Return to Cyprus

It has been two years since we’ve managed to visit our much loved home in northern Cyprus. We were last there in June 2019 and we knew then we would be missing our normal autumn trip that year, because we had our big road trip through the Rockies booked for that time, but we fully expected to be back in April/May 2020. Of course covid put a stop to that. And to the trip we then planned for autumn 2020……. meanwhile, projects we had in the pipeline out there stalled.

Key amongst these was the partition of a major part of our land between our house and our nearest neighbours’ which has been ongoing for about 2 years. Entirely amicable, it has involved various surveyors and land measurers visiting, the moving of 2 electricity pylons off our plots, more measuring….. visits to land offices and lawyers….. as complicated as you might imagine any legal undertaking to be in the Levant.

When we left in June 2019, we were almost there, just the official government survey and map marking to take place, we thought. However, there was in fact more than that and our neighbours took it as far as they could without our presence, then it stalled. Holding up their plans…. On principal, we have not left new POAs with a lawyer in Cyprus as we have learned it is better to be personally involved, in detail, in all aspects of anything legal there. And covid has closed the consulate in London for all but email enquiries….. the matter is now pressing, we need to be there in person, both of us, to sign off on the plans so that they can be officially registered and new kocans (title deeds) created and issued. Believe you me, we explored a variety of remote “signing” suggestions…. none would work.

So now apart from that we have a list of small to medium maintenance jobs that have built up over the time we have been away. A house is a house no matter where it is. Maintenance jobs build up. Yes, Marion, our house manager, organises and gets done any urgent jobs, and Habibi, our wonderful gardener and Mr Fix It, takes care of the outside and sends regular photographs. But some jobs cannot be outsourced. We need a new double front door. We need new pool terrace lights, a new sailcloth cover for the dining terrace, new pool loungers and cushions before the season starts. They need to be “chosen” to suit our taste.

Decision made. We need to go. We checked our legal position on travel. With surveyor and lawyer appointments in place, and a rental property needing our attention, we are given the all clear under UK law to leave the country. We have both been double vaccinated, so that is all done. But can we enter the TRNC?? The final piece of the jigsaw was that northern Cyprus (TRNC) has begun a new system for visitors that allows quarantine at home using a tracked wristband linked to the internet. At the time we booked last week, that period was for 14 days. Then under review it changed. We are currently required to do 10 days of strict home quarantine on arrival wearing these wristbands. In addition we have to present a negative PCR test taken withn 72 hours of arrival, take another on arrival and then we will be visited at home before the end of the quarantine period and given another test. If all are negative we will be free at the end of 10 days. This is no problem for us as we will be perfectly happy to be at the house and we can get on with some of those jobs, or at least the ones we can do ourselves. The cost of the wristband and the two PCR tests in Cyprus is £65 but we get about £30 of that back when the wristband is returned at the end of quarantine. An absolute bargain compared to what we pay in the UK.

On Monday evening we went to Gatwick Airport ExpressTest drive thru for the pre flight test and that cost £60 each which is again, a relative bargain. We could easily have paid over £200 each for the same test, most are over £120. It was really efficient. Drive into the longstay carpark at the South Terminal and follow the signs. We were through in less than 10 minutes, hardly anyone there. It was the double swab through the window. Bob went first. He gipped a bit on the throat test but found the nose swab ok. I was the exact opposite. My throat swab barely registered but the girl doing the nose swab went for the brain!!!!! Longest 10 seconds of my life…. Anyway it’s done. A first for both of us.

The results came through about lunchtime on Tuesday. Both Negative!!! And accompanied by two Fit to Fly Certificates. A brilliant service from ExpressTest. We would definitely recommend them and would use them again.

After having checked it officially, I nearly forgot we had to fill in a government form giving our reason for leaving the country and then print it off to take with us to the airport. We filled in the online travel declaration form on the UK.gov website to register our travel details and reason for leaving the country. Printed out the forms to carry with us. Another bit of paperwork done!

We have booked a one way flight only with Turkish Airlines for the evening of 5th May. This is to give us ultimate flexibility on when and how we eventually get back to the UK. We don’t know when that will be at this point. Most importantly we need to ensure that we finalise and complete this legal work and the land survey registration. You have to take your UK head off when organising these things. People don’t turn up as booked. Everything is very slow…. it all takes time…. Something you’d have wrapped up in days in the UK can easily drag on for months!!! So, we don’t know how long it will all take. Then the maintenance/upgrade work on the house. We can consider the return situation when all that is done, depending on what the rules are for entering the UK at that point. Fingers crossed it’s not hotel quarantine, that we will not do. We don’t mind quarantining at home in Kent. If a hotel quarantine is in place,, we will happily stay put in Cyprus or even travel elsewhere in Europe for a while. Hopefully by June restrictions all over Europe will have started to ease.

The covid situation in the TRNC has been handled very well. They closed their borders, more or less immediately in the winter/spring of 2020 and have remained closed since then apart from a few short openings. They have abundant testing and test about 10% of the population every day. They started a vaccine rollout at the beginning of 2021 and that seems to be going well despite being reliant on Turkey for donated vaccines. The southern Republic of Cyprus gets an allowance from the EU but of course not much of that gets shipped north. Short, regional lockdowns when they come have been strictly policed. As a result, they have only had 31 deaths throughout (all with very serious underlying conditions or aged over 80) and are running at about 50 positive tests a day. If you test positive you have to isolate immediately. As a result they have managed to keep cafes, restaurants, shops, markets and bars open albeit with reduced capacity. It helps of course that the weather lends itself to outside dining and so everywhere has a large outdoor space and that’s where most people choose to sit.

We have looked on in envy as our resident friends have carried on a relatively normal life in comparison to the rigours of life in the UK over the last 9 months. Of course tourism has suffered massively and tourist dependant businesses. Hotels have been shut other than to be used for quarantine. Villa bookings disappeared other than for wealthier locals looking for a luxury “stayca”. The government hope, and are working towards, a situation where they will be able to open tourism to vaccinated tourists, and tourists who double test negative without quarantine by the end of May at the latest. Their people need the business. Villa Rockheart will be ready for summer bookings! We just hope we get to share it with some people this year. I can’t think of a safer or nicer place to enjoy a first break after lockdown.

So, we have had all our documents checked to a nanobyte and we are on our way. More details of the journey tomorrow.