Helpful factoids

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June 24, 2006 14:00
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Geopolitical situation The island of Cyprus is divided into Greek Cypriot-controlled (approximately 64% of the territory and 75% of the population) and Turkish Cypriot-controlled areas. The Republic of Cyprus - the Greek Cypriot-controlled area - has been a member of the European Union since May 1, 2004, and is recognized internationally. Only Turkey recognizes the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus, which was declared in 1983. The most recent effort to reunite the island was made in 2002-04, when the UN-sponsored Annan Plan was negotiated and voted upon just prior to the Republic joining the EU. The Annan Plan called for two federated states and a weak central government. The north Cyprus population approved the plan, while the south did not. Since then, the EU and the US have been working - against the Republic of Cyprus's efforts - to establish direct trade and economic links to north Cyprus as a way of encouraging the Turkish Cypriot community to continue to support reunification. Because the EU admitted the whole island, the Republic of Cyprus was forced to allow EU citizens to cross the Green Line freely, and this has stimulated tourism to north Cyprus. Getting in and out Since 2004, it has been possible to fly into Larnaca in the south and cross the Green Line with a simple passport check at one of the border crossings: in Nicosia, near Famagusta at the British Sovereign Base Area, and near Morphu. In addition, north Cyprus does have an "international" airport, Ercan, but since only one other nation, Turkey, recognizes the TRNC, all flights in and out of Ercan have to touch down in Turkey. From Israel, the flying time to Larnaca is much shorter - 40 minutes - than it is via Turkey. From Europe and points beyond, the only airlines that fly into Ercan are Cyprus Turkish Airlines and Turkish Airlines. If you fly via Cyprus Airways, a Republic of Cyprus government-owned airline, do not be surprised to see that what few references there are to north Cyprus in the literature follow the government line regarding the division of the island. Citizens of Israel, the EU, US, Australia and New Zealand do not need a visa in order to enter the Republic of Cyprus. When crossing into north Cyprus, it is recommended not to have your passport stamped. Loose papers for entry and exit stamps are available at the border crossings, another similarity to Israel. Getting around It is possible to rent a car in the south and drive it into the north. At the border crossing, insurance for the north must be purchased. It is not possible to rent a car in the north and drive it south, however. Organized tours - either in large or small groups - are also available. On both sides of the Green Line, you drive on the left side of the road. Road signs are in Turkish. Currency The New Turkish Lira (TRY). (I recommend not mentioning to the currency exchanger that you are traveling to Cyprus. I was charged for Cyprus Lirot and given Turkish Lirot. If I had not realized the error, my trip would have cost me about NIS 370 before I even got off the ground at Ben-Gurion Airport.) Language Turkish. This could be a significant problem for tourists because all of the road signs in north Cyprus use the Turkish names. In many cases, the internationally-known names are Greek. Kyrenia, Famagusta and Nicosia are Girne, Gazimagusa and Lefkosa, respectively. To make matters worse, almost all maps that show north Cyprus locations in Turkish do not show them in Greek as well, and vice versa. The best thing might be to carry around two maps just to be safe. Marriage It is possible to get married in north Cyprus, but it will not be recognized by any nation besides Turkey. However, it is possible to have a TRNC marriage certificate converted in the Republic of Cyprus. Climate Similar to Israel. "Three hundred days of sunshine." Long, warm and dry summer (in the 30s during the day); short spring and fall averaging low-to-mid 20s during the day and cool evenings in the teens; winter is mild with average highs in the mid-teens and below 10 at night. Rain falls mostly in the winter. Significantly cooler and more rainfall in the mountains. Gambling While casino gambling is legal in north Cyprus, the only casinos are found in hotels and are not promoted heavily, if at all. For more information: www.northcyprus.com; and www.northcyprusonline.com. - J.L.A.

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