Some tips to avoid being scammed by shady characters in Cyprus

Despite Cyprus' ongoing political conflict between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, which has raged on for decades, 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 low reported incidents of violence and assaults, and it is said that many houses and cars are left unlocked with no fear of consequence. (However, we don't recommend that as a general rule, obviously!)

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

This is why we advise you, if you are travelling to the region, to avoid mentioning anything to do with the conflict. It is a highly contentious issue for both sides - there is a great feeling of animosity from the two groups towards another, and it's an issue that bubbles just barely under the surface.

But while Cyprus enjoys relative peace and lack of crime, it doesn't mean that you are impervious to dodgy behaviour.

The East West Divide

Obviously, Cyprus has its own problems, and struggles with them on a daily basis. Displaced people from both the north and the south, who lost everything in the revolutions, harbour 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".

Checks and Balances

The most famous Cypriotic scam is the "Shady Cabaret" - and is a scam that can be found in many parts of the EU.

Essentially, the concept 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, or more 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 go to putty in their hands, you will later end up in a club where the decor is a product of a bygone era, and it will be relatively empty - a small selection of food and drink will be on offer, and if there is any "entertainment", it will be of a fairly 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 (which chances are, will be short, as you will want to get out of there quickly because it is such a dive), you suffer a great risk of a cardiac arrest if you have a shaky heart - the total will very likely be to the tune of hundreds of US dollars for a few drinks and maybe a 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 have your face rearranged by an unruly Cypriot.

The best idea is to go to shows or nightclubs that are recommended by tour operators or other agents. Sure. they might 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.

Up In Smoke

Another popular scam is aimed at the Tobacco enthusiast. If the exorbitant prices of cigarettes weren't enough to begin with - sly Cypriots have capitalised 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 these scams, 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, how about this? Quit smoking altogether and save yourself the hassle! ?

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