Health and safety in North Cyprus

Health

All visitors are entitled to free emergency medical treatment at state hospitals, and all blood banks have been HIV screened. Many expat residents and visitors praise the quality of the medical care they receive. Note that at present there is no state system of GPs, though this is being mooted for the future. Chemist shops (Turkish eczane) are also capable of recommending medicines for common holiday illnesses, and many drugs such as antibiotics are available cheaply over the counter, with no need for prescriptions. Note that every edition of the English-language Cyprus Today newspaper lists duty chemists.

As the south part of the island is a full member of the EU, a short hop across the border will allow you to use the reciprocal rights bestowed by your EHIC (European Health Insurance Card), should you carry one. The EHIC is not valid in North Cyprus.

The Kolan British Kyrenia Medical Center is a private GP clinic, accessible to all. Visitors pay TL160 for the initial consultation, but any follow-up advice is then without further charge for the following 15 days. They also have a hospital in Lefkoşa, an emergency service at Ercan Airport and their own ambulances. For contact details of other doctors, use the online directory of the North Cyprus-based Buzz magazine.

Vaccinations

No vaccinations are required for North Cyprus. However, as with any trip abroad, it is recommended that your tetanus, diphtheria and polio vaccinations are up to date. This is also true of measles, mumps and rubella vaccinations. Two injections given at least one month apart are advised. Most people will have had this as part of their baby immunisations.

Hepatitis A vaccination may be recommended for longer trips where good food and water hygiene cannot be guaranteed, or where there may be an increased risk through lifestyle or occupation. The vaccine (eg: Havrix Monodose, Avaxim) can be given even up to the day before travel and lasts for one year. A booster dose given at least six months after the first dose will extend cover for approximately 25 years. Foreign nationals intending either to work or study in Cyprus are required to undergo an HIV test. For those working in a medical setting or with children, a hepatitis B vaccine would be advised. This three-dose course can be given over 21 days when time is short for those aged 16 or over. If there’s more time available (at least eight weeks), then a longer course is preferred and is essential for those under 16. There is no reciprocal healthcare with Britain, so adequate medical insurance is strongly recommended.

Rabies is only found in the bat population, so if you wake with a bat in your room or think you have been bitten through close contact, seek medical advice as soon as possible.

Safety

The atmosphere in the north is very relaxed and friendly. The Turkish Cypriot people are by nature easy-going, and violent crime is very rare. The aggravating hassling of foreigners by street sellers and shop owners, rampant in other parts of the Mediterranean, is blissfully absent here. If you ask for help, it will be offered willingly, but if you are just strolling and looking, you will be left to yourself. On Girne’s harbourfront, a waiter or two may try to entice you into his establishment, but it gets no worse than that. Women alone are not propositioned and it is generally quite safe to walk around after dark. Your privacy is respected and people keep their distance.

Women travellers

For foreign females, North Cyprus should be a relatively relaxed destination. Expat women and tourists report that they feel entirely safe walking around on their own after dark, there is no harassment of lone women and as a tourist destination it is untainted by the sort of expectations raised by the licentious behaviour of some visitors to other parts of the Mediterranean. Here it’s all about sun, sea and sand, not sun, sea and sex.

Levels of crime against people are very low. Having said that, the usual precautions should be taken. The ‘entertainment’ spots to avoid are the seedy nightclubs that inhabit the roadside in usually out-of-town locations. These are basically lap- dancing joints, with prostitutes available for those who want them. It’s unlikely that female visitors would stumble into one of these, but most would be uncomfortable if they did so. (And many men, too!) There are also a couple of ‘motels’ in the old part of Girne that also seem to have an alternative, seedy purpose.

Travelling with a disability

Wheelchair users will find that North Cyprus is not the most user-friendly of places. Investment in infrastructure to accompany increased tourism in recent years has led to better pavements, for example, but they are still far from easy to use and are also frequently used for the parking of cars. Some newer hotels have installed ramps to allow access to bedrooms and public areas, but the situation is far from perfect.

The Buzz magazine, which is online and also published quarterly, is freely available in bars and cafés and lists all the Girne restaurants, indicating whether or not they cater for wheelchairs. It’s probably best to ask at the time of booking, if you have any particular concerns. Taxis are usually Mercedes saloon cars, comfortable and spacious for the able-bodied, but not much use for those with limited mobility. Similarly, dolmuş (public minibuses) do not adapt for wheelchairs.

LGBT+ travellers

Despite the region being nominally Islamic, homosexuality and bisexuality are far from unknown in North Cyprus and are – generally, at least – tolerated.

Cypriots and Turks are very tactile people, and you should not be surprised to see men hug and kiss each other (on the cheek) in public, so nothing in particular should be read into this. Ironically, other displays of public affection – such as kissing on the lips – even between straight partners, are frowned upon.

North Cyprus became the last place in Europe to decriminalise homosexual acts, when it voted in 2014 to repeal the relevant statutes that outlawed them. This resulted from many years of lobbying from various pressure groups. Changing some attitudes can, of course, take longer than changing legislation, so perhaps the best advice is still to keep overly passionate displays of your sexual tendencies, whether heterosexual or homosexual, low key when in public places. It is currently not possible to have a civil ceremony or same-sex marriage in North Cyprus.

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