Shopping – don’t we love it!! Well, in North Cyprus you are spoilt for choice when it comes to what you can buy and where you can shop, whether you’re in the market for practical items such as DIY materials, food etc., or indeed you want to indulge in shopping for pleasure for gifts, clothes and entertainment.
Besides just looking around the offerings on the north side of the island, there is now the opportunity to partake of some cross-border shopping too. Since April 2003 when the borders were opened, shoppers have been able to purchase items which are not readily available in North Cyprus, or to treat themselves to some items from western chain department stores.
Shopping for Pleasure
High street shops in North Cyprus can offer anything from mobile phones to jewellery, and you can pick up some good bargains depending on exchange rates. You will notice that there is plenty of named/branded jewellery available such as Bvlgari for example, but do bear in mind that although these items may be gold, they may not be strictly legitimate in brand terms – if you know what we mean!
You can pick up perfume, sunglasses, watches, clothes, handbags and many other items on the high street for a fraction of the price you would pay in Europe. Again, a lot of items are copies but we like to refer to them as being ‘genuine fakes’rather than knock off, and with Turkey being one of the world’s major textile manufacturers there are plenty of true brand names to buy!
Gift shops display an array of traditional knick knacks and handcrafted items, so if you are gift hunting then there is plenty to choose from. Popular gifts items include various permutations of the ‘evil eye’ – the blue glass decorations that adorn houses, cars and other items to ward off bad spirits – colourful hand woven mats and baskets, and beautiful hand painted plates often featuring the Prophet Mohammed’s signature. You can also find gift shops at the more well-known historical sites in North Cyprus. Or how about the must have box of Turkish Delight?! There are some great little sweet shops selling a wide range of flavours from carrot to the traditional rose, as well as plenty of other sweet treats to tempt you!
There are plenty of bargains to snag at the local markets too, with the weekly open markets in Kyrenia, Lefkoşa and Güzelyurt being good places where you can pick up cheap clothing, shoes and gift items. Markets are great places to go to just browse too as these are really the locals’ markets where they buy and sell fruit and vegetables and household items, and you can sit and have a coffee and watch the tradesman ply their trades and fare.
You also have the closed bazaar in Lefkoşa, originally built in 1932 and otherwise known as ‘Bandabuliya’. Here you have a wide choice of items from clothes to sweets, fish, meat and vegetables, as well as the older traditional copperware stalls. You can pick up a traditional belly dancing costume whilst snacking on some lokma and browsing the gift items available perhaps!
The shopping area surrounding the bazaar is known as Arasta, (a name given to traditional Turkish Bazaars that carry the traces of Ottoman trade and social life), a long road running down to the Lokmacı border crossing in which you can buy more ‘genuine fakes’ such as Levi and Prada. It’s also a textile lovers paradise where you can pick up some wonderful materials, and find a tailor to make you an item or two.
Kyrenia also has its own restored market called the ‘The Old Bazaar’ or ‘Bandabuliya’, it opened in the last few years – here you can visit the stalls selling their locally made handicrafts and have a beer or a lunchtime snack.
Food shopping in North Cyprus can be fun, as you may need to visit more than one supermarket to complete your shopping list! Generally speaking weekly supermarket shops will incorporate visits to Lemar, Tempo, Starling and Astro, the four largest supermarket chains. As all sell similar products for similar prices there’s not a lot to differentiate, apart from personal preference, though sometimes one supermarket will be right out of a series of items you need while another one will still have plenty of stock!
Sometimes it seems deliveries get stuck somewhere on the mainland meaning you’ll sometimes have a month without your favourite toothpaste or dog food for no known reason! It’s just one of the small idiosyncrasies that makes North Cyprus cool!
There are a million mini-markets selling just about every item you might need – from toilet paper to cigarettes, from fresh fruit and veg to Efes beer – and these shops are often open all day and half the night seven days a week.
Imported goods tend to be quite steeply priced – bottles of wine, non-local spirits, branded cosmetics…all the things you don’t really need! Whereas local produce and items sourced from Turkey are often unbelievably cheap. During the citrus season you can buy a bag of oranges, lemons and clementines for pennies for example.
Despite the fact that the island has had embargoes against it for some thirty years you can get almost everything you could possibly want, and far more besides!! Electrical items, designer kitchens, hand built kitchens, furniture built to your design, the latest fashion in tiles and bathroom suites, every make of car (including Ferraris and Chevrolet Corvettes…yes, it’s true we’ve seen both with Turkish Cypriot number plates).
Hand tools, power tools, teeth whitening gel, marmite, the latest films on DVD before they even come out in the cinema in the UK…every single item you could possibly want is available for sale in North Cyprus. You just have to know where to go to get what it is you want!
If you go into a shop and they don’t have what you’re after, chances are they’ll point you to another shop that sells what it is you need or which can order it from the mainland for delivery in a matter of days.
When it comes to getting things made, from furniture to curtains, from kitchens to wrought iron, again there is always a man (or woman) who can and who will for a fair price. A lot business is made through word of mouth, so it also worth asking around to see if there are any good recommendations for the particular item you need. There are some very good craftsmen who are more than happy to sit with you whilst you describe what you need in minute detail!
Shopping in North Cyprus may not be quite what you’re used to, but it is rewarding when you finally find exactly the one elusive item you’ve been after. Prices these days are more than they used to be, but still fair given the world markets and fluctuations in the money markets – think about the price of goods in Europe and then do some comparisons, and most of the time you will find that they are still cheaper in North Cyprus.