Welcome to Cyprus
Cyprus is a Greek and English speaking island (most road signs are also bilingual) with a rich and ancient history. In the past, it has been conquered many times, and the museums are full of ancient relics going back as far as 1500BCE, from many different conquering cultures. The island is millions of years old, volcanic in origin, and has many National Heritage sites, and Paphos in particular has multiple sites of interest, including the famous Tombs of the Kings, where ancient tombs and frescoes have been excavated, and for a small fee, visitors can explore the entire site. Refreshments are available, when you need to cool down a bit. Paphos was awarded the European City of Culture title for 2017.
Within easy reach of Paphos Airport, there is everything from secluded beaches to museums and great night life, including Karaoke, with hotels, restaurants and bars galore from many cultures – British, Irish, Chinese, Thai, Indian, African, and of course, the traditional Greek and Cypriot restaurants, where you can try delicious local foods and the Meze that the Cypriots thrive on. There are some villages in Cyprus, up in the mountainous areas, where people live extraordinarily long lives. Scientists, nutritionists and environmentalists are looking into their lifestyle and habits to try and figure out what makes the people live so long. My own feeling is that it is drinking from village springs, eating a lot of raw fresh veggies and fruit, and the clean air.
Throughout the bigger cities in Cyprus you can find the large supermarkets you’d expect in any city, and of course, there are the usual KFC and McDonalds restaurants. It depends where you shop. Most towns have local markets where the food is incredibly cheap, good charity shops, and Cyprus has caught up to AirBnB and you can easily find comfortable homes to rent all year round if you’d prefer that to a hotel.
Healthcare is currently close to free, if you are from the EU, although with Brexit nearing its time of implementation, things may change in the future. However, to be on the safe side, take out travel insurance. And don’t forget to bring along your your European Health Insurance Card EHIC). Although you can, of course go private, and because of the low cost of private treatment here, there are a lot of ‘health tourists’, when people come here for operations that would cost them their house in the USA or some other places. The expertise of the medical profession in Cyprus is second to none, and private practitioners also often work in the Cypriot equivalent of the NHS.
Cyprus itself is considered one of the safest places to visit or live in the world. You rarely see police about, but they are fast to respond to any emergency. And late in the evenings they sometimes do ‘catch drunk driver’ operations, where you can receive an on-the-spot fine and penalty points if you are caught over the limit.
However, the north of Cyprus is still occupied by Turkey, and most Cypriots intensely dislike the Turks, (Cyprus has the only divided Capital left in the world, Nicosia. It is though, easy to cross the border (you’ll need your passport, which the customs guards are happy to stamp, providing you with a memento of your trip), and visit the delights of the northern towns and beaches. The restaurants there are amazingly clean and owing to the falling rates of Turkish Lira, the rate of exchange is currently very beneficial, allowing a lot of Lira for your local currency at any cash machine. This makes the local goods amazingly cheap for foreigners, and the locals are very friendly and eager to please. To a large extent they depend on tourism for their survival.
Beware though, of fake goods in the tourist areas. If you see a Gucci handbag for the equivalent of ten Euros, you can safely assume it to be a fake. Although many tourists still purchase such items. You don’t have to tell people it’s a fake! But also beware of fake consumer electronics. They can be cheap but authentic looking copies, that won’t last long. If you are going to purchase something like a camera or iPhone in the Turkish sector, ensure that you purchase it from a large chain store.
The other Airport in Cyprus is Larnaka, and Larnaka itself has a massive strip full of restaurants and bars close to the promenade, with a long beach and beautiful Marina, full of everything from local fishing boats to millionaire style yachts and cruisers. Talking of which, there are many day cruises available at most ports for reasonable prices on passenger boats, from the ubiquitous glass bottomed boats to whale and dolphin sighting specialists.
From Larnaca it is an easy drive to Ayia Napa, the nightlife capital of Cyprus. Here people from the ages of seventeen to around twenty-six or seven, often sleep all day, and go out in the evening. There are parties everywhere, including the beautiful beaches in the area, and in the mornings you can often see clothes, including underwear, left on the sand. Beware of swimming at night though, especially if drunk. This has caused fatalities in the area.
The sea and the weather: Since Cyprus is an island on the Mediterranean Sea, which is not really tidal, the waters are usually incredibly calm, and except for the two or three of months of winter (from around the end of November to late February, when the weather is usually mild anyway, you rarely see a storm. However, February and March can be rainy. And when it rains in Cyprus, you get thunderstorms and rain like a monsoon. Luckily that soon passes, and it is very rare to get rain that last for more than 20 to 30 minutes for a few days in a row. One March holiday, I got caught in an unusually wet spell. I nevertheless enjoyed the trip. In late spring and all summer, rain is very rare, and usually warm. It can occasionally be quite dusty though, with dust blowing across from the deserts of the Middle East.
Getting around: They drive on the right in Cyprus, the same as the UK, Australia, NZ, and other places previously colonised by the British. Before moving to live in Cyprus, I always hired a car. Unless you are going to spend your holiday tanning yourself next to a pool or on a beach, that is what to do! The prices can be cheaper in the cities than at the airports, but if you pre-book a car with your flight, you can get a car at a very reasonable price compared to most other parts of the world. If you plan on, for example, going up the Troodos mountains, or exploring out-of-the-way beaches where you’ll have to cover rough ground, (both so very worthwhile), best to hire a 4 x 4.
On the other hand, there is an extensive and regular public transport system, even between cities, and there are many tour busses available, for one-day-trips almost anywhere around Cyprus – one of the advantages of being on a fairly small island. For the more adventurous, a trip by plane to Jerusalem, takes only about 30 minutes, and Jerusalem is a popular visiting place for people of any culture because of its rich history and Biblical connections.
Religion: Nobody will ask your religion, but Cyprus itself is mainly Greek Orthodox, from Greek ὀρθοδοξία orthodoxía (right opinion) which is similar in many ways to Roman Catholicism, and you will find little shrines to the Virgin Mary and Baby, cut into the rock at many places on track to villages and on the way up the mountains.
Religion, however, does not stop the Cypriots from enjoying themselves, and few people wear many clothes in the heat of the summer day.
Time: Cyprus is two hours ahead of the UK. On Wednesday afternoons apart from restaurants, bars, supermarkets and Kiosks, most places are closed. Be aware that most shops also take two hour lunches. It is a relaxed atmosphere over here. You can’t get a Cypriot to hurry! Except perhaps for the taxi drivers who zoom about everywhere.
To summarise, whether you want sightseeing, lazing on the beach or next to a pool getting a tan, or relaxing in English, Irish or Greek bars, you will find what you are looking for in Cyprus. It is also one of the few countries in the world where you can ‘buy’ more-or-less instant permanent residency or citizenship. You just need to spend at least Euros 300,000 on a house and provide proof of income or bank deposits. This means that Cyprus is quite a cosmopolitan place, and you can find tourists and residents from many different cultures. The ex-Pat communities are mainly, though, British and Russian, along with some Chinese. All, however, are welcomed by the Cypriots. And in most restaurants and bars, the waiters and waitresses speak multiple languages. Hint: they get paid very little so very much appreciate a generous tip.