The Ledra Street Border Crossing in Cyprus slices straight through the middle of the road. The crossing point 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. For years, all crossings were closed. A few crossing points were opened up in 2003, as Cyprus joined the European Union, 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!
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Where Is The Ledra Street Border Crossing in Cyprus?
The Ledra Street border crossing is located in Nicosia, the capital city of Cyprus. Nicosia is a rather unusual travel destination given the fact it’s the last divided capital in the world, with a southern section controlled by the Republic of Cyprus and a northern section controlled by the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).
Literally located in the middle of Nicosia, Ledra Street was once the city’s most prominent and important thoroughfare. It was a place for shopping, doing business, eating and socialising. Things changed drastically following the 1974 coup and the subsequent Turkish invasion that divided Cyprus in two. The UN Buffer Zone, also known as the ‘Green Line’ cuts Ledra Steet in half, and so the street took on an entirely new level of importance as it became a border between two nations.
Historically, Ledra Street was always one of the capital’s main commercial streets. This now means that the border crossing is centrally located and is easily accessible on foot from various points in both the southern and northern parts of the city. The street’s location in the middle of the urban landscape makes it an unmistakable focal point in discussions about the ongoing Cyprus conflict, as well as a regular part of daily life for many residents and visitors.
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 you’re strolling along, window shopping, looking at restaurant menus, and the next you are at the end of the line, as barbed wire and barricades block you from walking further unchecked. Welcome to Ledra Street, the final checkpoint between north and south.
The dividing point is right here on the map below:
A brief history of Ledra Street
Prior to the island’s divisions, Ledra Street was known as one of Nicosia’s most vital commercial arteries. However, as the 20th century progressed, Cyprus found itself embroiled in complex political conflicts that were influenced by its colonial history, ethnic divisions and geopolitical significance.
After gaining independence from British colonial rule in 1960, intercommunal tensions between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities escalated. These divisions eventually culminated in violence and led to the de facto partition of Nicosia. In 1974, Greek Cypriots attempted a Coup de d’etat in an effort to secure Enosis, or a union with Greece. This led to a Turkish invasion in the north, which resulted in the division of Cyprus into north and south.
Ledra Street, once a symbol of urban unity, became a poignant marker of division. Barricades were erected, effectively cutting the street in half and separating friends, families and communities. A United Nations buffer zone, known as the ‘Green Line, was established, turning Ledra Street into one of the most visible dividing lines in a fractured city. In 1983, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) was declared in the north, further cementing the divide, although to this day, the self-declared nation has only ever been recognised by Turkey.
The street remained sealed off for several decades, its storefronts abandoned and its pavement untrodden, as diplomatic efforts to reunify the island met with limited success. Then, in 2008, a significant but cautious step was taken: the Ledra Street border crossing was opened to pedestrians. Though the island remained politically divided, the opening of the crossing provided people from both sides with a route for easier transit for purposes like trade, tourism, and family visits.
The street today offers a distinct atmosphere on each side, reflective of the separate administrations and cultures. While political divisions remain and diplomatic negotiations continue, Ledra Street stands as a symbol of both the divides that still need to be bridged and the small but significant steps toward unity and understanding.
How to cross the Ledra Street border
If you’re visiting Nicosia, it’s now rather easy to cross between north and south using the Ledra Street border crossing. You can cross over for a few hours, for the whole day, or for a few weeks. I crossed over by foot and then spent two weeks exploring Northern Cyprus. Here’s how to make the crossing yourself:
1. Ledra Street is for Pedestrians Only!
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, or gyros, and a beer on both sides of course.
2. Walk to the border crossing point
The same process applies 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, 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.
3. Cross No Man’s Land
You walk along the short stretch of road that forms the buffer zone. This isn’t as scary as it might sound, even if it is technically a ‘No Man’s Land’. Just stroll purposefully along, following the usually large crowds.
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!’
4. Get your ‘visa’ on the border
As I was an EU citizen at the time (this was before Brexit!), the visa I was given for Northern Cyprus was valid for 90 days. The same still applies to UK and EU citizens. Other nationalities should double-check with their embassy.
I travelled backwards and forwards a few times along the Ledra Street 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.
I say ‘visa’, but this was really just a quick stamp in the passport and it was free of charge.
5. Is it legal to cross the Ledra Street border?
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 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. Easy.
Here are some general guidelines, although it’s important to note that regulations can change, so you should consult the most recent and official sources for the most accurate information:
- From the Republic of Cyprus: If you are already in the Republic of Cyprus (the internationally-recognized government that controls the southern part of the island), you can usually cross into Northern Cyprus by foot at the Ledra Street crossing or by car at other border points by showing your passport or ID card. There are typically no visa requirements for day trips, but you may need to fill out a visa form if you plan to stay overnight, depending on your nationality.
- From Turkey: Many travellers also enter Northern Cyprus by flying into Ercan International Airport in the north, typically through a stopover in Turkey. The visa rules for this route often mirror Turkey’s regulations. For example, citizens of many countries can enter visa-free for up to 90 days, but this varies by nationality.
- Other Nationalities: If you are not a citizen of a European Union country or Turkey, you may have different visa requirements. Always check the most current regulations based on your own nationality.
- Visa for the Republic of Cyprus: It’s important to note that entering Cyprus through Northern Cyprus is generally considered illegal by the Republic of Cyprus if you don’t also have a visa for the Republic of Cyprus (if you need one based on your nationality).
- Political Sensitivities: The political situation between the Republic of Cyprus and the TRNC is complex. The Republic of Cyprus is internationally recognized, while the TRNC is recognized only by Turkey. Entering via the north could create complications if you later try to cross into the Republic of Cyprus or if you’re questioned about it when entering other countries.
6. Don’t forget to change money!
Before you cross over the border, remember that technically, you’ll need different currencies on either side. 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. Credit and debit cards may not be widely accepted in the north, due to a lack of international recognition for the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
And once you’ve crossed over, it’s time to start exploring all that Northern Cyprus has to offer. From crusader castles to abandoned holiday resorts, there’s a lot to see!
Read more: 12 Things to Do in Northern Cyprus
FAQ: The Ledra Street border crossing in Cyprus
Here’s an FAQ on the Ledra Street border crossing:
Q1: What is the Ledra Street border crossing?
The Ledra Street border crossing is a pedestrian passage that connects the southern part of Nicosia, controlled by the Republic of Cyprus, with the northern part, controlled by the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). It is situated in Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus, and is separated by a United Nations buffer zone known as the ‘Green Line’.
Q2: Where is the Ledra Street border crossing located?
The border crossing is centrally located in Nicosia, with access to shops, cafes, and various cultural and historical sites on both sides. It cuts through the heart of the city, dividing the Republic of Cyprus-controlled area from the TRNC-controlled area.
Q3: What documents do I need to cross?
For most travellers, a valid passport is sufficient to cross from one side to the other. Sometimes an identification card may also be acceptable. You will likely encounter checkpoints for both the Republic of Cyprus and the TRNC.
Q4: Do I need a visa to visit Northern Cyprus?
Visa requirements depend on your nationality. Generally, if you’re crossing from the Republic of Cyprus for a day trip, no visa is required, though an entry form may be needed for longer stays. If entering from Turkey, visa requirements usually align with Turkish visa regulations. Always consult current, official sources for the most accurate information.
Q5: Is it safe to cross?
While the political situation remains complex, the crossing is generally safe and is done by locals and tourists alike for a variety of purposes including work, family visits and tourism. Both sides have a vested interest in maintaining a secure and straightforward crossing process.
Q6: How often can I cross?
There is typically no strict limit on the number of times you can cross; however, you should be aware that frequent crossings could draw attention and may require additional questioning by border officials.
Q7: What can I expect in terms of culture and atmosphere?
Each side of Ledra Street offers a distinct atmosphere with its own set of shops, cafes, and cultural landmarks. The Republic of Cyprus side aligns more closely with Greek culture, while the TRNC side has stronger Turkish influences.
Q8: Are there currency exchange facilities near the border?
Yes, both sides of the crossing have places where you can exchange currency, though it’s advisable to compare rates for the best deal. The Republic of Cyprus uses the Euro, while the TRNC uses the Turkish Lira.
Q9: Can I take my car across the Ledra Street crossing?
No, the Ledra Street crossing is for pedestrians only. However, there are other vehicle-friendly crossing points in Nicosia and around Cyprus.
Q10: What is the significance of the Ledra Street border crossing?
Beyond its practical function, the Ledra Street crossing serves as a poignant symbol of the island’s division and the ongoing political situation. It’s a daily point of interaction between two communities living in a politically divided land.
Q11: Are there any restrictions on what I can bring across?
Normal restrictions on the import/export of goods apply, similar to what you’d find at any international border. Always check with local authorities for the most current information on this topic.
Q12: What time does the crossing close?
Operating hours can vary and may be subject to political and security conditions. It’s advisable to check current timings before planning your trip.
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!