there are also French, Russian and Greek-speaking private schools. Fees are generally less than for the equivalent education in the UK. Public schools are free, and teaching is conducted in Greek. Tertiary education is provided by the six universities in Cyprus as well as several other colleges that offer a variety of vocational and academic courses.
Ranked by the World Health Organisation as one of the healthiest countries in the Mediterranean, Cyprus has an excellent healthcare system provided through both the private and public sector. The public health service is funded through the social security payments of those who work on the island, whether Cypriots or foreign residents. The system provides free or low cost healthcare for those who contribute to social security, plus their families and retirees, as well as emergency treatment for everyone. However, the full public health service isn’t available to foreign visitors, who require private health insurance unless they wish to pay high medical bills. EU citizens who are visiting Cyprus can receive free outpatient or inpatient treatment with a European Health Card, an EHIC (the old E111), which is issued by the health authority in their home country. However, this covers only essential treatment and not routine treatment. Non-EU visitors must pay for healthcare. There are a number of private clinics throughout the island that specialise in all fields of healthcare and their fees are low compared to most European countries.
Religious freedom is written into the Cypriot constitution and Greek Orthodox, Muslims, Catholics, Jews, Armenians and Maronites coexist peacefully on the island. However, the overwhelming majority of Cypriots are members of the Greek Orthodox Church, an institution that plays an important role in both personal and public life on the island.
Cyprus is a member of the Pet Travel Scheme which allows pets from any of the countries covered by the scheme to enter Cyprus without quarantine provided they meet specified anti-rabies, blood sampling and anti-worm/anti-tick hygiene requirements. The pet must be micro-chipped, vaccinated against rabies and blood tested, and can be brought into Cyprus only after six months have elapsed after a satisfactory blood test.
Cyprus has an efficient and reliable postal service as well as an excellent telecommunications network. Telecommunications costs are among the cheapest in Europe. Cyta, remains the main provider, offering a full range of telecommunications services. Other main providers are MTN, Primetel and Cablenet. Cyprus’ network boasts 100% broadband coverage.
Media and TV
A number of daily and weekly newspapers are published in Cyprus, some of which are in the English language, including the Cyprus Mail and the Cyprus Weekly. Many UK, European, Russian and Arabic newspapers can be bought in Cyprus a day or two after publication. Several terrestrial TV stations in Cyprus broadcasting locally produced programmes as well as international films, dramas and TV series. Cable and satellite television is widely available.
Cyprus offers one of the most attractive tax regimes in Europe. A member of the European Union since 2004, Cyprus’ regulatory regime is in full compliance with the requirements of the EU and OECD. Cyprus has one of the lowest corporate tax rates in the European Union at 12.5%, while the maximum personal tax rate is 35%, those earning less than €19,500 are tax exempt.
Personal Financial Services
Cyprus has a well-developed banking system modelled on the British banking system. The Central Bank of Cyprus has the responsibility for monetary and credit policy. There are currently a number of domestic banks operating in Cyprus, including commercial banks and specialised financial institutions. Standard branch opening hours are usually from 8:15am-1:30pm Mondays to Fridays and from 3:15pm to 4:45pm on Monday afternoons only. International banks are open from 8:30am to 5:30pm.
Many expatriates find they can afford domestic help that they could not have afforded at home and often choose to employ a helper for cleaning, cooking, general household chores and child minding.
Electricity = 240V 50Hz, 5 amp or 13 amp square three-pin British-style plugs. Electricity is provided by the Electricity Authority of Cyprus (EAC) and water is provided by the water board of the nearest main town. Many properties have solar water heating systems. Cyprus has no piped gas, but bottled gas is widely available in supermarkets.
Cyprus is the 5th safest country in the world, according to recent statistics, and one of the safest countries in the EU – and crime is virtually non-existent. It is safe to walk around all towns and villages whether day or night. Few locations in the world can offer the same level of security and stability that Cyprus does.
Visas & Embassies
As a member of the EU, under community laws EU nationals have the right to enter the country with an identity card or valid passport and to seek work. For non-EU nationals, employment permits have to be obtained before entering Cyprus. The nationals of many non-EU countries do not require a visa to enter Cyprus for a stay not exceeding three months. Details of visa-exempt countries and visa application procedures are available on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.
Visiting the Occupied Area
Following the Turkish occupation of the north of the island in 1974, the island has been divided. In 2003 checkpoints opened for the first time allowing both sides to cross over with a passport or valid ID. It is perfectly safe to visit and explore the area. If travelling by car, insurance has to be purchased at the checkpoint. Various policies are available covering vehicles from three days to a full year. Cigarettes and alcohol cannot be taken from the north to the Republic of Cyprus and there are restrictions on certain foodstuffs, such as meat and dairy produce. There is a maximum limit of €260 of goods per person allowed to be brought across the UN-controlled buffer zone.
Standard of Living
Other factors that contribute to the enviable lifestyle of Cyprus include a superb road system with signs in both Greek and English, a reliable and efficient postal service, a large choice of schools, clubs, restaurants, gyms, theatres, cinemas, museums and art galleries. The local infrastructure is ideally suited for business people who need to get things done. Thanks to its modern road network, extensive port facilities and two international airports, travel and transport in and beyond Cyprus is fast, efficient and economical.
Large Expat Community
A notable British presence remains to this day and Cyprus has become home to a large expat community. Today, Cyprus has the second highest percentage of foreign citizens in the European Union, with around 12.9% of the total population from other EU member states, and 6.6% from non-EU countries according to a survey of the EU’s statistical office published in December 2015. The biggest group of expats living in Cyprus consists of British nationals, but there are also large communities of Americans, Russians and other Eastern European nationals.
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Updated: March 2017