The Jewel of the Mediterranean, or the Republic of Cyprus, is a small island nation, located south of Turkey and just to the southeast of Greece. It is the 3rd largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, after Sardinia and Sicily, in terms of population as well as area. Cyprus is strategically placed at the intersection of 3 continents: Europe, Asia and Africa. This former British Colony, which gained its independence in 1960, has been a very popular tourist spot for several years now.The island has also been gaining a lot of popularity as an expat destination with people from all over the globe.
Cyprus is home to beaches that stretch on for miles, ruins you can wander through, delicious cheeses and the oldest wine label in the world (Commandaria). In contrast to its size, Cyprus has a vast amount of history. In Paphos, you will come across authentic relics from the past in many of the souvenir shops as well as an archeological site that dates all the way back to the 4th century BC. The remains of ancient palaces, fortresses and tombs have given this town the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This island is also widely acknowledged as one of the top 10 wreck diving sites in the world.
Of course, packing up and moving to a new, unknown place isn’t easy. This is especially true for Cyprus since people don’t know much about the country. Yet expats who are settled on the island claim to be extremely happy and content with their new home.
If you are looking for a new expat destination, do keep in mind that there are numerous advantages to settling down in the Jewel of the Mediterranean, as an individual as well as a family. Read on to find out the top 5 reasons why moving to Cyprus will make your life better:
Incentives and Tax Breaks to Home Buyers
The real draw for a number of international luxury home owners is the array of incentives they get from the government, including tax breaks, title deeds at half the price and the opportunity to get an EU Passport.
Real estate prices haven’t gone up by much since their steep decline during the 2008 financial crisis and there is a surplus of homes in the market. However, there are signs of stabilization, mainly due to government incentives. In 2015, the authorities came up with a temporary program, reducing the cost of title deed transfers by half. A spokesperson for the Ministry of Finance recently stated that this incentive may soon become permanent. He also spoke about another law to be introduced, which will cut property tax by almost 75% and perhaps even abolish it completely by the year 2017.
According to the law, anyone who spends over 183 days a year in this county is entitled to become a tax resident. This means that you will have to pay a tax on any income you earn locally and overseas. However, British nationals with this residency do not have to pay capital gain taxes in Cyprus on the sale of their British assets; they only pay their government (UK) tax on gains accrued after April 2015 (which is when the authorities changed the taxation rules for British property owners living overseas).
Foreigners can easily purchase a house or buy land and build a home in this country. The price of real estate is quite reasonable compared to the US, UK and many other nations. The average price of a house on the Greek Cypriot side of the island is approximately US $110,000 (£88442, €98206) plus stamp duty. Moreover, local and international banks generally finance up to 70% of the total value of the property.
The process of purchasing property in Cyprus can take awhile; it could take more than 3 months for you to close the deal. This is mainly because of the mandatory application you have to make to the Council of Ministers. However, the process is quite straightforward and easy, as long as you find a local to help you with the documentation.
Ample sunshine and warm temperatures
Cyprus enjoys a Mediterranean climate with blistering summers and fairly mild winters. The country’s proximity to the equator influences the temperature and its overall climate. The residents of the island experience close to 340 days of golden sunshine in a year.
Summers last for a minimum of 7 months, starting in early April and lasting until the end of October. The average daytime temperature is around 32ᵒ C during these months and goes up to 40ᵒ C or more inland. Early summer temperatures are further boosted by the hot winds originating from North Africa or the Middle East. Nighttime temperatures can vary anywhere between 13ᵒ C and 24ᵒ C, depending on location. Summer is not only hot but also very dry. In fact, it is rare to see a cloud in the sky from early June to the end of September.
The summer sun in Cyprus can be very powerful. While most people soak up the rays, it is advisable to wear strong sunscreen as well as protective gear (like clothing, hats and sunglasses) when venturing out during the peak hours, which usually last from noon to 3:30 PM. Sunbathers should also drink plenty of liquids to avoid dehydration.
In spring, the average daytime temperature usually goes down to 25ᵒ C and during the winter, it could drop to around 16ᵒ C. Nighttime temperatures can go as low as 9ᵒ C. Nevertheless, you will see sunny days all through the year and frequent rain showers between November and March.
Cypriots are very proud of the fact that in their country you can go skiing and take a dip in the ocean on the same day. From January to March expats travel to the mountains of Troodos for skiing followed by a refreshing swim in the sea.
Low Crime Rates
Cyprus has been plagued by a history of severe conflict between the Greeks and Turks as both these nations have sought to claim this island, without any clear result. Yet it remains one of the safest European countries to live in. A number of British expats who have been living on the Mediterranean island for years claim that Cyprus’ safety and security levels are much higher than the UK.
While instances of petty theft are reported (especially by tourists and expats) on a frequent basis, the crime rate across this island is very low. Travelers are therefore generally advised to keep their passports, money and valuables in a safe place. Female travelers should exercise the usual precautionary measures that they would in any other foreign country.
This island is a great place to raise children. It is possible for children to play outdoors without their parents having to worry about them, as the overall environment all over the country is generally safe and secure. Of course, it is best for adults to keep a watch on their little ones in order to prevent any accidents and injuries.
The healthcare system in the North and South of Cyprus is on par with international standards. Like in most other places, expats can choose between public and private healthcare.
The country’s National Healthcare System offers free medical care at the point of delivery for everyone. Cypriots on low incomes are entitled to free or subsidized treatments. Emergency treatment at government hospitals is provided free of charge to everyone, including foreign nationals; however, subsequent in-patient treatment costs will have to be paid by those who don’t qualify for free treatment.
All the main cities have a network of government-run hospitals along with a number of smaller nursing homes, dispensaries and clinics. The large urban private healthcare sector is primarily dominated by private doctors running their own practices. The best part for expats is that almost all medical professionals have received at least some part of their training overseas and are fluent in English.
While the standard of basic healthcare is excellent, a number of foreign residents in Cyprus prefer to return to their home countries if they need to undergo major surgery or require more complex medical care.
British expats are entitled to state healthcare even if they do not contribute to the Cypriot social security system, as long as they meet certain criteria. Click here to learn more about this.
The rate of epidemics and infectious diseases on the island has been consistently low for many years. Foreigners entering the country aren’t required to get any vaccinations.
Relaxed Pace and Excellent Quality of Life
For those who want to strike a balance between work and their personal lives, Cyprus is the perfect place to be. One of the first Greek phrases you will learn when you move to this island is “Siga Siga”, which when literally translated means “Slowly, Slowly”. Get used to hearing this term very often, as it is a mantra often used by the locals. People in Cyprus firmly believe that all experiences should be enjoyed and the finer things in life should never be rushed. Cypriots are known to savor their meals in an unhurried manner for hours, usually with family and friends. Even a coffee break can go on for up to an hour. Unfortunately, this is a cause of frustration for some outsiders.
Most expats enjoy a higher standard of life as residents of this island since they have a better climate, better healthcare and safety and higher purchasing power than the global average.
There is a huge population of foreigners based in Cyprus, primarily because of the reasons listed above. Another plus point is that it is quite easy for them to settle in because of the large number of expat communities across the region. Moreover, there is plenty for to see and do, since summer and winter activities vary to a great extent.
When it comes to the cost of living in Cyprus, outsiders have differing opinions. Some foreigners believe that the island is quite expensive, while others think that almost everything is reasonably priced. The prices of most products and services are anywhere between 20% and 50% lower than the UK and significantly lower than many other European nations. According to EU data, the cost of living in Cyprus is about 25% lower than the European average. However, expats from Asia and Africa are likely to find this island quite expensive.
In the recent past, there has been a significant increase in the number of EU Nationals, Russians and Asians who have relocated to Cyprus. A large number of expats are employed by the United Nations and other multinational companies. Most foreigners are based in the capital of Nicosia, but some other Cypriot towns like Paphos, Larnaca, Limassol and Famagusta are also home to thousands of expats. You will come across a number of English residents, who have taken advantage of the taxation policies of this Eastern Mediterranean Island.
Several other factors make this country a great place to live, such as the warmth of the Cypriot people, good housing options, ease of communication (90% of the local population speak fluent English), proximity to other countries and the country’s natural beauty. However, like any other place, there are both pros and cons of moving to Cyprus.
Some of the drawbacks associated with this country include high unemployment rates, poor pay scales, overcrowding in certain areas, mediocre public transport, lack of basic utilities in some regions (water shortages, mainly during the summer), low welfare benefits and a limited number of direct flights, to name a few. It is, therefore, essential to carefully consider all the aspects of the expat life in Cyprus before deciding whether to move there.