Chapter 7 – Communications
By communications I am referring to transport links, mail, telephone and internet access, all of which are not the same standard as the UK.
The only rail link has fallen into disuse about 50 years ago when it was mainly used for the transport of mineral products. The roads are mostly twisty, narrow and uneven although over the last five years more 4 lane motorways have appeared, making journey times between major cities easier and quicker. Road transport consists of hired or private cars, taxis, dolmuş taxis and a network of dolmuş mini-buses. The word dolmuş means squashed and refers to sharing a taxi or mini-bus. It is strange to walk along a road and be hooted at by minibuses trying to find out if you want a ride. Local minibuses cost around 40p to wherever you want to go, just say ï¿½hereï¿½ or ï¿½buï¿½ when you approach wherever you want to get off. Longer distances cost around ï¿½1. For the villages off the beaten track there is a sign propped up against the front windscreen saying the ultimate destinations of the minibus. A shared taxi works on a similar principle but is more expensive.
Because these minibuses are privately owned, and the driver paid per person per journey, they can be a hazard on the road as they try to increase their income. After they have picked up passengers they are desperate to get going and sometimes assume you know this by moving out into your path. Hire vehicle drivers throughout the world seem to have this same attitude.
Hiring a car is simple, just walk in and tell them what you want. There is a tendency for the quoted price to not be what you are expected to pay. Watch out for the additional KDV (VAT) and compulsory collision damage waiver pushing up a ï¿½20 per day quote to ï¿½26. Personally I would not ever pay more than ï¿½20 a day for a small air condition saloon and would expect to pay only ï¿½15 a day outside the peak periods. Bed prepared to negotiate and to say ï¿½XYZ quoted us ï¿½19 a day all inclusive.ï¿½
Diesel is currently half the price of UK fuel so it could be beneficial to hire one but even over a 3 day hire you would be hard pressed to use more than ï¿½10 worth of fuel. There are a few differences you will notice when you drive in North Cyprus but thankfully driving on the right is not one of them. The entire island is open to you, but not in a hire car, so if you want to drive over the green line you will have to do it in a private car and pay extra insurance.
Travel by boat is possible only to Turkey from Kyrenia or Famagusta and is relatively quick and inexpensive. Once in Turkey there is a lot to explore, and of course there is the rest of the Middle East. If you travel to the South then in theory you could travel to other parts of the Mediterranean but at the moments routes seem to be closed because of the problems in that area.
Flights from Ercan airport all go via Turkey so be prepared to sit on the tarmac for 45 minutes will passengers are transferred and the flight changes from a domestic to an international flight. Direct flights to and from the UK are being considered but are not expected in the near future. There is the alternative of flying via Larnaca in the South but there is very little difference in the time and cost. For example flights from Stansted to Ercan cost around ï¿½250 off-peak and take 6 hours, a taxi to Kyrenia would then add ï¿½30 return to the cost and take 45 minutes, a total of 6 hours 45 minutes and a cost of ï¿½530 for a couple. A similar flight to Larnaca would cost ï¿½175, take 4ï¿½ hours, and a taxi would cost ï¿½60 return and add 1ï¿½ hours to the journey, a total of 6 hours and a cost of ï¿½410.
On paper it would seem that the Larnaca journey would be preferable but because of the attitude of some Greek Cypriots towards tourists to the North there is the added problem of not knowing what obstacles might be thrown into your path.
Do not waste your luggage allowance when you return from a trip to the UK and watch out for the new rule that says that a single package must not exceed 32kgs.
Posting letters and parcels are easy and comparable with the UK; 20p for a postcard, 25p for a letter and 90p for a 1kg parcel. For some reason, UK stamps are acceptable. Expect post to take 4-7 days to reach their destination and a lot longer if you do not post them at a main Post Office.
Phoning the UK is cheaper if you have a landline. Getting a landline will take you at least 18 months and probably cost a small fortune. Most locals seem to use a mobile phone. Landline calls cost around 30p a minute to the UK, your UK mobile phone company will charge you between 60-150p and using a local mobile phone about 40p. Get your UK phone ï¿½chippedï¿½ at one of the many outlets on the island and buy pay as you go phone cards at ï¿½9 for 400 units. These cards give you about 45 minutes of UK calls and incoming calls cost you nothing. Tell your callers from the UK to use one of the discount phone companies, such as Telediscount, which will cost them 15p a minute to your mobile and 10p to a landline. Unfortunately the coverage on the island can be a little unreliable at times in the wilder areas.
Unfortunately, without a landline, internet access becomes more difficult. If you have a landline then a slow link will cost you about ï¿½15 a month, much as it would in the UK. When they talk of Broadband here they talk of theoretical speeds ï¿½ that of the slowest UK links and in reality about twice the speed of a standard UK connection. Wireless internet has become available recently but none have prove reliable and all are costly, between ï¿½250-500 to install and then about ï¿½20 per month for a slow ï¿½broadbandï¿½ connection. Many suppliers want the first six months rental up front. When you discover how unreliable the connections are you realise why.
There is of course one of the Internet Cafes spread throughout the island. These are very cheap, ï¿½1-2 for ï¿½ hours, very slow and very insecure. I personally would never enter an important user identity and password on one of these systems for fear that a ï¿½keystroke snifferï¿½ had been sneaked onto the computers. These hidden programs store every key you type and it would not be difficult to work out your bank login information from the files left behind by these programs.