Short answer: yes.
When I told my mom I left my loving husband on the mainland in Turkey and took a ferry to hitchhike around Northern Cyprus on my own for two weeks, she got really nervous. I think she even lost some sleep because of it – sorry, mom!
In spite of her concerns, I felt safe and happy in Cyprus. I enjoyed the culture, the people and the food, the landscape was beautiful and I even got to pet wild donkeys! (Eh, not so wild, since they are used to tourists, but still! They are really hairy, you know <3)
Northern Cyprus is a multicultural island with lots to see along with swimming in the sea: it has wonderful castles, lots of interesting churches and ruins and thanks to its size, everything is easily accessible. I was able to do most of my visiting as day trips from the capital of Northern Cyprus, Lefkoşa, although I did spend some time hiking and camping up in the Karpaz National Park too.
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Is Northern Cyprus safe & what should I expect?
Yes, mom, Northern Cyprus is very safe. While the Turkish part of Cyprus is not as heavily covered with tourists as the Greek side, it is certainly full of foreigners. I was surprised to see the amount of universities they have on this half of the island!
Students from Near East, Northern Africa (wait, all of Africa I think) and Turkey are abundant and since the school buses are scarce, many of them hitchhike regularly. You can see them standing at the side of the road every day! When I realized that, I instantly felt very secure – if they can do it all year round, I certainly can too.
Some students are richer and they have their own car – they will also pick you up when it comes to it.
During most of my stay in Cyprus, I was hosted by a wonderful Moroccan girl, a student of psychology – after a not so good first experience with a man in Girne, I opted for female Couchsurfers only.
However, during these two weeks, not once have I felt worried about getting robbed or attacked – walking in the streets at night, I was more likely to get help offers (such as people carrying my backpack for a bit, or giving me soup) than weird looks.
How are Cypriot people?
Cyprus is an island and as such, the local culture differs a bit from the mainlands of its respective parts. As for Northern Cyprus, the locals are very relaxed, open-minded (more than in Turkey, I felt), tolerant and respectful to women. They also speak pretty good English most of the time. When I talked with them, it was clear they don´t consider themselves Turkish, but Cypriot and they also showed me their special identity cards at times.
Cypriot people were very kind and generous towards me every time I dealt with them and they respected me as a woman and a traveler too. People didn’t harass me to buy in their shop, didn’t scam me much, on the other hand, they were delighted upon hearing my broken attempts at speaking Turkish – there is a different dialect in Cyprus, but I was still able to communicate rather well.
Is it safe to hitchhike in Northern Cyprus?
As I said, it is very safe. I have this ongoing feeling that hitchhiking is safer and easier on islands in general and Cyprus was not an exception.
I hitchhiked with students, truck drivers (those were especially nice), restaurant owners, mechanics, families, men, women, young and old – at times, people asked me if I needed a ride when I was just walking down the street with my backpack. Yes, they are that nice!
Where did I hitchhike?
Within two weeks, I visited Girne (Kyrenia), St. Hilarion castle, Lefkoşa, Famagusta (or Gazimağusa / Mağusa, if you prefer) and Dipkarpaz, all by hitchhiking, plus I did a few days of hiking in Karpaz National Park.
Some days, I got as many as six rides, other times it was easier and I covered longer distances in one car. I traveled with people from Cyprus, Turkey, Jordan, Iraq (those were especially kind!) and many other places I can´t recall right now.
Is hitchhiking in Northern Cyprus safe for women?
If you are a woman thinking to hitchhike in Cyprus, I´d say go for it. I didn’t feel threatened at any time, although I did have to turn down an eager date invite or two, or sleeping in somebody´s tent when “we will” go hiking in Karpaz (I am pointing at you, students from Jordan!).
However, these things were only happening to me in the first two days when I was feeling a bit scared, overall nervous and was doubting myself. As soon as I gathered all my self-esteem (e.g. decided to slap anyone merely attempting at accidentally touching my knee) and confidence, unpleasant incidents stopped all together. I think people could feel my attitude from my behavior and respected me more.
During two weeks of hitchhiking in Turkish Cyprus, I got an overwhelming amount of great experiences and nice encounters; I was gifted fruits and bread, invited for coffee and presented to several neighbors, showed special secret places and was given flowers by children. People took selfies with me, arranged a place to sleep at their friends´ place, drove me further than they were going (thank you for the two prior points, retired police officer from Yeni Erenköy! I won´t forget you!), added me on Facebook and gave me their phone numbers “just in case”.
Do take a few some precautions as always, but don´t be too scared – hitchhiking in Cyprus can easily become a great experience that you will remember for the rest of your life!
Read more: Hitchhiking adventures in Albania
Things to keep in mind:
Here are a few tips to make you safer and your trip more enjoyable. I might sound a bit paranoid, but I think it is good to mentally prepare for everything that could possibly happen. If you have a scenario in place, it will be easier for you to react fast. Here are a few of my tips for hitchhiking in Cyprus (or elsewhere):
- Don´t hitchhike after 9 pm. I preferably avoid hitchhiking after dark anyway, but I was told that hitchhiking in the night is the way local prostitutes work. If you don´t want to be mistaken for something you are not, it is better to plan accordingly and return to your home/hostel with the last rays of sun.
- Take the most frequented roads. When I was hitchhiking from Lefkoşa to Karpaz, people advised me to first go to Famagusta and then on to Dipkarpaz, as the direct route between Lefkoşa and Karpaz is used by very few cars. Similarly, you can first get to Girne and take the road to the north from there. Although it seems like the longer way, it is most probably faster when there are more people driving.
- Have a little present for your ride. I haven´t brought enough of the earrings we usually gift our drivers with me and I felt too sorry for that! If you don´t have little presents to offer, try to have some snack you can share. A little kindness goes a long way!
- Trust yourself. The more confidence you have (and radiate), the more respect people will give you – or at least, that is my experience! In this world, there are very few psychopaths or people who don´t respect anything and would directly assault you (I haven´t met any in my whole life, fortunately!), but many times, someone who likes you will try to take a chance. How else can they know if you like them too? Don´t you also flirt with a person you have a crush on? That is why you should be clear about what you (don´t) want. I always speak extensively about my husband and most of people respect that. If they don´t, they are assholes and you can slap them or be rude in turn. Most people, however, are just like you, me, your sister, uncle or cousin: nice people who want to help you out.
- Learn a few words in Turkish. Gestures and body language are useful, but everything will be easier for you if you can say hello and ask where they are going.
- Don´t forget to enjoy! Some of my tips might scare you, but note that my experience was very positive. I do include the possibility of things getting awry simply because anything can happen – and that is why hitchhiking is such an awesome adventure in the first place!
Do you need more hitchhiking tips? Read my hitchhiking manual for beginners to prepare for your first trip!
Hitching in Cyprus as a woman: Conclusion
I felt very welcome in Cyprus and since it was my first time hitchhiking alone for a longer period of time, it helped me tons to get more sure of my ability to take care of myself.
If you are still worried, you can always opt for only accepting a ride from a family, a couple or a woman. If people stop for you who don´t look trustworthy, don´t hesitate to politely turn them down and if they insist, well, you know better than to get in a car with a pushy person.
Northern Cyprus is less touristy than the Greek part of the island and I enjoyed that very much. It was easy to connect with the locals and their kindness surprised me daily in the best possible of ways.
While Turkish Cyprus is more expensive than Turkey, it is still quite budget friendly and you can easily couchsurf, camp in the countryside or get lucky and be invited to stay with a local family as it happened to me.
Cypriot people are welcoming, kind and fun to talk to and although many people told me to cross to the Greek side because it is “more beautiful”, I was instantly so much in love with Northern Cyprus (or Kıbrıs as they call it) that I ended up staying there for most part of my trip. Surely the Greek side is more developed, but also more expensive, cleaner and more touristy, although I heard hitchhiking there is easy too.
I hope my article helped you decide whether or not you feel like hitchhiking in Cyprus (please, say that the answer is yes!) and perhaps inspired you to include a bit of uncertainty in your travels – sometimes, the best things happen just by chance!
Have you visited Northern Cyprus? How was your experience? Do you have more questions I can answer? Ask away in the comments!
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We are hitchhiking from Europe to India and we didn´t prepare a single thing – stick around to see if we can make it! You can cheer us on if you think we´ll get there, or laugh about us if we don´t.