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Countries Information & Lifestyle
 Cyprus Cyprus

Country Information & Lifestyle

 Aphrodite's birthplace

Aphrodite's birthplace

Cyprus, island of the Gods and full of legends, basks in all year round sunshine. Nestling in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea a veritable crossroads of three continents, Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean.

Cyprus has been divided into two parts, North and South Cyprus, since 1974. Greek Cypriots occupy the south part while Turkish Cypriots occupy the remaining one third of northern part. A boundary known as the "Green Line" which runs through Nicosia, the capital of both South and North Cyprus, separates the two states.

A millennia of competing empires all unable to resist the island's strategic allure, and as centuries drifted by the island came under Persian, Assyrian, Egyptian and Roman rule. During the time of the Romans' Marc Antony, enraptured by the island sweet wines, gave Cyprus as a gift to Cleopatra.

In 1191 a fierce sea storm led Richard the Lion-heart to put his ship into port at Lemesos, he claimed the island as his own. From 1489-1571 the flag of Venice flew over the island until Ottoman Turks moved in. That era ended in 1828 when Cyprus became part of the British Empire and then became the Republic of Cyprus in 1960.

The island has four seasons, summer from mid-May to mid-October sizzles, fall from the end of October is warm and sunny, winter months of December and January bring the possibility of rain and Spring is when the first orchids bloom in January and by mid-February the countryside is ablaze with colour.

The landscape is blessed with timeless beauty, crusader fortresses, Greco-Roman theatres carved out of cliffs, Byzantine monastery perched on mountaintops and wonderful, sandy beaches. The two highest mountain ranges of Cyprus are Troodos that covers most of the southern and western portions of the island where the scenery is spectacular and there is superb skiing in the winter, and Besparmak which runs along most of the north coastline. The mountains are separated by the Central Mesaoria Plain that extends the length of the island from east to west and is generally marked as a breadbasket of Cyprus as of the production of cereal crops such as wheat, barley and oats.

Paphos and the west is a thriving area and here you are blessed with the best of both worlds, it is rich in historical sites and excavated Roman villas and the lower part, Kato Paphos is the home of the tourist attractions running along the harbour.

Larnaca has a beautiful sea front marina and a superb promenade. Nicosia, the capital and cultural city, stands within Venetian Walls housing a museum, cathedral, churches, cinemas, theatres and a wealth of shops. Limassol,(Lemesos), is very popular with tourists and has an abundance of taverns, cafes, shops and a beautiful seafront, and from Limassol to Patos the road opens to reveal magnificent stretches of coastline, chalky white cliffs watch over dazzling aquamarine sea.

One of the most impressive archaeological sites is the ancient city of Kourion which overlooks a magnificent stretch of beach with the sparkling blue sea beyond. Inland are old wine-producing villages with atmospheric, windy streets and terraced vineyards, Greek Orthodox churches nestled in hills, walls that conceal vibrantly painted Byzantine frescoes. In Akamos cool off in the grotto where the love Goddess, Aphrodie bathed after her amorous interludes and at Kouklia is an elaborate sanctuary built in the 12th century in her honour.

The Cypriots are resilient people with a love of life, a spirit of gentleness and very family orientated. Cypriots are very proud of their cultural heritage and is reflected in the rich folk art of the island which stretches back more than 9000 years. Age-old crafts, handed down from one generation to another, are faithfully carried on to this day by skillful hands and nimble fingers, fashioning handicrafts, both decorative and useful, that would grace any home.

Many Cyprus folk traditions, such as the Carnival and Kataklysmos (Festival of the Flood) have overtones of ancient themes. Carnival Festivities take place 50 days before Greek Christian Orthodox Easter and is the beginning of Lent, a period of fasting before Easter. The centre of Carnival festivities is Lemesos, but some festivities take place in Larnaka and Pafos also.

The biggest event takes place in Larnaka. At the heart of the festival is a joyful procession to the sea where people sprinkle each other with water. Whether this is in memory of Noah's survival of the flood, the coming ashore of resurrected St. Lazarus - or a celebration of the birth of Aphrodite - is sometimes debated, but in any event Kataklysmos is a spirited and uniquely Cypriot festival.

The Greek Orthodox Church has been the main stay of religion in Cyprus since the 1st century A.D, and in a society where the church continues to play an important role, old style values have been maintained and the family unit retains close-knit qualities that keep colourful Cyprus customs alive, and underline the warmhearted character of Cyprus.

Whatever the present-day situation may be, Cyprus is littered with reminders of the island's history. Relics from every era - Greek temples, Roman mosaics and 15th-century frescoes - influence the artists of today. Many Cyprus villages specialise in a particular art form, and as you travel around Cyprus you'll see pottery, silver and copper-ware, basket weaving, tapestry and Lefkara's famous lacework.

Cypriot cuisine has been influenced by different cultures throughout history. Each dish has a unique taste and is well presented reflecting the Cypriot character. Kolokas is a root vegetable which when cooked has a texture of potato with sweet taste, it is usually served with chicken or lamb and was brought to the island by Venetians.

In the North you will find mostly Turkish cuisine; in the Republic, Greek, but wherever you are in Cyprus you'll come across kleftiko (oven-baked lamb), Greek in origin and mezedes (dips, salads and other appetisers). Cyprus is also famous for its fruit, which the government protects with a ban on imported products. You'll find strawberries, stone fruit, melons, prickly pear, citrus and grapes.

Barbecued Halloumi cheese is a special dish, made by the population of Cyprus and served grilled until golden brown with a dressing poured over and eaten with toasted pita bread or try Kalimeras Halloumi grilled or fried until beautifully brown and served alongside a combination of crisp lettuce, raddiccio, fresh Cyprus tomatoes and Greek dressing. Add some bread, a glass of fresh Cyprus orange juice and you will have a meal that will brighten your day. Brandy sour is the drink of Cyprus and it combines local brandy with the fresh tang of Cyprus lemons and is great at anytime of the day.

Cyprus has been said to shimmer with ages old mystique and of course Aphrodie, (the name means "foam born"), the Goddess of Love and Beauty, emerged from the gentle jade coloured sea at Petra tou Romiou, a boulder marks the spot where she appeared, an lovely place for a cooling swim.

Cyprus, the island everyone wanted, spans millennia, beginning with the emergence of the country from the sea at the dawn of time to the present day. A country that is so vibrant and alive it is infectious.

Purchasing a Property

Permission to purchase a property must be obtained from the Council of Ministers by written application. This must be submitted by the non-Cypriot purchaser after the agreement has been signed. However the permission is granted more or less as a matter of course to all bona fide buyers. In the meantime purchasers may take possession of their property without restriction.

If you have a temporary residence permit you may only register one Cypriot property in your name but you can purchase several properties in other peoples names, such as spouse or children. If you apply for permanent residence however you can register as many Cypriot properties as you wish in your own name.

Once you have chosen your property an offer is made via the vendors estate agent. It is essential at this stage that you employ the services of an independent lawyer.

Once the sale price has been agreed your lawyer will draw up the sale contract and make checks to verify that the vendor has legal authority to sell the property at the Lands Office, that there are no debts attached to the property, if in the case of several owners they must all agree to sell and sign the contract, check the ownership of any trees on your land which may be owned by people other than the registered property owner and check the boundaries.

The lawyer will also verify that there are separate title deeds for your property or plot, this is particularly important if you are buying in a new development. Also make sure that if the property is under construction all the required planning and building permits have been obtained. The access to the property needs to be checked and this must be confirmed before you can apply for planning permission. Regulations state that the distance to a public road must be less than 600 ft.

Your lawyer will also verify planning zones and regulations with the Lands Office, zoning areas were changed in 2003 and you are permitted to build only on land zoned for building. Your lawyer should also check that the property isn't within a seashore protected zone which usually extends approximately 300ft from the sea and also whether there are any ancient monuments close to where you plot is and consult with the Inspector of Antiquities.

It is also necessary to check that utility services can be connected if they are not already. Lawyers don't check such things as motorways or major roads being built near your home and these should be checked by yourself at the local Town Planning Department.

Payment of a holding deposit is normal procedure in Cyprus but before you pay over any money to the vendor you should take legal advice. A simple document will be drawn up stating that the deposit is subject to satisfactory searches, in general you will lose your deposit only if you withdraw from the sale without a satisfactory reason.

When you sign the sale contract, you agree to accept the property in the condition its in at that time, so its essential to check that the property is still in the same condition as when you last saw it, and that it hasn't fallen down or been damaged in any way.

In Cyprus there's usually a clause in the contract which states that the property must be in the same condition as it was when it was originally inspected by the buyer. Nevertheless, even if you took photographs, its almost impossible to prove what condition it was in, so its imperative to check before signing the sale contract.

Your check should include fixtures and fittings and anything that's included in the contract or purchased separately, e.g. carpets, light fittings, curtains or kitchen appliances. Check that these are still present and in good working order. You should also ensure that expensive items (such as kitchen apparatus) haven't been substituted by inferior (possibly second-hand) items.

If you find that anything is missing, damaged or not in working order, you should make a note and insist on an appropriate reduction in the amount to be paid. In such cases it is normal for the lawyer to delay the signing of the sale contract until the matter is settled, although an appropriate amount could be withheld from the vendors proceeds to pay for repairs or replacements.

In Cyprus it is common only to sign one contract rather than a preliminary and final contract. The solicitor usually draws up the contract whilst conducting title searches etc, and therefore an investor should only sign the contract when he is sure all checks on the property have been concluded satisfactorily.

The contract is signed by both the vendor and the property investor and depending on the nature of the real estate being purchased either a stage payment is then due or final monies are due. Off plan properties are commonly bought in Cyprus by investors and these types of property require stage payments to be made by the purchaser throughout the build period. Otherwise if the property being purchased is complete already, the final balance is due upon contract closure.

Once you have signed a contract of sale for your property, it is necessary to make an application to the Council of Ministers to grant its approval for a non-Cypriot to acquire immovable property. You will need to supply your personal details, financial standing, particulars of the property, particulars of the present owner, terms of payment, way of acquisition and copies of the government survey plans.

The completed application form is submitted to the District Officer in the district where the property is situated. The District Officer together with other relevant Government Departments will make further inquiries and prepare a report, which is submitted, to the Council of Ministers through the Minister of Interior. The letter of approval or refusal may take six to nine months or even longer. However, there is no restriction in taking possession of the property in the meantime.

The permit for the acquisition of immovable property by an alien has certain restrictions and conditions. The costs must be paid in foreign currency, all taxes must be paid and the transfer must be completed within a year fro the date of the permit or within three years in case of construction or building on the property.

Fees & Taxes

Transfer fees value up to CY50,000 3%, value up to CY50,000-1000,000 5% and CY1000,000 + 8%.

Stamp duty is due at the time of signing the contract. This is levied at the rate of CY1.50 per CY1,000 up to CY1000,000 and thereafter at the rate of CY2 per CY1,000. The purchase contract must be stamped within 30 days of its dated signature or a fine will be imposed.

The legal fees usually charged by a lawyer are approximately CY500. In reality they start at CY300 but are dependent on the property purchase price and are subject to VAT currently 15%. They cover the review and alteration if required of the Sale Agreement revision of the General Agreement which regulates the use of common areas where applicable and submission to the land registry for specific performance.

The registered owner of immovable property is subject to minor taxation under other laws, such as municipal or village regulations. These taxes vary according to the area, the size and the property and cover sewerage, refuse collection, street lights. The charges range in total from 200 to 300 per annum.

IMPORTANT: Since January 1st 2008, VAT has also applied to all land purchases.

The leasing of property is an exempt transaction and there is no VAT charge. The right to use a property is a taxable transaction as from 1 May 2004 and the VAT charge is 15%.

Capital gains tax is payable by both residents and non-residents at a rate of 20 per cent on gains from the disposal of immovable property in Cyprus.

Property insurance is approximately L120.000

Inheritance tax has been abolished.

There are substantial tax benefits for residents. Non-Cypriot individuals residing in Cyprus pay income tax at a flat rate of just 5%. This applies to the amounts remitted to Cyprus from pensions or income from overseas investment. The first CYP 2,000 per annum are tax exempt, if you are retired.

Visas

Travellers should hold an onward or return ticket as well as sufficient funds for period of intended stay in Cyprus. It is also advisable to have a hotel reservation.

Nationalities that require a visa are recommended that their passport is valid for at least six months beyond the period of intended stay.

Travellers should note that foreigners entering Cyprus north of the UN-patrolled green line are deemed by the Government of the Republic of Cyprus to have entered illegally, and can be fined when crossing to the south(EU).

Policies and procedures are subject to sudden change and visitors should check on the current situation before departing for Cyprus.

The partial lifting of restrictions on crossing the "green line" allows Cypriots to cross in both directions at designated crossing points. It is possible to travel to the north of Cyprus from the south by crossing at several checkpoints, including the Ledra Palace checkpoint.

Nationals of the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand must have a passport valid for three months beyond the period of intended stay. A visa is not required for a stay of up to 90 days provided the visit is for tourist purposes.

For nationals of Ireland a valid passport is required and no visa is required for tourist visits of up to 90 days.

South Africans must have a passport valid at least three months beyond the period of intended stay. However it is advisable to hold a passport valid for six months beyond the period of intended stay. A visa is required.

British nationals must have a valid passport. For holders of passports endorsed British Citizen or British Overseas Territories Citizen, a visa is not required for a stay of 90 days provided the visit is for tourist purposes only. In all other cases a visa is required and passports must be valid for at least three months beyond the period of intended stay. However it is advisable to hold a valid passport for six months beyond period of intended stay.

By law, a non-Cypriot in Cyprus is entitled to a residence permit but is not required to hold a permanent residence permit, the latter being easy to obtain once certain requirements are fulfilled. You need to submit an application and provide proof that you and your family are self supporting. The following documents must accompany your application.
1. A copy of the sale/rental agreement.
2. Copies of pension/retirement income.
3. Any other documents relevant to income.
4. Three photos and passport.

There is a charge for of around CYP pound 150 for the permission to purchase. The application for permanent residence may be submitted to the local immigration office in the area of residence.

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