Cyprus Expat Health Insurance Guide
Known as the jewel of the Mediterranean, Cyprus is more than just a location for a holiday abroad. Greek and Turkish Cypriots both share the island, which is split into two distinct regions, the Turkish north and the Greek south. The EU and UN recognise the island as one single country but the divide is very prevalent.
The island boasts picturesque beaches, sapphire seas, and historic ruins dating back thousands of years. Due to the mesmerising beauty of the area, ancient Greeks believed that the goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodite, was born on the seashore at Paphos.
With its incredible weather and stunning surroundings, it’s easy to see why anyone relocating abroad would consider Cyprus as a destination.
Cyprus may be the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea but, in the grand scheme of things, it is still relatively small. Furthermore, the island is dominated by two large mountain ranges, but these two factors have little effect on the country’s climate. Cyprus is just one of those lucky locations that is blessed with incredible weather due to its enviable location and expats have (on average) 236 glorious sunny days per year.
The north-eastern portion of Cyprus, from the capital city of Nicosia onwards, has a Mediterranean and semi-arid type climate. This means that summers are warm and dry, and winters are mild with the occasional rainy spell. The rest of the island has a subtropical climate, distinguished by hot summers with no rainfall and warm winters with occasional heavy downpours.
Winter falls between November and mid-March in Cyprus. There are noticeably more rainy days in winter compared to the dry summers and Cyprus receives 60% of its annual rainfall in these five months. In the capital of Nicosia, temperatures hover around 11°C during winter, even a little fresh for some expats. However, popular destinations such as Paphos, Larnaca, and Ayia Napa sometimes boast winter temperatures around 15°C. Many Cypriots complain of the chill in winter but expats, especially those from the UK, revel in the warmer winters.
In contrast, summer runs from mid-May to mid-September. The cloudless skies and hot temperatures are very occasionally punctuated by the odd shower, but this is rare. Average temperatures on the south coast easily reach over 25°C and it is likely expats will see the mercury rise to 35°C at times. Many prefer the months of September and October as there is still little rainfall but temperatures are often a little more comfortable for daily life.
Paphos Monthly Temperatures and Rainy Days
Ayia Napa Average Monthly Temperatures and Rainy Days
Larnaca Average Monthly Temperatures and Rainy Days
Nicosia Average Monthly Temperatures and Rainy Days
The historical conflict between the Greek and Turkish residents of Cyprus is still noticeable. Not only is this divide evident socially, but literally, with areas dubbed the ‘Turkish North’ and ‘Greek South’. Expats who come from multicultural societies may find this hard to get used to at first.
Despite conflict between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, expats will find that most locals are very welcoming, regardless of where you choose to live. Overall, the Cypriot lifestyle is relaxed and the unofficial mantra is ‘siga, siga’, translated as ‘slowly, slowly’. Many expats enjoy the laidback lifestyle in Cyrus but do comment that is can be exasperating when trying to complete personal administrative tasks at banks and the like. Expats simply have to take this on board as it is just the way life is.
Despite the rift between Greeks and Turks in Cyprus the topic of religion is extremely harmonious. Whether Greek Orthodox or Sunni Muslim (the two main faiths) respecting religious beliefs and the topic of religion in general is sacrosanct. Expats are more than welcome to respectfully ask their Cypriot friends about their belief but are warned not to preach about their own as this will not go down well with locals.
Due to the geographical and social divide between the Greek and Turkish population of Cyprus expats will not be shocked to learn that the two official languages are Greek and Turkish. Turkish has only been an official language since 1983. Armenian and Cypriot Arabic are two minority languages of Cyprus and are spoken by a very small percentage of the population.
Around three-quarters of the Cypriot population can speak English. Cyprus was once under colonial rule during which period English was the sole official language and lingua franca up until 1960. But, out of respect, it is best to learn at least some basic Turkish or Greek phrases dependent upon where you are living.
|British Phrase||Greek Phrase|
|How are you?||Pos eisai?|
|I am fine, thankyou||Eimai kala efcharisto|
|British Phrase||Turkish Phrase|
|How are you?||Nasilsin?|
|I am fine, thankyou||Iyiyim|
Cyprus has one of the highest rates of car ownership per capita in the wold and many expats end up getting behind the wheel. It is regarded as the most effective way of getting around due to lack of railway service or other means of public transport between many towns. Due to the size of the island, driving from Paphos in the southwest to Dipkarpaz in the far northeast would only take around four hours.
Road signs throughout the majority of the country are displayed in English and roads are well maintained. As you head out of the main cities and towns there will be some unpaved roads, but most passenger vehicles can travel on them without issue.
Although expats should take some time to acclimatise to the driving style of Cypriots, there is much less congestion than many European cities, petrol is widely available and cars are cheap to buy or hire. It is best to take to the roads driving defensively. The legalities to do so will depend on your country of origin.
If driving is not for you, cycling is a great option in Cyprus. The capital of Nicosia is very bike-friendly, with different schemes and lanes put in place across the city. However, due to the short distances between most locations, it is a viable option for those living outside of Nicosia too.
When it comes to public transport in Cyprus, options are limited to independently operated buses and taxis. There are three different types of bus services; rural, trans-urban, and city. The rural buses travel between villages and cities once or twice a day, Monday to Saturday. Trans-urban services link cities and town and are a little more frequent. By far the most reliable and constant services run in the cities.
Expats will notice that different companies operate services in various parts of the country. Therefore, when moving around Cyprus, it is best to remember that not all buses look the same due to this. Usually, buses can be distinguished by a sign in the front window displaying the destination. Visitors and expats can visit offices or tourist offices to get hold of timetables and route maps.
Cyprus is not short of taxis and most city firms offer a 24-hour service. Taxis can be hailed from the street or booked in advance. Some island-wide taxi companies transport people between major towns and cities for a fixed rate. However, the traditional metered taxis are regulated by law and fares will differ depending upon day of the week, public holidays, and time of day.
Both the public and private healthcare systems are championed in Cyprus, particularly due to their affordability. Many expats, particularly those who are citizens of the EU, relocate to the country specifically to benefit from this perk.
Public healthcare is mostly free and private healthcare is inexpensive compared to the rest of the world. All of Cyprus’s major cities and towns have both state-funded and private hospitals but the facilities in the Greek south are said to be considered better than those of the Turkish north.
Public healthcare in Cyprus is financed by taxes and EU citizens or expats who become permanent residents are eligible for free healthcare. The Ministry of Health administers public healthcare in Cyprus and places patients into three categories based upon number of children, chronic illness, and income. This then decides whether they will receive free treatment, subsidised fees, or will have to pay fully.
Those who have not migrated from EU countries and are not a permanent resident will not be allowed state healthcare. Most expats, regardless of residency or EU rules, will opt for private healthcare. Having a private healthcare policy allows expats to choose from a wide variety of facilities and have very little waiting time.
Doctors and nurses in both the public and private sectors are often trained overseas and speak English. As English is not the mother tongue for many, it is best to explain health issues carefully or utilise a Cypriot friend to help with proceedings.
The emergency number in Cyprus is 199. It is commonplace for expats and locals alike to rely on family and friends to drive them to hospital as ambulances can be slow. Some private hospitals have their own ambulance services (which come with an added charge) but are much more reliable. Expats can ask for the private ambulance number of their chosen hospital.
Before January 2008, Cyprus’s currency was the Cypriot pound. During the previous year, Cyprus was one of the 19 European Union members to agree to a universal currency. Euro coins and notes were introduced in October and November of 2007 and, as of 1st February, the Cypriot pound lost its legal tender status in Cyprus and the euro was the official currency of the country.
Each euro is divided into 100 cents and there are 50, 20, 10, 5, 2, and 1 cent coins. There are also 1 and 2 euro coins and notes are available in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 500.
The Cypriot financial crisis of 2012 and 2013 continues to impact the way in which the country handles money, taxes, and banking. There are numerous international banks operating in Cyprus. Alternatively, The Bank of Cyprus is the largest on the island and is also a popular choice. Both offer internet banking facilities in English.
Expats will find the process of opening a bank account in Cyprus very easy. Most banks will require an individual to open an account in person at one of their branches with a valid passport or identity card, proof of Cypriot address, and a reference letter from a previous bank containing credit rating details.
Banks tend to be open Monday to Friday between 8.30am and 1.30pm. However, many have English speaking customer services contactable by phone 24 hours a day. If you simply want to check your balance or withdraw some cash, there are ATMs dotted around all the towns and cities.
Expat parents will soon notice that there are disparities in Cyprus’s education sector and that the system is rife with politics. However, there are some fantastic schools in the country. You just have to look past the bad to get to the good.
The country has both state-funded and private schools. Both options are open to expat children. Trends show that foreigners in the south of Cyprus are more likely to send their children to local schools, whereas those in the north opt for a private international school for their kids. However, this is dependent on language barriers, cost, and desired curriculum.
Education is free and compulsory for all children aged under 15. The school tiers are separated into primary, gymnasium, and lyceum. Gymnasium and lyceum make up what is known in England as secondary school.
In the south of Cyprus, classes in most public schools are taught in Greek. This can be a hit or miss factor with children – allowing them to pick up the new culture quickly, but also being alienated due to the language barrier. However, many Cypriots speak reasonable English, so it is possible they may be able to cope until they are fluent in Greek.
State schools can either be fantastic or sub-standard and it is up to parents to conduct thorough research when thinking about a public school for their child. Children of primary age often settle relatively quickly, whereas it is often a real struggle for older children. Along with being free, there are a lot of pros and cons to state-funded schools in Cyprus that expats parents would need to think about.
Private and international schools are one and the same in Cyprus. Many expats from England send their children to private international schools so that they can continue studying the curriculum that they are accustomed to.
International schools have notoriously high fees but, with this, comes extra-curricular activities, the comfort of your home language, and second-to-none facilities. Most private schools are found in Paphos, Nicosia, Limassol, and Larnaca.
Parents of children in both public and private schools often hire tutors to come and help the family learn either Greek or Turkish depending upon where they are living.
Food & Drink
Inevitably, Cypriot cuisine is heavily influenced by Greek and Turkish cooking. However, flavours and styles from France, Italy, and the Middle East can also be experienced. Meals are often very simple, with lamb, pork, chicken, or seafood served with potatoes, pasta, rice, and pulses. One of these traditional dishes famous throughout Cyprus and the Mediterranean is fasolia yiahni. Haricot beans are cooked in a thick tomato sauce and served with meatballs or sausage and a huge slab of fresh bread to mop up all the juices.
Undoubtedly one of the most popular cheeses as of late is halloumi. But, did you know it originates from Cyprus? The delicacy has become a hit worldwide due to its high melting point, but you haven’t tasted real grilled halloumi cheese until you have visited Cyprus. It is often eaten grilled as an appetiser or served cold with watermelon as a dessert.
In Greece, you cannot move for the popular fast food souvlaki; a skewer laden with meat and vegetables, wrapped with bread and dipped in sauces. Cyprus has their own version of souvlaki, which comprises of a pita bread filled with the meat and laden with fresh salad and piccalilli on the side. The Cypriots also have a delicious vegetarian souvlaki of grilled mushrooms and halloumi.
Fresh fruit is served a lot as a dessert option in Cyprus, but there are some sweet treats for those who need a sugar fix. Loukoumades are deep fried dough balls soaked in honey and coated in nuts, seeds, or cinnamon. They are also known as honey doughnuts and are served in the majority of Cypriot coffee shops and restaurants.
At festivals and fairs in Cyprus you will often see people nibbling on long sticks of what looks like toffee. However, this is actually souzouko. Souzouko is made my dipping strings of nuts (usually almonds or walnuts) into a grape jelly, before being allowed to air dry for three days.
When it comes to beverages the Greek Cypriots are not shy of ouzo, an anise-flavoured liquor similar to Sambuca or raki. Very similar also is zivania. Both drinks are very alcoholic and have been known to give many expats a headache after a night with Cypriot friends.
Coffee is a part of Cyprus’s culture and it is made in a very certain way. One heaped teaspoon of coffee is added to a demitasse cup, topped up with water, and ‘cooked’ in a long-handled pot. The coffee is then left to boil until a frothy foam forms on top. Expats should be warned that Cypriot coffee is very strong and is only ever served with a glass of water and no milk.
Cyprus is considered a safe country and experiences less crime than other European countries of a similar size. Opportunistic crimes such as a burglary and pick-pocketing are frequent, particularly in areas which are tourist dense. Often, theft occurs during the summer months when holiday destinations are very busy. Or, during the winter, when many houses are left empty.
Many crimes that take place in Cyprus are non-confrontational and non-violent. Most street criminals indulge in petty theft or scams and pose no physical threat to locals or expats. Assaults and armed violence is incredibly rare.
Sadly, one thing that is happening in Cyprus is human trafficking. Many establishments holding individuals forced into work pose as ‘cabarets’ or ‘massage parlours’. The Government of Cyprus has yet to effectively comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of sex trafficking, however, it is making significant efforts to do so.
One aspect of the law in Cyprus that helps with safety is a zero-tolerance approach towards drugs. This means the streets are free from a lot of drug-related goings on compared to other countries. If you are caught with any amount of any narcotic you will either receive a prison sentence or substantial fine.
Generally, however, Cyprus is a very safe country. Like the rest of the world, there is a general threat of terrorism, but no more so than most other European destinations. Expats should remain vigilant and use their common sense.
Places to Visit
Whether you want nature, history, or culture, there are different areas and sights in Cyprus that will appeal to all expats and tourists. Many believe it to be a country to enjoy for two weeks every summer but this simply isn’t true. Cyprus is multi-layered and there are countless experiences and opportunities.
The Akamas Peninsula
Akamas is a cape at the northwest extremity of Cyprus. The area has no main roads and very few people, meaning the spectacular coastline can be enjoyed in the peace and quiet. The peninsula is a wonderful place to escape the more built-up and tourist heavy areas of Cyprus in the summer.
Argued as the most picturesque port in the whole of Cyprus, Girne sits on the northern coast and is backed by the majestic Kyrenia mountains. Many visitors enjoy boast cruises around the bay and explore the fortifications of the Byzantine castle that dominates the harbour.
The awe-inspiring Saint Hilarion Castle lies in the Kyrenia mountain range and was the inspiration behind Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom. The elegant ruins sit dramatically on the craggy rocks and visitors can park at a small car park outside the castle gate to go and explore.
Located on the east coast of Cyprus, at the mouth of the River Pedieos, is the ancient Roman city of Salamis. Excavation work dates the site as far back as 1100 BC, but there is still more to be uncovered. Countless Roman relics can be seen, including a magnificent 15,000 capacity theatre.
It is one of Cyprus’s most popular cities, but it has a sad past. Varosha, an area of the city stuck in 1974 and guarded by the Turkish military to this day, tells the story of 40,000 inhabitants who fled as Turkish troops entered the area. Famagusta is a wonderful location to learn about Cyprus’s history.