Money & costs
Compared with Western Europe, travel in southern Cyprus is moderately inexpensive; compared to the Middle East, you'll find it pricey. The cost of tourist commodities in the Republic and in the North are similar, though the North is better value when it comes to eating out and at the budget end of accommodation options. Accommodation is more expensive in July and August on both sides of the Green Line.
Cyprus, in both the North and the South, has a 15% value-added tax (VAT), which is automatically added to the cost of more or less all services. An additional tax rate of between 2% and 10% is added to goods and services in Northern Cyprus. This tax and the VAT are not refundable to travellers upon departure.
In both parts of the island, a 10% service charge is sometimes added to a restaurant bill; if not, then a tip of a similar percentage is expected. Taxi drivers and hotel porters always appreciate a small tip. Bargaining is not normally part of the shopping scene in Cyprus, neither in the North nor the South.
The unit of currency in Northern Cyprus is the new Turkish lira (Yeni Turkye Lira; YTL). Exchange rates for the new Turkish lira are subject to fluctuations due to a high inflation rate, check an up to date exchange website like www.xe.com for the most current rates.
The Republic’s unit of currency is the Euro (€). Euro notes come in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500. It is often difficult to get change for a €500 note. One euro is divided into 100 cents. Coins of 1, 2 and 5 cents are copper-coloured; coins of 10, 20 and 50 cents are gold-coloured; 1 and 2 euro coins are gold-and-silver coloured.
Banks in Cyprus exchange all major currencies in either cash or travellers cheques. Most shops and hotels in Northern Cyprus accept Cyprus pounds, and hard currencies such as UK pounds, US dollars and euros.
Cyprus entered the euro zone in 2008.
ATMs are as popular among Cypriots as they are among international visitors. ATMs are generally a convenient way to get cash at any time of the day, and the safest way to store your hard-earned dollars, pounds or euros until you need them.
Most banks now allow you to access your regular bank account directly from an overseas ATM, although in some cases you may have to use your credit card to access cash. It is a good idea to transfer some money to your credit card before you leave home. Be aware that your bank may levy a hefty charge each time you withdraw money from an overseas ATM.
You will find ATMs in most towns and in most larger villages throughout the Republic of Cyprus. In Northern Cyprus, ATMs are currently limited to North Nicosia, Famagusta and Kyrenia.
In the Republic, you can get a cash advance on Visa, MasterCard, Diners Club, Eurocard and American Express at a number of banks, and there are plenty of ATMs. In the North, cash advances are given on Visa cards at the Vakıflar and Kooperatif banks in North Nicosia and Kyrenia; major banks (such as İş Bankası) in large towns will have ATMs.
Having cash is a fail-safe way to carry money around from one country to another. It is also the least secure method. Once you lose it, it’s gone. It’s a good idea to only carry as much cash as you need for three days or so. However, a safety stash of about €100 sewn into your backpack or suitcase will see you through a temporary cash-flow problem.
Foreign-currency notes may be OK to use in major tourist centres in Cyprus, but are not much use in Troödos Massif villages. In the North, foreign currency is more likely to be widely accepted in lieu of new Turkish lira.
Currency-exchange bureaus in tourist centres operate over extended hours and most weekends.
Just as popular as ATMs, credit cards can be used in stores, restaurants, supermarkets and petrol stations. In the latter, you can even buy petrol after hours with your credit card from automatic dispensers.
The Republic of Cyprus is more credit-card friendly than Northern Cyprus, though the main restaurants, hotels and car-hire companies in the North will happily take plastic.
If you need to access your funds, international transfers are possible from your home bank to any of Cyprus’ major banks. While this method is reliable, it is usually slow – taking a week or more – and not helpful if you need a cash infusion quickly. Telegraphic transfers are nominally quicker (and cost more) but can still take up to three working days to come through.
Private financial agencies such as Western Union are usually the best bet, as you can often obtain your transferred money the same day.
These are not as popular as they used to be, but are a good stand-by in an emergency. Restrictions on their use are naturally greater, though many hotels and larger establishments accept them readily. Always keep the receipts listing the cheque numbers separate from the cheques themselves, and keep a list of the numbers of those you have already cashed. This will reduce problems in the event of loss or theft.