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2002-10-09 23:28:25

Expatriate view: It's been an everlasting honeymoon
By Ian MacDonald
Published: October 9 2002
It is 15 years since I first set foot on the "Island of Love" for a honeymoon. It has been an enduring romance - we are still deeply in love. And my wife and I have had very good times, too. Tourism has been at the foundation of the Cyprus economy for years, and this past summer has felt the severe chill of recession and reaction to air terrorism in the US just over a year ago.

Smart new hotels appear apace, particularly in and around the south-western resort of Paphos. And outside the towns, residential property mushrooms.

While the big downturn in tourism has meant bargain trips for holidaymakers, house prices continue to rise. A small, secondhand one-bedroom apartment can be found for C?20,000 or less, but the range goes right through to C?500,000 and more. A modest villa or bungalow in a village within striking distance of a main town is likely to be in the range C?60,000 to C?100,000.

Prospective purchasers should ensure they obtain the services of a good local lawyer. And they will need to be very patient. Wheels turn very slowly in this eastern Mediterranean island. It is advisable to ensure that Title Deeds are readily available before making a commitment to a property - often they are not.

Typically, two years ago a vacant bungalow set in an unspoiled village happened to find us. We had no intentions of buying a property - at least, not at that time - but we could not resist what appeared to be (and turned out to be) a bargain in a wonderful setting. There appeared to be no major hurdles along the road to purchase, but it was only two months ago - two years after moving into our second home - that the Land Registry finally delivered the Deeds.

By and large, purchasing property in Cyprus is fairly hassle-free. You will need external funds for the purchase (that is, sterling sent from the UK, for instance), and approval from the Council of Ministers for you to purchase. This is almost always a mere formality.

For the tourist, the island offers a range of splendours - from the noisy "club" scene of Ayia Napa in the south-east of the island, to the bustling and still-growing resort of Paphos in the south-west to the unspoilt natural beauty of the Akamas region to the north of Paphos, and the peaceful - and cooler, tranquillity of the Troodos mountains.

The climate is hot and dry during the summer - unbearably hot for many visitors from mid-July to mid-September - and winters tend to be mild. From December to March there are welcome rains which, in recent years, have failed to keep pace with the demands of reservoirs.

The first half of October is a favourite with many regular visitors; temperature are still around 30C by day and 20C by night. The blue Mediterranean feels like a warm bath. And the full weight of summer tourism has eased - but be beware of the schools' half-term rush of tourists towards the end of October.

Non-residents of Cyprus may be allowed to visit the north for a day. This area, representing about a third of the island's land mass, was invaded by Turkish forces in 1974 and remains inaccessible to Greek Cypriots. Unless passing through the Ledra Palace checkpoint in Nicosia on a day trip, visitors to the north can only enter via Turkey. The north is far less crowded and has much pleasing scenery. It is also far less developed than the south.

On the travel scene, several main airlines serve Larnaca and/or Paphos, the latter being mainly an airport for charter flights. British Airways and Cyprus Airways have daily routes from London Heathrow, and numerous charter airlines serve the island from London Gatwick and other UK regional airports.

Flying time is about 4hr 15 4min from London to Paphos and a little longer to Larnaca. The island also attracts significants numbers of visitors from Germany and Russia.

Car hire is easily obtained, but be careful of the many roadside offers of cheap rentals outside bars and restaurants. The level of insurance cover at some of these leaves much to be desired.

There is a very wide variety of restaurants in the main towns. But for a taste of the "real" Cyprus, take to the villages and find a mez? - a seemingly never-ending supply of small dishes of meat, fish, vegetable, dips and fruit. At maybe C?15 for two, including a couple of local beers or wines, it's wonderful value.

But for now . . . we are currently enjoying honeymoon number 21 on Aphrodite's island.

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