Car Hire in Northern Cyprus

By: Richard Bowles

To many people on holiday, hiring a car is the ideal way to get around. It is certainly true these days that here are many places in the world where this is no longer the case. Trying to drive (and more to the point, park) a hire car in the majority of large, European cities is no pleasure at all. Some cities, such as Paris, Rome and London, are a positive nightmare for drivers and trying to find somewhere to leave a car in these places takes up far too much time. However, in southern Europe and particularly the Mediterranean countries, public transport is patchy and renting a car offers the opportunity to enjoy the freedom to explore.

Northern Cyprus definitely falls into the latter category and the experienced traveller here considers a hire car effectively an essential part of any holiday to north Cyprus. is relatively straightforward and anyone with a standard European driving licence will have no problems. Best of all, as far as anyone from the UK is concerned, the rules of the road in north Cyprus are all but identical to the UK, traffic signs are more than a little familiar and thanks to the island’s British heritage, they drive on the left.

As with any part of a holiday, a little forward planning will pay dividends. There is something of the standard Mediterranean mentality around the island, so although your car is almost certain to be properly prepared, it is vital to book in advance, especially during busy times of the year, and equally important to make sure your booking is properly confirmed. As yet, none of the major, international car hire companies have a presence in north Cyprus, so all the companies offering cars are smaller concerns, often family run or connected to a particular hotel or tour agent.

From May through to October, local demand for cars is high and if you leave it until you arrive, you run the risk of not getting a car at all, never mind getting the type you had in mind.

As far as traveller’s tips are concerned, firstly make sure you find a reasonably good map before you go on holiday. Maps of Northern Cyprus are few and far between and it is certainly not unusual for one not to be supplied with your car. Getting lost on holiday is fun and you will find the locals incredibly friendly, but directions may be difficult to follow and there are certain to be times when you want to actually get somewhere on time! Petrol is comparatively cheap and there are a reasonable number of garages in built-up areas. However, petrol stations in rural areas are infrequent. If you are planning a longer journey, or a day out touring, you should really fill up with petrol before you set out. In Northern Cyprus, self-service garages are effectively non-existent, so you will always find that someone comes out to serve you. Generally, their English is excellent and a small tip is an appreciated gesture.

Roads in Northern Cyprus are fairly un-crowded, though the towns of Kyrenia and Nicosia can be quite busy during normal commuting times. Country roads are often all but deserted, but do watch out for wild donkeys and tractors. Driving manners are generally good, especially by Mediterranean standards, but you will come across some very slow driving, especially in the countryside. Just remember you are enjoying a holiday, so relax! Most roads are in surprisingly good condition and well-surfaced, even in isolated places. However, there are quite a lot of mountain tracks and unmade lanes around. Every type of hire car is more than capable of tackling virtually any road, but do please beware of sand and beaches. Every car hire company in north Cyprus will regale you with tales of having to retrieve cars from beaches – or worse, not being able to! Four-wheel-drive vehicles are no better in this respect and by far and away the best advice is to find somewhere solid to park and to walk down to the sea.

And a final, vital tip. If you are travelling any time between April and October, air-conditioning is absolutely vital. Temperatures, especially in the inland plains of Cyprus, can reach extremely high in the peak months and a parked car acts like a mini oven in these conditions. For this reason, although they might be tempting, the good advice is to steer clear of convertible jeeps and the like. They might be pleasant when it’s warm, but parking one in the sun means you will come back to find seats that are too hot to sit on and controls that are too hot to handle!

In Northern Cyprus in particular, public transport is very thin on the ground and taxis are relatively costly (though cheap by UK standards). With a little forethought and some careful planning, hiring a car in north Cyprus is a perfect way to travel and get to see the most of this beautiful country.

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