The Ledra Street Border Crossing in Cyprus slices straight through the middle of the road.
The crossing points cuts one of the island’s busiest shopping streets in two. It’s unnatural. It’s a divide that has split the Turkish Cypriot community from the Greek Cypriot community for decades. It divides the city of Nicosia in two, and from here, the border spreads outwards, dividing all of Cyprus in two.
After the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974, and the division of Cyprus into North and South, Nicosia became a divided capital city- you can read more about my exploits in what remains the world’s last divided capital city HERE.
For years, all crossings were closed, a few points were opened up in 2003 but it wasn’t until 2008 that Ledra Street was opened, and people were allowed to walk across the border. It always was, and still remains, a hugely symbolic, if also divisive, part of Nicosia, and of Cyprus. To even begin to understand the division between the Republic of Cyprus- the Greek Cypriot side- and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, any visitor here needs to make the crossing.
So here’s my short guide on how to successfully traverse the Ledra Street border crossing in Cyprus!
Where Is The Ledra Street Border Crossing?
Right in the middle of Nicosia. It was once the city’s most prominent and important street. A place for shopping, business, eating, socialising. After the divide, the buffer zone cut it in half, and it took on a entirely new level of importance. From either north, or south, just walk in the direction of the border, and you will soon find signs directing you here. The border arises almost out of nowhere. One minute your strolling along, window shopping, looking at restaurant menus, and the next your’e at the end of the line. The final checkpoint.
The dividing point is right here on the map below!
Ledra Street is for pedestrians only. On both sides of the border, the main street, and the surrounding streets, have all been closed off to cars. It makes for a pleasant stroll. The cultural divide is as big as the concrete barricades. Isolation has unfortunately not given the North as much economic development as the South. While the shopping on the Greek side is now composed of huge, international brands, the Turkish side has none of this. In many ways, it was much more interesting and charming in the North. I can shop at Debenhams back home in England after all.
You can easily find a kebab and a beer on both sides of course.
The Border Crossing!
The same process apples on both sides, whether you are arriving North to South or South to North. Chances are though, unless you opt for the adventurous ferry route from Turkey to Northern Cyprus, that you’ll be travelling from the South.
On the Greek side, there’s a small police checkpoint. You aren’t officially leaving the Republic of Cyprus of course, as the northern realms are classed as occupied territories. If you are an EU citizen, they will simply scan your passport and away you go. Don’t expect any pleasantries here. I got none.
You walk along the short stretch of road that forms the buffer zone. No man’s land. Then you’ll see the immigration officers in their booths ahead of you. They’ll take your passport, and you’ll be stamped into Northern Cyprus. These guys were much friendlier. They even said ‘Welcome to Cyprus!’ The visa is valid- for EU citizens- for 90 days. I travelled backwards and forwards a few times along this crossing point, and was never actually stamped out again. I was however stamped out officially when I left Northern Cyprus from the port city of Girne, on the ferry to Turkey.
Is It Legal To Cross?
This is a blurry line. Officially, you never leave the Republic of Cyprus, as the North is an unrecognised state. The Ledra Street crossing point is however an official border between the two sides of the island. It was opened to promote unity. So you won’t have any trouble.
I’d heard a lot on the interwebs that it wasn’t possible to enter Northern Cyprus unless entering from the South. Entry directly into the North could mean arrest or deportation when trying to then enter the Southern side. This wasn’t the case at all. I believe that previously, entry into Northern Cyprus, from Turkey for instance was classed as illegal entry by the South. This could get you in trouble if you then wanted to cross between the two. I can safely say from my own experience though, that you can enter the North first, you can have a Northern stamp in your passport, and you can then still cross easily and hassle free to the South.
And if you’re looking for an of the beaten track adventure, you might not even want to leave the North anyway. Have a look at my road trip pictures for some inspiration!
Euros are the official currency of the Republic of Cyprus, and the Turkish Lira is the official currency of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. On the Turkish side of Nicosia, and in much of the rest of the North, Euros will be widely accepted as well as the Lira.
This is all based on my own experiences in Cyprus in March 2016. If you have any recent information on changes, or your own personal stories to tell, then please comment below!