If you’re planning on exploring Cyprus you’re going to need a rental car. Not only does it give you the freedom and flexibility to travel how and when you want, but also allows you to visit parts of this fantastic country that are difficult to reach. We’ve rented a car in Cyprus both times we visited and our travel experience changed as soon as we got behind the wheel.
Public transport in Cyprus can only get you so far and there are so many fabulous beaches to explore and mountainside towns to see. But what do you need to know if you’re thinking of renting a car in Cyprus?
What Do You Need to Rent a Car in Cyprus?
To rent a car in Cyprus you need a standard International drivers license (A valid US license works). If your license is not in English or Greek, have a translation just in case. You also should be prepared to hand over your passport. An International Drivers Permit is not mandatory but doesn’t hurt to have in case it is asked for.
Most car rental companies in Cyprus will require you to be 18, but some may require you to be 21. If you are under 25 you may face additional charges. It’s best to make sure to read all the fine print of your booking before you rent your car in Cyprus.
A Credit Card is Needed to Rent a Car in Cyprus
You cannot pay for your Cypriot rental car with cash, so plan on throwing down your credit card for the charges. If you have a US credit card many will carry car insurance on them so you don’t have to pay excess charges. More on that later.
Expect a Hold Charge on Your Credit Card
The other reason you need a credit card is because of the excess charge – or hold a charge. Every single one of our forty or so rental cars has put a hold on our credit card for the rental period. Holds can range anywhere from a few hundred euros to €1000+ in some countries. Our Cypriot car rentals have been somewhere in the middle around €250 for the duration of the rental. The “excess charge” as it is called is typically stated in your reservation details, but it is easy to miss.
We are aware that they must put this hold on our card, but it can be a huge shocker if you are unsuspecting and end up over your credit limit on your credit card. These excess charges are for scenarios where you disappear with the car and are never seen again, or get in a crash and refuse to pay. Stuff like that.
Car Rental Insurance in Cyprus
Do you need to add on car insurance to your rental? Many Cypriot car rental companies will try and convince you to add it on, and if you want to be safe and have peace of mind, it’s not a terrible idea, but I’m going to be honest – we never do.
Why don’t we add on car insurance? As mentioned above, if you have a US credit card, or equivalent in another country, it’s possible you already have CDW (collision damage waiver) insurance for rental car coverage and don’t know it!
It’s worth it to check your documentation and call your credit card to find out. It’s even worth considering signing up for a new credit card that does offer this so you don’t have to pay for ridiculous car rental insurance.
Bringing me to my next point – credit cards with primary rental insurance. The Chase Sapphire Reserve is my favorite travel credit card for many reasons, but the primary rental insurance is one of its best perks (including Priority Pass membership). When you put your car hire on your Chase Sapphire Reserve card you get primary rental car coverage around the world up to $75,000.
That works out great for us since we are nomadic and don’t have a car or home. Car rental companies in Cyprus and around the world are notorious for scaring customers and upsell all their insurance packages. You need to make sure if you need it or not before falling victim to their trap. Call your credit card company and always find out before you get to Cyprus.
If you don’t have a credit card that covers rental car insurance, it may be worth adding it on to your package. That way if there is an accident you won’t be stuck paying for a car hire out of pocket.
The Cost of Renting a Car in Cyprus
It’s now so easy to compare rental car prices online, you’ll find most of the big rental car companies have rates that end up being pretty close to one another; they keep an eye on the competitor’s prices, so they remain competitive themselves. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do a little shopping around.
Be careful when looking online, as rental companies have the tendency to use tricks to make prices look lower than they actually are. The main way they do this is by using a ‘from’ price, with the actual amount you’ll pay only revealed when you’re further into the booking process and they reckon you won’t bother giving up and going elsewhere. Another trick they have is to show the price excluding tax, which means you’ll have something in the region of a further 20% to add to the headline price on show.
Needless to say, the cost of a smaller car will be lower than renting a larger one. The fewer add-ons (extra drivers, GPS, etc.) you require, the cheaper it will be too. I also find that it’s generally the small, no-name companies that will try and rip you off in their fine print – so make sure and read all the details before booking!
We traveled around Cyprus for one week last time and paid about €25 a day in the high season, which was a pretty decent deal in my opinion! I generally like to check comparison sites so I can get the best prices.
Booking a Rental Car in Cyprus
These days, it’s really easy to book a rental car in Cyprus before you arrive in the country. We think the benefits of doing this are huge. Not only are you ‘guaranteed’ the vehicle you’ve opted for, reducing stress levels, but you’ll be charged less for renting that same vehicle simply because you’ve pre-booked. Walking up and trying to book a car is one of the worst things you can do for your wallet.
If, for whatever reason, you are unable to pre-book, don’t worry! Rental agencies rarely run out of vehicles (and if they do, you can just pop next door to a competitor). However, it might mean there’s less choice – something worth bearing in mind if you have specific requirements, such as an automatic.
You’ll also be charged a higher rate for exactly the same vehicle, and you’ll end up spending more time at the desk of the rental company rather than enjoying the start of your vacation. I always warn people to book at least 24 hours in advance for a car rental. You can see all my additional tips on renting a car abroad here.
Opt for a Return Rental
One way rentals almost always cost more, even if it’s in the same city. To save money you should try and pick up and drop off your car at the same location. Prime car rental locations in Cyprus are at the international airpots. We’ve rented cars in Paphos and Larnaca before.
Choose the Right Rental Car in Cyprus
You’re going to want to opt for a smaller car when renting a car in Cyprus. Why’s that? Cypriot roads are narrow, and you’ll see most of the cars are tiny too.
In some places, routes even narrow down to a single twisting lane for both directions of traffic. In this case, you’ll find ‘passing places’ in which to pass each other.
Another thing you should consider when deciding on what rental car type to opt for is how many people and how much luggage you’ll have. Two-door cars are great for getting about (and really easy to park) but don’t offer much leg room in the back if those seats are going to be used, and obviously also have less space in the trunk for luggage.
It’s best to keep in mind your needs with Cypriot car rentals. Families of three or four might have a hard time fitting themselves and all their hardside luggage in a small car.
Finally, you’ll have the option of a manual or automatic transmission vehicle. Manuals are by far the most common vehicles driven in Cyprus. You’ll have a more extensive choice if you’re happy to drive a manual car in Cyprus.
They also tend to be cheaper to rent as a result. However, if you’re not happy driving a manual transmission and shifting gears yourself, automatics are available too. Just make sure you make this preference absolutely clear when booking because each car lot only have a few automatic available.
Fuel Choices in Cyprus
When picking up your rental car in Cyprus you need to know what type of fuel your car requires. Diesel and Unleaded are not interchangeable. Often on rental cars there will be a sticker near the gas cap to remind you of the fuel type.
You need to return your rental car with the same amount of fuel you were given. Don’t show up with less as the rental car agency will charge you to fill it back up at an astronomical rate.
Gas stations can be found in all the Cypriot cities, but if you are going into the mountains make sure you have enough fuel as they are few and far between the more rural you get.
Gas is expensive in Cyprus, like the rest of Europe. At the time of writing it’s about €1.23 per liter. Both gas and diesel are sold by the liter, and gas stations are generally self-service. You may have a problem paying with credit cards around Cyprus, so make sure you have euro on you to pay for gas.
Many fuel stations in Cyprus have an attendant who will fill up your vehicle for you. A small tip is always appreciated.
GPS is brilliant for when you’re driving along unknown roads, there’s no doubt about it. Having a GPS kit focus on the navigation means you can concentrate on driving without having to read every road sign you pass.
Navigation systems are also useful because they can provide alternative routes, should they be needed, to take you around congestion hotspots. The most modern versions will give you some indication of the road’s speed limit too.
That’s not to say you need to get the GPS add-on with a rental car. If you have a cell phone with a local SIM contract, you’ll be able to access the data network, which means you can use smartphone navigation apps such as Google Maps.
Alternatively, if you don’t have a local SIM contract and don’t want to spend lots of cash on international roaming, you can download a Google Map to your phone when you are in WiFi. If you forget to do this, you might have to wait until you get to your hotel and use their WiFi to download a map.
It is not permitted to use a cell phone when driving in Cyprus to make calls or send/receive SMS text messages. You can use your smartphone for navigation purposes, but it must be hands-free only (such as safely stowed on the windscreen), and you must not program navigation while the vehicle’s engine is running. However, if I’m being honest, you’ll see many Cypriots driving erratically and police are few and far between.
Inspect Your Rental Car
Often, the rental car agent will ask if you’d like them to show you around the vehicle or whether you’re happy to do it yourself. You absolutely need to go over your rental car before driving off the lot. If they don’t show you around, do a thorough inspection yourself and note anything and everything.
The agent will generally start with the outside of the vehicle, pointing out any bumps or scratches that already exist, make sure all the damages are noted. This will also assure you of the roadworthiness of the vehicle.
On the inside of the vehicle, make sure that before you leave the parking bay, you know how to operate the headlights, indicator lights, and hazard lights. You should also know the location of the windscreen wipers, as well as the horn. Make sure you know how to alter the position of the driver’s seat, how the parking brake works (is it a traditional manual one you pull up, or a newer electronic one), and how to engage reverse gear (which often requires you to push a button of some sort first). They will also help you set up the GPS if you’ve opted for one.
Remember that if you’re not happy with anything you see, you should insist on an alternative vehicle. If you find cigarette burns, broken mirrors, or windshield cracks these need to be noted before you leave the parking lot. Otherwise, you could be charged for the damages once you return the rental. Take photos of any notable damages on your phone.
Distances and Speeds in Cyprus
Distances and speeds are measured in kilometers in Cyprus. The speed limit is usually signposted on each new stretch of road or change in speed. In the cities the speed limit is usually slow at 50 km/hr. Open roads speed up to 80km/hr and highways are usually 100 km/hr, but make sure to keep your eyes on the signs.
In Cyprus, vehicles drive on the left side of the way – like in the UK. Overtaking is done on the right. At junctions where there are no signs, drivers must give way to vehicles coming from the right.
It’s worth noting that speed limits are limits, not targets; only drive as fast as feels safe. I found many drivers in Cyprus to drive insanely fast and careless on scary roads. Don’t follow their lead and try and stay out of their way.
Driving in Cyprus
Many roads in Cyprus are mountain roads with twists and turns.
That being said if you take the necessary precautions you’ll have an enjoyable time driving in Cyprus. A few things to remember:
- Don’t drink and drive – the legal Blood Alcohol Limit in Cyprus is .05%.
- Look both ways before crossing the road. Just because a light turns red doesn’t mean a driver is going to stop.
- Wear your seatbelt! This should go without saying, but wear your seatbelt at all times.
- Dial the number 112 anywhere in Europe if you are in an emergency.
- Use your indicators when you are merging, changing lanes, or turning. Even if those around you fail to use them.
- If you are involved in an accident, make sure that everyone is safe and dial 112. Wait for the police to arrive and do not move any vehicles until they show up and investigate.
- If you are renting a car in Cyprus everyone around you will know it. The license plates for rental cars in Cyprus are bright red. This means that the Cypriot drivers know you are a foreigner and hopefully will give you space when around you.
- Your car rental insurnace may not cover you on some of the roads in Cyprus. This includes 4WD roads and a few mountain roads. Ask when you pick up your rental car if there are any restrictions.
Scooters and Mopeds in Cyprus
It’s important to watch out for locals and tourists driving scooters and mopeds around Cyprus A motorbike is a very popular way to drive around Cyprus. In tourists towns like Ayia Napa and Paphos you’ll also see a lot of young partiers on four wheelers.
Remember they should be treated with the same respect that you treat a car. The mopeds and four wheelers drive a bit erratically so don’t be surprised if they suddenly pull out in front of you! If you are in a party place like Ayia Napa be aware that some of the drivers may be under the influence of alcohol.
Should You Rent a Car in Cyprus?
You have a few options to get around Cyprus. Public transport is OKAY, not great, not terrible – just okay. We were able to get around Paphos on public transport, but as soon as we ventured out we realized that we would need a rental car and picked one up. For about €20-30 a day you really can’t go wrong, especially if you are in a group and can split the cost.
A rental car is the best way to get around Cyprus, especially if you want to go up in the mountains or to some of the small towns. I highly recommend having one!
Plan and Pack for Cyprus
Book a Tour
Sometimes it’s nice to let someone else do the work!
Rent a Car
One of the best ways to get around Cyprus is with a rental car. See our tips for renting a car in Cyprus here.
These were great to have! You’ll do a lot of walking around Cyprus in the extremely hot sun. Hiking sandals allow for your feet to breathe and they do not collect sand when trudging through the desert. You bet we’ve reviewed the best hiking sandals for travelers!
Most hotels will provide you with a towel, but they often aren’t suitable or allowed on the beaches. I like to travel with a microfiber towel because they are light and fold up small, and they also don’t cling on to sand our dirt. Here are a few of our favorite travel towels.