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Cyprus Villa Experience - 2010

The Story of a Cyprus Villa Rental

Change is a double-edged sword that seems to act like a balance. For every advantage accrued from change there is always a disadvantage. It may not be equal, and it is pretty certain that someone will be on the losing side. From 1962 until 1966 we lived in Nicosia on the island of Cyprus where our daughter was born. Despite the inter-communal troubles that arose during our stay, we developed a great affection for the island and its peoples, both Greek and Turkish. This love affair with Cyprus has flourished and we have made regular visits to this holiday destination that has offered, sunshine, friendly people, interesting sights and great value for money: until this year. What has changed? The Euro has been adopted!

Before this year, our most recent visit to the island was about 5 years ago. Over the preceding 40 years we had seen many changes in the Greek occupied area of the island, but less so in the Turkish occupied north. Most of the changes up to the turn of the century were designed to develop the essential tourist industry and were sympathetic to retaining the national identity. Cyprus was still Cyprus. From 2000, if the advertising hoardings and project boards were to be believed, there was a great deal of infrastructure development funded by Arab states eager to take advantage of entry into the EU in 2004.

Cyprus adopted the Euro as its official currency in 2008 and the effects have been as damaging to large sections of the indigenous population of the island as its introduction has been in Ireland, Portugal and Spain. Prices have rocketed, the rich have got richer and the poor have got poorer. Wealthy businessmen have enjoyed growing prosperity, but the wage packets of the general population have not grown to meet the increased cost of living. The family that grows watermelons and transports them to the market with a donkey and cart just doesn't care that there is a new dual carriageway to the new airport.

What does all this mean to the holidaymaker? In simple terms it means that you are going to be better off seeking a destination outside the Euro zone and many are already doing so. In Coral Bay (Paphos), just a couple of years ago the restaurants that line the streets were packed with tourists taking their evening meal. This year the touts were on the street trying to attract passers-by into their empty restaurants. Inevitably there has been a temptation to raise prices even further to secure the same turnover from fewer customers.

Moreover, many expats who sunk their life savings into buying a new home in the sun are in the same poverty trap as in Spain and Portugal. They cannot afford to stay, but they cannot sell their property and even if they could they would not be able to buy back into the UK market. The Euro has condemned them in Cyprus as in many other places.

Having taken the whole family to Cyprus to celebrate our golden wedding, we rented two large villas and for some of the time we were able to turn to self-catering to feed our large party. However, villa rental in Cyprus is not as reliable as in some other areas of the world. Like the hotels, where star ratings are not subject to qualitative checks but reflect the facilities claimed by the hotel, villa owners can get away with quite blatant claims for their properties, without any recourse for the traveller.


Coral Bay near Paphos - A favourite with tourists

We rented the villas Lambriana and Chloe from a family who have a number of villas in the area. They were described as 'luxurious' and a good number of claims were made to support this description. The photographs were vivid and also appeared to support the description. To give additional confidence, the owners claimed to be formerly of the UK leisure industry.

When we arrived at the properties, the buildings were indeed imposing and might well have justified the 'luxurious' description. Unfortunately, the illusion of luxury stopped at the front door. The villas were only superficially clean with quite filthy windows and poorly equipped with the lowest quality kitchen equipment, some of which was battered and beyond its useful life. There is no maid service and although the first weeks towels etc. were of an acceptable standard, those for the second week were certainly not. Our previous ventures into luxury have seen extras such as beach towels provided: not here! At Villa Lambriani a bed described as 'king-size' turned out to be only a standard 4'6" item and the second bedroom was even devoid of such simple essentials as bedroom chairs. Outside the morning light revealed that the area around the entrance to the house was a dumping ground for discarded items of furniture etc. This belied the description of 'landscaped gardens'.   Of real concern is the claim that these villas are safe for young children. Like most Cyprus villas, they are built on concrete rafts with concreted and tiled surrounds and frequent drops of up to 3' from one level to another. A toddler could suffer serious injury if it was to fall from one of these levels.

There may well be luxurious villas for rent in Cyprus, but Lambriana and Chloe are not among them. Worryingly, correspondence with the owners confirmed that they really did not understand the quality level essential to meet their description, understanding one would expect from 'former members of the UK leisure industry'. For the independent traveller, there is little hope of securing compensation for these misleading 'advertising puffs'.

Our advice remains that although Cyprus is a beautiful island where the weather is extremely reliable and language presents no barrier, travellers should seek better value outside the Euro zone.

An Exile: One who serves his country by residing abroad, but is not an ambassador - Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914)