Having an unexpected visit from an English friend who was in Cyprus
for a day on business, I wanted to show him around in the evening. The only sight I could think of to show him in a short time was the main attraction of the capital Nicosia – the divide.
But as we crossed the Green Line demilitarized zone looking at the bullet holes in the old buildings and UN efforts to patch up the destruction, I got a nasty surprise.
I handed over my passport for what is normally a routine check to cross the border, and was informed I had committed two speeding offences totalling 120 Euros. Fair enough they had a note of my vehicle registration number, but what really annoyed me was that one of the offences allegedly occurred in January 2009, a full 10 months ago.
The woman at passport control was quite nice and explained in halting English that the limit is 65 kms but that you can go at 75kms no problem. Apparently I was only 4 kms above at 79kms. The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) speed limit is actually 100 kms and I think she just got confused on this because 100kms is 65 miles per hour. When I asked for proof that I was speeding, neither her nor the policeman's English extended to this. But between her telling me it was 120 Euros and visiting the policeman to have the documentation drawn up, the price mysteriously went up to 140 Euros.
This is the first time I've been cautioned for speeding. I have only been driving for a year so I'm not sure what the procedure is, but would think that proof would be necessary. The most annoying thing is to get a speeding ticket from 10 months ago when I have been backwards and forwards to their country about 10 times in the interim period.
There is every possibility that I was speeding, though I find it hard to believe I was going over 100kms as a new and inexperienced driver in a foreign country. It could possibly have occurred at one of those times when I was lost and angry. Right now I am tending towards paying it and will just have to look at it as doing something for their impoverished government.
However, as the TRNC is not legally recognised as a country, I believe I would be well within my rights to not pay it. Whatever happens I certainly won't be going back to Northern Cyprus, so if they are looking to squeeze some money out of tourists it will backfire.
According to the Turkish Cypriot weekly Cyprus Today and new figures released by the police: "More than 6,630 Greek Cypriot motorists have been caught by speeding cameras in the TRNC.
"Details of the licence plates of speeding cars were passed to police at crossing points. A total of 3,439 speeding tickets have been handed out, while there are another 3,193 waiting to be served."
Those high figures make me think there is quite a bit of money to be made by handing out speeding fines. One local Cypriot businessman I talked to said that he had been "stung" last year four times on a single journey to Kyrenia alone. He recommends paying the fine unless you are going not going to the North again (the fines have to be paid in that instance as they will not let you through until you pay). The next time he went to the border they slapped him with the fine and took away his licence for three months. In the TRNC your licence is held for three months if you get more than three offences in a three month period.
THE WELL DODGY LOOKING SPEEDING TICKET !