Living In Cyprus As An Expat- The Essential Guide

A detailed guide to living in Cyprus as an expat: Understand the pros and cons of Cypriot life find out whether Cyprus is the right country for you.

Cyprus’ sunny weather and lenient fiscal policy towards expats and businesses make it a very attractive destination to move to. 

This guide will give you better insight into what it’s like living in Cyprus as an expat; we take a look at both the North and South of Cyprus so that you can decide if this beautiful island is the right place for you and which part sounds more appealing.

Is Cyprus a good place to live?

Cyprus is a great place to live both for families and retirees. The island is renowned for its fabulous beaches, but it also draws people from all over the world with its stunning mountains and little valleys full of vineyards, orange orchards and olive groves. 

living in Cyprus
Living in Cyprus can bring many lifestyle and financial advantages

Living in Cyprus can bring many lifestyle and financial advantages. Life, in general, is more relaxed and there are more opportunities to spend time outdoors. The cost of living in Cyprus is generally lower, taxes are more lenient and the property prices are generally cheaper than in the UK.

The lifestyle is typically Mediterranean with its slow laidback pace and “enjoy the moment” attitude. Fruit, veg, fish and various seafood can be bought fresh all year round. Colourful and inexpensive fruit and veg markets are dotted everywhere.

The island enjoys the warmest climate in the European Union, with some 320 days of sunshine per year. Cyprus is also ranked among the regions with the healthiest climate worldwide.

English is spoken widely both in North and South Cyprus.

Is Cyprus safe? 

Cyprus is one of the safest places in Europe. The crime rate is very low on both sides. 

Despite the division, Cyprus remains a very safe place both for tourists and expats.

Compared to other European countries of similar size there is less violent crime. Of course, there are instances of non-violent and non-confrontational street crimes, and it’s better not to give petty criminals an opportunity. But on the whole, Cyprus is a safe and peaceful place to live.

Living in Cyprus after Brexit

There are no changes in immigration procedures if you are planning to move to North Cyprus.

Living in North Cyprus
Girne harbour, North Cyprus

If, however, your destination is South Cyprus, then Brexit had a direct impact on your ability to come and live in Cyprus. As a non-EU citizen you do not have automatic rights to settle down in Cyprus. 

You can stay in South Cyprus without a visa for 90 days. After that, if you want to live there, you will need to go through a residency application process which is the same for all non-EU citizens. 

As the process can be quite complex, consider consulting a reputable immigration lawyer. 

Since 1st January UK citizens planning to spend more than 90 days in every 180 days in a year in Cyprus should be looking at applying for Cypriot temporary residence known as form muk1.

According to Maplebrook Services Cyprus, a company that advises expats on UK wills and related services while also helping with residency issues, says that obtaining residency in Cyprus is not as easy as it used to be. 

The application process is somewhat tortuous requiring the provision of documents such as:

  • birth and marriage certificates which require to be apostilled in the UK 
  • signed copy of purchase contract of property or lease of same
  • utility bills such as electricity
  • bank statements
  • medical insurance policy

Permanent residency may be applied for after 5 years. 

Appointments to apply for a muk1 are often being booked months in advance and entail waiting around for hours to be called on the day itself. 

You can, however, outsource the appointment process and purely turn up to have your photo taken and pay the requisite fee.

The pros and cons of living in Cyprus

Although the island is undeniably stunning and is a desirable location for many expats, there are both advantages and disadvantages in moving to Cyprus. It’s good to become aware of both before you move.

The pros:

  1. Fantastic weather and a lot of bright and long sunny days.
  2. Many opportunities for an active outdoor lifestyle: great golf courses, stunning mountain hikes, especially in the North. You can do water sports and even go skiing in winter months in the Troodos Mountains.
  3. Plenty of beautiful beaches to choose from for a lazy day out by the sea.
  4. A lot of locals speak enough English on both sides to make learning Greek or Turkish unnecessary. However, if you make an effort it will be greatly appreciated by your local community.
  5. Low taxes and lower cost of living is a big relief for your bank account. This is especially true if you are planning to move to North Cyprus.
  6. Great expat communities on both sides.
Living in Cyprus
Food markets in Cyprus are bursting with colours and flavours making it impossible to leave without buying something

The cons:

  1. January and February can be quite dreadful as it rains often and can feel quite cold.
  2. July and August can feel unbearably hot, so an air-con is necessary.
  3. Not a big choice of direct flights to other European countries, but plenty available to and from the UK.
  4. The internet can be somewhat patchy and costly.
  5. Imported goods are expensive on both sides.

Travelling to and from Cyprus

There are two major international airports in South Cyprus – Larnaca and Paphos, and one airport in Northern Cyprus – Ercan International Airport, which is used as the main civilian airport.

It takes just under five hours to fly to Larnaca or Paphos from most major airports in the UK. A number of airlines offer flights to Cyprus, including low budget EasyJet, and the tickets are almost always reasonably priced (apart from during the school holidays, of course).

There are no direct flights to Ercan at the moment, as the international agreement demands that all the planes have to touch down in mainland Turkey before proceeding to the TRNC.

How different are South Cyprus and North Cyprus?

The island is home to two countries – the Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). There is also a buffer zone, the so-called Green Line, between the two countries, which was created by the UN.

Living in North Cyprus - mountain view
Saint Hilarion Castle on a mountain, Kyrenia Girne district, Cyprus

Both republics are stable countries with relatively low crime rates. Both the northern and southern areas welcome expats and have quite large expat communities.

The cost of living in the North is significantly lower. If you want a great value-for-money retirement destination in a beautiful Mediterranean setting, then North Cyprus can be a perfect choice. The Forbes ranked North Cyprus as the top destination for the best beachfront buys 2021.

However, the Southern economy is more stable, and regulations are more transparent and EU compliant. Also, if you wish to set up a business or use the advantage of lenient tax policies in a white-listed reputable jurisdiction, the Republic of Cyprus is an optimal choice. 

Foreigners can buy a property in North and South Cyprus subject to permission (which is just a formality).

Can I travel between North and South Cyprus?

Yes, anyone can cross the border between North and South Cyprus in both directions as long as they comply with the existing visa rules.

EU citizens are free to cross the border between the countries.

Non-EU citizens including Britons need to comply with visa requirements specified by the EU for their country of citizenship. The good news is that Brits can enter any EU country without a visa and stay there for up to 90 days. 

So, the answer is yes, you can travel easily across the border in both directions, but only at designated points with the most convenient ones being in Nicosia – the capital of both republics. 

Crossing the border is not a big deal, although you might have to queue sometimes, especially if you do it by car. 

If you are a resident of the Republic of Cyprus, when crossing to TRNC you will have to get entry clearance at the checkpoint and insure your car (if your car is registered in the Republic of Cyprus).

The clearance is free of charge and can be valid for up to 90 days; short-term car insurance is available on the spot as well.

Expats living in Cyprus on both sides frequently go to and fro and think nothing of it. Once you’ve done it, you’ll realise it’s very easy. Shopping and entertainment options are more abundant and sophisticated in the South, while nature and major historic sites are more impressive in the North.

Living in Cyprus (the Republic of Cyprus)

The Republic is an officially recognised state, a member of the EU.

It has a more dynamic economy, more sophisticated facilities, and multiple double taxation treaties with a wide range of countries across the globe (including the UK). All of this makes tax matters much simpler for private persons and businesses.

A grand Mediterranian villa in a street lined with blossoming trees, Cyprus
A beautiful village of Pissouri in Limassol District

Is it expensive to live in South Cyprus?

You will find that the cost of living in Cyprus is generally on par with other south European countries and is cheaper than in the UK. Day-to-day shopping is much cheaper if you buy local produce and you can still buy a beautiful coastal property for a good price.

When you have settled down and found lovely local cafes and restaurants catering for residents (as opposed to tourists), you will find that dining out is cheaper too, and the food is great as a rule.

Nicosia as the capital might feel the most expensive city, and this is one of the reasons expats prefer to live in other locations. If, however, you want all the sophistication of urban living and not too huge tourist crowds in summer, it’s worth paying a bit more to live in Nicosia.

The most considerable savings when you move to Cyprus comes from a great taxation regime for retirees and the Cyprus Non-Dom Programme.

How much tax will I pay in South Cyprus?

Personal income while living in Cyprus is taxed on a tiered basis, with quite a substantial tax-free allowance of €19,500. 

The maximum income tax rate on personal income in Cyprus is presently set at 35% for income in excess of €60,000.

Business tax rates and intellectual property

There is a 2.5% tax on royalties received in connection with intellectual property rights held in Cyprus. The regular corporate tax is 12.5% on profits.

Taxes on retirement income while living in Cyprus

Any British pensioner retiring to Cyprus, be they in receipt of private or public sector pensions, has two options:

  1. To pay a fixed tax rate of 5% a year on their pension income for amounts exceeding €3,420
  2. To opt for Cyprus’ tiered income tax system

Is healthcare free in South Cyprus?

Gesy is a universal healthcare system based on contributions from the residents, which is free to users (with small co-payments for certain services), subject to an annual cap.

Employees, pensioners, and income-earners pay 2.65 percent of their income in National Health Insurance System, employers pay 2.9 percent, and the self-employed 4 percent with tax capped on incomes above €180,000 (£161,440).

Healthcare benefits cover a standardised basket of medical services, including hospitalisation, surgery, pharmaceuticals, general and specialist medical care and laboratory services. Co-payments are capped at a maximum €300 per year.

Living in North Cyprus (the TRNC)

The main advantage of living in North Cyprus is getting all the perks of the Mediterranean lifestyle for a very attractive price. Indeed, in North Cyprus, your money can go much further than in most other popular retirement destinations. 

Living in North Cyprus
A day out by the sea, North Cyprus

Due to the fact that the northern part of the island is recognized only by Turkey, economically it is not as robust as South Cyprus and it still suffers embargoes. However, the cost of living and property in North Cyprus is much lower than in most European countries. 

Many expat retirees use this advantage and settle in the northern part of Cyprus to make their pension income go even further. 

The northern part of the island is also arguably the most beautiful part of Cyprus, featuring dramatic Crusader castles, white colonial villages and miles of untouched, undeveloped sandy beaches.

Cost of living in North Cyprus

The TRNC is definitely one of the least expensive countries to live along the Mediterranean coast. Compared to the cost of living in the UK, it is really good value, although it is gradually rising due to the influx of tourists and expatriate residents.

Both buying and renting a property is considerably cheaper than anywhere else in the Mediterranean. If you shop at the local markets for fruit and vegetables, you will be surprised how far your pounds can stretch. However, imported products are expensive, as they can only be delivered through Turkey and are subject to heavy taxes.

Eating out is also inexpensive, especially if you can find little local taverns away from tourist districts.

What is it like living in North Cyprus?

You can virtually have any level of lifestyle you want on the island – depending on how much disposable income you have!  

For example, if you have megabucks you can have everything from a personal gym to a cinema in your own home – as well as the ubiquitous pool in the garden of course, which you can use for at least 8 months of the year comfortably.

There are cinemas, clubs, bars, an incredible array of restaurants catering to all tastes and all budgets for those living in Northern Cyprus.  There are casinos, discos, societies and sports clubs, public gyms, spas and beach clubs.  

What’s more, because the local average wages are relatively modest, the cost of living well in the North can be easily within your reach.  

You can access English speaking, internationally trained doctors and dentists in North Cyprus – and private fees for seeing the best are not excessively high.  

You can have your children educated at an international school – although these are fee-paying.  The English School of Kyrenia, for example, is accredited to the standard of UK schools and courses.

You can shop in a supermarket where the shelves are lined with international produce – or of course, you can save huge amounts of cash and shop at the weekly markets across the country.  

Living in North Cyprus - Karpas
Golden Beach the best beach of Cyprus, Karpas Peninsula, North Cyprus

You can sun yourself for 9 months of the year for free, never get bored of the blue skies and the beaches.  You will find your Cypriot neighbours make you most welcome, and that there are plenty of expatriates who already call North Cyprus home.

North Cyprus Residence

When entering the TRNC (the north), you are given a 90-day permission to stay visa. However, if you decide to stay longer, you must apply for a temporary residence permit as soon as possible. Until you obtain Permanent Residency, all residency visas are classed as “Temporary”.

Residency applications are now online. You will have to present a photocopy of your property sale contract (kocan – deed), or rental contract in your name, and a local bank statement with a minimum of £10,000 or Turkish lira equivalent, per person.

Your valid passport, passport-sized photographs and proof of address in the form of an original letter from your local Muhktar (the head of a local community, usually found running a corner shop or in a local community centre) will be needed as well.

Temporary permits are issued for one year and must be renewed annually. Married couples should produce their marriage certificate and a photocopy of it.

There is also a health check to pass before your permit can be approved.

If you are 60 or above, you no longer need to apply for a yearly residency stamp in your passport. You are free to enter and exit the TRNC as often as you like and stay there for as long as you like.

Currency and banking in North Cyprus

The currency of the TRNC is the Turkish Lira (TL). It is not very stable as a rule, and the exchange rate can work in favour of those who draw their income in pounds, euros or dollars.

Transactions can be carried out in all leading currencies in the north. The Central Bank of Northern Cyprus is responsible for the monetary, credit, and exchange policy, and acts as bankers to the government. Transaction hours are between 08:30 am-2 pm during summer, from 3 pm-6 pm on Mondays and 08:30 am-5 pm during the winter.

Commercial banks in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus can either be branches of large banks based in Turkey or actual local banks in TRNC.

It is easy to open a bank account in TRNC. Although different banks can have different paperwork requirements, most of them will ask for your passport and/or driving licence. Sometimes proof of address will be necessary. Also if you are an account holder with HSBC UK, and want an HSBC account in TRNC, the local HSBC will ask for a bank reference.

Most of the large banks have an English speaking section. There is also healthy competition in high street banking in the TRNC, with a number of recently-opened banks offering better interest rates: Iktisatbank, Credit West and Turk Bankasi are the most popular. So if you’re looking for a savings account, you’d better shop around to find the best offers.

Healthcare in North Cyprus

North Cyprus offers you a choice of state-run or public hospitals and clinics if you find yourself in need of medical attention. You will have to pay for all your treatment in TRNC.

Living in North Cyprus
A view from the Saint Hilarion Castle towards Girne, North Cyprus

Private healthcare and hospital facilities are quite good in Northern Cyprus, with new centres including the Near East University Hospital and Medical School, which boast world-class equipment and treatment opportunities.

Some private hospitals offer expats a membership system, where you can choose a certain level of an annual membership that entitles you to discounted fees for treatments.

Health insurance 

You might want to consider private medical insurance. However, it’s next to impossible to obtain a private plan from a local insurer if you are over the age of 70. Some expats take out international health cover. This, however, is generally quite expensive. 

You may want to buy insurance with high excesses to be insured against the most expensive misfortunes only and pay out of your own pocket for minor treatments. 

In this case, your monthly insurance premiums can be quite low and you will have peace of mind knowing that you are covered in case of critical emergency.

If you are under 70 years old, one of the options is Emergency Health Insurance from some of the local insurance companies. Emergency plans are usually reasonably priced and will cover you in most cases of medical emergencies. 

Make sure you understand what emergencies your plan covers before you sign up.

Out-of-pocket payment

With the cost of healthcare in the TRNC being fairly low anyway, you might find this option the best one.

You might also choose not to bother with insurance at all, and if you think your risks of getting seriously ill or needing an emergency surgery are quite low, then you can just pay per visit to see a specialist.

Example costs of dental and optical treatments:

Dental treatment

  • Metal porcelain crown £90. 
  • Dental Implant £850
  • Root Canal Treatment £120

Optical treatment

  • A regular eye examination £20
  • Varifocal lenses £100

Emergency treatment and pharmacies

The emergency departments of all hospitals in North Cyprus have English-speaking personnel. But they do recommend you seek the assistance of an interpreter for more complex medical matters.

Emergency medical treatment is administered in the Accident and Emergency department. The emergency number for an ambulance is 112.

Alternatively (and this is the best way), make your way to the nearest hospital or health care clinic for immediate treatment. No one is refused emergency care, whether they have the financial means to pay for it or not.

Pharmacies in North Cyprus are famous for selling almost every single prescription drug you can think of over the counter. Prescription and over the counter medicines produced in Turkey are often far cheaper than in the UK, while the drugs imported from Europe are usually expensive.

British Residents Society (BRS)

The British Residents Society is a non-profit organisation that provides support and advice for Britons in North Cyprus. The Society has direct access to the British High Commission and Government Departments of the TRNC and has a certain say in how expat affairs are managed there.

The group has agreements with a number of institutions in the TRNC, which means members of the BRS can access discounted or better level services from those institutions. 

As an example, the BRS has negotiated discounts with some hospitals, but you have to present a valid BRS card to obtain this. 

Creditwest Bank can offer more favourable conditions to the BRS members than other TRNC banks. The bank also offers health insurance plans.

Apart from advice and help, the BRS can help you integrate quicker and find friends. They also host and organise various social events and gatherings. 

Living in Cyprus: final thoughts

Cyprus is a wonderful place. It’s sunny, friendly and represents a good value-for-money retirement location. Both North and South rank high in Expatra’s Best Places To Retire Abroad index as the best retirement destinations for financial benefits. The tax rates and cost of living are softer on your bank account compared to the UK.

However, just like with any other retirement destinations, to find out whether Cyprus is a good fit for you, you need to try living there. So, rent a property and spend some time in summer and in winter in one of the popular Cyprus’ locations to see whether you can call it home.

And one final note – if you are looking for a cheaper place to live abroad, North Cyprus is affordable for many of your day-to-day essentials, and you can live like a local and reduce your bills right down.  

However, as soon as you start adding on bells and whistles, buying expensive white goods for your home or a TV, garden furniture or eating out every night, the cost of living in Cyprus will rack up. If you’re on a budget, spend a couple of months ‘holidaying’ on the island before you commit to it, to see whether it is indeed affordable for you.

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Editorial Team
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