Cyprus is nothing if not an enigmatic country. It is known as the island of love (for the Greek Goddess Aphrodite was born here), yet it has been scarred by a recent and brutal war.
Its inhabitants, the Cypriots, are a devoutly religious and traditional people, but cabaret bars, sex shops and lingerie stores can be found throughout Cyprus.
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Another great paradox is that although Cypriots are self confessed car-lovers who buy expensive vehicles and drive even the shortest of distances, every road feels like the final chicane of the grand prix when the wheels could come off at any moment.
According to Wikitravel, the travel information website, ‘Drivers in Cyprus attack their art with an equal mix and aggressiveness and incompetence. Take care when crossing the roads, and even greater care when driving on them.’
Undertaking, stopping suddenly without warning, and coming to a complete halt while driving on the motorway are all common occurrences on this beautiful Mediterranean island.
The horn is used as a method of communication and braking is usually an afterthought, done at the last possible opportunity. As for the cars and motorbikes, the louder the exhaust, the better. This cacophony of sounds means that there is rarely a moment’s peace.
Looking for an apartment in the capital, Nicosia, my first question to the (British) estate agent was whether the place had double glazing. She said yes. That meant no.
Another thing we weren’t to realise is that our flat was close to a BMW bar. This is a bar where all the patrons drive BMWs.
But even their cars are made to look cheap compared to all the Porsche's, Corvette's and Ferrari's parked in that road. After all, we are living on Nicosia’s equivalent of Bond Street in London. With all these high powered vehicles storming around, rest and relaxation is becoming something of a commodity.
So, somewhat enlightened by the experience and my senses heightened by sleep deprivation, I have decided to give you some basic information about driving in Cyprus where the following road rules apply:
1) It is illegal to interrupt a Cypriot driver when he or she is talking on their mobile phone. The call is obviously very important, hence why they take it while they are driving.
2) Give way to anyone who suddenly pulls out of a side road onto the main road in front of you. Unlike the rest of the world, they have right of way.
3) Having more than one passenger per vehicle would be dangerously overcrowded.
4) The hard shoulder is not to be used for broken down vehicles, but must only be used as a third lane when the traffic is especially heavy. If you have broken down and are using the hard shoulder, get as far away from your car as possible and pray.
5) Why use one parking space when you can use two?
6) Horns can be used anytime during the day and must be used when you are gridlocked, or when you spot someone you know and it is late at night in a built up area.
7) Traffic lights and speed limits are only a guideline.
8) Tail-gating, or over taking while going around corners and up hills, will get you to your destination much quicker.
9) Indicating is for sissies.
10) If you’re a pedestrian, get out of the way!
N.B. Cyprus experienced 13.6 deaths per 100,000 in population in 2005. Their population is around 800,000. The UK averages less than half that amount - about 5.5 deaths per 100,000 people.
Traffic fatalities have gradually been decreasing and in 2006 they were down to 11 deaths per 100,000 of the population, though this was still the tenth worst position within the EU.
As a result the Cypriot police are waging a war against dangerous driving and can be seen out in full force on the roads every morning with speed guns. Cyprus accidents are down by 10% this year with around 60 accidents recorded so far.
The Strategic Road Safety Plan 2005-2010 has been put into effect by the government with the aim of reducing of halving road deaths by 2010.