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American tourists shouldn't avoid Cyprus, but bring extra cash, experts say

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People in Cyrpus wait in line to withdraw money from an ATM of a Laiki Bank in the old city of the capital, Nicosia. (AFP)

It’s not what you'd envision as ideal vacation hotspot: Long lines at ATMs, reports of local businesses straining just to stay open and protesters taking to the streets. 

By many accounts Cyprus doesn’t seem like a carefree holiday destination right now. But should you steer clear? Experts say no.

“Definitely go ahead and take that vacation and enjoy Cyprus. Just make sure you take extra precautions to have enough money and room on your credit card limits to enjoy a hassle- and worry-free trip,” travel expert Mark Murphy said.

Cyprus, which boasts blue waters, beautiful beaches and three UNESCO world heritage sites, is a popular destination, especially for Europeans. But travel agents say that more Americans looking for good deals are vacationing in Cyprus rather than nearby Greece, with its own financial problems.

Whether recent travel trends could change, at least for the short term, remains to be seen. All banks in Cyprus are closed at least until Thursday, and an increasing number of businesses reportedly have stopped accepting credit or check payments, insisting on cash only.

The crisis hasn’t resulted in any violence, and the U.S. State Department has not changed its travel advisories in light of the current situation. 

Even so, State Department spokeswoman Katherine Pfaff says tourists should use caution when traveling to the island nation and should check the agency’s website regularly for any travel updates.

Murphy advises that though Cyprus continues to work through its financial problems, travelers should be prepared and take enough cash to pay for all expenses, including incidentals.

“Carry a couple of credit cards with enough room to add charges during your stay. I recommend a Visa or Mastercard, as well as an American Express,” he says, but he adds, “Cash is definitely king.”

For those concerned about carrying large sums of cash, consider a money belt and take advantage of the hotel safe.

“Don't carry more than you need for a particular day or excursion to avoid any potential issues,” Murphy said.

Hulya Aydogan with Elite Turkey Tours in New York, which books trips to Cyprus, says despite the headlines she’s has not received any complaints from clients in Cyprus.  

Aydogan says travelers can avoid potential pitfalls by booking through a reputable tour company, because things such as airfare, hotel and transportation are pre-paid. If a Cypriot company does not accept a credit card payment for fear it wouldn’t be paid by a bank, at least they have an advocate working on their behalf, she says.

“My advice is to book with an American travel agency," she said. "Problems could arise because people are booking hotels directly online.

Cyprus' currency issues aren't affecting flights or, for the most part, hotel stays, experts say. Yet, don’t be surprised to encounter a few bumps along the way if you’re taking a taxi or eating at restaurant.

“Even with limited withdrawals and banks closed you shouldn't see more than basic inconveniences," Murphy said.

At least for the moment.  

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