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classic car from Paphos show

Driving side in Cyprus is pretty much the same as in the UK, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and a few other countries. As an ex-British colony, Cyprus got its road system from the established ways of her majesty, the Queen’s land.

When it comes to the style of driving of the locals, a friend of mine once told me a joke about it: “The ex-pats (referring to the mainly Brits) drive on the left, the tourists – on the right; and the Cypriots in the shade”. I heard the same about the Maltese... Truth is locals are not so bad at driving. If you have ever witnessed, or worse, participated in traffic movement, let’s say in Egypt or Guatemala, driving in Cyprus will be an absolute breeze for you.

 

Here, they have their own peculiar characteristics, like ignoring the existence of indicator light, but in a few hours you’ll adapt to the flow and will feel quite contempt, especially in smaller towns and villages.

The tourists coming from non-British road systems find it a little more challenging; although somehow, a lot of people think it is the same as driving on the other side. Personally, driving for nearly 18 years on the left, I find it particularly hard to stick to the right side of the road when I am travelling abroad. Here are a few bits of advice coupled with experience:

  • Your steering wheel is on the right side of the car. It might take some time to get your brain accustomed to this setting, but probably, you’ll end up getting into your car from the passenger side for a few times.
  • When approaching an intersection, FIRST check your RIGHT and then left (opposite is true if you normally drive on the right). It can be pretty tricky, especially if you find yourself on an empty road with no marking.
  • In manual cars, the gears are situated in the same place, i.e 1 gear is the top left position luckily! Not much to be concerned about here. The gearbox lever, however, will be under your left hand’s control.
  • Your hand break, in most cars, is also under your left hand. This very useful device needs to be put to work on hills and intersections with long timing (though as a tourist you wouldn’t know this unless you stay for a while)
  • Lights are used at dusk and dawn, and, naturally, at night. It is not compulsory to have them on during the day, not even on the highway.
  • Red number plates are to indicate that the car is a rental. Locals tend to be more patient with red number plates. As an “owner” of such a plate, you can rest assured that special consideration is given to you as a driver who could have taken the vehicle 5 minutes ago out of the parking bay.
  • Stay calm. Cyprus has the lowest road-rage levels in the world! Worth the easy drive.

 

  1. Speed limits on Cyprus Roads

Practically enough, the speed limits are rather low: 50 Km/H in town and urban areas and 100 Km/H on the motorway, unless otherwise specified on the road you are travelling.

 In the mountains you will spot speed limit sings as low as 10, 20, max 40Km/H. From personal experience, unless you know your car very well and have been on the road/curve a few times, this indicator shows you at what top speed you are safe to enter the curve. Some cars handle better on mountain roads than others and would permit faster cruising speeds without making your passengers throw up the entire content of their just-eaten lunch.

Chances of you meeting the police with speed trap cameras there is next to zero, yet, for many reasons, main one being your own safety, it is better to obey those mountain indicators. Remember, there are many tourists on these roads, and most of them have no idea what they are doing or where they are going.

 

  1. Parking on and off the roads

This is something that no one can explain, or handle, unless you are a Cypriot. The parking spot.

You see, in Cyprus, you can park virtually anywhere. Double yellow line? Is it near enough to my destination? No problem, just leave the car here. Disable parking? Hmmm, it’s right next to the entry to the shop, i.e. they HAVE to park here! Curve? Stop sign? Street junction? It’s all free!

Cypriots have a deeply rooted believe that they need to part with their vehicles right under the windows/doors of their homes/shops/ friend’s houses/schools/etc, as long as they don’t have to walk more than 5m from the car to their destination.

This does not only include the location of that parking spot, it also means the way the car is parked. It is not enough to just leave it in the middle of four parking bays; it has to be done at an angle! That is, in such a way that no matter how much you try, you will never fit another car nearby. The white lines painted on the pavement to denote parking bays are ignored, or at best, noted as guidelines that mean that the car must stop directly over, having the white line precisely in the middle.

It seems that the local philosophy is the more space you take up with your car, the more happiness you achieve.

Battling it is useless. The authorities tried to run campaigns fining left, right and centre, but all went back to its original state once the campaigns were stopped (ironically, due to lack of funds)

So, once you are in Cyprus, don’t bother reacting to a car parked in the middle of the road or taking up 3 parking bays including the one allocated for disabled, it’s the norm here. Also, don’t get to used to it, back at your home country you might catch a hefty fine for parking that would be considered decent here.

  1. Roundabouts, i.e. traffic circles

Big, big, huge pain here. The truth is that 59% of Cypriots have no idea how to enter, let alone, exit the roundabout. Add to the traffic flow the utterly confused tourist, and you get yourself an explosive mix.

Rules are pretty simple, though:

  1. Determine where you wish to go. As a general rule, most large traffic circles, come with 2 to 3 lanes. In case of double lanes, the right one usually serves to go straight and to the right and the left one, to the left and straight. If there are 3 lanes, look at the marking on the road, there should be a mapping of which lanes flows where.
  2. Use your indicator. Even though locals are not fond of those blinking lights on their cars, the tourists and immigrants living in Cyprus will certainly appreciate your kind gesture.
  3. You must leave way to the traffic flowing from your right and enter as you have a gap. Try not to wait for too long, you risk the luck of never getting through the circle, especially in the bigger cities.
  4. Now, the part that most locals forget is that you must exit at the same “level” you entered. That is, if you drive into the roundabout from the right (far right), you must exit at the equivalent far right. This means you are not allowed to change lanes in the middle of the flow inside the roundabout or cut short and exit at a closer lane, for example, in the abovementioned case it would be the left lane.

That’s it! No rocket science.

Please, be utterly careful and watch in all directions. It is very often you will witness being cut short or having someone change lanes as you enter the roundabout. There are limitless possibilities of what could go wrong, be vigilant and don’t forget to check your blind spot when exiting.

 

  1. Seat belts, car seats and boosters

The painful reality about this is that, even though it is a legal requirement, most locals seem oblivious to the fact that it is a life-saving device. Most degrading, if not to say devastating, is to see how Cypriots allow their underage children not only ride without any restrain, but stand in the middle of the car,  or even worse, sit on daddy’s lap as he’s cruising through the city.

Car seats and boosters, again, even though required by law, are seen by the locals as an unnecessary space-wasting devices. A lot of immigrants follow this trait mercilessly.

As with anything else you see here, ignore it, don’t let your heart stop when you see an unsecured toddler on the front passenger seat, and use your own safety device appropriately.

Oh, and halmets and other motorbike gear are also often neglected, maybe not as much as in, let’s say, Crete, nonetheless, it can be shocking to see youngsters riding scooters with nothing on but shorts and slippers.

  1. Fines for different traffic violations and the rationale behind it

The police is very active on the roads of Cyprus, especially in peak tourism seasons. It is for both, safety enforcement and vigilance, though I think the budget also gets a hefty boost during this time of the year.

Paying your fine is non-negotiable. You have to do it and usually you are given a very short time limit to settle your fine, mostly it is 15 days from the day after the offence. It is pretty simple to settle it through any bank or the only portal of JCC smart.

Bellow is the list of standard fees and penalties.

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 of  July 2015.

 

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

 

It is worth noting that the speeding fines are only imposed once the violator is exceeding a grace limit of 19km/h over the allocated 100km/h on the motor way and 15km/h over the sated limit in urban area, either 80 or 50km/h.

  1. Drunk driving

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 blood alcohol concentration levels 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.

If you are going to a party and you want to have some drinks, here is a great calculator that will break down by hour your levels of alcohol according to your weight, gender and amount of intended consumption 

Driving under influence or while impaired is fined significantly stronger than speeding and you could end up in jail. Considering the police know the hot spots for regular “customers”, from time to time, they do set up check points right outside those establishments. They see you getting out and into your car, know for sure you will get a check and probably a fine.

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.

 

  1. Highways and basic rules of driving on one

The highways in Cyprus connect 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 is a highway from Larnaca that connects with A1 before Limassol and connects all the highways.

To give you an idea of the distances, you can check here, though you should remember that distances are not always a good indicator for time you need to spend on the road, especially if you are heading towards Troodos Mountains.

Points to consider when entering and exiting the highways, especially outside the main cities:

  • 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.
  • Exit names are not necessary have the name you are looking for. Road markings in Cyprus have a strange algorithm; the name of the place you are looking for will not necessarily appear on the markings. Best bet is to look for the exit with the name of the nearest village/town to the actual road you are travelling on.
  • At the “end points” of the local “interstate” highways, the speed limits are decreased and markings indicate end of highway. Obey those markings as you will be shortly entering suburbs and traffic is certainly going to slow down.
  • When entering the highway, check your blind spot on your right hand side and accelerate carefully as to not disrupt the free-flow of traffic.
  • When on the highway, obey the principle of keeping on the left, overtaking on the right.

Anything I missed? Drop your comments and let me know, I’ll be happy to hear from you!

 

  1. Accidents

If you are so unlucky to be involved in a traffic accident, the behaviour you need to adopt will,  most certainly, be very different from what you are used to.

 

Common sense steps to follow:

First and most important: make sure you, and everyone else involved, are safe. Then:

  • Call the Police on 112, free from any mobile phone. It’s a must! The Police will then evaluate your call and dispatch further assistance if required, i.e. Ambulance and Fire brigade.
  • DO NOT move your car! Regardless of the size of the incident, even if it is just a scratch, leave your car in the original position; do not attempt to move it to the shoulder of the road or to a junction to help the traffic. This is not always justified but mostly it is done as for the insurance companies to get the correct picture of who is the guilty party. If you move your vehicle, you are likely to be charged with the offence and billed for all damages. Even if the Police has cleared the scene, do not leave until the insurance representative has done their work!

 

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