Welcome to the first part of my series of practical travel tips for Cyprus.
If you have landed here while planning your holiday in Cyprus, you have probably spent a fair amount of time reading all sort of travel guides and tips.
Why is this one different?
It was written by a local expat who lived on the island for 6 years, and spent a fair amount of those years on the road, in own and rented cars.
I too found lots of travel tips and advice specifically on renting a car in Cyprus and decided to dedicate these next keystrokes to correcting some of the assumptions and incorrect information provided out there.
Let me explain. How you see certain things as a tourist or visitor is very different from living in the country and knowing it inside out.
Mentality, habits, common scams and why Giorgos always leaves the car blocking the main road when he pops out for a frappe. The fact that someone has driven a rented car on the island for 5 days does not make them an expert unfortunately.
Yet, these are the same people that offer expert advice and set some very inaccurate expectations.
I’ve previously written about the local encounters you might experience on the roads, the non-existing traffic rules enforcement and the national Olympic sport also known as parking.
So let’s get to the basics of what it entails to rent a car in Cyprus (some of these bits were covered in the post I linked above).
For the first few months when I moved to Cyprus (this was now 6.5 years ago), we used rental car services.
Me and my husband tested a few in the Paphos area where we lived and also had feedback from our friends and family who were renting when they came to see us.
There is a selection of big international rental companies and small local ones. I had best experience with one of the smaller local ones and have not had any issues – it’s this one.
Unlike the rest of them, they didn’t charge any deposit or extra insurance costs and were super flexible and easy to deal with.
The price varies by season – in winter months (November – March) it’s usually cheaper and you can get the car as low as 15 eur per day, during the season it’s much higher around 30 – 50 eur per day.
Price also depends on the type/size of the car you want, where you are renting it from (big city or a local office somewhere else), your age and nationality. Lots of local car rental companies don’t have proper websites or do deals only with hotels, so its worth looking around to find a good deal. Car-wise basic like Honda Civic will be certainly cheaper than a BMW or an SUV.
Usually if the car company doesn’t have the model you paid for, they should upgrade you to a more expensive one (happened to us a lot).
Most rental companies will happily drive the car to the airport and meet you there, so you can drive off straight to your hotel or accommodation.
Alternatively, you can find small rental offices close to big hotels or they will be happy to recommend a place.
The big rental companies have a presence at the airports so you can just walk into their office and rent a car on spot, if you arrive in usual business hours.
I read on one travel blog that manual transmission is more common in Cyprus and that’s why those cars are cheaper. WRONG. Everyone drives automatic.
Most rental companies will have automatic transmission and I highly recommend you take that option, even if you’re not used to it.
Remember, if you’re not from the UK, you will find yourself sitting on the wrong side as a driver, constantly reaching for the transmission on the wrong side and bumping your hand into the door.
Automatic is super easy to get used to and it will make it easier for you to focus on the road and keep on the correct side of the traffic.
You will need your passport and driving licence, and deposit money. Remember you need an international driving license to drive in Cyprus (if you’re from outside the EU).
Most companies ask for large deposits (300 – 500 eur) – the one I recommended above doesn’t require deposits (check it’s still the case).
It is not true that you need to have a credit card to rent a car. Debit card or cash works fine.
In reality, most of these rental places especially the smaller ones will only accept cash, both for payment and the deposit. Ask in advance so you are prepared.
Contracts are given in Greek & English language. Make sure you ask about any insurance included and applicable excess should there be an accident.
If you’re renting a quad bike or buggy, they will ask to keep your driving license – this is not something to be alarmed about.
If the police stop you, show them the papers from the company listing your driving license number. They will return it to you once you bring the vehicle back.
If you require child or baby seats, most rental companies provide this free of charge or for a small fee, or you can bring your own to the plane – which I would recommend as the ones from rental companies are not always in good shape and you would never know if they’ve been previously damaged or not.
From what I know they charge as much as 10 eur for one day rental.
If you need travel navigation, these are available from around 10 eur per day (but never had too much luck with them) or simply download a free app called Navigator (or other alternatives) and use it without the need of internet connection.
Download the map of Cyprus and you’re good to go. To get from city to city, town to town, the roads are well sign-posted and you will have no trouble getting where you need to be (it’s a small island in the end).
The navigation is handy if you’re aiming to get to a specific hotel, restaurant or a place of interest.
Most rental offices will also give you a free map of Cyprus which is more than good for navigating between cities or main points of interest.
Basic insurance is normally included in your rental fees since most owners have insured all of their cars. Some might try to trick you into paying a premium for something that’s already included in the contract (extra insurance and similar).
In terms of fuel, the common practice is that you drive off with full tank and return the car with full tank.
Alternatively, the owner will take a note how full the tank is and you will return it in the same condition.
This is the most important one: If you are renting a car in Cyprus (south side), you are legally and by contract not allowed to drive to North Cyprus!!!! (even though most people ignore the warning).
Even though the guy at the shop will tell you it’s fine, I can guarantee your contract papers will say exactly the opposite.
North Cyprus is an illegally occupied territory of Cyprus under the rule of Turkey.
If you didn’t know already, it’s a territory that has not been legally and internationally acknowledged and recognized by anyone else than Turkey. That comes with its own set of interesting consequences should you drive there.
First of all, your car insurance is not valid there, you have to purchase extra one at the border and in case of an accident, you have to pay to get the car moved back to South.
The insurance you pay at the border (one off 25 eur) is only a basic minimum insurance which will not cover the damage on the other persons car.
Before you drive off, a good practice is to take a photo or video of the condition of the car as you drive off and notice the amount of petrol in the car.
It saves you possible arguments about any scratches on the car or the level of fuel you need to return it with.
Lots of guys from the rental companies will quickly show you around the car, without giving you chance to properly inspect it or show you any existing damage.
Take your time and record any visible damage that’s existing, for your own peace of mind.
Rented cars are marked with red plates so they are less likely to be stopped by police, unless you’re doing 200 km/h on the highway.
In any case, it’s a good idea to keep your rental contract and papers in the car as police will require it.
Also in case of accident, the police and insurance companies will ask for those right away.
One of the things they will tell you when you hire your car is not to drive it off road. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen tiny rented cars driving through the muddy tracks in Akamas Peninsula and looking like they will not make it back alive.
First of all, you will have to pay for any damage on the car, and returning a dusty muddy car will give the owner a pretty good idea where you’ve been with it.
If you want to have an adventure, rent a 4×4 and specifically request that driving off road has been taken into account and allowed.
If you want to read more about the local traffic and how to behave on the road, I have a bit more detailed article on that here.
I would say generally driving in Cyprus is safe, but extra caution is advised, especially if you see other cars with red plates (rental cars with tourists) or farmer 4×4 trucks. Those are the one that usually cause a bit of commotion and confusion.
If you have any specific questions about car rental that I might have forgotten about, feel free to leave a comment below!
Have fun planning your trip to Cyprus and enjoy your holiday!