Cyprus is small enough for you to get around easily. Roads are good and well signposted, and traffic moves smoothly and without the excesses and unpredictability sometimes found in other countries in the Middle East or Mediterranean Europe.
Public transport is limited to buses and service taxis (stretch taxis that run on predetermined routes). There is no train network and no domestic air services in either the North or the South. Four-lane motorways link Lefkosia with Lemesos and Larnaka, and this network has now been expanded west to Pafos and east to Agia Napa. In Northern Cyprus, there is only one motorway, which runs between North Nicosia and Famagusta.
It is feasible to ride around Cyprus by bicycle along ordinary roads, which generally parallel the motorways, where cycling is not allowed.
Distances overall are generally short, with the longest conceivable leg in the South (Polis to Paralimni) no more than 220km. The North is equally compact, but it is quite a drive out to Zafer Burnu (Cape Apostolos Andreas) at the tip of the Karpas (Kırpaşa) panhandle from North Nicosia or even Famagusta (Mağusa). From Morfou (Güzelyurt) to Zafer Burnu is 210km.
Hitchhiking is never entirely safe in any country in the world, and we don’t recommend it. Travellers who decide to hitch should understand that they are taking a small but potentially serious risk. People who do choose to hitch will be safer if they travel in pairs and let someone know where they are planning to go.
Hitching in Cyprus is relatively easy, but not very common. In rural areas, where bus transport is poor, many locals hitch between their village and the city. If you do decide to hitch, stand in a prominent position with an obvious space for a ride-giver to pull in, keep your luggage to a minimum, look clean and smart, and, above all, happy. A smile goes a long way.
Hitching in the North is likely to be hampered by a lack of long-distance traffic, and, in any case, public transport costs are low enough to obviate the need to hitch.
Buses in the South are frequent, although some of the rural buses look like relics from 1950s England. However, bus travel is comfortable, cheap and, other than services to rural areas, offers reasonably well-timed services. Some buses, usually those running on the main intercity routes, can transport bicycles.
Buses run from Monday to Saturday, and there are no services on Sunday. Urban and long-distance buses are operated by about six private companies. The major bus companies and destinations in the South include the following:
Buses in the North are a varied mix of old and newer privately owned buses too numerous to list here.
While urban bus services exist in Lefkosia, Lemesos, Larnaka and Famagusta, about the only two places where they are of any practical use are in Larnaka (to get to and from the airport) and Lemesos, where buses go to and from the port (where cruises depart and dock). Distances between sights in most towns and cities are fairly short, so negate the need to depend on the bus service. Buses also run to and from Kourion from Lemesos Fort, though these are tourist buses designed to get travellers from Lemesos out to the sights around Kourion rather than to move locals around.
Driving or riding your way around Cyprus is the only really effective way to get around the country properly. Having your own vehicle is essential if you want to see some of the out-of-the-way places in the Troödos Massif or the Tyllirian wilderness, where bus transport is more or less nonexistent. The scenery throughout the country is varied, petrol stations are everywhere (although there are less in remoter areas like the Troödos Massif or the Karpas Peninsula), and facilities for bikers and motorists are very good. Picnic areas in the Troödos are usually only accessible if you have your own transport. Traffic is lighter in the North, but the roads are not as good as in the South.
Parking in the South is quite cheap, with €1.00 or so buying you two hours in central Lefkosia. Parking is free in all towns in the North.
Cars and 4WDs are widely available for hire, and cost around €45.00 on average in the South and around UK£25 per day in the North. In some towns, you can also rent motorcycles (from around €25 a day) or mopeds (from €10 per day). Rental cars are usually in good condition, but inspect your vehicle before you set off. Open-top 4WDs are popular options (the Troödos Massif literally swarms with them on hot weekends). They offer the option of dirt-track driving, that adventure ‘look’, and natural air-con. If you hire a 2WD, make sure it has air-conditioning and enough power to get you up hills.
Rental cars in both the North and the South carry black on red ‘Z’ plates – so called because of the initial letter. Other road users normally accord a fraction more respect to ‘Z’ car drivers and the police are more likely to turn a blind eye for minor infractions, but don’t count on it.
If you rent a car before going to Cyprus, you’ll find that it is common practice for the rental agency to leave your vehicle at the airport, unlocked, with the key waiting for you under the floor mat. Don’t be surprised: with the obvious red hire-car plates and a nonexistent car theft record, the car is as safe as can be.
The Republic of Cyprus issues full car insurance when you rent a car. The North also issues full insurance to cars rented in the North, but has a special third-party insurance for cars coming in from the South.
Bus reservations are not normally required in either the South or the North. The one exception to this is the service to some of the Troödos Massif resorts, where phone reservations are required if you want to be picked up from either Platres or Troödos in order to return to Lefkosia.
Travel agencies around Cyprus offer a wide variety of prepackaged excursions. Some reputable tour agencies in the South include the following:
Amathus Tours (2536 9122; firstname.lastname@example.org; Plateia Syntagmatos, Lemesos)
Salamis Tours Excursions (2535 5555; fax 2536 4410; Salamis House, 28 Oktovriou, Lemesos)
Land tours in the South usually run out of the main tourist centres. They range from full-day tours to Troödos and the Kykkos Monastery from Pafos; day trips to Lefkosia from Agia Napa or Larnaka; boat trips to Protaras from Agia Napa; and half-day tours of Lemesos, a winery and Ancient Kourion. These kinds of tours are not widely available in the North. Prices and quality vary widely.
Cycling is a cheap, convenient, healthy, environmentally sound and, above all, fun way of travelling. However, it’s advisable to limit long-distance cycling trips to winter, spring or autumn, as high summer temperatures will make the going tough.
It’s best to stick to cycling on ordinary roads, many of which parallel motorways, where cycling is not allowed. The roads are generally good, but there is rarely extra roadside room for cyclists, so you will have to cycle with care. You will need a bicycle with good gears to negotiate the long hauls up and around the Troödos Massif and Kyrenia (Girne) Range.
Towns and cities in general are much more cyclist-friendly than their counterparts in other parts of the Mediterranean. In some tourist centres such as Protaras and Agia Napa there are urban bicycle paths.
In the Republic of Cyprus, the Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO) produces a very helpful brochure entitled Cyprus for Cycling, which lists 19 recommended mountain-bike rides around the South. These range from 2.5km to 19km from the Akamas Peninsula in the west to Cape Greco in the east.
Bicycles can be brought over to Cyprus by plane. You can take them to pieces and put them in a bike bag or box, but it’s much easier simply to wheel your bike to the check-in desk, where it should be treated as a piece of baggage. You may have to remove the pedals and turn the handlebars sideways so that it takes up less space in the hold; check all this with the airline before you make a booking.
You cannot, however, take bicycles on all buses.
Bicycles can be hired in most areas, but particularly in the Troödos Jubilee Hotel, where you can hire multigeared mountain bikes. Rates start from around €10 a day, with usually a free day's hire for a week's rental. Cycle hire is also very popular in the Agia Napa resort area.
If you are really keen on cycling, you can purchase a decent bicycle in the Republic of Cyprus. You could try one of the specialist shops in Lefkosia, such as Zanetos Bicycles (2259 0945; 34 Agiou Dometieu, Strovolos). Northern Cyprus offers less of a choice when it comes to purchasing a bicycle; it’s better not count on it.