Hopping North of the Border
Hopping North of the Border
Hopping North of the border. LYING AT the crossroads of three continents, where East meets West. The island of Cyprus is a cultural meze in its own right. An appetising combination of Turkish and Greek cultures, customs and cuisine created by a North-South divide. And for the traveller eager to sample the whole platter, exploring the island has never been easier. But before we look at how to hop North of the border. Let’s put the North-South split in context…
For the history buffs… the island’s division dates back almost 40 years. When a Greek-inspired military coup in 1974 led to Turkish intervention and continued occupation in the North ever since. In the meantime, the Turkish Cypriots unilaterally declare independence in 1983 and form the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).
For the political buffs… the self-declared TRNC fails to gain recognition from the international community as a sovereign state. And the official line still taken by the European Union is of Turkish military occupation in one of its member states. That said, the Republic of Cyprus de facto only controls the Greek South of the island. Whilst the North remains firmly under the administration of the TRNC.
Last but not least, for the border-control buffs… The accession of the Republic of Cyprus to the EU in 2003, coming into force in 2004. Leads to the relaxation of border restrictions along the UN controlled line (or green line). EU citizens are now completely free to cross the border, at designated checkpoints, and enjoy the well-preserved beauty of the North. A crossing is also permitted to the South, so those already North can wander across, again via the crossing points. To explore the other half of the island’s fascinating split-capital, Nicosia.
Here’s a hopping North of the border-hopping fact guide on how to hop:-
- There are currently seven access points along the green line, including two pedestrian crossings in Nicosia. To cross by foot it takes a couple of minutes and only around ten minutes by vehicle. The driving checkpoints are friendly with an air of routine inevitability.
- The border points can be crossed night or day. With no restrictions on the number of crossings and in theory EU citizens are permitted to spend up to three months on either side. However, it is not currently permissible to enter the island from one side and leave from the other.
- There are no restrictions on reasons for crossing the border. eg, locals cross daily to shop, do business and visit family or friends. However, there are restrictions on quantities of tobacco, cigarettes and liquor. Ff coming from the North and intermittent vehicle checks can be expected.
- EU citizens do not require a visa but production of a passport/ID card is mandatory and will be checked by both the Turkish and Greek Cypriot authorities on either side.
- You may hire a car in the South to go North but it is not permissible to take a North Cypriot rental car South of the border. The designated red licence plates mean border control can spot a rental vehicle a mile off, literally. This restriction does not apply to privately owned vehicles. It is also permissible to cross the border by taxi. Many Cypriot taxi drivers spend their working day taking tourists North and South.
- If hiring a car in the South additional insurance will need to be purchased at the border. Whilst some rental companies will not agree to their vehicles being taken into Northern Cyprus. There are places near the crossing points that allow vehicles to be driven North.
- British driving licences or international driving permits are acceptable, and as in the UK, driving is on the left on either side of the border.
TRNC 30th anniversary
So whilst 2013 marks the 30th anniversary of the TRNC administration. With a legacy that has left Cyprus in a political conundrum, for its citizens and visitors, nearly a decade has passed since we started hopping North of the border. This is something for everyone to celebrate. And with a feast of cultural treats across an entire island, all appetites will be whetted. But it is undoubtedly the mouth-watering delights and jaw-dropping beauty north of the border that will have you clambering over the green line in order to sample.