Driving in Cyprus – The ultimate guide

Jul 12, 2015

Driving in another country always feels different than driving at home. Even though the rules might be similar, signs will be slightly different, road quality and traffic flow will be different and local interpretation of driving laws will vary – Sometimes a lot. This guide will give prepare you for driving in Cyprus

Driving in Cyprus is different than in many other countries. Being aware of local customs and traffic flow will make it a lot easier and safer for you. In this article I have gathered these tips based on my own experience, which will make it as simple as possible for you to merge into the Cypriot traffic.

The following tips might make it seem like it is dangerous to drive in Cyprus. It is not. The tips are all only included to prepare you a little for the local customs when it comes to driving in Cyprus, so you can enjoy it as much as possible.

When driving in Cyprus you should generally be aware of the following two things:

  1. Drivers follow the traffic legislation as if it is guidelines.
  2. Many Cypriot drivers are primarily focused on themselves, the 2 x 4 meters of their car and how they can reach their destination as quickly as possible.

Here you’ll find what I think are relevant to highlight to make your experience driving in Cyprus as a tourist or ex-pat as easy as possible.

Driving on the left hand side

Traffic in Cyprus is left-hand traffic, so if you are used to driving in left-hand traffic I would suggest that you move to the next point. However, if you’re not used to driving in the left hand side of the road, I can offer you some comfort.

It is very easy to get used to, and once you are in traffic everything will feel natural after a few minutes. The only time that you in the beginning should be very attentive is when you are starting in a place without traffic. In that case make sure that you actually drive your car into the left lane upon start – with no other traffic to refer to, it is easy to drop back into old habits and choose the wrong lane.

And… Unless you want to be the subject of a good laugh, think for an extra second before you approach the drivers seat – It is after all in the opposite side of the car.

Driving regulations

The driving regulations in Cyprus are pretty much like in any other European country. Having lived in Cyprus since April 2012 I have yet to discover any regulations besides the ones mentioned in this article that are significantly different than in most other civilised countries.

It is however worth noting that the regulations are not enforced strictly. Presumably that is also one of the reasons behind the relaxed relationship between the driving regulations and the local drivers. There is of course no reason to copy that behaviour in the traffic. In the unlikely event that you should be involved in an accident, it is always great to have followed the regulations.

Speed limits

Speed limits in Cyprus

The speed limits in Cyprus in km/h

The speed limits are mostly clearly marked and generally resembles the speed limits in most other European countries. The speed limits are marked in km/h (kilometre pr hour) and not mph (miles per hour), although the speed limits are shown in both units some places.

On the highways the speed limit varies from what you’d usually experience in most countries. On highways the limit is 100 km/h and every day you will see the traffic police parked along the highway trying to catch speeders. However, it is worth noting that the police don’t stop cars unless they are running at more than 19 km/h over the limit. You will also see a lot of signs showing automatic speed control. Just ignore these!

At the moment (July 2015) there is only one automatic speed control in Cyprus – On the road in Nicosia that begins where the highway ends. Furthermore the fines for speeding are small in Cyprus. You can see a list of the size of fines at the bottom of the article.

Drunk driving and DUI

The legislation in this area is pretty strict, so it’s definitely worth taking a note of – for more reasons than one. The legal limit for drunk driving in Cyprus is 0,22 mg pr. ml, which is significantly lower than in the United Kingdom and lower than in the majority of the other European countries.

Driving under influence or while impaired is fined significantly stronger than speeding and you can find the fine structure at the bottom of this article. There will be the odd police check ups, but to my understanding overall it is not something the local police are overzealous about.

Seatbelts

It is a legal requirement to use seatbelt when you are driving or when you are a passenger in a car. You will definitely see a lot of people – and even kids jumping around in the car – without seatbelts. But if you are caught by the police, you will be looking at a fine. You can see an overview of fines at the bottom of the page.

What to expect from other drivers

Anything really. Generally you will experience that a lot of traffic customs and conventions are different in Cyprus. In this section we’ve included the most noticeable differences, but the best tip is this: Be alert.

One of the reasons that you will experience some unorthodox driving styles in Cyprus is no doubt the ease of acquiring a drivers license in Cyprus. It is very simple to get a drivers license in Cyprus and as a local you will often find yourself shaking your head at some of the activities you see learning drivers doing. Such as this bloke, who is learning to reverse around a corner in the wrong side of the road:

Here are the some of the things that is worth noting before going headfirst into the Cypriot traffic.

Roundabouts

Roundabouts are a cause of confusion for many Cypriot drivers. Even though there should be no difference driving in a roundabout in Cyprus and most other countries (except most countries drive in the right hand side), it is quite different.

The reason is simple: 51% of Cypriot drivers do not know how to drive and position themselves correctly in a roundabout. And the result of that is that drivers position themselves as they know best or that fit their route best, which is usually not in a way that facilitates a quick and safe run of traffic.

What you should do is simple. Make sure you know, where you will be going and position your car based accordingly. Keep a keen eye on the other traffic when you change lane or exit the roundabout and make sure to use your blinkers.

Cutting corners

No one like a route longer than necessary – unless you are in for the scenic route. The same very much apply to Cypriot drivers, as they are known to take the small short cut and cut the corner in bends or when turning.

It is really a minor element, but it is worth keeping in mind.

Watch for cars turning right at traffic lights

This is one of the things that are really annoying and also a very good example that quite a few Cypriot drivers are primarily thinking of themselves, their own car and getting to their destination as soon as possible.

Once the light turns green, you will expect to have right of way if you are going straight or turning left. That is also correct, but what you will experience in the traffic in Cyprus is a bit different. From time to time cars that should be waiting for space to turn right, will start turning immediately as the signal goes green. This is definitely worth to be aware off if you are first in line at traffic lights.

Positioning on the road

Positioning on the road

The road markings have just been repainted so the drivers can continue to ignore them

You will experience that many drivers in Cyprus are driving very close to or beyond the center line of the road and in many cases blatantly ignoring road markings. There seems to be the simple explanation behind that behaviour that you no doubt will adapt to soon yourself. The road quality is generally not great, which is especially noticeable in the edge of the roads. Hence many people prefer not to expose their car to the unnecessary holes and bumps along the edge of the road.

As mentioned earlier in this article, traffic legislation is often followed as were it guidelines and the same is the case with road markings.

Use of indicators (or lack of it)

In Cyprus you will experience a distinct lack of use of turn signals to indicate, where the driver intends to go. This applies to both changing lanes on the highway as well as in any other traffic situations and turns. It can potentially be very dangerous, but now you are aware of it and will be able to avoid any potential dangerous situations.

However, if the turn signal is on, it doesn’t always mean that your fellow driver is planning to turn in the indicated direction. It might just as well be because he or she has forgotten to turn it off.

Funny comment on use of indicators in Cyprus

It is none of your business where I am going

Honk – Hoonk – Hooooonk

It’s the best friend of every driver on the island – the horn. It is used a lot – also when unnecessary. But if you only have your own ability to get forward as quickly as possible, then using the horn a lot and repeatedly is obviously an option, although it will rarely get you the desired result.

Everywhere is a parking spot

As in the rest of Europe, double lined road markings means that it is illegal to stop or park here. That is technically also the situation, but as mentioned elsewhere in this article, some of the rules are often interpreted as guidelines.

The unofficial rule in Cyprus is that if there a space is not occupied by another car, it is a potential parking spot. Sometimes the police will hand out fines for illegal parking, but it is rarely seen so there is no real preventive effect of the parking fines.

Another somewhat popular method of parking is to simply just stop your car, turn on the hazard lights and go do your business. If that means partly blocking the road, that is the way it is. However this method is only used for shorter term parking up to 15-20 minutes.

It can be slightly chaotic at times but on the other hand, you will rarely spend much time looking for a parking spot.

Highways and exits

The highways in Cyprus connects all the big cities. In total there are three highways in Cyprus and they all merge together. The longest stretch is A1 from the capital Nicosia to Paphos, although it changes to A6 after passing Limassol. There is also a highway from Nicosia that passes Larnaca before reaching Ayia Napa. Finally there’s a highway from Larnaca that connects with A1 before Limassol and connects all the highways.

Now, when existing these highways outside the bigger cities you will have to be very careful, as some of the exits are very short plus they might end in a 90 degree turn, where the speed limit is as low as 25-30 km/h. Therefore it is very important to be prepared to leave the highway and slow down a little before the exit.

Involved in an accident – what do you do

If you are so unlucky to be involved in a traffic accident, the local practice will most likely be different from what you are used to from home.

Obviously the first and most important thing to focus on is getting yourself and everyone else out of harms way, get into safety and make sure that the police has been contacted. The Police should always be contacted if you are involved in a traffic accident in Cyprus and they will subsequently call an ambulance or the fire service to the scene of the accident, if it is deemed necessary.

You can contact the police by calling the emergency number 112. It is directed straight to the police.

However, after contacting the police it is important that you do not move your car from the spot of the accident. No matter how small an accident it is or where it has happened, you should not move your car unless you want to take full responsibility for the accident even though it was not not case.

You should not move your car until both the police and the insurance agents have finished their job of documenting the accident and taking pictures, notes and statements. It is likely that the police will arrive first, but even if the police are done at the scene, do not move the car until you have a clear go from the insurance agents.

Traffic fines

On top of many traffic offences being overlooked by the police, most traffic fines and sanctions in Cyprus are small compared to most other European countries. In the below tables you can find an overview of selected traffic related fines and also learn where you can pay any fines.

Fines for speeding

Over-speed in % Size of fine Penalty points
Up to 30 % 1 € pr. km/h 0-2 points
31 – 50 % 2 € pr. km/h 2-4 points
51 – 75 % 3 € pr. km/h 3-6 points
Over 75 % Determined by court 3-6 points

If you are not an owner of a Cypriot driving license, the penalty points will have no effect for you as pr. July 2015.

Fines for drunk driving and DUI

Here are the fines and sanctions that you can expect for various degrees of drunk driving or driving under influence in Cyprus.

BAC (% by vol.) Fine size Penalty points
0.023 – 0.035 100 € 0-2 points
0,036 – 0,055 200 € 2-4 points
0,056 – 0,070 300 € 3-6 points
0,071+ Prison or fine between €150 – 400.Determined by court 3-6 points

You can read much more about the effects of blood alcohol content here.

Other selected fines

 

Violation Size of fine
speaking in phone €85
No seat-belt €85
Eating/drinking while driving €85
Riding motorcycle w/o helmet €85
Driving w/o warning triangle €20
Speeding fine in Cyprus

23 km/h over-speeding on the motorway = €23 fine

Paying traffic fines in Cyprus

Traffic fines cannot be paid immediately at the roadside to the police officer, and it is not recommended to suggest it.

If you have received a traffic fine, you can either pay it at the police station, through your bank or with your credit card online at the JCC Smart website. You will need to create a customer account at the website if you do not already have one.

Click here to pay traffic fines from Cyprus

Pay Municipal Police fines

In order to pay fines from the Municipal Police you can visit the following pages on JCC Smart’s website. There is a page for each of the following municipalities:

  • Latsi
  • Limassol
  • Nicosia
  • Paphos
  • Paralimni (Protaras)

Rental cars – what to consider

Rental car Cyprus

All rental cars used to have red license plates – This has now been changed (in 2015), but there are still many rental cars with red license placed

If you are driving in a rental car it is clearly visible to anyone else in traffic. It is not because of the big advertisement sticker from the rental agency, but instead the license plates. The license plate on all rental cars are red with black letters. It stands out.

If you are renting a car in Cyprus you should also be aware that there are roads, where your insurance will not cover because of the road quality. This includes roads in remote areas, 4WD roads and some mountain roads. But ask the car rental company and you will know for sure.