Cyprus is one of the cheapest travel destinations in the world, particularly for Brits after a bit of last-minute sun. The weather is divine, the beaches are beautiful, and Cypriot cuisine is to die for. For those in search of a party, the nightlife will not fail to impress either. From the super clubs of Ayia Napa to the more laidback lounges and wine bars of Limassol, the island rarely sleeps. And pretty fishing villages like Pissouri, Pomos and Latchi provide the ultimate backdrop for honeymooning couples or romantics looking to propose.
There’s something for everyone in Cyprus. But with the country’s proximity to war and terrorism stricken nations, it’s understandable why travellers may worry. Generally, most visits to Cyprus are very safe and trouble-free. In fact, Cyprus is considered to be one of the safest places in the Eastern Med and few ever have problems when they holiday there. However, travel insurance is essential and extra care should be taken when travelling with kids or visiting on your own.
Here’s everything you need to know about safe, stress-free travel in Cyprus.
Health Concerns in Cyprus
When it comes to vaccinations, Cyprus is one of the easiest places to travel to. No jabs are required prior to travel, and visitors will be safe from Typhoid, Yellow Fever, Diphtheria, Malaria and Rabies. Hepatitis A and Tetanus are advisable, but not essential. This means that there is a very low risk of these diseases, but these vaccines are recommended for anyone who travels regularly outside of the UK.
Hepatitis A is only a concern in areas of low sanitation, and can be prevented through good personal, food and water hygiene. Whilst Tetanus is a bacteria found in soil, dust and manure which enters the body through cuts and wounds, so jabs are only necessary for anyone spending excessive time in an outdoor environment with high exposure to soil.
You will be safe from Rabies in Cyprus too, but for those who will be in direct contact to Cypriot bats during their holiday, getting vaccinated is advised.
Free or subsidised healthcare is available to foreign nationals with a European Health Insurance Card. But this is only offered through state hospitals, and private clinics will ask you to pay upfront. It is also important to note that the European Health Insurance Card is not valid in the Turkish part of Cyprus, only the Greek side.
Whether you stay in the North or the South, be sure to purchase medical insurance before you travel. Dental insurance is not free anywhere in the country, so double check that your policy covers you for emergency dental treatments.
Food and Water
Tap water is safe to drink in the South, although bottled water is usually preferred by locals and tourists alike. The water is very hard, so buying mineral water is advised for taste and texture. Traditionally, coffee is served with a glass of water on the side. This may be the case in many bars and restaurants in Cyprus, and you can almost always expect this to be tap water, not bottled.
For those travelling in the North, bottled water is definitely recommended. You shouldn’t drink tap water even after it has been boiled, as it could still contain harmful toxic contaminants.
Milk in Cyprus is pasteurised and is safe to drink. Any vegetables you consume should be washed in fresh water or peeled. Overall, food is prepared and cooked to a high quality. Cypriots are passionate foodies, so they take produce-sourcing and cooking very seriously.
Street crime is low risk and incidents happen very rarely. But travellers should take extra care when in unfamiliar neighbourhoods or venturing away from main tourist tracks. In the past, when muggings have occurred, the assailants have been unarmed. Armed robberies are more common on the Turkish side in the North, whilst being very rare in the South.
Pickpocketing however, can be a problem in many of the busy tourist areas. Whilst it’s not an overly common occurrence, it does happen, as with any holiday destination in the world. So it is advised that money and valuables are kept out of view, and expensive jewellery and watches are left at home.
Scams can also be an issue if you’re not careful. The risk of this increases during peak tourist periods, such as the busy summer season. Try to negotiate trips, excursions and travel in advance if possible, or book activities and taxis with your hotel. It can be tempting to go for the cheapest prices on the street, but organising everything through your hotel ensures that you are dealing with official companies.
Other common scams that you may come across on the street include inferior quality cigarettes (often sold in genuine-looking multipacks) and nightclub and cabaret scams that lure you into a venue with promises of entertainment and great food, but the reality is quite the opposite. To avoid being tricked to part with your cash, do your research before you head out for the night.
In general, Cyprus is very safe to travel to, and is free from terrorism. But terrorist attacks can’t be ruled out. The proximity to Syria and the Middle East means that travellers need to be extra vigilant.
Currently, there is an increased risk of terrorist attacks across the globe, particularly against British Nationals. For UK travellers, it’s important to do everything possible to minimise the threats. Terrorists look for targets in places that are not well-protected and this can include restaurants, shops, bars, places of worship, popular tourist sites, and on public transport. It could also be wise to be aware of significant dates such as religious festivals and political events, as terrorists are more likely to act during this time.
Travellers should also be cautious when visiting the North. This half of the island is the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, and is a self-declared state separate to Southern Cyprus. The North relies on Turkey for economic, political and military support, and there may be heightened risk of incidents against Westerners due to UK and US action in Syria.
Tourist areas in Northern Cyprus may become targets for terrorism, and holiday goers should visit the Gov.uk website for advice before booking flights and hotels.
Another thing to note is the ongoing dispute between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. Only the Turkish recognise the northern half of the island to be the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. But the sole legitimate state is the Republic of Cyprus. So there may be tensions near the border of the Turkish and Greek side, but usually it’s perfectly safe to explore these parts.
Family Travel Safety (Cyprus with Kids)
Holidays to Cyprus are ideal for families. All hotels and resorts cater for little ones with excellent baby and toddler facilities, children’s pools and leisure centres, impressive kids’ menus in their restaurants, and a great choice of family-sized rooms and suites.
Most of the popular tourist areas also boast fun attractions (such as zoos, museums and theme parks), and you will find that the local people are very welcoming to children of all ages. Cypriots, both Greek and Turkish, have strong family values, so no matter where you go, your kids will be safe.
There have been both reports and scares in the media regarding child abduction attempts in recent years, but it’s important to remember that abduction risk is very low. Although, extra care should be taken when going anywhere abroad as a family, and having enough supervising adults in your group is essential. When planning a child-free night, be sure to use official babysitting and childcare services offered by your hotel only.
When it comes to beach and swimming activities, many of the island’s resorts are ideal for family fun. With warm and shallow waters, the sea is safe enough for supervised swimming and paddling, and the long stretches of sand are clean and secure for bucket-and-spade playtime.
One of the main threats to children when holidaying in Cyprus is sunburn, sunstroke and dehydration. There’s a very high UV index, reaching as much as 10 in hot summer months, so buying 30+ factor sun cream is advised. Make sure you reapply throughout the day, and consider UV protective clothing if you’re planning long days out.
Whilst vaccinations are not required for little ones, mosquitos can still be an issue. Bring insect protection for the whole family, and mosquito nets if you are spending a lot of time outdoors or camping.
Female Travel Safety (Cyprus for Women)
One of the questions that many people ask is whether Cyprus is safe for female and solo travel. With street crime low, most women who go to Cyprus on their own will have no problems at all. As long as you are vigilant, stick to main tourist routes and are not over-trusting of complete strangers, lone female travellers will find this sunny destination to be warm, friendly and very safe.
Follow basic protocols and use common sense when travelling alone. You should also be aware of your surroundings at all times. Plan your travel routes in advance where possible, pre-book your transport, tell friends and family where you are going, and do extensive research before you move onto a new town or city.
For solo female travellers looking to meet up with other travellers, or for tourists interested in party resorts such as Ayia Napa or Paphos, take extra care at bars and clubs. Follow the same precautions as you would in any foreign country (or even at clubs at home), and never leave your drink unattended. Be careful not to be led away from the main crowds on your own, and always stay in public areas when socialising with someone unfamiliar. Most people you meet are just friendly, helpful and honest – and locals are renowned for their warmth and hospitality. But be cautious and alert all the same, particularly when alcohol can be clouding your judgement.
Tips for Staying Safe in Cyprus
Here are some useful tips to help you stay safe when visiting Cyprus for your next adventure:
- Buy the Right Insurance
Always check the small print on your travel insurance before you travel. You need to make sure you get specialist insurance if you intend on taking part in extreme sports and activities, and you will also need to make sure your policy covers the worst. For instance, there’s also a lot of uncertainty about the post-Brexit aftermath with flights and transport, as well as the non-validity of the European Health Insurance Card for Brits.
- Learn the languages
English speakers are easy to find in most places, but pick up a few basic phrases to help you along. Emergency phrases for finding a pharmacy or hospital are essential, especially if you plan on venturing away from your main hotel area. The main languages are Greek and Turkish (depending on which half of Cyprus you’re in), and the minority languages include Armenian, Cypriot Arabic, and Kurbetcha.
- Be aware of earthquake protocol
Although Cyprus is mostly safe from natural disasters, earth tremors can be common. These are usually minor, and should not disrupt your holiday or put you in any immediate danger. However, it’s advisable to understand protocol of what to do before, during and after an earthquake. Always follow the advice of local authorities if an earth tremor should happen.
- Know the laws
Drug use and possession can lead to huge fines or a prison sentence if caught. It is much stricter here than in the UK, so recreational drug-taking or bringing drugs into the country is not advised in any way. Whilst homosexuality is legal in the Republic of Cyprus and same sex civil partnerships were passed in 2016, it’s still not as widely accepted as other parts of the world. Homosexuality was also decriminalised in Northern Cyprus in 2014, so you can visit the Turkish side without any trouble. However, with the changes in law being so recent, discretion may be advised for the purpose of safety against hate crimes.