Tips on Avoiding Holiday Villa Scammers

Rip Off Britain Holidays presenters

Rip Off Britain – Holidays

The latest episode of this BBC consumer advice programme has some timely advice to help you avoid the pitfalls of falling victim to scammers when booking a holiday villa online.

There are two scenarios to look out for… either the villa doesn’t exist (because holiday villa scammers have stolen photos and details of another property), or you are not making a reservation with the real owner (because it’s incredibly easy for scammers to create their own advert by copying and pasting a genuine one, substituting their contact details). These problems can arise whether you are booking through a well-known listing site or a regional one, regardless of any ‘book with confidence guarantees’ they may offer.

Advice Featured in the Programme:

1) Check the website registration… how long has it been in existence?
2) Make sure you have a landline phone number… and not just email.
3) Be suspicious if there is too much availability in peak season.
4) If it’s a bargain, it’s probably too good to be true.

To Which We Would Add:

5) Can you pay by card? Holiday villa scammers prefer bank transfers.
6) Search for the property on other sites. Check whether the owner information is consistent. Search for the property name. R-click on images > Search Google for image. Also look for particular phrases used in the description.
7) Is the owner active on social media? This is a great indicator that they are genuine, as holiday villa scammers are highly unlikely to go this far. In particular look for regular posts, good local knowledge, and guest feedback.

Book directlyWhy Book Directly?

It’s a very good sign if the owner has their own website, as it shows they’re prepared to invest time and effort in creating one. It’s even better if the website has plenty of regularly-updated local information. And an A* goes to owners who’ve also embraced social media.

You may not be aware, but there have been major changes in the villa rental market since the advent of airbnb, and takeovers of UK listing sites such as Owners Direct and Holiday Lettings by US giants HomeAway and Expedia/TripAdvisor. Online Travel Agents require in-house communication to allow them to take an increasingly hefty commission under the guise of payment protection. They are also keen on instant booking which doesn’t give owners a chance to check that their property is a good fit for potential guests. You can read more of the frustrations about Owners Direct on the TrustPilot review site.

In an attempt to retake control, owners are rebelling in droves, setting up their own websites, listing on smaller sites, and taking to social media. By avoiding the large listing sites and booking directly, owners can offer better rates, as they’re not paying for a listing, or losing income via commission and for payment processing.

Finding an Owner’s Website

Even if you start your search on a listing site, resist the temptation to press the ‘instant book’ button when you find a property you like. It’s worth spending a little time searching to see if you can book directly. Start with the villa name and location, try image and text searches (as described above) and look under the owner’s name. And don’t be afraid to use the contact details to ask questions about the property and area.

See our FAQs page for more advice about how to be confident that you are booking directly with the genuine property owner.

Happy hunting!

Programme: Rip Off Britain – Holidays (series 6, episode 5) – currently on BBC iPlayer

#villascam #holidayvilla #bookdirect #ripoffbritain #holidayvillascammers

Flamingo Fans – Head For The Salt Lakes

Why do flamingos sleep on one leg

Once again these fine creatures have arrived in Cyprus for their winter migration. Making themselves at home in Cyprus’ wetlands, they arrive at Larnaca, Oroklini and Akrotiri salt lakes within days of the water level rising. When you see them in their characteristic heads-down pose they are filter-feeding on brine shrimps and blue-green algae using their rough tongues in their upside-down beaks. And it’s their shrimp-heavy diet that gives adult flamingos their distinctive pink plumage.

Video by George Konstantinou from Cyprus Wildlife Tours

Eco-Friendly Viewing… Please Don’t Do This

Wading towards flamingos

To keep the flamingos returning year after year, it’s vital that nothing scares these vulnerable birds away by getting too close. Lessons have been learned, and a recent photography competition will not be repeated. Now the advice to photographers is to stay back and use long lenses. While the birds have over a period of years adapted to the hustle and bustle of Larnaca airport, the temptation to get better shots is encouraging ever-closer drone flying. And visitors are asked not to enter the water near the birds.

The safe way to see these marvellous creatures is to visit the viewing galleries at Oroklini Lake or Akrotiri Environmental Education Centre. Both are equipped with binoculars and telescopes to allow you to get a close-up view from a comfortable distance.

Oroklini Lake

Oroklini Lake

A 38 hectare wetland nature reserve ideal for bird-watching between Ayia Napa and Larnaca. Open year-round (although the lake dries up in summer), with free entry.

Facilities include visitor parking, observation platforms, information kiosk, identification boards, bird hide.

Visitor tips:
Flamingos normally November to February | There are no toilets on site | Website | Visitor Brochure

Akrotiri Environmental Education Centre


260 bird species have been recorded on the Akrotiri peninsula, of which 200 are migratory – using the area as a staging post. The area’s beaches are one of the few nesting sites on island for endangered Green and Loggerhead turtles. Dozens of nests are identified every year and are protected until hatching. Mammals recorded in the area include seals, dolphins and bats.

Visitor Tips:
Open year-round, with a permanent lake, free entry | Monday – Friday 08:00 – 17:00 | Sundays 10:00 – 17:00 | Website

Girl in lake photo: Cyprus Mail

EasyJet’s Late Summer Flights Released Today

Arriving over Pissouri

We still have a choice of dates in October if you’re looking to holiday next year in sunny Cyprus. For easyJet flights at the best price we recommend booking today. I’m on standby to respond quickly to enquiries. 😎 🇨🇾

Our photo shows an easyJet Airbus A320 turning over Pissouri on its flight path to Paphos. Tip: to see a great aerial view of Pissouri choose seats on the right-hand side of the plane.

#easyjet #october #cyprusholiday #cheapflights

Looking to Take Home a Taste of Cyprus?

Brandy Sour recipe

You will find plenty of souvenirs offering a taste of Cyprus, whether it’s a treat for yourself, or a gift for someone at home. If you have a sweet tooth, or a penchant for an alcoholic tipple, here are our top tips about what to pack for the homeward journey…

Brandy SourFor Brandy Sour: Cyprus Brandy and Lemon Cordial

Produced by double-distilling the local Xynisteri white wine in oak barrels, Cypriot brandy is the alcoholic element of the traditional Cyprus cocktail known as Brandy Sour. For an authentic recipe, you also need to take home local lemon cordial as it’s just not the same made with other brands.

Devised in the 1930s heyday of the Forest Park Hotel in Platres, Troodos, this tall golden cocktail allowed the Muslim King of Egypt to indulge in a tipple whilst entertaining local dignitaries. By creating a drink resembling iced tea, Stelios, head barman, enabled King Farouk to enjoy his reception without anyone uncovering his secret!

As time passed, the recipe spread to drinking establishments and restaurants throughout the island, becoming a firm favourite with both locals and visitors. Today it is regarded as THE Cyprus cocktail.

Filfar orange liqueurFilfar | Orange Liquer

The recipe for Filfar was developed by Takis Philippou as he worked for the British Army in Famagusta during the 1940s. His cookhouse role involved preserving local fruit in jams and marmalades. Having seen his grandmother make an orange liqueur using an ancient recipe from the monks at Kantara, he started experimenting with quantities and ingredients, using his army friends as tasters. Demand quickly grew, and before long he was making the drink commercially.

After losing everything in the Turkish invasion in 1974, Takis gave up his business. Fortunately Filfar production was revived in 1991 when Demos Aristidou, another Cypriot drinks maker, persuaded an Takis to sell his precious recipe. Still a closely guarded secret, up to 20 oranges of two varieties and three different herbs are used to make each bottle. Production is seasonal – beginning in early December with the orange harvest in Fasouri near Limassol – and continuing for four months – with much of the process still completed by hand.

Count yourself an honoured guest if a hospitable taverna owner serves a freebie at the end of dinner.

Zivania Cypriot firewaterZivania

This 45% proof firewater is also produced from Xynisteri dry white wine. The high alcohol content, and ready availability has led to a variety of medicinal uses, including treating wounds, massage, a cold and toothache remedy, or as a winter warmer.

Dating back to Venetian rule of the 14th century, this fiery concoction is still made in the traditional way. Grape pomace (remains such as pulp, peel, stalks and seeds) is mixed with high-quality dry wines, which are then distilled and matured. Usually drunk as an aperitif, Zivania is best served ice-cold straight from the freezer.

για μας ! | gia mas ! | cheers !

Spoon sweetsGlyka | Spoon Sweets

Fruit such as apricots, oranges, lemons and cherries, but also vegetables or nuts in syrup traditionally served on a spoon at the end of a typical Cypriot blow-out meal. Perfect for when you haven’t got room for a full dessert, but you just fancy a little sweet with your post-dinner drink. Our fav is walnuts which are picked green and soft and preserved whole.

Visitors are welcome at the Katerina Cyprus Sweets factory in Doros village – a 15-minute drive inland towards Troodos from Limassol.

Loukoumia Cyprus DelightLoukoumia | Cyprus Delight

Soft, jelly-like sweets made with sugar, cornstarch and flavouring, plus sometimes nuts, finished with a dusting of icing sugar. The main traditional flavours are rose, lemon, mastic and bergamot, with chocolate as a more modern addition.

The island’s main factory is Aphrodite Delights at Geroskipou in Paphos where visitors can taste samples before buying, and watch the production process. For more information, check out these Trip Advisor reviews.

SoutzoukosSoutzoukos | Grape Roll

A chewy sweet made from boiled grape juice in the wine villages of Troodos and Paphos. Almonds are threaded onto long strings, dipped into the hot juice and flour paste mixture, then hung to dry. The dipping process is repeated several times until the desired thickness is reached, then the soutzouko is dried over the period of a week and stored. Cut into slices, it is a treat served at traditional festivals and celebrations such as Christmas and New Year.

Pastelaki nut brittlePastelaki | Nut Brittle

Making use of locally grown nuts such as almonds and peanuts, along with a topping of sesame seeds, this is an early Cypriot version of a cereal bar. The traditional recipe uses another native ingredient – carob honey – to bind the nuts together.

καλή όρεξη ! | kalí órexi ! | bon appetit !

 

Refreshing Changes in Pissouri

Pissouri Council works 2017

With new faces at Pissouri Council, there have been a multitude of impressive changes in 2017…

Cyprus Night posterYes, Cyprus Night is Back!

Chief among these is the long-awaited return of the fantastic community Cyprus Night to the village square on 28 July after an absence of 6 years.

While Kritos and Haris have done an excellent job of keeping indoor versions of the event going in their restaurants, when it takes over the whole square, having so many more visitors and locals involved gives a very different vibe. We are optimistic that the new dynamic village council will find a way to overcome administrative difficulties over the licence next season to enable it to return for longer. It used to run from May to October – which would be just perfect.

What is it?

Attracting residents and visitors from far and wide, it’s a lively and friendly community celebration including energetic traditional dancing in national costume, accompanied by the bouzouki. An English commentary explains the dances, with the evening’s highlight being a spectacular glass-balancing display.

To be at the heart of the action, book a table at Platea or O’Vrakas in Pissouri Square for their Friday meze. If you are more of a people-watcher, then dine at one of the other myriad of eateries around the village and follow the music to the square afterwards.

The Bunch of GrapesPissouri in Bloom Competition

Another great new idea for encouraging local businesses to make their contribution to the village scene. And congratulations to the deserving winner… The Bunch of Grapes.

We’ve always loved their shady courtyard garden (and of course their delicious fare)!

Seafront Enhancements

If you’ve only ever seen Pissouri Bay in summer, you may be surprised to learn that during winter storms the sea comes right up the beach. And the power of the waves is immense… they are strong enough to carry away the beach umbrella poles (which, by the way, are substantial structures made from scaffold poles embedded in concrete). So most years the beach changing rooms, concrete path and boat ramp take a battering and need some sort of repair.

In addition to these annual works, this year Pissouri Council have opted to plant new palm trees along the seafront near Agamemnon Beach Café. A good idea for not only improving the view, but adding some natural shade.

Marina aka Fishing Shelter?

Once again there’s speculation about a marina in the bay… this time at the Monte Beach end, rather than Black Rock as proposed previously. Whether this is pure fantasy, or realistic prospect remains to be seen. There’s certainly more ready-made infrastructure at the Columbia Resort end of the beach, and we’re relieved not to be having an access road through Vineland.

Petros - Greek theatre at amphitheatrePetros - boxing nightPissouri Amphitheatre

This magnificent millennium project has been opened up to a wider range of entertainments in addition to the popular and excellent tribute band evenings and displays of traditional dance.

This year it was the venue for a Boxing Night and a Greek Drama production.

Behind The Scenes

Less exciting, but nonetheless welcome are works such as new safety rails and drains on Apostolou Andrea and resurfacing on twisty Kiladon Street between the bay and village.

And we look forward to the water supply improvements which we hear are ‘in the pipeline‘!

A big thanks to all at Pissouri Council.

Village enhancement photos by Petros Foutas.

October: Get Arty at Cyprus Open Studios

October: Get Arty at Cyprus Open Studios

Cyprus Open Studios 2017Each year Cyprus Open Studios gets bigger and better… Artists, sculptors, potters, painters, glass workers and jewellers dotted around the island open up their studios on selected October weekends. This gives visitors the perfect opportunity to combine exploring the area with meeting the artists, viewing demonstrations, buying ready-made pieces, or commissioning bespoke artwork. At some locations you can even get in touch with your artistic side by taking part in creative workshops.

Opening times: 11:00-17:00 on October weekends

Catalogue: click to download in pdf format

Below we have selected a sample of artists working in a variety of media. To see the full range, check out the map in combination with the catalogue.

Yorgos Papadopoulos glass artist KedaresDiarizos Valley

Follow Wine Route 3 through beautiful vineyard-clad hillsides and traditional friendly Cypriot villages. The route passes two small traditional wineries: Lagria and Nelion.

Visit the studio of Yorgos Papadopoulos, a glass artist in Kedares producing works ranging from large sculptural pieces to silver and glass pendant jewellery.

Open 7/8 October and 21/22 October.

Trisha Payne artist PolisPolis Chrysochous

While visiting this north-west corner of the island, you could also visit the Baths of Aphrodite, where the goddess reputedly met with her lover, Adonis.

In Polis you will find:

Trisha Payne enjoys painting landscapes, seascapes and villages in oils on canvases – large and miniature. She also paints designs roof tiles and makes and paints her own clay plaques.

Linda Gardener mosaic artist PolisLinda Gardener makes mosaics from glass, stones, ceramic and found objects. She is inspired by the animals and nature of Cyprus. She paints and draws and uses mosaic-making as an extension of this. She will demonstrate different methods of making mosaics using a variety of materials.

Both open every weekend in October.

Karen Betts sculptor ChlorakasIn and Around Paphos

There’s plenty to see and do around this main town, particularly this year as the town has the honour of being named European Capital of Culture, celebrated as ‘Pafos2017’.

We recommend heading for the harbour as a first port of call, and maybe a visit to the adjacent World Heritage Archaeological Site with fantastic well-preserved Greco Roman antiquities.

The Paphos district has a variety of artists, including:

Karen Betts who sculpts in limestone and also cement/fibreglass/resin mixes, often studies of the female form. She also paints in an abstract style using fusions of water- and oil-based materials.

Julie Hart ceramic artist PaphosJulie Hart has been a figurative/portrait painter in oils for a number of years, and since moving to Cyprus in 2014, has developed an interest in Greek Mythology which she uses as inspiration for her oil and beeswax paintings, as well as her ceramic sculptures.

Both open 7/8 October, 21/22 October and 28/29 October.

Gabi Boehm textile artist AnogyraAnogyra

Near Pissouri, this interesting village was once a main carob-grower and is famous for ‘Pastelli’, a traditional sweet made from carob syrup. The village is also home to Oleastro, a museum dedicated to explaining the production of Olive Oil.

Gabi Boehm is a textile artist specialising in felting and dyeing. She prefers to work with natural fibres and dyes and loves creating interesting surfaces and textures.

Open 7/8 October and 14/15 October.

Hoping to See Turtles?

Turtle viewing through the portholes on Atlantis

George’s Turtle-Watching Cruise on Atlantis

Leaving in late afternoon from the second jetty at Paphos harbour, this delightful excursion is one of our all-time favs. Since learning about the trip from guests (thanks Natalie!) and having enjoyed it ourselves, we think it the most magical experience…

Atlantis turtle watching cruise

Atlantis has an underwater viewing platform with stools and portholes. Running these daily trips, George has a fantastic insider’s knowledge of the flora and fauna of the coral reefs off Paphos. He takes you out a short distance off-shore to an area of sea grass favoured by turtles. The surprise for me was the size of the larger ones… fully grown they approach a metre in length, although the younger ones are considerably smaller.

There are no guarantees, of course, but if you follow George’s Atlantis Facebook page, you will discover that you would be extremely unlucky not to see any. And there are plenty of other sights to savour – enormous stingrays, an amazing variety of colourful fish, beautiful coral reefs and encrusted shipwrecks.

On the way home, George drops anchor to allow you to enjoy a refreshing sunset swim off the boat. (Book on +357 9666 1737 or via Facebook message).

Lara Bay Turtles

Off the beaten track in the protected Akamas Nature Reserve, Lara Bay has the island’s main turtle beach; home to both loggerhead and green turtle nests. If you visit this unspoilt long stretch of golden sandy beach in summer, you will see hundreds of cages protecting nests from predators. Sun loungers and parasols are not allowed on the beach, lest they damage hidden nests.

There is a Turtle Rescue Centre, but be aware this is primarily for conservation, rather than visitors. The two huts on the beach contain interesting information boards about the turtles, and rescue tanks… Sometimes there are baby hatchlings being nurtured to strength in the tanks, but equally there are also times when they are empty. While this is a positive thing – meaning there are currently no baby turtles in need of support, it can be disappointing for visitors, especially children.

Protective cages over nests on Lara turtle beach

The easiest way to get there is to book a jeep safari or hire a 4×4 or quad bike to reach the beach, as it’s approached via a rutted and rocky unmade road. If you’re visiting in a normal hire car, you can park in the car park 200 metres beyond the end of the tarmac road, and continue on foot. The Turtle Rescue Centre is a mile further north, so make sure you’re prepared with good footwear, hat, water and sunscreen. To find it, continue beyond Lara Café, and when you see a sign pointing right to Ineia, take the track opposite onto the beach.

Pissouri Beach

Every summer mature female turtles that hatched here many years previously return to Pissouri beach to nest. Members of Pissouri Turtlewatch patrol the beach in the early mornings looking for tell-tale tracks, so that they can place protective cages over the nests to keep them safe. Once a nest has been established, the countdown to the exciting hatching begins.

Baby turtle hatchlings day and night

 

The next task for the dedicated volunteers is an overnight vigil (as nests can hatch out any time from dusk till dawn). If mother nature has arranged everything right, this will be on the night of a full moon to help them navigate towards the moonlit water. Failing that Pissouri Turtlewatch use special red-filtered torches which provide a safe soft light to guide the hatchlings seawards. At this stage every effort is made to avoid picking up or even touching the tiny babies, as this can interfere with the development of their strength and navigational imprinting.

Red torch guiding hatchlings to the sea

Pissouri Turtlewatch vigil

How You Can Help

Turtles are endangered and protected by law, with the odds of surviving to adulthood staggeringly low.

Occasionally things go wrong, leaving the mother turtle or the hatchlings stranded on the beach in daylight when they are obviously at their most vulnerable. In that event, or if you find an injured, distressed or dead turtle, support is available from:

In the meantime, the expert advice is to keep well back, stay quiet, and try to leave them alone, only interfering as a last resort. Removing large pebbles and creating an obstacle-free path directly to the sea can be helpful for the tiny hatchlings. During daylight there is no problem with taking photos and videos, as long as you ensure the flash is turned off.

Tiny Loggerhead Turtle Hatchlings On Pissouri Beach

Many thanks to Chris Price and Claudine Snell of Pissouri Turtlewatch for permission to use their lovely photos.

A previous version of this article was originally posted on our old website blog by Nikki 13/7/2017

Over The Top to Melanda

Scenic coastal walk to Melanda - satellite map

A Scenic Coastal Walk for Nature Lovers

If you are feeling energetic, this is a beautiful local walk to Melanda beach at Avdimou – the next bay to the east of Pissouri. Or drive as far as the road takes you, then choose a cross-country walking route from there.

The First Part of The Route

Our development – ‘Vineland Pissouri Bay’ is nestled at the base of a rocky cliff. If you head inland a little, then turn right at Ampelohori, you’ll find a road snaking up the hill to the top of the plateau (see map). On foot the climb is quite strenuous, as the ridge elevation tops 100 metres, so this is not something to be tackled in summer’s midday heat. No problem in a car, of course!

The pay off is some lovely views looking down into Pissouri Bay, and across to Cape Aspro on the opposite headland.

Over the top to Melanda route map

A Beach To Yourself

Once the tarmac road runs out, a variety of clearly defined vehicle tracks lead you eastwards cross-country. This is where you can leave your car and continue on foot. There are plenty of more direct routes, but we suggest following the cliff edge coastal path as shown on the satellite map, to take advantage of the fabulous seascape views.

Over the top to Melanda unmade track through fields

Hugging the coastline rewards you with a choice of deserted coves where you could enjoy the seclusion of your own tiny beach.

Over the top to Melanda clear waters

Stone and Crop Circles

A fascinating surprise was some circular artwork lovingly created on the cliff top.

We saw this pebble design and some traditional-looking crop circles in the tall spring grass.

Over the top to Melanda stone circle

All The Way to Melanda

If you keep going, (for an hour or so beyond the end of the paved road), eventually you’ll arrive at Melanda beach. Using a smart phone with Google maps set on satellite view can help you to navigate.

Near Melanda you cross into the British ‘Sovereign Base’ area – officially UK territory. Although development on this land is restricted, there are two permitted beach restaurants – Melanda Beach Restaurant specialising in fresh local fish dishes, and further along another favourite for traditional Cypriot fare – Kyrenia Beach Taverna.

Indulge in a leisurely lunch and a few drinks – you’ll thoroughly deserve it!

Over the top to Melanda Beach Restaurant

And if the prospect of walking back is too daunting, other options include a taxi or boat pickup… just remember to copy the numbers from the villa handbook into your phone before you set off.

Happy exploring!

This article was originally posted on our old website blog by Nikki 9/5/2017

 

New: Travel Light With easyJet Hands Free

New easyJet Hands Free luggage

How It Works

easyJet have introduced a new luggage option that they’re calling ‘Hands Free‘. This allows you to check in hand luggage for a flat £4 fee at the airport. There are advantages for both the airline and traveller with this…

Travellers can take toiletries and liquids in larger sizes than 100 ml without the faff of putting everything into zip lock bags. It also saves you lugging hand luggage through security and departures. And you can still take a small under-the-seat laptop or handbag on board. If you haven’t brought a bag, you will be provided with a small plastic bag at the bag drop for your valuables and essentials. You will be called to board after the ‘Speedy Boarders’ with your luggage tagged as ‘Priority’ to come off the carousel first.

For easyJet it eases the congestion in the cabin overhead lockers, and adds another small ‘extra’ charge to your booking.

Sounds like a win-win!

More details: http://bit.ly/2wsCPUM

#easyJet #easyJethandsfree #handsfree #travel #travellight #traveltip

 

Ryanair Announce a New Dublin-Paphos Route

Ryanair - new 2018 Dublin-Paphos route

The planned schedule will run twice weekly throughout next summer from April 2018. Book online from September.

Paphos September 2017 – late deals
Dimitra Apatsidou of Ryanair has said that in order to celebrate the new route, the company would be releasing seats on sale to other destinations from Paphos from just €26.99 for travel in September, which are available for booking until midnight on Thursday August 31.

Welcome to Cyprus!

Post: Nikki at pissouribay.com
More info: ryanair.com

#ryanair #ryanairpaphos #ryanairdublin #ryanaircyprus #cyprusflights