Travel Scams in Cyprus: How to Avoid Being Ripped Off

Don't get scammed with these tips to keep you one step ahead of con artists. From the shady cabaret scam to the smoking scam, this is what you need to know.

Kyrenia (Girne) is a city on the north coast of Cyprus, known for its cobblestoned old town and horseshoe-shaped harbor Photo © Getty Images/tunart

Despite Cyprus' ongoing political conflict between the north and south, the country remains relatively peaceful and crime free. In fact, it is known as one of the safest places in all of the Mediterranean.

There are very few reported incidents of violence and assaults here, and it is said that many houses and cars are left unlocked with no fear of consequence. However, we don't recommend you ever leave doors unlocked or bags unattended.

It seems that the turmoil experienced by the country, and the resulting political stalemate in forming a dedicated union between the Turkish and Greeks, has swallowed up all the negative focus – and it's this conflict that seethes under the cultural fabric of Cyprus on a daily basis.

If you are traveling to Cyprus, avoid talking about conflict or the war. It's a highly contentious issue.

But while Cyprus is indeed a safe place to travel, there are a few dodgy scammers out to get you and your money.

Tourists are an easy target

Cyprus has its own problems. Displaced people from both the north and the south, who lost everything in the revolutions, harbor deep resentment towards their respective enemies – so throw a foreigner into the mix, and it creates a little bit more confusion and tension to the already volatile area.

It's not to say that visitors to the country are not welcome or ostracised in anyway, but there is an opportunistic attitude from Cypriots towards foreigners, especially Westerners. And when we say opportunistic, we mean 'ripe for the scamming'.

1. The shady cabaret scam

The most famous Cypriotic scam is the shady cabaret scam, which can also be found in many parts of Europe.

Essentially, it works like this: You are walking along one of Cyprus' beautiful streets, and are approached in a manner of ways. It could either be a group of lovely women who take a shining to you or a very friendly man who engages in conversation out of the blue. They will engage in small talk for a little while, ask you where you are from, what you are doing in Cyprus, and be very warm and welcoming. Soon, they will invite you to a club, most likely a cabaret, that evening. They will insist that you come, as it is a true Cypriotic experience, and will be very upset if you decline their offer.

If you agree, you will later end up in a club where the decor is a product of a bygone era, and it will be relatively empty. Just a small selection of food and drink will be on offer, and if there is any "entertainment", it will be of a cringeworthy quality.

Your "friends" will join you for maybe a few minutes, then make some excuse that they need to get to somewhere else, or talk to somebody. You will be left on your own for a while, then maybe a new group of girls will come up to you and ask you to buy them drinks. If you indulge, you could be in for a shock.

When the bill comes at the end of the evening, the total payment owing will very likely be in the hundreds of US dollars, for just a few drinks and maybe one plate of food.

Very soon, even if you don't dispute the bill, a large group of men will appear from the shadows and insist payment. They will offer to take you to an ATM to withdraw funds, and you really don't have any option unless you want to be beaten up.

The best idea is to go to shows or nightclubs that are recommended by tour operators or other travelers you meet along the way. Sure, maybe your tour guide will take a commission for their referral, but at least it will save you the embarrassing, and potentially violent, consequences of visiting a club recommended to you by a complete stranger.

2. The smoking scam

Another popular scam is aimed at tobacco enthusiasts. If the exorbitant prices of cigarettes weren't enough to begin with – sly Cypriots have capitalized on their relative expense and have begun to illegally deal cut-rate smokes. Bootleg cigarettes are usually sold in multipacks from reputable-looking businesses and market stalls alike, but a tell tale sign you have inferior quality product is if the multipack appears to be damaged or tampered with.

To avoid this rip-off, try your best to get your tobacco from larger chain stores or reputable kiosks who charge market rate. At least then you have some security that what you are buying is legit.

Or, here's a good idea: Quit smoking, while in Cyprus at least, to save yourself the hassle.

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