Moving to Cyprus as a Freelancer: 7 Things We Did Not Consider

This last week has been full of exciting events!

First of all, we visited an unbelievable open air performance by the Berliner Philharmoniker since their annual European Concert took place in the Paphos Harbor this year (those who follow me on Instagram or Facebook may have seen some pictures of this).

Secondly, we were issued our 4th ‘Temporary Residence Permits,’ or ‘Pink Slips,’ for Cyprus. We haven’t quite received them yet, but the plastic ID’s have already been sent out from the capital.

Lastly, I have started the fourth section of this blog, which devoted to sharing my experience of immigrating to and living in Cyprus!

As I had no particular reason behind choosing to immigrate to Cyprus, I will stick to just sharing facts about the country and the process— in this blog post, I will share 7 things that we did not consider before buying one-way tickets to Cyprus, and hopefully, make the journey much easier for someone else in the future.

1. It’s a small island (I mean really small).

When we initially thought about moving to Cyprus, country size wasn’t much of a concern— especially since we were already living in the small, quiet town of Feodosiya, Crimea, and at one point even seriously considered moving to Bali or a remote island in Thailand.

After one or two years of living on a ‘small and quiet’ island where you can only drive 2 hours in any direction before hitting the coast, you may start missing the big, busy megapolises. For this, I am so happy that we chose a European island instead of an Asian one, since for us in Cyprus, travel to and from European cities is cheap and easy.

2. A car is a must— the sooner, the better.

Living on a small island can also mean having quite an under-developed transportation system.

When we were first considering moving to Cyprus, buying a car was not in our plans. After just a few days on the island, however, we realized that many buses (except for those in touristic areas) only departed once an hour. Also, several routes only run from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m., 6 days a week. So, if you do not want to have to plan your life around the bus schedule, a car is a must— it screams freedom and flexibility.

With that, we still (somehow) managed to live without a car for about 9 months. During this time, our lives were definitely planned around the bus: we had to find an apartment in our budget that was walking distance to both the grocery store and the bus stop, and we had to arrange all shopping, meetings, and appointments to correspond with the bus schedule, meaning that late nights out (dinners, concerts, and other local events) were impossible. To top off the ‘living without a car’ experience was trying to maneuver across the island via bus— this was super tricky, but ultimately doable.

We probably would have continued this car-less lifestyle, but our neighbors graciously sold us their car for super cheap when they moved back to the U.S., and let me tell you, having a car has truly made a huge difference in our lives. It is highly recommended!

3. Cultural enrichment requires flying to a big city, like Tbilisi or Rome.

Another surprise to us was the complete lack of decent cultural events in Cyprus (due to its size and small population).

As someone who used to attend cultural events every other week and has lived 20 years in the capital city of Kyiv, which is booming with theaters, concert halls, and exhibitions centers, this was quite difficult for me.

When we first began life in Cyprus, all of our attention was devoted to the immigration and monkey-making processes, so we weren’t too concerned about attending cultural events, like an opera or ballet. However, after 3 years of living in Cyprus, this cultural deficiency has really started to wear on us; the only ‘cultural’ programs here are visiting a local village, dining in a local restaurant, or attending an annual open-air concert or opera.  

Recently, the range of events has gotten a bit more diversified, but it is still nothing compared to bigger cities. So, whenever we have the urge to dress nicely and culturally enrich ourselves, we must fly abroad. While some people may say that this gives us the best of both worlds — traveling and culture — it would be nice to have a bit more flexibility.

4. Waiting for 3-9 months instead of the legally stated ‘3 months maximum’ for your Pink Slip is perfectly normal.

Even if you have been responsible and gotten all of your travel plans figured out, you may still have one ‘small’ constraining factor: your application for a Pink Slip renewal may still be being processed. This basically means that if you don’t have a visa-free regime with Schengen countries, you won’t be able to take advantage of the good deals that are offered on flights to Europe.

We spent much of our first year in Cyprus exploring the island, so we weren’t very anxious to travel abroad. By our second year, though, we were more than ready: our Ukrainian passport allowed us to take a nice trip to Istanbul, and we were even able to get a Schengen visa, without a Pink Slip, for a cheap flight to Rome! However, when we tried booking a trip to Greece several months later, our application for a visa was denied because we didn’t yet have our Pink Slips (we had been waiting for 5 months at this point); because of this, we had to spend hundreds of euros on non-refundable tickets and hotel rooms.

Now, however, we only finalize our travel plans to Schengen countries when we have those Pink Slips in our hands, and during the months that we have to wait for the Pink Slips to be processed, we either stay on the island or travel to visa-free countries, like Georgia or Israel.

All in all, the uncertainty of the Pink Slip process is a decent price to pay for the relatively cheap and simple procedure of immigrating to Cyprus. If you have a school-age child or a steady office job, waiting might not be as big of a deal. For me, however, being a freelancer with a strong wanderlust, not being able to use good travel deals can be a bit frustrating.

5. ‘Discrimination’ by passport.

Another thing that may cause you to feel a bit ‘discriminated’ against is all the fines you have to pay for not being a citizen of the European Union.

As we started our immigration process to Cyrus, we were well aware of the of 500+ EUR/person deposit we would have to make (which is used by the government in case we have to get deported back to the Ukraine). However, we were definitely unaware of many other deposits we would have to make, like several hundreds of euros for electricity and a mobile phone contract. Fortunately, if/when we ever decide to immigrate to another country, we will get that money back.

This same type of ‘discrimination’ applies to the ‘self-employment’ option for a residence permit.

Of course, you can be an outsourced employee for a company and live in Cyprus, as long as that company pays you a monthly salary outside an E.U. country. It gets tricky, though, if you are a freelancer with various clients and a non-E.U. passport— your options are a bit limited, you can either: establish a company in Cyprus and pay all the operating expenses, be self-employed back in your home country, or establish a company outside of E.U. and get dividends annually.

Had we known about all of this complication earlier, we would have probably considered a different country to move to.

6. Good, cheap Internet (especially mobile one) does not exist.

In Ukraine, we had 2 internet lines, 2 mobile internet plans, and unlimited mobile internet for about 50-70 EUR per month… Looking back, I really cannot believe this— what a treasure!

Here in Cyprus, the story is a bit different: we have one internet line at home, one 25GB/month mobile dongle deal, and a 3GB/month mobile internet plan, all for about 150-170 EUR per month.

Needless to say, the difference is a bit painful.

7. Winters and summers are all about survival.

Before we moved to Cyprus, we had seriously considering getting an apartment in Turkey; our plans changed, however, when we realized that there was no central heating in southern Turkey and that using an air conditioning unit for heating would be fairly expensive.

Little did we know, the heating situation in Cyprus is basically the same. . .

For at least 2 months during the winter, we must decide between either paying 600+ EUR on electricity, or working, sleeping, and living in warm pajamas under (at least) two blankets; when the temperature drops to about 1-3 C at night, this decision gets rather difficult.

Summer must be a relief, right? Wrong.

In July and August, Cyprus is like a steam bath. I don’t mind the hot weather, it is the high humidity that makes the summers so incredibly difficult. During the early morning hours, it’s pretty nice! As the evening creeps in, though, so do thoughts of death. At this point, I can’t help but use the air conditioner; it makes the air cooler and, more importantly, drier.

Working in a room with cool, fresh air is ideal; however, saving money for the electricity to do so is not.

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