With its temperate climate, turquoise waters, historic nations with lost-to-time origins, and delectable cuisine, the Mediterranean is one of the top destinations globally, despite not being exactly the cheapest coastal region to visit.

Italy, France, Greece and the like all rank among the priciest destinations in Europe, and a Mediterranean tour can set you back by a whopping $253 per day on average, but luckily for budget travelers keen on experiencing the Ancient Sea, there is always an exception to the rule.

Move over Amalfi and Santorini, this lesser-known sunny spot where two different cultures clash, the weather is just as gorgeous, and fancy three-course dinners cost a mere $23 offers more bang for your buck.

The Mediterranean’s Best Kept Secret

We’re not talking about new viral sensation Albania nor the increasingly popular Montenegro: if you’re keen on escaping the crowds and living it up by the Med without breaking the bank, it’s North Cyprus where you should be headed.

Young Woman Paddleboarding In The Turquoise Waters Of The Mediterranean Sea Off The Coast Of North Cyprus, Southern Europe

Cyprus is an island-country in the Eastern Mediterranean just south of Turkiye most Americans are yet to discover, boasting roughly 400 miles of pristine coastline, interspersed with sandy beaches and historic towns, verdant, hilly hinterlands, and a recorded History spanning six millennia.

Despite being a literal Eden, Cyprus has not always been peaceful, especially in the 1970s, when ethnic tensions between its native Turkish and Greek populations led to the island being divided between North and South (and you can probably guess which half was claimed by the Turkish).

North Cyprus And Turkish Flags Flying Before A Public Building In North Cyprus, Southern Europe

Complexities aside, there’s been no significant change in the status quo or intercommunal violence since the island was split in two all those decades ago.

Today, the South is controlled by the recognized Republic of Cyprus, while the North is occupied by a self-proclaimed Turkish Republic:

In the South, the most widely spoken language is Greek, and the euro is used; in the North, Turkish is the lingua franca, and the lira is the de facto currency.

In sum, it is essentially an extension of Turkiye, and we’re all well versed on the affordability of Turkiye by now.

How Actually Affordable Is North Cyprus?

An Individual Holding Up Turkish Liras In A Fruit Market In Turkiye, Turkey Or North Cyprus

As the North of Cyprus uses the Turkish lira, a severely devalued currency, it can be a lot more affordable to tourists than the ‘euroized’ South.

The U.S. dollar is a lot stronger than the Turkish lira (1 U.S. dollar equals roughly 0.031 Turkish lira), while one euro equals 1.09 dollar, meaning your hard-earned money will stretch much further up North.

One cool travel experiment is walking the full extent of Ledra, the main street cutting across the heart of the Cypriot capital, which starts in the Greek-controlled part and ends in Turkish-dominated territory, and undergoing a quick passport check to enter the North.

Street in Nicosia, Cyprus

South of the border, you can expect to pay up to $65 for a three-course meal in a mid-range restaurant, as calculated by Numbeo. Interestingly enough, as soon as you’re past the Ledra checkpoint and you’re being billed in Turkish lira, the price drops to a much more appealing $23.

That’s roughly 35% cheaper.

Affordable Beach Resorts

Similarly, hotels in the South of Cyprus as a whole average $103, with some resorts in Ayia Napa costing as much as $281 per night: still quite affordable if you’re into round-the-clock pampering, but it typically gets a lot cheaper once you step over that Ledra line.

Golden Sand Beach Lapped By The Bright Blue Mediterranean Sea In Dipkarpaz, Northern Cyprus, Eastern Mediterranean

If the island of Cyprus is shaped like a pan, the Karpass Peninsula is the pan-handle, and other than being the northernmost tip, it’s the main resort zone in the Turkish part, with long miles of golden-sand beaches as far as the eyes can see and waters of a translucent blue.

Booking a deluxe bedroom with ocean views at the Thalassa Beach Resort, a two-hour drive from North Nicosia, will set you back by a reasonable $181 per night, exactly a hundred bucks cheaper than the average resort rate down South.

Aerial View Of The Famagusta Province In North Cyprus, On The East Mediterranean Region

If you don’t care for luxury, prices for basic rooms in three-star hotels in Ayia Trias, a laid-back leisure destination in the Famagusta province, start from only $48, while overnights in central Kyrenia, the cultural capital of Northern Cyprus, range from $29 to $83.

The Cost Of Living In The North Is Lower

Not only are hotels in the North incredibly cheap, but the cost of living is also remarkably low, attributed to lower wages and a less robust welfare state: as stated by North Nicosia’s Mesarya University, the minimum monthly net salary is 11,800 Turkish lira, or $364.

Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque In Famagusta, Northern Cyprus

Observing the minimum wage is no gold standard for establishing consumer prices for foreigners, but it remains indicative of how affordable (or territory) it may be for tourists, as the price of food and local goods will commonly reflect the purchasing power of the native populace.

Plus, the North of Cyprus has everything you’d expect a Mediterranean vacation to be and then some, minus the overpriced hotels, costly restaurants, and surging crowds.

From the bustling winding alleys and street bazaars of North Nicosia and bougainvillea-bedecked, fortified Kyrenia to the pristine Karpass coast and the historically charged ‘ghost town’ of Varosha, it offers both culture and some beach time.

Kyrenia Castle, Cyprus

Why Are Tourists Skipping North Cyprus?

Largely due to misconceptions regarding safety, not that many visitors to Cyprus are venturing into the unrecognized Turkish Republic, as it is reportedly less developed and ‘dangerous’, though this couldn’t be further from the truth.

While it’s true there are no consular outposts in the North, as it is not a world-recognized sovereign state, and poverty rates are higher, crime rates are under control.

In fact, British-based real estate consultant Spot Blue reports crime in North Cyprus is lower than in Greece, a far more developed country.

Woman on the Beach in Cyprus

Much of the ‘danger’ rhetoric stems from the war period when violence and ethnic cleansing on both sides of the island spiraled out of control.

Fortunately, for the best part of the last four decades, Greek and Turkish communities have largely lived peacefully on their sides of the fence.

This Is Still An Occupied Territory

That being said, you should know Cyprus is a country divided.

We won’t get into its specifics, but we do encourage you to read a summary of Cypriot History before visiting in order to be better informed and avoid common mistakes.

Flags Of Turkey And The Turkish Republic Of Northern Cyprus Strung Between The Minarets Of The Selimiye Mosque In North Nicosia, Northern Cyprus

The main things you should know are:

  • The Turkish North is not a recognized country, even if effectively functioning as one
  • The Turkish Republic is not recognized by the international community, and it’s treated as an area of Cyprus under occupation
  • Tourists should ensure they only use Republic of Cyprus entry points when visiting the island

Regarding the latter, as an American tourist, you are only authorized to enter Cyprus via the airports in Larnaca, the closest one to the Northern territories, or Paphos, in Western Cyprus, or if arriving via sea, the international port in Limassol.

Customs Agent Stamping A Passport

There is a third airport serving the city of Nicosia, but as it is located on the Turkish side of the border, the Republic of Cyprus is not responsible for inbound flights, which originate exclusively from Turkiye, the only country offering flights to the North.

The catch is, if you land in the North-controlled airport, you will not be permitted to cross to the Greek-majority side afterwards, as Cypriot authorities will consider you to have entered the island ‘illegally’. Inversely, landing in the South, you can cross to the North freely.

Learn more about Cyprus and start planning your budget-friendly Mediterranean getaway here.

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