By Kirsty Fitzpatrick

Around 1,000,000 Brits visit Cyprus every year, but unfortunately, not all visits are trouble free. This is often due to a misunderstanding of the country’s laws, landing Brits and other tourists with hefty fines, and in some cases serving a sentence in a Cypriot prison.

But what is it like in a Cypriot Prison?

Cypriot prisons have gained a recent reputation as sources claim they have the third highest levels of overcrowding within the Council of Europe, where for every 100 places, 127 inmates are held.  Inmates are reported to spend most of the day cleaning areas of the prison and whilst it is reported that prison life is ‘quite relaxed’, as a tourist it is easier than you may think to end up in jail whilst on holiday here. Additional reports contradict such claims, reporting physical abuse from prison guards; where inmates have suffered punches and kicks to the body, which tend to be more common among foreign inmates.

How do so many foreigners become prisoners in Cyprus?

Cyprus has 668 inmates, but foreigners make up 41.5% of this number, almost half. One factor that could be attributed to this vast amount of foreign inmates is the lack of education surrounding the local laws and customs of Cyprus – most notably, their zero tolerance policy towards drugs - stricter than the UK’s stance. If you are caught with any type of narcotic, tourist or not, you are guaranteed a prison sentence or a heavy fine. It is important to note that the majority (almost 30%) of all cases are drug related, a statistic that speaks for itself!

A further reason for legal misunderstandings are Cyprus’ strict entry requirements and the rules surrounding the entry of the Republic, be it through the North or the South. For example, British and other foreign nationals who enter the country from Ercan airport in the North are considered by the Government of the Republic of Cyprus to have entered illegally, as this port is not lawful. This illegal passage of entry South into Cyprus can result in a fine or refusal of entry or exit into the Republic.

But it is not just drugs and borders that tourists should be wary of, there are many local laws and customs that can cause altercations and run-ins with Cypriot law. Did you know that you should not photograph sensitive areas like military establishments? A rare photograph can be a great souvenir but it is not worth a hefty fine, or a prison sentence for that matter. Similarly, tourists with documents relating to the purchase of goods in the north when crossing the Green Line could face criminal proceedings. You should take care when travelling around the country, ensuring you know what you can legally take across borders.

Cyprus is a great holiday destination, and certainly one to enjoy. But it is vital that all tourists are aware of the country’s strict laws and the consequences that follow. Where Britain’s laws may be more relaxed in some areas, other nations will be less forgiving and vice versa. That being said, all cultural laws and customs are guaranteed to shift from place to place. Therefore, the best way to guarantee a holiday free from law breaking is to do your homework! Use the Foreign and Commonwealth Office webpage to learn how to enjoy what the country has to offer in a safe, responsible and lawful way.


Being offered a lifeline can change everything. 

Prisoners Abroad translates human rights law into practical life-saving actions by providing prisoners access to vitamins and essential food, emergency medical care, freepost envelopes to keep in touch with home and books and magazines to help sustain mental health.