Although the euro has been adopted, lot of information, also on many websites, has still not been changed into the new currency.
The former Cypriot currency was the Cyprus pound (CY£), which was divided into 100 cents. Although it was not traded internationally, it was a strong, stable currency, reflecting the economy on the island. Coins were minted in values of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 cents and banknotes printed in denominations of CY£1, CY£5, CY£10 and CY£20. Sums in cents were normally written CY£0.50, etc.
While cheques and credit cards are commonly accepted in major cities and tourist areas, in remote rural areas cash is the most common and sometimes the only form of payment acceptable.
Many foreigners living in Cyprus (particularly retirees) keep the bulk of their money in a foreign account (perhaps an offshore bank) and draw on it with a cash card locally using an automatic teller machine (ATM).
Banks in the main towns and the capital, Nicosia, have foreign exchange departments where you can buy and sell foreign currencies, cash travellers’ cheques, and obtain a cash advance on credit and charge cards. This is an ideal solution for holidaymakers and holiday-homeowners, although homeowners will still need a local bank account to pay their bills.
When using a credit or debit card, there’s usually a daily limit and a withdrawal charge, and you need a personal identification number (PIN). Some credit card companies don’t offer the best exchange rate on withdrawals. Most banks charge around 2 per cent commission with a minimum charge of €4,27, so it’s expensive to change small amounts.
There are also private bureaux de change in Cyprus, with longer business hours than banks, particularly at weekends. Most offer competitive exchange rates and low or no commission (but always check). They’re easier to deal with than banks, and if you’re changing a lot of money you can also usually negotiate a better exchange rate. However, the best exchange rates may still be found at a bank, even taking into consideration commission charges. Never use unofficial moneychangers, who are likely to short change you.
The official exchange rates for most European and major international currencies are listed in banks and daily newspapers. Always shop around for the best exchange rate and the lowest commission.
There isn’t a lot of difference in the cost of buying Cypriot currency using cash, travellers’ cheques or a credit or debit card. However, many people carry only cash when visiting Cyprus, which is asking for trouble, particularly if you have no way of obtaining more cash locally, e.g. with a credit card or travellers’ cheques. One thing to bear in mind when travelling anywhere is not to rely on only one source of funds.
If you’re visiting Cyprus, it’s safer to carry travellers’ cheques than cash, although these are becoming less common and aren’t as easy to redeem as in some other countries, e.g. the US. For example, they aren’t usually accepted by businesses, except some hotels, restaurants and shops, all of which usually offer a poor exchange rate.
It’s best to buy travellers’ cheques in pounds sterling for Cyprus. You can buy them from any Cypriot bank, usually for a service charge of 1 per cent. In Cyprus, Thomas Cook travellers’ cheques can be cashed commission-free at any branch of the Bank of Cyprus. Banks usually offer a better exchange rate for travellers’ cheques than for banknotes.
Always keep a separate record of cheque numbers and note where and when they were cashed. American Express provides a free, three-hour replacement service for lost or stolen travellers’ cheques at all their offices worldwide, provided that you know the serial numbers of the lost cheques. Without the serial numbers, replacement can take three days or longer. Most companies provide toll-free numbers for reporting lost or stolen travellers’ cheques in Cyprus.
This article is an extract from Buying a Home in Cyprus from Survival Books.